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

DTV: Out of Plane, No Parachute

January 8, 2009 5:17 PM

So, we are at just 40 days (and nights?) away from the transition to digital only broadcasting here in the United States, unless Barack Obama succeeds in delaying the DTV switch. All is not well in Camelot my friends.

The $40 coupon program has run out of money. Those who waited to order the coupons are now being put on a waiting list that is being funded by money returned to the program from coupons that were never redeemed. That funding has to trickle back into the system before more coupons can be sent to those on the waiting list.

The Obama presidential transition team is attempting to persuade Congress to delay the hard deadline for the end of analog broadcasting. High ranking Democrats are making the argument that the coupon program is in shambles, and that there are millions of households that simply are not ready, and cannot be ready in time for the Feb. 17 analog shutoff date.

High ranking Republicans argue that changes are needed in the accounting procedures for the coupon program to help stem the tide of applications that have flooded in requesting the coupons. They argue that changing the transition date at this time would create confusion with the public.

Nielsen reported in December that 6.8% of all U. S. households in were totally unready for the transition, and 10% were partially unready. They also stated that 11% of all Hispanic households were not ready for the transition, as well.

There is another plan to allow all television stations that are on the VHF low band (channels 2-6) to remain on the air with their analog signals, if they desire. The intent is to have them continuing to broadcast for emergency communications if necessary.

President George Bush signed a bill on December 23 known as the SAFER act that allows one television station in each market to remain on the air with an analog signal for up to 30 days after the Feb. 17 transition deadline. It is affectionately called the DTV "nightlight" bill. As was mentioned above, some want all stations on analog channels 2-6 to have the option to stay on the air. So far only 136 television markets out of 210 have a station that could remain on the air without causing undue interference with other stations.

The Consumers Electronics Association (CEA) is OK with the transition date. They did a survey with retailers and noted that converter boxes are in stock, and ready for purchase. But the converter box is only half the battle, as many of you well know who frequent this forum. On the other side is the antenna situation and I might add that it may be the "bigger" half.

The Consumers Union is urging a delay in the timing of the Feb. 17 deadline. Citing the current state of the economy and the under funding of the converter box coupon program as the primary reasons. Noting that this a federally mandated transition, they claim that millions of Americans will have to dig into their own pockets to navigate the transition at a time when many are suffering the effects of the down economy.

I made a statement in one of the posts here on the blog the other day that I felt like we had jumped out of a perfectly good airplane, and the transition date (read as “ground”) was rapidly approaching. I need to revise that statement a bit.

I feel like we were pushed out of that aircraft. Now I am confident that my parachute will open, and that I will be OK. I have a great outdoor antenna, and can get all of our local HD and SD digital stations, and one that is over 60 miles from me. But I worry about that steady stream of others who had to bail out behind me. I am not so sure that all will make it to the "ground" and survive.

I figure we will just have see how this all plays out, and once again, stay tuned...


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Comments (19)

JD in CT's Quiet Corner:

The people who still haven't gotten a box are the same people who won't get off the couch until it's lifted out from under them. It will literally take their TV being just static before they do anything. On Feb. 18, if they need teevee, they can go to Best Buy or CC or WalMart and get one. It's not all that difficult. As you write, the antenna situation is usually the bigger question, but for many people, existing antennas can be used and rabbit ears are enough. I disagree with the Congresscritter argument that millions of OTA-people "cannot be ready in time for the Feb. 17 analog shutoff date." Many people can be digital-ready in about 45 minutes.

Like there hasn't been enough publicity for the transition? You have to've been living under a rock. I don't have much pity for those who couldn't take a few minutes to make a phone call or go online to order the coupons and then go spend less than $20 on a good converter box and then take a look at their antenna situation.

One of the problems in this country is that few people do what they say they're going to do when they say they're going to do it. Always a delay or a grace period given to help out a small group of procrastinators. The DTV transition has been delayed before b/c the broadcasters weren't ready. I'm really disappointed that the Obama administration seems like it's going to start out on this note. Let's be realistic here --- people are not going to die w/o teevee. Like any upgrade in the standard of living, from indoor plumbing to modern electrical code requirements, yes, it sometimes takes a push from The Man. Digital provides a clearer picture, more channels and allows other uses --- including for better police/fire/emergency services communications, and also for commercial use that could stir up the economy(!) --- for VHF-low and later, UHF-high bandwidths. Real progress doesn't happen unless those in charge are prepared to leave slackers behind if they don't get up and walk for themselves.

