?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Digital doo-doo - MoonScape [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
e_moon60

[ website | My Website ]
[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

Digital doo-doo [Feb. 16th, 2009|12:17 pm]
e_moon60
[Tags|]
[Current Mood |frustrated]

I am fortunate in having a spouse who is more patient and determined than I am when faced by situations that do not match the ones in the installation manual.

The converter box is now "installed" (e.g. sitting precariously on the curved top of) on the TV.   I bailed on the process early on, since the jacks on the TV were fewer in number than the directions said we should have, the remote wouldn't do anything (even after a battery change) and I had had a negative feeling about the whole digital conversion process from the get-go, probably exuding enough negativity to knock out power in a mile radius.

I dislike the whole "Oh, we're upgrading and you're going to be so much happier" attitude.   No, I won't.  I'm going to lose the functions I care about--the ones I find most useful and enjoyable--and acquire functions I didn't want in the first place and have no need for, all so  you (the mythical "you" who thought this up) can feel clever and forward-thinking.   It happened with computer software, with where the controls are on automobiles, and of course consumer electronics of all kinds.  

Yes, I have a love-hate relationship with the digital world...I like it fine when it does what I want it to do, and I hate it when someone decides that it should no longer do what I want it to do but should do what they think I should want it to do instead.  

Am I a stick in the mud?   No, I'm a tree in the mud, trying to grow faster than the water rises and continue to flower and fruit at the top.    

LinkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: martianmooncrab
2009-02-16 06:51 pm (UTC)
I still have my original Nintendo. It works just fine.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: entp2007
2009-02-16 07:10 pm (UTC)
I never understood the rush to force everyone to go to digital TV. When FM radio came along AM radio didn't go away. It would have OK if the FCC only converted half upper spectrum to digital and left the lower analog channels alone (2-13). I'm glad the Obama administration postponed the deadline for the transition, but I'd rather have the whole issue revisited and have the FCC put the public airwaves accessible to the public and not controlled by corporations and special interests.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: kengr
2009-02-17 12:56 am (UTC)
Thing is, the DTV changeover is driven not by "improving TV" that's a *side effect*.

It's driven by the need for more bandwidth, and analog TV signals are bandwidth hogs.

AM and FM radio don't use the same frequencies. Digital and analog TV *do*. Also, the AM radio band isn't really much use for anything else. The TV channels are in the prime area for public safety (police/fire/ambulance) and cell phone type services.

Keeping the 2-13 range as analog wouldn't help all that much. Too many stations in the more heavily populated areas that *can't* be crammed into that few channels without interfering with each other.

Add in the frequencies used by the digital channels and it won't work.
Also, the transition was postponed once already. It was originally scheduled for Dec 31, 2007. But the manufacturers were happily turning out analog only TVs, and retailers selling them without a hint that the changeover was coming.

Hell, I'd been *looking* for converter boxes since 2004 or so. And the only ones I could find were several hundred dollar units that were an after thought on Satellite TV tuners.

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: entp2007
2009-02-17 03:57 am (UTC)
I understand that AM and FM don't use the same frequencies, but my point is still valid. I'm referring to the technology and bandwidth. They could reserve the VHF frequencies for analog and the UHF for digital. The bandwidth could be allocated differently and still achieve their stated goals.

I don't buy this argument about public safety. Whenever someone says they are doing something for the public benefit especially a politician, I have to take it with a grain of salt.

I grew up with four televisions stations and I did not suffer for want of TV entertainment. I won't feel deprived if the number of channels over the air were reduced to an equal number now. Nor do I feel particularly better off because I have over a hundred channels to choose from on cable.

I'm not going to propose a different reallocation of spectrum for analog TV, digital TV, and public safety frequencies, but I know that it can be done. There are some significant issues with the conversion that are technical such as multipath interference, not to mention the environmental impact of all those discarded TVs. I do understand a little about spectrum and radio technology. The issue should be about what is the best use of the public airwaves, the technical issues are secondary.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: jhetley
2009-02-16 07:14 pm (UTC)
Hope you have better digital coverage than we do in Maine. A large number of rural people are finding themselves without broadcast signals, even with rooftop antenna systems that had worked well on analog. We get drop-outs and freezes even right in town.

To be rude about it, the system sucks. Only excuses I can see for it, is a federal frequency grab for the auction bucks, and more promotion of cable and dish TV.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: kengr
2009-02-17 01:02 am (UTC)
It's not just the auction bucks. It's that there really *isn't* any more usable spectrum for various things. The frequencies above microwaves just aren't practical for most things.

The ones below TV are either already allocated or not usable for mobile installations (when you need a six foot or longer antenna...)

Analog TV wasted bandwidth. Better signals could be crammed into less space. So it took the bullet.

