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Cable TV Versus Satellite TV? 1218

rufey writes "In the next few weeks I'll be moving and am thinking about getting either cable TV or satellite. I don't need broadband Internet (I use DSL), so getting cable TV bundled with broadband is not an option I'm considering. Comcast is the local cable provider in my area, and are playing TV spots about how satellite TV signals can be lost when it rains, when the wind blows, and even when the dog sneezes (I'm sure the dog sneezing excuse in the commercials are more for humor than fact). What has been Slashdot readers' experience with cable and satellite TV? I'm looking at trying to balance cost versus quality of signal and picture. How much does the weather affect the signal quality of satellite TV reception? Some satellite packages include a DVR (Comcast doesn't offer one yet in my area). Is it worth getting the DVR supplied by the satellite company (DirectTV, DishNetwork), or is buying a separate TiVo a better option? As a geek, I'm also interested in getting NASA TV."
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Cable TV Versus Satellite TV?

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  • by corebreech ( 469871 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:33PM (#8160508) Journal
    I've only had experience with the DVR Time/Warner cable was offering and it wouldn't let you time-shift anything but PPV content, but I don't know if that applies to Comcast as well. If it does, you could stick a TiVO or your own DVR into the equation, but then what you're doing is decoding the MPEG from your cable provider, then reencoding it back into MPEG when it gets saved to the hard disk, which sucks. This is assuming you're getting digital cable of course.

    The satellite DVR packages on the other hand will save the MPEG stream directly to the hard disk, so you can view it later without loss of image quality.

    This is all the more important if you're thinking about going with HDTV. DirecTV is about to come out with a HD-DVR made in conjunction with TiVO. DishNetwork's HD-DVR is already out [], but it will set you back a cool thousand.

    If there was actually something worth watching on TV beside porn, I'd get the latter, if for no other reason than that DirecTV won't carry porn [], but seeing as how Murdoch has bought DirecTV from Hughes that's probably about to change.

    The consensus on seems to be that weather really doesn't affect image quality (though this may not be true for HD content) but that airplanes, helicopters, birds and people falling off of your roof can and do. That said, it supposedly causes only minor artifacting (which you're going to get anyways given the aggressive compression the providers use... watch Star Trek: TNG on Spike TV sometime and watch the signal lose sync everytime somebody fires a phaser.)
    • A friend of mine has the Comcast DVR and they let him timeshift everything...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:37PM (#8160557)
      DirecTV does carry porn -- and some of the channels are the same as Dish Network. They have Playboy, Spice, and three hardcore channels. From what I hear, Dish will show more (namely: anal), but DirecTV does carry porn (channels 594 - 598)
      • I should have been more specific.

        I'm talking about uncut porn channels that you pay for by the month. The only channel DirecTV offers by the month is Playboy, which I don't consider porn.

        All the others are PPV, and as you've noted, are edited.

        (or at least that's what I've heard.)
        • by slaker ( 53818 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @04:28PM (#8162224)
          I have full-time playboy on DirectTV (more precisely, the guy who shares my duplex does, but I pay him for a receiver so...).

          Playoby's offerings are FAR different from what they were 5 years ago. In that time, Playboy has eaten the Spice Network, home to harder-core material than the T&A stuff playboy is known for (and, if I can digress for a moment: That's the stuff I like. I don't want to see some guy's hairy ass, looking like he got out of prison that morning, pawing at Tera Patrick or Carmen Luvana. Give me T&A and I'm a happy guy).

          Used to be, you didn't see penetration on Playboy. Now you do, even in some of the Playboy-branded content. I've seen gonzo-type movies and I've seen unedited titles from the major US porn studios (mostly Vivid, but also Wicked, VCA et al). No Max Hardcore, no "1200 Anal Cumshots", no interracial degradation porn, no midgets, but if your tastes run to something a woman might conceivably watch with you, Playboy is a pretty good deal. Cost is IIRC $12 a month, same as HBO. I think a four hour block of adult PPV on direcTV is $5 or $7.

          "Totally Busted" and "The Naked News" are both pretty worthwhile for entertainment value. The "Are my Boobs crooked?" bit that's advertised on came from "Totally Busted".

          Now, the day I can get Playboy in HDTV, I'll finally invest in a directv subscription of my own.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:37PM (#8160560)

      One major problem with that. DirecTV most certainly *does* have PORN. Something like 6 or so channels, plus it's offered on a few of the PPV channels in addition to Spice, Hot Network, Playboy, etc. Good stuff too. Not just the HBO/Skinimax R rated soft-core crap, but real honest PORN.

      And yeah, I posted this anonymously for a reason. :)

    • by prell ( 584580 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:38PM (#8160574) Homepage
      I had a Time Warner PVR when they were still testing them, and it worked out wonderfully, for me: I scheduled recordings; I could rewind live TV (and fast-forward up until the "live point"); I could pause for up to two hours or something (whatever the length of the "live cache" was); I could record two things at once, while playing something off the hard drive; I could record something, and watch something else, with full RW/FF/Pause capabilities.
    • by PD ( 9577 ) * <> on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:40PM (#8160630) Homepage Journal
      The PVR that comes with a service is not an advantage for either. The reason being that you REALLY want to get a TiVo. Everything sucks in comparison (mileage may vary).

      TiVo will work with either your satellite or cable, without any trouble. As far as the other issues, I've had both DirectTV and Dish Network (currently have Dish). You will lose the signal when it rains hard. I live in Texas, the land of flash floods, and the most I've lost my signal for is an hour. More typical is 3-4 minutes. It takes a hell of a storm to block the signal for longer than that.

      Birds, airplanes, people, etc. will not block the signal. Anyone who claims that they will is on crack.
      • by Oliver Wendell Jones ( 158103 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:44PM (#8160700)
        Birds, airplanes, people, etc. will not block the signal. Anyone who claims that they will is on crack.

        Or has had a large bird, airplane or people crash onto their roof directly on top of the dish.
      • You will lose the signal when it rains hard. I live in Texas, the land of flash floods, and the most I've lost my signal for is an hour.

        We used to lose the signal for a couple of hours at a time... in Kansas, so I imagine we're pointing at the same sat. (We might still do so, if we were actually using the service.)

        We have the standard size dish, though (18"?). A friend bought the next size up (24"?), and never lost signal.

      • by ckd ( 72611 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @03:36PM (#8161526) Homepage
        he PVR that comes with a service is not an advantage for either. The reason being that you REALLY want to get a TiVo. Everything sucks in comparison (mileage may vary).

        The DirecTV DVR is a TiVo (ok, now it's "powered by TiVo"). It also has two satellite tuners so you can record two shows at once (and even watch a third, previously recorded, show). It also records the digital stream directly, so no recompression to worry about.

        As for rain fade, install it well (or get a good pro install) and you will rarely if ever have a problem IME. The stronger your signal is on a clear day, the more margin you will have when it rains. (Also, make sure the dish is well secured and/or shielded from strong winds if you have 'em.) From Boston, we only get rain fade once or twice a year at most, and no snow fade (the dish surface is vertical enough that it slides right off).

      • by deathcow ( 455995 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @03:39PM (#8161569)
        Buy a bigger dish. Here in Alaska, 18" dishes wont even work. Minimal size is 30". Personally, we ended up with a 1.2 meter dish which is more immune to weather. (Our Dish network transponders vary from 60-80 in strength, with 125 on the spotbeam.) My friend went for the gold and bought a 2 meter dish. ChannelMaster makes all of these dishes for consumers to buy.

        Also, not sure how long your cable to your dish is? Buy some Belden 1694A cable, low loss serial digital interconnect RG6, and have it terminated with Canare F connectors on both ends. Doesnt make much difference for signals under 1 ghz, but can make a huge difference for higher signals depending on your existing cabling. I've ran my Dish on 350 feet of this cable with only a few points of signal loss on the highest frequencies coming from the LNB. (Check for a pre-made source of these cables. Or if you want to build it all yourself.)
    • by lambadomy ( 160559 ) <> on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:47PM (#8160765)
      Uh, I work for DirecTV, and there is porn all over the place here. I was under the impression we were actually broadcasting it too. If not, I'm going to really have to change my opinion about some of the people in this place.
    • DishNetwork's HD-DVR is already out, but it will set you back a cool thousand.

