Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Olympic Torch Run Hits Simcoe

The Olympic Games in Vancouver are still a ways off, not starting until February 12th. However, the Olympic Torch has already been on the road for almost two months now, doing a cross country run, starting in Victoria, British Columbia and then heading east to Newfoundland. Now it is heading west again, and in the process hitting every nook and cranny of this country. Today was Simcoe’s turn. It was a perfect winter morning, about –10 C with just a skiff of snow on the ground (to be sure, 1 skiff equals 1 mm).

Dumb little old me thought that the torch was actually run on foot by different athletes all the way. Not quite. From town to town, it is being driven in a van, Actually it is surrounded by a whole raft of vehicles, sort of like the caravan in the Tour de France, advertising such vital items as soft drinks and banking services.

We strategically placed ourselves at a spot where a relay takes place. Well, actually, it was plain luck.


The Torch is heading south on Norfolk Street. Almost here!


The handover takes place.


The runner is on his way. Each runner covers 500 metres at the most.torch4  

You can actually follow the torch run live via webcam  (if it ain’t broke that is). Then again, it is quite a technological feat and it provides a neat glimpse of small town Ontario in a winter setting. Should be equally as interesting in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and lastly British Columbia.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Dutch TV (…and Flemish too…)

My brother-in-law had made me aware along time ago that world wide reception of a Dutch TV channel was possible. I finally got around to seriously looking into this a few weeks ago.

Of course, anybody can go out and have a satellite installer come in and do it for you, but that is no fun. One of the parameters of any job should be cost and this one was no exception.

I had a surplus Bell satellite receiver taking up space in the basement, so I traded it with my son-in-law Greg for a satellite dish surplus to his needs. After I did some checking (well, actually a lot of checking) on the web, I found that the LNB (Low Noise Block, sometimes called the ‘eye’ on the dish) was not compatible with the satellite (AMC4) that I was trying to pick up. It had to be standard LNB, rather than circular LNB. Who knew?

Ebay to the rescue. For $8.00, the correct type of LNB arrived in my mailbox. Next trick is how to mount this. The focus point on the dish is crucial to the reception: out by just a little and obtaining a strong signal becomes next to impossible. So I decided to tear open the old LNB with the idea of perhaps mounting the new one in there. It turned out that, although significantly different in shape, with a lot of filing and cutting I was able to mount the new LNB in the old bracket. Three cable ties hold the hold thing together, and voila, Bob’s your uncle.

Next I mounted the dish onto the roof with a surplus tripod I happened to have kicking around. With the aid of a helper, aiming it was a fairly easy operation, once I discovered the true vertical alignment mark on the dish mounting bracket, which was hidden behind a mounting bolt. Duh!!!

The dish in the foreground is the “regular” Bell TV dish, pointing to Nimiq 2.

Although signal strength is not the greatest (82%), the picture displayed on the receiver is very good. The receiver, by the way, I had lying around after it become no longer useful, due to the fact that satellite pay TV encryption became (seemingly) unbeatable.

To display, since I am the only Dutch speaking person around here, I just use my notebook for viewing. A video capture device (from Belkin) leads from the S video port on the receiver to a USB port on the notebook. Install the right drivers, and all you need then is an application to display the video stream. To find that application actually took a long time. I finally settled on TV Viewer, a shareware program.


BVN is the organization that actually delivers the channel. It appears to be a joint venture between VRT (Vlaamse Radio en Televisie Omroep) and RNW (Radio Nederland Wereldomroep).

And best of all: no commercials, yeah!!!!