Okay, I know I'm long-winded but what can I say? If you don't like my blathering, don't read it.
First of all, here's a fairly interesting article on antennas - http://www.hdtvexpert.com/pages/squareshot.htm
I think it's circa 2004 (says at the bottom). Does anybody else think there ought to be a law requiring all articles published on the 'Net to include the DATE OF THE ARTICLE? I'm tired or reading stuff that turns out to be 5 years old and thus well outdated.
Note that he says in there: "The Square Shooter did very well, pulling in nine stations ... including the weak, hard-to-receive signal from Philadelphia PBS station WHYY on channel 55
So it would appear that WHYY has been sending out a fairly weak signal all along.
So this morning I took my little bowtie antenna into the attic and set my Voom to aim the antenna at RF 8, which is the RF that has given me the strongest signals so far. The Voom sounds a fairly loud beep during this process which changes when the signal strength hits 85, which is the minimum required to lock a channel. So I moved my bowtie around until I heard the signal change, then set it in that position and came back downstairs to the box. Keep in mind that the bowtie is inside, and thus the building is masking the signal somewhat.
The signal strength (at RF 8) was just about 85+, which is a tad weaker than I was getting with my VHF antenna (88-91). So I did a scan for local channels and what do you know if NJT didn't scan in at RF 43 and a strength of 92!! Pretty impressive.
NJT is out of Trenton and according to antennaweb I'm 21.4 miles from its tower. Still, I'm getting a 92 score for it. I don't even get that high a score for NJB, which is out of New Brunswick and supposedly only 6.6 miles from me (tho' I have sometimes gotten a score of 91 for it -- but mostly 88 or 89).
According to Google maps, I'm 34.5 miles from Trenton (center city) and although that's by road, the route is pretty much as the crow flies. And I've driven it enough to know that it's a lot farther than 21 miles to center city. And although I don't know where the digital tower is, 34.5 is significantly farther than the 21.4 miles antennaweb says. In any event, it's certainly 20-30 miles (or more) away from me and in the same direction as the Roxborough antenna farm, even according to antennaweb (233°).
Now, I DO get KYW (3.1), and that's supposedly in the Roxborough antenna farm and 49.8 miles from me, according to antennaweb; although I do concede that it's right on the fringe of reception for me because sometimes it comes in and sometimes it doesn't. But mostly it does.
Google maps has me at 64.8 miles to Manayunk (about as close to "Roxborough" as I could get w/ Google maps), so if it's that far away, that's pretty impressive reception for me -- especially with a VHF antenna.
So I am encouraged. If I get a good antenna and put it outside, I should be able to get pretty much all of the Philly stations broadcasting with a decent signal strength and the appropriate PSIP and all that jazz.
Newsposter, I think I finally figured out what you've been telling me. I had gray bars on 3.1 pretty much all night last night and all morning this morning until the BB game started at 1:00, whereupon I got full screen reception. And, as you were saying, it's just an HD vs. SD thing. Anything broadcast (by 3.1) in SD has bars (don't know why some are gray and some are black) and anything broadcast (by 3.1) in HD is full screen. Zap2it confirmed that for me. Obviously, as you said, some commercials are HD and some (most) are SD.
Why I get no bars with SD broadcast by NJN remains a mystery, but I suppose there's a simple explanation. At this point, I'm more focused on getting all the digital channels I can than I am on gray or black bars. And as long as I can watch the football game this afternoon in fullscreen HD, I'm happy. Very happy.
Yea, I know I'm not really watching HD because I don't have an HD TV, but you know what I mean.
Now I have to spend even more $$ to get a new TV. Does it ever end?
But maybe the good news is that since as of this March all TV's will have to include a tuner in them, maybe non-tuner HD TV's will get cheaper? That'd be nice.