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Digital TV delay - & old VCR warning!
Old 01-17-2009, 11:08 AM   #1
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Digital TV delay - & old VCR warning!

Maybe this should be in "Others", but it does also touch on public policy, so...

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/17/te...l?ref=business

Quote:
A government program to provide $40 coupons to partly subsidize the purchase of converter boxes has not kept pace with demand. John Podesta, the co-chairman of Mr. Obama’s transition team, said more than two million people are on a waiting list for the coupons.

Local stations, which have budgeted for the switch through February, may be facing a financial squeeze. .... stations had done considerable planning to ensure a smooth transition on Feb. 17. “A delay would not be welcome for the broadcast stations themselves,” Mr. Ostroff said.

In the transition period, stations are operating two transmitters — one for the soon-to-be-redundant signal and another for the new, higher-quality digital one. Each transmitter requires power and maintenance costs.

“The sooner we can turn one of them off, in these hard times, the happier everyone would be,” he said.
So, a couple things really bug me.

One, look at all the planning and expense the broadcasters have had to do to meet the Feb 17 date. We are talking real work and coordination with technology, physical installation of equipment, etc, and our govt can't plan to have enough funded pieces of paper on hand, so *they* want to hold up the process at other's cost and inconvenience.

From an environmental standpoint, we are talking about considerable power to simulcast.

Also, if some individual with an OTA TV has not made plans, despite the constant barrage of warnings to date, then I think that the only thing that will get them to act will be their TV going blank. Whether that occurs on Feb 17 or some later date will make no difference to those people.

Another really odd thing. We have been barraged with all these warnings, yet something that seems to get really swept under the rug, is the effect on old VCRs. Even if you have a converter box in front of your VCR, many of the conv boxes do not have a schedule in them, and if they do, the owner would need to set their VCR to record CH 3 (or video input), and then set the timer/channel on the conv to match the time to record on the VCR. Not much of a problem if you only record one channel a day, but this information is barely covered anywhere, and I did considerable searching. So despite all this info, people will be caught unaware on this issue.

Further, I think the warnings have really been mishandled. I know for a fact, that many less technical people often turn their new *digital* TV to the old analog channel 2, or 7, instead of the digital 2.1 or 7.1, just out of habit. Then, they get this warning that says if they see this, they need to get a box or a new TV - WRONG! - they just need to switch to 2.1! Maybe I missed it, but I have never seen this advice provided.

-ERD50
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Old 01-17-2009, 11:12 AM   #2
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I knew all along this would happen. The simple fact is that there will be some pain and displacement with the transition no matter when you do it -- and there will always be some who are "not ready." At this point, just get it over with already and have one less piece of uncertainty lurking in our future.

Some in Congress want to delay the analog shutdown to June 12. And in May, they'd be saying the same things they are now, I'll bet. And I'd agree that a change in date would be disastrous to some broadcasters.
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Old 01-17-2009, 11:37 AM   #3
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When I moved 15 years ago I set up cable because my TV didn’t get a good picture in the new location. Thanks, ERD50, SO and I are experimenting with converters. It gets a clear picture without cable, so, it may soon be “bye bye cable.” We also encountered problems with attaching the VCR, haven’t figured it out yet, I’ll print out your comments. The deal with the cable company includes a discount for two items, in my case internet and TV. Now I’m looking for a good deal on wireless internet. The cable company blasts messages that you need do nothing if your TV is on cable!
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Old 01-17-2009, 12:02 PM   #4
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CuppaJoe, with the converter, you will either get a perfect signal, or a blue screen. If you are right on the hairy edge, you might get some stuttering and pixilation, but it generally becomes unmatchable if that happens.

go here:

Address

to find out what to expect. Also, a few channels will change frequencies on Feb 17th, and that could change (generally improve) your reception. Some might not go full power until then, again, improving the situation. A bigger, better antenna (or just check the connections and/or re-aim it for the weak stations) might help.

The great thing about digital, is that you can point that antenna to get the weakest, and as along as the others are 'good enough' they will be perfect. You don't have to worry about degrading them, unless they go completely out of range. Many boxes have signal meters built in, so you can check as you go.

How you hook up a VCR depends on the inputs and outputs of your TV. If all you have is an ANT input on the old TV, you need to route the ANT IN (co-ax) to the CONVERTER, to the VCR, and the VCR to the TV.

ANT (co-ax)--->[CONVERTER]<--->[VCR ANT IN][VCR ANT OUT]<--->[TV ANT IN]

You would always have the TV on CH 3 (or 4), VCR out to CH3 (or 4), and you tune the digital station with the converter box.

If you want to watch one show and record another, you will need two boxes, or upgrade the TV or VCR.

