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Vol.2 - No.

Dish Network or DirecTV ?

In preparing articles for the newsletter I often search the forum pages of RV Net's website for material that will be useful to my customers.  This particular website is an excellent source of information for RVers.  One question that is often asked is - "Which is better - Dish Network or DirecTV?".  The answer is not simple and varies with each individual's needs and level of expertise with satellite TV.  When setting up High-Definition TV, both systems are about equal.  They both require you to hit 3 satellites when aiming the dish.  So let's look at setting up standard TV (not high definition) with each system.  

With Dish Network, you will need a Dish 500 type dish, which has two LNB's and requires you to find satellites 119 and 110 in order to get most programming.  Hitting 2 satellites in a heavily wooded area can sometimes be challenging due to the canopy cover of the trees. 

With DirecTV, you  use a single LNB dish and only need to hit satellite 101 to get the same or similar programming.  So for easier setup, DirecTV might be the better choice.  

However, Dish Network may offer TV packages with programming that might be a better fit for your style of viewing.  This could make the extra work of hitting 2 birds worth the effort.  The choice is not always clear, but perhaps a matter of personal preference.

In searching the forums, I found an interesting article by poster "Wounded by the Dish" which he posted on February 27, 2004.  While the Dish Network receiver he references is an older model, there are still a LOT of them out there in daily use.  So, for those who might be novices, and will be setting up a satellite dish using Dish Network as a provider, this article should prove helpful.  I have Dish Network myself and found it both interesting and informative.


"This post is to help those of you new to Dish Network or just starting to use Dish Network in your RV after having it in your home, to leap up the learning curve of how to aim and set up your dish. It does not contain the most basic information. It applies to Dish 500 systems only, and particularly those of you who move your satellite receiver from your home to your RV when you go camping. I have a different type of LNB and switch on my house than in my RV and this has caused most of my trouble. Here is how to deal with that.

I thought this system was going to make me rip out my hair and I didn’t have much left in when I started! Dish Network is happy for you to use one of the receivers from your house in your RV when you go camping. No waiver or permit is required. You can just carry your receiver to your trailer and buy a used dish to leave in it. That’s what I did and that’s how I ended up with a new LNB on my house and an older, different one in my RV.

After three or four tries with the Winegard gray plastic tripod sold at Camping World for $40 I returned it and bought a Bullseye satellite mount, recommended by Escapees and available here for about $80; I am through shoving little pieces of wood under the Winegard’s legs trying to level it, and through trying to screw its spring into dirt with rocks in it. I live in Texas and we can be a bit short on topsoil in some places! I love the Bullseye mount. It has a steel stake you pound into the ground with a hammer so the flat side faces the direction where the satellite is supposed to be (azimuth from your receiver's Setup menu after input of ZIP code). Rocks don’t bother it unless they’re boulders and it’s as sturdy as can be. Then you attach the mount to the stake using two bolts with spin-on knobs (no tools required), and level it using the attached bubble level. You just loosen knobs and move it side-to-side and fore and aft to level it perfectly. Takes about ten seconds and turns out perfect every time. It’s much more resistant to wind than the Winegard. Now that the mount is exactly vertical, when you scan the sky for a signal you will scan it at the correct elevation at all azimuths, not slice up and down as you go diagonally across the sky, the elevation changing every time you turn the dish. It’s also great for fine-tuning the best signal after you find the satellite. All you have to do to change the elevation a bit, to try a little lower or higher, is loosen one knob and move the whole thing. When it peaks, tighten it and you’re done. I routinely get signal strengths of 123 on the 119 satellite & 117 on the 110 satellite, with 125 being the top of the scale.

A fellow Rver who helped me on my first outing taught me to go to System Setup (Menu, 6, 1, 1 on the remote) and use the beeping signal from my TV to tell when the dish is aimed at the satellite. One person can set it up this way, without assistance or hollering. When it is receiving no signal, it emits a slow, intermittent, low-pitched beeping, and when you find a signal it changes to a steady tone, ever higher in pitch as the signal gets stronger. This works great and all you have to do to set it up is turn up the volume on your TV for a few seconds to find the satellite --- UNLESS you have a different kind of “switch” at home! It took me five months, hours of experimentation and many calls to Customer Service to find out the following. And to complicate things further, sometimes I got bad information from CS.

