Friday, March 9, 2018

A Small Project Update

Last Saturday, I mentioned that Mrs. Graybeard and I were in the process of experimenting with alternatives to Cable TV, or "cutting the cord" as it's widely known these days.  We had several catches, and in the comments to that post I noted that the approach I was taking ended up getting thrown out.  Instead of piggybacking on the existing cable from our CATV provider, we needed to run a new cable all the way from the antenna to the TV.

Our initial experiments were successful; in fact wildly successful compared to expectations.  TVFool said I should get on the order of 20 channels.  When an antenna is connected, you tell the TV to scan for every channel and it tells you how many it found.  It found 60. 

The real surprise here is that the antenna says we should use a preamplifier with the antenna, and we don't need it.  I initially hooked it up incorrectly and we got nothing (my excuse: it was upside and backwards, so impossible to read the labeling).  While troubleshooting the problem we took the amplifier out and we went from two unusable channels to 60 excellent ones.  I'm going to try the amplifier again in a few minutes and see if we get more channels. 

We get the major networks, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS, a bunch of shopping channels, a bunch of old TV show/movie channels, and lots more.   Far more than we're likely to watch because the reason we started this effort was that we watch two hours a week of TV in a typical week, and we're paying far too much for two hours.  The local news is good for "boil water" or "road washed out" news, but I sure don't trust those national networks for news.
For the next few hours, maybe the weekend, we'll do some more research into streaming services for the few other things we actually would like to watch: Outdoor Channel, and handful of channels like SyFy, FX (movies), Fox News or OAN, and so on.  All of that is available, it's just a matter of finding the best "bang for the buck".  We'll get the DVR ready to return to the cable company and officially cut the cord. 

One of the engineers' life mottos is, "The world is a collection of under-optimized toys".  This is one step in optimizing our video toys. 


  1. Not sure if you've mentioned this, but you might look into YouTube TV. 35/mo gets you local channels as well as some additional "cable" channels.

  2. Mazel tov!

    I moved to a building without cable over twenty years ago (and still so, because they can never get people to be around to string the cable from the street to the back of the complex, so it's never happened).

    I miss it like flowers miss cold in springtime.

    If I can't get something from streaming and a 4G hotspot, or buy a disc at the end of the season, I don't need it.

    I'd pay $1/hr for the programs I'd like, but miss, but I won't pay >$100/mo for 100 channels of crap and nothing worth watching 160 hours out of any given week, just to subsidize a bunch of communists.

    When somebody starts offering all channels cafeteria-style, take or leave, the current model will evaporate like fog on a summer morning.

    1. I also don't miss twenty minutes of inane commercials out of every broadcast hour, forever.

    2. Mazel tov! Thanks!

      When somebody starts offering all channels cafeteria-style, take or leave, the current model will evaporate like fog on a summer morning. Ain't that the truth! Sling advertises as "a la carte" TV, but they're not. Their basic structure is two options called orange and blue at $20 and $25. They do have optional packages you can add to either for another $5 each, but while the blue package seems better, it's not like you get all the orange channels in the blue package plus some more; you give up some orange channels to get others in blue. (If that's readable...)

      YouTube offers some local channels and other "cable" channels, but now I get the local channels for free.

      I think it's complicated enough to need a spreadsheet and that sucks.

  3. SiG, as a radio guy did you have a particular reason for choosing this design for your TV antenna? The reason I'm asking is because the multitude of different styles available makes it hard to select what would be the best for an outside antenna. Thanks... JB Hall

    1. That's a deeper question than you might think.

      The biggest problem I had in figuring out what to do was that it's almost impossible to find meaningful specifications for the parts, which made it impossible to base my decisions on numbers and specifications, like I did at work.

      The antennas are rated for a zone, like this one said 70 miles. The main reason I picked this one instead of another one rated for the same distance is that I know someone who has this model antenna and it works for them. They even live a little farther away from the stations than I do.

      Today, I found that the preamplifier doesn't add a single channel to what I can get without it. The antenna box recommends the amplifier. Since it didn't add anything, I took it back out.

  4. You know, it's good to see that they're still making quality Yagis these days. I'm glad it's working well for you. Florida is the perfect place for that. You did put a lightning arrestor on the line, right?

    Personally, I gave up on antennas years ago. We live in a valley, and all we can pick up here is a couple of very fuzzy religious channels.

    1. Local topography is everything, for sure. If you're in a big city with lots of channels, multipath reflections off the buildings can be a problem. (Disclaimer: I don't know how well the new digital TV encoding holds up to multipath. Some coding systems are better.)

      I have a friend north of Atlanta, but not in big hills, who recommends one of these. Ultimately, whether or not it works depends on lots of specifics.

  5. The streaming services are not perfect. They don't have the current season, which isn't a problem for me, and they tend to divide up what I want to see.

    I have Amazon Prime, though I'm using it less and less. They do have some good original shows that are only on Amazon. Netflix has a lot of the shows I want to watch, even if it is mostly last season's stuff. They also have some good original shows. And some bad.

    There are also "free streaming" sites. Which are (maybe) less-than-legal. Google can direct you if you are so inclined. I have looked at them, but they are buggy, constantly under attack by the content owners, and filled with malware of varying kinds. You have been warned.

    1. I took a look at Amazon's offering today, since I'm a prime member, and there wasn't a single thing there I wanted to watch. Page after page of listing, but nothing I want to see. I'm not aware of anything Netflix has that interests me.

      I have a friend who tells me she streams HBO for the few months Game of Thrones is on then discontinues it. There's always that possibility; not for GoT (I've never seen a second of it - couldn't care less) and not even necessarily for HBO. Just the concept.