Sunday, March 01, 2009

In the attic. Hole in pants. No 12, no 32.

I waaaaaaaant myyyyyyyyyy, I want my DTV.

That's why I was crouched in the attic last week, fiddling with various sizes, shapes and configurations of antennas -- big and small, indoor and outdoor -- trying to pull in all the digital TV I have coming to me.

Trouble is, it wasn't coming to me.

All I wanted was to be able to pick up Iowa Public Television from the tower 20 miles away. Nebraska public TV out of Lincoln and Omaha would be nice, too. So up in the attic I went, trying to squeeze the last bit of digital superiority out of the ether and into the family-room TV in the basement.

OH, YEAH. We have cable. But we don't have digital cable, don't want to pay for digital cable, but do want to get the better picture quality and extra channels DTV offers. And I have to tell you, hooking up my government-subsidized converter box up to our ancient Sony is something akin to Botox for televisions.

Everything looks like a DVD. The sound is markedly better. Mr. Morita, I don't think we're in 1985 anymore.

And that's before you figure in the craptastic video quality of the downstairs cable connection.

So . . . where was I? Right. In the attic, messing with antennae.

Channels 3, 6 and 7 -- or at least the "virtual channels" for wherever the digital versions of 3, 6 and 7 are hiding on the UHF band -- weren't much of a problem. Channels 15 and 42 could be had with a little dinking around. Channel 26's antenna is a mile and change from the house.

"Honey? Is 12 coming in now? What about 32 in Iowa?"

She's gone downstairs to check.

(Half an hour later. . . .)

"Honey? Is 12 coming in now? What about 32 in Iowa?"

(Another 15 minutes later. . . .)

"Honey? Is 12 coming in now? What about 32 in Iowa?"

She's gone downstairs to check. This is stupid. Hand me up the cordless phone and you get on the cell phone.

Cell phone battery's dead. Crap.

OK, I'LL CALL the dead cell phone, and when the recorded message is over, the missus can just pick up the extension and we'll talk that way.

"Honey? Is 12 coming in now? What about 32 in Iowa?"

No Channel 12. No 32.

(Half an hour later. . . .)

"Honey? Is 12 coming in now? What about 32 in Iowa?"

Son of a bitch.

Back down the attic catwalk, ducking wires and trying not to fall through the ceiling. Sit on a rafter to work on antenna. Rip a hole in the butt of my sweats on a piece of metal. Commandeer some extra coax, move antenna next to the attic access.

"Honey? Is 12 coming in now? What about 32 in Iowa?"

No Channel 12. No 32.

M************ digital television piece of s***.

"What about now?" I ask, wondering how much fiberglass I'm breathing in. It ain't bad, once your lungs get used to it.

Had 12 for a second. It went all blotchy, though. No 32.

Digital this, you bunch of a******s.

"Honey? Is 12 coming in now? What about 32 in Iowa?"

No 12. No 32. I lost 42.

"GAAAAAH! ARRRRRRGH!" (Dropping telephone.) Complete leg cramp in my calf. Trying to writhe without falling through the ceiling.

I hear a tiny voice coming out of the phone a couple of feet away.

"What's wrong? Hello? Are you alive? ARE YOU ALIVE?"

How the hell am I going to get out of this attic? Fortunately, the cramp passes.

But I stab my finger on a nail in the semidarkness.

"Honey? Is 12 coming in now? What about 32 in Iowa?"

I HAVE ACHIEVED 12. Haven't lost 42.

Still can't get 32. Calling it good. Iowa can wait. There's always the little TV upstairs, next to a window. It gets everything -- except when it's too windy. Or when a bird roosts on the wrong branch.

I'm thinking the digital TV signal isn't exactly robust. There's a good reason I'm thinking that -- as it turns out, the DTV signal isn't exactly robust.
It says it right here in this Associated Press story:
Harry Vanderpool, a beekeeper, lives on a hill nearly 1,000 feet above the Willamette River, outside Salem, Ore. It should be a good spot for TV reception, and it used to be.

But now that analog signals are disappearing, leaving only digital ones, he may be losing all his channels.

"When you listen to the advertisements, it's 'Oh, all you have to do is get this little digital converter box and hook it up,'" Vanderpool said. "Well, we get nothing. Zero signal strength."

While generally better than analog, digital reception with antennas can be tricky. Although millions of people will receive more channels when switching to digital, many others are finding that stations they used to get in analog form won't come in on their converter boxes or digital TV sets.

In Ionia, Mich., retiree Bruce Jones is down to watching the two or three channels, rather than the dozen he used to get.

"They tell me I need an outdoor antenna, which I just can't afford," he said. To spare the $10 for the converter box, he had "cut out a day of groceries."

It's not just rural and small-town viewers like Vanderpool and Jones who are having problems with the phase-out of analog TV, which has been on the air for nearly 70 years. It's being done to give more room on the airwaves to wireless broadband, TV for cell phones and emergency communications.

In Hollywood, broadcast engineer Dana Puopolo gets the local stations fine with an indoor antenna in his bedroom, where he gets a view of the broadcast towers on Mt. Wilson, a dozen miles away. But even an amplified indoor antenna isn't enough to supply a watchable image to his widescreen TV, which is in the living room on the other side of the apartment.

"You can get it so the picture's perfect, and then when you sit down, 30 seconds later it pixelates into oblivion," Puopolo said, describing how the picture breaks up into big chunks of color. "The dirty little secret about digital is that it doesn't have nearly the coverage of analog."
NOW they tell me. @%#$%&*!

1 comment:

Husker Mike said...

Depending on where you live, the problem with DTV in Omaha is that the TV towers are all over the place. 32 is somewhere in the Bluffs; 3, 6, and 7 are up on north 72nd street; 15 and 42 are south of Gretna; and 26 is at UNO. So it's tough to adjust an antenna to get all of 'em. I ended up buying an AntennasDirect DB-8, which is a huge antenna, and seperating the grids. One is pointed east/northeast to grab 3,6,7,26, and 32, and the other is pointed south/southwest to grab 15 and 42. It took about 2/3 hours of climbing up and down into the attic to get it configured, but once I added a preamp to the antenna, it works great.

Now I'm debating about buying a VHF antenna and pointing it due west to grab 8, 10, and 12 from Lincoln, and hooking it up to the preamp. Since the Lincoln stations are putting their signal on VHF, a different antenna is probably necessary.