I have a DishPro LNB at home that contains two LNBs in ONE elliptical plastic housing with the “switch” INSIDE it, while my trailer’s dish has two visually distinct and separate LNBs mounted on one arm and uses a switch OUTSIDE the LNB assembly, installed inline some four feet from the dish. The receivers call these switches “DP Twin” and “21 switch,” respectively on the Setup screens once they recognize them. But all you need to know is that they are different switches. By the way, a switch decides which LNB’s signal goes to which cable when you change channels. This switch stuff matters because of the following.

Here are five crucial bits of information about Dish Network Model 301 receivers the manual doesn’t tell you and not many people in Customer Service know, and in the case of #2 and #3, even at assistance Level Two. The lack of this knowledge will drive you out of your mind if you have different switches at home and in your RV.

#1) These Model 301 Receivers remember what kind of switch they were hooked up to last time they were set up, even if they are unplugged.

#2 A receiver that is hooked up to a different switch than it was last installed with, cannot recognize the correct satellite when it sees it.

#3 The intermittent beeping telling you there is no signal will NEVER change to a higher-pitched steady tone no matter how many times you pass through the point of perfect aim at the satellite if your dish has a different type of switch in it than the one your receiver was last set up on. Never. It will just keep beeping, falsely telling you there is no signal.

#4 The only way you can get your receiver to learn that it is connected to a different kind of switch is to run "Check Switch" in Setup. And for this test to work, you MUST have a valid Dish Network satellite SIGNAL! You can do Check Switch as many times as you wish with no signal, and it will never figure out what kind of switch it is connected to. CS led me astray on this one. They told me the receiver would clear its memory of the old switch if you run Check Switch with no satellite signal (true) and that the audio signal would work normally after that (false. It will continue its incessant No Signal beeping until the cows come home)!

Now, when you think about points 2 and 3 this may seem an insurmountable problem; you must have a signal for your receiver to recognize a different switch, and you can’t find a signal without the right switch recognized. There are three ways around this problem and that’s why I’m writing this.

The first, and not the best way to do this, is to have someone inside help you set up. My wife is often not there yet when I set up the satellite so this one does not work for me, anyway. All the time that silly No Signal tone is beeping, when you stumble upon the signal, THE SIGNAL STRENGTH BAR(S) WILL SHOOT UP, even while the label for the bar says “Invalid Signal - Wrong Satellite” and the intermittent tone tells anyone who is only listening there is no signal. When this happens, have your wife yell, “Stop!” You now have a valid signal (unless you’re aimed at a non-Dish Network satellite, so use your compass to get the right one). Go inside and run Check Switch. NOW it will recognize your present switch. Then you can exit Setup, reenter Setup and start from the top. Now, turn up the volume on your TV. Now you’ll get the tones that’ll help you fine-tune the strongest signal without further yelling, although there will be plenty of beeping in the campground :-) The rest of setup is simple. Remember, setup of Dish Network when you change dishes requires two runs of Check Switch. NOTE: There is new software in the receivers now since I wrote this and I don't think two checks are necessary any more, but check me on that.

Edit: Here is the new solution. Solution Number Two and now my well-tested personal favorite, is to use a hand-held satellite signal strength meter. These meters do not care how stupid the satellite receiver is. It just knows a satellite signal when it sees it. Meters like this can be bought for $22 shipped from this site: or from here I got mine from the second site. Camping World is quite a bit more expensive. When I first got it my meter worked about half the time and refused to work at all the other half until one day I put my glasses on(!) and looked at the back of it carefully. There, molded into the back in the same color plastic as the rest of the back, were the heretofore indistinguishable letters TOREC and TOLNB. Now, TOREC is not a foot accident! It's an abbreviation that means, "Connect that side of the meter to the cable that runs TO your satellite RECeiver box." TOLNB means TO the LNB on your dish. Once I was able to SEE these letters it didn't take long for my unreliable meter to become my best friend. I had been connecting it backwards half of the time! Er-uh.

