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post #1 of 31 Old 06-23-2004, 05:12 PM - Thread Starter
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Article follows...



June 24, 2004
High-Maintenance TV
By ERIC A. TAUB

HERE are people for whom getting something to work right is half the fun. For them, there's a new challenge: viewing the digital versions of free broadcast TV.

At some point, cable and satellite services will offer many local digital stations. But until then, watching "The West Wing," the N.B.A. finals or "C.S.I." in HDTV, the digital format that offers gloriously sharp wide-screen images, usually involves getting the signals the old-fashioned way: by means of an antenna and a decoder box. And that can often make grown men cry.

While many users apparently have no problem receiving HDTV or other digital broadcasts, others have flooded online discussion groups like AVS Forum (avsforum .com) with tales of woe.

These users report that decoder boxes may pull in some broadcast stations but not others, depending on the time of day, distance from the transmitter, proximity to other buildings and weather conditions. Boxes from every manufacturer are reported to freeze up and to require rebooting, usually by hitting a reset button or by unplugging the box and then plugging it back in.

Rebooting is not something you expect with a service meant to be as stable as plain old TV.

Neither is constant fiddling with an antenna, something many consumers thought had ended years ago when they threw out their last rabbit-eared TV and hooked into cable or satellite service. But for a digital TV antenna to work properly, its aim must often be as precise as a sharpshooter's.

"Installing an antenna is easy to do as long as you have a signal meter," said John C. Thomas, an HDTV aficionado in Canton, Ga. But signal problems occur if he rotates the antenna even slightly.

When he first installed the antenna in his attic, Mr. Thomas used trial and error, moving it around until he found a sweet spot where reception was best. And it is very sweet indeed. "If I move it a few feet away, then I introduce signal problems that the HDTV decoder box can't deal with," he said.

Perhaps fortunately, a majority of digital TV owners are not even trying to watch digital broadcasts. Since the transition to digital broadcasting began in 1998, 8.3 million households have acquired digital TV's, according to Adams Media Research. But only 1.7 million of those have the built-in hardware or set-top box necessary to receive and decode HDTV broadcast signals. The owners of the other 6.6 million sets are using them to watch standard-definition TV and DVD's.

Under a Federal Communications Commission ruling, all TV's will eventually come with built-in digital broadcast tuners. And later this year, manufacturers will introduce cable-ready digital sets that can receive channels like ESPN-HD and HBO HDTV without a decoder box. According to the Leichtman Research Group, by the end of this year, 3.5 million viewers will be watching some broadcast and cable HDTV channels by cable or satellite.

But today, those who want to watch digital broadcasts free still usually need to use an antenna and a set-top box. And that is where the fun starts.

Manufacturers of decoding equipment say that the problem is not with their hardware. "We've had no decoder boxes returned due to reception problems," said John Taylor, vice president for public affairs at LG Electronics USA, Zenith's parent company and a major decoder manufacturer, along with Samsung, Thomson (RCA's parent), Toshiba and others.

Mark Richer, president of the Advanced Television Systems Committee, the industry group overseeing the transition to digital television, acknowledged that "like a cellphone or satellite TV, there will always be places where a digital broadcast set-top box won't work well."

Rick Roome, a software engineer in Simi Valley, Calif., knows this firsthand. With his equipment, he can receive the digital feed of almost every Los Angeles station. But even though he is using a 17-foot antenna on his roof and lives just 35 miles from the Mount Wilson transmitter, "some days, the ABC station breaks up, freezes and then disappears," Mr. Roome said. "It happens especially around sundown."

Such reception problems can arise from several factors.

Digital set-top boxes are as complex as computers; when broadcasters send digital signals that do not exactly adhere to the official transmission standards, the box may be incapable of handling them.

To cut power bills when digital viewers are few, most broadcast stations that transmit a digital signal are using less than full power to do so. This not only reduces the range that the signal can travel but also provides a weaker signal even when a customer lives well within the coverage area.

Living closer to a broadcast tower does not reduce the likelihood of reception problems. Urban residents can suffer from the effects of multipath transmissions, signals that bounce off buildings and hills and arrive at the TV from several directions.

The earliest digital set-top decoder boxes dealt so poorly with multipath transmissions that the Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner of 62 TV stations in 39 markets, petitioned the F.C.C. to allow for the simultaneous adoption of the European digital broadcast standard, arguing that it was much easier to receive.

Both Thomson and LG say they will incorporate new technology into their next-generation digital TV decoders that should eliminate multipath reception problems. Most consumers will then be able to use just a small indoor antenna to watch digital TV.

