This week's throwback Thursday takes us back nine years, with a post from 26 October 2008.
It didn’t stay dry long enough for me to cut the grass, so it is still uncut – although the smaller patch at the front of the house was dry enough for Clare to mow.
I received information last month that Orange were rolling out a few tricks to us poor country folk who don’t have access to things that the city-dwellers take for granted. No, I’m not talking about mains drainage, cable services, mains gas, regular and frequent public transport or anything like that – what I have in mind is TV over ADSL.
Tania recently acquired that service when she moved into her new flat and so I was somewhat excited to find that, as of the beginning of October, the 30 € or so I pay each month for 8Mb broadband (which usually turns out to be between five and six megabits, but who’s complaining?) will now, provided I rent the Livebox for 3 €, give me maximum available ADSL speed (advertised as 18Mb but probably between five and six megabits, but who’s complaining?), plus Internet telephony (free calls to land lines in mainland France, cheap calls to Europe & North America and an extra number – 09 60 51 39 07) and a package of TV channels equivalent to the basic Sky package. The TV can be delivered by ADSL if you are in a big city, by TNT (terrestrial digital) if you are in an area covered by that service or by satellite. Being deep in the countryside and at an altitude approaching 550m in terrain that you would never describe as anything near level, we, naturally, chose option 3. The change to the account was achieved quickly and easily, and the Livebox and IP telephone arrived within a couple of days – in fact, just before we left for the UK. So far the only cost was 49 € to buy the HD IP ‘phone.
I had some discussion by email with Orange – basically saying “Where is my TV decoder?” which they answered by telling me I had to go to a shop for it. Bloody cheek!
We went to the Orange store in Montluçon on Tuesday, and entered a very fast-moving queue. A the front of the queue we were asked for our name and the purpose of our visit. The name was written in a pad and we were given a number. The system seems to be that when an assistant/adviser/consultant/whatever-the-latest-pc-name-for-the-counter-staff-is becomes available, he or she leaves his or her cubicle, takes the next name off the pad and deals with that person. It actually works very well, although how it differs from taking a ticket at the deli counter eludes me.
Back to the plot. The deal includes a free HD dual satellite/ADSL decoder, given against a refundable deposit of 49 € but, my God, you would not believe the palaver the assistant/adviser/consultant/whatever-the-latest-pc-name-for-the-counter-staff-is has to go through to issue it. Apart from a series of checks for everything except a CRB check to ensure we don’t have form for not giving rented things back, the same data were entered into at least five screens and new contracts and account summaries printed out for us to read, agree and sign (OK, to sign). At the end of it, although she had a bank card reader attached to her PC, we had to go to another one and she had to enter half the data again, in order to pay using the card reader attached to that PC!
The whole thing, from entering the shop to walking out with the kit, took less than half an hour. Just as well, as we had only bought parking for thirty-seven minutes. There’s another thing. How random is that? Where in the world would you pay for thirty-seven minutes’ parking? Thirty – OK; forty-five – OK; but thirty-seven?!
We brought the box home, installed it, read the instructions, uninstalled it, installed it properly, did a scan and (of course) it found no satellite channels. Not unexpected at that point as I hadn’t connected the satellite cable yet. It told me it wasn’t connected to the Livebox. It was lying. It was physically connected by a length of Ethernet cable (what I like to call network string to distinguish from electrical string which is, of course, the stuff you plug into the wall – although you can plug network string into the wall if you have wired sockets in, but I haven’t, so that doesn’t count). It was, however, not logically connected to the Livebox. Why not? Rubbishy piece of network string. I had used a two metre length from my stock rather than the five metre length supplied. I swapped back. It was then connected both logically and physically. At this point I received some other error messages which I tried to find on the web. All I could find there were a few dead flies and a fat spider so I used the laptop to see what Google could offer.
Ah! Into the Livebox control software and disable the decoder interface. Didn’t help. Re-enable it. Didn’t help. The message I was receiving – long, complex and French – is one many people had received, and the best advice I could find was to keep trying, so I did. On about the twelfth attempt it sprang into life. Still no satellite signal; still not surprised; ADSL service not available. OK, plug in the satellite cable. To pick up Orange TV the dish needs to be pointed either to the Hotbird or to the Atlantic Bird satellite. No point using the Sky dish then. The quad dish upstairs points to four satellites, one of which is definitely Hotbird. That would be fine if the Orange box (which is actually white but which I shall continue to call orange out of sheer stubbornness and in blatant defiance of reality) has no idea how to deal with DiSEqC switching and the complexities of a multi-satellite feed. The Orange box reported no satellite feed found. Once again, bugger! Once again? Yes – last used on 22nd July 2007.
We went out and bought a cheap 80cm dish with a simple LNB on it, intending to put it where the quad dish is now. Simple job, you might think. Those who have ventured onto our roof to do things with satellite dishes – and you know who you are – know otherwise.
Assembling the dish was easy. Removing the quad dish was easy. The problem is that the pole on which the quad dish sits has a diameter of only 25mm and the new dish needs 35mm-55mm. Replacing the quad dish was easy.
I clambered out onto the roof of the bread oven, where it joins the main house, through a window opening a little under one metre high and a lot less than one metre wide, and lowered myself somewhat gingerly onto the flashing. I had a tow rope around my back under my armpits, the rope being wrapped around a three metre length of 7cm x 7cm treated timber of the kind I use for uprights on my balustrades. This was pulled against the wall adjacent to the window by my body weight. I was secure and safe. Clare passed the assembled satellite dish out to me and I manhandled it into position for attaching to the aerial pole. I needed both hands to do that. I asked Clare if she could steady it with one hand so I could attach the fixings and secure it. She couldn’t reach. I couldn’t do it alone. Yet again, bugger!
I passed it back through the window and started trying to get back. The window sill is at about my chin height and, as I discovered, my upper body strength is not what it was. I couldn’t raise myself. I asked Clare to pull on the tow rope. That only served to compress my chest against the concrete window sill. I looked around myself for possible exit strategies and found none of them appealing – mostly involving a rapid loss of altitude terminated by an abrupt cessation of movement. I had to get through that window. Clare grabbed one arm and pulled whilst I tried clambering up the wall. I discovered that my lower body strength is not what it was. We did eventually succeed – more by dogged determination than anything else, and regrouped to consider alternative strategies.
One thing I have decided is that, no matter how bad the economic climate becomes, I shall not be taking up a career in burglary or housebreaking.
The latest solution is to fix a vertical pole to the concrete footing of the old rabbit hutches, against the wall of the workshop, braced against that wall, and mount the dish there. Line of sight is OK and will be as long as the tree adjacent to the pond doesn’t exceed about six metres in height, the dish will be above Flash’s peeing level and it will be unobtrusive from any angle. We could wall mount it, but you may recall we had the Sky dish on that wall until a very high wind proved too much for the fixings – the wall is stone for the first couple of metres then hollow block above. Floor-mounting on concrete should be a more secure option.
I shall let you know how we get on next week. We are looking forward to true HD television – even if it is not our choice of viewing.