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Old 07-12-2008, 09:22 PM   #1 (permalink)
Eh?
 
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Location: Somewhere over the rainbow
Can I boost my Direct TV signal?

Pretty simple question:

I live in a big (college) apartment complex, and we get free Direct TV, however, the quality of the picture is horrid. Lots of snow, poor sound, you name it, its terrible.

I have a very nice TV, so I know it's not that, but I'm wondering if there is anything I can do, or some small thing I can buy to up the signal strength, because watching TV like this is basically unbearable.

Thanks in advance!
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Old 07-12-2008, 09:46 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I don't know for sure, but I can usually solve, or at least find out answers to this with a trip to Radio Shack. Good luck though!
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Old 07-12-2008, 10:22 PM   #3 (permalink)
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How to thread?

Anyway-

It hard to trouble stuff like this on-line but here's some stuff to look for:

The dish itself:

Obstructions? Anything between the dish and the LNB (s)? I've seen cobwebs, leaves, dirt, grime all cause problems. Plus you need a clear line of sight from the dish to the Sat. Tress? Some trees that are bare in the late fall and winter are full of leaves in the spring and summer. Also look above the dish, the signal actual comes in at a much higher angle then most people realize. I've seen people install the dish beneath eves and or deck thinking the dish is pointed at the sat, it's not the signal in a bounces off the curve of the dish and hits the LNb (s?). First make absolutely sure the dish is mounted on a level, completely in all direction, mast or pole. If the mast is not level it's nearly impossible to tune in a multi sat system. Then double check and make sure the dish is actually pointed in the right direction and the skew (tilt) is correct. You can go to the direct-tv web site and enter your zip code and get instructions as to what angle, elevation, azimuth and skew you need. For about $30 at Radio Shack (if they don't have one try a local RV store) you can buy one of these:



This allows you to easily tune your dish from the dish itself and not have to rely on the signal meter at the receiver. It comes with very simple instructions. Be sure not to drop it. Drop it from almost any distance and you have to replace it, it's sensitive.

The cable itself:

First you really need RG-6 to carry a strong singal, esp if you're doing it over any significant length. A lot old buildings that converted to Sat from Cable have RG-59. It's a smaller wire and doesn't carry the signal well. Your cable should say RG-6 or RG-59 right on the side somewhere. Check the connections at the LNB and at the back of the receiver. Disconnect the cable and examine it. You don't want it loose and you don't want to see any of the outside wire (shielding wire) poking through the end connection and making any contact with the copper center wire. This will kill your signal strength. And you want that center copper wire sticking out flat with the end of the connection, if you can't see the center copper wire you'll need to cut off the end, strip the wire back and crimp a new connector in place. If you have to replace cable end get a real crimper, 20 bucks will get you this at any radio shack:



(sorry for the picture quality it's late, I'm tried)

Good solid and tight connections are very important to getting the max signal to your receiver. You can use a pair of standard pilers, but the crimpers are worth the price, IMHO.

Another thing to look for is any area of the cable that has been wrapped around, or "looped." A large pile or bundle of cable will actually interfere with itself. also if it runs over or directly next to a 110w power outlet the signal can be seriously effected.

Lastly, for now, you say your whole building has access to this/these dishes? If it's one dish you have splitter or "switch" somewhere in between your receiver and the dish, be sure to check the connection there as well.


I've done about 250 of these over the years, probably 20 since I moved to Mexico. The farther south you go the harder it is to find a signal.

If you have any questions feel free to ask, I'll try to keep an eye on this thread- or PM me.
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Old 07-13-2008, 04:58 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Tully is wise in the ways of all things wire; listen to him.

It's funny, though, that you talk about snow. That's not usually the failure mode of digital signals like DirecTV. When my signal is on the edge of failing (due to extremely heavy rain--the only time it drops out), I don't get snow, I get dropouts and blockiness and picture freezes. Snow is an analog signal weakness; digital signal weakness looks entirely different.

So if it really is Poltergeist-style snow, then I think the first place I'd look is between the A/D converter (which is in the set-top box) and the TV--where the signal is analog. I'd replace the cable between the box and the TV, or at least look closely at the connections. One very simple test would be to see if the signal quality changes if you move that cable around.

Last edited by ratbastid; 07-13-2008 at 05:00 AM..
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Old 07-13-2008, 05:40 AM   #5 (permalink)
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It almost sounds like there isn't enough signal coming through. Perhaps your box is bad or too many TVs are slaving off the same boxes? Are the other TVs experiencing the same problems? You might ask around also also test to see what happenes when your TV is the only one on; also, try another box on your TV. In other words, rule out everything possible.
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Old 07-13-2008, 06:02 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ratbastid
It's funny, though, that you talk about snow. That's not usually the failure mode of digital signals like DirecTV. When my signal is on the edge of failing (due to extremely heavy rain--the only time it drops out), I don't get snow, I get dropouts and blockiness and picture freezes. Snow is an analog signal weakness; digital signal weakness looks entirely different.
Absolutely. I completely forgot this issue, I meant to address the snowy issue first then went on a rant about everything else... it was late, I was tired. Sorry.

