Category: Television

When satellite radio works so easily in the car, why do we have to aim our home TV dishes?

On Twitter, Dr. Jason Malinowski ‏ asks: “Why do we spend so much time aiming our home satellite dish, when the car satellite radio works irrespective of direction?”  Globe Technology editor Shane Dingman says the answer is all about bandwidth. “Have you ever tried to watch a YouTube video on your phone on a really old and slow wireless network? Like, an Edge 2G network?” It’s a fairly unbearable experience, he says, because of the bandwidth issue. “It takes forever, constantly buffering. The picture is often pixelated worse than normal and it could drop out altogether. The reason for that? Video signals are huge.”

Dingman says the same could be said for a satellite signal on an ill-adjusted TV:

The reason a satellite radio provider can put an omni-directional antenna in your car and send you signals from space while you race down the highway is all about bandwidth. SiriusXM, for instance broadcasts at about of 64 kilobytes/second, which is more than enough for you to receive a fairly consistent audio signal (weather can impact signal strength, as can a range of other factors).

By contrast, an HD video signal from your typical satellite TV provider needs about 25 megabytes per second: That’s about 400 times the data being transferred compared to radio. That’s why your satellite TV antenna needs to be fixed and directional: to ensure the strongest possible signal. Viewers expect a clear, constant stream of video from their service, and that means optimizing the connection between your house and the satellite.

Disclosure: BCE operates a satellite TV system, and also owns 15 per cent of The Globe and Mail.

Follow Shane Dingman on Twitter, and for more of the latest technology news, reviews and advice, check out Globe Technology.

Where have all the good cooking shows gone?

Reader @RichardatWRG asked us on Twitter, “where have all good cooking shows gone?” He laments “why is everything a competition?”

Andrew Ryan, author of our weekly Globe Arts piece ‘Seven days of Television’, feels your pain – and offers some relief:

It wasn’t that long ago when the only shows celebrating the culinary arts were PBS instructional programs helmed by the late Julia Child and Jacques Pepin (and I’ll stop there with the examples lest I age myself even more).

But the cooking world itself transformed into a competition several years ago, first with overblown reality-style showdowns like Iron Chef and Top Chef – both showcasing the talents of professional chefs – and more recently with amateur gourmands on shows like Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef.

Why does it seem like the competitions have taken over the TV landscape? Most likely because there are far more of them appearing on network television.

We expect food-themed programming on a 24-hour cycle on The Food Network: but frankly, we could all live without Cupcake Wars. (Two words that should never go together, if you ask me.)

It feels even odder, though, to see cooking ‘showdown’ shows sandwiched between sitcoms and hourlong dramas on U.S. network television. Beyond Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef, there’s The Taste, The American Baking Competition and NBC’s recent addition Food Fighters. MasterChef Junior returned for its second season last week – nothing says foodie like watching a blustery Brit shriek at an 11-year-old for ruining the soufflé.

Now for the good news: If competition-style cooking shows simply aren’t your cup of chowder, get thee to PBS, where hope springs eternal for the foodie purist.

In most Canadian markets, the Saturday-afternoon PBS schedule is awash with shows that focus strictly on food and are hosted by people whose food passion is beyond reproach.

Among PBS’s best current offerings: Simply Ming, hosted by the delightful chef Ming Tsai; Ciao Italia, wherein host Mary Ann Esposito builds the case for always using fresh ingredients; and Lidia’s Kitchen, in which the wonderful Lidia Bastianich still makes Italian cooking look easy.

For more TV commentary, check out Globe Arts coverage – and if you’re feeling particularly foodie, may we recommend a few good recipes.