Cable vs. satellite, making slideshows on disc

 Week of November 23, 2003

Q: What do you know about Comcast’s High Definition cable? Is it true HD, or would I be better off with a satellite dish? Can you run down the pros and cons of cable vs. satellite?

-Dan Murray, Moon, PA

A: I have seen Comcast’s HDTV on several televisions and the picture is comparable to satellite and over-the-air broadcasts tuned with an antenna. Readers nationwide report a great picture from Comcast HDTV as well.

Cable quality and prices vary greatly nationwide, so I can only speak from my personal experience regarding cable vs. satellite and note the findings of national consumer publications comparing cable and. satellite television.

I have had Dish Network for almost seven years and could not imagine going back to cable. I use satellite because the picture quality is better, you get more channels for your money, the receivers tend to have better features than cable boxes, and the service almost always costs less even after you pay for the local channels.

HDTV programming and personal video recorders (such as Tivo) are available nationwide for satellite users. The same cannot be said for cable subscribers.

While HDTV from certain cable companies may be equal to satellite sources, I have found satellite services to have a much better picture than cable when watching

non-HDTV channels such as CNN, ESPN, and Comedy Central. These channels are where most television watching is done.  

Consumer publications Consumer Reports and Consumer Digest show satellite subscribers to be happier than cable subscribers. Voice of the Customer research conducted by J.D. Power and Associates shows customers give DirecTV and Dish Network higher customer satisfaction scores than any national cable company. You can compare satellite providers to different cable companies at

Despite what you may have heard, you will not lose your satellite signal every time it rains. Rain fade is extremely rare. If a satellite user loses the signal frequently, it is probably the result of an improperly aimed dish antenna. I have lost connectivity with my cable modem much more often than my satellite system.

A recent experience made my opinion even stronger. A friend ordered Dish Network after a cable price hike. Her monthly bill is lower, she is getting more channels, and her family will have three TVs connected instead of two. All TVs will have all the channels available, and one of the TVs will have a personal video recorder.

Cable does have advantages of its own. Satellite systems require a clear view of the sky, which limits its adoption by city and apartment dwellers. Cable often provides regional programming beyond the local major network channels. Most cable companies offer basic service providing only the local channels for a low price. Consumers who subscribe to cable internet, telephone service, and cable television usually receive a package discount.

I am very fond of cable internet service and would not buy or build a home where it was not available. By the same token, I would not buy or build a home anywhere I could not use my satellite dish.

If you are unhappy with cable television or interested in what else is out there, it is worth giving DirecTV and Dish Network a look.

Q: I would like to view my digital photos on the TV by using my DVD player. What computer software do I need to create such a photo CD?

-Steve Sybert, Pittsburgh, PA

It depends on the DVD player. Some newer DVD players have a “JPEG Picture Viewer” feature that will display pictures burned directly to disc. If your player does not have this feature, try Pinnacle Instant Photo Album. You can see the software at

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