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[Digital Broadcast Satellites] Welcome - read this first!

[ Usenet FAQs | Web FAQs | Documents | RFC Index | Sex offenders ]
[Keeper's note: I know one of the FCC URLs has been obsoleted, but I have
had time it yet. Also, this will probably be the last one of these posted
for a while, because I've got to move and don't know how long it will take
me to get set up. In the meantime, there's always the web page.]

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge

This document is the Frequently Asked Questions
list for the Usenet newsgroup,


- Charter
Part A: Introduction and About the FAQ
        A.1: Introduction and disclaimer
        A.2: Scope of the FAQ
        A.3: Common Usenet abbreviations
        A.4: Acknowledgment
Part B: Netiquette & About the Newsgroup
        B.1: Charter
        B.2: History
        B.3: Crossposting
        B.4: Binaries
        B.5: Quoted text; One-line replies
        B.6: Advertising
        B.7: Dealing with flamewars and obnoxious posters
        B.8: Anonymous addresses
        B.9: Controversial issues
        B.10: Other resources
        B.11: Writing good questions
Part C: Frequently Asked Questions
Charter: will be for the discussion of new,
        emerging DBS (Direct Broadcast Satellite) technologies, e.g.
        DSS.  DBS/DSS is a digital home-entertainment service which
        will transmit cable-style programming via higher-powered satellites
        in a compressed and encrypted format.  DBS customers purchase a small
        (18" or so) receiving dish and associated components which enable
        them to subscribe to cable-type programming without having to be
        wired for cable, or in areas not served by cable TV.   This new
        group would cover all DBS systems worldwide.
        will be gatewayed to a 'yet to be started' mailing list if this
        proposal is successful.

Part A - Introduction & About the FAQ
This section of the FAQ contains information about the FAQ, and should be
read before the other sections, so that the reader can get the most out of the

Subject A.1: Introduction and disclaimer

Every Usenet newsgroup finds that certain questions are asked again and
again.  Regular readers eventually get tired of reading the same old questions
(and posting the same old answers) again and again, leading new readers to
wonder why they're seeing so many impolite replies, and so few useful ones,
to perfectly reasonable queries.  The result is frustration all around.

This document is an attempt to consolidate many of those questions, and
their answers, in a single location.  It also attempts to deal with popular
misconceptions, misinformation, and errors.  It will be posted to (r.v.s.d) bi-weekly.  If you're a new reader, or even
if you're not, and have a question regarding DBS systems, you should check
this document first, to avoid wasting bandwidth (and other peoples' time)
on a subject which has already been discussed ad nauseam.  But this document
is by no means an attempt at moderation; if you have new information on a new
topic, or even on an old one, by all means share it with the group.

Further questions are welcome; send any comments, corrections, new questions,
or new answers to, with 'R.S.V.D FAQ' in the Subject:
line.  Keep quoted material down to a minimum in such mail, please (Really,
just the subject number you're talking about is sufficient).

In addition to the bimonthly posting, this document will be available at  The HTML version will be the most
up-to-date version, since it's the easiest to change.  It will also contain
improved formatting and presentation not available in the text version.

The FAQ author has  made every effort to present accurate and
unbiased information.  Where there is some disagreement or controversy
over an issue, the FAQ author has attempted to present both points of view.

This FAQ file is copyright 1996 by Brian Trosko.  It may be freely copied,
redistributed, archived, or reused, provided no profit is derived from
such reuse, the author is given proper credit, and statements are not
taken out of context in such a way as to significantly alter their

The author makes no guarantee as to the accuracy of any information
provided in this document, and is not responsible for any consequences
of its use.

Subject A.2: Scope of the FAQ

This document attempts to go beyond simply answering common questions.  It
is intended to be a guide for the new user, at least so far as r.v.s.d is
concerned.  It is not intended to be a general purpose guide for all of

It is hoped that this FAQ can provide information that is not normally
available on the newsgroup, i.e. detailed, researched, and comprehensive
answers that are beyond the scope of normal newsgroup discussion.  It is
hoped that the information will be useful to not only new readers, but
also for long-time readers looking for information in areas they have not
previously dealt with.  Some of Part B might be controversial, but the FAQ
author feels that its inclusion is justified; with thousands of new Usenet
readers every day, it can be hard for the average "newbie" to learn how to
deal with such things as flamewars, trolls, and MAKE.MONEY.FAST.  Part B
should give new readers guidance on how to deal with these issues, or at
the least on how they are handled on r.v.s.d.

This FAQ is not a comprehensive guide to Usenet, nor is it a
comprehensive guide to netiquette.  It is strongly advised that _all_
persons participating in Usenet discussion read the various informational
documents posted to news.announce.newusers on a regular basis.