I understand your situation. You're here to offer help to people converting to digital and you've probably expected that a good portion of your readers will be coming here post-transition to ask "WTH is going on?!?" So you're not going to offend them, but you've also got to realize that this all needs to be set in motion sometime, and people who procrastinate to the last minute are ALWAYS going to procrastinate that way, whether it's 18 Feb or 12 March 2010... so why not stick to the schedule?

mary... the cat lady:

Hey JD,
It is good to hear from you again. How is the fence railing holding up as a mast for your antenna. It is still up and reaching for the sky I hope.
I am neither an advocate, nor a detractor for the idea of pushing back the hard date to transition. Logistically, I think it would be a disaster. There are too many granted maximization applications that would now need to be extended. There are stations that are waiting for other broadcasters to vacate channels so that they can turn on their transmitters on their permenant channels. It would create chaos for the broadcasters.
That being said, I know many people, who through no fault of their own, are not getting the level of television programming that they get on analog.
Yes, I know, and I agree with you that the likelyhood of someone dying without TV is minimal. However... there are probably thousands of people out there on the praries that depend on analog television to get a picture of what the weather situations are in Tornado Alley. These people may be 70 or 75 miles from the nearest television market, and they are going to lose that vital link.
I disagree somewhat with your assesment that rabbit ears are enough for most people. I myself am only 17 to 31 miles from 5 full power television stations on extremely flat terrain (although we do have lots and lots of trees). With unamplified rabbit ears, I cannot get a digital signal, period. With an amplified indoor set, I can get 2 stations, one of which is TBN and useless as far as news and weather goes. It took a CM 3671 and CM7777 pre-amp and rotor to get KPLC out of Lake Charles on a dependable basis. Antenna, pre-amp, and rotor alone was in the neighborhood of $290 not including taxes and such. Not to mention the cost of coax and rotor wire. Not everyone can do that, so yes, I can see some who are not able to be ready for the transition in time.
A itp of the hat to you though, because you are right. A lot of people just kept putting it off. I have sometimes felt like a lone voice in the wilderness trying to urge people not to wait until the last minute to get ready. In one of my blogs, I think I put it this way: If you think that you are going to be able to run out after work on 2/18 and pick up a converter box and bring it home and be able to watch the evening news, you may have some serious problems. I put up a letter to the editor that I wrote to my hometown newspaper along with a the phone numbers for the coupon program and an explanation of what it was all about almost a year ago on the door to our break room at work, and still someone just yesterday, after the coupon money had run out was shocked to find out that they had probably missed out on getting the coupons in time. Duh. I can only do so much.
But a lot of the respnses that I have gotten are something like wow, I should have done this a long time ago. Those are the ones that will help the process along. Everybody who knows me knows that I am an antenna head, but someone who is just an average joe and discovers all the advantages of DTV and expresses that to his friends, coworkers, and family is going to be the one to persuade others that there is an advantage to make the switch. People have got to made to want to change. Most people resist change. Resistance is merely there to prevent the change from happening, futile as that may be.
But like you said, I am here to help in whatever way that I can. I will make no judgement on the whys or wherefores. I will just help if I can.
Delay the deadline? Like I said, I am not for it or against it. If it is delayed though, I believe that it will be a logistical nightmare, but whatever happens, it is going to be interesting.

JD in CT's Quiet Corner:


The mast is holding up excellently, and we've had a few tough tests for it since.

Santa was pretty good to us; woke up to find a big box containing the middle-road 40" Sony HDTV from Sam's Club. The price was too good to pass up (~$400 less than what it was going for not too long ago) and may as well spend it now on things you'll use before hyperinflation hits the dollar, what with Washington printing money we don't have... Also, it's an investment in what we do; we don't have cable/sat, we don't really rent movies, don't eat out much, don't do elaborate vacations.... Anyway, went up on the roof and did a little tweaking, raised the lower antenna ~ a foot on the mast, and we now get good reception for WPRI and WSBE from Providence. Also, this TV's internal tuner does a much better job at locking in signal, whereas the Insignia STB still waves around from 20-40-70-20-0-20.... Came through a few snowstorms fine, but had a rough patch during an ice storm we had last week that affected performance on a few channels (ones that I get off the back of the antenna and some of the ones that have yet to maximize their signals). Precip was coming down as rain/mix and the temp was 31 degrees, so it put a sheet of ice on everything. That's maybe a once-a-season storm in this area.

