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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Why DISH Made Me Stop Being Agnostic

Posted on March 19, 2014 at 12:15 AM

When I started off as an installer back in the late '90s new clients would frequently ask my opinion on whether I thought they should go with cable or satellite. (Over-the-air antenna is not really an option in our area. Unless you really like watching all ETV all the time, in which case, brother, we have got you covered!) My pat response was that our systems were technology agnostic and they would work fine with either one and it was really up to them and what they wanted to do. We could work with and support either system just as easily.

Of course, nearly every customer ended up going the cable route because it is just easier. You don’t need a set-top-box at each TV; just plug in your cable and you’re good to go. You also spare yourself from the potential stigma of being ostracized by your neighbors and POA due to the shame you’ve visited upon the community by having a satellite dish on or near your home. (I can remember one particularly fun meeting where I had to meet a client at his jobsite with the entire POA to discuss the dish location, and whehter it could be buried in plants - no - or painted green - no - or in any other way made completely invisible. I remember there being yelling.)

But now that I’ve been on this merry-go-round for a while, and I’ve had a chance to live with DISH’s Hopper and Joey system at my own home for a couple of years, I’ve changed my tune.

Now when people ask me this question, I’m no longer neutral and I strongly recommend they go with satellite, specifically DISH's Hopper system. Here’s why.

Service Calls

The number one phone troubleshooting call that I receive without a doubt is in some way cable box related.

“I’m not getting a picture on that TV you sold me.”

“There’s no sound on that system you sold me.”

“That you remote you sold me isn’t working my TV anymore.”

“I’m not getting all the channels on my TV.”

"My TV won't turn on." ("The TV physically won't power on?" "No." "You press the power button on the TV and it won't turn on?" "Well, it powers on. But there's no picture." *goes off to weep bitterly*)

In the customer’s eyes, the “TV” and all things related to it are our problem. They can’t separate the actual TV from the cable box attached to it. So when the TV has a black/grey/blue screen of death, they call us, because, undoubtedly, “that TV we sold them” must be broken. In reality all of these things are typically cable box related, and are usually resolved by rebooting - or in many cases, replacing - the box. But depending on the client, asking them to reboot their cable box by unplugging the power cable could be akin to suggesting they do a little impromptu open heart surgery on a neighbor. With a cable box, it is not an IF the box goes bad or has a problem, it is WHEN and HOW OFTEN the box goes bad and has a problem.

In the two years that I’ve had my Hopper, I’ve had to reboot it less than five times. And when I do need to reboot it, there is an easy-to-access, red “RESET” button right on the front panel. Also, I don’t think that I’ve ever had to give any phone tech support that is satellite related.

Discrete Power

If Scientific Atlanta, Motorola, and Samsung would add discrete power commands to their IR library, it just might go a long way towards healing some of the wounds and deep-seated hatred I feel towards them. I mean, why NOT give a discrete power command?! It’s not like it would add one infinitesimal cent to the cost of manufacturing. For a while SA gave us a “power on numeric” that we used as a workaround, but a firmware update took that feature away. I guess us installers were abusing it by actually using it or something. (And, by the way, them taking this away was really extra-special sweet because it meant we had to go around and reprogram a bunch of remotes that were now no longer turning the boxes on and off correctly with the macro we had built. So bully for that!) As it is, you have to just issue a power command and blindly hope you aren’t turning the box off. Or leave it on all the time and play a game of cable company Russian roulette as you wait for them to randomly reboot the box at some point.

With DISH, I get my discrete commands and never worry about getting out of sync. And if I somehow DID get out of sync, I get a nice graphic on the TV which says, “Press Select to watch” instead of a screen-of-death.

Picture Quality

I had been somewhat skeptical that satellite actually looked better right up to the second where I turned the Hopper on my Elite Plasma for the very first time. Instantly the picture was just…better. It’s cleaner, with no noise, or macro blocking or banding or motion artifacts or any of the other yucky stuff you get from cable and their extra levels of heavy-handed, secret sauce compression. While most people will probably never notice the better picture, some of your clients will. And even if they don’t notice it right away, you’ll be saving yourself from the down-the-road calls when they do notice the blocking and other digital artifact nasties that they will notice from cable and, of course, immediately blame on "that TV you sold me."

Please click here to continue reading why I'm now a true satellite believer at Residential Systems....

Categories: March 2014, TV, Rants