Personal Technology & Gadgets

Digital converter coupons

Got my digital converter coupons in the mail this week. The end of analog TV is nigh! February 2009 is the turn off date.

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Technology & Gadgets

HD Homerun

Now this is cool….



I may have to get one for my new computer. This is a network-only ATSC tuner.

Personal Technology & Gadgets

Tower construction underway


Finally, tower construction at Lookout Mountain (near Golden) for HDTV television antennas is underway. I’ve been following this issue for some time, so this is a real step forward.

Technology & Gadgets

HDTV Colorado

I’ve been watching the HDTV situation for some time in Colorado, and I must say, I don’t agree with any of the issues that are brought up to stop the supertower for HDTV on Lookout Mountain in Denver. These folks are all ignorant of the science, pushing their ill-founded fears on the rest of us, when if they bother to do some research, they’d actually understand the benefits of the supertower. It’s bothersome to me mostly because these not-in-my-backyard naysayers understand little or distrust the science that’s gone into EMI (no, it doesn’t cause cancer!). As a frequent reader of comp.risks, the source of these fears is well-known (risks you don’t understand = EMI vs. risks you do = driving a car). Maybe if one person in C.A.R.E. (the supertower detracters) would read this blog, I could convert them:

  • EMI has never, ever been shown to cause any health risk. This includes brain cancer (remember those bogus cellphone = brain cancer stories?) Early statistical studies were flawed, but popular thinking has never been “corrected” of this. Raised EMI in certain regions is caused by the superior coverage of the taller antenna. Since raised EMI doesn’t cause health risks (I would live under a power line), this only means better coverage.
  • Moving to digital television will save lives. Emergency services personnel are hampered by poor communications over an analog system with limited bandwidth. The FCC mandate to move to digital is designed to free up this analog bandwidth for the firefighters, EMTs, ambulance and other emergency personnel who will save your life (I had a heart attack, but died because the communications weren’t working). Everyone within the coverage area benefits from this, especially those near the tower where analog broadcasts are causing all the problems.
  • Lookout Mountain will look better. Really. It’s an eyesore from any distance right now. Here’s a picture I took:

Coming from the Bay Area, where I could get close to 20 OTA High Definition stations, I’m very dissappointed that at similar range, I can only get 3 in Denver (PBS, NBC, ABC) of any value.

I happened to catch the trail end of an ad from hdtvcolorado on ABC showing an animation of how the extremely ugly Lookout mountain would look after a good part of the tower farm is replaced by a supertower (6 to 1!). It’s impressively cleaned up, and would actually turn Lookout Mountain into more of a destination rather than an eyesore. Here’s the picture version I found.


To pretend to balance this entry, here’s the website by the people blocking the supertower. For those with a scientific background, pay special attention to the gross misuse of statistics in the bullseye or sharpshooter fallacy (explained here) on this page (misused here). To summarize, you can’t draw the bullseye after you’ve randomly shot up the wall vis-a-vis cancer cases (see great Frontline episode “Currents of Fear” here, nice write-up here).

Technology & Gadgets

JVC HD-61Z786 HD-ILA projection television review

Well, I bought the television in August 2005, so I figured it was time for me to write a review. I bought it for $3100 USD from Ultimate Electronics in Boulder, CO. Interestingly enough, I had to talk my wife OUT of buying the 70″ model of the same television (given living room size, you’ll have to forgive me, but 70″ is JUST TOO BIG.
First impressions:

This TV is bright, and the colors are fantastic and bright. The 720p three-chip LCOS is spectacular, and my four high-def sources are well-served by the TV. For reference, my high-definition sources (all dutifully set to 720p, regardless of source image) are:

  1. Hughes HR10-250 High Definition DirecTiVo
  2. NeuNeo HVD108 High Definition (upsampling) DVD player
  3. D-Link DSM-520
  4. Microsoft XBOX360

I’ve also tested the other sources:

  1. Laptop computer (SONY Vaio VGN-T350P) with VGA output
  2. Internal ATSC tuner on the JVC

6 months later:

Well, I still really enjoy the TV, but here’s some of my beefs.