Subject A.3: Common Usenet Abbreviations

:-)             = Smile
:)              = Smile
:-(             = Frown
:(              = Frown
;) ;-)          = Winks
AFAIK           = As Far As I Know
AKA             = Also Known As
BTW             = By The Way
FAQ             = Frequently Asked Questions
FTP             = File Transfer Protocol
FWIW            = For What It's Worth
HTTP            = Hypertext Transfer Protocol
IIRC            = If I Remember (or Recall) Correctly
IMHO            = In My Humble Opinion
IMNSHO          = In My Not-So-Humble Opinion
ISTR            = I Seem To Recall
RL              = Real Life
ROTFL           = Rolling On The Floor Laughing
ROTFLMAO        = Rolling On the Floor Laughing My Ass Off
UL              = Urban Legend
URL             = Uniform Resource Locator
WRT             = With Respect (or Regard) To
WWW             = World Wide Web
YMMV            = Your Mileage May Vary

Subject A.4: Acknowledgments

Parts A and B are large borrowed/stolen from Andrew Toppan's excellent FAQ
for the sci.military.naval newsgroup, and are used with his permission.
If you're interested, his homepage can be found at

Part B: Netiquette and About the Newsgroup
Subject B.1: Charter

The charter for, as proposed and voted
on when the newsgroup was created,  is as follows: will be for the discussion of new,
        emerging DBS (Direct Broadcast Satellite) technologies, e.g.
        DSS.  DBS/DSS is a digital home-entertainment service which
        will transmit cable-style programming via higher-powered satellites in
        a compressed and encrypted format.  DBS customers purchase a small
        (18" or so) receiving dish and associated components which enable them
        to subscribe to cable-type programming without having to be wired for
        cable, or in areas not served by cable TV.   This new group would
        cover all DBS systems worldwide. will
        be gatewayed to a 'yet to be started' mailinglist if this
        proposal is successful.

Discussion is governed by this charter.  It is deliberately vague in terms
of what can be discussed, because nobody can predict what issues might
come up for discussion in the future.  In short, anything related to DBS
systems, technologies, or programming is fair game, within the bounds
of netiquette.

One special mention, however: At the time the group was created,
general Usenet consensus was that advertising would only be allowed
in a group if *specifically allowed* by the charter.  The r.v.s.d charter
has no such provisions allowing advertising, and while not strictly
prohibited, it is not exactly welcome, either.

Subject B.2: History

The group was voted into existence on
September 23rd, 1994, as part of a Call For Votes which
split into r.v.s.d,,
and  The group proposal received
247 "Yes" votes and 38 "No" votes, with 6 votes being rejected
due to invalid formatting.  For a complete history of the RFD/CFV
results, please see:

Subject B.3: Crossposting.

Crossposting can be a valuable tool for getting your message
to the maximum number of people.  It can also cause a discussion
to degenerate into a senseless flamewar.  In general, you should
only crosspost a message to several groups if it is really and truly
relevant to all of them.  Contrived reasoning does not make a message
relevant.  For example, news that a DBS program provider will soon
be providing the WGN superstation out of Chicago would probably
be relevant to r.v.s.d, r.v.s.misc, and possibly even r.v.s.tvro; readers
of all three groups would probably be interested, but many interested
people probably don't read all three groups.  But it would not be
relevant to, just because the Phillies
play against the Cubs, and the Cubs are on WGN.

There is one special caution about crossposting.  Be careful when
crossposting articles between and, because flamewars between proponents
of the two radically different systems often burst out, and can drown
out normal discussion for days at a time.

Subject B.4: Binaries.

The charter does not specifically allow binaries,
so the posting of them is strongly discouraged.  This is not because
binaries are inherently bad.  Rather, it is because of the large size of most
binaries.  Specifically, the reasons are thus:

-  Binaries take up far more disk space than a text file with a similar number
   of lines.  Disk space is an important concern for news administrators, and
   binary groups are often dropped to save space.  If a nominally non-binary
   group comes to carry too many binaries, it may get dropped for space
   reasons, with obviously negative consequences for the readers of the group.

-  Some people use off-line newsreaders, which allow them to download the
   entire contents of the group via modem for perusal at a later time.  Many
   of these newsreaders don't allow you to select specific posts to download,
   so you have to download the whole thing.  The phone and/or online time
   bills for unwittingly downloading a large binary via a slow (or even a
   fast) modem can be extreme.  This isn't a problem for those of us with
   direct T1 connections, but most people read news over a modem.

- What percentage of people will download a multi-part jpeg or gif file,
  reassemble it, unzip it, and then view it?  Certainly fewer people than
  will read a plaintext post.  A multi-part gif/jpeg is simply a waste of
  newsgroup space for the majority of people who don't have the time,
  ability, or inclination, to view it.

Instead of posting a binary, you might consider:
- sending it via email to the people who request it.
- posting it to an appropriate alt.binaries.* group.
- putting the file up for public access on an FTP or WWW site.

In any of these cases, you will probably wish to post a pointer to it on

Some people UUencode or zip plain text files prior to posting them.  This just
doesn't make any sense.  Far more people will read a plain-text post than will
unzip/UUdecode a file in order to read it.  Further, a UUencoded post is
generally *larger* than the original plain text file, so UUencoding
doesn't save any space.

