Tuesday, September 30, 2008

DTV Transition

I plan to continue not handing money over to the cable company and instead I will make use of the new converter boxes available prior to the DTV transition on February 17, 2009.

Here is a bit of background info from the www.DTV2009.gov website:

What is the digital television transition?
At midnight on February 17, 2009, all full-power television stations in the United States will stop broadcasting in analog and switch to 100% digital broadcasting. Digital broadcasting promises to provide a clearer picture and more programming options and will free up airwaves for use by emergency responders.

What is the TV Converter Box Coupon Program?
Congress created the TV Converter Box Coupon Program for households wishing to keep using their analog TV sets after February 17, 2009. The Program allows U.S. households to obtain up to two coupons, each worth $40, that can be applied toward the cost of eligible converter boxes.

A TV connected to cable, satellite or other pay TV service does not require a TV converter box from this program.
Consumers have a variety of options. Options to explore include:

1. Keep your existing analog TV and purchase a TV converter box. A converter box plugs into your TV and will keep it working after Feb. 17, 2009, or
2. Connect to cable, satellite or other pay service, or
3. Purchase a television with a digital tuner.

Step 1: Request your coupon(s) from the government via https://www.dtv2009.gov/ These are worth $40 each and have a 90-day expiration date. I recommend that you not wait for the stampede of procrastinators in February 2009.
Step 2: Purchase a converter box for each television in your home. There are many brands to choose from. I chose the Insignia NS-DXA1, which cost me $19.99 each, after using the $40 coupon.For more information, here's a review on the Insignia by Consumer Reports. I was able to view quite a few more channels than before installing the converter box.

Step 3:
Purchase and install an amplified antenna for best reception.

What I did not realize is that I would also need an amplified antenna. The salesperson at Best Buy said I could do without an amplified antenna before February 17, 2009, but after the transition I would most certainly require one to get a picture. I have had good luck on my smaller Sharp 13" television without the help of an amplified antenna, just using rabbit ears. However my larger 27" GE television in another room has been more problematic. It was obvious to me that it required an amplified antenna.

Finding the correct one has been a matter of trial and error. I first purchased a digital flat amplified antenna made by RCA (model #1405B) for $49.99 and got an annoying buzzing sound from the TV that just was not going to work. I returned it. (Note: The Insignia does recommend turning the TV volume to medium and adjusting up or down using the remote for the converter box, rather than the TV remote.)

I purchased this slightly less expensive Philips Indoor UHF/VHF Powered Antenna at Target for $38.49. It seemed to work slightly better than the RCA digital flat model. However it was sensitive to placement and the picture was not perfect, but certainly better than before I hooked up a converter box. HOWEVER, I went to move the antenna and it snapped right off from the "Jetson-looking" triangular base. My initial reaction was that I had not been careful enough with it. When I inspected how it was attached, however, I discovered it was a cheap ol' "made in China" design. I promptly returned it for a full refund.

Currently I am getting a picture and sound that was as good as both amplified antennas with old-fashioned rabbit ears attached to the converter box. For now that will do just fine.

I am beginning to believe the buzzing sound when the volume is higher has more to do with this older TV, therefore I may have to spring for a new LCD or Plasma before mid-February. Sigh.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bulk Trash Freebies

I love, love, love quarterly bulk trash in the city of Phoenix. Apparently my fellow-Phoenix residents are completely ignorant of the concept of recycling, donating to their favorite charity, etc. Naaaa, its much easier to just chuck it in the landfill. Their ignorance is my bliss... I am talkin' about garbage pickin' bliss! I located four of these concrete pavers that are faux-bricks. Each is 24" square and extremely heavy. Initially I found two. I went back a day later and VOILA there were two more at the same garbage pile.

First step was raking away all the rock ground cover.

I realized that working with such larger pavers involved adding soil to keep the pavers level to one another. I purchased this soil because it was the cheapest option at Lowe's.

Next I distributed the soil and positioned the 24" pavers.

And around the corner... a Quasar 27" color TV with remote (even with batteries!) sitting on the driveway, ready for the landfill. I loaded it in my car and got it home and plugged it in. To my complete delight it worked just fine. The landfill, really????? That "solution" lacks creativity. I am happy to say that I gifted it to a deserving person who will fully enjoy it.