Friday, 20 November 2009

How to Install a Freesat Satellite Dish and Freesat Receiver

For many people who are considering moving to freesat from their current television setup, one of the big put offs is the fact that you have to have a satellite dish installed and positioned so that you can start picking up freesat. The big problem with this is getting someone to come and install the dish for you can be rather expensive - especially when you see things like sky giving away free installation with their packages. What you have to keep in mind is that sky make their money from monthly subscription packages, so it behoves them well to give away the satellite dish installation and get you up and running so you can watch TV without any fuss or bother. But Freesat, as we know is free to air satellite television and being as it is a Channel 4 and ITV initiative and that they aren't making money out of you by charging you extra for fancy television packages like sky does, they can't afford to give away the installation of the dishes. But of course, you can hire a trusty freesat dish installer who will come around to your house and put up your satellite dish and wire it in for you, drill a hole through your wall and point the dish in the right direction so you can start watching all that great TV on a Friday night instead of going out ('cause you know, the economy and all that - we are all staying in all the time now - hopefully that means TV will get better because there will be more viewers, but I expect all it really means is that we will get more adverts because viewer numbers will be up).

Hang on, so what you're saying is all you need to do is put the dish up, drill a hole in the wall to pass the wire through and point the dish in the right direction? And they charge how much for it? Well, yes. I mean if you are reasonably handy with the tools and the DIY and you already have the equipment, it might make sense to do the install yourself. It isn't as hard as you think - really the most difficult thing about it is setting the dish in the correct position to point at the correct satellite.

Before you rush off to buy a brand new satellite dish to install your Freesat with though, you might want to check if you already have a satellite dish installed. Maybe from a previous tenant or if you previously had Sky and then cancelled it? Anyway if you have a dish sitting around not being used it is worth hooking it up to your Freesat or Freesat HD digibox to see if you can get a signal out of it. See, many consumer satellite dish installations use the same satellite to get their feed from so Sky and Freesat need to be pointed towards the same satellite, even though they receive different channels. That's a good thing for us.

If you don't already have a dish installed and you want to give it a go yourself, then here are a few tips and hints to help you on your way.

You will need a few things to install your satellite dish properly:
A ladder - handy for getting up a little bit so you can install your satellite dish out of the way.
A drill - to drill holes in the wall to install your satellite dish and possibly to drill a hole through your wall to pass the wire through.
A satellite dish (44cm is big enough to receive Freesat)
High quality coaxial cable
Satellite finder meter (you don't need this, but if you have it it makes things easier)
F connectors to connect your cable to your dish. You might also need some crimping tools.

Do buy yourself good coaxial cable. It is the life line between your satellite dish and your freesat receiver, and really, you want to minimise any interference from other electronic devices so that you get the best signal. There really is little point in installing a HD freesat box and a good satellite dish and having youself state of the art television if your cable is a let down. Get double shielded cable at the very least.

Your connectors should also be high quality - a good snap and seal connector will be a little more expensive, but it will also protect your cable against moisture and are relatively easy to install.

Ok, the actual steps to set up your satellite connection to receive freesat on are as follows:

Find a good satellite mounting point. You will need a clear view south east to mount your dish, so find a suitable wall on your house to put the dish on. Look around, it is likely that at least one of your neighbours has a satellite dish already installed, and that can give you a good clue as to which side of your property is the best to install your dish.You might have to mount the dish high up to get a good clear view of the horizon. Ideally you want nothing between your dish and the horizon because any obstacle be it a tree or a building or anything else will cause interference. Also, do double check if you are installing in winter because trees will be bare of leaves. In summer they will fill out and you might find your satellite dish becomes obstructed suddenly, so take that into account when you choose a good spot.

You satellite dish will probably have a built in wall mount which you can use to bolt the dish to the wall. Some dishes need a wall mounted pole to allow them to correctly swivel, but if your dish is new, it probably doesn't (especially if it is a 44cm dish). Fix your dish to the wall. Make sure it is secure, and then connect up your coaxial cable to the dish and run it into the house. You might have to drill a hole through your wall to get the wire in, or if your dish is mounted high enough, take it through the eaves into the loft and then wire it up to your living room or television viewing room.

Connect your cable to your freesat receiver, but do not yet turn on the receiver.

We are now ready to find our satellite. We are interested in the Astra 2D satellite as this is the one that broadcasts the freesat signal.

You want to make sure that your cable is properly connected to your satellite dish and through to your Freesat recevier. Don't turn the freesat box on though, until you are sure everything is properly connected. Once it is, turn on the freesat box and press the Menu buttton on your remote and select the option that says Information. Basically you want the option on your menu that will allow you to see the signal strength and quality. At this point, it is usually handy to have a friend or relative around so that one of you can watch the screen while the other moves the dish into the correct place. Use a compass and get your dish pointing directly south and then slowly move the dish east until you get a strong network strength signal and the Network ID is 003b. The Trasport Stream on your TV should be 090b. Now you have your dish locked onto the Astra 2d satellite, you can do a little fine tuning of the satellite dish so you get the best freesat signal possible. To do this, you will want to maneuver the dish in very small steps left and right and up and down until you get the strongest signal strength reading on your TV.

Work slowly since if you swing your dish around too fast, it won't get a chance to lock on to the signal properly.

Well that's about enough, I hope you all enjoy your freesat viewing and installation.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Oldest television in Britain set for Freesat!

This is pretty cool; the oldest television in Britain has been converted so it is set for digital, with the help of a digital set top box - I like to think they would have used a freesat digibox, but given the reported price of about 20 quid, I imagine it was probably just a freeview digibox. Oh well. Still it proves that it doesn't matter what television you have, a simple investment will get you ready for digital.