Large binary files are also subject to cancellation by Richard DePew's
bincancelbot (See for details).  Small binaries
might succeed in evading the bot, but will probably draw many flames.

Subject B.5: Quoted text; one-line replies

Few things are as annoying as paging through 100 lines of quoted text, only
to fine "Me, too!" at the end.  When posting a follow-up (reply) to a message,
delete all but the specific parts you are replying to.  In most cases,
you can trim to a sentence or two.  Trimming the quoted material also
makes it easier for readers to see which points you are responding to.  If
you are not replying to a specific part of the article, but have points
based on the previous article, you might wish to delete the entire article
and just post a brief summary, i.e. [Snip long DSS vs. BUD post].

Quoting someone else's .signature file is generally considered to be obnoxious.

Subject B.6: Advertising

Keeping in mind the context in which the carter was written, and that
advertising is not specifically permitted by the charter, advertising is
technically off-topic for  As such any posts
consisting of entirely advertisements are quite unwelcome, as are those
posts which appear to answer a posted question, but are really a thinly
veiled advertisement.  It is considered permissible to include a small
plug in one's .sig, as long as the normal rule of keeping .sigs under four
lines is adhered to.

Subject B.7: Dealing with flamewars and obnoxious posters.

From time to time a particularly annoying or obnoxious thread, discussion,
person, or flamewar shows up.  Although there is no sure-fire way to make such
disturbances cease, so the group can get back to more reasonable topics,
the following suggestions may help:

- Avoid the mess in the first place.  Look to Subjects B.3 and B.9 for advice.
  Stick to DBS matters.  Don't start off-topic threads just because "someone
  might know," or "it's a convenient place."
- Ignore the annoyance.  Some people post inflammatory or inaccurate
  information just to get a response ("trolling").  If nobody reacts, they'll
  get bored and go away.
- Killfile the person or the thread.  Many newsreaders allow you to killfile
  articles based on the author or the subject, so you never see potentially
  annoying articles.  See your newsreader's online help file for more
  information.  With a killfile you don't have to look at the mess, and if
  enough people killfile something, nobody will be reading it and posting
  follow-ups.  Killfiles should be used with caution, since they can cause
  you to miss worthwhile articles.
- Eliminate crossposts.  If the Newsgroups: line looks like this:
  edit it to look like this:
  You can also add a follow-up-to: line in the headers if you wish to redirect
  the discussion to a certain newsgroup:
- Move the discussion to another newsgroup.  If there are no valid DBS topics
  left in the discussion, move the discussion elsewhere.  Edit Newsgroups: and
  Follow-up-to: lines to suit the situation.
- Go to email.  If the subject has become a bitching match between two people,
  shift to email.  If one party refuses to go to email, the other should
  be mature enough to take the argument to a private forum.  A follow-up
  line can be adjusted to send replies to the post through email:
  Follow-up-to: poster
- Change the Subject: line.  To extract a valid topic from a flamewar,
  change the Subject: line to something new:
  Subject: UHF Remote? (Was DSS vs. E*)
  When doing this, you should also delete the References: line and the
  message IDs that follow it.  This will ensure that all newsreaders treat
  the article as a new thread.
- Respond with facts.  Nothing annoys someone who is looking for flames
  more than a reasoned, well thought-out, accurate rebuttal.
- Don't resort to insults.  Calling everyone a "fucking idiot" won't end
  a flamewar.
- Don't mailbomb.  Mailbombing hurts everyone on both systems, puts your
  account in jeopardy, doesn't end the argument, and invites equally nasty
  retaliation.  It's a silly, immature, childish tactic.
- Request that the discussion be taken elsewhere.  Sometimes, a short,
  courteous, polite note emailed to both parties can have desirable
- Complain to the postmaster.  If the mess is particularly bad, you may
  wish to complain to the offending party's postmaster.  If the offending
  person is person@site.domain, send email to postmaster@site.domain.  The
  note should be short, polite, and contain proof of the offense,
  including valid message IDs.  Don't send email to postmasters just
  because you happen to be insulted; they're busy people, and their time
  is valuable, so save this response for more serious offenses, like
  mailbombing, binary bombing, newsgroup bombing, threats directed against
  you, activities that _seriously_ disrupt the newsgroup, ongoing
  long-term problems that can't be solved by any other means, and
  activities that can or do deny service to you or others.  Postmasters
  are most likely to respond to denial-of-service issues.

Subject B.8: Anonymous addresses

Anonymous services should be used sparingly.  Many people are automatically
suspicious of people who do not identify themselves or otherwise attempt
to conceal their identity.  They will not respect what an anonymous poster
says, and may totally ignore all posts from anonymous addresses.   In the
past some particularly obnoxious, rude, and loud people have posted from
anonymous remailers.  Because of this, many people have killfiled all the
well-known anonymous services.  Therefore, a significant number of people
won't even see posts from the anon servers.  For these reasons, posting
through an anonymous remailer *will* reduce the number of people who read what
you're saying, and those who do read it might be likely to discount or
ignore it.