      No it won't. When I signed up with Dish Network, they installed the dish, 2 normal receivers, and a DishPVR for 99 bucks. As far as how it compares to Tivo? I tried a Tivo, and the delay when switching channels really pissed me off. The DishPVR has no such delay. All in all, I've had no problems out of it, technical or otherwise. And to answer one of the other questions, that BS about the satellite being unreliable is abso
      • by TGK ( 262438 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @03:24PM (#8161370) Homepage Journal
        Disclaimer: I presently draw a paycheck from Echosphere, parent company of Echostar, parent company of Dish Network.

        I'll lay this down for you all. There are definite advantages to both Satellite and Cable. The experience you have with either service will differ depending on what you choose as far as your service contract goes.

        First, though, a few myths to dispel or clarify as the case may be.

        Weather Related Signal Loss: Signal Strength is generally rated on a 125 point scale with Dish Network (100 points with DirecTV if memory serves). During a heavy rain storm you should expect to see a signal loss of about 20 points. At about 50 points of total signal you'll see pixilation occurring due to the MPEG2 compression. At 40 points you'll loose signal altogether unless it's a massively redundant broadcast. Your typical install with four receivers will get you 98 - 120 signal on each receiver.

        During snow you will experience signal loss, especially if your dish is at a higher angle of elevation. This is because snow will collect on the reflecting surface, blocking the signal.

        Hidden Charges There is no such thing as a hidden charge.... provided you read the contract. I'm familiar with Dish's contracts and they're written in fairly tame legal speak, if I can understand it you can to. Yes, you will be charged for additional receivers. Yes, the equipment is up to you to maintain after the first year unless you arrange otherwise. Yes your installation is probably not under warranty beyond 90 days. Dish offers a number of fairly good warranty plans including the Digital Home Advantage plan, which for the most part covers all of your equipment and charges nominal fees for things like restringing all the cable in your house in the event of a catastrophic failure of some kind. I'm sure DirecTV has a similar offer; I don't know what it is.

        HD TV - If you must have HD and you've already set with the equipment your best bet is going to be Voom []. If you're still looking into getting the equipment, Dish runs a close 2nd with the 811 (standard HD receiver) being a pretty standard part of most installs (at customer request). Dish also offers a promotion called HD In a Box, wherein you get an 811 plus a 34 or 40 inch HD set to go with it for about $999.

        Now, as far as drawback to satellite v cable go, it breaks like this.

        -- Bigger rate increases
        -- Crappy customer service (getting better)
        -- Higher rates overall

        -- Equipment is your problem for the most part
        -- Local channels are extra (5.99 typically) and may not be offered in your area
        -- Extra charges per additional receiver.

        And finally, a tidbit of wisdom for those of you considering signing up for a satellite dish right now. The Dish Network DVR 522 is offered as part of Digital Home Advantage. Presently it allows DVR service in two rooms more or less for the price of one room. Future software will allow you to use this receiver as a dual tuner DVR in one location if you so choose (and it will toggle between the two). That feature isn't ready yet, so it's not being advertised... but when we see it it's gonna be sweet!

      • Did you even read the original comment?

        The original comment refers to the *high definition* Dish PVR. You got a *standard definition* Dish PVR + 2 *standard definition* recievers for $99. Many stores offer the same deal with the DirecTV DVR (1 DVR + 2 Recievers for $99, installed)
    • by Gamgeek+ ( 669430 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:56PM (#8160934)
      A further advantage of DirecTV is that if you have Tivo (DirecTivo actually) you can stream TWO channels to the Tivo's drive while either watching one of them or a third show from the drive. This is an outstanding feature. And to chime in on the weather issue - I live in snowy PA and have practically no issues. Just mount the dish so it doesn't get burried in snow and you'll be fine...
      • I work for a cable company, I reccomended to my brothers and monther to get the dish instead of cable. In fact I would have the dish if I did not get cable for free/insane discount (My cable package would cost a regular person $150.00 a month easy)

        The dish does NOT get affected in heavy rain or snowfall UNLESS it is a massive downpour, and it is aligned right. a misaligned dish will look good on a clear day, but crap out easily.

        also you can get heated dishes, which is what I reccomended to my family so
    • by jmichaelg ( 148257 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @03:34PM (#8161506) Journal
      weather really doesn't affect image quality (though this may not be true for HD content) but that airplanes, helicopters, birds and people falling off of your roof can and do.

      Yeah it really sucks. Just yesterday, last seconds of the game, kicker is going for the field goal and BLAM! some guy impaled himself on our antennae. Peeled him off but it was no good, the game was over.

    • The current TimeWarner DVR box (atleast here in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles) allows you to timeshift normal programs. The box you're thinking of is the standard box that does iControl (on-demand - I have that box also)

      The TimeWarner DVR box has a great interface, but has one major drawback - DO NOT put it in your stereo cabinet, especially if it has doors on it. The unit has no cooling system and will quite quickly eat its hard drive alive.

      The TW DVR box is also dual tuner, so it defintely co
  • Directv beats cable (Score:5, Informative)

    by eyegor ( 148503 ) * on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:34PM (#8160522)
    I've had Directv for about 4 years and overall I'm very happy. Around here (Northern Virginia) our cable provider sucks and I don't have to give them a cent for providing their usually lousy service.

    Directv signal is usually very good but I have had problems with loss of signal during severe thunderstorms and when snow covers the dish.

    Other than that, I'm pretty happy with my satellite service.
    • by Em Emalb ( 452530 ) * <> on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:45PM (#8160713) Homepage Journal
      yeah, I've had my DirecTivo for about 8 months now, and let me tell you, I'll NEVER go back to cable again.

      I pay $45.00 a month for Directv and Tivo (39.00 for Directv, $4.99 for tivo) I don't have to pay some stupid rental fee for the cable box. I can take the damned thing with me if I want.

      It's a win win situation.

      Oh, and those commercials where the cable company tries to tell you why you shouldn't use Satellite are effing retarded. I love the one where the customer is told they will need to chop down their tree for service. Uh, clueless customer, you need to put the dish in a place where an un-obstructed view of the southern sky is. Then you won't have this problem.

      Weather (as far as I can tell, and it's been a rough winter so far) DOES NOT affect service.

      4 days after I installed the dish, the winds hit about 35 mph, with some nasty sideways rain. Not a pixel of static or interference. I guess it helps to actually bolt the dish on properly.

      In a nutshell, cable sucks big hairy goat testicles, and I'll never get it again. If the weather is so bad to affect your dish, chances are you need to be taking cover anyway.

  • by EnderWiggnz ( 39214 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:35PM (#8160527)
    Come on slashbots, and set yourself free - Kill your TV! []

    I've been tv free for 4 years now - and would never consider going back.

    there is much more to life than watching a piece of furniture.
    • there is much more to life than watching a piece of furniture.
      What, like that CRT you're stareing at right now? (Don't TELL me Slashdot is more intellectually stimulating than Must See T.V.)
      • by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @03:00PM (#8160996)
        (Don't TELL me Slashdot is more intellectually stimulating than Must See T.V.)

        Why not? Heck, being forced to listen to the Barney song 24/7 while immersed in a sensory deprivation tank for three months with a severed spinal cord is more intellectually stimulating than so-called "Must See TV."

        I mean you could've picked the Discovery channel, the History channel, Food Network, the Sundance channel, or any of a dozen other sources of good quality television, and I might've conceded the point, but network television? Come on, playing Tic-Tac-Toe against a toddler is more intellectually stimulating than network television. It's like having a shiny, flashy, happy video lobotomy.