There is so much that is date-dependent, I'm sure a few station engineers and FCC coolies will need treatment from the Hair Club for Men. A certain part of me thinks the federal gov't *likes* to create chaos. Lets people know who's in charge and gets them conditioned to ask "How high?" when they're told to jump. From what I've read, they want to extend analog just past March Madness. I really question whether this amount of time is going to do anything other than provide a political cop-out. A lot of people have invested a lot of time and money for this deadline and broadcasters have even based programming schedules on the transition. Some people need to be pushed, and if they do lose teevee (there will now still be 'Analog Night Lights' tho), well, that's a tough lesson they're going to learn that most things in this world are ultimately self-help.

To be fair, I wrote, "many" not most, for people who could be digital-prepared relatively quickly. Also, I've read instructions online about people who've built their own 8-bay antennas out of coathanger wire and plastic tubing and had excellent performance... one guy did a DIY 16-bay(!) that had some ungodly dB reading. The information is out there and people could actually do it themselves for cheap even if they don't have much cash. Don't even need to be really technically savvy --- if you can build a Lego set, you can probably make your own antenna. For example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWQhlmJTMzw

Point taken about Tornado Alley, but then again, radio is alive and well... and probably a better option / more feasible in severe weather. Again, it may seem like it, but just like iPhones, MacBooks and leather coats, no one is *entitled* to teevee. All the same, there's people like yourself out here who're trying to help, come what may, and that's really generous of you. Here's to hoping you won't need the Hair Club for Women!

- JD

mary... the cat lady:

Hey JD,
I am glad to hear that the antenna mast is holding up well even with all the tests it has gone through. And thank you for your kind words. Just a little wringing of the hands here, no pulling out of the hair for me :). I am OK in that department. You made me laugh at that.
It is amazing what moving an antenna just a bit will accomplish. I had a friend who's dad had an antenna, and wanted to use it for some stations that were 40 to 50 miles away. I suggested the CM 7777 pre-amp as I had done for him, and when we installed it, the whole tuner blanked out. Very strange. He, himself only lived about 3 miles from his dad, and had the exact same set up, with no problems.
Anyway, they decided that they wanted to move the antenna to a different location anyway, and when they re-installed the antenna with the CM7777, it worked beautifully. Why moving it to the other side of the house worked, I have not figured out yet. Hence, the hand wringing...
I was contacted this morning by a friend of a friend of mine who wants some direction on installing an antenna so that he can get our local DTV stations. He got his boxes, and can only get the TBN station.
I know he was just trying to be nice, but he said that there is no big rush... just whenever you can come by and see what I might need. I stated to him that there are only 38 days left until the transition, and that yes, it is kind of urgent if he doesn't want to lose the locals. So my work here is never done, and the cat lady is off to help save another one... :)


Just a few thoughts nobody thought of yet, I'm sure:

1) Safer Act....Some markets do not have stations on 2-6... so this law would be useless in such communities as La Crosse, Wi; Tacoma, Wa; Rockford, Il; Moneterey, Ca; Austin Tx; and many more TV DMA's. Emergencies happen everywhere, no matter the population. These communities are small, but will still miss out on safety.

2) Safer Act again....Some markets do not have a powerful enough channel 2-6 to see that info Toledo, Ohio is a fine example. Therefore, are they going to be creating STV stations in those markets? If so, that creates more issues.

3) After that time period, what will happen? Both Mary and myself know DTV signals are "piss poor" in bad weather. you will not get all of the info, to keep you safe. It blanks out and pixelates more than keeps stable. Other DTV Transition articles posted in the past confirm this, via comments and confirmation due to Hurricane Ike. "But the converter box is only half the battle, as many of you well know who frequent this forum. On the other side is the antenna situation and I might add that it may be the "bigger" half." would be the other proof.

4) the coupon program was originally set up for the poor. What happened? It's been noted on several occasions that people who can afford boxes are getting coupons. Income, need, asking if cable or sat...are all not verified. with this not being done, that shows me that my money got wasted, after the government got it!

5) What about costs to the stations, for more power in SD. DTV is lower powered, leading to cheaper electric costs. $20,000 a month is cheaper than $32,000 To Toledo Edison (First Energy's and the nation's highest rated community IS Toledo, Ohio). Who is going to pay, without laying off workers? No matter if the stations are 30 days or run until June... this matters!

