Archive for July, 2007

A Tour de France First: HD

Monday, July 9th, 2007

The 2007 Tour de France kicked off on Saturday from London, England — and Stage One, which ended in Canterbury, has already featured some high drama.


London mayor Ken Livingstone wrote about the course of the race prior to the Grand Depart, and the standings so far can be found here. But race fans have no doubt already heard about Robbie McEwan’s incredible comeback from a crash early in the race. As one fan writes:

McEwen crashes 20km from the finish line and is out of the race due to the furious pace being set at the front of the peleton by teams such as Quick-Step, Milram, Credit Agricole and Lampre. He is somehow brought back into the peleton with just a few kilometers remaining by his teammates despite the best efforts of the sprinter teams to make sure he stays out of contention. He then works his way through the entire Tour de France field in the space of a couple of miles and, despite all the exertions and a wrist injury, appears in the last 200 metres to blow all the other sprinters away. One of the most historic non-mountain stage wins in the Tour de France.

Here’s the video on YouTube:

Fans outside of England wouldn’t know about McEwan’s comeback without satcom, of course, and this year marks the first time that le tour is being broadcast in HD, thanks to a suite of satcom services being provided by Globecast:

GlobeCast will supply French broadcaster France Televisions and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) with satellite and microwave transmissions to provide complete HD coverage of the race. GlobeCast will be deploying up to eight SNG (satellite news gathering) and mobile microwave units at each stage of the race, supported by 30 technical professionals. That includes coverage of the race’s start in London, England–a first for the Tour–where GlobeCast recently launched a full-service broadcast and playout center.

GlobeCast mobile units stationed at various points along the course will transmit footage shot via motorcycle and helicopter by SFP (Société Française de Production) back to France Televisions’ production trucks at the finish line. GlobeCast will provide unilateral satellite contribution feeds to the channel’s master control room in Paris, and its mobile units will distribute the official world feed of the Tour de France to rights holders throughout the world on behalf of the EBU.

The overall communications solution provided to the Tour by France Telecom, which now markets all its services under the Orange brand, includes 1,500 temporary telephone lines to be deployed every day in the technical and press areas; high-speed Internet access in those areas; an upgraded mobile network over the entire course to ensure optimum coverage, mostly in 3G or 3G+; and a team of 50 technicians. The team will be mobilized around the clock, with support from 330 regional colleagues at each stage, and will handle the transport, assembly, operation and supervision of the necessary infrastructures and systems for five specific areas: stage finish line, organization headquarters, intermediate points, press room and stage departure village.

If you want to see the excitement of the tour in even higher definition than HD (or at least on a bigger screen), be sure to check out Wired to Win, an IMAX film about the Tour de France that  is now making its way to select cities.

DIY Friday: High-Powered Mountainbike Light

Friday, July 6th, 2007

Summer’s got you in the mood for some adventure, and the mountain bike in the garage is calling you to get outdoors and blaze some new trails with your handheld GPS.  But the weather forecast is for hot. Heiß. Caliente. If only you could mountain bike after dark, you think….

Which brings us to this week’s DIY Friday project: a high powered LED headlight for your mountain bike helmet.


The folks over at Singletrack provide the instructions, and a list of materials you’ll need:

  • A 7.2v 1400mAh Ni-Cad battery 
  • A 150mA trickle charger
  • Some 2 core mains cable
  • A White luxeon star V LED 
  • A collimating lens
  • A 22mm pipe cli
  • A AMD heatsink
  • Some thermal paste
  • A re-usable zip-tie
  • Some small zip ties and electrical tape
  • A DPDT sub-min toggle switch
  • A 1 Ohm resistor and a 0.47 Ohm one, both rated at 3W

Singletrack provides a list of suppliers for the above materials in the UK; a little bit of Googling (DIY style) should turn up suppliers for our U.S. readers. (Tools required consist solely of a junior hacksaw, a file, some glue and a soldering iron.)

Still need more illumination than the light that is now attached to your helmet? Race Day Nutrition provides the plans for a bike light (that you can attach to the handlebars) using three 3W Luxeon LEDs.


For additional ideas — more illumination, as it were — check out the DIY LED Bike Lighting Guide, which makes the case for LED over halogen for a variety of factors, from more acceptable battery drain to lighter weight and less heat.

Now get pedaling. 

DirecTV Satellite Launch Friday at 8:50 pm EDT

Thursday, July 5th, 2007

DirecTV customers have been promised 100 HD channels by September — and the delivery of that promise is riding on a rocket that launches tomorrow night.

The Proton Breeze M launch vehicle will lift off from Pad 39 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, with the DIRECT 10 satellite on board. According to the International Launch Services (ILS) website, "this will be the debut of the Enhanced Proton Breeze M, which is capable of launching spacecraft over 6,000 kg into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO)."