      • by Aqua OS X ( 458522 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @03:16PM (#8161246)
        "Don't TELL me Slashdot is more intellectually stimulating than Must See T.V."

        I can't recall the last time my TV allowed me to read, think, and interact with it.
    • The story poster even mentioned desiring to watch NASA TV. Guess what? They broadcast on the web as well! The quality isn't the same as broadcast TV, but most of the time the audio is fine and you can get more detailed photos from their website.

      If you're unwilling to let go of your TV, then a nice substitution I've found for cable is Netflix. Let's face it. Out of 100+ channels, how often is nothing good on anyway? At least with a DVD subscription you can watch exactly what you want to watch whenever you h

    • Come on slashbots, and set yourself free - Kill your TV!

      Who let this guy [] in here?

  • how about... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xtermz ( 234073 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:35PM (#8160530) Homepage Journal
    ...neither? Sell the TV, and where your entertainment center would be, put a bookcase. I cut back to basic cable and though i "miss" some shows, I dont miss wasting countless hours on the couch .....i cant even tell you what "reality shows" are on these days....
    • Re:how about... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by koreth ( 409849 ) * on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:43PM (#8160685)
      Wasting countless hours on the couch is as much TV's fault as an open mail relay is the Sendmail team's fault. A tool is just a tool; whether or not it's used appropriately is up to its owner. It's possible to have both a TV and a bookcase and get plenty of enjoyment out of both.
    • by Boing ( 111813 )
      Unfortunately, it's no longer accessible from the main site, but you remind me of the Onion article "Area Man Constantly Mentioning He Doesn't Own A Television" (link []).

      Just thought that might be an interesting reference for those who are annoyed by you and other people like you who belittle the chosen entertainment forms of others.

  • by ScooterBill ( 599835 ) * on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:35PM (#8160532)
    As long as your dish is secure and the transmission is working, you will have virtually no problems from weather. This is BS from the Cable companies.

    I've never had a problem due to inclement weather although we don't get fierce lightning storms where I live so I don't know if that makes a difference.

    I would choose the service based on the programming.

  • Tech TV (Score:5, Informative)

    by JavaLord ( 680960 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:36PM (#8160537) Journal
    I have comcast, and they took Tech TV (ZDTV) out of their lineup about a year ago. If you like that channel, you better call and see if they have it. Since then, I've got 3 telemundos, 4 'womens' channels, the golf channel, etc. They don't even have tech tv on digital cable here either. I'm interested in seeing what other people post about this, because I would like to get tech tv again!

  • by scumdamn ( 82357 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:36PM (#8160546)
    I have dish and I love the fact that they cost so much less than Time Warner cable in the Austin area. I recently moved into an apartment and unfortunately it faces the wrong way apparently and I can't get reception. I wish the dish could point somewhere other than southwest because then I'd be golden. And for about the same service dish costs half what cable does.
    • South (Score:4, Informative)

      by wurp ( 51446 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @03:15PM (#8161232) Homepage
      The reason all satellite tv requires the dish to point south is that the only way to get a geostationary orbit is over the equator.
    • Consider asking if you can mount the antenna to their roof. Suprisingly some allow you to. Let them know, that if they like, you can leave the dish installed for the next tenent so your apartment will be more easily rented. When you move, DirecTv lets you leave the dish (they'll be selling the new occupants service is the presumption) and provide a new install at your new address. Dish may do the same. Consider seeing if your complex will drop cable in favor of Dish or DirecTv. Both do deals with aprtment c
  • I like satellite (Score:5, Informative)

    by Wakkow ( 52585 ) * on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:36PM (#8160549) Homepage
    I'm a student living in an area with Comcast.. For the first two years we had Comcast because we're all used to having cable. It was okay, nothing special.. Eventually, I got fed up with Comcast not carrying some channels I wanted (Food Network and TechTV) and they kept inching the price up. I found DirecTV had a deal for three free months and a monthly fee less than that of cable.

    Installation was a slight pain because we live in an apartment and couldn't mount the dish onto the building.. I bought a $25 tripod and a $3 piece of pipe (as the installer suggested, since it's cheaper than buying it from them). The reception is clear but you do notice some artifacts once in a while (similar to what a DivX looks like) in the picture due to the compression. The local channels are actually clearer than they were with cable and we get a lot more good channels. We've only lost the signal twice from two bad storms when our tripod literally tipped over. None of this "vanishing signal" like the cable commercials imply. Heck, we lost the cable signal at least once or twice a year during a bad storm. It doesn't degregate during storms, but we don't get snow, which I hear really kills the signal.

    Overall, I'm glad we switched.. If you're happy with basic extended cable channels, I'd stick with comcast. If you want some of the extra channels, go satellite. I'm not sure which has NASAtv or if it's an add-on channel or something.. I see now that you can get a Tivo for cheap if you sign up for satellite and I think the Tivo monthly service fee is less also.
    • Re:I like satellite (Score:3, Informative)

      by Schnapple ( 262314 )
      The reception is clear but you do notice some artifacts once in a while (similar to what a DivX looks like) in the picture due to the compression
      Digital Cable also has this problem, in my experience with it.
  • Go with Satellite (Score:3, Informative)

    by Chaos1 ( 466833 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:37PM (#8160550) Homepage
    I've only had one outage in the year and half that I have had Dish Network, and that was only during a bad snow storm. I've heard other complaints about losing signal during rain, or cloudy days, but have not experienced them myself.

    My parents have Comcast and it glitches out all the time, with the screen pulsating with lines across the screen. They've also had random outages for no apparent reason. Comcast just replaces the reciever hoping to fix the problem, but it never does. I've also been told by Comcast installers that most of the equipment they're using is refurb and they have troubles all the time.
  • by CasaDelGato ( 701438 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:37PM (#8160552) Homepage
    I've had DirecTV in the Seattle area for years. LOTS of rain and clouds. The only times I've lost signal is when the rain and clouds were so thick that it was dark at noon. Usually I had other problems occupying my attention at those times... :-\ I recently added a DirecTIVO (HDRV3) and added a 160GB drive to it. This makes a GREAT setup. Anytime I sit down, there is something that I WANT to see on. I do get NASA TV as well.
  • by koreth ( 409849 ) * on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:37PM (#8160553)
    I only keep my cable TV service (also Comcast) as an emergency backup in case my DirecTV receiver goes on the blink, and because I use a cable modem for my Internet access. The picture quality is much better on DirecTV than on my cable system, and I've never had reception drop out due to rain. The only thing that's knocked out my satellite reception has been a couple days of really strong winds, which knocked my dish out of alignment a few degrees. Five minutes on my rooftop afterwards fixed that.

    I'll put it this way: my cable modem has had more downtime than my satellite TV over the last two years, and every time I've checked, the cable TV feed has also been messed up whenever the cable modem has had trouble.

    Plus, if you get an integrated DirecTV/TiVo receiver, you get to time-shift your shows with zero quality loss. With a standalone TiVo there's an extra D/A conversion between the satellite receiver and the video cable, then an A/D conversion and a lossy compression step to get from the cable onto the TiVo's hard disk. I quite enjoy being able to make pristine archive DVDs of my favorite shows without any re-encoding at all.

    • by duffbeer703 ( 177751 ) * on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:44PM (#8160705)
      Go outside and take in the sunshine. Read a book.

      If you are so dependent on TV that you need an "emergency backup", you have problems indeed.
      • Re:emergency backup (Score:5, Informative)

        by Radius9 ( 588130 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @03:47PM (#8161681)
        He said he has the backup because he has a cable modem. If you have a cable modem, you'll still get analog cable if its offered in your area, regardless of what the cable company may tell you.
        • Re:emergency backup (Score:3, Informative)

          by EulerX07 ( 314098 )
          "If you have a cable modem, you'll still get analog cable if its offered in your area, regardless of what the cable company may tell you."