6) What about those workers who are now displaced, due to economy issues? Do they go without TV? They cannot currently get coupons. No final word on the future's coupons.

7) With people trying to do more and the economy, some folks aren't exactly procrastinating. Some cannot afford, some are working 7 days a week and do not have time, some just don't care. Do not lump everyone into 1 category (as in, procrastinate and stupid people)! you just may be wrong.


8) something I forgot about... Analog Radio is also bad. When I lived in Appleton, WI (near Little Chute)... we had a tornado 1 mile away, back in 1984. We did not get the local station: 1150 WYNE, Appleton, WI. So, with that being said.... TV and radio go bad in Tornadoes... but with STV, you have a much better chance. We also did not get WLRE-TV 26 ("The Great Entertainer") of Green Bay, Wi. But that lasted longer than WYNE. Recently, Tornadic activity did Toledo, Oho wrong, with DTV... STV stayed in pretty well. So no matter what you preconceptions, Radio may not be as alive as you think.

JD in CT's Quiet Corner:


3) DTV doesn't do all that badly in varying weather conditions including rain, snow, ice, even wind up to certain points. Reception can suffer in severe weather... but does analog reception not also suffer? Hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. are special circumstances. Is it really realistic to expect reception in the middle of a serious weather event? Storms do serious damage, you need to just ride it out and then pick up the pieces. Reception also varies by the tuner --- our internal HDTV tuner performs markedly better than the Insignia stb, especially wrt locking in. As for antennas, yes, some people would do best to upgrade. February 17th has been in the works for three years.

4) 'Your' money didn't get wasted. Coupon money has been taken out of proceeds of the VHF-low and future UHF-high spectrum auction. The federal govt is getting $19B for those airwaves. Coupon $ didn't come from taxes, it was the sale of a publicly-owned asset. Helping those people who use the asset to convert is what allowed the govt to sell spectrum that will no longer be used.

There is a logical argument that the spectrum use for emerging technology will create new business enterprises in the country, which means more jobs. Kind of a wait-and-see thing there, but I'm pretty sure Verizon, AT&T, et al. didn't pay all that money to let them lie fallow.

5) This is quite what a Boston station manager said last night in a local PBS show interview. He said that running both analog and digital signals past the transition date will cost WGBH (the country's flagship PBS station) ~$100K extra per month. The faster the transition takes place, the more $ is saved, the more electricity becomes available on the nation's grids (or, less output will be necessary). Imagine paying for 100KW 24/7 for a few months.

6) and 7) No one said this would work perfectly, and for those facing harder times right now, it sucks. I will say again tho, that this has been extensively warned about for the past year. Six percent's failure to plan and to be able to save $20 isn't reason to scrub the mission. For someone who can't put aside $20 in a year (nevermind the three years since the date certain was announced), teevee doesn't seem to be their biggest problem. It's not my intention to sound callous here.

8) THE local radio station? FM/AM reception has actually markedly improved in the past few years as stations have digitized. The whole radio dial had nothing? Even before digitization, tho, I find it hard to believe that even in a tornado/hurricane radio reception could be that bad unless, again, you're in a situation where radio reception isn't your biggest problem.

mary... the cat lady:

Hi JD and EmmGee,
I want y'all to know that you both make very valid points. This has been a really good discussion, and I enjoyed reading both of your posts.
My take on television over radio in the event of APPROACHING severe weather is that television makes it so much more easier to visualize where the threat is coming from, and where it is likely to go. Have you ever been listening to the radio when severe weather watches were issued? It goes something like this: "The tornado watch exists on a line from 20 miles south of Timbuktu, Tennessee to 40 miles east-northeast of Holeinthewall, Kentucky, (or Podunk, Texas and Nostoplight, Oklahoma for that matter) and extends out 25 miles on either side of that line..." Excuse me, WHAT?
With television, you can see it. You can see the radar. You can see the forecast path. It is much easier to understand if you can see it.
There is an article in our local paper (Beaumont Enterprise) that came out today that laments the loss of coverage of the digital signal as opposed to the footprint of the analog signal. The alloted coverage of a lot of stations is less than it was for analog.
It may well be that in its inception, the coupon program was envisioned to be a way to help the poorer people get help in purchasing a converter box. But, from the get go, it was available to anyone who wanted up to two coupons. Congress just dropped to ball. They failed to fund the full cost of the program, and those who waited are paying the price. I cannot believe that the government had no idea of how many television households there were in the US, and t herefore, by default, how much money was potentially going to be needed.
They also dropped the ball in terms of antennas. There should have been, in my opinion, some kind of assistance to help defray the cost of an antenna upgrade. Conservatives, please don't beat me with a wet noodle for that thought, OK? :)
The SAFER act was always intended to have at least one analog station stay on the air from EVERY television market. There were some who wanted to expand it to include all analog stations on channels 2-6, because those channels would pose almost no interference to other broadcasters. Whereas channels 2-6 used to be the Boardwalk and Park Place in the television landscape they suddenly, because of the characteristics of digital broadcasting, became Baltic and Mediterainian. Location, location, location. Undesireable property in the televsion version of Monopoly.

