Wednesday, February 18, 2009

And the world did not end

Back from the road trip, 2600 miles later.

First, my thoughts on yesterday's anticlimactic DTV transition (for some of the country, anyway). While my reasons that most stations would go ahead and switch on 2/17 are still valid, it seems the major corporations and the FCC took the decision out of the station manager's hands.

Still, looking through the websites of newspapers where many stations made the transition yesterday it seems the problems were minimal based on the dearth of stories featuring old Aunt Millie and how she can't get "One Life To Live" anymore--it's just snow now. (Truth be told, Aunt Millie has had cable for years.)

Mid-June should be interesting, though. I'm in agreement with numerous experts in the field--if some folks weren't ready by yesterday they still won't be ready in June.

But on to other DTV-related stuff. I took the road trip as a great opportunity to see DTV in three different markets: Albuquerque, Phoenix, and Colorado Springs. I'm still in awe of the picture quality and enjoyed seeing the multiplexed channels. I also had fun switching back and forth between the analog and digital channels (fuzz/static/ghosting versus crystal-clear). No reception issues with the full-power channels, there was some drop-out with KAZT in Phoenix but they are a CA station with a lot less juice than their full-fledged neighbors on South Mountain. Still, I could aim the antenna just right and watch a little of the RTN network ("One Adam-12, one Adam-12"). The viewing in Colorado Springs was just about perfect--mainly due to our room location. Top floor, window facing the transmitter towers. (Hotels nowadays are notorious for interference probably due to the massive amount of RF needed for wireless communications and networking.)

That's all for now. I don't know when I'll take my laptop and DTV stick on the road next, but it shouldn't be too long.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Back in AZ, briefly

Finally, a chance to create a post. I've been busy the last several days with trip preparations, working, more trip prep, picking up the Girl Scout cookies my daughter already sold, and then there is the small matter of the jaunt itself. 1100 miles, 5 states, two days. (Sounds like that should be the title of a travelogue on the New York Times bestseller list.)

We are in the Phoenix area for a friend's wedding and since our time here is short there will no doubt be some friends/regular readers of this blog who will feel put out that we didn't see them. Sorry, but time and abilities are finite.

While Geogal and little Geoana are out taking advantage of the myriad of retailers available here I have some alone time here in the hotel room. Prime opportunity to check the radio dial to see who's doing what and which stations have changed format since my departure from these parts almost a year ago. (A law of broadcast communications: Frequencies usually stay the same but programming will always change.)

Then, of course, there is the fun of plugging in the DTV stick and watching the new, improved form of over-the-air television. First Albuquerque (where we made the first overnight stay), then Phoenix. I'm still in awe of the picture quality when I watch a high-def show (the Albuquerque stay offered the opportunity to watch "American Idol" in HDTV). And as before, I'm just using a simple rabbit ear antenna. Reception is a little more challenging in a hotel room but it's still possible. (Methinks it might soon be time to find a powered indoor antenna....)


What's it like to be back here after having been away for nearly a year (in my case) or at least many months (the Geo ladies)?

Surreal, in a word. Geogal and I hadn't even been here 24 hours before we were homesick for our friendly Kansas home. Yes there are more conveniences here but the downsides are too many to mention. No doubt we made the right decision to move away when we did.


Any other thoughts from the journey? A few.

Southeast Kansas and the Oklahoma panhandle are flat flat flat. (Leads one to think thoughts such as "Dear God, just kill me now.") Like the image most outsiders have of Kansas, but not a valid one when it comes to our northwest portion of the state.

Dalhart, Texas, is one friendly town.

Tucumcari, New Mexico, is a burg that has definitely seen better days.

The 75-miles-per-hour speed limit on Western interstates is a godsend.

Love's has the best coffee.

I should be extremely thankful, the Geofamily travels pretty well.

Albuquerque is slowly turning into Phoenix but El Pinto still has its rural charm. (The food ain't bad, either.)

Welcome to the Southwest: Snowy and 32 degrees in Flagstaff, but nary two hours later we're in the desert basking in 65-ish temps.

I'll still be glad to see my front door after all this is said and done.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

DTV viewing report, first one!

This afternoon I drove for an hour, found a place to park, then set out on a new phase in my over-the-air TV viewing.

I left my handheld TV at home, as this was the trial run for my Elgato EyeTV hybrid. I just took my Mac, the aforementiond DTV stick, and a set of rabbit ear antennas. Today's reception report comes from Holdrege, NE. I chose that town due to its relatively close (in a matter of speaking) location to my own home, its range to a variety of TV signals, and it has the transmitter for KLNE-TV just a few miles outside of town (although Lexington, not Holdrege, is the COL). Sometimes I think the residents of Holdrege could pick up KLNE on their fillings. But maybe not once the analog signal is shut off.

I set up the rabbit ears on top of my truck for the best unobstructed reception I could get in the area. (This town has a five or six-story building in the downtown area--one wonders what I could receive from that height.) I then went through the regimen of setting up a new device for the first time--detecting, going through the setup menu, then it was time for channel detection.

I was not disappointed. Two DTV channels: KLNE-DT (of course!--3-1, 3-2, and 3-3) and KGIN-DT (11-1 and 11-2). I also induced the auto scan to search for analog signals as well. No surprises: KLNE (3), KGIN (11), KHGI (13), plus some noise on UHF channel 20. (Holdrege apparently had a translator for KHAS-TV at one time on channel 14 but this seems to have since been turned off as the FCC query shows no TV licenses of any type for the town of Holdrege. I also never received any analog signal on channel 14 a few months ago when I used my handheld set to keep me apprised of the Texas-OU game.)

Channels 3-1 and 11-1 were broadcasting in HDTV, with the former showing the closing minutes of a Creighton University men's basketball game and the latter airing final round coverage of the FBR Open (from Scottsdale, AZ!!)

What can I say about the picture quality? Superlatives just don't seem sufficient enough. Once I got home and was telling Geogal about how well the stick worked, I summed up the experience in one word: "Wow." I went on to tell her that I think I could see the sweat droplets on on the basketball players, that's how good the definition was.

I'll be testing reception from Holdrege again, next time will be after the analog switch-off date. I hope to pick up KHGI-DT as they should be at full power and tower height by that time. And yes, I know The Big Game is today and it's ironic that I could not pull in a NBC affiliate this time around. However I don't think either NBC station in this area (KSNK or KHAS) is broadcasting in HDTV. But you never know--they might pull out all the stops for the Super Bowl.

Overall, though, I'm glad with the ease of use of the EyeTV stick and the picture quality of the Hi-Def broadcasts. Methinks I will get a lot of on-the-road enjoyment out of this combination.

Yes, it's time to make the pick

Cardinals or Steelers?

Remember last year, Major League Baseball? The Tampa Bay Rays? Worst to first in the AL? Sentimental favorites to win the World Series?

They didn't get the job done. End of the line for the postseason Cinderella story.

So my prognostication? Same fate for the Cardinals. Steelers will win big.