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Alternative Uses For an Old Satellite Dish?

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the birdbath-for-condors dept.

Communications 552

ya really writes "My family has one of those BUDs (Big Ugly Dishes) sitting in their back yard still. The other day they asked me if I would take it apart for them. Aside from simply recycling it, I was wondering if there are any alternatives for its use. It was one of the last made before DirectTV and Dish took over satellite broadcasting, and even has a digital receiver. I'd say it was made around 1996."

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Use as... well... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24206411)

Bird Baths...

Re:Use as... well... (5, Funny)

MadonnaC (601457) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206439)

... for condors

No, Mythbusters! (4, Interesting)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206539)

Just give it the Mythbusters treatment and make an "Archimedes Death Ray" (AKA, very-short-range-small-stuff-burner-but-only-on-very-sunny-days.)

No, Scrapheap! (1)

Max Littlemore (1001285) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206827)

Give it the Scrapheap Challenge treatment, combine it with an old CRT TV, a microwave oven and a generator to build a high-powered fossil fuel death ray!!!

Flamboastin (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24206471)

Strap on a chain, paint it gold and wear it around your neck Flava Flav [wikipedia.org] style

A green use... (5, Interesting)

AlienIntelligence (1184493) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206675)


We had an old 8ft dish. My dad and I covered
the mounting holes with stainless mesh, filled
it with good soil and compost and planted a
nice selection of butterfly/hummingbird flowers
in it.

This kept certain plants from roaming beyond
the area desired. Use plants that trellis or
hang to cover the ugly sides/underside.

That oversized planter has been going for over
a decade now. The plants do a good job of
reseeding every year.


Obvious Answer: Wi-Fi Antenna (5, Informative)

slifox (605302) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206425)

Satellite dishes make excellent directional 802.11 antennas.
Just remove the existing LNB from the dish and replace it with a homemade antenna, like a biquad, tuned for your band-of-interest (i.e. 2.4GHz ISM for wi-fi). Make sure you get a powerful (high RX sensitivity & high TX power) wireless card with an external antenna jack

Here is one project write-up, though I'm sure there are many others:
http://www.engadget.com/2005/11/15/how-to-build-a-wifi-biquad-dish-antenna/ [engadget.com]

Alternatively, keep the LNB, get a DVB capture card (PCI models go for $20-$80+ new), and use the dish to get FTA (free to air) satellite TV.
There are many communities for this kind of thing exactly, just search google for: FTA forum

I'd also take apart that digital receiver and reverse engineer the hardware as much as I could, just for kicks.
When you've gotten your hour of fun out of it, gut it for parts and move on to the next interesting project.

Re:Obvious Answer: Wi-Fi Antenna (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24206557)

I second this!

Re:Obvious Answer: Wi-Fi Antenna (2, Informative)

unitron (5733) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206635)

Watch out for the power supply in that receiver. It (or at least much of it)is probably not transformer isolated from the wall socket.

Re:Obvious Answer: Wi-Fi Antenna (1)

image77 (304432) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206673)

dude - he said BUD, as in "BIG" ugly dish.... We're not talking about DirectTV here....

Re:Obvious Answer: Wi-Fi Antenna (4, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206953)

Get a different receiver and you can receive weather satellite data, etc., directly. Hook up with your local ham radio group for more info.

Less Obvious Answer: Radio Telescopes (5, Interesting)

parasonic (699907) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206795)

I began to build one a while back but held off because I didn't know enough DSP at the time...

And I wanted to write the processing portion :)

http://www.signalone.com/radioastronomy/telescope/ [signalone.com]
http://www.radiosky.com/faq.html [radiosky.com]
http://www.mtmscientific.com/radiotelescope.html [mtmscientific.com]
http://www.radiotelescopebuilder.com/ [radioteles...uilder.com]

One of these days, I'll put that 3 meter dish to use.

Obvious Answer: World Record Wi-Fi Antenna (4, Informative)

cmholm (69081) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206995)

Some lads with a couple of your dishes cracked 125 miles [boingboing.net] during the 2005 Defcon Wi-fi distance shoot out. With your one dish on one end, and even the weakest built-in wifi antenna on the other, you can still create a solid network connection to the next County. If the other antenna is a run of the mill 15 or 24 dB directional wifi, you can really crank.