On a related matter, many people post with butchered From: or Reply-To:
lines.  Whether this arises out of an attempt to dupe the various
mailing-list bots which scrounge the newsgroups for potential customers,
or out of simple ignorance, it is a substantial discourtesy to the
readers.  Also, it prevents people from answering any questions
via email, so it is self-defeating as well.  Just don't do it.

Subject B.9: Controversial issues

Certain issues frequently discussed in tend to
draw vast amounts of conflict, argument, shouting, flaming, and general
absurdity.  For example, threads consisting of C-band system owners and
DBS system owners who do nothing but call each other "fucking idiots" and
loudly proclaim the superior virtues of *their* system are somewhat
common.  Such threads generate more heat than light, consisting of a lot of
insults which, creative and entertaining as they may be, contain very
little or no useful information.

To reduce the inflammatory potential of such threads, be careful when
posting to them.  Avoid subjective statements, and stick to facts whenever
possible.  See section B.6 for advice on dealing with such a flamewar once
it has started.

Subject B.10: Other Resources

There is a wealth of other information regarding these systems on-line.
An exhaustive list is not provided here, but perhaps the most important

Dish Network can be found at:

DirecTV can be found at:

USSB is at:

Alphastar is at:

John Hodgson's page provides useful info:

Another excellent resource is DBS Online, found at:

DBS Online also contains Rich Peterson's excellent DBS FAQ,
which serves different purposes than this document does.  Any
interested parties are strongly urged to read that FAQ, as well
as this one. is also available through a mailing list. To
subscribe, send a message to with the following as
the body of your message:

    SUBscribe DBSSAT <your full name>

Likewise, to unsubscribe, send a message with the following in the body:


Subject B.11: Writing good questions

To get a good answer one must ask a good question.  It seems simple, but
many times questions are poorly written.  There are two basic types of
question: requests for information and discussion questions.

When requesting information, one should make every effort to provide
sufficient context and to ask a specific question.   Without context the
question might be hard to understand, open to misunderstanding, and
impossible to answer properly.  If one doesn't ask a specific question,
it's hard to know what information is being requested.  For example, one
common question goes like this: "I'm looking to get a satellite system,
and I need information.  Which is better, DSS or Primestar?"  What does
"better" mean to the author?  Is he interested in the channel packages
available, or the features of the hardware? Saying that he needs
information is an incredibly broad request.  What sort of information
does he need? Try to be more specific about what you're looking for.

For discussion questions, one should attempt to clearly define the topic
to be discussed. State clearly the situation, given information,
assumptions, conditions, exceptions, or other factors involved.  That way
everyone stands a better chance of discussing the same thing instead of a
dozen barely-related issues.

Part C: Frequently Asked Questions
        C.1: What does that access card thingy actually *do*?
        C.2: How do I erase my PPV information without paying for it?
        C.3: How do I clear my PPV information?
        C.4: What about these pirate cards?
        C.5: Is it possible to watch two channels at once?
        C.6: Is it possible to watch and record two different channels
        C.7: Is it possible to hook more than one receiver up to a
             single-LNBF dish?
        C.8: How many receivers can I hook to a dual-LNBF dish?
        C.9: What about PIP?
        C.10: Is it easy to install?
        C.11: Where do I point it?
        C.12: Do I have to ground it?
        C.13: What is rain fade?
        C.14: Can I point my dish at a tree/wall/airport/window?
        C.15: How do I hide my dish?
        C.16: Can I use my in-wall wiring, or do I have to run new cables?
        C.17: Is it true that the receiver needs its own phone line?
        C.18: What are the differences between the different DSS systems?
        C.19: What are the differences between
                  DSS/Primestar/Alphastar/Echostar/C-band systems?
        C.20: Are DSS and E* compatible?        
        C.21: Can I get my local networks?
        C.22: Can I watch Star Trek or Babylon 5?
        C.23: When will the song titles be added to Music Choice/Dish CD?
        C.24: When will the other superstations be added to DSS?
        C.25: Can I record off of my DBS system?
        C.26: What is Macrovision?
        C.27: Can I record while away from the house if I have a 1st
              generation DSS?
        C.28: Is it normal for the receiver to be so warm?
        C.29: If I buy the NBA/NHL/NFL/MLB package, do local blackouts apply?
        C.30: When is AC-3 (Dolby Digital) going to be broadcast?

Part C: Frequently Asked Questions

This section of the FAQ endeavors to answer many of the questions
which crop up time and time again on the newsgroup.

Subject C.1: What does the access card actually do?

DBS services broadcast across the entire nation.  Obviously, not
everyone subscribes to the same programming.  The access card is
what authorizes your decoder to decode the channels you are
subscribed to.  This access card is remotely programmable by your
program provider, and it is this which allows you to change channel
subscriptions without too much of a hassle.   In short, the
access card is what makes the system work.

Subject C.2: How do I erase my PPV information without
                  paying for it?

You can't.  Stop trying.

Subject C.3: How to I clear my PPV information once I've
                  been billed?

There are no commands to do so, but the information will
eventually expire.