JD in CT's Quiet Corner:

I'm enjoying the discussion too.

"With television, you can see it. You can see the radar. You can see the forecast path. It is much easier to understand if you can see it."

That's if you still have electricity in a hurricane, tornado, etc. Real-world, battery-operated radio is more reliable in this regard, even if the descriptions are more abstract.

"There is an article in our local paper (Beaumont Enterprise) that came out today that laments the loss of coverage of the digital signal as opposed to the footprint of the analog signal. The alloted coverage of a lot of stations is less than it was for analog."

I have read about the FCC authorizing stations to use DTS transmitters to preserve their analog reception area. Link: http://www.broadcastlawblog.com/archives/digital-television-issues-on-the-posttransition-use-of-the-television-spectrum-white-spaces-and-distributed-transmission-service-dts.html Doesn't seem to have happened quite yet, but it looks like it'll gain momentum. Then again, I'm getting stations reliably as ever (and a better picture than ever b/c it was always 90% static) from ~60 miles out over hilly terrain and dense woods here in the Last Green Valley.

Antenna assistance would have been nice, just not sure how they ever could have administered that w/o causing migraines. And aside from any monetary assistance... for all of those PBS/DTV infomercials describing how to hook up a box, it would've been nicer if they included showing the average person how to upgrade their antennas or set up an outdoor antenna system. Seriously, for as much as PBS has done for DTV awareness, shows like "Ask This Old House" dropped the ball for those who need more than just a STB. As I've written before, even the local home improvement stores don't have much in the way of this stuff, just limited AV products (they don't even have preamps) and nebulous guides in How-To books. Information on this is pretty much research dependent self-help and some common sense (in short supply these days).

Lastly, I was watching an interview on Charlie Rose last night with Lee Scott, the Pres. and CEO of Wal-Mart. He said something that many people just never grasp. Taking a fast, general course of action --- where you arrive at an 80% solution and then gradually work at the other 20% --- is *by far* preferable to just waiting around for a 100% solution. "The opposite of good is perfect," he said. So many people get paralyzed when they can't do everything in one fell swoop and that's why some good ideas never happen. It is so rare for the stars to align.

I really hope Obama does not turn out to be that kind of president... It's the running monologue of "I need to do C before I do A, but I can't do A until I do B, which I'll need to wait to do until after D happens...." sometimes the curse of *too* much intelligence and overthought can really get in the way of a course of action. It goes from these macrocosmic views down to many of the microcosmic technical issues why I think they need to stick with the 17 Feb date. Sorry, don't mean to drag politics into this....

T in MO:

I've enjoyed reading the comments here, and sorry if I go over something that's already been talked about. I wanted to know about all the older people who live in rural areas and just how are they ever going to figure all this out? I know for myself this has been a real headache.
The antenna problem as been the biggest problem. I can't climb up on my roof, and can't afford to hire someone to take care of that part either. The second part, is the antenna has to be pointed just so so for several stations. After MUCH work and the help of my son's friend, and an amplifier from Radio Shack (which has already quit after 2 weeks) I found one answer through a video on Youtube, how to build your own hdtv antenna out of coat hangers. So I thought why not...I have plenty of hangers, and the cost of the washers, screws, and uhf/vhf transformer was about 6 bucks..so I went for it...I was AMAZED! the ugly thing sits behind my tv on a stand, and it brings in signal better than the roof top..I get all stations well, almost 100 percent of the time. I do have it hooked up to a small signal booster that is inside that we've had for years, but never found it to do much good before...anyway..I've now built another one, and it works almost as well, but it is in a different part of the house and hooked up to a very old booster..Well that's it from here. Thanks for listening.


