Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Self-deleting channels

Just because I haven't posted to this blog in over a year doesn't mean that there haven't been problems with digital television in all that time. Quite the contrary. It's just that they've tended to be some of the same nuisances (a little rain throws off reception, etc.)

However, the old self-deleting channel nuisance has now been happening with Channel 62 a lot, and now I've just memorized 44-1. Almost every time I turn on my Dynex TV, there's no 62-1. I don't even bother with the add-on program search, I just punch 44-1 on the remote. And the next time I want to watch a show on that channel, I will just punch in 44-1 again.

The frequency could of course change in the future. Hopefully they'll change it to one that doesn't cause the channel to inexplicably self-delete.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A full channel rescan may be unnecessary

I have to agree with almost everything said in ConsumersUnion's pamphlet DTV Made Easy (available at your local public library). The one exception is the advice to rescan for channels every week. If you're getting every channel you expect to get (and want to watch), don't bother doing a full channel rescan. And if you're not getting one or two channels you want to watch and you know they should be there, try a search for additional channels first. Doing a full-channel rescan should be a last resort, because in the process you might lose channels you're already getting, delete your list of favorite channels, and cause yourself other inconveniences. Though I've never heard of a full channel rescan that takes thirty minutes, it's still pretty damn annoying to watch your TV waste time scanning for analog channels and then scan for the digital channels. I wish there was an option to scan only for digital channels. Another possibility is that if your antenna is not correctly positioned, you might lose channels you'd already been watching. The point is that a full channel rescan is not something you want to be doing the minute before your favorite show starts.

In the month after the digital transition, the only channel I was missing here in Detroit was the FOX affiliate Channel 2, WJBK, and I pretty much only watch it on Sundays for "Animation Domination." I had gotten it to come in through a converter box in the living room, but for a month I settled for not being able to watch it in my room. They want me to delete all the channels and do a full rescan? I would try everything else first.

Your digital TV or converter box should have an option to search for additional channels. On my Dynex TV set, it's called an "AddOn Program Search." It doesn't bother scanning through channels that are already scanned in, but it still goes through the analog channels before going to the digital channels.

If that doesn't work, you might want to try dialing the "true" channel number. For technical reasons broadcasters haven't wanted to explain to the general public, most TV stations are not broadcasting their digital content on the same channel they used for their analog content: for example, Channel 14 might be broadcasting at 25-1. But through a little bit of trickery, you can punch in the old channel number you remember so well and your TV will bring up the desired program without burdening you with the information that you're actually tuned to another frequency: so, in the example, you punch in 46 or 46-1 and the TV brings up 25-1 but identifies it as 46-1. (Though to be fair, even in the days of analog, the channel numbers hid more complex information: Channel 14 was actually 470,000,000 to 476,000,000 Hertz, or in some cases, 469,990,000 to 475,990,000 Hertz.)

With some TVs, you might be able to pull in the desired channel by punching in the "true" channel number. How do you find out that number? When Wikipedia is not busy slandering John Seigenthaler, it might actually be able to give you the channel number: in the search box, enter the station's call letters (the four or five letters starting with K or W). The "virtual" number should match the familiar number you already know, while the other number will probably be a bit of a surprise. Channel 7-1 here in Detroit is actually 41-1. The last time I lost Channel 7 on my Dynex TV (doing a full channel rescan, incidentally) I got it back by punching 41-1 on my remote. The screen might be blank except for the text "Channel 41-1" in the corner: this is your chance to move the antenna to try to find the right position. If you're successful, you will see the image and sound come up and the TV will recognize the familiar number, and you can safely forget the "true" number. However, in my case, this doesn't work for Channel 2. Its "true" channel number, for reasons I can't comprehend, is 7-1, the number that wasn't good enough for WXYZ's digital transmission! So dialing 7-1 on my remote control gives me the ABC affiliate, not the FOX affiliate.

Last Sunday I finally gave in and did a full channel rescan in an attempt to get Channel 2 to come in on my Dynex TV. After that, Channel 2 came in clear as a bell. I lost Channel 50 in the process, but I was able to get it back through its "true" number, 14-1.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Finally some real instructions from Channel 2

Almost ten days after the "digital transition," Channel 2-0 (analog) is still broadcasting an instructional video on DTV with Michael DiSeria, and reception of Channel 2-1 remains bad. In fact, Carter of ABC Warehouse told me today that "Channel 2 is tricky in most spots." He showed me an RCA outdoor antenna that was plugged in to a showroom TV and let me turn it on. That TV could pull in 2-0 pretty good, but 2-1 not at all.

