Extras - A Page of Miscellany

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Odds and Ends
All manner of odds and ends here. The weather, a temperature calculator, Barnsley's Tuscan hills, Cheese and Dunkers and a potted history of UK TV. This first batch of links goes to pages on this website. After that they are external links:


Public Service:
Phone Services:
Note that there are some free online directories out there but directory enquiries over the phone are usually at sky-high, ripoff prices. If you need to look up a number by web-connected smartphone, it is better to Google them first. And try these:

Other Services


Weather Forecasts:
 
Penistone home-made weather stationThe weather is always a good conversation starter in the UK. This Penistone do-it-yourself weather station can quickly be made by anyone with just a small rock and a piece of string. Fasten it to the nearest tree and read the instructions. As an alternative, old people can use aches in their joints to predict the weather. My nose end helps inform me about the cold.

Temperature Converter
Enter a number in either field, then click outside the text box for a result. The UK mostly uses the Celsius scale.

C°: 
F°: 

Cheese
"Cracking toast Gromit, but where's the cheese?" Good cheese is a real treat. English cheeses are excellent. We have: Cheddar, Cheshire, Wensleydale, crumbly Lancashire, double Gloucester, etc. These are all named after UK place-names. Other countries salute this by trying to make their own versions with varying degrees of success. The US produces Kraft yellow goo slices, specially designed for junk food and the undiscerning. Those Food Channel programmes from the US always refer to cheese in terms of its physical properties, never its flavour. It was a bit unfair of Mr Bush to condemn the French for eating cheese but you've got to agree that French cheese is usually stinky and too solid (unless you include Brie).

Cheese & biscuits - Not clickable

Tea and Dunkers
The perfect partner for cheese; biscuits and cakes. I bought the book too. Current favourites are ginger biscuits but Huddersfield Market Hall has an excellent biscuit stall to sample them all. Their bags of broken biscuits are well worth it, just don't let them catch you breaking them. In biscuit etiquette, it is considered polite to take no more than two biscuits. www.nicecupofteaandasitdown.com


Barnsley goes Tuscan
Speaking of cheese, Barnsley Chronicle revealed that BMBC asked consultants to reshape Barnsley in the style of a Tuscan village and with some sort of halo light. Two interesting facts: 1. Barnsley is directly under the UK's main north-south air route. 2. The council has a policy of replacing street lights with lower light pollution types.

Tuscany - not clickable tuscany - not clickable

Here are two views from Tuscany, clearly showing how similar it is to Barnsley. We will be able to marvel at Barnsley's Tuscan pavement cafes, with a tattooed clientele sipping coffee while reciting poetry in the rain. The little finger is supposed to poke out at a jaunty angle. Since the Leaning Tower of Pisa is in Tuscany, might we look forward to Barnsley Town Hall developing a lean?


UK Television
This is a subject that has always interested me. I am qualified to repair analogue TV sets, not that I ever want to do. In fact, my experience started with valve technology (US = vacuum toobs). The world's first 'High Definition' public TV service started in London in 1936, from Alexandra Palace using 405-line electronically scanned pictures. Take a look at the 'World Analogue TV Standards' website.

There were only a few thousand viewers when TV transmissions closed down for WW2 in 1939 as the London transmitter could have been used for enemy aircraft navigation. When the service restarted in 1945, many of the old TV sets wouldn't work when their electrolytic capacitors had dried out. They went 'pop'. Ask any old TV repairman about selenium and copper-oxide rectifiers and they will pinch their noses in the gesture of a bad smell.

Our local BBC TV transmitter was on Channel 2, Band I from Holme Moss and many of the early TVs had only the one channel. When ITV came along in 1956 on Band III they needed a converter box for the new channel, as we do now for Freeview, Freesat or Sky. Our local ITV station came from Emley Moor, which had a lattice mast at the time. It was 405-line on channel 10, TV Band III and it was Granada TV before Yorkshire TV came along.

Colour TV started in the UK around 1966 using the 625/25 PAL system on UHF channels (phased out in September 2011). They called that 'High Definition' at the time too. The old TV Band III (ex ITV) around 200MHz is now used for DAB digital radio. Before reading on, have a look at the history of the Emley Moor mast. Also see the excellent 'Aerials and TV' website (Hillsborough, Sheffield) for info on Emley Moor and much more.

Emley Moor MastAnalogue TV Shutdown
The digital terrestrial channels were transmitted in between the old analogue channels (before they closed down), on low power. Now we have many more channels and a bunch of radio stations on our TVs. After the close-down, the digital channels were supposed to go on to higher power. The final analogue changeover in our region was on 21st September 2011. Terrestrial TV now has four HD channels (BBC1, BBC-HD, ITV and Channel4) using the normal aerial but you need a special set-top box as there are only a few (big-screen and expensive) TVs coming out with it built-in.

Digital TV is far more bandwidth-efficient than analogue but it is not quite so 'pure'. Various compression tricks are employed to squeeze it in and sometimes there are visible artifacts on fast picture movements and scene changes, especially on Freeview terrestrial TV. More digital channels can be squeezed into a given bandwidth and at a lower transmitter power than analogue.

Free to Air Satellite
Satellite TV has been around for a long time now, starting with a variety of analogue systems (such as D-Mac, Extended PAL, PAL-Plus, plain analogue and more) then going digital. Freesat has a lot more channels than terrestrial Freeview, without any subscription, several HD channels, lots of radio stations and a few foreign channels but the dish is more of a job to install than an aerial. It's a little beyond most DIY-ers but not impossible if you have a clear view of the sky slightly east of south and a few extras like a satellite meter (£20 from Maplins).

Experimenting with Satellite TV
Good TV viewing can be obtained with even the cheapest of satellite equipment. Maplin Electronics sell complete satellite kits for caravanners and enthusiasts, to receive heaps of English and foreign channels (including every BBC and ITV region) for about £90, without any subscriptions. It works well and the dish can be wall-mounted or fastened to a railing or flat surface. For mobile use, there is a base with rubber suckers. The Humax HD Foxsat Freesat box can also be used for (non-Freesat) channel searching but it is not quite as easy as the caravan kit.

As an experiment, the dish can be G-clamped to a fence or brush handle and it is great fun sweeping the geostationary arc for different 'birds' on a calm day. 'What Satellite' magazine is invaluable for its list of satellites receivable in the UK, with frequencies and other settings. It is not hard to locate different satellites using a satellite meter and then scan for new channels. Under cloudy and rainy conditions, all satellite systems lose some signal and the pictures can break up completely in extreme weather conditions. It is difficult to keep a temporary dish steady if there is any wind. The caravan kit includes a dish, receiver, meter and cables. The trick is to use a receiver which scans easily and with lots of channel memory. From my difficult location I can find around six satellites with a small dish but I have buildings and trees in the way which prevent a full sweep of the geostationary arc.

The 'Hotbird' satellite at 13E carries 700+ channels from all over the world, including BBC World, and some very dour ones from Arabic countries with over-modulated sound and mind-numbing echo. There are also plenty of 'artistic' ladies too, who invite you to call them for a natter about this and that. Mostly that. At 19.2E there is another location with hundreds of channels. Most of them are German and French channels. Most UK dishes are aimed at a cluster of satellites at around 28E, for Sky and non-subscription Freesat. Dishpointer is a handy website to check what is available in each location and 'What Satellite' magazine from Robinson's News is a must for the enthusiast. Also see Lyngsat for info about the satellites.


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