Posts Tagged ‘HDTV’


The New HDTV Makes Work

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Imagine a home with just Stef and me–no Helaine. That’s what the family room looks like now! It’s is ripped apart and randomly strewn. Welcome to HDTV.

It started innocently enough with the old TV going kerflooey. Finding and buying a new set was its own adventure (does anyone really know?). We’ve now got a 47″ Vizio which seems very nice.

Today I built the TV stand, a low, black two shelved table chosen to fit in our old school 4:3 ratio space. My electric screwdriver wasn’t charged so I brought it down and plugged it in, but never needed it. Actually, the TV table is very nice and went together easily. The instructions seemed to be in the original English. All the parts were neatly sealed in plastic–present and accounted for, sir.

We have a Comcast issue SD DVR. That’s gotta go. I stopped in at the New Haven Comcast office yesterday and was told “no extra charge” to go from SD DVR to HD DVR. We’ll see.&#185

Meanwhile, what about all the saved stuff? You know the shows you just want to keep over time. That sent me upstairs to a combo VCR/DVD-R in the bedroom. It’s now inserted in the chain between the DVR and HDTV. Sheesh!

Unfortunately, you dub in realtime. A 60 minute show takes 60 minutes.

By tonight the copying will be done. The VCR/DVD-R will go back upstairs. The DVR will head back to Comcast for a swap. The HDTV will go on its new table. The wires will be tucked away. We’ll be back to normal.

In the meantime it looks like a bomb went off.

&#185 – Over the weekend I mentioned that at&t’s u-verse looked like a good alternative to Comcast. One of my blog readers who works for at&t in Connecticut was nice enough to check out its potential availability for me. Not a good result.

“I hate to tell you, or any any potential customer, that according to the schedule she has, it will be a while before it is deployed at your location. Basically, Stef may be in graduate school…or worse…married by the time it is deployed there.”

The New TV Seems Like The Beginning

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

IMG_2172-1.JPGA few weeks ago our family room TV died a horrific death during a thunderstorm. You can still see the picture, but the blue gun no longer lines up with the other two. It’s not a linear error either. Straight lines from the offset blue channel now form an arc. Everything appears on the TV twice… on the TV twice.

I did a little shopping and some online searching before deciding on a 47″ Vizio SV470XVT1A, which we bought this afternoon. Our old projection model was a hassle getting home. This LCD model fit nicely in the back of the SUV and Helaine and I were easily able to carry it in.

vizio-tv.jpgYeah–this TV is going to cost us more money. As soon as I watched a little HDTV, SD (old school analog television) looked shabby. We’ll need HDTV service and our SD DVR will need to become an HD DVR.

Actually, this whole episode sent me looking at AT&T’s U-Verse service. The website says it’s not available on my street. I suspect it is, because it’s available one street over and I’ve seen AT&T’s boxes in the neighborhood.

If you work for AT&T or know someone who does, will you help? Drop me a line.

The U-Verse package (including moving my home phone and Internet access over) looks like a good deal. Plus, AT&T’s DVR is in the midst of becoming a real media center, feeding any TV in the house from one location. It looks like they offer more than Comcast for less money. Gotta pay for the TV somehow.

Back to the TV for a second. It set up easily and has a very sharp picture. Right now it’s on the floor, but we’ve got a stand on order. This set was bought as much for its ability to fill a ‘built-in’ physical space as much as anything else.

Huge Changes In Television

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

DumontTV.jpgA huge change in television is about a year away on February 19, 2009. Most likely, you will not be affected.

The analog TV channels, some of which have carried broadcasts for 60 (or more) years will be shut down. Television will move to new digital channels, all of which are already broadcasting in parallel today.

The reason you won’t care about this change is, cable TV and satellite providers will convert the digital signal for you. An overwhelming majority of Americans get their TV signal from a provider, not off-the-air. Your old set will still work fine, unless you’re using an antenna on your roof or rabbit ears.

This will be a sad moment, because it eliminates a system which allows any TV ever made to still be used! Amazingly, every change to TV over the years has been accomplished without making old sets obsolete. Those days are over.

When color TV first came on the scene, it was called compatible color, because the TV signal was altered in such a way that black and white sets would still work just fine. The same was the case when stereo sound was introduced.

If you have a working 1950 DuMont TV at home, you can still use it today! Let’s see how much software your five year old computer will run… or where you can play your 8-track tapes!

For TV stations, this is a huge burden coming at the very same time their profitability is threatened by new media. Building a transmission facility for digital broadcasting is a huge financial undertaking, especially when you remember nearly no one watches over-the-air.

On top of that, at some point local stations will also have to begin originating HDTV. Right now, most just pass through what the networks provide. Local programming like news and syndicated show are still sent in the old school standard definition, with its four by three format.

All these capital expenses will be undertaken without a real understanding of potential ongoing demand. Do you really want to see me that clearly?

As the off switches are thrown across the country next February, new operators will be standing by with new services. The FCC is in the middle of auctioning off these TV frequencies which will be abandoned.

The original station operators got them for free! We were much more innocent back then. Now they’ll bring tens of billions of dollars and come with many strings attached.

