Sat-ND, 18.02.1998 -- Udders! Moooo!!
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UK Digital TV confusion
By the way...
I have reason to believe some readers still take the USELESS FACTS too serious. Don't! They're just entertainment. If you don't like them, unsubscribe but don't send me any idiotic comments. That applies in particular to a guy named Alf. [Ha, ha... are you an alien by the way?]
Russian Strategic Missile Troops have launched a satellite from Baikonur yesterday at 1:35 p.m., Moscow time.
News agency Itar-Tass reported that the Kosmos-2349 military satellite has been successfully put to orbit by a Soyuz-U rocket. Tuesday's launch was second Soyuz flight in 1998.
And usually, that's all we get to know about Kosmos satellites. Unless they appear under a different name in a press release published by a U.S. company that [surprise!] offers snapshots from space.
"World's largest digital atlas"
According to Aerial Images of the U.S., that's what it's all about. Of course, an Atlas is one of the things one could do with high-resolution imagery supplied by a Russian reconnaissance bird. There are other purposes, limited only by your imagination.
Aerial Images notes that the successful launch of Kosmos-2349, or Spin-2 as they call it, represents the first space launch of a commercial 2-meter resolution Earth imaging satellite, supplying the highest resolution satellite imagery ever made available for commercial use.. It is the first of a four-mission project to collect detailed satellite images of the entire United States and the major urban regions around the world. [This indicates, of course, that this is a short-term flight -- they usually last just a couple of days. The pictures will be taken with optical cameras and return to Earth aboard the satellite.]
When all four missions are complete, coast-to-coast coverage of up-to-date Spin-2 images of the entire United States will be accessible via the TerraServer on the Internet and on CD-ROM. Introductory pricing makes 2-meter imagery (b/w) available at a fraction of the traditional remote sensing satellite costs.
The TerraServer is a joint project of Microsoft, Aerial Images, Inc., Digital Equipment Company, Sovinformsputnik and Kodak. The TerraServer will soon become the world's largest digital atlas of actual images of the Earth's surface.
Aerial Images <http://www.aerial-images.com/>
USELESS FACT: Stewardesses is the longest word that can be typed using only the left hand.
Iridium may not only hold a record for satellites in orbit but also for launch delays.
A Boeing Delta II rocket successfully carried five Iridium satellites to low-earth-orbit early today after the launch had to be postponed eight times before. The launch took within a five-second window necessary to place the five satellites into co-ordinated orbits with the 46 already in the constellation. Satellite separation occurred approximately 80 minutes after lift-off.
Forty-nine of the 66 Iridium satellites needed to commence commercial service in September are now in orbit and functioning properly [two more are in also orbit but do not function properly.]
Boeing began the year with 18 launches on its manifest. Two of these missions are for the new Delta III which has an 3780-kg payload -- roughly twice that of the Delta II, Boeing said in a press release.
USELESS FACT: The average American uses eight times as much fuel as anyone else in the world.
Early Bird 2, a follow-up to what was supposed to become the first commercial imaging satellite, will be launched aboard a Russian Start-1 rocket from the Svobodny cosmodrome, reported Itar-Tass.
Early Bird 1 went silent four days after its successful launch last December and hasn't been heard of ever since. Sergei Zinchenko, General Director of the science and research centre Kompleks, pointed out that the failure was with the satellite's onboard systems and not with the launcher.
An exact launch date for Early Bird 2 is not known but is expected for the second half of 1998. According to Zichenko, the satellite operator EarthWatch "has encountered problems in the manufacture of the spacecraft."
The Start-1 rocket, produced by the Kompleks centre, is based upon the military missile system Topol. There's yet another customer for a Start-1 launch, which reportedly costs US$6 to 8 million: a Swedish satellite by the name of Odin is to be launched in the middle of the year.
USELESS FACT: Light is electro-magnetic radiation.
PanAmSat Corporation released two studies that, according to the company, "demonstrate the continuing market power wielded by Intelsat and its owners, including Comsat of the United States."
A PanAmSat press release said "the studies raise serious questions about the prospects for Comsat deregulation and the efficacy of current plans for Intelsat restructuring." One study finds that Intelsat still has significant market power while the other one says that Intelsat has market power that is not significantly constrained by competition. [You get the idea.]
