DIRECTV Install

Yesterday we had our DIRECTV (I hate that it’s all caps, but it is) installed. The install time slot we got was from 8:00 ’til noon, so of course the installer showed up at 11:30. The three and a half hours of waiting did give me time to get some reading a chores done.
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The biggest problem with the install was that the work order didn’t say that we needed a tripod. I don’t know why they didn’t figure it out. Our address is clearly an apartment. How hard is it to throw an extra tripod in the truck just in case? So, anyway… I suggested that it might be possible to clamp the dish onto our balcony railing. One of our neighbors has a pipe clamped to his railing in the corner of his balcony, and the dish attached to the pipe. Well, I guess there weren’t any extra pipes in the installers truck, so that wasn’t an option. He did have some extra dish mounting brackets and bolts. I’m not sure why, but the installer though it would be a good idea to mount the dish right where our laundry closet door opens. The bolts he had weren’t quite long enough to reach through the railing so he had to wedge the mounting brackets around the rails and bend them a bit. Our rails are two inch pipes, and the bolts must have been exactly two inches long. He was able to get three bolts through. Once he got the mounting brackets clamped on to the rails, he went ahead and put up the dish and ran the cable. I was pretty impressed with how quickly he was able to acquire a signal, but he did have this cool little signal strength meter that he could attach to the dish.

Once we got the receiver plugged in, he called DIRECTV to activate the account. He gave them all of the serial numbers and whatnot, and then handed me the phone to answer all of the service level questions (basic service, local channels, no magazine thank you, no football thank you, no extra movie channels thank you, etc…). When the installer left I was happily watching crisp clear satellite tv.

Live tv worked fine, but I couldn’t get the TiVo features to work. I called DIRECTV again to find out what was wrong. Apparently, when they activated my account, the forgot to activate the TiVo service. Luckily they can turn it on instantly, and before too long I had scheduled a show to record. I grabbed some lunch and ran of to work at about 1:30.

The more I thought about it at work, the more I realized that the dish was going to be in the way of the laundry door. We’re getting our new washer and dryer delivered today, so that’s the last thing I wanted. After work I dropped by Radio Shack to buy some extra cable, and a couple of couplers so that I could connect to the existing cable. I seriously thought about buying a whole 100 feet of cable and completely redoing the run myself, but that would mean that I would have to buy some new tools and I thought I should at least try it the easy way first. When I got home I realized that I should connect the new cable at the receiver instead of at the dish (duh). It worked really well, with no loss of signal. I was able to push the old cable out through the wall giving me an extra eight feet or so to work with.

About that time, Jesse got home. We talked about plans a little bit, unmounted the dish so that we could measure the brackets, and went to the hardware store. We had two possible plans in mind depending on what kind of hardware we could dig up. One was to mount the dish on a pole like our neighbor, the other was to clamp a board to the railing, and mount the dish to the board. We couldn’t find any good way to clamp a pole onto our railing, but we did find exactly what we needed to go with the board options. We ended up buying a 1×6, 4 U shaped pipe clamps (I don’t know what the technical term is), and 4 hex bolts and nuts.

The sun was already down, and it was quickly getting dark, so we took some quick measurements and got to work. First I cut the board so that it was only about as long as we needed. Then I stared drilling holes in in. Unfortunately, our largest drill bit was a bit smaller than our hardware, so I had to work the drill around a bit to widen the hole. I had about half of the holes drilled when our cordless drill ran our of juice. While that recharged, we made and ate dimmer (mmm Greek salad in pitas).

Mounting the bracket to the railing went pretty smoothly. The hard part was bolting the dish onto the mounting bracket. Of course, by that time it was dark, so we had to try to hold up the dish, hold a flash light, and get the bolts to bite, all with just four hands and not much space. The first two bolts were the hardest, but the rest of them went in pretty easily.

With the dish solidly mounted out of the way, we decided to check if we had any reception. I tried to keep all of the angles the same between the dish and its mounting pole, but between the crazy clamping job that the installer did and my not quite level mount, we had absolutely zero signal. DIRECTV does have a signal strength meter so that you can point the dish by yourself. We used that, and loosened up each of the sets of pointing bolts to see if we could find any signal at all. Of course, it was last one I tried (azimuth) before we were able to get anything to show up. We maximized that at about 74% which should have been enough to watch tv, but it might have been a problem the first time it rained. By tweaking the elevation (angle above the horizon) a little we were able to get the signal strength up to 95%. That’s good enough in my book.

Ten minutes of clean up later we were sitting down to watch a little Quantum leap before going to bed.

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