          That's quite untrue. I've worked for 3 years for Tech Support for Videotron in Montreal. When we sent techs to install cable internet at a location with no cable TV, we'd make a note for them to install a high pass filter with a cut-off that takes the analog cable frequencies out.

          There's also plenty of posts in this thread about cable internet being reliable. My expe
    • by kiwimate ( 458274 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:58PM (#8160964) Journal
      I'll put it this way: my cable modem has had more downtime than my satellite TV over the last two years, and every time I've checked, the cable TV feed has also been messed up whenever the cable modem has had trouble.

      Based on my experience with Comcast, this makes almost perfect sense. They have horrible service, and are frequently down.

      (Side-note: I have to laugh -- well, grimace, really -- at their local ads against the satellite crowd. They show a guy who contends he used to sell satellite TV, so he tried to install it himself and had no end of problems. Cue the shot of an installation literally held together by sticky tape. No kidding -- the chap's a salesman, he tries to install something himself on the cheap, can't even be bothered to use a screwdriver, and wonders why it keeps going out. Hell's bells.)

      About a year ago they used to advertise their cable modem service as having an advantage over dial-up of no dropped connections. I e-mailed them and pointed out that, when I was on-line and their service went down (which occurred two or three times a week on average), it sure as hell looked like a dropped connection to me. I'm sure they ignored me, but funnily enough they don't make that claim any more.

      The only caveat I have on the parent poster's comment is that our cable TV doesn't always go out when the cable modem is out (but it's probably 95% of the time).

      Hideously expensive compared to satellite, anecdotally worse, not better, reliability, and Comcast the ISP caps your bandwidth and refuses to tell you how much you're using and how much you're allowed to use -- just that you're using too much. Yeah, what's not to loathe about Comcast?
  • by RickyRay ( 73033 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:37PM (#8160566)
    Weather doesn't necessarily cause problems for satellite channels. I paid a little extra to install oversized dishes (30" - 36"), and during the worst rain or snow my reception is always good.
  • Tivo! (Score:4, Informative)

    by apoplectic ( 711437 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:38PM (#8160582)
    I've got DirecTV with a DirecTivo that was provided in a package deal (Sony T60). It has been a wonderful combination. I have yet to be unhappy in any way, shape, or form. At the time, I got the DVR for $99 as I was a first time DirecTV subscriber. I would encourage you to get some similar deal. I had digital cable before and couldn't stand it after sampling DirecTV at a friends house. You will NOT be disappointed. Now, I understand that the HD Tivos will be coming out soon (the current Tivos do not support High Def) might want to wait until one of these hits the market (quite possibly combined with the rather new feature of being able to burn your shows to DVD). I'd guess this happens in the 2 to 6 month range, though I'm not sure how long (if ever) the combo HD/DVD/DirecTV units will be in coming.
  • DirecTV for me (Score:5, Informative)

    by mbadolato ( 105588 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:39PM (#8160594)
    About two years ago, I got extremly pissed off with Cox Digital Cable (Every day for an hour or so, all the premium movie channels would go black; they kept sending techs, no one could find a problem)

    I switched to DirecTV and haven't looked back since. Now, granted I'm in Phoenix so weather isn't exactly a factor here. But, even with the monsoons in the summer, i've only lost picture about 1 or 2 times, and that was only for a short duration.

    When I saw that Best Buy was selling a DirecTV receiver/Tivo unit for $99, I jumped on it. We had a Tivo already but this was one unit, smaller, bigger drive, two inputs, and dolby built it.

    I couldn't be any happier, and i'm glad i went this route.
  • DirecTV is good (Score:4, Informative)

    by tekiegreg ( 674773 ) * <> on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:39PM (#8160613) Homepage Journal
    No I'm not a paid endoreser of them, nor do I wish to Spam, but in my experience, for $45/month for 150 channels (including NASA TV, all the basic channels but no premiums like HBO) amongst other wonderful channels with real content, I stay happy. Good value for my $ if you ask me.

    Adelphia is the local cable company in my area, and while they have a promo rate of $19/month for 3 months I'm awfully suspicous of that rate after my 3 months are up and they are not willingly disclosing it. They seem kinda scummy to me.

    Near as I can tell, weather conditions don't affect Satellites much either. My Satellite was doing just fine in big rainstorms here (I was a bit nervous about turning on my equipment in a big thunderstorm here not too long ago tho so I can't vouch for thunderstorms). My Dad who lives up in the mountains and has had many snowstorms has never complained about any issues with his Satellites (tho in all Fairness he's a DISH subscriber).

    DVR? Can't help you there, people have been telling me to get one but they're appeal to me is limited.

    Internet access? I've been told it's ok if not quite a bit laggy, but no firsthand experience myself either. For my high speed Internet I use DSL quite happily (again avoiding Adelphia like the plaque).

    In short Satellite I think is a good value for the $. However your experiences may vary.
  • by slpalmer ( 6337 ) * <<moc.liamg> <ta> <remlapls>> on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:40PM (#8160620)
    My personal experiance on this (DirecTV Subscriber 7 years, Time Warner Analog and Digital for 5 years) is that Digital Satellite beats Digital Cable hands down.

    Everything that the cable companies say (with the exception of the dog sneezing) may be true, but it's exaggerated to the point of borderline lies.

    If your dish is aimed to achieve a signal in the "85%" range, which is quite easy to do, you won't have much of any problem with rain or weather fades. With mine, a 90% signal, I was able to watch TV reliable during a tropical storm in Houston. The few times I have lost signal, it was back up within minutes.

    With Digital Cable, I discover that I lose signal anytime they're working on a line, construction hits a cable, flooding at their office, you name it. *At Least* a full day outage every month or two.

    As for channels, Who has what depends on what day of the week it is. I believe NASA TV is carried by DirecTV. I'm not sure about Comcast, as they don't sell in my area.

    Cable touts how owning your own equipment is bad. This reminds me of the old AT&T / BellSouth argument that they should own the phones and lease them to you. Guess what, Cable companies aren't supplying that digital converter for free. It costs more to rent that box than the extra that local channels cost on Satellite.

    As for DVR, the DVR's supplied by either cable or satellite companies are low end models. If they fit your needs, go for it. If you want the latest and greatest, buy or build your own.

    I say DirectTV is the way to go.
  • by garcia ( 6573 ) * on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:40PM (#8160627)
    In some apartments (in what I feel is a violation of FCC rules but what the FCC feels isn't) they require that you place large amounts of money down on a "deposit" just to put the dish on the porch (regardless of the fact that it might be free standing).

    See here [] for a quick link I found. Note: (2) unreasonably increase the cost of installation, maintenance or use, or

    Forcing me to pay $350 deposit (of which only $75 is refunded at the END of your renting) seems to push the FREE installation costs over "reasonable".

    So, Comcast is prewired into the building and I have no choice but to use the good 'ol rabbit ears.
  • Dish Network (Score:3, Informative)

    by btgarner ( 238001 ) < minus bsd> on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:40PM (#8160632) Homepage
    I have been a Dish Network customer for over 6 years, and prefer it over cable. I have an 80 Gb PVR with my system, and get 180 channels for under $45/month. The signal used to go out (but only during HEAVY rain) with the older systems, but since I upgraded to their 500 network, I cannot recall a single outage.

    The only drawback with the DSS systems is that local channels may not be available (or if they are available, will run you an extra $5 per month)

    From what I have seen, the DSS and cable companies offerings are pretty much equal. it really will boil down to what channels you want, at what price each service offers that selection, and then the service of those companies. Dish had soem serious growing pains a few years ago, but they seem to mostly be over them (or I have just gotten used to them).