Subject C.4: What about these pirate cards I've heard about?

There are pirate cards which act just like a normal access card,
with the exception that they authorize every single bit of programming

This means that if you have one, *everything* is turned on.  Every
premium channel.  Every PPV movie.  TV Asia.

Needless to say, these cards are quite illegal.  They aren't too
prevalent in the United States, since their expense is so great.
Additionally, the program providers send out ECMs (Electronic
Counter-Measures) on a regular basis, which often succeed in
deactivating certain makes of card.  DirecTv is currently implementing
a card swap, thereby replacing the access card of every legitimate

In Canada, pirate cards are somewhat more widespread, due to the
illegality of foreign DBS systems in general.

This FAQ in no way endorses the use of pirate cards.  In the opinion
of the FAQ author, their use is highly unethical.  Also, keep in
mind that the person you're buying the card from is, in a sense,
a professional thief, so you are not likely to have any legitimate
avenues of recourse if you should feel cheated in any way.

Subject C.5: Is it possible to watch two channels simultaneously?

The only way to watch two satellite channels at the same time
is to have two satellite receivers.

It *is* possible to watch a satellite channel and a channel
from some other source simultaneously, of course.  For
instance, one could watch HBO off the satellite receiver
and NBC off a broadcast antenna at the same time.

Subject C.6: How about watching one channel and recording

The only way to watch one satellite channel and record
another at the same time is to have two satellite receivers.

Again, it is possible to watch a satellite channel and record
off another source at the same time.

Subject C.7: Is it possible to hook multiple receivers
                 to a single-output dish?

DSS and Echostar work with circular polarity.  With a 
single-output dish, the receiver sends a switched-voltage
signal back to the LNB in order to flip it from clockwise 
polarity to counter-clockwise polarity, whichever is appropriate
for the channel you have selected.  If the signal from the dish
is split to multiple receivers, there will be a conflict.  This
results in one receiver being a "master," able to watch any
channel, and the other receivers being "slaves," only able
to select channels of the same polarity as the one being
received on the master unit.

Subject C.8: How many receivers can I hook up to
                 a dual-output dish?

Without additional parts, two.  With the appropriate
additional parts, at least 30.

To hook up more than two receivers involves a part called
a voltage switch.  You will need one voltage switch for
each receiver you want to hook up.  The outputs coming off
of the dish get split, and each voltage switch gets fed signal
from both outputs.  Then the output from the voltage switch gets
fed to the satellite receiver.

There are also parts called multiswitches that take feeds from
both LNBs on the dish and distribute them to multiple receivers.
In essence, a multiswitch is several voltage switches combined
in one unit.  Sony makes a multiswitch suitable for use with
up to four receivers.  It retails for around one hundred dollars.
Multiswitches for many receivers, even 16 or 32, are available
from companies like ChannelMaster, but are much more expensive.

Subject C.9: What about PIP?

Concerns about PIP are similar in nature to concerns
about simultaneous viewing of two channels.

In order to watch two satellite channels at a time, two
receivers are necessary.  So, if you want to spend the dough,
PIP can work, so long as the television is the sort which
accepts input from an external tuner for PIP purposes.

If the television has a second internal television tuner
for its PIP, and cannot accept input from an external tuner,
then PIP will not work properly with the satellite receiver.

Subject C.10: Is it easy to install?

Opinions vary.  The installation is not actually all that
difficult, but it is technical in nature.  A good litmus
test is your VCR clock; if it is still blinking "12:00...
12:00...12:00," then you should probably not attempt to install
your satellite system.

The basic overview of the installation is as follows:

- Cable must be run between the dish and the receiver.
 Obviously the difficulty of this step depends upon the
 desires of the individual.

- The dish must be properly aligned with the satellite,
 which requires a compass.  Sony DSS systems have an LED
 on the dish which lights up to indicate proper alignment.
 Other systems may have an audible tone to indicate alignment.
 In either case, the on-screen signal strength meter should
 be used to tweak alignment as perfectly as possible.

- The receiver hooks up to the television/home-theater
 system in the same way that a VCR or laserdisc player does.

- The system should be grounded.

Subject C.11: Where do I point it?

To find out, the surest way is to stop by a dealer who has the
systems on display.  The systems allow you to input a Zip Code,
and provide you with a magnetic compass heading and an azimuth.
DSS systems also allow you to simply input a latitude and 
longitude, if you're in an area where you're unaware of the 
zip code.

For DSS systems, you can also find out through the interactive
pointer at:

Subject C.12:  Do I have to ground it?

Grounding the system is *strongly* recommended.  Of course,
there are installation situations where proper grounding
might not be possible (apartments, RVs, etc.), but in
situations where it is possible, it should be done.

Grounding the system necessitates direct grounding to an
8' grounding electrode, preferably the main electrical service
ground for the house.  If a second grounding electrode is driven,
and the system is grounded to that, the second electrode must be
bonded in turn to the main electrical service ground.

