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#11818 - 09/16/10 11:11 AM Digital TV transmission
grelber Offline


Registered: 08/05/09
Loc: North of 49th ||
North of the 49th we're going to digital TV transmission in November 2011 (in the same way as south of the 49th in February 2009). There has been precious little anticipatory information disseminated up here and certainly no suggestion that vouchers for converters would be made available (unlike in the USA). In the past year and a half I have heard of no major or minor issues with the transition in the States.

Given that I acquire my TV signals over the air from local transmission towers, I would like to continue to do so down the road. Digital TV antennas are cheap and apparently sound. No hoopla regarding converter boxes, however; nobody seems to know anything about such in this part of the world.

My DVD player clearly converts digital signals to analog for my TV (which has only an analog tuner). My 13-year-old VHS VCR (Panasonic PV-7664) to which my current analog-signal antenna is attached and which provides pass-through of same to the TV tuner works just fine; its tuner is only analog.

Query: Anybody have a clue how to prepare for the blackout to come if product isn't available?

On the other hand, it might be a blessing in disguise. News via radio and newspaper (just like before the 1950s), and using the TV as a movie viewer via DVD. Think of the time saved (rather than wasted), and no commercials.

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#11826 - 09/16/10 01:17 PM Re: Digital TV transmission [Re: grelber]
ryck Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Okanagan Valley
First, let me say I envy anyone who gets their signals off-air, particularly if they're in a city large enough to have plenty of signals. I, unfortunately, am at the bottom of a valley so line-of-sight signals are not an option. I am therefore at the mercy of suppliers who can teach the banks a few lessons on how to nickel and dime their way to riches.

Originally Posted By: grelber
Given that I acquire my TV signals over the air from local transmission towers, I would like to continue to do so down the road.

Have you looked at Durham Radio ? They seem to have a fair amount of stuff. As well, Consumer Reports has some advice.

Originally Posted By: grelber
On the other hand, it might be a blessing in disguise. News via radio and newspaper (just like before the 1950s).....

Unless you're in one of the cities that has been reduced to a single local paper and, in the absence of competition, the one left standing isn't great quality. Fortunately there are still radio options.

ryck


Edited by ryck (09/16/10 01:24 PM)
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#11830 - 09/16/10 03:10 PM Re: Digital TV transmission [Re: grelber]
roger Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Vermont
we get all our tv over the air, with a converter box on one tv, and a new hd tv as the other. we're lucky to be on an western slope, at nearly 2000ft, facing all the local towers, so we get the three usual networks (cbs, nbc, abc) as well as Fox, and two different states' public stations, VT and NY. so, with the dual channels (and more) that all of them have, we have 15 channels!!!

I would think that converter boxes must be available online and they do a great job. it made my old analog tv look brand new.
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#11847 - 09/17/10 07:33 AM Re: Digital TV transmission [Re: grelber]
joemikeb Offline
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
I have some friends who prepared for the analog blackout here by hauling all their television sets out to the curb for the bulk trash pickup, or the more ecologically minded took them to the electronics recycling center. Given what I pay for cable or satellite service and the quality of available programming, I am beginning to think they may have had the right idea.

We still have satellite television but we get most almost all of our national and international news on the internet from the New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Post, BBC, Huffington Post, and PBS. Even though there is only one daily newspaper in our market (I think there are fewer than half a dozen markets with more than one newspaper) their local news is balanced and well done. Even there their online version is now an image of the print version and the question that is being asked is how long can the print version survive. (I do wish they had an iPhone app.)

As to entertainment the local radio market is absolutely saturated on both the AM and FM bands but there are very few good offerings. I listen mostly to either satellite or internet radio. Even the local broadcast stations I listen to most are on the internet and I can listen to them on my iPhone or computer anywhere I happen to be. The content of television entertainment venues too often insults the intelligence of the viewer and is incredibly repetitive. How many times can you watch the same episode of NCIS, CSI, or Law and Order before you are bored to death. I won't even go into about the various shopping, reality, and special interest networks nor am I willing to pay a dime extra for that content. Internet downloads allow me to pick and choose among the best movies and even television show episodes and more and more of even the specialty network contents is available online as well.

My wife is always watching "videos" on her computer showing how to prepare a specific dish she wants to cook or a particularly difficult sewing technique. As an ordained minister she watches lectures from leading seminarians and there is no comparison between them and the televangelists.

In the end, the only thing left for over the air or cable/satellite broadcast is sports and how long will it be before the professional and college athletic organizations figure out they can charge for internet access to their games? So why do I keep the satellite service? I am not sure I can answer that right now. confused
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#11848 - 09/17/10 07:56 AM Re: Digital TV transmission [Re: joemikeb]
jchuzi Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: New York State
Originally Posted By: joemikeb
Given what I pay for cable or satellite service and the quality of available programming, I am beginning to think they may have had the right idea.
My wife and I asked ourselves the same thing. We were paying about $107 per month for cable TV and internet service and we were so dismayed by the stuff on TV that we never watched. So, we totally eliminated the TV service and now pay $46 per month for internet only. We haven't missed TV at all. In fact, my wife has to be reminded that we no longer have it because she didn't even notice.
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#11850 - 09/17/10 09:34 AM Re: Digital TV transmission [Re: jchuzi]
ryck Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Okanagan Valley
Originally Posted By: jchuzi
We haven't missed TV at all. In fact, my wife has to be reminded that we no longer have it because she didn't even notice.