    My local cable company (TWC - who provides my internet access at home) has a terrible track record for billing issues, and if DSL were available where I live, I would dump TWC in a heardbeat soi that I don't give them any more money.
  • I've had both. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MoOsEb0y ( 2177 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:41PM (#8160655)
    I've used both satellite (dish network) and comcast cable. Let me tell you, I've had more outages with comcast than with dish. The dish only went out when it was an ice storm. And let me tell you, I didn't even have power half the time. Every time it rains here, literally my cable goes out. Don't believe the ads saying they lost the "pitcha".
  • by Str8Dog ( 240982 ) * on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:41PM (#8160658) Homepage Journal
    I don't know much about digital cable but I can tell you a few things about DirecTV having been a subscriber for several years. I live in the Seattle area and it rains here a lot. We have never had a problem with rain fade. The only time my signal drops to a unwatchable level, it is due to someone bumping it on the way up the stairs (dish is in a bad location and easy to bump if you are carting stuff up the stairs.).

    The down side is the year long contact you must agree to for service. If you want to cancel early they charge your something like $12/month left on the contact. There is a $5/month charge for equipment per room. And finally DirecTV has had great problems getting me a bill in the mail each month. I don't really know why, but I had to start paying my bills online just to make sure they didn't try to ding me for late fees.

    Finally, I would like to point out DirecTV's private war on piracy. You might want to check out sites like Freedom Fight [] and make sure you morally agree with DirecTV's methods of (IMHO) extortion.
  • Just a data point (Score:3, Informative)

    by kvigor ( 66615 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:43PM (#8160690)
    I've had satellite service for about five years. I get one or two outages a year due to heavy snowfall. These are easily resolved with the high-tech dish-snow-removal tool (the Mk.I broom duct-taped to a pipe). No other weather-related outages ever.

    Judging from neighbourhood heresay, this is orders of magnitude more reliable than Comcast's cable service (I'm in Salt Lake City).
  • by jea6 ( 117959 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:44PM (#8160706)
    One BIG advantage that DirecTV w/TiVo has is the ability to record two shows at once.

    Can the Direct TV Digital Satellite Recorder with TiVo record two shows at once?

    Yes, the Direct TV Digital Satellite Recorder can record two shows at once. In fact, it can even record two shows while you watch a third, previously recorded show. To take full advantage of this feature, you'll need to ensure that two (2) satellite inputs from a dual-LNB Direct TV System dish antenna are connected to the Direct TV Digital Satellite Recorder. AQ.htm []

    Can't do this with regular TiVo.
    • However, you can do this with my Time/Warner PVR. In my area, Time/Warner doles out Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8000 PVRs to thier customers ($6/mo more than a digital cable box). It has 2 tuners built into the box, so it only requires a single cable connection. This also means you can do PiP on a TV that doesn't normally have that capability!
  • by jafo ( 11982 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:45PM (#8160729) Homepage
    Comcast is running commercials about how easy it is to lose a satellite connection? I find that amusing because I just canceled my cablemodem net service because I was fed up with all the outages on it. We didn't have cable TV, so maybe that was never impacted when we had the problems, but I never found Comcast to be overly concerned about uptime.

    When we first got the cablemodem it was great. That was when it was Excite@Home. The first year we had no outages at all, it was rock solid. Then after AT&T bought it out, it was still ok, but IIRC we had an outage or two during the next year. The last 8 months of Comcast has just been horrible though.

    Anyway, I know you're not looking for cablemodem information. It's just that I choked on my lunch when I saw the thing about Comcast saying the satellite systems suffered from severe outages.

    The people I know with satellite don't complain about having problems, and haven't switched to other technology over the the years they've had them, so I'm wondering if it's really anywhere near that bad.

  • get sattelitte... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by josepha48 ( 13953 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:49PM (#8160805) Journal
    comcast, or as I like to call them now, comcrap, keeps raising our rates, every month. They do this so that they can charge less for their cable high speed internet users and for other services they offer. Services like sports, which I don't get or want. My bill now is 97.00 a month. Yes I get just about every channel (HBO, Showtime, Cinimax, TMC, Stars, etc) but I don't have the international stuff or the sports package. When I got service 4 years ago it was $50.00 a month.

    EVERYONE I have heard has said that they moved to satellite and have had none of the problems they mention on TV. The fact of the matter is that satellite is the future and newer technology. Cable is expensive as they have to lay all the cable. In a few more years the satellite dishes should get smaller as tech progresses. Just look at satellite radio (XM). The antenna for that is about 3 inches square. In 5 years or 10 years satellite tv will probably be able to do something a little larger or even that size that you don't have to mount or point in any direction.

    I have seen satellite antennas get smaller. They used to be 10 feet across and now they are 18 inches and shrinking. My cable box has not changed in 4 years.

    GO FOR SATELLITE, cable blinks out and on too.

  • by stripes ( 3681 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:52PM (#8160849) Homepage Journal

    I have had DTV for about 3 years (in two different houses). I have only had a (noticeable) signal loss from rain twice (I think), and I've had more signal loss from snow it seems to be only very short periods of time (I don't lose an hour show, I have 5 seconds of screwed up video and the audio is OK...or maybe I lose video for two minutes and audio for 90 seconds). My DTV outages definitely haven't added up in length to a single outage from my former cable TV provider, which seemed to be something rain related and if it happened after bisness hours they didn't fix until the next bisness day (so a Friday outage killed cable for the whole weekend).

    As far as DVRs go before I had DTV I had DISH and a "stand alone" TiVo. I liked it so much I eventually got DTV and the "all in one" TiVo. The down side of the all in one is it won't let you record the audio-only music channels (you can watch them live), if you don't care about such channels then no problem. If you do it is a pain because you TiVo might change channels on you while you watch because you havn't touched the remote recently and it knows there is something on you asked it to record (or it thinks you will really want, and there is some free space on the drive).

    I've also been told none of the "home media options" are currently only for stand alone systems. Also there is no combo DVD-writer and Sat-reciever.

    On the upside it can record two things at once. Which is great because it means you can just tell it what you like and it can "just do the right thing" without have to tell you "I'm sorry, you are already recording FOO on Chanel X at you want to record FOO or cancel FOO and get BAR?". Well, at least not as offen. More then two tuners would be nice :-) For me that is more important then the other stuff (esp. since I have had mine long enough that there was no home media option, or DVD writer when I made my choice).

    The other upside is once in a while my stand alone TiVo wouldn't quite be able to change the channel so I would get the wrong thing recorded. I tried moving the IR transmitter around, and even at one point making a tinfoil IR sheld/guide. I've never hade that problem with the DTiVo (unless you count when DTV changed FX's channel number and a bunch of my seassion passes stoped recording anything).

    Good luck with your choice.

    P.S. I pretty much only switched away from DISH to DTV because of the TiVo. If you decide on another PVR or a standalone one I have no real reason to recomend DTV over DISH. I was pretty happy with the service from both.

  • Comcast lies (Score:3, Interesting)

    by D3 ( 31029 ) <daviddhenning@[ ] ['gma' in gap]> on Monday February 02, 2004 @02:52PM (#8160856) Journal
    Digital cable will have problems with signal from time to time as well so don't let them lie to you about signal quality. I was at a friends house last night for the SuperBowl and he had all sorts of pixellation problems with the signal to his new LCD set. In my county we have Comcast as the only cable provider and they constantly have outages because the system they inherited (bought) was never built correctly to service the capacity of residents here. My sat (Direct TV) has only had problems when VERY stormy to the point where you shouldn't be watching the TV as lightning may take out more than just signal. Even the recent hurricane didn't disrupt my signal more than 1/2 hour. The service I've had with Direct TV is WAY better than calling the cable company as well. The cable company here doesn't even have a way to speak to a human on the other end. You only get recorded "we are experiencing outages in the following areas (name of cities) and will have them fixed as soon as possible." They don't even give you a realistic timeframe!
  • by bigbigbison ( 104532 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @03:00PM (#8161006) Homepage
    My parents still have the big huge dish in thier yard. You can get some pretty interesting stuff if you are willing to pay for the tech. Of course it IS a dying technology, but it is pretty interesting how they are trying keep it alive through things like 4dtv and mpeg sidecars.
  • by casmithva ( 3765 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @03:01PM (#8161028)
    We had Comcast cable three years ago and lost it when Comcast came through to do the neighborhood-wide upgrade to digital cable. After two weeks of yelling at the customer service people and not receiving the repeatedly promised call from a line supervisor to coordinate a repair of the line feeding our house, we turned to DirecTV. Five or six weeks after we disconnected cable service, Comcast called up and asked if our line/quality problems had been fixed. My response, "Yes, by DirecTV."

