Rick's Notes
January 2005



I have created a PDF document giving page numbers of BBCi. This is more detailed than the p199 index because it includes direct page numbers to the regional content, i.e. 1660 for BBC South's news articles.



Everything had been going fine until last night. The reception flaked out at about 9pm (CET). I watched a DVD instead. Things were back to normal as the John Denver story started - though I didn't watch. The Digibox stayed on until...

...now. 9:04pm (CET). I had been intending to watch "The Out-of-Towners" on ITV3. But exactly to the moment that the film started (and I mean as the Paramount logo is animating), the reception died. Totally. Weird? I think so. I hope to watch "Scary Movie 2", but what worries me is the Digibox isn't receiving a damn thing right now. Not even a brief 20 second snippet of a signal. I tried unplugging it, and reconnecting it - ten minutes later - but this has not helped. There is, right now, not the faintest whisper of a signal.

I'm afraid this is how the box 'died' in the past. Why on earth does it do this now? In fact, why does it do it at all? I know from the past that it is not a 'thermal' issue as the box stays dead (when it does so) for rather longer than a cool-down period. Couple this with the long time spend at 19.2°E, this Digibox has, surely, been marching along for some three months, has it not?


If it is any help in diagnosing the problem, usually the signal strength is empty, as is (obviously) the signal quality.

If you can imagine the signal bar is made of 'blocks', then the strength will come on at three blocks, then vanish. Then it'll be one block, and gone. Then three, then two, then one, then gone again. In the picture above, it is two blocks.
This repeats, randomly.
And it doesn't lock in.


Plenty of potential theories can arise. A good one could be water ingress into the cabling. It is possible, but - you know - this is Brittany, it isn't like we don't have our fair share of wind.

My pet theories are:


1:30am (CET). Couldn't watch "Scary Movie 2". No signal lock whatsoever. Still no lock. I'll leave the box off overnight and see how it is tomorrow.



Expanded the 'Rick perspective' with lots of illustratory pictures that I had grabbed one night last week.
Reorganised the main index, and added section prev/next links to the tail of each page.
Maybe those of you reading are as bad at maths as I am. I calculated the data rate of a second of video data, in bits, then interpreted the value as bytes. This meant I thought that it took around 230Mb for a second of video data. Actually, 30Mb is more the truth. So obviously I have rewritten the calculations. :-)



No acknowledgement of a signal whatsoever. It was as if the LNB was disconnected, though I know this isn't the case because the signal meter said the LNB was both powered and receiving.

So at three in the afternoon (and it is 4°C, brrr) I decided to make some changes. I cut out the splice with garden shears (!) and respliced the cable. Perhaps dampness had gotten into the join? I then pushed my dish over and, tediously, realigned it so I knew I was getting the strongest possible signal.

This led to the interesting situation where the box told me there was a signal (manually tuning into the BBC South transponder - 10.818 V), led to the interesting condition of a signal strength that was pretty damn strong, but no lock.

So I sat down to write a fault report. The things making me feel paranoid are: I was half-way through writing up a fault report so I could check the exact wording of the 'no signal' message, and what did I see? Arnie and Devito in "Twins".
So, in short, I don't know what the problem here is. And to be honest, while I think I can rule out my splice (it has been working for months, and in much worse weather). Is this just pure luck? Is it possible that an LNB can have, say, condensation inside it and receive a strong but corrupted signal for a few days until it dries out? Or is this Digibox actually faulty?
I'm confused, but glad it is working again. Though, as it has only been on-line for the time it has taken me to write this... fingers crossed! :-)

The picture below is BBC South, again, as it should appear...



For the record, the box 'lost' signal at about 7:43pm English time, in the middle of Britney's song on TOTP. Perhaps it didn't like it either?
The signal was recovered for most of "The Addiction", but lost ten minutes from the end. The signal strength meter appeared dead, and given the time of night I unplugged and went to bed!



At 11:30 (CET), I plugged in. Nothing. Not a bean. I checked the cables, ensured the dish was optimally aligned, etc.
Directly testing BBC 1 South's transponder (10.818 V 22000 5/6) gave a strong signal but no lock.
There was a brief lock at about quarter to, the Digibox has time and it had the channels list loaded, but nothing else. Now? Now it wants to reload the channels list so we have to go through all of that crap before we can attempt to find a picture.
The signal strength meter is jumping all over the place. Now I am pretty damn sure the signal strength is not behaving like that otherwise it'd have shown up on the sat-finder! I wonder what/how the meter measures?
I'm just going to leave the box on standby today (have to go out in about half an hour) so I'll see if it clears itself, warms up, whatever.

The theory, at the moment, is along the lines of:

Something like condensation is in the LNB. This is why the thing seems to be affected by rapid temperature changes, and mostly between 8pm and 2am (i.e. when all of the good stuff is on!). I still have might doubts about the box as analogue worked flawlessly while the box refused to lock. Certainly, it seems strange to me that the box's signal meter is so jumpy. Either there's a (partial) signal or there isn't. There isn't a strong signal (but no lock) one moment and sweet fa the next. I'll believe it when the sat-finder responds like that!
Thus, possibly two interacting problems. A less than optimal setup with a Digibox containing a less than optimal tuner. By definition, both parts have to be on their best behaviour for the thing to work. If anything starts to feel like I feel in the morning, whammo:
No satellite signal is being received

I've just turned on the TV (about ten minutes later) and the channels list has finally been loaded (so I guess it can lock once in a while). Switching to channel 954 responds with my favourite message. And trying manual tuning on the transponder shows a very weak signal. Mmmm...

So this, I'm afraid, will have to go in as another complaint of the Digibox. An analogue signal 'fades out' as reception worsens. Well, I'd actually like a signal strength meter that 'fades out' in the same manner. Half a bar one second and nothing the next doesn't tell me an awful lot. In fact, I have had quarter of a bar of signal when testing the setup outside last year - and the dish was pointing at the ground!

Analysis? I'm going to have to shut up and put up until I get some money in. Then it'll be a brand new LNB, out of a pack on it's own and not a 30 euro kit with receiver, and brand new wiring. It'd be nice to have a minidish, but as you can imagine these things are really rare over here! Metronic make an interesting see-through dish. I might look to getting one of those, though I like the wind resistance of the mesh dish. It doesn't move even in strong wind. My solid dish used to end up in fields and alsorts!

It is 12:23 CET. No signal. Going out now so I'll leave it and see how it is later on. Bye for now.


Later... 17:30 CET. Everything appears to be working just fine - for now. The difference? The temperature (inside and out) has only changed by one degree, it is now 10°C outside, it was 11°C. Oh, and it has clouded over and begun to rain. Previously the sky was clear (but the Sky wasn't, ha ha boom (or something)).



It is 00:30 CET and it is working. It worked, mostly, for "I am the ripper!" on THC last night. It appears to 'die' between 9pm and 2am, and is more likely to die on clear nights and not on rainy nights; which seems backwards to what you might expect.
What I have noticed is that it has a propensity to gets its channel allocations in a twist. I often leave the box on #954 (BBC South) and sometimes (like this evening) the little TV guide tells me that no further listings are available. So I pop over to BBC One (#101) to see what is on. Upon tapping in 9, 5, 4 to return, I get "channel unavailable". A quick power-down and re-connect fixes this, but it is an odd thing, isn't it?


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