For digital you have to worry more about antenna selectivity. And since the stations are on different frequencies than they were for the analog signal the old antenna may not be a proper match for the new signal.

I can get decent signals on an old set top antenna, but I have to re-orient the damned thing between the two stations I watch the most.

I also have to turn *down* the gain (it's an amplified antenna) when switching from 8 to 6.

Edited at 2009-02-17 01:03 am (UTC)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: jhetley
2009-02-17 02:34 am (UTC)
I've held an FCC amateur radio license for nearly 50 years now, and taught TV transmitting and receiving equipment in the army. Somewhat familiar with frequency allocations and bandwidth requirements . . .

The majority of the TV analog spectrum was not used by broadcasters. Adjacent VHF channels were not assigned in the same physical location and most UHF channels were never assigned outside of major metropolitan areas. Frequency-hopping technology has advanced to the point where digital data transmission could coexist with other uses even within already-assigned spectrum.

But instead, we have removed a service from people who previously had it. We've known for years that some rural areas would not get reception of the new signals, where they had previously had usable signals.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: mirtlemist
2009-02-16 07:33 pm (UTC)
Another tree here :) That's one of the biggest gripes I have about 'upgrading' - things never seem to work as well as they once did. The toaster oven we bought makes horrible toast, the coffee machine breaks down with quantum speed and constantly needs replaced, and it was impossible to replace my old clock radio when it gave up the ghost unless I wanted pink frou-frous on it. And don't even get me started on what to do with the unwanted gadgets when they break.

Okay, I admit it. I resist change, especially when it isn't for the better. It brings out the curmudgeon in me.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: 6_penny
2009-02-16 08:11 pm (UTC)
And because they insist that having a clock radio means one wants to play a cd, and doesn't care about the radio the reception couldn't be worse if I dropped the whole thing in the toilet.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: mirtlemist
2009-02-16 09:17 pm (UTC)
lol. Exactly!
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: lighthawk
2009-02-16 08:51 pm (UTC)
Personally, I think the digital signal is a scam. The signal is weaker and range less, I believe. I also believe it frees up bandwidth, but I'm not certain how.

But either way, using a digital signal on the airwaves really doesn't do anyone with an antenna a lick of good. It won't improve quality in any way. :(
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: janetmk
2009-02-17 10:53 am (UTC)
Er, that's not my experience using a rabbit-ear antenna.

I replaced my unwatched-in-years 1985 TV with a small digital TV a year and a half ago. Until that purchase I was totally unaware of the upcoming conversion. The quality of the digial picture over the airwaves is so much better than the corresponding analog channels. The local PBS digital channel has four subchannels and I've enjoyed the variety.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-02-17 07:01 pm (UTC)
Experience varies. Yours being different does not invalidate mine, or anyone else's, nor does ours invalidate yours.

I was quite happy with the picture quality of analog TV in my location with my in-house rabbit ears.

I am NOT quite happy with the picture quality of digital TV in my location, inasmuch as stations breaking up instead of being maybe a little fuzzier makes them unwatchable (and unlistenable, too, since the audio breaks up as well.)

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: janetmk
2009-02-17 08:58 pm (UTC)
Of course. I was responding to another person's comment that stated as a fact: "...using a digital signal on the airwaves really doesn't do anyone with an antenna a lick of good. It won't improve quality in any way."

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2009-02-16 10:30 pm (UTC)

I don't know if it will make you feel any better, but...

I work for a tv station, and as of tomorrow we'll shut off the analog signal. I'm not directly involved with the conversion, but I've been witness to the entire 10 year process. Normally I wouldn't respond to a post like this, but I hold your books in sufficient regard to want to help assuage your frustration.

The FCC basically had to mandate a conversion or simple inertia among broadcasters and the public would have prevented it from ever happening. Kind of like the change from leaded gas to unleaded. Without a conversion the broadcasting infrastructure in this country would be stuck in the 50's. If for no other reason than reduced power consumption that should be desirable.

With regards to the coverage issue, those should go away after the conversion. Most stations are operating their digital signal at reduced power and have to petition the FCC to increase it. For any station there are significant power costs involved in increasing transmission power, so they want to manage it as cost-effectively as possible. To give you a real-world number, this station's power consumption will drop from $45,000 per MONTH to around $25K when we shut off the analog transmitters.

I admit to not remembering the specifics, but one of our broadcast guys told me that a chunk of the freed up frequency space will be dedicated to the improvement of first-responder communication, so that's a benefit to the society as a whole, if not each person specifically.