This is not necessarily to protect against lightning; although
proper grounding can certainly help prevent a strike, it will not
save your equipment in the event of one.  Rather, proper grounding
is to allow the static charge that builds up in the dish a safe
route to drain away.  If the system is not grounded, this charge
can run to ground through the receiver, which has a detrimental
effect on the electrosensitive components inside.  Also, nearby
lightning strikes can actually induce a current in the cable, and 
proper grounding allows this induced current to safely run to ground.

Grounding is actually quite a simple procedure, and the risks
which it alleviates mean that it is worth your time to do it

Subject C.13:  What is rain fade?

The signal sent from the satellites to your dish is of a
frequency that is blocked by nearly anything, which is why
your dish must have clear line-of-sight to the satellites
in order to function.  Water blocks the signal.

When it rains, this reduces the signal reaching the dish,
which reduces your overall signal strength.  Severe storms
can knock out your picture all together, but this usually
doesn't happen, and if it does, it doesn't last for very long.

Subject C.14:  Can I point my dish at a tree/wall/airport/window?

Maybe.  The dish needs to have a clear line-of-sight to
the satellites, but the angle which the dish arm points at
isn't the angle the signal is coming from.  The signal comes in
from roughly 20 degrees higher than the angle of the LNB arm.
So, even if the dish seems is pointing right at a solid object,
the signal might not be obstructed.  The azimuth markings scribed
into the dish assembly do take this difference into account.

Some people who live near airports have reported transient,
momentary interruptions of signal due to aircraft flying
through the beam.

Some individuals have succeeded in getting signal through
a window.  The type of glass matters enormously, with
Plexiglas being the most favorable, single-glazed much less so,
and double-glazed windows not working at all.  Even if this
does work, it will knock the signal strength back dramatically,
so it should only be done when there are no other avenues to

Subject C.15: How do I hide my dish?

Most anything that will hide a dish from view will also
block signal.

However, there are third party companies which sell
concealment for the dish, usually in the form of a fake
boulder or skylight.  Also, people have reported
hiding the dish inside a vinyl garbage can, or even a
garbage bag, without too adverse an effect on signal strength.

Keep in mind that HOAs can no longer prevent you from using a
satellite dish under one meter in diameter, provided you own
your house and your property.

For further, more specific information, see the following FCC links:

Subject C.16: Can I use my in-wall wiring, or do I have
                  to run new cable?

Ideally, the coaxial cable between the dish and the receiver
should be high-quality RG-6.  High-quality RG-59 can work,
but only for short runs, and even then it knocks the signal
strength back substantially.

Several individuals have reported successful installations
using long runs of RG-59.  If you've already run RG-59,
you have nothing to lose by trying it - it just might work.
But if you're running new cable specifically for the dish,
play it safe and use RG-6.

There is a coaxial RF output on the back of the satellite
receiver, intended for a run to a second television, or for
televisions without video inputs.  RG-59 would be sufficient
for that output.  This means that it is possible to run from
the RF output to your cable junction box and send the signal
from one satellite receiver throughout the house.

Subject C.17: Is it true that the receiver needs its own phone line?

No.  DSS and Dish Network receivers are intended to be hooked
into a phone jack, but this does not necessitate a dedicated line;
the receiver hooks into a jack just like an extension phone would.
This is intended for several purposes.

The first purpose is impulse pay-per-view.  In this system, you do
not need to pick up phone and call to order a PPV event.  Instead,
you simply select the event you want to watch, and a menu screen
appears by which you can order the program.  If you do, then
that fact is recorded by your system.  Every so often, the system
will use the phone line to dial out and place a toll-free call
to your program provider, and download the PPV information to them.
This allows them to bill you correctly.

The second purpose is for compliance with professional sports
blackout restrictions.  In order to know which games must be
blacked out for each individual, your program provider needs to
where you live.  It does this by the ANI information which is part
of all toll free calls.  ANI is not Caller ID, and cannot be
blocked in the same fashion.

Neither of these purposes make the phone connection a necessity.
If you do not hook your system to a phone line, then you will
not be able to order the sports packages.  Also, you can still
order PPV events over the phone with DSS, but there will be a 2 dollar
surcharge per event.

Note that if you have multiple receivers, all receivers
must be hooked into the same phone line.  If they are not,
you will pay full programming costs for each separate receiver.

Subject C.18: What are the differences between the different
                  DSS systems?

Generally speaking, not much.  Fundamentally, all DSS 
receivers deliver the same potentially high-quality video 
and audio. All receivers also provide a program guide, which 
gives the programming lineup for the next several days, complete
with program descriptions and classifications. These guides 
are not "Prevue" channel-style scrolling guides.  Rather, they
are completely interactive, giving the user not only the ability
to jump forwards in time, but also the ability to specify custom
guides for certain types of programming (Sports, movies, etc.),
and favorite channels.

What differs between different systems are the menu interfaces
and other bells and whistles.

