• Entertainment in the media-streaming era

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    By Susan Bradley Thinking about “cutting the cord”? While temporarily displaced from home, I learned that dropping cable and relying on the Internet i
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    • #1746041

      As someone who has worked with television equipment for most of my life, I need to correct a little bugbear of mine – there’s no such thing as a digital aerial/antenna. There is such a thing as a VHF or UHF aerial. If you live in an area where the digital transmissions are on a  different band to what the analogue ones were, then yes you need to replace the aerial. But, in other areas the channels have remained on their previous frequencies. It depends entirely on where you are.

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      • #1746460

        Yeah, there are still companies playing on those silly buzz words, and the masses keep falling for it.

        I’m still using an old set of rabbit ears for my TV.  It does look rather unique, 70’s era rabbit ear antennae sitting amongst all my digital A/V equipment.

        As far as using that “old contraption on the roof”.  Oh yes you absolutely can. I’ve done it.

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        • #1746693

          My “Old Contraption on the Roof” enables me to get both VHF & UHF stations from Baltimore, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Lancaster PA.  Of course I use an antenna rotor to get the PA stations.

          Have you seen the price of Tums? It's enough to give you heartburn.
      • #1749068

        However, the ATSC signals are very sensitive to antenna characteristics and local topography and weather conditions, in my experience. But folks shouldn’t concern ourselves with getting perfect ATSC reception now. In three years or so we will begin the transition to ATSC-3:



        Then we will embark on a whole new round of antenna issues, and probably networking, 5G Wireless (for Home Internet), Cloud DVR and Internet of Things (IoT) issues. We will long for the days when the exact orientation of our “digital” antennas was a relatively simple problem!

        -- rc primak

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        • #1759612

          Oh joy, all this change and annoyance because they’ve simply got to broadcast in 4K, Ultra High Definition, or what ever will be the rage then.  That’s what I’ve heard.

          Have you seen the price of Tums? It's enough to give you heartburn.
          • #1766314

            Charlie, it’s more than that. Television has for a long time been passive, that is, we could not interact with the show, the characters or the “showrunners” (producers) in real time. With ATSC-3 there can be an Internet or connected component, which makes some sort of two-way interaction possible. And there can also be streaming extras, perhaps on dot-channels, perhaps over the Internet. The broadcast standard is meant to offer more than just higher resolutions and better sound. Although, these are also major goals of the transition.

            On my 32-inch TV it won’t make any difference (except for interactive elements). But people who have a Wall of Video will notice serious improvements. And hopefully less signal drop-out than ATSC currently experiences.

            (If you’re wondering, ATSC-2 was being developed, but the delays in deployment of ATSC made the second generation obsolete before it was ever standardized.)

            -- rc primak

    • #1746203

      I’m on my third cable set-top box and it’s failing, so I’m getting ready to cut the cord after years of being overcharged by Time Warner/Spectrum.  I’ll keep and even upgrade their internet service, but the phone and TV go.

      You’re right, Susan.  It’s way more complicated than it should be.  The first thing I find is that the $30 amplified indoor/outdoor TV antenna pulls in only one of about six local stations if it is placed in a window facing them.  They are about twenty miles away and practically line of sight.  So this afternoon I am going to get out the extension ladder and see if placing the antenna higher brings better reception.

      We are starting to see lower-cost streaming plans (e.g., Philo among others) that offer entertainment but no sports channels or local news channels.  So apparently the local news will have to come over the air.  Spectrum now offers a lower-cost streaming plan that closely resembles Philo, but of course it is not available to existing customers.  If I try even to find out what the channel lineup is, their web site responds by thanking me for being a loyal customer.  (The notion of “loyalty” to a cable utility that only grudgingly serves part of the territory where it possesses a monopoly franchise granted by local government makes me grit my teeth.)  I had to find the lineup elsewhere.  In order to subscribe, I have to call Spectrum and cancel the existing service, or at least begin the process, at which point they are likely to pass me off one or more times to various customer-retention people who will waste my time trying to cajole me into staying with Spectrum and paying as much as possible.  Some customers have reported on the web that they were able to sign up for the new lower-cost plan, but only after a lot of this nonsense.  Apparently it’s up to the person on the other end of the call and thus depends partly on whether they are having a bad hair day.  Welcome to our brave new world.