"LG's new technology is a giant leap toward addressing the multipath reception problems," said Nat Ostroff, Sinclair vice president for new technology. Now that consumers will easily be able to receive digital broadcasts, "the incentive is there for us to go to full power."

Still, those advances will not solve all set-top-box problems. Tony Boyd, a retail store planner in Dallas, has no problem receiving digital broadcast channels with his decoder box and an antenna. But when he is watching some HDTV channels on DirecTV, the audio or video drops out from time to time, and the box occasionally freezes. Mr. Boyd has gone through two units, but the symptoms persist. "DirecTV cannot solve the problem," he said.

In addition to technological improvements, Mr. Richer's group, the Advanced Television Systems Committee, is working on a set of "recommended practices," guidelines for minimum performance standards for digital receivers. And antennas are not being neglected, either: within months, versions that electronically tune themselves without being moved to receive the strongest signal will appear on the market.

Even when HDTV programming on cable and satellite services becomes ubiquitous, reliable reception of broadcast digital channels using an antenna will remain important, broadcasters say. There will always be people who do not subscribe to satellite or cable, or do not have it hooked up to a second or third set. In addition, some broadcasters have floated the idea of offering a mini-package of cable channels, delivered over the air as a digital broadcast signal.

That plan can only work if reliable reception is a given. "Digital converter boxes are getting better," said Ken Holsgrove, an HDTV consultant and an AVS Forum moderator. But for customers who expect current over-the-air digital TV to work like regular TV, he had some advice: "I'd steer clear of it. The technology will not support their expectations."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Lanier
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post #2 of 31 Old 06-23-2004, 05:26 PM
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Tomorrow's news today. Which stocks are going up or down?

I think this one has been posted before. At least it sounds like it may have excerpts from a previous article.
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post #3 of 31 Old 06-23-2004, 05:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by clb
That plan can only work if reliable reception is a given. "Digital converter boxes are getting better," said Ken Holsgrove, an HDTV consultant and an AVS Forum moderator. But for customers who expect current over-the-air digital TV to work like regular TV, he had some advice: "I'd steer clear of it. The technology will not support their expectations."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
Whaaaat? Et tu, Ken?? You're supposed to be an HDTV booster Dude! Is that the message we want to be sending out to the teeming non-HDTV multitudes?

By golly, I say let 'em suffer just like we did! And we're better for it, ain't we?? :D
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post #4 of 31 Old 06-23-2004, 05:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by archiguy
Whaaaat? Et tu, Ken?? You're supposed to be an HDTV booster Dude! Is that the message we want to be sending out to the teeming non-HDTV multitudes?

By golly, I say let 'em suffer just like we did! And we're better for it, ain't we?? :D
You want even more people on here complaining about the service? It seems we have enough as it is, and most of them knew what they were getting into. :p
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post #5 of 31 Old 06-23-2004, 05:53 PM
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I know I'll get flamed for being an idiot, but what is the European Digital Standard? I know many of you will say it's a stall tactic by Sinclair, but is the Euros' std. meritorious?
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post #6 of 31 Old 06-23-2004, 05:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by archiguy
Whaaaat? Et tu, Ken??
I said they would be disappointed, if they expected DTV to work like analog, not to steer clear.

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post #7 of 31 Old 06-23-2004, 05:57 PM
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i believe the european standard's 1080i/50p[i might be wrong]

If a movie or concert video or a TV show isn't on blu ray it darn well should be.

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post #8 of 31 Old 06-23-2004, 06:03 PM
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Congrats on getting in the article.

But when I read this, was wondering if this is pro or con hdtv?

HEY, you viewing dumbasses!

NOW!
NEW!
ALL NEW!

(insert name of show here)
NEXT!
8/9 PM ET
TUESDAY!
NEXT WEEK!
IN 2 WEEKS!


My Samsung 55" D8000 LED-3D tv settings.
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post #9 of 31 Old 06-23-2004, 06:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by squicken
I know I'll get flamed for being an idiot, but what is the European Digital Standard?
He is referring to an alternative modulation standard called COFDM, which is part of the DVB-T digital TV standard. Overall it works about as well as our modulation standard (8VSB), but it has various performance issues too.

The key quote regarding the modulation standard is this:
"LG's new technology is a giant leap toward addressing the multipath reception problems," said Nat Ostroff, Sinclair vice president for new technology. Now that consumers will easily be able to receive digital broadcasts, "the incentive is there for us to go to full power."

'Better Living Through Modern, Expensive, Electronic Devices'

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post #10 of 31 Old 06-23-2004, 06:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by mx6bfast
Congrats on getting in the article.