Sony DSS systems have 32-bit  processors to deal with the menu
interfaces, whereas the various systems produced by Thompson
(RCA, Toshiba, GE) have only 8-bit processors.  This means that
navigation through the Sony menu system tends to be quite a bit faster
and easier.  Additionally, the current Sony systems have the added 
advantage of allowing the user to see the  picture while navigating 
through the translucent program guide, and also do not
block the sound while in the program guide.  Thompson system
program guides are opaque, blocking the picture and also interrupting 
the sound.   Opinions as to which menu interface is better vary widely,
so you should stop by a dealer who has the systems hooked up for viewing.

All current DSS receivers have timers to allow recording of programs
in conjunction with a VCR.  Deluxe and Advanced systems also come with
a VCR mouse to send commands to the VCR, which eliminates having to
manually synchronize the VCR timer with the satellite receiver timer.  The
Sony Basic system does not include the mouse, but it is available as an 

Subject C.19: What are the differences between DSS/P*
                  /E*/A*/BUD systems?

This is a complicated issue, and while this FAQ will present
a basic overview, the reader is encouraged to do additional research
for a more complete answer.

DSS systems are by far the most popular home satellite system.  
The chief program provider, DirecTV, claims about 2.5 million 
subscribers at this point in time.  DSS systems are sold under
the following brand names: Sony, Toshiba, RCA, GE, Panasonic,
Magnavox, and Uniden.  These receivers differ in features, but
all provide the same high-quality video and sound. Programming
costs for a DSS subscription typically range from 30 to 60 dollars a 
month, but there are individual packages running from 7 dollars to 
45 dollars a month.  With DSS, there are *two* program providers,
DirecTV, and their smaller partner, USSB.  DirecTV is responsible
for most general interest programming (CNN, Discovery, E!, etc.) but
does offer a few premium movie services, like Starz!.  DirecTV also offers
the pay-per-view movie channels, regional sports networks, and seasonal
sports packages.  USSB offers most of the premium movie channels
(Multichannel HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, etc.), major pay-per-view
sporting events, and the Viacom networks (MTV, Nickelodeon, Lifetime).

Dish Network is a competing 18" dish system commonly referred to 
by the name of the parent company, Echostar, or E* for short.  Its
principal advantage is that the programming costs are slightly cheaper, 
and the hardware can be significantly cheaper, especially when additional
receivers are required.  Programming costs for Dish Network typically range
from 25 to 35 dollars a month, but the least expensive package is 10
dollars a  month.  Dish Network offers several general interest channels
that DSS does not, primarily superstations like WGN, and also offers more 
foreign-channel programming, and religious programming. An additional
advantage is that there is only one program provider to pay, which
simplifies selection and billing.  However, many people have reported that
the picture has more visible digital artifacts  than DSS, and also that
the sound, particularly on the music channels, sounds flat and lifeless,
or contains annoying high-pitched interference of some sort. Additionally,
E* does not offer as many sports or movies as DSS, due to a lower amount
of PPV stations (12 v. 60+) and lack of seasonal sports packages.  Current
Dish Network receiver interfaces are also a bit clunky, lacking many of
the features present on the current DSS receivers. For example, Dish
receivers give you the ability to search for only a type of program in the
program guide, like "Movies," or "Sports."  By contrast, DSS receivers
allow you to search for "Comedies," or "Basketball."  Dish receivers also
currently lack timer controls; they will be available shortly in a
downloadable software patch, but not on all models.  Dish Network
receivers do offer a "Browse" feature, which DSS receivers do not; this
feature allows you to flip through an abbreviated on-screen guide without
interrupting the viewing of the currently selected program.  Despite any
disadvantages, Dish Network is a very fast-growing product, and it is
definitely worth a look.

Primestar is not, strictly speaking, a DBS service.  It is an operation
of several of the major cable companies (TCI, Cox, etc.) and was
originally intended as a means to deliver cable programming to people who
lived in the boonies and did not have landline cable yet.  Perhaps the
most significant difference of P* is that you do not own it; you rent it,
just like you rent a cable box.  Costs for P* typically consist of at
least a $200 installation, and then at least a $35 monthly fee for both
programming and hardware.  Primestar works off of a lower-powered
satellite, and so the dish is around 36" in diameter, instead of
18" like DSS or E*.

Alphastar (A*) is a system that has had major problems getting
off the ground (no pun intended).  They use a larger dish (Roughly
40") to provide programming, and are nowhere near as popular as the
other systems described here.  At this date, A* claims roughly
27,000 subscribers, as compared to DirecTVs 2+ million, or E*'s
roughly 300,000+.  Plans were being made by A* and Amway to
provide the system door-to-door and through MLM schemes, but
those plans have apparently fallen though.  At this point,
it seems that the primary advantage of A* is the availabilty of
hardcore pornography, which isn't available on any other
small-dish system.  A* is also harder to install than other systems,
since its use of linear polarity, rather than circular polarity, means
that one must align the LNB separately from the dish itself.