      • This reply was modified 4 years, 6 months ago by wdburt1.
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    • #1746261

      Heh. I’m getting DVB-T2 on both VHF and UHF bands just fine with a single old analog-era aerial. It’s a large wideband log-periodic monster from ca. 1975, also catches FM radio.

      And I’m not even pointing the main lobe at the transmitter, since the UHF and VHF are from different companies and 15 miles apart – I’m catching UHF on one of the left sidelobes and VHF on the right…

      Then, I bought a Linux-supported DVB-T2 USB receiver and installed tvheadend. Can control the receiver and watch either live or saved content from the home LAN.

      And then, I bought a smarter DSL modem with VPN server capability, so I can get on the home LAN while on the move.

      And about when I had all that ready, the ISP offered me a package deal with discounts on mobile data for the whole family and all, and a ‘net TV package complete with mobile apps, “cloud storage” (hey, they can dedup and only save each program once for all their customers) and all. And it even seems to work. So, given how much space even H.264-encoded 1080p takes on disk…

      Oh well. Don’t even watch much TV myself… spouse and kids do though.

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    • #1746555

      Blame the editor for that one. I remember back in the day a big campaign to get digital converters out to everyone with a then-standard analog TV. But at that time, you could use the same antenna, I believe. Somehow, that got twisted in my mind to requiring a special antenna for HDTV. In any case, most of the old antennas on roofs probably not going to work. The wires have long since been cut or corroded. And if the antenna still has the flat wires, you need something to adapt them to coax for HDTVs, and you might need an attenuator, according to what I read online.

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      • #1749069

        However, with a bit of ingenuity and cleaning, most of those older rooftop antennas can be used. When ATSC-3 comes along, the story may change again. And we will need new monitors (for higher resolutions) and new converter boxes or new receivers.

        -- rc primak

    • #1746600

      Quite right.  In most places, a UHF-only antenna with good, bright metal connections (waterproofed if outdoors) to a balun (impedance transformer) and then to good-quality coax of recent vintage, will do the job.  Most common these days are the log periodic antennas (the kind that looks like a fish skeleton).  However, if the antenna and feedline have been outdoors for a number of years, it might be worth replacing them if you still need a rooftop antenna.

      If the antenna is in your attic, it will last indefinitely.

      If you are within 20 miles or so of your local TV transmitters, first try an indoor flat panel antenna with an amplifier.  The antenna is around 10″ square and sticks to a window or wall.  My preferred brand is Winegard.  The best place to stick it is so a flat side faces the TV transmitters, preferably on a window facing that way.  Try moving the antenna around in 6-inch increments, and rotate it 90 degrees, to find a good spot.  Save the receipt, however: if it doesn’t work, take it back and get UHF log periodic antenna (see above).

      Two possible other considerations:

      There are a few cities around the country where some station still transmits on VHF.  That’s the case here in Dallas, TX.   In this case, you will need an antenna that is labeled for both VHF and UHF.  Your old, pre-digital antenna is probably one of those.   So is a rabbit ears antenna.

      If you are really close to a TV transmitter (less than 5 miles or so),  you might even need to downgrade your antenna to a less sensitive one, or you might need to put an attenuator in the feedline.  But most current-generation TV’s and amplifiers can handle even very strong signals without a problem, so this is a rare problem.

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    • #1746630

      Hello Susan,

      I have over the years left town for months at a time and ran into the same issues. We had cable TV at home, but I had to learn how to watch my shows while in a different state.

      Then I had to move out of that house because my friend got a woman, and Iaam now renting a room in a house with two other older fellows. If we did cable tv, it would require a DVR cable box and 2 “all home” cable boxes that could watch the shows recorded on the DVR. We are all three living on social security and the cost of cable TV is too much. However, we have Spectrum 100Gbps internet and it services all three of us streaming at the same time with no issues.

      Because we are in Los Angeles, the roommate who has been here for 35 years has the antenna working and gets many stations over the air including many side band channels, plus he has Roku with my Netflix for streaming.

      Since I have spent so much time away from home streaming, I now can’t stand regular TV with all of the adds, and even don’t like fast forwarding the DVR around the adds. I can’t be bothered.
      So my solution is streaming to my computer monitor (I have three monitors) and I don’t have to invest in any ROKU or other equipment or services for them. The three monitors are for my part time consulting work, so they don’t count as equipment costs to watch streaming.