Also today, Channel 2 has added a scrolling message on its analog channel suggesting one delete all channels, rescan, (old advice so far) and then extend the VHF rabbit ears 16 to 18 inches and put them parallel to the floor, pointing towards Southfield. Finally! Some real instructions. With that new advice, I was able to pull in 2-1 in the living room and watch Simpsons, King of the Hill and Family Guy. Didn't feel like sticking around for American Dad! though.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Don't throw out that old antenna just yet

Some people think that to get the digital channels they have to get entirely new antennas. On the other hand, some Best Buy employees are telling customers that their old antennas should work just fine with new TVs they buy there. I guess they aren't working for commission.

It would be better to tell people: "You might not need a new antenna." If an antenna doesn't work with one TV, try it on the other TV in the house (odds are good there's more than one TV in your house). A flat antenna is useless in my room. It works wonderfully in the living room.

And if the old antennas don't work anywhere in your house, don't rush out to buy a $100 outdoor antenna. A different kind of indoor antenna might work without setting you back hundreds of dollars. I read somewhere that some outdoor antennas need a motor to rotate them when you change the channel. The motor will cost something extra, I'm sure. Wouldn't you feel silly installing a motor and then finding out than an indoor antenna that you can more around with your hand works better?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Digital TV reception can vary widely in one house

First off, let me reiterate that antennaweb.org is a completely useless website. You're much better off heeding the advice in DTV Made Easy, a free pamphlet from ConsumersUnion that is available at the Detroit Public Library and presumably other public libraries around the nation. The pamphlet advises one to try small indoor antennas and consult with neighbors before shelling out $100 or more for an outdoor antenna.

To that advice I would add that digital TV reception can vary greatly from one room to the next in one house. In the living room, a Craig converter box is attached to an old analog Philips Magnavox TV. A couple of months ago I attached an RCA flat antenna that kind of looks like a bat. It pulled in every digital channel there is and needed only a small adjustment to get Channel 50-1. Now it needs greater adjustments for Channels 4-1 and 7-1, but it still gets all the channels. That "bat" antenna is perfectly useless in my room, where I have a Dynex digital TV. With a broken Philips SCP020 antenna attached to that Dynex set, I get all the digital channels except 7-1, 7-2, 7-3 and 50-1. Sometimes I can get 7's channels. But I have never been able to get Channel 50-1 in my room.

Is it because the Internet router is in there? Or is it because I still haven't gotten rid of the old analog set I used to watch in my room? antennaweb.org says nothing on the matter, just brushing it off as "various factors" that can affect the reception of an indoor antenna and urging me to buy expensive outdoor antennas with color codes no antenna manufacturer uses.

Channel 4-1 in the rain

This morning I was watching Ellen at 10 AM on Channel 4's digital channel. Andrew Humphries had just said there would be on and off showers throughout the day. Some time after Ellen's monologue, it started raining, and I was actually impressed that Channel 4's reception didn't deteriorate, even though at times the rain sounded quite heavy. But later on, with no significant change in the rain, Channel 4's reception became awful. They're supposed to stop analog transmission at 6:15 AM tomorrow, not that I can get the analog channel to come in today anyway. Hopefully they will also strengthen digital transmission, so that no amount of rain can challenge reception. After all, a severe weather warning on TV is pretty useless if you can't even get the message.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

When will Channel 4 reduce its analog signal

Channel 4 (WDIV) has been announcing since last week that "on or around May 15" they will reduce their analog signal, and, one would hope, boost their digital signal. When is this going to happen? It's almost May 20, and the analog signal seems to remain at the same strength. The digital signal, on the other hand, has been extremely droppy of late. After much wrangling, I found a position that works for the digital TV set in my room. For the analog TV set (with converter box) in the living room around noon today, I couldn't find any position that worked for the digital channel, so we fell back to analog. This is all the more annoying because Channel 4 digital reception had been very good for a long time.