The payload is the Boeing-built Direct 10 satellite:

DIRECTV’s next-generation satellite features state-of-the-art antenna and payload subsystem that will provide customers with unparalleled national and local HDTV (High Definition Television) service. The powerful 131-transponder payload integrates 32 active and 12 spare TWTAs at Ka-band for national service and 55 active and 15 spare TWTAs for spot beams. The payload is powered by a gallium arsenide solar array that spans more than 48 meters. DIRECTV 10 will receive and transmit programming throughout the United States with two large Ka-band reflectors, each measuring 2.8 meters in diameter, and nine other Ka-band reflectors.

ILS is running a launch blog, where the most recent entry chronicles the rocket’s journey out to Pad 39 on Tuesday:

The rather uneventful train trip out to the pad could be watched from various points around Area 95 and drew the biggest crowd of onlookers we have seen out here so far. Everyone who wanted to attend was permitted on the pad deck to watch the incredible sight as the assembled ILV rolled horizontally into position next to the flame bucket. Then it was hydraulically rotated to its vertical launch position.

Talk about a photo opportunity. Pictures, videos, Russian and Americans alike… everyone tried to capture it in as many ways as they could. One of the favorite pictures to take is to pose as if one hand is pushing the rocket to vertical. It never really DOES look like one person is doing the lifting, but it is a tradition to try and get that shot to commemorate this exciting day.

The launch will be webcast live here. Also be sure to check out this photo gallery

Indian DTH Market About to Grow

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

Via TechWhack:

Airtel and Reliance to offer internet through DTH

Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications are two companies which are all set to enter the Indian Direct to Home market by launching their services.

They would take on the existing players in the segment including Zee Dish TV and Tata Sky DTH.

However, one interested aspect of their upcoming services is that both Reliance and Airtel are planning to offer satellite-based broadband internet services along with regular DTH services.

Bharti Airtel president, broadband and telephone services, Atul Bindal spoke about their plans: “Satellite internet is a North American model. There are a lot of areas where Bharti would possibly never lay copper cable as it does not make economic sense. In these areas, Bharti will look at a offering broadband through Wi-Max or through DTH.”

Reliance in addition to internet services is also considering offering other services like video on demand to attract more customers to their upcoming BlueMagic service.


And now this bit of promising news from Satellite Finance (subscription):

The Indian government is considering increasing the foreign investment cap in domestic DTH companies from 49% to 74%.

At present the foreign direct investment (FDI) component of any international investment is only 20%. The change in law would bring DTH on a par with cable companies where foreign companies are allowed to own up to 74%, FDI or otherwise.

FDI ownership in a DTH company would, however, remain contingent on a composite shareholding. The move will encourage foreign investment into the sector, with the burgeoning number of cash-starved DTH operators looking to fund their expanding services in a market rife with demand.

Currently, TataSky has 20% FDI, as does Sun Direct TV, while Dish TV has received approval to invite foreign investors to invest in it. The current players in the DTH market are TataSky, Doordarshan and Dish TV with Sun Direct TV, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications to roll-out their own services within the next few months.

The government is undertaking a review of foreign investment across all industries, including aviation, media and telecoms. The law change would be of particular interest to Bharti Airtel, which had to reduce its holding in Bharti Telemedia recently due to the existing FDI rules.


Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

In honor of our Nation’s birthday tomorrow, I bring you "space fireworks" — or the best space can do to mimic illegal fireworks:

From the Hubble Telescope:




Solar-powered, City-wide WiFi

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

Expanding on Friday’s DIY post about solar-powered WiFi extenders, St. Louis Park, MN is implementing a solar-powered, city-wide wireless network (link):

Unlike any other community wireless system in the nation, the St. Louis Park Wi-Fi network is powered by the sun.

ParkWiFi will provide wireless Internet coverage across all 10 square miles of the city, using about 400 wireless access points. Each access point will have a battery to supply electric power and a solar panel to keep the battery charged. Several miles of fiber optic cable will tie it all into a network.

Unlike non-solar projects in Madison, WI and Philadelphia, ParkWiFi will not primarily use existing utility poles (likely because of solar-panel placement) — a move that caused some contention:

Council members and city staff grew concerned after beginning installation of the poles in mid-April and receiving feedback about the locations and aesthetics of the solar equipment and poles. It is also clear that many people believed that the equipment would be installed on existing utility poles as was done during the pilot project. The pilot project did not include the use of solar power technology. Hearing the concerns, especially about the location of poles, staff stopped installation of the poles and brought the discussion before the council.

In some cases, pole color and height were changed and mid-size lot placement were moved to property boundaries and alleys. But, "Council also directed staff to not compromise on performance of the system while finding new locations."

The project is a private – public partnership between the City of St. Louis Park (which will own the network), Unplugged Cities (which will operate and maintain the network and provide subscriber services), and ARINC (which will build the network).

The city challenged proposal responders to be creative. ARINC delivered:

The novel solar approach eliminates the need for the City to pay the local electric company monthly fees for per-pole attachments and electricity usage, a projected savings of $200,000 to $250,000 over the course of the five-year project. Service to the existing pilot areas will continue as ARINC completes the phased build out citywide. It is anticipated service to most of St. Louis Park will be completed by fall, except for some residential units in the largest buildings and some commercial buildings.