Back in Baton Rouge, I had purchased an antenna for tuning over the air (OTA) stations. It didn’t get a lot of use as we were pretty established in our usage of Netflix (and video games) to provide our evening entertainment. That’s roughly the way things are now as well. We’ve added Amazon Prime and I’ve invested a good bit of time moving our TV series over to Plex. Yet there are times when you would like to have a live TV feed that allows you watch a specific news or sports event. It was because of this that I decided to setup the OTA antenna here in our new home.
I installed the antenna in the attic of our 2 story home (I would estimate that it is close to 30 ft. above ground level). I also purchased a SiliconDust HDHomeRun Connect device which is basically a network TV tuner. The antenna connects to the HDHomeRun tuner via coaxial cable and the HDHomeRun connects to our wired network with a cat6 cable (RJ45). With this current location of the antenna, I was able to pick up about 65 stations. I setup Plex DVR to use the HDHomeRun as a tuner and within minutes I had the program guide available (along with the ability to schedule recordings of any of the shows). SiliconDust also has a universal windows app for viewing live TV on Windows 10 and on the Xbox One. It was working remarkable well, but I noticed that I wasn’t receiving PBS (which has some good history shows).
A little digging revealed that the local PBS affiliate uses the VHF band for the signal. When I purchased the antenna, almost all HD stations were on the UHF band so the antenna didn’t receive the VHF spectrum. Fortunately ClearStream has a retrofit kit that added the reception of VHF and provided an integrated adapter to put the two signals together. That did the trick. It bumped the station count from 65 to over 90 (including PBS). One final adjustment to get it pointed directly at the primary location of the TV stations and I was all done.
I wish I knew how many conversations that I have had that were broken apart by discussions of current events. I’m not talking about local events, but either national or international events. It seems that people get very passionate about the topics and headlines that they watch on cable news networks. It’s the sort of thing that fills up the news feed on Facebook (and perhaps Google+ if that’s your thing). I know that it contributes to my avoidance of FB for sure.
All of the talk and rehashing and nothing ever gets settled or fixed. The cable news networks love that. They are selling advertising and the stories that make people the most angry (or frustrated) are the ones that will keep bringing you back. This isn’t just a left or right situation either. Old Murdock finally got wise to the idea and carved out the niche on the right. It’s the opposite story from the other networks, but the game is the same. Keeping them coming back so that can sell advertising.
I broke the news cycle a few years back, but I haven’t yet been able to disconnect from others that do watch it. Had a telemarketer gasp in horror ( or perhaps humor) as I told them that I didn’t watch TV and didn’t have an interest in Contour or any other media product they were selling. Please don’t take my internet though. Seriously, don’t even try. Now that I’m off the news addiction, I see what an impact it has on those around me. In reality, I don’t see a way to really affect that situation either. They’ll either learn or continue the habit. Either way, there aren’t any solutions in the news cycle. You only get more problems.
You want to fix a problem? Vote consistently and bring a few with you. Go volunteer within a service organization (there are churches that have some great programs to reach those with needs). Oh, there will still be problems, but you’ll feel so much better about the ones that you actually affected. Just fix a few of those problems and it’ll at least make you feel better (unlike the news cycle).
In my first post on the topic, I looked at accessing the “over the air” HDTV signal in our area. That went pretty well. That brought me to the next question, how will we get the shows that aren’t on the “free TV” channels (ex. Mythbusters). Not only do we need them in a timely fashion, but also we need to be able to see them from all over the house. Oh, and it needs to be easy enough for a child to access (as easy as Netflix).
Step Two – Verify that we can access purchased media from different locations around the house.
The biggest source of content (shows and movies) for the family is Netflix. We have both the streaming and the movie subscriptions. With that we have most of the content from previous years. The current season of shows aren’t on Netflix though, so we need another way to see shows from the current season (the next day after they air on the TV). The first things that came to mind were iTunes and the Xbox Video Marketplace.
The problem with iTunes is that we don’t have an all Apple ecosystem. We do have an iPhone and an iPad, but no Mac computers or Apple TVs. Even the two Apple devices that we have are linked to different iTunes accounts. In the past, people would use the same account on all devices. With iCloud, you need separate accounts so that your email and calendars don’t get mixed up.
The problem with XBox Video Marketplace is also that the content will be tied to a specific account and you can’t have simultaneous logins on different XBoxes at the same time. This is definitely something that Apple, Google and Microsoft will have to figure out if they want their ecosystems to flourish.
One company that isn’t dependent on their hardware is Amazon. They do have the Kindle, but it isn’t so popular that they refuse to allow access from other devices. Just the opposite is true. They provide Amazon Instant Video clients for the XBox, PS3, Computer, Kindle, Blu-ray players and Smart TVs. They also have season passes (show ready next day after airing on TV) for most popular shows. Another option from Amazon is their Prime subscriptions. This bundles a set of TV shows & movies with an ebook library and free 2 day shipping for $79 per year. I don’t think it provides enough value for us yet, but we could easily pay for it with the savings from cancelling cable.
There may be other options out there (Vudu comes to mind), but Amazon Instant Video library should do the trick for us. It’s cheap enough and easily accessible.
We’ve always been cable cheapskates and have had only the low-end package. Due to a recent increase in our rate, we’ve decided to cut that out as well. It’s not all about the money. I also like the idea that we aren’t going to be subsidizing things that we really dislike. You could say that I’m voting with my dollars. So the process begins to map out a way to get the content we want in a way that can be easily distributed around the house.
Step One – Verify that I can receive local DTV over the air.
The first thing I needed to determine was the location of the location of the local stations relative to our house. I wanted to be able to at least pick up the 4 major networks and the public broadcaster (LPB in this case). That would cover a lot of the event related content as well as several kids series that we like. AntennaWeb and TVFool are just two of several sites that provide information about TV broadcasters in your area as well as recommendations for antenna types needed to receive signals from them. You can see the attached graphic that shows the directions. Without a compass on my phone, this information helped me get it close. For fine tuning a particular station (since the reception of another might suffer), most TV have a built in tool for that.
Went by Best Buy yesterday and picked up a Clearstream 2 Long-Range HDTV Outdoor Antenna which came highly recommended by a lot of sites. My task last night was to actually verify the reception of the channels I wanted. At floor level, I could pick up all the stations with the exception of the CBS and ABC affiliate. I then mounted the antenna in the attic and used an existing cable run to test it on the same TV. Not only could I now receive HDTV from all local stations, I could also get the stations from two neighboring cities. What a difference that 15 feet can make.
Coming soon … Step Two – Verify that we can access purchased media from different locations around the house.
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