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Who, me? [userpic]

It's so annoying to learn what I knew all along.

March 31st, 2008 (10:43 pm)

I applied for, and got, two of the government coupons for DTV converters. I went out and bought two converters, plus a cheap antenna. Along the way it did occur to me that I might get poor reception, since we've got a steel roof, plus we've got hills and trees around us. But I shrugged it off. Mostly I was technology driven; also, I was interested in seeing what extra programs we might see on the stations that subdivide their bandwidth. (TV people call it "multicasting"; to me, that's a networking term. Harrumph.) Also also, I would, in theory, like to be able to drop our cable service someday, since we don't watch much TV anyway. (It's a weak theory, though, since we've only got the statutory sub-basic cable, at about $13/mo.)

Well. I got it hooked up tonight, and found that we got four channels, badly. When I played with the antenna a bit, we got five channels, badly. The best reception was a Spanish-language channel—whoop. I speak some Spanish, but I'm not interested in Hispanic pop culture. We also got CBS and ABC—but I'm not interested in Anglo pop culture, either. (The show I spotted on ABC was Dancing With The Stars, where, apparently, the women are competing to see who can come the closest to a wardrobe malfunction without costing ABC $250,000.) The most interesting channel was WGBH, which had something really odd: two subchannels with slightly different audio—I'm not sure what the difference was, but one of them sounded better than the other.

When the reception was good enough, the picture was great—WGBH looked clearer over the air than over cable. But it kept breaking up, with lots of digital jaggies; even on the clearest station, it broke up eventually. Tomorrow I'm going to try it out in the garage (it's higher, and the roof isn't metal); I don't have a TV out there, but I do have a camcorder I can use as a VCR.

There was one interesting digital breakup effect: one time, when packets were lost near a scene change, the man who was in the new scene appeared as a sort of embossed shadow on the old scene, then got filled in.


Posted by: C. Virtue (cvirtue)
Posted at: April 1st, 2008 03:13 am (UTC)
Mad Science

I think we should simply wire the antenna to the roof. Then we will have MASSIVE ANTENNA of DOOM!

(Ok, so this is intended to be silly. Wouldn't it work, though? I am not an EE.)

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: April 1st, 2008 03:18 am (UTC)
It might work

Neither am I, but I can't see why it wouldn't work, especially for VHF channels. However, I suspect there's a reason every UHF antenna I've ever seen was a closed loop.

Posted by: lauradi7 (lauradi7)
Posted at: April 1st, 2008 12:23 pm (UTC)

We bought the HD TV before we acquired cable. With the rabbit ears (indoors, not the antenna of doom) we got a bunch of PBS stations, the usual local version of ABC, NBC, CBS, and one or two other things, but not Fox. We live most of the way up a hill. I would guess that the converter box would have the same outcome for us.

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: April 1st, 2008 02:06 pm (UTC)
Probably, yeah.

I would guess that the converter box would have the same outcome for us.

Or worse. I do know that reception depends both on the antenna and on the receiver—a more sensitive receiver can make up for a less sensitive antenna—and cheap converter boxes are probably using cheaper electronics than you get included in an HDTV.

Heh—I just remembered that, the first time I read prices for HDTVs (1999)?, they were $6,000 without the tuner. The tuner cost another $6,000. Now a low-end tuner is $50.

Posted by: Jane Waks (msmemory)
Posted at: April 1st, 2008 01:38 pm (UTC)

The slightly-different WGBH audio channel may have been the Descriptive Video Service for the blind, which I am given to understand supplements the dialogue track with descriptions of the images.

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: April 1st, 2008 01:58 pm (UTC)
Could be

That might have been it—I did notice some such description at some point, but I thought it was a separate audio stream that I'd turned on without realizing it.

Posted by: robertdfeinman (robertdfeinman)
Posted at: April 1st, 2008 02:03 pm (UTC)

The ugly truth is that UHF reception is much weaker than VHF (which is why stations fought against it for so long). In addition the higher the channel the worse. Around here in NYC channel 2 CBS is on 56 digital and 13 PBS is 61. Any hint of bad weather or (apparently clear skies) and the images break up.

I have a roof mounted antenna with a direct view of the Empire State building about 15 miles away. I expect to hear many complaints when people are forced to switch next year. The FCC is just ducking the issue, probably hoping that all the complainers will go to cable - thus fulfilling their mandate of totally privatizing the public airwaves...

Posted by: Who, me? (metageek)
Posted at: April 1st, 2008 02:18 pm (UTC)
Re: reception

Ow. Yeah, I have wondered about that. I wish we had DMB-T instead of ATSC; DMB-T is said to cope better with interference. (Plus, of course, it's annoying that, yet again, the US has made up its own wireless standard.)

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