    We've had DirecTV ever since and have had very reliable service -- more reliable than (analog) Comcast, to be honest. We lose the satellite signal in very heavy rain, and usually for only fifteen minutes at most. (We're more likely to lose power than satellite, to be honest.) We've never lost signal due to trees, clouds, wind, ice, snow, steady rain, dogs sneezing, cats coughing, kids screaming, birds crapping, etc.

    As for DVRs, we do have a DirecTV TiVo. It's probably not as good as a standalone series 2 TiVo, but I don't know how well a standalone TiVo integrates with DirecTV as compared to a DirecTV TiVo. Works fine, regardless, and we wouldn't give it up.

  • by Kr3m3Puff ( 413047 ) * <<me> <at> <>> on Monday February 02, 2004 @03:03PM (#8161053) Homepage Journal
    I in a Comcast area (suburban Illinois) and have been through almost every configuration they have both regular and digital. I had DirecTV and Dish Network back in Phonenix, but now I just moved back to DirecTV.

    My biggest desire to move back to DirecTV was HDTV. I feel that DirecTV in the long term will provide better HD options that local cable. Couple that with almost every HD DirecTV receiver able to tune to HD over-air broadcasts and provide local channels via Satellite or over-air, there is little that cable can possibly offer over DirecTV.

    I did lots of studying. The most annoying thing is that Comcast doesn't even want to begin to provide you details about when they will offer HDTV in my area, though they advertise it on TV.

    As far as reception. I was a bit concerned about the "we loose our signal all the time" and all I can say, mounted on my roof, I get strong signal all the time, even in the snow. I know that heavy weather (it is the water) can distort the signal and you have to be careful if your dish builds up snow, but if that does become an issue, there are several workarounds including sprays, covers and other items that make sure your LNB doesn't get "watered" down.

    I totally hated the Digital Cable. They over compress the channels and the receivers were about as slow as molassass.

    My DirecTV install experience was excellent, a lot better than my cable, where they didn't even know what they were doing. I expected to have to educate the DirecTV guy (since I have quite an extensive custom built whole house distribution system) but he didn't have a problem and did a very professional clean install. The cable guy just did his thing but the DirecTV guy asked permission before doing any physical changes.

    I am VERY happy with the programming selection on DirecTV versus Comcast. They just are damn good at what they do. Calling them recently about getting CBS-HD for the superbowl was super easy and very friendly. Lot better than calling my local cable franchise.

    Well, there are my two cents...
  • DirecTV over Comcast (Score:3, Informative)

    by illuminata ( 668963 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @03:07PM (#8161118) Journal
    Comcast tells you that they provide digital cable, but all of your basic and extended basic channels (up to the 100s) are still analog. As far as weather goes, Comcast still goes out when a storm rolls over their local property. DirecTV did go out a little bit more often when heavy precipitation occurs, but it's nowhere near ss bad as the cable ads put on.

    Comcast also gives me ads on their slow, oversized program guide (provided by TV Guide). When I get program info or use a full-screen menu, they greet me with two. You can even select them with your remote to get more info! Whoopee! They also transmit slowly. At least people who don't purchase any digital packages don't have to put up with them.

    As far as picture quality goes, DirecTV still wins. Comcast's signal strength is a problem in my area. They have to work on the area lines about once every three months, and you're generally at their mercy for anywhere from a few hours to a few days. In fact, the analog stations often look better than the digital ones, and sometimes certain digital channels won't be able to find a signal at all. My place had the coaxial cabling rewired throughout when I first moved in, too. There are a lot of blurry edges around objects, much like you'd see with a poorly compressed MPEG. DirecTV's picture is better, although there is about a half second's delay in transmission compared to cable.

    Last but not least, Comcast charges more for less. The channels are worse and the packages are grouped so that there's a little bit of everything in each one, rather than grouping them by genre (except for the movie channels). We don't even get basics like the Travel Channel yet. They just now gave us E! and FoodTV.

    The only reason that I can see for going with Comcast is to receive local channels in better quality (although DirecTV is picking up the slack in that area). If that isn't a huge sticking point, go with DirecTV.
  • by Teahouse ( 267087 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @03:09PM (#8161142)
    I have had Direct TV for 4 years now. I have NEVER had a problem with reception, whether it's in high winds or in torrential rains. Sounds like your cable company is selling FUD.

    The next reason is simple, you get more options. If you like the NFL, you can only get NFL SUnday TIcket through Direct TV. It's really nice being able to bring up any game I want on Sunday. Further, with TIVO, I can record my favorite teams games for the entire season! They also do March Madness, Basebal, and Hockey int he same manner. The Sports pay program is awesome.

    Finally, Direct TV will be bringing you more HDTV stations faster. They are committed to HDTV, and although the programming is now pretty slim, they are digital ready to broadcast all HDTV stations when the time comes.

    My recommendation, get Direct TV with the Tivo box and buy an inexpensive HDTV. That package will set you up for the next decade. It's that good. Enjoy!

  • by djeaux ( 620938 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @03:11PM (#8161167) Homepage Journal
    Last night, I had to videotape the Super Bowl for my in-laws, because I have cable TV & they have DishTV satellite. Turns out that DishTV can't carry CBS in our area, because a broadcast station won't let them. The broadcast station is on my cable, hence my VCR got a workout.

    Before going to a satellite, be certain that you either have an antenna capable of getting local broadcast channels or that your satellite provider will carry the local content you want.

    That said, anybody who's posted here that your best option is to quit watching TV altogether is probably right.

  • Hurricane Experience (Score:3, Interesting)

    by IgD ( 232964 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @03:14PM (#8161205)
    I live in southeastern Virginia in the Hampton Roads area. When the hurricane hit last fall, the rain was barely sprinkling and the cable TV went down for over a week. My phone service is also tied into the cable so was also down. However, cellular pretty much survived throughout the entire hurricane with only minimal downtime. I laugh everytime I see those cable TV commercials saying their landlines provide better signal quality, etc. After the main storm was over and all the power was out, my family and I sat in our living room and watched DirecTV powered by our generator. :)
  • by Tjp($)pjT ( 266360 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @03:27PM (#8161413)
    I had horrible experience with cable back when DirecTV was starting up. I had the cable de-installed and the service man said "Well there are two choices for cable here, OURS or YOURS." I took the DirecTV boxes out of my car at that point and said "I'll take mine."

    I wouldn't ever go back to cable. I now have multiple DirecTiVos. The integrated receiver/TiVo is better in that it has two tuners so watch one, record two more at the same time is possible. Unlike the standalone, however, you can't record local off-the-air, or video in. It is generally cheaper than standalones as well, and the subscription may be moot depending on what channel package you order.

    TiVo is very hacker friendly (network options and upgrade disk capacity cheap and easy, and web access, etc.). DirecTv enables all the DirecTiVos from one master subscription. I originally choose lifetime, they've since made TiVo service free with most of the "packaged" services.

    Now as to weather. We get some severe weather in the Puget Sound convergence zone. I get maybe 2-3 minutes of bad (LOS) rain fade a month for the six rainest months. The signal on the spot-beam (local channels) has never disapperaed. I get occasional macro-block errors (looks like bad pixelation on part of the image) another 4-5 minutes a month. I could correct all these problems by going to a 1 meter dish now that the Channel Master "Gain Master" antenna is around. I didn't want to go bigger earlier because previous 1 meter dishes mounted a single LNB assembly (still dual channel, just points at one sat.). The Gain Master supports all the satellites. It should eliminate all the rain fade issues. I should also point out we are in a non-optimal position as a ridge with trees and houses blocks a portion of the sky where the sat. is. Cable is just not truthful. I have less outages now than anytime I've ever had cable and I am in a very poor site as far as the satellites are concerned.