You can usually find out quickly if you actually do have a good signal. Somewhere in your menu options on the box itself will be a signal meter. I can't remember DTV's but it should be something like Options, System set-up, Signal level. Really you want that level up around 85+ but you can get by with a much lower number, just going to lose it with most weather- clouds and rain etc... I currently have a Starchoice set-up and a larger dish then most people would use in the States. I'm locked in around 62 but any rain and I'm not watching TV. I get exactly what Mr. Rat is describing- blockiness, freezing etc...

Another issue might be your receiver itself. If the output jacks are junk you'll get snow. Also I'd use the RCA or S-Video jack if possible. Use heavy gage RCA jacks too.
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Old 07-13-2008, 06:33 AM   #7 (permalink)
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This signal from dish to set top box should be amplified, I doubt your college has an amplifier, and if they do it's not up high enough (although if you're gettting snow rather than macroblocking, it's probably on the analog side of things.) From box to TV, what options are available? S-Vido looks a bit better than Composite and deals with interference better because of the twisted pairs and shielding, and RF coax cable pulls radio interference like it's getting paid to do it, especially if it's near power wires.

The first thing I'd look for is bad cables with ground fault from shield to conductor, and even if you don't have an apparent problem, I'd replace everything with RG6 and durable connectors (when it comes to connectors, it's Neutrik or nothing.) You can even make RCA cables that don't need to be moved much from RG6, soldering the conductor into the pin, then pulling back the shield and crimping it into the grounded strain relief.
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Old 07-13-2008, 09:27 AM   #8 (permalink)
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So, you guys are talking about a box and such, yeah, we don't have a box, just a standard hookup in the wall.

I assume the box is somewhere at the apartment leasing office or something.
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Old 07-13-2008, 09:28 AM   #9 (permalink)
... a sort of licensed troubleshooter.
 
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I boosted by signal by switching to Dish Network. I've been happy so far. Of course your DirecTV is free... yeah go with Tully's recommendations.
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Old 07-13-2008, 09:49 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stare At The Sun
So, you guys are talking about a box and such, yeah, we don't have a box, just a standard hookup in the wall.

I assume the box is somewhere at the apartment leasing office or something.
So you have a coaxial cable coming in to your apartment or dorm, no box (reciever) and you're able to get a number of channels, right?

If this is the case the people running your complex have a mutli-unit commercial switch box somewhere that's feeding your unit. Other terminology might apply here, haven't messed with an animal like this in well over 5 years. If this is the case you need to do all the steps listed, but you need to get to that switch. It's going to look something like this:



http://www.bestwaysatellite.com/inc/sdetail/6371

Have you discussed the issue with the property manager(s)? "Snow" to me really says bad connection between you and that switching unit. That or some other interference- back to piles of coaxial, near 110w outlet etc...


You might check for answer here as well:

http://www.dbstalk.com/

(Not trying to site plug, I have no investment in these sites. Just trying to point someone to answers.)

These folks have been able to talk me through a ton of issue just in the past 9 months. Pretty sure you have to "join" to ask Q's, but it's free and the folks there know their stuff.
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Old 07-13-2008, 11:05 AM   #11 (permalink)
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See if other people have the same problem you do. If not, it's your cable. If so, they need to crank up the amplification.
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Old 07-13-2008, 11:33 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MSD
See if other people have the same problem you do. If not, it's your cable. If so, they need to crank up the amplification.
Are talking about something like this?:



Or are you talking about boosting the signal up line, between the LNB and the receiver?
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Old 07-13-2008, 11:39 AM   #13 (permalink)
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^ That seems like what I'm going for.

I'm going to hit up radio shack in a half hour or so, and i'll post my findings
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Old 07-13-2008, 11:46 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stare At The Sun
^ That seems like what I'm going for.

I'm going to hit up radio shack in a half hour or so, and i'll post my findings
Definitely ask questions, if possible. Lot of times you can get good advice from RS.

And definitely post your findings. I'd like to boost a signal I'm getting from Merida.
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Old 07-13-2008, 12:33 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Since you are plugged into an communal system I'll bet too many TVs are hooked up and that is draining the signal strength.
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Old 07-13-2008, 12:52 PM   #16 (permalink)
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I posed this question on another forum. So far the answers I've got back leave more questions then answers. Possible systems so far seem to be- SMATV, L-Band, Overlay, MDU Bulk and Headend. Honestly I don't know enough about any of these systems to be of any real help. Actually I should say I don't know anything about these systems. But I know where to find people that do, so I think by narrowing down the type of system the problem can be identified. Then it becomes can the end user solve the issue? If it's digital evidently that answer may well be no. You're totally reliant on the system manger to make adjustments, up grades etc... Basically if it's digital and you amp the signal it won't make any difference. It's all numbers, making those numbers louder won't result in a better end picture.

First questions I guess are how many units are on the system as well as how many channels are offered?
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Old 07-14-2008, 11:33 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Well, to make a long story short, looks like I'm SOL.

The thing I bought didn't do crap, and I'll be taking that back, and it looks like well over 200 apartments are on the same hookup.

