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!



Digital Transition Answers

Preparing for D Day

October 2, 2008 5:20 PM

It is only 138 days until D Day (Digital Day). I did not think that up, but I wish I had. I read it somewhere while I was up in Tyler hiding from Hurricane Ike.

Do you know where your digital signals are? Have you gotten a digital-to-analog converter box yet? Do you know what stations you will be able to receive after the transition?

If not, now is the time to get ready.

I have been on a soapbox these last few months about the loss of the use of battery-powered emergency televisions. If you have followed the blog, you know this has been one of my pet peeves. I did an article on the Winegard RC-DT09A converter box, which has an accompanying battery pack to power it during electrical outages, so there is hope after all.

I ordered mine last week and just got it off the porch this afternoon when I got home from work. I have not had a chance to play with it yet, but I will do so soon, and I will report on the quality of the box, its features and reception in the comments section after I have had a chance to give it a test run.

One thing we have not talked much about here in the Digital Transitions Answers blog is one of the most important aspects of erecting an antenna, but it’s equally important to the antenna itself or the amps. That is the antenna mast.

The mast is important for any antenna that is going to be mounted outside. For our purposes here, I will stick to a single-level, one-floor house. Two-story and higher structures need special consideration, but some of what I will discuss here can be adapted to taller buildings. Just be careful, take your time and plan your job.

First, pick a site that is away from the power drop to your house. If your electrical service comes in from underground, you are one step ahead of the rest of us. Just make sure it is OK to dig a hole where you want to mount the antenna.

Telescoping masts are probably the easiest type of installation to make. Once the rotor, if you are using one, and the antenna are mounted, it can be raised to whatever height you desire up to the maximum extension. A word of caution, however: Most retail telescoping masts are relatively thin-walled pipe that will not withstand higher wind gusts unless guy wires are used. That is what happened to mine during Hurricane Ike, and I did not even have it extended up all the way. Full extension was 36 feet, and I only had it up about 23 feet. I had the middle section down well into the bottom section, and the top section well down into the middle section to give it more stability, but alas, it was not stable enough. But then again, we are talking hurricane-force winds for several hours, or maybe even a small tornado. It had survived Hurricane Humberto and Tropical Storm Edouard, so I thought it was OK. Not.

Eave brackets can be found almost anywhere that outside antennas are sold. They are sold online, at Radio Shack and at hardware stores. Just make sure you get one that will get you out past the edge of the roof.

One of the tricks that I have learned is, if you are handy at making things, to make a squared-off U-shaped bracket to place in the ground. I have used 2-inch-wide flat-bar that was 1/4” thick and a height of about 16 inches when the bottom of the U is on a flat surface to make the bracket. Stainless steel would be a prime material for this, especially if you live in an area that gets a lot of rain, to keep it from rusting away on you. My bracket ended up being a little wider than was necessary to accommodate the diameter of the mast. I drilled a 9/16” hole through both sides of the bracket and through the mast itself, so that when the bracket is installed in the ground, the mast will be raised a couple of inches off the ground. This will allow a pivot to swing the mast from horizontal to vertical and also allow rainwater to drain out of the mast to keep it from rusting from the inside. This also will facilitate lowering the mast if needed for servicing or a hurricane, which, as you all know by now, I did not do. My best friend did lower her antenna, promptly raised it back up after the storm and used it to watch TV for almost two weeks before her cable was restored.

To mount the ground bracket, it is desirable to have a plumb bob of some sort. After finding where you want the antenna, mount the eave bracket on the fascia board using lag bolts (it is a good idea to place at least one lag bolt in the end of a rafter or ceiling joist) lower the plumb bob by the string from the edge of the roof and over the middle of the eave bracket. Let it settle near the ground and mark that spot as where you want the middle of the ground bracket. Dig a hole at least 18 inches deep and about 18 inches wide. Mix some concrete and pour some in the hole. Place the ground bracket in the hole to a depth of about 12 inches, leaving 4 inches above ground level. Pour the rest of the concrete over the bottom of the bracket and around the sides, leaving two 4-inch tabs with the 9/16” holes sticking up out of the concrete. Let the concrete set overnight or until dry.

Place the bottom of the mast between the tabs and install a 1/2” bolt (stainless steel would again be a good choice) long enough to go through both of the tabs with the antenna in between and a flat washer on the outside of both tabs.. Place the nut and tighten. Make sure not to tighten the nut so much that it binds the antenna. You want the nut tight enough so that it does not come off, but you want the antenna mast to be loose enough between the tabs to be able to rotate freely.