So, you must not reverse the cables to this little meter or it won't work and you must connect BOTH cables because the meter gets its power through the cable from the satellite receiver. Yes, the receiver normally puts electricity into the cable going to the antenna.

Solution Two continued; Aiming: I first do a rough setting of skew and a fairly precise aim of the dish azimuth using my big compass. I actually do not adjust the elevation or skew at all when I'm within about 150 miles of home because the Bullseye mount is so easy to adjust vertically using its hand knob and skew doesn't seem to need to be very precise. I then connect the meter inline between the dish and the receiver, turn up the meter's volume knob until I hear a soft squeal, and start rotating the dish from side to side slowly. The meter squeals louder the closer the dish is aimed to the satellite. When roughly peaked, I then turn the meter down again and repeat. Once I've found the azimuth with the strongest signal, I loosen the elevation knob on my mount and do the same thing for elevation. Doing it this way has my dish aimed precisely in one trip outside to the antenna, completely eliminates using the TV's signal strength meters, eliminates having to know about false “Invalid Signal - Wrong Satellite” labels on the signal bars of the Setup Menu on the TV and eliminates all hollering back and forth. Indeed, an additional person inside is not useful even if there. By the time you walk inside all aiming will be complete. Just remember you have to use your compass to aim the dish at the RIGHT satellite. The meter will tell you only that you have it aimed at "a" satellite! Now REMOVE THE METER, go inside, run Check Switch, and when it's finished, hit the View button on your remote. Wait a minute for the picture to come in and you're done! No fuss, no muss. Note that you will get no signal to the TV while you have the meter connected inline.

Until you get a meter you can use the Careful Aiming method as solution number three. In this method, the skew is adjusted roughly (that's all that's necessary), the elevation is set precisely, the Bullseye mount is adjusted to exactly vertical after the addition of the dish's offset weight and a BIG compass is used to set the dish to exactly the correct azimuth. Twice in a row, with no beeping feedback at all I've then walked into the trailer and found enough signal to run Check Switch successfully. Ignore the “Invalid Signal – Wrong Satellite” message above the bar at this point. The receiver cannot recognize the right satellite until it knows what kind of switch it is connected to. The sweet spot for the satellite signal is actually pretty big. This works better than you'd think. Trap - don't set the compass next to the metal mount, your hammer, your belt buckle or the dish. They will introduce errors. Keep it at least 18 inches away. But Solution Number Two is a lot easier than this, so I recommend a meter.

With all methods, you'll need to know this: Crucial Bit of Information #5. When aiming the Dish 500 system, the azimuth you get from the Setup screen refers to the flat SIDES of the MOUNT (the gray deal the elliptical dish is bolted to, not the Bullseye mount), not the apparent direction of the dish itself. The parts I’m talking about are the flat, vertical pieces of steel that the bolts you use to set elevation pass through. Set your compass on the ground behind the dish, allow the needle time to stop, stand behind the dish and line those flat sides of the mount up with your compass heading. If you do it carefully the satellite will be right there! Your mast MUST be vertical and you MUST have the correct elevation set into the satellite's mounting bracket. The “skew,” or rotation of the Dish 500 makes the dish appear to be pointing about twenty degrees from where it is actually pointed. The LNBs are to the SIDE of and below where the signal is reflecting off the dish. Look at the mount and you’ll have no problem.

Other important info is always to set the transponder to 21 on the Setup Menu before you start (you can actually use any odd transponder above 10) and ask for the local ZIP code when registering at the campground so you can get the proper azimuth, elevation and skew from your receiver's Setup Menu.

I sure hope this helps some of you keep your hair! It’s actually pretty simple once you figure it out."

View the on-line source for this article here.