I have always been interested in it, but until now I had never taken the plunge into the world of free to air satellite TV. The idea of having so many channels from different countries available at your finger tips is both exciting and worrying, although I don’t think ill be in risk of becoming a couch potato – I can’t sit still long enough!

The decision to purchase some satellite reception equipment was partially due to my partner wanting to watch TV shows from her home country, I just figured this was a great excuse to buy the equipment and play around with picking up satellite transmissions.

During my research into what equipment would be required and what satellites and channels I could pick up, I came across a number of very useful online resources, Lyngsat – which lists all the available satellites, their location, various beams and their footprint, channel/frequency list, and much more. Another site I found useful is DishPointer and as the name suggests, it assists you inĀ  pointing your dish to your desired satellite, it utilises Google maps and can visually show you the line of site to the required satellite from your location. Very helpful to see if trees or tall building would be an issue. There are also numerous forums containing many posts of almost all questions you would want to ask.

One thing I decided early on, and that was to only start this project if it is possible to do away with a set top box and utilise my existing MythTV set up. The last thing I want is more boxes under the TV, and even worse, not being able to schedule recordings! For those of you who are not familiar, MythTV is a great Open Source DVR (digital video recorder) software package available for Linux. I might do another post shortly explaining my existing MythTV configuration for those who are interested.

After researching what I needed, I determined that a 2.3m C-Band dish would be my starting point, mounted in a fixed position for now but with the ability to add a linear actuator at a later date. I ended up purchasing a kit, which contained:

  • 2.3m Joysky heavy duty dish
  • OpenBox X800 Receiver (Set Top Box),
  • Strong C-Band 15K LNBF
  • 30m RG6 coax cable.
  • 4 F-type crimps.

2.3m C-Band Satellite DishOpenBox X800 Satellite Receiver

I didn’t actually want the set top box, however the kit price seemed quite good and I thought it would be better to tune into my first satellite on something I know ‘should’ be able to work the first time and once I have the system working I can sell off the set top box and purchase a DVB-S2 card for the mythbox.

After reading about the systems used for satellite TV, it seems that currently most systems are using DVB-S, and the newer DVB-S2 is starting to gain momentum. From what I understand, DVB-S gives you stardand definition (SDTV) using MPEG2 and DVB-S2 gives you high definition (HDTV) using MPEG4. I am not sure if any free to air (FTA) channels would be using DVB-S2 yet, however I want the hardware I buy now to last a while. There are a number of suitable DVB-S2 PCI, PCI-E and USB devices available which seem to have Linux support. I am currently considering the Twinhan AD- SP400 which also includes a CI (Common Interface) slot which allows CAM’s (Conditional Access Module) and would provide me with a way to access Pay TV if I wish to subscribe at a later date.

Another satellite TV standard that I found interesting and useful is DiSEqC (pronounced Die-Sec, meaning Digital Satellite Equipment Control). I had seen the configuration options for it in the mythtv-setup program before, but before now I had no idea what it was about. From what I understand about it so far, it is basically a communications protocol that allows your satellite receiver to control LNB’s, switches, and motors/actuators over the same coax cable that you are receiving your signal on (and also powering the devices with). I won’t go into the details of it as there are already plenty of online resources for it, see DiSEqC on Wikipedia, or take a look at the specifications over at Eutelsat where the standard originated.

I have not done much apart from open the boxes on the kit to see all the various parts, I have not purchased a pole to mount the dish on yet, I need a 76mm diameter pole and to get above the roof I would probably want it around 4m long. My plan is to secure the pole into the ground and attached the pole to a wall with at least two brackets. I am also considering moving house at the moment so I don’t want to set up the dish at my current house if I have to rip it all down again in the next month, therefore I probably wont be posting a part 2 for a while.