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Mary Robinson is all about real-world information on the switch to digital television signals. The success of the DTV switch will depend on regular folks understanding new technology and getting it running in their homes. Ms. Robinson is weighing in on those nitty-gritty details, sharing her enthusiasm for TV-signal technology with those who are less technically inclined. She’s developed an expertise through years of hands-on experimentation, pulling in signals from the rooftop of her Texas home. Now she’s a resource for consumers struggling with the digital switch. We discovered Mary right here on TVWeek.com, where she reliably dispensed information in the comments section of this story, First Digital TV Converter Box Wins Government Approval about the digital switch. Let’s keep the conversation rolling!

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Digital Transition Answers



Useful Gizmos and Web Sites

August 1, 2008 4:13 PM

We are at the 200-day mark here on Friday, Aug. 1, until the end of full-power analog broadcasting in the U.S.

The residents of Wilmington, N.C., have only a little over a month until digital-only broadcasting begins for them in what is supposed to be a "real-life test" for the rest of us. They are the guinea pigs in this great social experiment that the government has undertaken.

How will it turn out? It is anyone's guess. Will it be a commanding success, a total failure or something in between? I suspect there will be a mixed bag of results. A passing grade for most, but I fear a lot of people will feel they were the "resident left behind."

I am anxious to see the reports that come in about this first examination of digital-only broadcasting.

I have solved a problem that has bugged me for a long time, and I am sure some of you have experienced it if you employ an antenna rotor in your home. The problem was how to rotate the antenna if you have multiple televisions in multiple rooms, but the rotor control is upstairs, or downstairs, or just on the other side of the house.

I was roaming around Lowe's the other day and, as always, I made a loop around to what is new on the electronics aisle in the electrical department. I found a remote control antenna rotor. It is a Philips model SDW1850/17. I looked in the box, and the actual rotor unit looked exactly the same as the Radio Shack unit I already have installed for my antenna.

I bought the complete set, and came home and traded out the manual control unit for the remote control unit—they were 100% compatible. The rotor has a 12-position memory that you can set for stations in different directions.

But that does not solve the bigger problem of how to remotely control the remote control unit. I went to Circuit City and found a "Remote Control Extender," a Terk model LF-IRX. You plug in the receiver unit in the room where you want to operate from, and then plug in the base unit and place it in front of the device you want to operate. It took a little tweaking to get it to work, but it works great!

You cannot have the base unit too close to the device, nor can you have the base unit and the device you want to operate plugged into the same electrical outlet, for some reason. Also, the A/C adaptors have to be in a vertical position, and the base unit needs to be on about the same level as the device.

I now can operate the rotor remotely from the back part of the house and manually from the living room. I can check the local digital stations (NNE), the Lake Charles, La., stations (ENE), Houston stations (WSW) and the local low-powers (WNW) without having to go into the living room to change the aim of the antenna each time I want to check out stations in a different city.

I have been made aware of a few Web sites that may be useful to you. One is the FCC Web site dealing with the placement of antennas for those of you who have homeowners associations; live in condos, townhouses or apartments; or have deed restrictions that prohibit the placement of TV antennas or satellite dishes.

There is a lot of wiggle room for landlords and legal entities, but basically they cannot prevent you from erecting an antenna for TV, FM or satellite reception, or make it more costly for you to do so, as long as the guidelines are followed. There is an FAQ section and a lot of information about your right to receive local or satellite programming.

Consumer Reports has a special transition-themed Web site that has information on the various digital converter boxes.

Many of you already know of the Antenna Web site, but for those of you who don't, I will include it here for your reference. This site has a calculator for determining what antenna you might need to get the available stations in your area. However, I find it lacking in keeping up with new stations and those that have maximization applications.

Then there's the really cool TV Fool Web site, which has a lot of information including coverage maps, grids that show whether a station is line-of-sight or within broadcast horizon, and how high you would have to go with your antenna to get a usable signal. This is a really neat site. I have done a little exploring on it, but will take the time soon to see all that it has to offer.

I hope you find these sites useful and informative, and I am here to help if I can.

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