Sunday, March 25, 2012

Calderglen Country Park

Calderglen Park-3243264

On Saturday I took my (nearly) 2 year old son to Calderglen Country Park in East Kilbride based on the recommendation from work colleagues. Conveniently I arrived during my son's morning nap so I was able to walk around to see what was available whilst he was still asleep in his pram. Then when he awoke, I put the pram back in the car, attached his back pack/reins and we found a picnic bench to sit down for lunch around the back of the Calderglen Conservatory building, accessed by a pathway between that and the golf club. This was a large green space with many birds flying overhead and bushes for children to explore.

After lunch, we went along a trail toward the Horseshoe Falls (above), the route down is quite steep with a number of steps and at the bridge we sat down for a drink of water before walking back using the more shallow hill path. This arrives at a large adventure playground with many things for kids to do including a sand play area. After Ethan had a play here we dropped off the remains of our lunch at the car and entered the Calderglen Conservatory.

I'd bought a ticket when I first arrived when it was empty so I could skip the queue as each ticket allows entry all day long - it only costs £1.10 and children under 16 are free. My son enjoyed looking at the fish and plants in the conservatory, there were also baby chicks on show near the back with a hatchery too. From here we went outside into the zoo area where we saw the larger animals. My son really enjoyed himself spotting the animals in each enclosure, particularly the Meerkats! Just before leaving we visited the other smaller playback next to the car park.

Great day out - we arrived at 11.20 in the morning, had lunch at 12 (after I'd scoped the zoo out) and eventually left just after 3!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Free To Air Formula 1 in the UK

Now that the BBC do not have all the races live and that I subscribe to Virgin TV, I cannot get the new Sky Sports F1 channel unless I pay an unreasonable subscription fee.

The alternatives are well documented - and pretty much centre around the German FTA broadcaster RTL. RTL Television broadcast in both HD and SD and whilst their HD channel is encrypted, their SD channel (along with very many others) are available on Astra 19.2E FTA.

Incidentally this is the same constellation of satellites the old UK Sky Analogue dishes pointed to and even more surprising, there is indeed a few analogue transponders running (including an RTL Television one); the transponders are mostly DVB S or S2 now. Have a look at Astra 19.2E on KingOfSat for details.

As a keen campervan owner I have a portable satellite television system which I purchased from Lidl a few years back for around £50. Last night I set this 60cm dish up on the front of my house (attached to one of my wife's window baskets) and whilst the kit comes with the necessary equipment to put the lead through a window - I opted to use the second coax cable leading to my old Sky digital dish pointing to Astra 28.2E which is attached to the quad LNB, but unused. After climbing up to remove and reroute this second cable I attached it to the portable dish and hooked it up to the Silvercrest digital receiver.

The Silvercrest receiver has a lot of satellite transponders pretuned and has tools to assist pointing to the correct satellite. Once I started to receive an acceptable signal intensity and quality (around 70%) I removed the portable receiver and attached the Coax to a DiSEqC switch. I purchased this switch a few years back after unsubscribing from Sky, but I never used it. The LNB feed from the Astra 28.2E (for Freesat) was also attached to the switch and I reconfigured my MythTV setup to use the switch to select the correct LNB and start tuning in those extra channels.

I'm only interested in "RTL Television" and specifically the one with service ID 12003 on transponder 12187.5MHz/H as this also carries an AC3 (Dolby Digital) audio track. I got some Viva music channels and BBC World which I also added to my MythTV channel lineup.

I was very impressed how well MythTV could switch between the channels - after being happy with RTL Television, I typed in '104' for Channel 4 and MythTV switched to the other dish as if it wasn't there! As a bonus, I can now record F1 on RTL which is cool.