Satellite Snoopers Pick Up Surprising TV Broadcast

While Internet based streaming services appear to be the future of television, there are still plenty of places where it comes into the home via a cable, satellite, or antenna connection. For most satellite transmissions this now means a digital multiplex carrying a host of channels from a geostationary satellite, for which a set-top box or other decoder is required. Imagine the surprise of satellite-watchers than when the Russian polar communications satellite Meridian 9 which has a highly elliptical orbit was seen transmitting old-style terrestrial analogue TV (ThreadReader Link). What on earth was happening?

How a Russian polar comms satellite picked up a TV station.
How a Russian polar comms satellite picked up a TV station.

The TV signal in question comes from Turkmenistan, so were some homesick Turkmenistanis in an Antarctic base being treated to a taste of their country? The truth is far more interesting than that, because the signal in question comes from a terrestrial transmitter serving domestic TV viewers in Turkmenistan.

We’ve all heard of the idea that somehow every TV show ever transmitted is somewhere out there still traveling as radio waves across space, and while perhaps we can’t fly far enough out to check for 1960s Doctor Who episodes it’s true that the horizontal transmissions from a TV tower pass out into space as the earth curves away from them.

Thus Meridian 9 passed through the beam from the Turkmenistan transmitter which happened to be on a UHF frequency that matched one of its transponders, and the result was an unexpected bit of satellite TV. We’re indebted to the work of [@dereksgc] and [Scott Tilley] for bringing us this fascinating observation. We’ve featured [Scott]’s work before, most notably when he relocated a lost NASA craft.

Hacked GDB Dashboard Puts It All On Display

Not everyone is a fan of GUI interfaces. But some tasks really lend themselves to something over a bare command line. Very few people enjoy old command line text editors like edlin or ed. Debugging is another task where showing source files and variables at all times makes sense. Of course, you don’t absolutely have to have a GUIĀ per se. You can also use a Text User Interface (TUI). In fact, you can build gdb — the GNU Debugger — with a built-in TUI mode. Try adding –tui to your gdb command line and see what happens. There are also many GUI frontends for gdb, but [cyrus-and] has an easy way to get a very useful TUI-like interface to gdb that doesn’t require rebuilding gdb or even hacking its internals in any way.

The secret? The gdb program runs a .gdbinit file on startup. By using Python and some gdb commands, [cyrus-and] causes the debugger to have a nice dashboard interface for your debugging sessions. If you install a helper script, you can even get syntax highlighting.

The system uses modules and you can even add your own custom modules and commands, if you like. You can also control what modules appear on each dashboard display. Normally, the dashboard shows when the program stops. For example, on each breakpoint. However, gdb has a hook system that allows you to trigger a dashboard using the appropriately-named dashboard command on other commands, too. Using the layout option to the dashboard command, you can even trigger different modules at different times.

Installation is simple. Just put the .gdbinit file in your home directory. If you want syntax highlights, you need to install Pygments, too. We understand you can even use his under Windows, if you like.

We don’t always take full advantage, but gdb is actually amazing. The flexible architecture makes all sorts of interesting things possible.