If you have multiple inputs on the TV, you might want a splitter after the converter and route one to the TV, one to the VCR. The advantage is you can get the component video right from the box to the TV, which will be a better quality than going through the video converters (to CH 3/4) in the VCR. It was a noticeable improvement on our TV.

-ERD50
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Old 01-17-2009, 12:09 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
CuppaJoe, with the converter, you will either get a perfect signal, or a blue screen. If you are right on the hairy edge, you might get some stuttering and pixilation, but it generally becomes unmatchable if that happens.

go here:

Address

to find out what to expect.
That's a good start -- but in my experience I personally found it to be way too conservative in terms of what we can receive. I've done better with TV Fool:

TV Fool - Home.

It shows both before and after 2/17 6/12 the analog cutoff date. In some cases as you mentioned, channels move (our FOX affiliate's digital is moving from channel 56 to 7). Also, some digital stations will increase their power -- so some marginal digital signals today will become usable after then. There are a couple of digital signals that we'll probable be able to start getting after that.

For what it's worth, we're 60 miles from the OTA towers in Austin -- with a couple of ridges in between -- and with a good outdoor antenna mounted on the side of the garage we're getting 90-95% signal on the full-power Austin locals -- rock-solid. In fact we're leaning toward ditching pay TV completely, but we want to wait for all the DTV transition dust to settle first.
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Old 01-17-2009, 12:49 PM   #6
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You guys are amazing. I printed out the info from AntennaWeb and will check Ziggy’s link also. This is a lot of info for my tech person, SO.

AntennaWeb does show the new channel nos. like 5.1, 65.1, 7.1 which we’ve already seen using the remote for the converter. There’s nothing like a new remote that works better than the old one; I used to joke that I should buy a new TV to get a working remote; mine was so worn out that some of the buttons didn’t work anymore even with a new battery. BTW, reception is perfect, we’ve seen some digital breaking up which is helped by moving the antenna.

Technology changes so fast, I don’t really care about the VCR. I now watch DVDs mainly on the laptop.
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Old 01-17-2009, 01:18 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by ziggy29 View Post
That's a good start -- but in my experience I personally found it to be way too conservative in terms of what we can receive. I've done better with TV Fool:

TV Fool - Home.

It shows both before and after 2/17 6/12 the analog cutoff date. In some cases as you mentioned, channels move (our FOX affiliate's digital is moving from channel 56 to 7).
Thanks, had not seen that one before.

Channel 2.1 in Chicago area is one that is changing freqs. Hmmm, it actually shows it as a dB lower by us after the change, but maybe the low co-channel interference will make a difference (we get it OK now with our attic antenna, but not with rabbit ears (~ 35 miles from transmitters).

A question: Do you know, for the ones that change frequencies on the transition date, will people need to set their box/TV to re-scan, or are they doing some fancy lookup table to automatically point to the new assignment?

-ERD50
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Old 01-17-2009, 01:38 PM   #8
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Joe, here's a sample of my TV Fool output, looking at all current digital signals -- and roughly, what the important takeaways are:



Most of these can usually be ignored (they are very weak signals from distant markets in all directions). Focus primarily on the the top few rows; these are likely the local stations you recognize. Basically the stuff in green should easy come in with a small indoor set-top antenna. The top line is a full-power station 8 miles away that I can get with a paperclip.

The yellow (I have none) are stations that might need a little more than that -- maybe an amplified indoor antenna, a small outdoor antenna or an attic-mounted antenna for reliable reception. The red zone generally indicates you need more significant outdoor equipment and possibly a pre-amp. And the stuff below that is mostly a challenge for the hard-core geeks to pull in once in a while with (mostly) costly equipment.

Indeed, we have one of the better outdoor antennas aimed at that cluster of signals in the 120º direction, and we get everything in the red zone and above it very reliably. And there will be two more stations up in that range after analog is shut off.
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Old 01-17-2009, 01:42 PM   #9
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A question: Do you know, for the ones that change frequencies on the transition date, will people need to set their box/TV to re-scan, or are they doing some fancy lookup table to automatically point to the new assignment?
Most likely you'll want to re-scan the box on the transition date. We have our OTA signals joined into our DirecTV box, and it's brain dead -- it has no channel scan capability, just a hard-coded list of stations it thinks it knows about. That has the potential to break for a while when stations are moving in the transition (as our Fox is). But I'd think any other set top boxes would be fine with a new channel scan. That's what most of those subsidized converter boxes would need, I think.
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Old 01-17-2009, 06:01 PM   #10
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.....The top line is a full-power station 8 miles away that I can get with a paperclip....
Paper clip!
My mileage seems to be the same as you describe, pending lots more exploration over the next few weeks--SO is going to have a ball playing with this. Exciting to think free TV will be an option. I’ve been paying cable TV fees for 15 years while the only thing I see blocking my reception is the apt. bldg. next door. On the other side of that bldg. I get a clear sightline to the tower:
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Old 01-17-2009, 06:51 PM   #11
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Apparently 2.5 years of constant reminders, ad campaigns and text crawls was not enough warning.

