Friday, June 12, 2009

Straightening out the mess that is DTV...

Yes, I procrastinated in getting a digital converter box for the one tv in the house without cable, partly because I somehow lost the $40 coupon, so I had to spring almost $50 to buy el cheapo supremo brand from Target yesterday.

Well, of course I didn't have it set up right yesterday; however, the stellar manufacturer's customer service had only one telephone line, and all the FAQs at its site refer to DVD players. Sheesh! After e-mailing the manufacturer with photos and all (but with no response), I went to the government website in desperation today; sadly, its site's instructions on installing a DTV converter were more informative than the manufacturer's! Because we've had cable for so long, I'm conditioned to think that the channel that you'd have to "set" the converter to would be 3. I was wrong, it's 4. (I'm glad I heard the option "3 or 4" from the video at

Well, here's what you get with digital hookup:

Bonnie Hunt show
The NBC affiliate, channel 4, came in clear as a bell, of course. However, I had to move the antenna around a bit to be able to get the "next" channel, Fox 5 as well.

Tyra show guestsIn reality, there are a couple of "new" digital channels in between stations 4 and 5, and both of the new channels are NBC stations. One is an all-weather station, and the other is a sports channel (?!?).

However, except for the public tv stations, I'm unable to get the other local stations (you know, 7 and 9) AT ALL. Depending on how I have the antenna positioned, I can sometimes get channel 20, which I only watch occasionally anyway.

There are new stations that I now have access to; while one is a Christian jazz station (the blue writing comes on initially when you switch from one channel to another). However,

some new station most of the new channels are foreign news stations. One is Japanese (and somehow I don't believe it's the NHK), another Nigerian, another one still is Chinese, and another for news from the UK. (But I can get BBC programs on most public tv stations, overnight on NPR, and online, as well as British newspapers online, so what's the big deal?) Another station is a "weekend" lifestyle channel--more garbage.

You have to play around with the antenna to find the optimal location, because if you receive a channel with a spotty signal, you can get a pixelated mess like the following picture...

picture is a pixelated mess (And this was on the station with the strongest signal, the NBC affiliate Channel 4, so you know I had to move that antenna around quick to get it clear again!) Sometimes you get a "weak signal" warning blazened across the screen when you encounter a potential channel--sometimes this means you can get the channel if you, yes, move the antenna around. (Then again, maybe not.)

More often than I would have liked, the "no signal" banner came up when channel surfing with the digital converter remote. (Yes, another remote to add to an already bursting collection.) I suppose I have the same complaints that most people have with the digital conversion--that to get really good digital tv, you will have to pay for it. (Verizon did not pay me to say so, although I wish it would.)

One good thing will probably result from this ordeal--I'll watch less tv. I think.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You might want to try a different attenna. I live in DC and have no problem getting any of channels from the networks, in fact get about 40 channels. Position of the attenna matters. Near a window helps and sometimes subtle shifts in direction can make a difference. Choosing and Installing an Antenna for HDTV
This is the antenna I use .