    The last point is that regardless of cable or sat. you will lose signal twice a year for a few minutes a day for 1-3 days as the sun is directly behind the sat you are pointed at. For cable this is spread over a wider range as they point at multiple sats. DirecTv hosts the majority of their programming on a single "slot" at 101.5 degrees. However HDTV (and some other local and foriegn language programming) has program content at 110 degrees and NASA Select (and some foriegn language content) sits at 119 degrees. So to get NASA you'll need multiple LNB assemblies, but it is still one dish (although if you wanted the maximum signal strength with reasonable install and cost, you could point a 1 meter dish at each sat. If you are in a real fring area, like Alaska, there are 2 meter, 3 meter and larger dishes, or you can fixed mounth a C band bigger dish and mount the LNB to it. Hope this helps.
  • by EvilOpie ( 534946 ) * on Monday February 02, 2004 @03:39PM (#8161567) Homepage
    After reading the replies here, I see a lot of people who use satellite, so I hope I don't get flamed for being a cable user. But I'll just share a bit about cable TV from what I know.

    My cable provider is Time Warner. And I must say that they are pretty good. We only have a basic cable TV package, but that's good enough for me. Because of the increasing competition from satellite companies, they keep adding more channels. Most I don't even watch, really. I stick to around 5 hours a week or so of TV, so it's not a big deal. I don't have digital cable, so reception is good, but not perfect. I've seen both digital cable and satellite, and they are both better than regular cable. But heck, it keeps me from watching too much.

    One thing that cable TV is nice for is convenience. You just plug in one cable and you're ready to go. No cable/satellite boxes necessary. You want to add another TV, you just plug it in and hook up the cable and you're good to go. So that's always nice. And I have to say that Time Warner has been top notch for support. One call and they are out there fixing the problem. They even ran a new cable from the phone pole to our house to fix some bad reception we were having once!

    We also have our Internet access through Road Runner, which is owned by, of course, Time Warner. So even if we wanted to switch to satellite, we would STILL have a Time Warner bill for our cable modem. Not only that, it'd go up because we'd be doing without Time Warner to provide TV. So you really can't beat them for convenience in that respect either. And Road Runner's been nice to us. I can host my own web/email server off of it, and they have never complained. RR's support is pretty good as well, as long as you get past level 1 support. They are in Texas, and it doesn't help that I'm in New York. Level 2 support, which is local to our area is actually helpful. I see no reason to switch from them, considering we have no other Internet options aside from dial-up access.

    So I guess it boils down to the fact that cable TV isn't perfect, but it sure is convenient to say the least. And I don't know how much work setting up and maintaining a satellite dish involves, but Time Warner takes care of pretty much everything as far as the cable end of the setup is concerned. I've been pleased every time I've contacted them so far. (3 times total in being a customer for the past 6 years or so) If you need the perfect picture clarity, go for satellite. If not, go with cable. It's very easy to use and "good enough" in most cases.
  • by DaveJay ( 133437 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @03:42PM (#8161616)
    I have DirecTV with TiVo (commonly called DirecTiVo), the dual-tuner box.

    I'm not a big fan of Rupert Murdoch, and he's either in the process of purchasing, or has already completed his purchase of, DirecTV. That said:

    1. I've had years of mostly trouble-free service. No (zero) outages due to rain or wind. Since I'm in southern california, I can speak to windy days and days-long rain deluges, but I can't speak to snow. YMMV.

    2. The problems I have experienced have been with the TiVo unit, but those problems have been so rare and so easily fixed (usually without calling tech support; I just go to AVSforums and check out their DirecTiVo forum for advice) that I can't say it's been anything but a delight.

    3. Once upon a time, I worked for a cable company. Having been on the "other side", I can honestly tell you that I avoid cable like the plague unless there's a compelling reason not to. There's always the possibility that the same kind of shenannigans go on at the satellite providers, but it's kind of like KNOWING someone spits in your food at a specific restaurant, vs. merely suspecting it at another -- you're gonna stop going to the first restaurant, even though you might or might not keep going to the second.
  • by dvd_tude ( 69482 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @04:50PM (#8162512)
    ... because they offer more channels for less money and their encoding quality is (usually) better (my experience based on DISH Network; can't speak for DirecTV.) Satellite wins hands down in almost all categories: quality, value, programming choice, reliability, equipment choice and customer service.

    Quality and value... satellite providers have more total bandwidth (about 2-4x) to work with than the typical hybrid fiber-coax cable plant. Being all digital they don't have to carry legacy analog channels. So, they have less need to compress heavily than the cable guys do and so can offer more channels at lower cost.

    Programming ... satellite offers more channels (especially DISH) than most cable MSO's for less money. Locals too in most markets, and HDTV which cable co's have been painfully slow to adopt.

    Reliability... as much as the cable ads make of it, it's a total non-issue with satellite. It's amazingly robust. In the three years on DISH I had one (!) outage due to rain fade, and then only for about 30 seconds or so. Compare this to my experience with cable providers (in my case Charter, now Adelphia) who seem to have several outages a year: distribution amps blowing up, segments taken down for maintenance/upgrades, and so forth.

    Equipment... the satellite providers seem to adopt new tech more quickly than the cable MSO's. They embrace newer media (like HDTV, PVR's, etc.) more enthusiastically than the cable heavyweights do. This has a lot to do with the business model: generally, they unbundle the box from the service (you own the box) so you have choice. Some perceive this as a drawback; however when you look at the poor quality of most cable boxes vs. their rental cost you can see you get a better shake from DirecTV or DISH.

    Customer service... DISH is awesome, can't speak for DirecTV although I understand they've improved too. In my case DISH patiently worked with me to debug a complex HDTV setup using a 5200 IRD, HDTV modulator and a Mistubishi HD set. Another time they broke 'seamless integration' with a firmware upgrade, they fixed it in two days (!) after I reported it to them.

    Now, the satellite drawbacks...

    First, there's no 'analog only' option so you're always looking at MPEG-2 and thus have slower channel surfing (not to mention your TV's P-I-P is mostly useless.) I understand there are IRD's with two decoders now.

    Second, satellite broadband is poor due to the up/down latency (c = 300,000 km/s, it's the law ;-) and limited aggregate bandwidth.

    Third, you do have to mount the antenna. Some quibble about this but it's not a big deal: installation and gear are free if you buy a package; it's a simple DIY project if you prefer to run your own.

    Most users need only one dual-LNB antenna. DISH needs a second one aimed at 61.5 or 148 if you want some of the 'non-core' programming, such as their slate of international channels (including Al-Jazeera and World Link TV - gotta get your Karachi Kops somehow) and some of the HDTV feeds. If your locals aren't on the core sats (110 and 119) DISH will install the second antenna free.

    Also, before you commit to satellite, you need to verify that you have a clean sight line to the bird(s.) DISH has a tool you can download to get your azimuth and elevation to each bird. For the continental US the core satellites are at 101, 110 and 119 deg. - generally due south for most people. You do need to mount the antenna(s) on something that doesn't move - a nearby tree won't do it. If you're unsure about any of this have an installer do a site survey for you prior to entering into a contract.

    If these drawbacks aren't a concern for you... then your next choice is DirecTV or DISH.

    Three things should dictate your choice: programming, equipment and service.

    Programming... DirectTV has NFL Sunday Ticket, DISH does not. DISH has lots of international programming, DirecTV does not. Other than that their lineup is nearly identical, but... to
  • by Sivar ( 316343 ) <`moc.liamg]' `ta' `[snrubnselrahc'> on Monday February 02, 2004 @09:00PM (#8165175)
    Disclaimer: Until just recently, I worked for DirecTV (left of my own volition for a more flexible job). That said, here is my honest opinion and/or observations about your questions:

    Comcast is the local cable provider in my area, and are playing TV spots about how satellite TV signals can be lost when it rains, when the wind blows, and even when the dog sneezes (I'm sure the dog sneezing excuse in the commercials are more for humor than fact).