*tear*
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Old 07-15-2008, 03:42 AM   #18 (permalink)
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How many channels are you offered?

I've never had any luck with those amp things. Was hoping they've made some serious improvements over the years. The people I got responses from on the other forum all said, basically "have crap, amp crap, have amp'ed crap- the end user won't even see a difference."
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Old 07-15-2008, 04:56 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Your complex pays for it. You still have a right to good service.

I'd call DirecTV. If they don't give you what you're looking for, complain to your management company.
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Old 07-15-2008, 08:31 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jewels
Your complex pays for it. You still have a right to good service.

I'd call DirecTV. If they don't give you what you're looking for, complain to your management company.
I think I'd try the reverse order of that, but ya good idea.
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Old 07-15-2008, 09:11 AM   #21 (permalink)
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I get like 60 channels.

But see, I can't really complain to much, because I got a really really good deal on my rent, like 200 dollars off the normal rate for both me and my gf, and the 'old unlimited utilities package' that they don't offer anymore. (Basically, we each pay 325 a month for a really nice apartment, for *everything*, all utilities, the rent, etc)

So, the complex has done a lot for us, and I don't want to piss and moan cause the TV signal isn't that great, when we are getting such an awesome deal on our rent/living situation. That's why I wanted to just be able to do something on my end, instead of bothering them with it.
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Old 07-15-2008, 11:22 AM   #22 (permalink)
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Then I'd say your wise to realize it's best to let it go. But it sucks if you have a nice TV. Still sounds like a good deal on rent, so good call.

People watch too much TV anyway, IMO. Rain forces me to do other things- like tell people on-line what I think.
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Old 07-15-2008, 12:39 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stare At The Sun
The thing I bought didn't do crap, and I'll be taking that back, and it looks like well over 200 apartments are on the same hookup.
But.... We're talking about DirecTV here, right? The satellite service?

Each receiver box has to have its own satellite receiver. There are dish hardware pieces that hold multiple receivers (the pointy piece that sticks out in the middle of the dish, in other words), but for each receiver, there has to be a physical satellite antenna receiver point.

In fact, my DirecTV DVR has two tuners (so it can record two things, or watch one and record another) and it needed a double-receiver dish. One box, TWO receiver points on the dish.

It's not like cable. You can't just hang a bunch of TVs or tuner boxes off the wire and get it to work. Something's going on with YOUR receiver. Has to be. Am I nuts here, Tully?

I understand not annoying the management, but I think I'd still talk to them about this. If your water came out rusty, you'd talk to them, right? If the air conditioner was blowing hot? How is this any different, if it's a "utility" that they "pay for"?
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Old 07-15-2008, 01:43 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ratbastid
But.... We're talking about DirecTV here, right? The satellite service?

Each receiver box has to have its own satellite receiver. There are dish hardware pieces that hold multiple receivers (the pointy piece that sticks out in the middle of the dish, in other words), but for each receiver, there has to be a physical satellite antenna receiver point.

In fact, my DirecTV DVR has two tuners (so it can record two things, or watch one and record another) and it needed a double-receiver dish. One box, TWO receiver points on the dish.

It's not like cable. You can't just hang a bunch of TVs or tuner boxes off the wire and get it to work. Something's going on with YOUR receiver. Has to be. Am I nuts here, Tully?

I understand not annoying the management, but I think I'd still talk to them about this. If your water came out rusty, you'd talk to them, right? If the air conditioner was blowing hot? How is this any different, if it's a "utility" that they "pay for"?

No you're not nuts. But he doesn't have a receiver. He's on a commercial set-up. I don't know exactly which type. Given the number of channels he's getting and the number of units he's talking about I'm sure we could figure the exact type of system. However given the end user can't do anything to improve the picture quality it really doesn't matter.

What you're talking about is a standard residential set-up. One Sat for up to 6 or 8 receivers with each TV having it's own receiver. What he has is more like a lot of hotels have, where all you have in each room is a standard RG-6 coaxial cable going to each TV.
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Old 07-16-2008, 03:31 AM   #25 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stare At The Sun
But see, I can't really complain to much, because I got a really really good deal on my rent, like 200 dollars off the normal rate for both me and my gf, and the 'old unlimited utilities package' that they don't offer anymore. (Basically, we each pay 325 a month for a really nice apartment, for *everything*, all utilities, the rent, etc)

So, the complex has done a lot for us, and I don't want to piss and moan cause the TV signal isn't that great, when we are getting such an awesome deal on our rent/living situation. That's why I wanted to just be able to do something on my end, instead of bothering them with it.
Just because you're paying a discounted rate doesn't mean you're not entitled to the same services as those paying the regular rate. If you want what you're entitled to, you need to let them know. If they don't know it's broke, they ain't gonna fix it.

I sure hope you don't think you'll get kicked out for complaining ... ?
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Old 07-16-2008, 05:26 AM   #26 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jewels
I sure hope you don't think you'll get kicked out for complaining ... ?
I'm thinking that as long as you go in with the attitude, "Hey, I was wondering if there's anything that can be done..." as opposed to "Dude, WTF? My %&*%@( reception sucks BALLS!", there's no harm in asking.
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