Swing the mast to a vertical position and attach to the eave bracket. You are now ready to mount the rotor and antenna to the mast.

When running the coaxial cable into the house, be sure to ground the lead-in and the mast. A grounding block can be found at Radio Shack or at electrical suppliers. Be sure to leave a “drip loop” before the coax goes into the house. A drip loop is some extra coax that allows any rain that runs down the cable to fall off at a lower point than where the coax goes in under the eave or through the wall.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments (8)


Hello again Mary:

One thing... Folks should also see that they get a QUALITY converter box. One good place to start is Consumer Reports' DTV converter listing:


Not all converter boxes are the same quality, or as sensitive (meaning, better decoding and recieveing DTV signals) as other one's.

For example: My RCA DRC8335 (now in DTV converter heaven) was not as good in recieving and maintaining a signal, compared to my TIVAX STB-T8. That's not on the list, mentioned above, but works beter than the RCA did.

I also am recommending people look for "parallel tuners." One such unit is Magnavox's ZV450MW8, DTV tuner, DVD recorder and VCR (all combined in 1 unit). This unit has a Paralel tuner, similar to an A/B switch, for each tuner. Side A is DTV, or newer channels... while side B is analog, or your older channels and "low-power" channels.

Unfortunately, there is not rating system on sensitivity. I feel that there should be.

Note that the TIVAX STB-T8 has "analog pass through," meaning it does let analog signals through to your old TV or old VCR. It will not tune in analog signal, since it's a DTV only tuner.

A "parellel tuner" will tune is 2 separtate tuners in 1 unit. One tuner being Digital TV, the other tuner being analog TV. an a/B switch toggles between the 2 tuners.

mary... teh cat lady:

Hi Emm-Gee,
Thanks for the info on the converter box ratings.That is good information to consider before buying a converter box.
One thing to keep in mind however, is if you are going to use a government issued coupon, is to make sure the box you decide to purchase is an eligible box.


True, but you are reminded to check that on the site.

(You can find local
and online retailers
via the NTIA's Web site)"

Then the NTIA, isd the link to the site. This is is located in the upper right of the blue reviews's listings box.

So it should be somewhat obvious. But good that you mentioned that... but it is taken care of.

mary... the cat lady:

Hi Vic,
That was an interesting article. I thank you for passing it on.
I would be realy surprised to see the transition date pushed back. I will never say it could not happen, but I would be really surprised. I think of all the stations that will have taken their analog equipment down and installed the digital equipment and are then broadcasting the digital signal on the previous analog channel. I would imagine that they would be screaming bloody murder because they would have a distiinct disadvantage with some of their competitors that were broadcasting on two different channels.
I too, think that it would have been nice for the US and Canada to have coordinated the switch-over date, butg at least those that live along the US-Canadian border will still have a choice of analog and digital channels to watch, at least for a couple of years anyway. Those that live along the boder with Mexico may get a repreive anyway according to some legislation submitted and sponsored by Kay Bailey Hutchison.
I have been an advocate for a long time now, once I realized that the digital signals were a bit more problematic to receive than analog, for people to go ahead and try to get prepared for the transition. I wrote in one of my blogs that if you think you will go out after work on Feb. 17, 2009 and get a converter box and be able to go home and hook it up, sit down and watch the evening news, you were probably in for a rude awakening...


How do I still use my VCR to tape shows, now that I am hooked up to a converter box?

mary... the cat lady:

Hi Diane,
You will have to use one of your converter boxes to record on the VCR. There are a whole host of problems that come with this. As far as I know, and I might be wrong about this (but I don't think so), there are no boxes on the market that have a programmable timer in them to change the channel for recording programs while you are away. Once you get the converter box hooked up to the VCR and choose a channel on the converter, that is where it will stay until you physically change the channel yourself. Hooking up a converter box to the TV and another one to the VCR is not hard.
The configuration depends on if you want to watch one channel and record another one at the same time. If you want to record what you are watching or are merely using the VCR to time shift a program for veiwing later it is pretty simple.
If you will post back and let me know how you want to use the VCR, I will be glad to walk you through the process. Just let me know, OK?


Отличный форум, сегодня зарегестрировался, и никапельки не жалею! Мне зедсь очень понравилось

Post a comment