There has been more criticism, which of course is a reaction to Intelsat's announcement to Spin off six of its satellites to a newly formed public company called INC. Comsat President and CEO Betty Alewine: "For years, Comsat's competitors have complained that they can't compete with an intergovernmental satellite organisation and have vigorously urged policy makers to pursue a pro-competitive privatisation of Intelsat. Now that the U.S. government is on the verge of successfully achieving its first goal in this process, Comsat's competitors are crying wolf."
"It defies logic that Hughes/PanAmSat -- with its 17-satellite system scheduled to increase to 23 satellites by next year -- could fear a system of six satellites, two of which are yet to be launched," Alewine added. "INC will succeed or fail on the basis of its ability to attract and retain customers -- just like any other business."
USELESS FACT: The average American uses eight times as much fuel as anyone else in the world.
Loral Space & Communications is reportedly seeking to purchase all or a part of Comsat, the U.S. Intelsat signatory which holds a 19-percent stake in the International Telecommunications Satellite Organisation.
According to the latest rumours, both companies have entered into a confidentiality agreement to explore the possibility further. Observers noted that an all-out acquisition of Comsat would cost at least US$1.4 billion, the current market capitalisation of the company. Comsat's share price has risen in the last days after the announcement of Intelsat's privatisation plans.
While a Loral spokesman would neither deny nor confirm the existence of a confidentiality agreement, a Comsat spokeswoman attributed the story to "market rumours."
USELESS FACT: Percentage of Americans who could not recognize George Bush : 44. [What about the percentage of Americans that don't recognise Monica L.?]
Here's another one from last week. Yep, still catching up with the latest developments. Playboy Enterprises Inc. will spend US$95 million to acquire Spice Entertainment.
No matter what you think about Bill C., the self-proclaimed Major Glory that saves the world peace [what a ridiculous figure he is indeed] and what he did with Monica L., not to mention all the other women -- sex is a big seller in the U.S. of A. Actually, porn is the driving source behind the pay-per-view business that now generates almost US$200 million a year. Adult buys account for an average 20 percent of gross PPV sales each year and almost 30 percent of net sales.
According to terms of the deal, Spice will keep its digital operations centre for video and Internet broadcasts, as well as receive an option to buy the outstanding stock of C-Band adult provider Emerald Media Inc. and certain rights to adult film library product.
Playboy, to my knowledge more on the soft-core side of the business, reported US$30,000 in losses for the quarter ended Dec. 31. Its Playboy TV and AdulTVision reported increases though. Spice, providing more or less hard-core programming, is even expected to possibly spin off a separate public company following the cash injection the Playboy deal. The company is or was according to some ancient Sat-ND (25.4.96) involved in European pay-TV porn channel EurOtica. [Does is still exist? No idea. I don't watch that kinda channels anyway.]
USELESS FACT: Simone de Beauvoir had her first orgasm thanks to Nelson Algren.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had a problem with its GOES 10 satellite that has been launched almost a year ago to replace either GOES 8 or GOES 9, depending on which one fails first.
Being weather satellites, the GOES birds have to monitor a fixed part of the globe. That means that their solar arrays have to be able to move in order to follow the sun. Otherwise, they wouldn't produce sufficient energy for the spacecraft to operate.
Thing is: GOES 10's arrays are stuck for unknown reasons. The failure, which almost turned the satellite to space junk, was detected last May. There was a solution to that problem, though: the satellite was meanwhile turned upside down once controllers found out that its solar arrays may not be able to move forward but at least backward.
Of course, the images received are now all upside-down. That's no problem for even the most simple imaging software, but the software for processing GOES images reportedly had to be updated to reflect the satellite's new attitude. Testing still continues, but once it's done GOES 10 will be put into hibernation until GOES 9 or 10 have to be replaced.
USELESS FACT: Impotence is legal grounds for divorce in 24 American states.
Microsoft Corp. is working with twelve broadcasters and cable programmers in a series of trials to broadcast data and program enhancements into U.S. homes.
