Friday, May 14, 2010

Rogue Satellite Could Interrupt TV, Microsoft gives away the Office and WebVisions 2010

Back in April a satellite known by operators as Galaxy 15 experienced what experts are calling a "solar storm". This knocked out communications to the bird floating some 22,000 miles --roughly from Portland to NYC...the long way-- above the ocean near Hawaii. Once ground controllers lost contact with the satellite, it went rogue and is headed for ultimate shutdown.

Unlike many satellites that shut down immediately upon failure, Galaxy 15 seems to be humming along, continuing its duties of transmitting cable television programming to cable television operators in the United States. (Although all services have now been shuffled off to other satellites.)

That, unfortunately, is where the story gets interesting.

While not, experts say, in imminent danger of actually colliding with another quarter-million dollar technical marvel floating around in the sky, the signals from the rogue Galaxy 15 could cause interference with those from another satellite: AMC 11.

As one might imagine, every effort is being made to steer the still-functional AMC 11 as far from it's rogue neighbour as possible-- there's still some cause for concern.

Best-case scenario? The two satellites wave as they pass by roughly between May 23rd and June 7th. Worst-case scenario? Services on AMC 11 are interrupted for the same window causing a loss of programming to viewers on the ground.

Comcast technicians are said to be monitoring the situation, while DirecTV was quick to point out their customers would not be affected.

[Update 14MAY2010 7:13AM-- Comcast spokesperson Theressa Davis tells me quite matter-of-factly, "There is no impact to us at this time and we continue to monitor this industry-wide situation." (A smart reader, such as yourself, will certainly pickup on ominous keywords: "at this time". To be fair, however, Comcast is certainly not alone in this potentially precarious situation.]

We'll see. (Or, perhaps... Not.)

Next week's "Get out of the office free" card is courtesy of Web Visions 2010. The "nationally recognized conference that explores the future of Web design, technology, user experience and business strategy" runs May 19-21 at the Oregon Convention Center.

Registration may end today, but their site will tell you much more:

Don't forget to tune in to my reports on Newsradio 750 KXL each week for the latest in tech news and information. And if you can't wait, I'm always on Twitter: @BMW