  1. It’s loud, I put sound-absorbent panels on the wall to dampen the fan noise. It still bothers me, and sets up resonances on the cabinet from time to time which can only be solved by “hitting the TV”.
  2. Only 1 HDMI input (heck, I have 2, soon 3 HDMI sources, what am I supposed to do? I’m thinking of buying a multi-HDMI input receiver to do the switching, but REALLY!)
  3. Input switching is ponderously slow. I mean seconds slow. I think discrete codes and a Pronto Neo universal remote will solve this, but for now, ugh.
  4. Scaling options for different source aspect ratios are non-existent! My Panasonic plasma could do all kind of anamorphic scales to put a 4:3 image on a 16:9 screen. This doesn’t do any of them. I really miss this, and this REALLY takes from it’s ability to be a suitable HTPC monitor (it can’t even accept a 720p on the VGA input!).
  5. HDMI input claims not to accept DVI signals (from computers). I don’t even know if this is true.
  6. Only 2 component inputs (yes, with 4 sources, I use HDMI, and use receiver to switch 2 high-definition inputs to get to 3 component inputs and 1 HDMI)
  7. Low-definition content looks terrible. I’m not even sure anyone can do this right except for Faroudja (not even Genesis!). This is the model that supposedly has an improved scaling engine, but I see no evidence of this.

Here’s what’s good:

  1. There ain’t no color wheel. I find wheel noise even more compelling that the fan noise on this unit.
  2. Colors are still great, bright. Even with direct sunlight on the screen (a common problem in Boulder) the screen still works.
  3. Sharpness on high-definition inputs is spectacular.
  4. It works at altitude (I live at 7400 ft)
  5. It’s really thin, much thinner than comparable DLP units and LCD units.
  6. It’s not washed out like the SHARP I was considering in the same period.

What would I buy today:

Honestly, I like the TV a lot. That being said, the new round of 65″+ LCDs (SHARP, etc.) are finally losing that “washed-out” look, so I may opt for one of these soon, and end up with the 61″ in the bedroom. I will never buy a DLP, because the color wheel throws away so much brightness potential (1/3 the time illuminating each color!). Also, after the newest round of 1080P lieing from Samsung (their so-called 1080P set was only 1280×720, hey, that’s my resolution AND needs a color wheel) I’m inclined to go to LCDs and forever forego projection.

Technology & Gadgets

Success with Hi-Definition in Denver

I finally got around to putting up a UHF antenna on my roof in Boulder Heights. To my pleasure and surprise, with my ChannelMaster Titan 7777 amplifier and ChannelMaster 4228 UHF 8 Bay antenna, I am able to pick up NBC and ABC without dropouts (among other, less important channels). Here’s a picture of my setup:

My ATSC tuner is the Hughes HR10-250 HD TiVo + DirecTV PVR.

For those who are in the Denver area, I’m about 45 miles from the low-power transmitters in downtown Denver (no Lookout mountain tower!). says I’ll get nothing. I was able to get waivers to receive CBS and FOX from the Left Coast in HD, so ABC and NBC were the only holdouts. Now all my important networks are high-def.

Here’s some screenshots of high-def content in Denver:

NBC local news with a 16th street mall story:

ABC Desperate Housewives (recorded):

Technology & Gadgets

New TiVos for HDTV

Boy, am I glad I waited before switching to cable (from my Hughes HR10-250 HD DirecTiVo box)

This Series3 box has ATSC, NTSC digital and analog cable tuners built-in. Oh my!

Technology & Gadgets

Digital Television in the Bay Area

  • To pick up digital television, I use a UHF/VHF splitter, high-end Titan 7777 amplifier, and a double-wide 8-bay UHF 4228 antenna and a 4-bay single wide 4221 from ChannelMaster. I have the big UHF antenna pointed at Sutro tower, and I’m actually using the small UHF antenna connected to the splitter to point at Channel 12 (11.1 = NBC). I’m still fine tuning this fragile arrangement, and weather is often a problem (most of all when it blows down my antenna.
  • Strangely enough, I can only pick up 56 and 57 (56 = 2.1 = FOX, 57 = 4.1 = KRON) when my antenna blows down. Go figure. Needs some investigation.
  • I’m behind a hill, so the antenna must be angled up to account for the diffraction over the hilltop, and I’m nearly 45 miles from the transmitter. I’ve received a lot of help with my setup from Ken Nist personally, and his invaluable website. Unfortunately, my wife doesn’t permit me to go on the roof as often as I like (view of San Jose is great), so I can’t tweak the antenna like I might want. Volunteers for antenna tweaking duty should apply here.
  • Find a conservative estimate of channels you can pick up at CEA’s antennaweb. You WILL be able to pick up more, and the information seems out of date
  • Up-to-date information on digital television channels in the Bay Area
    can be found here, with a list of transmitter locations I compiled here.
  • My receiver is a Hughes HR10-250 HD DirecTiVo PVR, Satellite and ATSC receiver, with four tuners.
  • Find out the digital channel guide information at TitanTV