      I have Amazon Prime at a lower rate (6.56) because of my Medi-Cal (Medicaid) for disability, Netflix (12.99), HULU no ads (11.99), and CBS All Access no ads (9.99). To help me afford all this I turn off CBS All Access from June to December, and HULU Jul to Oct. Total Yearly cost $402.45 or $33.54/month prorated.

      I get my news online by – wait for it – reading. Further, there are many newspaper one can buy digital subscriptions too. I would if I could afford it.

      My biggest issue is I can’t watch the Lakers. I have tried to VPN into the network at the old place, with my friend’s permission of course, and then logged into his Spectrum Cable TV online WEB service to watch the Lakers, but their system caught that I was out of area. My next attempt is to install a mini computer there that I can Remote Desktop Control through the VPN so Spectrum will see its locations is the service address. I am still a few pieces away from that build.

      Spectrum did offer us a pick five channels plus the local channels and a few other basic channels for $30/month or $10 each, that would allow us to stream them through their web app, but they would not allow spectrum Sports Net. No Lakers, no deal!

      • #1749086

        Total Yearly cost $402.45 or $33.54/month prorated.

        Plus the cost of getting caught pirating Cable from someone else’s equipment. They could lose their ability to use Spectrum if you get caught.

        And how much is the Internet-only service costing you on top of your stated monthly costs?

        -- rc primak

    • #1747140

      One issue with “cutting the cord” that I have but have not seen mentioned here already: higher monthly payments to the ISP.

      In my own experience, not because my ISP “Verizon” is going to charge more for streaming videos in lieu of watching TV, but because that will mean changing my package of services, and without the cable TV I’ll have, in fact to cancel the old deal and buy a more expensive one with my remaining options. Strange, right?

      I live in an apartment’s building serviced only by Verizon’s fiber-optics “FIOS” (in my case with a 75 Mb connection) for everything: Internet, TV and land-line phone (yes, I still use that for making and receiving certain calls, rather than my cell-phone). 75 Mb/s is more than I really need, but it was a free upgrade from what I actually need, so…

      If I wanted to move to a package with just the other two items, the monthly payments will go up by more than ten dollars, even if I went back to the 50 Mb/s rate I really need. Maybe others have encountered this issue already. I any case, before “cutting the cord”, if, as in my case, TV is bundled with other things by the ISP,  it might be an idea to look into what the new package from this ISP might cost once sans TV, before going ahead with that.

      Ex-Windows user (Win. 98, XP, 7); since mid-2017 using also macOS. Presently on Monterey 12.15 & sometimes running also Linux (Mint).

      MacBook Pro circa mid-2015, 15" display, with 16GB 1600 GHz DDR3 RAM, 1 TB SSD, a Haswell architecture Intel CPU with 4 Cores and 8 Threads model i7-4870HQ @ 2.50GHz.
      Intel Iris Pro GPU with Built-in Bus, VRAM 1.5 GB, Display 2880 x 1800 Retina, 24-Bit color.
      macOS Monterey; browsers: Waterfox "Current", Vivaldi and (now and then) Chrome; security apps. Intego AV

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      • #1749100

        This is exactly what I was questioning about the post by @rafisher1.

        Folks who brag about how much they are saving on streaming services vs. ISP bundles rarely factor in the increased cost of Internet-only services, and the monthly data caps, if any. Once you unbundle services, costs change for individual items.

        -- rc primak

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        • #1761172

          Oh yes, have to pay attention to the bundle pricing and service terms.

          Over here with affordable unmetered mobile data and typical service terms not restricting people to the ISP’s own services, it may make sense to for example buy fixed-line ‘net from one provider and then a mobile + ‘net-TV bundle from another… and then an IP-ATA box and “landline area” VoIP subscription from a third provider.

          It’s more typical that just the last two is the optimum for value/money though… in THIS geographical area.

      • #1751629

        In my experience, the provider companies would much, much rather that you signed up for a “triple play” package than that you picked-and-chose, say, your cable TV from one provider and your Internet and phone from another provider. It’s sometimes cheaper to buy all three types of service in a bundle than to buy even a single one.

        One time we were considering making the switch to Verizon because Comcast was asking for over $200 a month for the TV service tier we wanted. When the time came to renew or drop their service, I called Comcast to talk about this bundling thing. The customer rep even went as far as to say that we could sign up for the Triple Play but we wouldn’t have to install the phone or Internet service. And he was right, it would have cost us less to pay for Comcast phone and Internet and not use them (staying on Verizon for that), than to keep paying for Comcast cable TV only.


