Why did the 16APSK mux at 97°W 3980H disappear?

If you have read some of my previous posts you may have discerned that I am no big fan of any of the free-to-air satellite forums out there. In my opinion most of those sites are run by people who make up arbitrary rules that do not apply equally to all users, and also at least some of them exist specifically to further someone’s commercial interests, and if you happen to say anything negative about a product sold by the dealer that runs the site or another “favored” dealer, you may find that your posts silently disappear, and you may even be banned from the forum. And, if you have been on multiple free-to-air satellite forums, you may have noticed that there is a lot of bad blood between the operators of some of the competing forums (probably in part because some of them are business competitors trying to grab a slice of an ever-shrinking pie). Therefore anything you read on these forums about another forum, particularly if it’s negative commentary, has to be taken with a few grains of salt.

So with that caveat, when the 16APSK mux at 97°W 3980H disappeared earlier this month, some guys in a “hidden” forum on the SatelliteGuys site (note that link will only work if you have been granted access to that forum, and log in to the site) started remarking how coincidental it was that shortly after some other posts had been made on another site, including one where someone had said he was going to contact the uplinker of those channels (a HUGE no-no for anyone that cares about free-to-air satellite), the mux in question disappeared (you can read this thread for more commentary). I’m sorry that I cannot quote specific posts from the SatelliteGuys thread, but it is against their rules to share information on that particular forum outside of the forum, for good reasons.

If I am reading it correctly, the allegation seems to be that a particular dealer, possibly in part because of a long-running feud with the operators of the SatelliteGuys site and some other sites, but mostly because he is selling a rather unattractive package of subscription channels and because few people were buying his package, wanted to see that 16APSK mux go away because he thought people were watching the “free” channels rather than paying him. Now if that is true, my opinion is that if he’d been selling a package of desirable channels at a reasonable price he might have had enough business to satisfy him, but no matter what else may or may not be available, few people are going to buy a package of channels if it doesn’t contain the channels people really want to watch. And also, he probably has lost a lot more business to devices like the Roku and FireTV, and similar Internet-connected devices, and to streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc. than he’ll ever lose to people watching free satellite channels.

Now, my view from up here in the balcony while munching the popcorn over the last few years has been that the guy offering this service has managed to piss off a lot of people in the free-to-air community. When the thread appeared on SatelliteGuys I was not even sure at first which forum they were talking about, because it had been so long since I’d been to that forum, and one of the reasons I’d stopped visiting there was because of the lack of useful information and because of what I felt to be mudslinging and venom directed at various parties. I’m not saying that none of it was deserved, because I don’t know everything that happens behind the scenes. But apparently this forum is sponsored or in some way linked with the guy selling the subscription service. Anyway, it seemed to me as though a high percentage of threads there were bashing somebody and while sometimes the bashing seemed valid (in that it discussed some of the shortcomings and biases of other sites), it sure did not seem like a very helpful site for the average satellite hobbyist, at least not compared to some of the other sites they were bashing.

One thing I did notice, and honestly felt somewhat offended by, was the notion put forth in some of the posts on that forum that if you want to watch free satellite TV you are a cheapskate, or a pirate, or in some way doing something illegal, and of course nothing could be further from the truth – if it’s not encrypted, you’re allowed to watch it, period (also, I have sunk a lot of money into equipment for this hobby, but that’s beside the point). What I feel would be despicable, though, would be if someone tried to sabotage free satellite TV just because they believed it might help them sell their own package of fairly undesirable channels. I cannot say for sure that is what happened, because I don’t know who was uplinking those channels, or what was the actual motivation that caused them to discontinue the uplink. But that post I linked above sure does not make me want to do business with the company mentioned in the signature block. Personally, and this is just me, I would never do business with that company as long as I live, no matter what they might offer in the future. I am not telling anyone else what to do, but in my opinion anyone who tries to ruin the hobby of receiving free and legal satellite television by contacting an uplinker is not deserving of my business.

Since no one knows for sure why those channels were on the satellite to begin with, no one knows for sure why they disappeared, except of course for the people responsible for the uplink, and so far they aren’t talking. It may have been something completely unrelated, such as a one-year contract that expired and was not renewed. But just the fact that someone might TRY to get those channels removed or encrypted in order to advance their own narrow business interests, whether or not those efforts actually bore any fruit, is enough to lower my opinion of them to the degree that they will never get a penny from me.

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Here’s how to find a satellite dish installer, but should you?

