Goodness, you'd have thought I'd have brushed my hair first... Oh, wait, I did. ☺
I received this receiver third-hand, with no instructions, so everything here has been 'figured out'. Somebody sent me the instruction booklet PDF last week (March 23rd) which I downloaded. Since it was a large attachment and my mailbox was maxed out, I decided to delete it (and a few other large messages) and then send a thank you note.
Anybody with half a brain (i.e. not me!) will be wondering exactly how I planned to send a thank you once I'd deleted the email, where would I get the reply to address from?
Erm... Erm... Erm...
Whoever you are, THANK YOU! I have printed the user guide in case I need to refer to it, but I didn't do a bad job of figuring out this little receiver...
0014which is Anime Central.
It is also a useful feature for people such as my mother who might not really want the complexities of learning to use a satellite receiver. By pressing two power buttons (the receiver and some sort of amplifier), she would be able to switch on to BBC Radio 4 - simply by setting it as the default start-up channel.
It is worth pointing out that certain channels output video data in a format that the receiver doesn't appear to like in "miniature mode". Zone Horror was showing an advert, while ZoneRomantica, far from being scrambled (!), was showing the TV series "Beauty and the Beast" (with a young Linda Hamilton).
So now let's zoom in on the girl reading the news. This next picture is 6× (the receiver can do 2× to 16× in varying steps).
Look how clear the BBC's image is at 6×! Given this degree of quality, it could be possible to assemble, from a static picture, an image with dimensions 3240×1932. There'd be no point though, as that's about twice HDTV so there's nothing that's able to display it.
But it would still look pretty good, if only in our imaginations...
Anyway, click here for a more extreme example of scaling up the picture!
Pressing the info button pops up a display giving technical information on the channel including a signal stregth meter of the channel you are actually watching (the Digibox reports the signal quality for 11778V regardless of what you are watching). You've already seen an example of this, along with a slightly corrupt picture.
Pressing the epg button pops up a display giving a 'now and next' with a channel list. You can expand the information for the current programme. You've already seen an example of this, with the radio channel.
You can also call up the channels list, sorted by satellite or your favourites. As you choose a channel, you will see it in the space on the right, along with some basic techie information.
The ST20 processor used in the Digibox has support for teletext, so it seems odd to me that the receiver itself cannot display pages of teletext. It is as if Sky was trying to kill it off, rather than simply waiting for interactive to overtake it.
As for the SL65, not only does it handle teletext, with fast-links, but it seems to cache pages as they are received. As up to 800 pages can be stored, I know that I rarely have to wait, once the initial page has loaded. Perhaps if you press 'text' and go make a cup of tea, it'll have grabbed everything it could by the time you return. I'm not sure if it works like this, I have not tried... The user guide proudly says "Comparing our receiver to others you will notice that our Teletext is extremely fast". Indeed it is.
By an interesting quirk of design, you can read teletext pages that are broadcast on scrambled channels. Here is a page from the Irish channel RTÉ1:
I found out by accident something which is not described in the user guide. When you press 'text', the teletext appears in a 'solid' black rectangle over the top of the screen.
What if you would prefer it as a merged overlay?
Easy! The SL65 offers four levels of background - solid black, heavily opaque, just opaque, and transparent. You can cycle through by pressing the audio key. You can see a solid page (on a scrambled channel) and you can see the 'just opaque' overlaid on CNN, below.
In addition to this, you can select the television output aspect from:
Up to eight events can be defined, by date and time. You can instruct your receiver to switch on to a specific channel, or you can ask your receiver to display a message.
If you ask for a message to be displayed, you are offered a choice of birthday, anniversay, or general message. For the first two, it may be useful to know that the receiver can repeat the alarm yearly...
Here is the birthday greeting:
The main problem comes when the signal is weaker, fringe reception and/or unfavourable weather. In these situations, reception is actually considerably worse than the Digibox (Pace 2500B).
The SL65 is very quick at regaining from a lost signal, however it is also very quick at pointing out the signal has been lost - which has the potential of a rather stroboscopic effect as the signal comes and goes, and so the picture is replaced with a blank black screen with a thing like a shiny white marble and the message "No signal!". It would be better if the receiver would just freeze the picture for a few seconds, to see if the picture can be recovered without the need to blank it.
Additionally, in these situations, it would seem that the receiver is less choosy about how it 'builds' the display. Sometimes it appears as if the receiver outputs random junk to the screen, so while the Digibox can mess up with a bad input, the SL65 can mess up spectacularly with input that wouldn't actually cause that much disturbance on the Digibox (it would hiccup instead - so it is quite likely that the Digibox may entirely reject duff data instead of trying to display it?).
Something the SL65 doesn't do, however, is fall into the problem that affects the Digibox whereby during glitches there is a good chance of the audio losing sync or being lost altogether. I once taped a film where a gust of wind caused a glitch. I didn't think anything of it (I was outside at the time), but upon replaying the film that glitch lost the sound for the entire rest of the film. Lovely, huh?
Where the SL65 comes into its own, however, is when the signal deteriorates even further. Those times when the Digibox gives up completely and says "No satellite signal is being received" for everything. In these situations, the SL65 performs much better than the Digibox. Sure, two-thirds of the channels may have vanished into no signal territory, however those that remain (BBC1, ITV2, ITV4, Film4, etc) are often viewable with minor to moderate corruption. Certainly there is still a signal to be found - though you try telling that to my Digibox!
