DTV interference, doppler, and reception

06 Nov, 2008 | Eric Adler |
I took a trip out to some transmitter sites recently with my DTV Pal, a few different antennas, a monitor, a power inverter, and a consumer set with built-in DTV tuner - also, I brought my 2.5" rear-projection Sony Watchman NTSC TV (that runs on 4 AAs which I haven't changed in a few months).
Unfortunately, I forgot my remote control, so the DTV Pal was left on the last virtual channel it was tuned to, luckily this was one of the channels at the transmitter sites. First test, right outside the main transmitter of a local station, 2-bay bow-tie antenna. The DTV Pal showed a beautiful picture (as was expected), as did the NTSC set.

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DTV Transition Promo Issues

29 Oct, 2008 | Eric Adler |
This spot shows one of the key issues with the DTV Awareness campaigns all too well:

Talkshow with Spike Feresten Cable PSA (Hulu)

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The hook-up.

30 Sep, 2008 | Eric Adler |
After I bought my CECB, a DTVPal, I came home to hook it up. I opened the box to find 3 plastic bags, 1 remote control, 2 AAA (LR03) batteries [at least they were included], a power supply with an oddball connector, a short piece of coaxial cable (3C-2V) with F-connector ends, and the converter box. I hooked the feed out of my A/B switch into the converter box with its existing cable and hooked the feed out of the converter box to my TV with the included cable. Simple enough.

Next, I hooked up power, turned my TV to channel 3, and went to press power on the box, finding no power button. So, I grab the included remote control and batteries, slap them in, and press power. Nothing. I grabbed the manual, started reading, found where it said that the last step is to press power on the remote, and walked into the next room and back before the converter box booted.

Ok, so the box finally booted, good. There was an option to help me tune my antenna, which I opted for, but found that this option asks for a channel number and listed a frequency for each (in other words, it uses the true channel not the PSIP channel) - not good for your everyday consumer who expects 46-1, 46-2, and 46-3 to be on channel 46, not channel 42. It was getting to be a pain to tune my coat-hanger, so I went through the auto-search which, due to an ongoing storm and the amazing power of my coat-hanger antenna, found one channel. Knowing that my coat-hanger had picked up other stations in the past, I re-oriented it to be pointing closer to the transmission site. With the antenna re-oriented, I went to add new channels. Looking at the remote, I found a Menu button, then chose "Setup", examined my options and decided on "System Setup", then "Channel Setup", then "find New Channels" which (after five menu selections) started an auto-search again that only shows a progress bar. This did not find the channel I was looking for, so I went back to the "Channel Setup" menu and chose "Add a New Channel".
At the "Add a New Channel" screen, I must again set the true channel number, not the PSIP channel number – a no-brainer for me, but the leap to having two (or more) numbers for the same channel is a lot to ask of some people. I set the channel to 42 and saw a Signal Strength meter appear, with No Lock around 65 (the meter was yellow, at 0 it is grey and towards 100 it is green). I re-tuned the antenna a bit, waited for it to settle, and looked to see a "Lock" along with a picture and some audio. Then I noticed that the system hadn't seemed to add the channel as it lists "Services found: 0, Transport ID: 0, Services added: 0." Hmm... it was definitely seeing a service as it was properly decoding the MPEG program stream as embedded in the MPEG transport stream that is the ATSC broadcast. I then saw the "Scan" setting and decided, "what the heck – let's try it." I pressed right on "Scan" and it switched form "Stopped" to "Started", did it's own thing for a few seconds, flashed black with no audio then back to picture with audio, and showed "Services found: 3,, Transport ID: 84F, Services added: 0". Good, it found them, unfortunately it uses words commonly associated with other processes to 'manually' add channels (Scan to most consumers would mean to search through all channels, not check the current one which it clearly already sees). That done, I pressed "Done" and found a menu whose closest option to "exit" was "Cancel" – I didn't want to cancel my channel add, but I decided to try it anyway.
Four (4) presses of cancel later (back through each menu), I was able to successfully change channels between that which was found on initial install and those three that were just added.

The interface on this box leaves much to be desired and I hope that I'm not answering phone calls about its interface come February. Hopefully the other boxes are more

Getting a DTV Converter Box

28 Sep, 2008 | Eric Adler |
So I finally received my $40 off coupon on September 22, 2008. These coupons are supposed to expire exactly three (3) months after their ship date. Mine expired December 2, 2008. I highly doubt it takes 20 days to ship these, the USPS is not that slow.

Fast-forward to yesterday when I decided to go shopping for my CECB. The sheet of paper that came with my coupon said that "SEARS" sold converter boxes, but listed the wrong town for the local Sears*. Going in to Sears and looking for CECBs confirmed my suspicions – they had neither boxes nor a shelf therefor. I came home, sans CECB, and slept.

This morning, I went to a local RadioShack. RadioShack had two models, a Zenith (DTT900 I believe) and a Digital Stream DTX9950, neither on display, both boxed. The sales rep told me that the Digital Stream had extra features such as a signal strength indicator but the Zenith came with RCA cables (I wonder what would happen if someone asked if these cables would work with a Sony TV or if one would need to buy an RCA TV and why Zenith wasn't giving cables for Zenith TVs... I'd hate to be in this sales rep's shoes). Both cost $59.99. Neither box explained what was inside other than things like "DTV Converter Box", "lets you see clear TV", "more channels", and "".

I left RadioShack, unimpressed, sans CECB and drove over to K-Mart*. I walked straight to the rear corner where they hide the electronics and looked for the CECBs. I finally found them, $59.99 again. One, a Magnavox, was not in stock, only a display model with a little chart that explained the box and its features, but the display model had nothing in it, was just a case with a picture of the rear stuck to the back. The other, the DTVPal, was there and had a box that listed "Easy to Connect", "Analog Pass-Through", and "On-Screen Program Guide", with the most content information of any of the boxes I had seen, in both Spanish and English. I grabbed the one remaining DTVPal and started walking to the counter to pay, as I had done my research and it was one of two models that I was willing to buy. While I was looking at cameras in the display case near the register, they received a call, one sales agent asked another if they had "any of those converter boxes left", the other said he thought he had held the last one (with me in clear sight holding one) and checked to confirm (which was successful, since I had the last one in hand). I checked out, paying with the $40 coupon and my credit card. I was first given a receipt to sign that listed $40, not my $24.79 balance (yes, tax was on the pre-coupon price). I signed and inquired as to if I could have the plastic 'coupon' card back and was told that they had to keep them. I then signed my credit card receipt and received my CECB and sales receipt in bag. So much for the "almost free" converter box that cost me $25 and a trip to two stores to try and find details and/or cheaper prices.

*Sears owns K-Mart, the K-Mart is in the town that the Sears is listed in on the paper that came with the coupon, I know this, I just decided to play stupid for this experiment (and confirm that Sears did not in fact have CECBs).