I don’t know where TV will be five or ten years from now. Computers are becoming more adept at delivering video content. Maybe that’s the logical platform?

Will there be enough bandwidth if everyone decides to watch online? Some experts are saying no… but no one really knows.

I don’t see anyone predicting where TV will be a decade from now.

High Def At My Desk

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

I’m at my desk this Sunday evening and not away at dinner because of strong wind and rain moving through Connecticut.

Say what you will about my job, there are some benefits. While the radar loops in a monitor to my right, I’m watching the Sunday night football game on NBC in HDTV. That’s right, somehow I’ve been blessed with an HDTV set at my desk! It’s an LG 20LS7D, which I assume means it’s a 20″ screen.

Football in HD is amazing, but not 100% what I expected. There are lots of compression artifacts whenever there is motion. You can especially see it where there is high contrast.

By compression artifacts, I mean slight video distortion where an approximation of the actual picture replaces the full fledged version. If you play with JPG images, you’ve probably seen something similar.

It’s possible this degradation of the picture isn’t the TVs fault or the fault of HDTV in general. I’m getting this via an unencrypted feed on Comcast. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were taking what they get from the local broadcaster and compressing it a little more to save on precious bandwidth.

Whatever it is, HDTV ends up as M(edium)DTV.

That being said, the picture seems sharp because of the astounding contrast. The blacks are blacker and whites whiter than what I’m used to seeing on TV. That brilliance makes the picture jump out at you.

To your eye, high contrast implies high resolution, even when high resolution isn’t there. Programs like Photoshop create this effect with a filter called ‘unsharp mask.’

I’ve been surprised to see the programming on our local PBS station. They seem to be running a full HDTV feed (still with artifacts) which differs from the PBS programs being run on their standard definition channel.

I spent a good 45 minutes watching this PBS feed a few evenings ago, staring at penguins and seals on South Georgia Island, not far from Antarctica.

Someone who walked by my desk said he’d pretty much watch anything in HD. I think I understand.

I’m not ready to bite the bullet and go HD at home. A set large enough for our family room is still prohibitively expensive for the amount of use it would get.

After seeing this presentation, I’m glad to say we’re not in HD at work yet. I’m not sure my trowel-like application of makeup would serve me well. The world is a better place with a slightly fuzzy Geoff.

Am I Ready For Some Football?

Sunday, September 9th, 2007

I was out of bed at 11:00 this morning. That’s especially early for a Sunday start.

Helaine had long since left the bedroom. She was downstairs, doing everything she could to be ready for today’s important business – football!

Though New Orleans got clocked by Baltimore (I know – live with it) Thursday night, the season really starts today. The Eagles will be playing at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. And, of course, we live and die by the Eagles.

Two hours before game time, as she sat and intently listened to the ESPN coverage, Helaine turned to me and jokingly said, “I am every man’s fantasy. A woman who loves football.”

She is.

When we were married, it was her subscription to Sports Illustrated that came to our Buffalo apartment. She’s enough of a fan to root against teams, because my enemies enemy is my friend.

Oh, speaking of ESPN, five commentators on the set makes for one of the most unwieldy camera shots ever. Five guys in a row is just too wide. Maybe it’s better on HDTV with its stretched screen.

The real deal begins in about a half hour. A competitive team will make for a fun fall. Wish us luck.

Comcast And My Parent’s HDTV

Friday, May 4th, 2007

My parents are still watching standard definition TV, even after a visit from a Comcast installer. It’s frustrating enough to require an email from me to Comcast’s corner office.

Dear Mr. Roberts,

I am writing as both a shareholder and customer, but mostly as a son on behalf of my parents, Harold and Betty Fox of (redacted), FL.

Recently, my folks ordered HD DVR service from Comcast. Today, your Comcast installer told them the proper way to use the system was by tuning their TV to Channel 3. In other words, they were told to use the internal modulator in the DVR and the internal tuner on their TV. This method is only capable of delivering standard definition television, not HDTV. Only by using a DVI cable or 3 composite video cables, could they have actually received an HDTV picture.

They didn’t know this, but your installer surely should have.

I am disappointed for my parents, who have not gotten what they paid for. I am disappointed as a shareholder that installers aren’t better trained. Considering the fierce competition from satellite, I would have expected a better outcome on what should be a high priority product.

Any assistance from Comcast to correct this problem will be greatly appreciated.


Geoff Fox

ps – Comcast’s system prevents me from sending this directly to the proper department. I hope you can forward it on my behalf.

I’ll let you know if anyone responds.

Blogger’s note – Comcast to the rescue. Here’s the follow-up.

HDTV Or Not HDTV – That Is The Question

Monday, April 30th, 2007

A confession. Back in 1968, my college radio station was broadcasting in mono. A fellow engineering type and I decided we’d change that.

We had no stereo equipment at the studio nor a stereo exciter at the transmitter site, but we hooked up a tone generator on the audio line and inserted a 19 kHz sine wave. The tone was too high to be heard over-the-air, but perfect to enable the stereo light on any radio so equipped.

Anyone listening to the station who saw the light probably thought we were in stereo. Perception is reality.