This article has some interesting stuff.
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Old 01-17-2009, 06:55 PM   #12
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This proposal by the new administration is a useful look into a particular view of the world. For years we've been bombarded with messages concerning the conversion to DTV. The coupons have been available and easy to use (I did it, after all). There have also been warnings (I posted one on this board myself) that the number of vouchers was limited. Here we are at the eleventh hour and the on-deck team in Washington is urging a very expensive and disruptive change in the rules--an unfunded mandate on the broadcasting industry. This is not a crisis, the situation was well known and everyone was given a chance to take action for their own benefit. Now, that apparently isn't good enough, and those who have planned will subsidize those who would not.

This is not a vital function we are talking about here--society will not crumble if Mrs Smith can't watch "Deal or No Deal." Will government's impulse to spoon-feed the inert and inept be greater when the subject is money, and from whence will the dollars come? Ask not for whom the cash register tolls, it tolls for thee.
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Old 01-17-2009, 07:06 PM   #13
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Well put.

I wonder whether it would be feasible to switch off the analog signal for a week and see what happens.
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Old 01-17-2009, 07:24 PM   #14
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Paper clip!
My mileage seems to be the same as you describe, pending lots more exploration over the next few weeks--SO is going to have a ball playing with this. Exciting to think free TV will be an option. I’ve been paying cable TV fees for 15 years while the only thing I see blocking my reception is the apt. bldg. next door. On the other side of that bldg. I get a clear sightline to the tower:
It sounds like you might have multipath problems. This occurs when signals bounce off of a lot of buildings and other obstacles, and is fairly common in urban areas.

Multipath basically means that you will have some signal directly coming in, and some signal that bounces off of buildings in urban areas and cause the same signal to reach your antenna at different times. With analog tuners this is what causes "ghosting"; in digital tuners this degrades signal quality. If the quality is degraded enough it could cause reception problems even if you have a strong signal.

Out here in the boonies we don't often have multipath issues, but there are sometimes other issues to deal with.
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Old 01-17-2009, 08:22 PM   #15
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This proposal by the new administration is a useful look into a particular view of the world.

.... and those who have planned will subsidize those who would not.
And that is indeed a scary thought for us FIRE'd people - which is what I think you intended.

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I wonder whether it would be feasible to switch off the analog signal for a week and see what happens.
That would certainly get the point across and something I thought about, but I suppose the broadcasters would have an issue with it - they would lose advertising revenue for that time - but maybe less overall?

I also thought of the suggestion from that article:

Quote:
A more rational approach, suggested by Consumers Union's Murray, is to sequentially roll out the conversion around the country, rather than as a single switchover, so consumers and regulators can learn from their mistakes along the way.
That would put added burden on the first markets to convert, but it sure seems like it would be less pain overall.

-ERD50
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Old 01-17-2009, 08:25 PM   #16
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Here's a link to a previous thread started by Lawrence covering DTV reception in general and antennas in particular. We've got a lot of folks who know antennas. Big Money Jim provided a link in Post 27 to a site which compares antennas (a highly directional antenna may help with multipath issues, depending on the situation.)
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Old 01-17-2009, 09:30 PM   #17
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Hawaii switched over Jan 15 a month ahead of the mainland. (Some endangered bird migration or such). Evidently the station were handling hundreds of calls a day right before the switch over. I didn't see any stories the last two days so hopefully there weren't any major problems.
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Old 01-18-2009, 07:31 AM   #18
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Friday morning our cable was out for about three hours and since I had never bothered to connect up my antenna to either digital tv we had no TV except for an old analog portable. DW was not a happy camper, no internet and no TV.

So I had to pull some new coax since I used the old coax for the cable.

Got everything setup and then noticed not all the digital channels were showing up on one TV. What the heck is going on? Took a while, but finally figured out the TV was set to receive cable channels on the antenna input so when it did a scan not all the DTV channels showed up.

I found buried down about 10 layers in the setup menu that you could change the TV's antenna input from a cable input to just antenna. Once I turned off the cable feature and rescanned the channels everything worked properly.
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Old 01-18-2009, 10:42 AM   #19
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they would lose advertising revenue for that time -
Perhaps this is the government's real concern. With no TV, the corporate brainwashing would wear off, and all the zombies would wake up, stagger out of their home theaters, see the sun, and go for a walk instead of buying something.
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Old 01-18-2009, 04:54 PM   #20
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It has been mentioned, but rabbit ears don't work too well for digital reception. I built the antenna in the video below and I now get great reception even through aluminum siding. Ugly, though - I hid it behind a cabinet.

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