As far as the extension goes, it's mainly window-dressing to make it look like something useful was done. Every market has been planning for a February switch-over, and despite the claim that there were no more coupons available, there is plenty of money left in that fund due to people not using them after requesting them. (They have a 90 day expiration date.) The number of people who will be impacted by the removal of analog signals at this point is so vanishingly small a percentage that it's statistically insignificant.

I will say that IMO the digital picture is significantly better than the analog, but much like the binary world it's based on, when it's not there, it's really not there. There's no slow degradation as the signal weakens as the picture dissolves into white fuzziness, it's just a blue screen signifying nobody's home.

I hope some day you'll be able to see HD tv over-the-air, and appreciate the improvement over SD analog. By then maybe the current pain will just be a fuzzy memory, like the almost-there NBC signal of my youth.

Bill

(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: entp2007
2009-02-16 11:48 pm (UTC)

Re: I don't know if it will make you feel any better, but...

As I said in my above comment, AM radio didn't go away when FM came along even though FM is better quality. The FCC didn't have to require all the stations go digital. And they'd still free up spectrum for this dubious argument about public safety. As if the 2005 Republican controlled Congress cared about public safety.

A better quality digital signal does a consumer no good if they are out of range of the new signal when the old analog signal still reached them. Also, the savings by the broadcaster doesn't necessarily translate into savings for the consumer. They have to buy a new TV or converter box.

Estimates of 2-9 million people losing TV reception is not statistically insignificant.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2009-02-17 01:52 am (UTC)

Re: I don't know if it will make you feel any better, but...

There was never an AM to FM conversion, but if there had been it would have been mandated by the FCC. The difference between AM and FM on a signal basis is fairly minor, whereas the difference between a digital television signal and an analog is like the difference between ENIAC and a PC. They both do roughly the same thing, but they are light-years apart in how they work. With such a conversion it's either everyone does it or no one does it. If you make it optional, then everyone will opt not to do it because it is a MASSIVE capital outlay. You can't make it market driven because none of the manufacturers are going to make tv's that are digital ready if there's no one broadcasting in it because no one is going to pay more for a tv that can receive something no one is providing. The only way it would happen was if the FCC mandated it.

I'm not sure what your comment about the congress is supposed to mean since we've been working on the digital conversion since 1999. Details are a little fuzzy but I suppose that might be when they finally set the date. Trust me, that just put the nail in the coffin, it didn't start the process.

If the consumer can get an analog signal today, and they're within the station's declared service area, then they will be able to get the digital signal once it goes to maximal power. If you're in the fringe bleed-over area of a service, then you may not get a picture all the time, but unlike the analog signal you'll either get a good solid picture or you won't get anything. Fuzzy pictures just don't show up. If you ARE within the declared service area, and you can't get a signal, call the station and tell them (nicely.) They have to have feedback so they can go to the FCC to get approval for more power.

My point about power savings was more of a societal, environmental, resource conservation observation than a pass along the savings point, since consumers don't pay anything towards the power costs of the broadcasters. Even at full cost a $40-$60 converter box isn't that big of an expense, and you can get a $20 coupon so that everyone can subsidize your tv watching. If you're truly destitute and can't afford that much for a tv converter box you're probably better off with a library card than a tv as books are much more likely to help you in the long run.

If there are 9 million people who lose their signal when things go off, I'll be surprised, but even so that's less than 3% of the total population (estimated 305M according the population clock). At 2 million that's less than 1%. It's impossible to reduce that number to zero, even if you give people 10 years because there will always be SOMEONE that doesn't do anything until they have to. I work in I.T. and that's just a fact of life that we see time and again with password changes.

I have officially broken my policy of not commenting on blogs twice today, although I fear it is to little benefit. I guess if Ms. Moon finds it at all beneficial then it was worth it, if not well they're only ones and zeros, there are more where they came from. :-)

Bill
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: entp2007
2009-02-17 04:18 am (UTC)

Re: I don't know if it will make you feel any better, but...

See my latest comment to kengr above about AM and FM. My point is still valid. One technology does not need to be discarded in favor of another when the old technology is still good and the new can accommodate it. We could reallocate the spectrum in such away to keep a few over the air analog channels and still have plenty of digital channels and public safety frequencies available.

The number of people that could be losing broadcast tV was just an estimate. I don't know how many could be out in the dark. Not that that's a bad thing, but with the delay that number will go down. I honestly don't care how about capital outlay. I care about what is the best use of the public airwaves. My complaint has little do with the technical issues behind the conversion but the political reasons. I do not see that the public is best served by it.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-02-17 07:11 pm (UTC)

Re: I don't know if it will make you feel any better, but...

I should've put a rant warning and a reminder of rant rules up front: I'm not happy with the changeover for reasons that matter to me, and your opinion that it's better for stations, and better for most users, does not change the fact that my TV viewing is now worse than it was before I put the converter box on.