But when I read this, was wondering if this is pro or con hdtv?
I personally read it as 'realist hdtv'

Free HDTV reception isn't perfect at this point, and if people expect it to be, then they're in for a disappointment
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post #11 of 31 Old 06-23-2004, 11:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Ken H
I said they would be disappointed, if they expected DTV to work like analog, not to steer clear.
The way I read it the "steer clear" phrase refers to the mini-"cable" package in the preceeding paragraph ... Which, of course, is sound advice ;)

HDC
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post #12 of 31 Old 06-24-2004, 02:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Ken H
I said they would be disappointed, if they expected DTV to work like analog, not to steer clear.
Of course DT doesn't work just like analog YET, until all DT stations run at full power and have to simulcast 100% of their analog broadcast day. Aside from that, though, DT works EXACTLY like analog in that the prinicples of getting good reception are the same.

The only difference is that, with analog, the picture looks like crap, but there are varying degrees of crap, some of which you might find viewable. Whereas with digital, your picture is either sharp as a tack or it's not there at all.

But when you peak your antenna, you're doing the exact same thing for both analog and digital -- maximizing the main path and minimizing the "ghost" path(s).

Perhaps it would have been better to advise would-be DT viewers to work on their analog reception first, but with all the stations operating on "special temporary authority" (i.e.: not full power), I don't blame anyone for trying to tone down our expectations.

Views are strictly my own unless otherwise noted.
"ItÂs looking more like Y2K than the Bay of Pigs." - FCC Commissioner Adelstein, 6-13-09, on the DTV switch
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post #13 of 31 Old 06-24-2004, 02:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by clb
And antennas are not being neglected, either: within months, versions that electronically tune themselves without being moved to receive the strongest signal will appear on the market.
I haven't heard anything about this. Anyone have the scoop?

Currently testing 3D with Sammy DLP, shutter glasses, and HTPC
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post #14 of 31 Old 06-24-2004, 07:14 AM
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Keep checking Terk's web page. I'm sure it won't be long until that shows up.

Going to sign up for Dish Network? PM me for a ClubDish referral number that will give you a $50 credit on your first bill.
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post #15 of 31 Old 06-24-2004, 08:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by dline
.....with all the stations operating on "special temporary authority" (i.e.: not full power), I don't blame anyone for trying to tone down our expectations.
The blame is across the board.

- Broadcasters must provide the best possible DTV signal by running at full transmitting power, maximize radiating orientation, and insuring PSIP information is accurate.

- STB manufacturers must make tuners reliable by making them multipath resistant, non-front end over-loadable, and more sensitive to fringe signals.

- The ATSC waited way too long to set DTV tuner guidelines, which took place only a few days ago.

- And the FCC is responsible for putting the whole mess in motion.

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<<"Installing an antenna is easy to do as long as you have a signal meter," said John C. Thomas>>

I didn;t have a signal meter, not even a compass. Just pointed the thing in the general direction of the towers and voila! Of course I'm only 35 miles away :)
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post #17 of 31 Old 06-24-2004, 10:05 AM
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Here is a link so you can see the pictures of me!!! (free subscription required)

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/24/te...ts/24hdtv.html

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post #18 of 31 Old 06-24-2004, 11:15 AM
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So is somewhere in this article an explanation as to why I now (after having no problems for over a year), have ongoing issues with only ONE digital channel in my area?

I am only 5 miles from the towers/antenna farm in Philadelphia. ALL channels in Philadelphia are in the SAME antenna farm area. I have a yagi style (UHF) antenna on my roof with a 10 foot mast pointed in the direction of the antenna farm.

Lately, CBS-DT (KYW-DT) will be the ONLY channel that I either can not receive at all, or it will come and go (usually mostly go). I have ZERO problems with all other digital channels. I can even receive the sister station of KYW-DT -- which is UPN (channel 57-DT) -- which I think is located on the same transmission tower.

I use a samsung SIR-T151 set top box.

Anyone have any idea what is going on -- it doesn't seem to make any sense that I can get much weaker stations like PBS (WHYY-DT), but I am now having issues with CBS (KYW-DT). No issues with FOX, ABC, NBC, PBS, UPN, WB -- only CBS???????????
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post #19 of 31 Old 06-24-2004, 11:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by taz291819
I haven't heard anything about this. Anyone have the scoop?
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...hreadid=416178

You have a right to install OTA and dish antennas on property under your control.
See http://www.fcc.gov/mb/facts/otard.html
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post #20 of 31 Old 06-24-2004, 11:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by caesar1
So is somewhere in this article an explanation as to why I now (after having no problems for over a year), have ongoing issues with only ONE digital channel in my area?

