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RF Shorts for Jan. 13, 2013

CNET’s Cheapskate picks Channel Master DVR+ as a CES ‘Product He'd Actually Buy’ 

As somewhat of a cheapskate myself, Rick Broida's (“The Cheapskate”) article Three things I saw at CES 2014 I'd actually buy with the tag-line “You know the Cheapskate doesn't like to spend money on anything. For these products, the line “I'll open my wallet” caught my eye.

Number one on his list was Channel Master’s DVR+. He writes, “After a few swings and misses, Channel Master finally mastered the over-the-air DVR. Stocked with two tuners and a very attractive UI, this slender box lets you record locally broadcast shows without paying a monthly fee. (You supply the antenna--and the hard drive, which is partially a plus because you get to pick the size, capacity, and so on.) This is a fantastic solution for people like my mother-in-law, who don't have cable but can watch live broadcasts just fine. I'm not wild about the box's $249.99 price tag (which includes only two hours' worth of storage, so you're also on the hook for the aforementioned hard drive), but there's no question this is currently the only antenna-powered DVR that gets it right.”

The other two items he mentions are the “3Doodler” and the “Duracell Powermat dongle.”

He didn't have much good to say for the TVs on display. “Curved TVs are a joke. 4K TVs may finally gain some traction in 2014, but they're hardly the sea change that was the transition from SD to HD.”

I noticed everything at CES seemed to have Bluetooth, but missed one of the items “The Cheapskate” found, a connected toothbrush!

His comments: “And product manufacturers want to cram Bluetooth into everything, from spoons to hearing aids to--I kid you not--toothbrushes. Make it stop.”

Great observations! I'll be looking for Broida's future “cheapskate” postings!

EchoStar Acquires Solaris Mobile Satellite Services Operator writer Peter B. de Selding reported that EchoStar Buys Struggling Solaris S-band Satellite Venture. Solaris has a license to operate an S-band mobile satellite service in Europe and was owned by SES and Eutelsat. EchoStar previously acquired TerreStar and DBSD which had S-band satellites covering North America. EchoStar told investors last year that it was continuing to finance work on the TerreStar-2 satellite.

“Solaris has a license to operate a mobile S-band satellite service in Europe, but has struggled to find a market,” said de Selding. “Its large S-band antenna was launched on a Eutelsat telecommunications satellite in mid-2009 but a defect was discovered during its unfurling that limited its coverage and power.”

He added that “London-based Inmarsat also received an S-band operating license from the European Union but never launched a spacecraft, saying the market risks were too high without guaranteed user commitments prelaunch.”

de Selding also commented: “In addition to these spacecraft, EchoStar has mostly completed construction of an S-band mobile satellite, called CMBStar, that was to have been sold to a Chinese operator. The deal collapsed and EchoStar has been unable to find another use for the satellite until now.”

The article doesn't comment on what EchoStar's plans are for all of these S-band satellites and licenses.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.