Spending the money for the converter box was not something I really wanted to do. Spending the time to get it hooked up and running was not something I really wanted to do. Dealing with two remotes instead of one (because only the old remote turns the TV off and on and controls the volume; the converter box remote controls the converter box off and on and the channels...) is not something I really wanted to do.

The slight (very slight) improvement in picture quality on stations that still work is offset by the break-up of signal from the stations I used to watch easily. Balancing this new stuff on top of the TV (which does not have a flat top) is tricky at best--attempting to move the antenna to pick up a station in break-up mode means that both pieces can slide off the top of the TV. A pair of extra tentacles would be helpful about then, but I have only two hands. The converter box has a bright (BRIGHT) blue light that two layers of tape over does not dim enough to make sleep possible in the same room. (Last night I draped thick black cloth over it. It *still* shone through, a very determined little blue moon.)

From my point of view, I've been forced to spend money and time so that I can get worse reception, deal with two remotes instead of one, and be glared at by the stupid blue light. This is not a happy trade-off.

Digital may do wonderful things for the government (which certainly made money selling bandwith) and the television stations and some viewers--but it's not doing one darn thing for me. So I'm not thrilled. And I don't want anyone trying to jolly me into being thrilled by telling me how good it is for someone else. Lucky you, lucky stations...not lucky me.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: jhetley
2009-02-17 08:56 pm (UTC)

Re: I don't know if it will make you feel any better, but...

Check to see if your new remote can be programmed to control the TV set power. Ours can, for two different brands of TV. You have to step through a series of codes until you find the one that works, but that's a one-time PITA.

Wife put cardboard over the stupid blue light on hers . . .
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: mmegaera
2009-02-17 12:02 am (UTC)
So am I. The TV conversion isn't going to affect me (I have bare bones cable because an antenna is impractical where I live), but I am currently fighting a losing battle in another forum over ebooks. They don't understand why I think the way things stand with ebooks now is a bunch of crock, I don't understand why they put up with all the problems that ebooks have, and resent not having access to e-only material because of all the problems with ebooks. Technology, I have come to understand, is a losing battle, and I'm tired of being on the wrong end of the war.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: kengr
2009-02-17 01:06 am (UTC)
On the other hand, I've seen stuff that was good go away because (I can only assume) the "average user" was too dumb to use it.

GE "Great Awakening" clock radio. Had a 10 key pad to enter the time, and the frequencies for the stations you wanted to program into memory.

I loved it. But apparently it flopped because they idea hasn't been seen since.

I loathe having to hold down button to cycle thru times. Especially if I need to go backwards.

But yeah, the removal of neat functions and addition of WTF? functions is due to marketing to the dumb folks.


(Reply) (Thread)
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-02-17 06:06 am (UTC)
I was getting several channels perfectly well with analog and rabbit-ears: two PBS stations (one in Austin, one in Killeen/Copperas Cove), five Austin commercial stations (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, that other one--WB?), and a Spanish language Univision channel. Occasionally, in high winds, one or more would be a bit wonky, but on the whole they functioned very well and I certainly did not need more channels or an outdoor antenna.

Now I have more channels but dicier reception. The northern PBS station--physically the closest--is now three stations (two identical, one mostly-military) is the worst. One of the Austin stations (36) is unreliable, breaking up now and then, often enough to be annoying. 24 (KVUE) appears to be completely stable, both its main channel and its all-weather-voice. I don't watch Fox anyway, so the fact that it looked OK as I skimmed past it means nothing. The other Austin network station, 42, now has a second channel for something called "Retro Network", shows I didn't watch when they were on in the first place. The Austin PBS station's two channels might be interesting, as the alternate channel called "Create" seems to be foodie, craft, and gardening shows. I don't know if they'll put Central Texas Gardener on that channel (they should, as all the other garden shows are written for climates very unlike ours.)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: jhetley
2009-02-17 01:26 pm (UTC)
We also get break-up and freezing on stations that used to be rock-solid. As far as I can tell, the new digital format is more susceptible to "multi-path" interference, where you actually get two different signals from the same source but one is direct and the other reflected. The time lag between the direct and reflected signal causes the interference. On analog signals, this caused occasional "ghosting" and wasn't that intrusive. Now, it causes total loss of usable signal.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: sophielandon
2009-02-17 03:52 pm (UTC)
We had serious doubts about the whole conversion thing after the TimeWarner/NBC kerfuffle a few months back. We're big Jeopardy addicts, and it didn't seem right that we should be without. Upshot of trips to Fry's and Radio Shack was that reception was poor to non-existent, even though we're about three miles away from the transmission tower, and would be in line of sight except for a couple of mature junipers. Admitted, we were using an indoor antenna, but still ...
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)