The SL65 supports:
|By complete and utter contrast, any FTA receiver worth considering will offer DiSEqC. As explained just above, this comes in two forms. The early (1.0 and 1.1) are for controlling switches. Thus you can have a dish with two or more LNBs attached at fixed points. A switching device tucked under the dish will accept commands from the receiver and select the desired LNB. Selecting what channel to watch is as simple as selecting what channel to watch. The receiver will send the commands to change LNB, also adjust itself automatically if your LNB is a weird non-universal type (which may be the case if you are viewing C-band). Whatever, there's no headache at all.|
Alternatively, DiSEqC can be used with a twin 'monobloc' (pictured left) to select which LNB to use. This is like two separate LNBs and a 2 way switch rolled into one device. No good for British TV, but it is frequently available here in France for watching both Astra and Hotbird (19.2°E and 13°E). The monobloc is a popular arrangement because it is often near impossible to have the two LNBs correctly positioned side-by-side. The picture of the monobloc shows how close the feed horns are to each other...
|The fixed-dish-multi-LNB system works by using the fact that the dish acts as a mirror from many angles. Therefore you can point the dish at the main satellite you wish to watch (primary focus point) and strap on additional LNBs at the secondary focus points. These, obviously, will result in weaker reception as you are relying upon a side effect of the dish, and not all of the dish area will be used to receive. Not that this is necessarily a problem - if you look in the satellite press you'll see adverts for a Astra1/Hotbird "monobloc" (pictured just above), ranging up to the big dishes with six or seven LNBs off a second reflector (pictured left). It is possible. In fact, with a little bit of maths or a lot of fiddling around, it isn't only possible, it isn't that difficult.|
The picture on the left, well now we are really showing off. To make a more compact and stable arrangement the main dish bounces the signals off of a smaller inverted dish, with the LNBs back to front in between. Just look at that dish. Doesn't it look a lot more stable and secure than a dish with multiple arms or, worse, one arm with multiple LNBs hanging off? Notice also the second dish is convex. This will help to separate the signals from each bird so the LNBs don't need to be crowded practically on top of each other, and should also help reduce interference between adjacent satellites.
|The logical alternative to the multi-LNB setup is to have one LNB, always at the primary focal point, and move the dish itself. Again we can see a reflected signal, placing the LNB away from the end of the pole for improved stability.|
Using a rotating dish is less common, in part due to reliability issues (the less expensive types are alleged to suffer from corrosion and the ingress of dirt), but mostly because the equipment is quite expensive.
As you can see from the lower-left picture, the mounting is an equatorial setup - rather like the fixture on decent astonomical telescopes. This is required because the satellites describe an arc in the sky. If you move from Astra 2 at 28.2°E to the older Astras at 19.2°E, you cannot achieve this simply by aiming your dish a little more to the right. You must tilt it upwards a few degrees.
While it isn't that difficult to make a mounting system to follow the Clarke Belt, it is harder to make one that is precise and reliable in all weathers at any time you require it. For example, if you have a telescope and you tell it to "Go to Betelgeuse" and it misses, it is only a minor inconvenience as you can nudge it into the right place using the positioner controls. Most telescopes will follow a celestial body through the course of a night. I wonder if it'd be pointing at anything at all if you left the telescope outside for a year, to look for Sirius at 8pm and then find Vega at 11pm. Would it be that accurate over extended periods of time? Recall you usually have to set up the telescope at the start of a session by telling it where a prominent star is. I ask this, because this sort of continuous reliable accuracy is what we expect of a dish positioner. That's why they don't come cheap!
Don't contemplate the picture above - evidently there is no software that talks to the receiver using the nice obvious interface. Instead, you read/write/burn the firmware using a soft of 'back door' provided within the serial interface. Don't ask why...
Problem! The AliEditor software (download firmware from receiver, plus edit channels) does not work - this is because the receiver appears to spit data at 115,200kbps (i.e. as fast as most serial ports go) with absolutely no regard for flow control. My computer is a 466MHz Celeron machine (FSB 66MHz) with a standard on-board combo serial port. It isn't zippy enough to capture data at 115,200kbps, under Windows 98SE or DOS.
However, it did work on a 450MHz PentiumIII system running Windows XP. I think this is less to do with differences between W98 and XP, and more to do with the apparently-slower machine having a front-side bus clocked at 100MHz thus offering a throughput roughtly twice as fast as the other computer.
If this is how the receiver operates, I don't plan to try a firmware update!
I have written some software (for DOS) to attempt to talk to the receiver and read the firmware. Source code is available so you can have a fiddle with it yourself, maybe rewrite the serial handler for better performance - does anybody know how to allocate and write directly into a 2Mb EMS/XMS block? (more details)
Of course, if your machine can keep up with the serial transfer, there's no problem!
10.818 V, or choose an already-known transponder... and the receiver will then scan to see if there is a signal at that frequency, and if so then it will add the transponder to the list of known ones if it isn't already known. Afterwards it will list all of the channels found, allowing you to specifically choose which you would like to have added to the channel list (VID/AUID/PID/name all automatically set up).
It would work a little something like this: