Thursday, June 25, 2009

Indelible Memories

Wow, first Ed McMahon on Tuesday, then Farrah and Michael today. I’m stunned.

All three were icons of my generation, and the news of their passing saddened me more than I could have imagined. Memories of watching the Jackson 5 on the old Sonny and Cher show with my parents, struggling to stay up late to watch Ed and Johnny on the Tonight show, and being enraptured by Farrah as she battled crime with a flip of her bouncy golden locks all came flooding back, reminding me of my youth, and giving me a whiff of my own mortality.

It’s amazing how fleeting and unpredictable life can be.

All 3 will be fondly remembered, and sadly missed, and we all should take this as an opportunity to let the people in our lives know how much we care about them, because you just can’t ever do that enough.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Rabbit Ears Report - Revisited

Looks like there have been signal strength problems with WHDH, as well as with other stations nationwide. I sent them a link to my previous post "The Rabbit Ears Report", and they sent back a great explanation of what was going on. Here it is in part:

“WHDH is experiencing signal difficulties following the transition that took place on June 12.

The signal difficulties we are experiencing are a result of post-transition power allocation assigned by the FCC that is not sufficient to maintain the signal strength that we had prior to the transition. We are petitioning the FCC to adjust the technical parameters so that we will be able to improve reception. In the meantime, we will continue to simulcast on Channel 42 (our pre-transition digital channel) so that viewers will be able to receive our signal. We appreciate your patience as we resolve this matter.


Bravo for stepping up and acknowledging problems to your viewers, channel 7, and true to their word, a rescan last night brought back both 7-1 and 7-2.

As a long time technology guy, I know that in any large scale transition there will be unexpected problems. Dealing quickly with those problems and making a “spectacular recovery” is the real measure of success in such a large project.

So, last night’s rescan brought a total reversal of fortune for both 7 and 5, changing my color coded reception chart (black/good, blue/decent, red/difficult) like this:

5-1 WCVB-DT Boston, MA ABC
7-1 WHDH-HD Boston, MA NBC
7-2 WHDH-SD Boston, MA This TV

The rescan also added 9-1, 27-1 and 27-2 to the mix.

There’s a good article about the broadcast power issues on today, the highlight of which is the “double rescanning” info from the FCC at the very bottom, which recommends that with all the hopping around that the stations are doing right now, you should basically wipe your box by disconnecting the antenna and rescanning, then power cycling it, then hook it back up and do a second rescan.

This is excellent advice that I think I would take a step further by recommending a weekly double rescan until all this shakes out.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Rabbit Ears Report

Well, they finally pulled the plug on analog broadcasts, and I’ve been ensconced in my little ramshackle pool house ever since, testing and tweaking. Initial reports are good, and I’m now sure of 3 things:

1. I should have cut over sooner.

2. The old rabbit ears with the bow tie UHF add-on work better then the RCA amplified HDTV antenna that I had picked up a while ago.

3. My wife thinks I’m certifiably insane, and has suggested that perhaps I should live out there.

While I’m tempted to take her up on the offer, I’m gonna have to pass for now. No heat, no fridge, no NESN.., no berry.

Ok, time to get down to business. On the antenna front, I truly got much better results with the “stock” rabbit ears that came with the TV. As a matter of fact, the powered RCA imparted a small amount of noise, evident in a slight but annoying screen shimmy that increased as I turned up its gain. Perhaps with a longer cable this wouldn’t be a problem, but I’m limited for space in the old pool house (think walk in closet). I actually considered trying it up on the roof, but then I realized a.) I’d really have a hard time adjusting it, and b.) If I didn’t fall off the roof, I’d probably fall through it, so I gave up and went back to the bunny ears.

Below is my new station list, color coded to indicate the amount of effort involved in getting a clear picture with an indoor antenna. Black indicates little or no manipulation was required. Blue indicates some fiddling and diddling required. Red indicates that you really have to work the antenna to get a glimpse of anything, and what you get isn’t exactly watch-able. Note: this result was after numerous repositions and rescans, you won’t get them all registered on the first pass.

2-1 WGBH-SD Boston, MA PBS
2-2 WGBH-HD Boston, MA PBS
4-1 WBZ-TV Boston, MA CBS
5-1 WCVB-DT Boston, MA ABC
7-1 WHDH-HD Boston, MA NBC
7-2 WHDH-SD Boston, MA This TV

25-1 WFXT-DT Boston, MA FOX
38-1 WSBK-DT Boston, MA Independent
44-1 WGBX-DT Boston, MA PBS
44-2 WGBX-DT Boston, MA PBS World
44-3 WGBX-DT Boston, MA PBS Create
44-4 WGBX-DT Boston, MA PBS Kids
56-1 WLVI-DT Boston, MA CW
66-1 WUTF-DT Marlborough, MA TeleFutura
68-1 WBPX-DT Boston, MA ION
68-2 WBPX-DT Boston, MA qubo
68-3 WBPX-DT Boston, MA IONLife
68-4 WBPX-DT Boston, MA Worship

One oddity I noticed is that when I first tested digital reception last weekend I got 7-1 and 7-2 as clear as a bell, and didn’t get 5-1 at all. This weekend, after the cutover, just the opposite is true. Hmmmm… interesting. Perhaps WHDH hasn’t gone full power yet, or maybe they were already at full power, and other stations are drowning them out now. Oh well, I can live without them for now, but I’m curious to hear what others have found, so be sure to chime in with your own results. I’m sure I’m not the only nut job out there.

At least I hope I’m not…

Sunday, June 7, 2009

DTV Transition, T- Minus 5 Days And Counting…

Ok, so it’s finally here… again. This Friday, June 12th (barring any more government intervention), all full power television stations will cease analog broadcasting. This means that if you depend on an antenna for over the air reception, you’re going to need either a TV with a digital (ATSC) tuner, or a digital converter box for your old clunker, if you want to continue to watch your favorite shows.

Hopefully you’ve gotten your ducks in a row by now, but ready or not, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind as the winds of change blow through town this week.

First, even if the change doesn’t affect you, you should make sure that your elderly relatives and neighbors are all set. You know they can’t be missing Vanna, their world might implode, so do your part and help out.

Second, even if you’re already using a digital converter box, your work isn’t done. When the changeover happens you’re going to need to rescan your channels using your converter’s auto scan feature, because the “Great Channel Dance” is about to begin.

After the changeover, most stations will be received on new channel numbers. For instance, WHDH (7NBC) is normally received on channel 7 (analog), or channel 7-1 (digital). Likewise, its sister station WLVI (CW56) can normally be found on channel 56, or 56-1. As of next Friday, WHDH will be found on channel 42, and WLVI on 41. No need to look them all up or stress over it though. Just hit auto scan, and let technology work for you.

That’s about it in a nutshell. If you still need help getting set up, or setting someone else up, or if you’re not sure if the change will effect you, be sure to check out The Switch to All Digital Broadcasting Is Coming, Will My TV Explode? , where we esplains it all, complete with links for converter coupons, plus the skinny on how this will eventually effect cable viewers also.

I’ve had a digital converter for a while now. I got the Winegard RCDT09A as a power failure backup for my portable TV, as it can operate on batteries, and also to use on the old 13” RCA I have in the pool house (How old is it, you ask? Well, I got it at Lechmere Sales, so it’s at least old enough to vote!). This weekend I finally hooked it up out there, and now instead of 4 fuzzy channels and 2 relatively clear ones, I get 16, and they’re all crystal clear. Plus I get cable comparable programming info from the converter’s guide function. So fear not, change is good.

That is all...

until Friday, anyways!