Another station I worked at inadvertently turned off our ability to broadcast in stereo (though that pilot tone was still transmitting and turning on stereo lights). There wasn’t one call of complaint.

All that happened decades ago, but some things remain the same.

A few weeks ago my folks bought an HDTV television. Then last week they got an HDTV DVR from Comcast. A few cable connections and voila – HDTV.

Just one problem. That’s not what they were watching.

My dad, who had hooked up as many TVs as anyone, did what he’d always done. And that did produce a picture. There was no way for him to know what he did coiuld never produce real HDTV.

Since my folks were watching programs that filled the 16:9 screen on their HDTV, and since it was being fed by their HDTV DVR they were happy.

An article at points out:

A recent survey by Leichtman Research Group came up with the following interesting facts:

* Nearly half of the 24 million households with HDTVs don’t actually watch high-definition programs because they lack an HDTV feed from either via cable or satellite

* 25% of those surveyed didn’t even realize they were watching non-HDTV transmissions

As the author, Clint DeBoer, points out “Sleeping in the Garage Doesn’t Make You a Car.”

I don’t want my folks to miss out on what they paid for, so I’ve tried to help get the right cables in the right sockets. It’s not easy as all the connections are behind or under the TV or the wall unit it sits in.

Right now they can get HDTV… just without audio. The solution is easy, once the TV and DVR are moved.

Oh – I knew they weren’t getting HDTV when my dad told me he had to tune the TV to Channel 3 to see anything. Using the TV’s tuner meant they were watching everything in “SD” or standard definition.

Their DVR to TV connection was a single coaxial cable, instead of the five separate connections they really need. How is anyone supposed to know this?

Believe me, they’re not the only ones.

Confused For A Robot

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

I was checking the prices on some electronics gear using Google this afternoon. Maybe I might enjoy adding HDTV to my MythTV DVR?

When my first request wasn’t specific enough, I honed in with “hdtv mpeg4&#185 capture pci.” That’s when Google got suspicious.

We’re sorry… but your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application

Here’s the actual screen capture of Google’s page.

First, doesn’t Google already have a cookie on this machine by which they follow me around? You know what? There doesn’t have to be a second, because the first covers it all.

This is just weird, because a company that prides itself on artificial intelligence and expert machine interpretation of language, shouldn’t be confusing a 56 year old guy in Connecticut with an automated process!

Google has made more of a positive impact on the retrieval of information than any other company/application I can think of. That’s no minor feat. Our lives have been changed for the better by this student project, hatched at Stanford.

Am I still allowed to be a little disappointed?

&#185 – This is a mistake on my part. I really should have specified “MPEG-2,” normally accomplished in hardware, which greatly reduces the load on the DVR’s computer brain.

Privacy – Scientific Atlanta Responds

Monday, November 13th, 2006

I just got an email from Scientific Atlanta. Earlier today, filling out a survey form for them revealed my email address for all to see!

The email is interesting for what it does and doesn’t say. SciAtl’s email says this was an ‘anomaly’. How non-human.

Revealing my email address, along with hundreds of others, wasn’t caused by an anomaly. It was an error, a goof, a screw up – your choice.

Though Scientific Atlanta has tried their best to characterize this as a computer error, I suspect it was a human error. Right now, I would feel better about Scientific Atlanta, if I felt there was more candor in their email… if they’d fess up.

Notice Regarding Scientific Atlanta’s HDTV Promotion

During the e-mail confirmation process for the Explorer eClub HDTV promotion, we experienced an anomaly that resulted in a very limited number of respondents seeing the user name, cable operator name and e-mail address of some of the other survey participants. We responded by shutting down the survey site, identifying the problem, correcting the issue, testing the solution and re-establishing access to the survey – all in less than 30 minutes.

We take our privacy policy very seriously and apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. We value our relationship with our Explorer eClub members and will continue to rely on your valuable input to help us to improve our products. Your name has been entered in the drawing for the HDTV, and we thank you for participating in our survey and selecting a Scientific Atlanta product for your home.

Sara Stutzenstein

Director of Public Relations

Scientific Atlanta, A Cisco Company

Zero Security Policy

Monday, November 13th, 2006

I just received an email from Scientific Atlanta. They’re the ones who built my cable box/DVR… the one that isn’t nearly as good as TiVo.

Dear Explorer eClub member,

It’s no secret that HDTV is growing in popularity, and at Scientific Atlanta, we’re listening to what consumers want. Share with us what you know about HDTV. Take the survey here.

All eligible members who participate by November 27, 2006 will be entered to win an HD television.*

Thank you very much for sharing your experiences with us.

Obviously, they didn’t want to hear much from me, because after two questions I was finished. If I had an HDTV they probably would have wanted to know more.

What followed, however, amazed me. With the confirmation screen came a list of EVERYONE else who entered! When I refreshed the page, the list lengthened.

In this day and age of spams, scams and worse, you would expect companies to double check this stuff… wouldn’t you?

Blogger’s addendum – As I was finishing this entry, I went back to Scientific Atlanta’s site to see if the problem still existed. It looks like the survey’s been taken down, as I received a “Service Unavailable” message.