I am only 5 miles from the towers/antenna farm in Philadelphia. ALL channels in Philadelphia are in the SAME antenna farm area. I have a yagi style (UHF) antenna on my roof with a 10 foot mast pointed in the direction of the antenna farm.

Lately, CBS-DT (KYW-DT) will be the ONLY channel that I either can not receive at all, or it will come and go (usually mostly go). I have ZERO problems with all other digital channels. I can even receive the sister station of KYW-DT -- which is UPN (channel 57-DT) -- which I think is located on the same transmission tower.

I use a samsung SIR-T151 set top box.

Anyone have any idea what is going on -- it doesn't seem to make any sense that I can get much weaker stations like PBS (WHYY-DT), but I am now having issues with CBS (KYW-DT). No issues with FOX, ABC, NBC, PBS, UPN, WB -- only CBS???????????
'sounds like you may need an attenuator.

You have a right to install OTA and dish antennas on property under your control.
See http://www.fcc.gov/mb/facts/otard.html
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post #21 of 31 Old 06-24-2004, 11:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by BarryO
'sounds like you may need an attenuator.
Would you still say that knowing that this problem has not been there always -- but manifested itself only recently?

In other words, if I didn't need an attenuator 3 months ago to get KYW-DT, why would I need one now?
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I always wondered what the "H" in Ken H stood for. I just assumed it was for Handsome.:D

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post #23 of 31 Old 06-24-2004, 11:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by mikey mo
I always wondered what the "H" in Ken H stood for. I just assumed it was for Handsome.:D
Boy what a suck up ;)
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post #24 of 31 Old 06-24-2004, 02:00 PM
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Caesar,

What you are experiencing is the point that the article makes. OTA for many people is a frustrating situation. Here are some possible problems.

The station may have boosted or reduced output power. If the weather has changed, it may have induced some atmospheric conditions that adversely affect the signal of that channel. The station may have realigned (misaligned) or changed equipment. Your antenna may have moved or may now be obstructed (Since the leaves have grown I have problems with one channel). Etc., etc.....
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post #25 of 31 Old 06-24-2004, 04:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by clb
Article follows...



June 24, 2004
High-Maintenance TV
By ERIC A. TAUB

Still, those advances will not solve all set-top-box problems. Tony Boyd, a retail store planner in Dallas, has no problem receiving digital broadcast channels with his decoder box and an antenna. But when he is watching some HDTV channels on DirecTV, the audio or video drops out from time to time, and the box occasionally freezes. Mr. Boyd has gone through two units, but the symptoms persist. "DirecTV cannot solve the problem," he said.

That's me. :)
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post #26 of 31 Old 06-24-2004, 04:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by caesar1
Would you still say that knowing that this problem has not been there always -- but manifested itself only recently?

In other words, if I didn't need an attenuator 3 months ago to get KYW-DT, why would I need one now?
Maybe they boosted their power output. That's why you might suddenly need an attenuator.
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post #27 of 31 Old 06-24-2004, 05:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by mx6bfast
Congrats on getting in the article.

But when I read this, was wondering if this is pro or con hdtv?
I can tell you this, our good "friend" Bob, of COFDM fame, is having a ball with this article on the HD ng.
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post #28 of 31 Old 06-24-2004, 07:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Ken Ross
I can tell you this, our good "friend" Bob, of COFDM fame, is having a ball with this article on the HD ng.
Yeah, I saw that too. I think in a future comments for any articles should be better worded so that maniac can't twist them around.
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post #29 of 31 Old 06-24-2004, 08:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by CKNA
Yeah, I saw that too. I think in a future comments for any articles should be better worded so that maniac can't twist them around.
Nah, let him have his fun. I'm glad he found a home.

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post #30 of 31 Old 06-25-2004, 10:56 AM
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I mentioned this on a thread in the hardware section but I will repeat it here as it bears repeating.

He doesn't mention in the article that the reason I have so much trouble receiving HD is that even though I am 35 miles from Mt. Wilson there is a 2300' peak directly in my line of sight to Mt. Wilson 3 miles from me. This causes two problems. The signal is weak going over the peak and I have multipath issues as I get the direct signal and one that goes around the peak through a pass.

However he also doesn't talk about the extensive effort I used to get my HD. I have tried two antennas, 5 signal amps, and changed the coax lead in 4 times. I did all this spending many weekends over a years time. However I have not changed it for two years now and I am now a happy HDer.

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