I suspect that most readers of this blog install and maintain their own satellite dishes, either willingly or reluctantly. Just as some people like to tweak an automobile until it’s running perfectly and exceeding the manufacturer’s specifications, some people enjoy the challenge of setting up and maintaining a satellite dish system. But there are others who would prefer to simply pay someone to get a system installed. I don’t recommend that approach, because the more you know about your system, the easier it will be for you to resolve any problems that occur down the road. But if you really want to just pay someone to set up your system for you, I suggest you take a look at this article:

8 Ways to Find a Satellite Installer

HOWEVER, don’t just find someone through that site (or any other site) and call them up without first taking the step of entering their company name (and their personal name, if it’s given) into your favorite search engine. If one of the returned results goes to a well-known satellite forum (and I stress well-known here because anyone can set up a forum, and some dealers have done so, and not all of them are good guys), then I strongly suggest you go there and read the comments. The reason I say that is because there are a few guys out there (one in particular) that are selling overpriced crap systems that will only pick up a small number of channels, and meanwhile they are doing their best to kill the Free-To-Air hobby in the hope that you’ll have to come crawling to them for one of their inferior systems, or else pay for service from a cable or commercial satellite company. Even if you don’t get that asshole, you could wind up with an installer that badmouths free satellite TV throughout the install, then tries to sell you one of the small dish pay services that he conveniently offers (and on which he receives a nice fat commission when he sells one).

I will also point out that before searching an online resource you might check to see if there are any older guys still around that were in the TV repair business during the 1980’s. Particularly if they were installing TV antennas back in the day, they may have also installed satellite TV systems, or they know someone who did. Many of those guys have since retired, both because fewer and fewer people get TV’s repaired anymore, and because climbing antenna towers isn’t exactly safe for older people (or anyone, really). But there are a few still around, particularly in smaller towns, and some of them might not mind lending you their expertise for your install. Another possible avenue to explore would be the amateur radio community, if you know any “hams”. Those guys often tend to know people who’ve installed towers and satellite dishes back in the day. If there are amateur radio “swap meets” in your area, you might want to go to one and wander around and ask some of the guys if they know anyone locally that does C-band or Ku-band satellite dish installations.

If you do pay for an installation I suggest you watch the entire install, and if the installer doesn’t mind, take pictures and ask questions. Your goal should be to learn what all the parts are and how they work together, and what is involved in aiming a dish. That installer won’t be around forever, so learn what you can while you can!

What, exactly, is IPTV?

As far as I can determine, there are three very different things that are sometimes referred to as IPTV:

1. SAT>IP, as explained in my previous article.

2. Video that streams over the Internet, often in a container with the .m3u8 extension. Sometimes these are live channels, in which case Tvheadend can treat them as if they were a live channel received from an antenna or satellite dish. Note than some such streams are illegal, even if they come from a pay service. Maybe I should say, “especially if the come from a pay service”, since the pay services often don’t bother with licensing or paying for the content they are streaming. If you pay one of those guys, don’t be surprised if one day they simply disappear. There is a thread about how IPTV streams can be added in Tvheadend here, which I only found because it linked to one of my earlier articles, and a Tvheadend wiki page entitled Automatic IPTV Network. Note that content you view on a web page using the Flash player, or some similar proprietary player, is not IPTV – a true IPTV stream can usually be played directly in the VLC media player without any conversion.

3. And then there is what I’d call video sent as a data stream over a satellite transponder. Now, it is true that all digital TV is technically sent as data, but this type of data requires additional processing and sometimes isn’t sent in real time. For example a show or movie may be sent over a slow bitrate stream, and therefore take longer than the actual running length of the program to arrive. This data is sent over C-band or Ku-band satellite transponders, but typically it’s syndicated or one-off programming that will not air until hours, days, or weeks after it’s sent. No standalone “set top box” satellite receiver will receive or decode this type of signals. Instead, you must use a satellite tuner installed in or connected to a computer, and then there is specific software that can be used to receive and decode these signals. It’s a rather arcane process, but if you really want to know about it, use your favorite search engine to find posts and forums that mention the program IPCleaner, and then have a look around. If you ever fully grasp it, you’re doing better than I.

When most people talk about IPTV, they are probably talking about the second type. But when true satellite enthusiasts talk about IPTV, they may well be taking about the first or third type. North Americans are probably more likely to be talking about the third type, while satellite viewers in other parts of the world would be more likely to confuse IPTV with SAT>IP.

So, if you have ever been confused about what people are talking about when they refer to IPTV, hopefully this helps your understanding.