Sat-ND, 20.11.1997 You should be watching TV instead
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A case of spontaneous hibernation
Hungarian satellite planned
Pay per view grows
WebTV in the UK and Japan
GIF pictures zap Netscape
Thanks to a certain Mr Murphy, we know that what can go wrong will go wrong (and most likely when you least expect it.) The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or Soho for short, has put itself in standby mode just when another satellite was to be launched that would calibrate it.
The incident may also put the schedule of the current space shuttle flight into disarray as Soho's "companion" satellite, Spartan, was to be released from the Columbia this afternoon. The satellite was going to spend two days in orbit before being recaptured by the shuttle's crew. One of its instruments was to study the sun's corona while the other one's purpose was to substantiate information gathered by Soho.
The are contradicting reports about the gravity of the Soho problem. Deputy project scientist Joe Gurman reportedly said that officials had no idea whether it was a small glitch that can be fixed or a major problem that could endanger the joint project of the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA.
It was later said that Soho put itself into stand-by mode following an unexplained electrical surge in its positioning system. Engineers said the problem was minor and should be resolved quickly.
There's not much time left: the Spartan launch was delayed until tomorrow but it wouldn't make any sense if Soho wasn't up and running by then. At time of writing, there have been no news on Soho's fate. Under the revised plan, Spartan would be launched from the end of the shuttle's robot arm at 4 p.m. EST Friday (2100 UTC.)
Observing solar activity is an important part of understanding the sun's effects on Earth. Solar storms aren't only responsible for spectacular light shows on night skies (Aurora borealis/australis.) They can zap satellites, disable short-wave transmissions for hours, and knock out power plants.
Half of what this so-called newsletter reports on Eastern Europe satellite and media activities comes from Hungary. That's readily explained: Hungarian Broadcasting Corp. (HBCO) is a Nasdaq-listed company that produces press releases which length often is reciprocal to the company's significance.
Not this time? HBCO has signed a letter of intent with Magyarsat Kft. to form a joint venture to launch a communications satellite serving the Central and Eastern European region. It is planned that the joint venture will be owned 69 percent by Hungarian Broadcasting Corp. and 31 percent by Magyarsat.
Magyarsat is a 50:50 joint venture between state-owned Antenna Hungaria Rt. and Israel Aircraft Industries Ltd., Israel's state-owned aerospace corporation.
Antenna Hungaria has proposed that it would transfer all of its broadcasting and communications traffic from Amos 1 to this new satellite once it is launched. Of course, Amos 1 is Israel's first commercial satellite. Developed by Israel Aircraft Industries, its Central European beam has mainly Hungarian customers.
Hungarian Broadcasting Corp. will form a new subsidiary named Hungarian Satellite and Cable Corp. ("HSCC") to own this business. The Company will then spin off this new company to its shareholders, whereby each share of HBCO Common Stock will receive one share of HSCC common stock. It is planned that this distribution will be made to shareholders of record on December 31, 1997.
The pay-per-view (PPV) industry in the U.S. in confident to hit the US$1 billion mark in collective revenues this year.
Showtime Event TV (SET,) which specialises in heavyweight boxing events, said it estimates that gross PPV revenue this year will come to almost US$1.27 billion. Movies generate US$603 million in revenues, special events US$413 million, and so-called adult services can expect US$253 million.
This would mean that PPV revenues would have doubled within just three years, an SET survey said. The increases can be attributed to technological improvements rather than to a growing public interest. The number of U.S. cable households capable of receiving PPV has grown from 21.5 million (1994) to 28 million (1997.)
Since then, several direct broadcast satellite (DBS) services have gone on air, all offering PPV services to an audience that is generally regarded "high-end." More than a third of DBS homes purchase movies on PPV during any given month, compared with only 7 perecent of cable subscribers.
Web TV, a subsidiary of Microsoft Corp., will start testing its Internet-via-TV service in the United Kingdom in December. Analysts don't expect an overwhelming welcome. Even in the U.S., WebTV has signed up just 100,000 subscribers.
What some reports now sell as news is pretty old stuff really. To quote Sat-ND, 23.4.97:
"It hasn't exactly been a success in the United States so far, and there's no reason why WebTV should do any better in Europe. Nonetheless, Pace Micro Technology of the UK has signed an agreement to license the WebTV reference design technology for enabling Internet services to be delivered over television sets.
"Pace plans to offer its products in time for the Christmas shopping season although it seems there will only be 'trial service' of WebTV available at that time."
And on May 5, 1997, I wrote this:
"A new survey from Forrester Research predicts that WebTV and other gadgets supposed to bring the Internet to TV sets will not reach more than just a million U.S. households until the year 2000. (There are about 95 million TV households there, I think.) In addition, a survey of 51 content developers and 41 vendors related to TV and phone-based Internet access revealed that an overwhelming majority (76 percent) of developers are ignoring the advent of WebTV, saying they would not change their production process. Web-browsing is not compelling enough to capture the attention of television viewers. the report states."
Consumers will ignore WebTV, too. In a recent survey in the UK, 52 percent of respondents said they would prefer to use a PC to access the Internet, while 35 percent preferred the TV set. 13 percent were either unsure or did not want to access the Internet at all.
At the same time, WebTV takes to Japan: the set-top boxes will begin selling this month for the trifle of US$350 per unit. The company has signed up several Internet service providers, including Fujitsu's InfoWeb and InfoSphere which are expected to provide almost all local access for Japanese consumers.
WebTV also encountered legal problems hampering its international roll-out: anachronistic U.S. law prevented set-top boxes from being exported as they utilise safe encryption technology. Classified as "ammunition," strong encryption algorithms are banned from export as PGP users may know.
http://www.webtv.co.uk/ Nah, somebody else was faster... hehe!
Students at the University of Hanover, Germany, found out that a simple animated GIF picture can make Netscape's Web browser "Navigator" crash. Funnily, Microsoft's Internet Explorer survives the killer GIF.
How does it work? An GIF animation consists of several separate pictures, usually of the same dimensions. However, if the first picture is smaller than those which follow (admittedly not a real-life situation,) things get funny. Netscape seems to use the dimensions of the first picture to allocate a buffer and consequently crashes when the next pictures are to be displayed Bingo, buffer overrun.
Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0 had similar buffer overrun problems when accessing an URL starting "res://" that was longer than 255 characters not a real-life problem, either, and a patch has been released to fix the problem.
When it comes to killer GIFs, Microsoft programmers have done a better job: Internet Explorer can't display the manipulated GIFs completely but unlike its competitor, it does not crash.
By the way: at least on my computer, I don't need any GIFs that have been tampered with to make Netscape software crash. It does so quite frequently on its own, unprovoked and completely voluntarily another feature that distinguishes it from MS Explorer 4.0. Your experiences may differ, as always.
Copyright 1997 by Peter C. Klanowski, pck@LyNet.De. All rights reserved.
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