Once again, one of my great plans has been foiled.
By a rodent.
For the past nine years, the house has been fitted with a satellite receiver of some make or description. First it was a Sky analogue system on the ASTRA-1 “19.2 East” constellation, then a SkyDigital system on the ASTRA-2 “28.2 East” constellation. After a failure put down to what I assumed was a dish alignment issue, the Digibox was disconnected and shelved.
So this morning I figured I’d shove a DVB-S card in my PC and see if the dish really was misaligned. Up the ladder I went, spanner in hand, ready to loosen the bolts and realign it.
A quarter-inch to the left. “Nothing”. A quarter-inch to the right. “Nothing”. A finger-push on the bottom. “Signal zero, quality zero.”
So I figured I’d eliminate the dish – I disconnected the cable at both ends and hooked a 9V battery to it on the house-side of the cable. Up the ladder I went, multimeter in tow. 2.3V. When it worked. Cable shorted inside… cable reading 470k outside.
All this, of course, pointed to a damaged cable. The cable is at ground level. I put two and two together, got five, and figured “what if a rat’s chewed at it?” Seeing as we’ve had rats in the garden before (though not near the house – mostly around the compost heap at the back), and that the cable was near to the ground, I figured it couldn’t hurt to check. I pulled out my cheap-as-chips LED torch, and climbed down from the ladder, tracing the cable along the wall. Half-way between the dish and the inlet point, I found what I least wanted to.
Four bitemarks in the cable.
One just grazing the surface, two half-way through the inner core of the wire, and one massive bite right through the cable. Said cable was as black as pitch (the core is usually white). So it’s pretty safe to assume that it’s not only ratbitten, but also pretty soaked inside as well. Which explains the zero signal report at the box.
So now I need 20 metres of decent CAI-approved satellite cable (read: CT100 or WF100, preferably the latter), new connectors, and a roll of self-amalgamating tape. And then I need to go up the ladder, re-wire the dish, and re-align it. Thankfully, only in the horizontal direction. Hmm, maybe I could point it at one of the HOTBIRD satellites instead. No! Must.. have.. BBC HD……
And the rats won’t win a second time. Because the cable’s going to run across, then down. Which leaves it open to avian predators. Though there are considerably less avians with a taste for PVC-sheathed metal than there are ground- and sewer-dwelling rodents with a taste for the same.
Of course, I could have grabbed my soldering iron and spliced some new cable in, which would have got the dish working well enough to align it, but that would have been the easy way out. And no doubt there are plenty more chew marks further along the cable…
Rats. Nature’s ultimate opportunists. Though maybe with the possible exception of dogs…