A funny thing happened happened on my way to writing a review of a piece of satellite equipment.
I was going to post it on a different blog. I’ve contributed the occasional article on this blog for at least a couple of years now. I never had any problem with it. I had my review about half written and suddenly I couldn’t access the blog site without LONG delays, usually followed by browser timeouts.
It turned out they had updated the blog software, and suddenly the blog became almost instantly inaccessible. Maybe if I tried it at 4 o’clock in the morning I could get in but anything else was totally hopeless. It’s not that the server went down, it’s that apparently too many Apache2 processes were being spawned simultaneously, just totally sucking up the system resources.
I’m told that the solution for that would be to add more memory, but that server is already maxed out in the memory department, so the entire server would need to be replaced. And since that was a private blog that’s not making money for anyone (apart from a few Amazon affiliate ads that occasionally gave the guy who ran it a few bucks, but that were never a steady source of income), that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.
So it appears that blog is effectively dead, and I still needed a place to post my review when it’s finished. Which it almost is – I just need to collect a couple more pieces of information. So, I’ve created this blog, and hopefully I’ll be able to provide a few useful tidbits of information from time to time.
Beyond that, it occurred to me that there really aren’t that many unbiased sources of information about Free-To-Air satellite in North America. I think the reason for that is partly because of the same reason some Usenet users are reluctant to talk about Usenet – too much talk makes things go away. Wikipedia notes:
Historically, it has appeared that broadcasters are more likely to scramble their signals when they become aware that home viewers and other “unauthorized” viewers are watching their signals. Therefore those who know what signals are available may sometimes be reluctant to share that information in open forums. While sites exist that attempt to list currently viewable FTA signals, most of them are incomplete or do not contain current information. Such sites typically rely on reports of changes by viewers, and if viewers are reluctant to report new FTA signals for fear they might disappear, it becomes more of a challenge for such sites to maintain up-to-date listings.
It is not the purpose of this blog to discuss things that might cause signals to disappear, but at the same time, I do think there needs to be more information made available about the “nuts and bolts” of free-to-air satellite.
There are several different satellite sites and forums out there, but in my opinion they tend to suffer from various issues:
- Controlled by, or beholden to, satellite dealers. Not that there’s anything wrong with a satellite dealer running a forum, but it’s not likely he’s going to look favorably upon information that casts equipment he sells in a bad light, nor want unfavorable reviews of equipment he has in stock (particularly if it’s old stock he bought too much of, and that he’s desperately trying to get rid of before it’s completely obsolete). And I doubt he’ll much care for forum users singing the praises of equipment that directly competes with products he carries. I am not a satellite equipment dealer, and I don’t have any friends or family in that business.
- Piracy. There are several forums that are put up for the purpose of helping people pirate commercial satellite signals. That’s pretty much a cat-and-mouse game where nobody really wins, and some people manage to incur large fines or even prison time for engaging in it. I do not engage in signal piracy and will NOT talk about it on this blog.
- Moderation policies. Probably because of the above two items, there are sites that have some rather strange rules regarding what you can and cannot talk about, which are sometimes enforced rather unevenly. Some users always feel as though they have to “walk on eggshells” around various forum moderators, while others just seem to disappear after having said something a moderator didn’t like, never to be heard from again. If I work hard on an article or review, I really don’t want to have to worry about it containing something that might unintentionally offend a moderator.
- Too much talk about the specifics of what’s up there. When people brag in in open forums about how they were able to watch some sporting event that’s normally not available in their area and invited all their friends over to watch, and it was a on a feed from a particular network, that’s not only a good way to get future events scrambled, but the entire network feed. Remember, there are such things as search engines, and just like everyone else, broadcasters and program providers do search for mentions of their name. It’s one thing if a service appears in a general list of signals on a particular satellite or transponder, and quite another when people brag about how they were able to watch something not intended for them. People who don’t want to destroy what’s left of this hobby need to be a bit more careful about what they write. I will not write about specific signals available unless I know for certain that they are intended for public reception and viewing.
- And on the flip side, not enough talk about newer technologies. The old “one satellite receiver with one single tuner feeding one television set” paradigm HAS to die. In the real world, users want to record programs for later viewing, and watch those recordings on various devices that may not resemble a conventional television set at all. This equipment to do this is coming onto the market but too many dealers and users don’t understand it, and prefer to stick with what they know, even though it’s almost ancient technology in this world of Internet Time. I want to write about new technology, not the same old, same old.
This blog is simply my space where I can write what I want to about the hobby of receiving free-to-air satellite TV, with having my words censored or edited by someone with a vested interest or favors to repay, and where I can decline to talk about things I don’t want to talk about. I think I am a pretty reasonable guy, most of the time anyway, but I don’t go around looking for potential minefields to walk through if I can help it.
I hope that I can provide some useful information to those in the free-to-air hobby. I’m not a real prolific writer, so don’t expect daily articles, but I hope what I do write will be worth the time it takes you to read it.
We’ll see how it goes!