(the) Sky is the Limit

24 06 2008

It has to point in the right direction
I’ve always felt that paying for commercial satellite TV was a bit “rich”. Having already paid a sizeable sum for the National TV licence, I haven’t wanted to pay another £19 a month for just a few extra channels (since most of them are unwatchable). When we moved to Greenleys some research showed that Virgin Media did a cable package that was very reasonable without having to adopt a Virgin Media phone. (The website is very unclear about this though but a few discussion boards revealed the truth.) On phoning Virgin however, they told me the cable infrastructrure in Milton Keynes is too old to support cable TV. (Uggh – and I thought MK was one of the most technologically advanced towns in the UK.)

As an alternative I’d heard that Sky offer a Freesat service for a one-off payment of about £150, but if you visit www.sky.com and try looking for “freesat” in their search box you’ll get nothing. But here’s the rub, if you go to freesatfromsky you’ll find they will help you do much better deals, and hidden in the FAQ’s is the fact that if you’ve got an old Sky receiver, you only have to buy a viewing card for £20.

Gwyneth wanted more TV choice and so I felt a project coming on. Find a cheap sky-compatible satellite dish. Maplins want £39.99 for a 48cm dish, ebay – £11.95 including a free fixing kit. (Okay – postage was bit steep.) A satellite finder meter – £3.69 (complete with compass – that turned out to be the size of a shirt button). It whistles at you and gives a signal strength reading. The dish turned up on Monday, and when I’d finished work at 5pm I started the project by drilling a hole through the living room wall behind the TV. Four hours later (and I ate dinner in that time) we had a result. That's sky for you

 When I was up the ladder I had two cordless drills run out of battery on me as I tried to drill the brickwork. In the end I had to cart an extension lead and a mains drill up to fix the bracket to the wall. It all has to be done quite precisely and so I abandoned the shirt-button compass and used the Silva compass that Anna bought me, along with a spirit level. I could set it pointing to 147 degress fairly precisely. The bracket had an approximate elevation protractor stamped into the metal, and so when I first applied power from the connection to the set-top box, the finder meter immediately whistled at me. It had found the 28.2 Astra 2A satellite. All that was needed was a bit of fine tuning. Phoning Sky the next day was completely without hastle, and we await the viewing card in a couple of days’ time. Total cost – £28.53 (materials), £20.00 (viewing card) plus four hours of my time; a bargain, and no subscription.

Here are some useful websites:

http://www.dishpointer.com/ – Gives you precise azimuth and elevation based on your address, and a google map satellite picture showing the line to the satellite (so you can check buildings and trees aren’t in the line of sight ).

http://www.uksatellitehelp.co.uk/ – A quality advice site. Confidence-building information.

http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/forums/ – Some useful forums on all sorts of satellite issues.

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