The set was tracked down as a result of a competition held by Digital UK and is a Marconiphone from 1936. Gloriously black and white for a true vintage appeal, it sports a massive 12 inch screen that would put any of todays Freesat Televisions to shame :)

Thursday, 18 June 2009

What the UK can learn from America's Digital Switchover

One of the reasons you might have bought or might be thinking about buying a freesat digibox or television with built in freesat receiver is to get ready for the big digital switchover which is looming. By 2012, the whole of the UK will have switch their television broadcast and viewing to digital, shutting down the old analog broadcast equipment and rendering any analog receiving equipment pretty much useless.

America has already completed their switchover - last Saturday, they officially turned off the analog broadcasts. The UK is well underway with the digital switchover and if you haven't decided how to move over to receiving the digital broadcast, you should be looking into something like Freeview, Freesat or Freesat from Sky. If you are confused about the difference between the three, don't worry, so was I..... :)

Anyway so all the US television stations have switched from analog to digital broadcasts and it would be remiss of the UK if they didn't look at the problems that occured in America and learn from them. According to lots of news sites, switching off the analog signals did not all go swimmingly. Some sources report that 2.5 percent of households in America were not ready for the switchover and have been left without any television, with some people completely unaware that the transition was taking place. America had already delayed their switchover by 4 months because too many people were not ready. Since TV is such a valuable form of public information, many TV stations in Amerca have introduced an Analog nightlight services where they broadcast an analog signal at night to advise about the digital switchover and to inform those who haven't bought their equivalent of a freesat box about any national disasters such as hurricanes. They analog nightlight services will air for 30 days after which analog tv will be in the dark.

I'm sure that the UK will have teething problems when all the analog signals are switched off, let's just hope they learn a little from Americas problems and our move is a little smoother.

Friday, 12 June 2009

NHK World on Freesat. Kore Kudasai.

I've noticed a new channel pop up on my freesat box. It's called NHK World TV, which is essentially and English language news and information channel from NHK - a Japanese public broadcaster. So now we have world news from a Japanese and Asian perspective on freesat, which is rather nice. It gives us freesat users an "Eye on Asia".

The NHK channel adds to an already international news line-up that freesat already offers, including Bloomberg Television, CNN, Russia Today, BBC (obviously) and France 24.

NHK World TV has already been available for a while on the 28 degree east satellite position via BSkyB, so it's no surprise that it has now been added to the freesat service. NHK World is automatically added to your freesat digibox and appears on channel 209, so you don't need to go through any complicated set up like you would if you wanted to add non-freesat channels.

The cool thing about NHK world, is that every now and then, they have a little Japanese tutorial - last night I learned how to say "I want that" - Kore Kudasai. I'm sure I'm using it wrong, but what the heck - watch freesat and learn a new language at the same time!

Kore Kudasai

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Freesat Ethernet Port

I'm sure I'm not the only one who is still waiting for the ethernet port in the back of the freesat boxes to be activated. The freesat specification requires that any freesat digibox or TV with built in freesat must have an ethernet port built in for future use. I'm not very technical, but surely it wouldn't be hard to switch it on already and let people connect their freesat boxes to their broadband, even if only to watch BBC iPlayer. I read somewhere that the port is there for future software upgrades, but I can't see the point of not taking advantage of the iPlayer service right now. It would give you the basic functionality of a PVR in a freesat box and would surely only boost the sales and marketability of the boxes over some equivalent services like freesat from Sky or the Virgin Television service.

I can't imagine it would be very difficult to integrate a web browser into the software of these boxes since I'm pretty sure that the info coming down in the EPG is either XML based or HTML based (now and then I get some spurious characters that are HTML formatting so I'm basing my assumption on that).

In the meantime, we still have to have a seperate box to browse the internet, which is a real shame because it puts another computer under your television or in your lounge if you want to access some online TV. And of course, connecting up my computer to my television is a little bit awkward....My ideal situation, obviously is simply to have a freesat television with the ethernet port active for web browsing - then I can do away with all the little black boxes under my television :)

Oh well, just some thoughts. Anyone out there have the inside scoop as to when the ethernet ports are going to be useful to the consumer?

Friday, 22 May 2009

Freesat Televisions

It makes sense, when you're next in the market for a television, to buy one with a freesat tuner built in. Doing away with a digital set top box for your freesat reception makes sense and keeps your living room tidy, with fewer cables and fewer remote controls.....and usually, a happier wife :)

Up until April this year, you could only purchase Panasonic TVs with built in freesat tuners, but now, LG have entered the market as well, bringing more consumer choice to the table. Which is a good thing. Consumers get more choice and more competition in the freesat television arena will undoubtedly bring the prices down. I think freesat will become bigger in the near future. It still seems to be a bit of a forgotten technology when people buy new televisions. Which is strange, especially with digital switchover looming. Freeview seems to be the digital tuner of choice for manufacturers to integrate into their television, but it won't be long before the choice for freesat tuners integrated into TVs becomes larger.

As it stands, you currently have the choice between several Panasonic Viera models, starting at 32” and working upwards to 50” as well as some LG televisions, again starting at 32” with the LF7700 model and working up to a 47” offering. The LG televisions with integrated Freesat are LCD TVs and are all 1080p with a good selection of HDMI ports as well as USB connectivity. Panasonic's
Freesat enabled televisions include some plasma displays in their Z1 series NeoPDP televisions which are available in 46” and 54” models. The Z1 Panasonics also offer wireless technology and the 54” model is only 1inch thick, making it an ultra thin television.

It's good to see LG enter the Freesat integrated television market, but really at this stage of the game, with Freesat being almost a year old now, it would be nice to see some more manufacturers enter the market with Freesat integrated into their televisions.