More fun with digital TV

The great digital TV antenna project continues.  I found out that the cheapie UHF antennas I built are known as “4 bay bowtie dipoles,” and they are very similar to the Model 4221 by Channel Master.   Based on my reading, I’ve decided not to try using a combiner to join the antenna signals.  Instead I picked up a remote control A/B switch at Radio Shack, model 15-1968, and it seems to work great.  I’m going to buy a second one for our other TV.  Providing most of your stations are in 1 of 2 different directions (as mine are), this switch is a great alternative to a rotator.  In particular, multiple TVs can watch signals from different antennas simultaneously, which is not possible with a rotor.  The down side, of course, is that you need to run two separate antenna cables to each TV.  But that only needs to be done once.  I’ve also ordered a couple of Sony model RM-VL600 universal remotes, based on all the positive reviews.  My hope is that I can use these to work the A/B switches.  We’ll see how they work out once they get here.

I may need to move my Baltimore antenna.  It’s aimed NNE directly at TV hill, but there are a lot of tall trees blocking its path.  It seems to pick up most of the Baltimore stations just fine..  WMAR-2, WBAL-11 and WBFF-45 all come in perfectly with 95%+ signal strength consistently and no dropouts.  WJZ-13 is my problem child, though.  I was watching it this afternoon and it started dropping out as soon as the wind kicked up.  Wondering if the frequency WJZ-DT is currently using has something to do with it — WMAR, WBAL and WBFF are all currently at the higher end of the UHF spectrum, while WJZ is lower at 38.  Dunno, but I’m going to try moving the antenna to the other end of the house, where it can hopefully get a clear shot through the foliage.  Just need a longer length of RG-6.

All bets are going to be off come February 2009, when a lot of these stations will be shifting back to the VHF band.  At that point, I may need to add a VHF antenna to my setup.  Looks like all of my local stations will end up on the high VHF band (channels 7-13), so I should be able to get by with a smaller VHF antenna.  I’m going to hold off before I do anything, though.  My current antennas seem to pick up the analog channels in the VHF-hi band pretty well, so they may do the job with the digital channels.

Stay tuned..  (no pun intended)

Blogging again…

Hopefully I’ll pick up the blogging pace a bit now that I’ve moved everything over to  In preparation for un-password-protecting the blog, I’m going through all of my old posts, and the only thing I’ve noticed is that all of my links to other blog entries are broken.  Nothing unexpected, but I wonder if there’s anything that can be done to prevent this from happening every time I move the blog (it’s moved 3 times now, and it’ll probably move again).  Probably not, but right now all my links reference posts by number, and it might help to change them to use named permalinks.

My latest pet project at home is preparing us for the impending cutover to digital TV.  We’re far too cheap to pay for cable or satellite TV (although FiOS may be hard to resist), so I’m concentrating on getting a nice setup for receiving over-the-air digital broadcasts.  Following some instructions I found on the Internet (where else), I built two homemade UHF antennas.  The author of this web page uses a single antenna with a rotator.  At our location, though, we’re smack-dab in the middle of the Baltimore and DC TV markets.  So I can set 2 antennas up in the attic, one aimed at Baltimore, and another aimed at Washington, and pick up pretty much every station within 50 miles, without the hassle of a rotator.  The only issue is combining the signals.  The antennas work great separately, but I haven’t tried using a combiner yet (I try to avoid going up in the attic this time of year..).  Using a combiner in this kind of setup is always going to result in some signal loss, so the question is, will the resulting combined signal be acceptable?  I don’t know, but it’s easy enough to try, which I plan on doing soon.  If the combiner setup doesn’t work well, the other option is to run separate antenna feeds to each TV and then use a switch similar to Radio Shack Cat. No. 15-1968 (each TV would need its own switch).  I know this will work, but it obviously involves extra work and expense.  But it’s still preferable to a rotator, IMO.

Sort of on the same topic, I picked up one of those much ballyhooed digital “converter boxes” awhile back, to use with our old TV.  Total outlay was just over $20, thanks to the $40 coupon from Uncle Sam.  This is an Apex model that is being sold at Best Buy.  It works as expected, and includes all the standard features you would expect from a digital tuner (TV guide, signal strength meter, etc).  However, I kind of wish it had come with a universal remote.  The included remote control works fine, but it’d be a nice touch if I could also turn the TV on/off and adjust the volume with it.  As it is now, I’m stuck with 2 remotes until I can find a cheap universal remote that can also work the converter box.

More later..