BUD is an acronym for Big, Ugly Dish, and refers to large-dish, 
conventional C-band or Ku-band satellite systems.  Such systems
are much more expensive than DBS hardware, but due to the wide
variety of program providers and program packages, can be much
less expensive on a yearly basis.  BUDs also give access to various
'wildfeeds,' as well as a few channels, like NASA, that aren't offered
over any DBS system.  BUD systems are definitely beyond the scope of
this FAQ, and there is another newsgroup,, which
is devoted to them.

Subject C.20: Are E* and DSS compatible?

Yes and no.  The dishes are.  The receivers are not.

Theoretically, you could have a dish, a DSS receiver,
and an E* receiver, but you would not be able to watch
programs from both systems at the same time, for the very
simple reason that the satellites for each system are in
different orbital positions.

Subject C.21: Can I get my local networks over DBS?

No.  The various DBS satellites serve the entire country,
and there are thousands of local affiliates.

DirecTV does offer a network package of NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox,
and PBS, but this is not available to everyone.  Federal law
dictates that if you can receive your local affiliates over
a roof antenna, or have received them over cable at anytime
in the past 90 days, then DirecTV (or any other DBS provider) is
not allowed to sell you other broadcast affiliates.   The 
relevant sections of  the US Code are available at: 

If you want to order that package, DirecTV will ask you if
you can receive networks over a roof antenna, and if you have
had cable within the past 90 days.  If the answer to either of
those questions is "yes," they will not sell you that package.

Dish Network offers something similar, but has recently added
a UPN affiliate.  However, the UPN affiliate is not part
of their network package, being instead included in their
"America's Top 50" package, which is normally $25 per month.

Subject C.22: Can I get Star Trek or Babylon 5 over DSS?

Strangely, no.  The Sci-Fi Network is available, but
that network doesn't carry either show.  Current Star Trek
series and Babylon 5 are syndicated and typically show up
on local affiliates, which you can't get over DSS.

Dish Network has recently added a UPN affiliate, which does
show _Star Trek: Voyager_.  Additionally, Dish Network has WB afilliates
which show _Babylon 5_, _Deep Space Nine_, and _ST:TNG_.

Subject C.23: When will the song titles be added to
                  Music Choice/Dish CD?

As far as Music Choice goes, DirecTV claims they can pass that
information on, but aren't doing so yet.  They claim that they
will do so by the end of the year, however.

According to Dish Network, Muzak does not provide playlists
for the Dish CD channels, so they have no capability to
pass playlist information on to the subscriber.  Supposedly,
it would cost Dish Network much more for the playlists, and that's
a cost which would have to be passed along to the consumer, and Dish
Network does not want to do that at this point.

Subject C.24: When will the other superstations be added to DSS?

DirecTV has no plans to add other superstations, like WGN,
at this time.

Subject C.25: Can I record off of my DBS system?

Certainly.  Occasionally, individuals report difficulty
in recording a certain show, but this is because they don't
have things connected properly.

Subject C.26: What is Macrovision?

Macrovision is a copy-protection signal.  It can be
embedded in the signal alongside with DirecTV and USSB programming.
It results in any recordings being unwatchable due to fluctuations
in color and synchronization.  Neither provider has turned
Macrovision on; DirecTV reserves the right to do so, and USSB
claims they have no plans to ever do so.

If the Macrovision logo present on the back panel of the more recent E*
receivers is any clue, E* also have the capabilities to activate the
Macrovision copy protection.  So far as is known, Echostar has no official
position on future use of Macrovision.

Subject C.27: Can I record while away from the house if I
                  have a 1st generation DSS or E*?

To an extent. Because the receiver has no time, you will have
leave it on and tuned to the channel you want to record.  You
will have to set the VCR timer normally.  This means that you
can only record off of one channel during a given absence.

There are also several models of VCRs that can be used to control
a first-generation DSS system.  Model name include RCA and Mitsubishi.

All second generation DSS systems have timers on them, and some have
VCR control outputs.  

Timers will be downloaded for newer E* systems sometime soon; not all E*
models will be capable of using them.  

Subject C.28:  Is it normal for the receiver to be warm?

Yes.  If you put it in a cabinet of some sort, be sure
to allow it some breathing space on top.

Subject C.29:  If I buy the NBA/NHL/NFL/MLB package,
                   do local blackouts still apply?

Yes.  Everyone who buys a package is considered to have
a local team, even if they live in the middle of nowhere,
and this local teams games will be blocked.

Subject C.30: When is AC-3 going to be broadcast?

The short answer is that nobody knows.  It would require fairly
substantial hardware investments on the part of the broadcasters,
and they are unlikely to do such a thing without a sizable
population of subscribers to take advantage of them.

That said, it probably will happen eventually, because AC-3
is about as standard as things get.  It is the current
standard for laserdisc, and also for DVD, which is expected
to replace laserdisc players, pre-recorded VHS tapes, and CDs.

In any event, no current DBS receivers have built-in AC-3 outputs.
It has been speculated that the Toslink output on the SAS-AD2 Sony system
could act as an AC-3 port when the time is right, but nobody is sure.

What seems most likely is that AC-3 data could be passed on to an
external convertor/decoder through the data ports that are present on most

End of document.

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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:12 PM