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Satellite Workshop

This is the sixth in a series of articles which will help you to save money on repairs and installation.

Pace receivers have menu options which will result in "no picture" or "no decoder messages" if you set them incorrectly. I have lost count of the number of times I have found the contrast set below number 4. This invariably results in loss of decoder messages - sometimes on just one channel, which can be rather confusing! Make sure that the contrast is set to either 4 or 5. This is the optimum for correct decoder operation. Why did Pace give the option in the first place? It was designed for the export version which has no decoder. Another Installation Menu option which gives problems is "LNB Power." Make sure that this is always "ON" unless the receiver is part of an IF distribution system in an hotel, for example.

The Grundig GRD series of receivers allows you to set the LNB local oscillator frequency to silly numbers if you are not careful. When you set it for an Enhanced LNB, be sure to press 09.75. If you omit the zero it will default to 99.9 which leaves every channel stuck at the lowest possible frequency!

The Amstrad SRD700 and Fidelity SR950 have no factory reset facility. To make matters worse, they DO have an "Autotune" system which, with a few careless button presses, will set the receiver off on a self-tuning spree which will leave all channels stored in transponder order with a few blank screens thrown in for luck! The SR950 has no 10.0 GHz option for a standard LNB so Autotuning with an old LNB will result in a very strange channel order if you then use an Enhanced LNB. One option is to retune every programme by hand. The other is to order a pre-programmed memory chip from:
(SatCure), PO Box 12, Sandbach DO, CW11 1XA. (01270) 753311.

The Pace Prima handset, although similar in appearance, uses a different code set from other Pace receivers. The Prima handset can be distinguished by the designation "RC-10" at the bottom right corner of the keypad. Recent production MSS100 also uses this Prima handset. If the receiver won't respond, check that you have the correct handset. I've also seen quite a few PRD800 and PRD900 receivers which would not respond to the handset. This problem is usually caused by a broken solder joint on the infra-red sensor. There's no need to dismantle the entire receiver to fix this. Simply remove the top cover and front panel. The sensor wires are near the front of the circuit board and can easily be resoldered with the unit upside down. A poor joint on the sensor can lead to other problems such as inability to change polarisation. A factory reset will often cure this symptom. If it doesn't then try a download from an identical receiver or use the Pace Link computer system. If all else fails, a pre-programmed channel memory chip from SatCurewill do the trick.

It never fails to amaze me how many installers, while perfectly competent in the practical work of installation, are totally inept when it comes to making real money at the job. I can understand this from somebody on a fixed (high!) wage but for someone who is self-employed it is rather sad. There are many ways to increase your income without having to fit twenty dishes per day. One local installer is an excellent salesman and carries out only two or three dish installations per day. How does he live on that? He offers additional services.
"Got children, missus?" he will ask. "Got tellies in their bedrooms, have they? No! I can get some nice portables really cheap. Guaranteed six months and I'll even fit an amplifier in the loft so they don't need those awkward, unsightly set-top antennas. Can I wash my hands? I'll just move these plates shall I. What you need is a dishwasher. I can fetch one from the warehouse tomorrow if you like - trade price of course! Where's the towel. You need a towel holder. What, you bought one a year ago but he can't be bothered to drill the wall for it! I'll fix it for you in a jiffy. You just put some newspaper down while I fetch the drill." Invariably he earns an extra tenner for this without even asking for it.

He is very observant and makes conversation with the house owner in a friendly fashion while he is actually digging for information on things he or she might need. "I hear there was a break-in next door. You're not worried about burglars are you? You are! How about a camera that connects to your video recorder. Whenever you go out it records everything that happens. That way the police can catch them and lock them away for a few years." And so he carries on looking for things that the customer needs. "Dark out here. You need one of those automatic lights. I've got one in the van. Here, I'll show you how it works." He's even into mobile telephones: "Just had your car serviced? I hear this model isn't too reliable. My wife keeps a mobile phone in the glove compartment so she can call for help when her car breaks down. Used it twice already. It was raining both times and she in her best clothes. They make them really small, too. Here, look at my phone. Bet you didn't even see it in my pocket! Let me demonstrate."

The possibilities for earning extra cash are infinite. If the gutters are soiled up you can offer to clean them. "Do they flood over when it rains? I thought so. It'll get worse, too. Pretty soon the rendering will come off the wall. Normally I'd charge 35 call out to clean gutters but, since I'm already here, I can do them for twenty."

He doesn't forget the satellite side, either. "You pay full subscription but you can't get Sky Movies Gold or Granada Good Life? What about Country Music? What you need is a Channel Expander. You can get then from Sky but that could take three weeks. I've got one in the van. Let me connect it up and show you. Of course, you have to press this and this each time you want an Astra 1D channel. You don't understand? Tell you what. Let me take your receiver to the workshop. For an extra tenner I can have it upgraded so it works this Channel Expander automatically. That way I can tune it permanently and you get the extra channels without worrying about it."

Most installers overlook the possibility of upgrading receivers. A repair is a repair and that's that. The customer won't pay more than such and such to have the receiver fixed. But what if you can upgrade it to 199 channels? Or make it work with an Enhanced LNB? Or modify it so you can select the Channel Expander automatically in the menu? Wouldn't the customer pay extra?

You can also part exchange the customer's receiver for one with a higher specification: an SRD400 for an SRX200; An SRD510 for an SRD400. A PRD800 for an SS9000. You might trash the SRX200 but the others can be refurbished and used as part exchanges in turn.

For more advice about upgrades, contact Martin Pickering