"That's if you still have electricity in a hurricane, tornado, etc. Real-world, battery-operated radio is more reliable in this regard, even if the descriptions are more abstract."

Hate to say, this is about DTV, not radio... Analog or Ibiquity's HD radio. ALso take into effect, "main transmitters," still have the same outputs in watts as they have in the 1980's. That has not changed. 5,00 watss is still 5,000 watts, per FCC law. As for "digital, That's known as HD radio, which is less power, so fewer actually get it as well. 10% of power wattage, from 100%... is not an improvement. People also noted drastic areas of coverage minimized, since stations went "IBOQ," on both the AM and FM bands. So, improvements are nill, unless you look at the digital improvements on processing. As we know, processing does not improve signal, but can make sound heard over static better. "Brick walling" (or over compressing and expanding) can make a voice carry over static... as mono will make it as well. These have nothing on propagation and weather disturbances, which impede it. The only thing that currently improves radio or TV signal, due to current FCC laws... is tropospheric ducting, assisting in propagation to certain areas, not to all areas.

JD, as a current Assistant Engineer, I can clearly say that you are talking about things you know little about. I'm specifically talking about TX signal propagation.

Improvements were never made with digital, as you think. Digital is only good for sound quality, except for MP3 audio. It is not good for quality.

Its a good argument though, just not remotely true.


"It is not good for quality."

That should be "It is not good for MP3 sound quality."... it makes the "garbled tape" and over-driven treble sound.

mary... the cat lady:

Hey JD,
I tried to make my point a little bit clearer in my last post above, but maybe I understated it a bit, still.
My point is that the warnings come before the calamity hits. First come the watches, then, heaven forbid, the warnings. The National Weather Service has made significant improvements in the amount of time in which they can issue warnings ahead of severe thunder storms and tornados. This is the time in which veiwers could see and the radar and forecast maps for the affected areas. As the severe weather is approaching. Before the lights go out. In time for people to take shelter. After the storm is over, you are correct. Radio may well serve the purpose as far as emergency services and such.
Where the Gulf Coast as well as Florida and the Mid-Atlantic and East coasts are concerned, there is a pretty good saturation of television stations that overlay from the coasts to maybe 60 or so miles inland. We are covered. It is not so with the tornado susceptible vastness of the plains and praries of the midwest.
I will say that it was comforting to be able to tune in to our local stations in the midst of Hurricane Humberto in September of '07. I was able to see the radar, even if it was in black and white, and to get an idea of how intense the storm was and about how much more we had to go through before it was over. That was what prompted me to get on my soapbox about the loss of the use of battery powered televisions. Thankfully, Winegard came to the rescue with the battery powered converter box, and I do appreciate them having the innovation to do just that.
That being said, I am still going to have to erect a dedicated antenna without a pre-amp for situations such as this. Hopefully, I can put it in the attic where it may be a bit more protected from the high winds, and still be able to get the 3 local television stations with news and weather. Whereas with Humberto, I could get the information that I needed in analog with the incorporated stick antenna that came on the 5" B&W TV, there is no way I can get that kind of reception for a digital receiver and a simple antenna such as that.
I am grateful that I have the resources to be able to provide myself with the necessary equipment to be able to get the information that I need. Many do not.
Try to stay warm up there my friend.

mary... the cat lady:

Hi T in MO,
I am glad you have joined us, and I am glad that you have been enjoying the dialog.
You sould like a pretty good do it yourselfer. I am glad that the homemade antenna is working out for you. I personally have not watched the video as of yet, but I was aware of it from one of the posters on another thread.
Something that people may want to try if they need physical help in putting up new antennas, is to contact a local ham radio club. I know that the members of most clubs are willing to help to the extent that they can in assisting with the knowledge and education, and sometimes hands on help with over the air communications.
Take the amplifier from RS back and get your money back. The electronics don't seem to hold up for any time at all.
For an outdoor antenna, I recommend the Channel Master 7777 pre-amp. Excellent quality, really good signal gain specs, and very low noise. Just be sure to weatherize all of the connections that are outside. I use a good di-electric grease on all connections, as well as the provided protective rubber boots, and seal them all with RTV silicone sealer. Anything that I can do to keep the moisture, rain , and snow out of the connections.
Once again, congratulations on your successful antenna manufacturing adventure. Would it be possible for you to provide some to your friends at cost, or maybe a little profit? Might be something to think about...