Tin Foil Hat Accessory. (5, Funny)

pwnies (1034518) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206431)

1. Attach to tin foil hat
2. Read other people's minds.
3. ???
4. Profit!

Re:Tin Foil Hat Accessory. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24206535)

Easy there, Erik Magnus Lehnsherr. You tried that already.

amateur radio astronomy (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24206435)

you could use the dish to setup a amateur radio astronomy listening post.

wireless *other*? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24206445)

hmm, world's largest wi-fi antenna?
that should be good for a few bars on the 'ol signal/noise meter...

Directional Wifi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24206449)

Get a USB wifi dongle and an extra long USB cable, stick the dongle at the focal point of the dish.

Then BAM, kick it up a notch with yo' spice weasel.

Sled (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24206459)

This may be a bit redneck, but when I was a kid a friend had one. We took it down and used it as a big saucer sled to pull behind a truck in winter. It was great fun.

Re:Sled (4, Funny)

Kamokazi (1080091) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206713)

That's what I was going to suggest...you just made me realize how much of a redneck I am. Or maybe the fact that my 5'1" 70-year-old grandmother shoots groundhogs with a 12 guage through a hole in her screen door should have made me realize it...she also has a glass eye and still manages to hit them...(And scarily, I did not make any of that up.)

Alternative uses for big ugly dish... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24206467)

A big ugly birdbath?

Cooking! (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24206469)

Since it's parabolic, you can can, with the addition of some reflectivity, use it to concentrate the powers of the sun [backyardnature.net], suitable for culinary and other low-heat chemistry.

Wifry in reverse! (2, Funny)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206937)

Many people have used woks etc as Wifi dishes. Now turn the tables. Use the dish as a huge wok and go for the stir fry world record.

Bean dip and some really big Fritos (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24206479)

Bloom County reference.

what to do with a giant parabolic dish... (1)

LaminatorX (410794) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206481)


Or I guess maybe something useful like a thermal generator, or such.

Re:what to do with a giant parabolic dish... (1)

arbitraryaardvark (845916) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206607)

and by thermal generator i mean espresso maker.

Make a sign that says "caution: do not stand in beam of solar death ray."

Re:what to do with a giant parabolic dish... (1)

jumpingfred (244629) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206817)

It has been done. It was used only for good.


Well, use as... (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206491)

Bird Baths...

(damned Post Anonymously button... and damned "slowdown" verbiage when I didn't follow the /logic...)

Great source for $0 TV (4, Informative)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206505)

Full size satellite dishes are still the best way to receive free television content, despite what the cable / pay satellite providers may imply in their advertising. If you don't have any place to put it yourself, it shouldn't be too difficult to find someone who would be willing to buy it.

One question? (5, Funny)

tetrahedrassface (675645) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206521)

" I was wondering if there ae any"

Yes there 'r'. :)

Solar Furnace FTW, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24206525)

just give it a mirror finish. You can do this even with aluminium foil and you'll get a pretty powerful hotspot, but gluing lots of little mirrors to cover the surface (a bit like a disco ball) will work better. A curved mirror finish will work better again, but can be quite difficult to achieve

Re:Solar Furnace FTW, (1)

Var1abl3 (1021413) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206929)

I was thinking the same thing. I remember reading about some guy who took a bunch of the disco ball mirrors and glued them to the dish and put a steam generator (coil of copper pipe basically) where the antenna was. He used the pressure to drive a steam turbine or engine and got a few KW of power, as long as the sun was shining and he continued to "steer" the dish to point at the sun all day. If I remember correctly he used a fluid that evaporated at a lower temp than water to help get more power from the heat.... but that was a while back and I have a memory leakage issue. Or do what we did and bury it for the base of a fountain/water feature. It made for a nice round dish to put the fountain in the middle of, but ours was an old solid style and not the mesh kind. Good luck!

keep it (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24206527)

Go over to lyngsat.com [lyngsat.com] and see what you can see. Satellite TV is far more than what the media companies are willing to sell you.

Re:keep it (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24206775)

Mmm, true that. That was actually one of my favorite things about having one of those huge old dishes. We were able to capture some of our local news company's feeds. This included sports... so when they went to commercial we got to sit there while the camera man screwed around and zoomed in on girls in the crowd and the commentators drew garbage on the screen. Good times.

DeathStar? (5, Funny)

therufus (677843) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206543)

Either grow a massive hedge in an orb shape and stick this dish in the top section just like the DeathStar from StarWars or just do the same thing (sans hedge) with paper mache.

