Zombie satellites, pirates and stuff

Beware the zombie satellite

Beware the zombie satellite

Some bloggers make lots of short posts to quickly reflect whatever they care about at the time. So far, I’ve been collecting thoughts and lumping them together. Would you rather see shorter, more frequent posts? Like it the way it is? Leave a comment, please.

* The mainstream media is slowly coming around to reporting the odd problem that is Galaxy 15. About a month ago, April 5, Intelsat lost control of the satellite. That’s not so unusual; all satellites eventually go bad. But when most satellite die, they die. Galaxy 15 isn’t responding any more, but it still thinks it’s alive, and that’s what’s causing the problem.

Galaxy 15 carried some C-band programming, almost all scrambled, which cable TV systems picked up, descrambled, and passed along to their subscribers. You can get a good idea of what it had by seeing what’s on Galaxy 12, the replacement that Intelsat quickly moved into position. Galaxy 15 thinks that it’s still relaying those signals, so it’s continuing to broadcast on similar frequencies.

Without a steady hand to keep it in one place, Galaxy 15 is shuffling over to a Lagrange point, one of those gravitational dips that weakly attract wandering objects. Along the way, it’s going to pass by AMC 11, an SES New Skies satellite that also broadcasts to cable systems on similar C-band frequencies. They’re not too worried about collisions; there’s a lot of room up there, and plenty of time to move out of the way. But Galaxy 15 could get close enough to interfere with AMC 11′s signals. If the satellite operators don’t take corrective action, cable subscribers could have to spend several days without MTV.

For a more thorough discussion of this situation, your best choice is Doug Lung’s updated story in TV Technology.

* My latest tweet (you are following FTAList on Twitter, aren’t you?) concerns the US Court of Appeals ruling on setting damages on satellite piracy. The original case was three years ago, but the appeal was decided yesterday.

A jury found that one sad guy had watched unauthorized DirecTV signals for 435 days, so he was fined $43,500. Another guy had distributed four illegal devices, and he got hit with $44,000.

Not only is piracy unethical and bad karma, it’s also got a terrible risk-reward ratio. But you already knew that.

* When you’re away from your dish, the next best thing is TVU Networks for Windows, iPhone or iPad. You’ll recognize a lot of the foreign-language channels that are available FTA, plus several public-domain movie channels that are almost as good as White Springs used to be. Poke around the long list of channels and check it out.