    This is bullshit. Many cable companies, including my own (CableOne), make similar statements. Consider the source.
    If your dish is properly aligned, the weather has to be quite severe to interrupt your signal. If it is quite severe, you will probably get signal interruptions, freeze-framing, pixelization, etc.
    A few anecdotal examples:
    My grandmother has a sparse tree (not sure of the species, it has leaves so is not a pine) directly in front of her dish. When I visited during the monsoon season, most of her transponders had a signal strength of 75-85. DirecTV recommends a signal strength of 70 or higher in clear weather to prevent signal loss in trivially bad weather. 80, IMO, is a safer number to shoot for. If you are a true geek, you will probably fine tune it to get it in the high 90's. ;-)

    - I have never lost picture, even in fairly severe snowstorms. I made sure my dish was well aligned though.

    If the dish is poorly aligned usually due to a customer self-installation or due to an installation by Halstedt Communications, an installation company known by DirecTV employees for being almost universally incompetent. Unofficially, of course.

    What has been Slashdot readers' experience with cable and satellite TV? I'm looking at trying to balance cost versus quality of signal and picture. How much does the weather affect the signal quality of satellite TV reception?

    Digital cable and DirecTV have a nearly identical picture quality from what I have seen. Many channels in "digital" cable packages are analog, then you pay to add a set of digital channels on top of the analog base package. Analog picture quality varies based on a great number of factors, and IMO goes from "fairly decent" to "almost as good as pure digital." IIRC, DirecTV's picture is 480^2 MPEG-2 video, but I cannot recall for sure. Digital cable is probably the same or similar.

    Weather does not effect picture quality at all. Generally, you either have it or you don't. Freeze-framing and pixelization can occur with very bad signal strength, but I consider this "not having it at all"

    If all but obviously severe weather effects your satellite signal, call and have your vendor come and fix it. There is no reason that you should have to put up with losing your signal more than during a couple of really bad storms per year, and even then, not for more than half an hour (unless the storm lasts quite a long time).

    Some satellite packages include a DVR (Comcast doesn't offer one yet in my area). Is it worth getting the DVR supplied by the satellite company (DirectTV, DishNetwork), or is buying a separate TiVo a better option? As a geek, I'm also interested in getting NASA TV."

    All vendors' PVRs except DirecTV's are very basic. Tivo is, IMHO, simply a superior service, giving you much more than just recording. HOWEVER, it does have a monthly fee. Some PVR services (the very basic ones) do not.
    A few important notes:
    If you get a Tivo for anything other than DirecTV,
    the recording will not really be digital. Non-DirecTV Tivos are designed to accept an analog signal (to be compatible with a wide variety of TV services), so that analog signal is converted to digital to actually record to disk, then back to analog again for playback. If you have a digital connection from your RV to Tivo, only the one conversion takes place.
    Tivo for non-DirecTV is also much more expensive. $12.00USD per month last time I checked. It is $4.99 for DirecTV customers (whether you use a DirecT
    • Oh, important (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Sivar ( 316343 ) <`moc.liamg]' `ta' `[snrubnselrahc'> on Monday February 02, 2004 @09:04PM (#8165200)
      An important note:
      Many problems with installations are from people ordering their stuff from a backwater sleezeball company.
      I recommend you get your stuff directly from DirecTV or from a reputable vendor like Best Buy, Circuit City, etc.
      Calling 1-800-DIRECTV does not necessarily get you to DirecTV itself!
      It is a national # setup to route you to a local dealer.
      If you want to actually get your stuff from direcTV, call the general customer service phone # at 800-355-5000 and do whatever you need to do to talk to someone from the phone menu. It doesn't matter who. Then, ask for the sales department. They will ask if you have a credit card (say YES) and if you have ever had DirecTV before (say NO).
  • Cable in Portland (Score:4, Informative)

    by Baloo Ursidae ( 29355 ) <> on Monday February 02, 2004 @09:02PM (#8165192) Journal
    In Portland [], we have Comcast []. Analog cable is known for having a decent, though frustratingly limited selection (and a few that nobody is sure why they included The Golf Channel...Portland has way too many 9 and 18 hole courses, a couple 32s and a 128 hole course...Portlanders spend too much time golfing to watch other people golf...or the TV Guide and any of the home shopping channels...nobody watches those.) and the best signal in town compared to anything else. Their digital cable [] service has way, way more channels, but you pay a lot for it, and there's only about 5 good ones, each on a separate lineup, each costs something like another $8/ea on top of the digital premium and analog service. The MPEG-2 [] encoding is really substandard. It's like watching satellite in the ever-present rainstorms here (anybody who lives here can tell you, rain falls nearly horizontal, anything else is just high humidity. The locals do not carry umbrellas: they don't work well in the wind (when it's actually raining), but aren't worth the trouble for the more springlike brief showers.).

    On the other hand, if you use a TiVo, and always record on the lowest quality, you're not going to notice too much of a difference with satellite, though bad weather will noticably chop up the signal (wind and wildlife vibrating or reaiming the dish, dense clouds/fog, heavy rain, ice forming on it in cold weather, snow buildup, etc), I remember when times were better and I shared a 4BR/2BA house with a bunch of friends and we could easily afford every channel DirecTV offered, nice clear warm night, open all the doors and windows, and turn on a movie with a signal so clear you would have thought you were on analog cable and lived inside the headend.

    Broadband, however...I've had Verizon and Qwest and some time or another for a DSL provider. They both suck so bad that I don't even trust them with my landline anymore, they lost my business to Vonage []. Cable is the least of all evils. They'll let you get internet service a-la carte without television if you want (which is how we did it in said big-ass house, plus half of us worked for @Home, so we got 30Mbps/10Mbps for free anyway). The half of us in that house that worked for @Home, both used and loved @Home. I knew, at the time, about as many people who worked for Qwest and one guy who worked for Verizon. All the guys who worked for Qwest really had a hard time even selling their service to their customers, and were @Home customers themselves and loved cable. The guy from Verizon might know where the power button on a computer is if it's got a big, neon sign flashing, pointing at it, and the button itself is illuminated and clearly labelled.

    The correct answer should be intuitive by this point. 8:o)

  • by SnapperHead ( 178050 ) on Monday February 02, 2004 @09:38PM (#8165431) Homepage Journal
    A friend of mine, had a dish for 6 months, we hang out at his house all the time to drink, watch movies, sports, etc.

    Durring this time, there was a huge blizard that rolled through. The picture quailty was really bad, when there was signal at all. We had to keep going outside to clean the dish off. If anything gets inside it, it will start crapping out.

    Durring normal rain, you will notice little "bleeps" here and there on the picture. Typically, it only happens 2 times durring a 1 hour show and its very minor. However, durring very heavy down pours, the signal disappears. At times, there is signal but its unbareable to even look at.

    The only times wind will affect your signal, is if your dish isn't properly secured. Any movment on the dish will create poor signal. Of course things like leaves, branchs, acorns, etc will create problems.

    Now, he moved over to digital cable. It rocks, very little downtime at all. Plus, ondemand is great. Just make sure you get the best package they have. Starz and Cenimax are the best ondemand packages out there. The movie selection is generally much better. Depending on your cable provider, they are usually free access as long as you have the big package. I rent over 100 movies a month with it for free. Beats renting from the video store. But, the video store is going to have a better selection :P

    I would recommend what others have suggested. Get cable first, try it for a few months, then switch to the dish. The dish companys are giving out good deals to people who switch from cable. Try it for a few months, if you don't like it vs cable, many cable companys are giving out the same deals to switch back.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.