T in MO:


Thanks for all the great ideas! I just read in last nights paper there is a new ham radio club just getting ready to start up in the next town over. Maybe I should drop in and meet these people.

Have a great day.

mary... the cat lady:

Hi T in MO,
Let me know if you make it to the Ham club, and how it turns out, OK?


"Information on this is pretty much research dependent self-help and some common sense (in short supply these days)."

That's why my youtube clips are online, under DTV Issues" and "DTV Reception problems" along with DTV TEST, Toledo Vs. Wilmington." My channel also shows what equipment works for me... and what my situation is. Imagine an Assistant Engineer having troubles and trying to also educate people on what the real problem is. Mary is also doing her part. If people were to actually look and not judge upon what the issue is, they would really find answers.... strictly on the internet.

It worked for my mother in Two Rivers, WI. She thought I was kidding her. She looked on the net, found out what she needed. She even apologized, because she thought I was lying. Never mind my employment position.

"I was watching an interview on Charlie Rose last night with Lee Scott, the Pres. and CEO of Wal-Mart. He said something that many people just never grasp. Taking a fast, general course of action --- where you arrive at an 80% solution and then gradually work at the other 20% --- is *by far* preferable to just waiting around for a 100% solution."

Hmmm, is this the same exact company in so many law suits? They are well known for ripping off thier public, ripping off manufacturers, skimming hours from the workers, discriminating against women and gays, telling workers how to vote, etc. I would hold high stock in what wal*mart has to say. They are only in it for the money, since Sam Walton passed. That company has quite a few shakey dealings to trust what "80%" is the solution. The credibility is just not there. I'd assume listen to Madoff, for more accurate advice. It may be wrong, but there's less "symptoms" of a people problem.

"...even the local home improvement stores don't have much in the way of this stuff, just limited AV products (they don't even have preamps) and nebulous guides in How-To books. Information on this is pretty much research dependent self-help and some common sense (in short supply these days)."

The problem is that they don't care. If they have cable and don't need to install anything, they won't care. People will not care until they are forced to care. That's always been a fact. No matter if it's AIDS, huffing cans of stuff, drugs, drinking and driving, you name it. It all is the same... they won't care until they are forced to. No, that's not being negative, just the way Americans and Canadians operate. Call it the "human condition."

Also, if you go above and beyond, that's getting you free advertising. It's basic "Marketing 101." Do good, you get a free ad. Look at Ty Pennington, Oprah Winfrey, Home Depot, etc. They get free "mentions." They also get "added value" for doing good deeds. So, "this Old House" gets free time to advertise, maybe some more money too, via my taxes (shhhh... that's supposedly called the "Corp for Public Broadcasting," but it's still state run TV.)

The problem with DTV, few really take the problems seriously and judge what it is. Most will not care, until it's too late. I have been told not to waste my time. Ive also been told I'm fighting a battle I will not win. That was long before Buckeye CableSystem found pixelation of Local DTV stations. Now some are listening...and finally asking me questions. Calling Wilmington prior to it happening also helped.

Maybe I should be the new DTV czar! J/K


I didn't show up again, as myself... oh well!

On an ohter DTV note... Notice how it's been a few days and NOBODY is talking about Hawaii's switch?? Nothing about calls, nothing about signal issues, etc. Am I the only one picking up on that???? I made a comment on the "Hawaii makes the switch" story on the DTV navigator page... but no responses back from it.

Mary, let us know what you hear.

mary... the cat lady:

I think that Hawaii is so far away and so removed from the continental US, that most people don't care...
I did see one article in the Houston Chronicle that reported on the switch. There were a reported 300 calls in the first couple of hours after the switch, and I am sure there were more over time. The general consensus of the article was that even though there had been a blitz of information put out, most had just put off doing anything about it. It makes that point that even though it was the veiwers that were going to impacted by the switch, they didn't care until they were made to care by the end of analog broadcasting... It works both ways, I guess.
For the most part, and I am sure that I only got a little snapshot of what the switch looked like in Hawaii, it seemed that it mostly went pretty smoothly.
There was one report of a PBS station that had not gotten the digital transmitter by the time that the switch came, and I don't know what the outcome of that was, but I will try to find out.

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