Re:DeathStar? (2, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206989)

Uhhh, actually... that is a really good idea. Fantastically good.

Nothing would get you more geek street cred than having your own DeathStar in the front yard. Extra Points if you mount it in a container that allows you to aim at various neighbors with a high powered green laser inside of it.

solar furnace (cool, dangerous, physics based...) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24206549)

Get a bajillion small mirrors (old disco balls, maybe?) and coat the inside of the dish with 'em, mythbusters style. Then roast some marshmallows. Blow up Jiffy Pop packages. Melt aluminum cans. Just generally have fun and get in trouble.

Point-to-Point wifi, etc (1)

peted20 (412418) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206563)

I built one of these [trevormarshall.com] with an old dish a while back and was surprised how well it worked. I used it as a cheap proof-of-concept antenna for a 0.7 mile point to point wireless link and connected it to my laptop and NetStumbler [netstumbler.com] to test signal strength. Fun project

Moon Bounce (2, Interesting)

gmby (205626) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206601)

I've always wanted to do EME - Earth Moon Earth [wikipedia.org] with one. I want to use a 802.11 wifi card; but I have not the skill to program such a packet bounce. Hardware is the easy part.

Amateur Radio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24206603)

See if any local Hams want it. It would make an excellent antenna for satellite communication on ham frequencies with a few modifications.

Parties (1)

chaboud (231590) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206605)

One of my coworkers turned a dish and cover into a UFO on chains with a fog-machine, lights, and a mirror ball rigged inside.

He could lower the ball, turn on the fog, and party.

Do it up right and you could have a coffee-table on chains that, when raised, turns into the center of your party rig.

Re:Parties (1)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206943)

1. Make an appointment with your doctor for a sigmoidoscopy.

2. Bribe him to do it wearing a Gray costume, in front of the UFO.

3. Videotape it.

4. Profit!


what to do with BUDs (4, Funny)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206625)

well i overheard a neighbor talking to a friend about how he had harvested a whole bunch of BUDs from his backyard. He just said he was planning on smoking them; I'm not sure what that means but good luck with your search.

Radio Telescope (5, Interesting)

novadragoon (746815) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206645)

Some people in the physics dept here at uni, took an old parabolic dish and made a radio telescope with it. Big semester project.

Fountain (3, Interesting)

mrbcs (737902) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206655)

I have one of these and my wife wants me to make a fountain out of it. I'm thinking of putting plastic pipe around the outside edge and drilling a bunch of holes that would face the center. Put it on a brick foundation with a place for the storage tank and pump, put some rock in it and it should be pretty cool.

Will still be a while making it though... I've been a year on an addition to the house and cleaning up the mess that the previous owner left.

Mobile microwave death ray (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24206663)

1) Disassemble a microwave oven (a big one).

2) Mount the magnetron at the focal point of the dish.

3) Mount on stand in back of pickup truck.

4) Acquire several large batteries or a generator.

5) Rig up power source.

6) Go for a drive somewhere...

7) Profit!

eBay it.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24206669)

There's always evil geniuses who need satellite uplinks to their orbital stations and moon bases.

Make sure to put a high reserve - evil geniuses are always picking up an extra $100 billion gagillion zillioin hambuggadoo.

Radio Astronomy (1)

vitaflo (20507) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206677)

If it's one of those old C-Band sat dishes, you can use it for radio astronomy. Probably one of the cheaper ways to get into it actually.

Aviary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24206737)

I have some friends you turned it upside down on 6x6 or 4x4 posts and wrapped it with wire to form a pretty cool aviary for some exotic birds.

Look at things really far away (1)

Rocketman_Ryan (1276180) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206753)

You should build a radio telescope! I tried to build a single-dish telescope for my university's imaging science department on co-op last summer. I managed to get all of the parts I needed except the BUD to use as an antenna.

Still don't know if anyone ever finished it :(

Kick flip (2, Funny)

ZX3 Junglist (643835) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206759)

Obviously, nobody's thought of its best alternative use yet: Teach mice to skateboard and open a whisker circus!

Laser sharks (0)

ksd1337 (1029386) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206763)

  1. Attach it to a shark's forehead.
  2. Attach power supply.
  3. Make adjusments to dish.
  4. ???
  5. Profit! (or being burned alive really painfully.)

sculpture (5, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206783)

Paint it black, make a giant white-gloved hand reaching out of the ground and tell the neighborhood kids you buried Mickey Mouse [wikimedia.org] in your backyard...fun for the whole family.