Several years ago I watched a television reporter doing a streeter about viewing habits. When he stopped an elderly lady and asked what she watched, the lady replied: ""I've never owned a television."

The reporter was somewhat taken aback. "Never? Really?"

"No" the lady replied, "I have an aquarium."
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#11853 - 09/17/10 10:09 AM Re: Digital TV transmission [Re: ryck]
roger Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Vermont
well, I should add, with all our 15 channels(!), the only programs I watch are things on public tv, and The Big Bang Theory.
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#11854 - 09/17/10 10:39 AM Re: Digital TV transmission [Re: ryck]
alternaut Offline

Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Well, I don’t have an aquarium, but neither do I have (or ever had) cable. Where I’m at I’ve been able to get by with rabbit ears for some 10-15 local TV stations including PBS (now all nicely digital with a converter box), and even that is way more than I ‘need’. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to justify having cable (I’m on DSL for internet), and frankly, while I do enjoy certain cable TV entertainment, I can’t honestly say I miss not having it.

As mentioned above, these days it’s quite easy to get your video fix online, and for drama series that’s the way I prefer it: as much as I can handle consecutively whenever it suits me. I’m much more news and background (like PBS’ News Hour) oriented, but the last time I recall being glued to the TV for any length of time beyond the odd 30-60 minutes of distraction was with 9/11. Not exactly something to look forward to either. Meanwhile, my iPod Touch provides me with internet radio and the tunes I prefer while I fall asleep at the end of the day…

Back to Grelber’s issue: he may not need a digital antenna (the old type rabbit ears and bowtie add-ons work just fine when in range of his preferred stations), but it’s not clear he can use his DVD player as a substitute for a digital-analog converter box. Fortunately that’s easily tested when the time comes; should he need it a decent converter isn’t all that expensive and readily available around transition time. Down the road he’ll exchange his current analog equipment for digital when it breaks down irreparably. It’s also good to know that a converter box works just fine, but doesn’t provide the quality a fully digital set is capable of. That said, if he's happy now, he’ll be more than happy after the digital conversion.
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#11857 - 09/17/10 11:38 AM Re: Digital TV transmission [Re: alternaut]
grelber Offline


Registered: 08/05/09
Loc: North of 49th ||
Yeah, I'm pretty sure that I'll require a converter box if I want to access digital signals. I wasn't thinking of using the DVD player as an intermediate solution; I don't think it even can be.
As for using my rabbit-ears antenna for digital signals, again I don't think that's possible. They wouldn't pick up the signals, at least from what I understand.
There were/are a lot of converter boxes around in the US, but it's a pain to ship transborder. LG and RCA (Thomson) are two that come to mind and which might become available in this neck of the prairies.

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#11858 - 09/17/10 12:29 PM Re: Digital TV transmission [Re: grelber]
alternaut Offline

Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Originally Posted By: grelber
As for using my rabbit-ears antenna for digital signals , again I don't think that's possible. They wouldn't pick up the signals, at least from what I understand.

Not to worry, your rabbit-ears do pick up digital signals; I use one plain-vanilla set myself, plus an amplified set for another TV. If you can pick up your current analog signals well enough, you'll likely be OK with the digital variety when that shows up. Signal strength-wise an alternative might be an amplified set of rabbit ears, although, obviously, a good outside antenna yielding a nice, strong signal would be preferable, just like with analog.
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#11860 - 09/17/10 02:17 PM Re: Digital TV transmission [Re: alternaut]
roger Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Vermont
yes, sorry I neglected to say that our antennae are on the roof; we picked up free ones that people had discarded on the side of the road! watch for them as the transition happens, people with more money and less sense will dump them...
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#11864 - 09/17/10 04:45 PM Re: Digital TV transmission [Re: jchuzi]
artie505 Online


Registered: 08/04/09
The last time a TV was turned on in my home was in July '81...the infamous Leonard/Duran "No mas" fight.

The set hung around as a decoration 'til the mid 80s, but "No mas" was, indeed, NO MAS! smile laugh
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#11868 - 09/17/10 07:04 PM Re: Digital TV transmission [Re: grelber]
bob82xrp Offline


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Tucson
When the signal is coming through, the picture and sound from digital TV is crisp and clear on my old analog TV with just rabbit ears and a $60 converter box. My biggest problem with over-the-air digital TV is the slim margin for error that the digital signal allows.

With analog TV, things that interfered with the signal (such as rainstorms, high winds moving nearby tree branches, planes flying by) might have caused breakup or snow in the picture and static in the sound, but you could almost always continue to see most of the action and, most importantly, hear the dialogue.