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    • #1751495

      Regarding a digital antenna… Antennas by nature are passive devices and there is NO Digital. The ATSC signal is digital just a stream of 0’s and 1’s you either get it or you don’t in which error correction or concealment take place, a coat hanger could work just as well…  It would also be incorrect to assume an amplified antenna is better than a non-amplified. If you are receiving a strong enough signal all it would be doing is amplifying noise and interfering with the desired signal. To improve weak reception go with an outdoor antenna, the higher the better.

      Regarding different markets, I live in between Tucson and Phoenix, if I position my antenna just right I get both  markets I thought that would be cool but as it turns out since everything is network all I get is twice as many of the same stations with the exception of local news… why bother?

    • #1765471

      Hey thanks for that link in your article on how to get onto XFINITY Wi-Fi (https://www.xfinity.com/support/articles/about-xfinity-wifi-internet?mc_cid=eaca26392f&mc_eid=5cb443b7ff)!

      I’ve spent hours in the past trying to get someone at Comcast to tell me how to do this but they either didn’t understand what I was asking (typical overseas people who understand English but don’t really ‘understand’) or else just the typical untrained support people who don’t understand technology other than how to press the reset button.

      BTW: One advantage Comcast has over AT&T is that they have this Wi-Fi network and hotspots.  AT&T doesn’t seem to have anything similar.

    • #1765835

      I never liked the Xfinity idea, there always seemed to be a possibility that the router could be compromised via a guest connection, however Comcast has claimed that the routers subscriber is NOT being charged for ‘guest’ bandwidth usage. In a high usage situation if one suspects congestion disabling the service would be the way to go.
      See https://www.xfinity.com/support/articles/xfinity-wifi-hotspots

      Will the homeowner be accountable for visitors’ activities and data usage on the Wireless Gateway?
      No. The homeowner is not accountable for visitors’ activities and data usage. Visitors are accountable for their own usage based on their Xfinity WiFi Hotspot eligibility.

      RE digital TV
      I am sure that if one lives in a city or in close proximity OTA would be feasible but the coverage area of digital is much smaller than the area covered by the old analog signals, if you can get it its great I am sure for me in suburbia in the upper left hand corner of westchester 50 miles from NYC and maybe another 10 for a tower it is a no go. I know I spent a day making an antenna and got zilch. 🙂


      Just because you don't know where you are going doesn't mean any road will get you there.
    • #1765838

      And of course for VPN you can always setup your own (capable) home router as a VPN server, maybe slower but more secure than open wifi


      Just because you don't know where you are going doesn't mean any road will get you there.
    • #1791018

      I repurposed a 19-inch flat screen monitor bought by my dad via the World-Wide Web (I do not recall motoring him to a store to physically get it.). He got it cheaply because it was one of the last televisions manufactured without digital tuning capacity. Westinghouse, its manufacturer, was reprimanded by the Federal Communications Commission for not sufficiently heralding its eventual obsolescence. I thus also recycled the Insignia NS-DXA1-APT digital television converter box. (This was bought at Best Buy.) Merely connecting the DTV box to the TV set brought no channels. I needed to obtain an antenna. There are a lot of antennas available out here. Some of them cost a good deal of money. But, here at the abode, I have a very good view facing the broadcast tower. So I ordered a ’50 mile’ flat antenna for $4.09 from a purveyor on Bonanza.
      In order to have it also work with my IView-103DV all region DVD player, I needed a particular YPbPr RCA cable with males on both ends. I attempted to find it in either Best Buy or Target, both of which were at the Harlem-Irving Plaza in Norridge. Neither had it in stock. So, it was back to Bonanza for this specific connector. It was found there selling for $3.25.
      The DTV box is red-white-yellow into the TV set; the TV antenna is into the ‘IN’ screw-in plug on the DTV box; the DVD player is red-green-blue into the TV set.
      The DTV remote was selected to find channels. It pulled in seventy-seven channels. These include the digital subchannels. Of course, many of these are duplicates, or shopping channels. But there are intriguing discoveries. WGBO-TV channel 66 is the Univision Spanish language channel. Its digital subchannels are in English. Then for the DVD player, I had to find the video menu and change its video standard to P-Scan. It worked. I now have all the video options I need, for a total outlay of $7.34.
      Period. Not per month. 😀

      EDITED formatting

      Important links you can use, without the monetization pitch = https://pqrs-ltd.xyz/bookmark4.html
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