Radio astronomy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24206803)

If you like astronomy you could make yourself a neat little radio telescope out of that. I'm sure you could find some correlator designs and such on the net somewhere, and then have a bit of fun picking out the chemical compositions and redshifts of stars, starting with the 21cm hydrogen line and working from there. Much fun to be had right there!

Radio astronomy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24206831)

Don't know if this is up your alley, but a former student of mine turned an old satellite into a radio telescope. Got some pretty nice images of the sun and the galactic plane...

Hey You! Here! Ham Radio! Ham Radio! (1)

niko9 (315647) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206841)

Find a ham radio operator and/or club and donate it!

Those old big dishes are a great way to get into Moonbounce, aka EME (Earth-Moon-Earth). Bouncing signals off the moon to communicate is way neat. You can also bounce you signal off the moon and listen to your echo. The challenge e these days is to get a signal to the other station with as little power as possible, with some operators having contacts with as little as 100 watts.

Don't know where to find a local club? Here: www.arrl.org

Re:Hey You! Here! Ham Radio! Ham Radio! (1)

vonart (1033056) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206949)

I'll second the ham radio use. I'd love to get my hands on an old C-band dish, but everyone seems to want a pile of money for them, oddly enough. Oh, well, I know I'll find one eventually. 73!

Solar furnace (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24206843)

1) Cover it in shiny tinfoil
2) Wait for a hot sunny day
3) Melt things
4) ???
5) Profit

Burn, Cook, Roof, Sled, Pond (3, Interesting)

wooferhound (546132) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206855)

Turn it up-side-down and use it fror a roof over a porch swing
http://www.mountlehmanllamas.com/feeder-sat-dish.html [mountlehmanllamas.com]

Cover it with aluminum foil and make a solar cooker
http://www.backyardnature.net/j/solardsh.htm [backyardnature.net]

Cover it in mirrors and melt/combust an amazing verity of things
http://www.cockeyed.com/incredible/solardish/dish23.shtml [cockeyed.com]

Giant Snow sled
Big Flower planter
Garage Sale Sign
Fish Pond

convergence (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24206865)

I say combine two ideas: bird bath and solar death ray.
Yum, BBQ!

Recording stuff (2, Interesting)

aitikin (909209) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206897)

You can throw a mic in it and have people sing into it. It's a very interesting recording technique.

TV, Ham radio, etc (4, Informative)

n1ywb (555767) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206919)

I think the most obvious use would be to receive satellite TV, there's quite a bit of free stuff out there still. One of those fancy new mpeg receivers might be helpful. http://www.tech-faq.com/free-to-air-satellite.shtml [tech-faq.com]

You could also:

Fish Pond (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24206933)

My father and I took our 8foot sat dish, dug a huge hole in the ground, layered it with a thick rubber liner and made a fishpond with it. Sure sounds redneck when you explain it to someone, but I'll be damned if the final result wasn't pretty.

thermal collector (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Admin (304403) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206935)

Yank out the transceiver, put in a heat exchanger in its place. Use sheets of 1/2 " peel and stick mirror tiles to cover the dish surface. Pick up a small 4 sided pyramid, put photocells on all 4 sides, and use a couple of differential op-amps to determine which side has the most light hitting it.
Use those two signals to run the motor controls to aim the dish. It will always point at the brightest spot in the sky. A small pump feeding fluid (such as connonseed oil) thru the heat exchanger, to a large thermal well( say a buried concrete container full of steel slugs), will gather all the heat you need. Use the secondary loop from the thermal well for your home heating, hot water, cooking. etc. (cottonseed oil will easily heat to 400F)

Bionic Ear (4, Interesting)

Roskolnikov (68772) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206941)

mount a microphone at its focal point and aim that sucker (carefully) at whatever you would like to hear.

I also second, third, or whatever the notion of a death ray,
take a microwave oven apart and get creative with the +10 ray of amana.

How about for TV? (2, Informative)

forevermore (582201) | more than 5 years ago | (#24206965)

C-Band is still in fairly active use in the US and around the world -- you could (gasp!) use it for what it was built for. It's the only way to get truly ala carte TV service, and usually costs a lot less than the alternatives (not to mention all of the free stuff out there). You'd probably need a new receiver to get digital channels, but I've spoken with plenty of MythTV [mythtv.org] users who have C-band setups.
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