With digital, any sort of interference causes the picture to break up into large pixels and freeze (or disappear), and the sound cuts out completely. So it's virtually unwatchable on stormy nights. And there's nothing worse than watching the climax of a crime show and having a plane fly by -- no sound, no picture for a minute or two, and when it comes back the characters are congratulating each other on how they solved the crime, and then you're sitting there watching the credits with no idea of whodunit! mad

And since the digital signal pretty much travels in a straight line and cannot negotiate obstacles well, I've notice the interesting phenomenon that, depending on what's between the TV and the towers, there are certain channels I might pull in perfectly that a neighbor down the street doesn't pick up at all and vice versa. I don't know why in all cases, but it seems that a small drop in elevation, a two story house several blocks away, a tree in just the right spot, can completely block a channel. There's no partial reception in digital; you either have the channel or you don't.

And, though it's not necessarily a problem with the digital technology itself, I've also noticed many more goofs from the TV station than there used to be. Things such as forgetting to broadcast either the sound or the picture for 10 or 15 minutes, or timing miscues in the switching between programs and commercials - either everything goes blank for 15 or 30 seconds, or there's overlap and the commercials cut off the tail end of the programming or vice versa. I'm guessing that economy-related reduction in staffing at many of the local TV stations may be at least partly responsible for the dramatic increase in such occurences.

I thought about giving up TV after the digital change, but I love to have on one of the local PBS channels while I'm working at the computer. I don't think my old G4 could handle streaming the shows off the internet while also processing large Photoshop files. Nova, Nature, History Detectives, et al. provide great entertainment and education while I'm working. grin

I don't know what's available now, but there were a few features that I found out were important to me when I was researching a converter box:
- Two analog outputs (coaxial and RCA jacks) so I could still hook up to record and play with my old VHS deck.
- The ability to turn off the automatic shut down feature so that the converter box would still be on when my VHS deck wanted to record. (The default was to shut down after two hours!)
- Physical button controls on the box for on/off and channel up/down (I have two boxes so I can record one channel while watching another. Since the remote affects both of them, I sometimes need to be able to operate without the remote, so the channel I'm recording doesn't get switched when I change the channel I'm viewing!)
- Analog passthrough for local community stations that still broadcast analog

If you forego the off-air TV, this page compares DVD rental services in Canada. And if you're breathlessly awaiting Netfix you can sign up to be notified as soon as their service is available, though this blog makes it sound as if it's not worth waiting for.
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#11908 - 09/21/10 01:52 AM Re: Digital TV transmission [Re: bob82xrp]
grelber Offline


Registered: 08/05/09
Loc: North of 49th ||
Merci à tous for all the information, especially new insights into the whole arena.
Once I find someone in this area who has a clue about converters and availability of same north of the 49th (since the CRTC* isn't doing its job), I'll be back.

* CRTC = Canadian Radio and Television Commission, the public regulator (similar to FCC in the US).

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#15366 - 05/02/11 02:41 AM Re: Digital TV transmission [Re: grelber]
grelber Offline


Registered: 08/05/09
Loc: North of 49th ||
Follow-up on my concerns, re switchover to digital TV in Canada:

(As you'll recall from another thread, at the beginning of the year I had to break down and buy a new (HD) TV and VCR/DVD recorder (both of which have NTSC and ATSC tuners); so my concerns over analog-to-digital converter boxes became moot/irrelevant. However, for the sake of completeness ...)

One of the local TV stations has started digital broadcasting, supplying both standard and high definition signals. My rabbit-ear antenna picks up the signal with no problem; the digital signal strength (according to my TV's built-in meter) is 90%. Now it only remains to be seen if the other broadcasters' signals will be equally available by the time the mandated switchover occurs, scheduled for August 31.

And for those of you in the USA who recall public announcements over your several-year run-up to digital broadcasting, ours only just started yesterday. Apparently, the CRTC thinks it's no big deal. And our government isn't offering $40 coupons towards purchase of analog-to-digital converter boxes, saying that most Canadians are hooked up to cable or satellite or already have digital tuners in their TVs. In fact, I noticed converter boxes in merchandise-remaindering stores offering leftover boxes from the USA; instead of English and French instructions, they had the two "de facto official" languages of the USA, English and Spanish.


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#15376 - 05/02/11 06:50 AM Re: Digital TV transmission [Re: grelber]
joemikeb Offline
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
Originally Posted By: grelber
Apparently, the CRTC thinks it's no big deal. And our government isn't offering $40 coupons towards purchase of analog-to-digital converter boxes, saying that most Canadians are hooked up to cable or satellite or already have digital tuners in their TVs. In fact, I noticed converter boxes in merchandise-remaindering stores offering leftover boxes from the USA;....
I would bet CRTC's assumptions are based on experience in the USA. One reaon you are seeing the USA converter boxes in Canada is because the demand in the USA was greatly oversestimated. I live within a mile of two major broadcast television outlets broadcast towers and I don;t know anyone in the area that uses broadcast TV. Satellite, cable, and UVerse offer too much additional content for broadcast to be competitive.
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