Participating television broadcasters will be able to send data to computer users tuned to their channel. The system uses the vertical blank interrupt (VBI) part of the TV signal to deliver data, which by the way has been common practice in Europe for centuries. The system is called teletext, but the difference is that you don't need a computer to receive news, sports, programme schedules and such. They're simply displayed on your TV screen, usually at no additional charge. Not as good-looking as HTML, but readable, and that's what counts.
Microsoft Windows 98 broadcast-enabled PCs will be capable of receiving and displaying data in HTML format, as will current WebTV Plus boxes. They need a free software upgrade scheduled to be available later this year. [WebTV is a Microsoft subsidiary.] No dates or specific regions for the trials were disclosed, nor was it clear whether other TV/PC platforms eventually would be able to access the transmissions.
Microsoft supplied the hardware and software necessary for the trials. Each broadcaster received a PC server running the Windows NT Server operating system version 4.0, hardware required for VBI injections, and broadcast server software developed by Microsoft that uses standard Internet IP multicasting protocols.
But even HTML via VBI is not new: to my knowledge, a similar service is already offered in Germany, although a proprietary box is needed to decode the transmitted Web pages that can then be stored on your PC [at an additional fee.]
USELESS FACT: On any given day, Americans spend over $33 million buying lottery tickets.
The Palestinian Authority said it would close down several dozen privately-run radio and television stations if they do not obtain interior ministry authorisation.
The threat, expressed in letters sent to broadcasters, marks a policy shift. Until now, broadcasters had to obtain the authorisation from the ministry of information.
Meanwhile, nine broadcasters have been shut down temporarily "for technical reasons." The Palestinian information ministry said the broadcasters failed to meet technical standards for radio and television broadcasts.
The crackdown on independent media seems to be related to the stand-off between the U.S. and Iraq. Palestinian police reportedly closed a local television station in the Bethlehem area after it invited viewers to express their solidarity with the Iraqi people, a member of staff was quoted as saying. As reported (Sat-ND, 16.2.98,) the Palestinian information ministry told commercial television and radio stations they "must abstain from broadcasting any comment ... relative to developments in the Iraqi crisis."
USELESS FACT: Andrew Jackson was the only U.S. President to believe that the world is flat. [Alf: that's a very good example for an untrue USELESS FACT. I have the strong impression U.S. presidents including the current one believe in even more ridiculous fads and fallacies than that.]
Papers in the UK now refer to the launch of digital TV there as an "autumn lunch" even though satellite operator SES will be moving over one of its precious birds over to 28.2°E within the next few days in order to enable test broadcasts.
I would pay just about any sum to get hold of a copy of the contract between Mr Murdoch's BSkyB and Luxembourg-base satellite operator SES. Has Rupert paid for (part of) the Astra-2 series just as he did for Astra 1A by shelling out the lease for four transponders ten years in advance? Is SES obliged to send Astra 1D over to sit in for Astra 2A although that makes no commercial sense whatsoever at all? On the contrary -- the ride will shorten 1D's life by at least two or three months while leaving the 19.2° position without a full backup. SES will be in deep trouble should either the launch of Astra 2A fail or any other bird at 19.2°E go gaga. Not likely but definitely possible. This is of course not the conservative security-first approach for which SES has been known so far.
Flextech with Bill and Ted?
But what will happen at 28.2°E, the new SES position for digital TV beamed to the UK? The Observer reported that Multichannel television company Flextech, a subsidiary of U.S. cable giant TCI, is planning to take on BSkyB in a tripartite deal with Bill Gates's Microsoft and Ted Turner's Turner Broadcasting. [It's owned by Time-Warner actually, dear colleagues.] The partnership would seek to create a digital satellite package to rival BSkyB's planned autumn launch of digital satellite, the paper said.
It becomes interesting by the fact that Flextech also owns the distribution rights to BBC channels such as UK Gold, UK Horizons and UK Arena, as well as the Discovery Channel and UK Living. Those rights have not been exploited in long-term deals so far. Flextech is reportedly negotiating with BSkyB on an agreement for their channels to be carried on BSkyB's digital TV platform.
Let's hope that particular deal goes down the drain. Turner Broadcasting has long eschewed joining BSkyB's multi-channel package on satellite, preferring to let its channels such as CNN, TNT and Cartoon Network be broadcast free, the Observer noted. It should stay that way!
USELESS FACT: Britain's first escalator was installed in Harrods in 1878.
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