Action Figure Unboxing Episode 09

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Homemade HDTV Antenna


I’m finally free of our local Charter Communications Basic Cable bill. Whoo Hoo!! For years I went back and forth with Charter doing the 6 or 12 month promotions to keep my cable bill down. Every time the promotion would expire I’d have to call, sit on hold, threaten to cancel all to have them miraculously find a new promotion that would only increase my monthly bill by $10-$20. All I’d have to do was start this new promotional and I’d have some new feature or service. We got to the point of having everything but their phone service and when the promo ended, we were going to have to pay nearly $170 per month for TV and Internet. 20141208_151145

That’s when I said enough is enough. I told Charter to put us down to Basic cable and leave our Internet where it is. We’ll pay full price so long as I never have to call them again. Basic cable for those of you not aware, is simply what you could get over the air if you have an antenna. So,we’ve been paying roughly $18 per month for your standard ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and the CW. All of which I knew I could get over the air; for free.

Recently, Charter finally made the total conversion to Digital only in our area. This led me to look into an HD antenna so I could be free from Charter altogether, namely because their set top box they gave us provided a much worse picture than we used to have before this “upgrade.” The antennas you can buy in the store are all well and good, but I just didn’t want to spend the money on them all to find they just didn’t work very well. So, here is what I did. I built my own. I found instructions online which I’ll provide and I’ll include a couple pictures of my finished product.

My first stop what to the site below where I found an immense amount of information about the different types of antennas I could make.

DIY HDTV Antenna, Deployment and Results

I decided to go with the Hi-VHF (lower channels) and lower-mid UHF due to the transmissions in my area, it made the most sense. You can use TVFool.com to determine your transmissions, which should help you determine which type you should build. Just enter your home address and you’ll get a map similar to the one below.

Transmission Map

I used the below video as my instructions once I determined the type of antenna I wanted to make. This guy’s video was very easy to follow and the end result was great.

I now get 24 channels all in Digital HD. Most importantly, I get ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and the CW, as well as several PBS stations that I wasn’t aware existed. I’m so excited to drop off those cable boxes and cancel the basic cable service. That’s $18 per month I get to spend on something else.

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Antenna based on instructions linked to in this article. This antenna feeds the house televisions.

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Built about 4 years ago. This antenna used an older design and used coat hangers. The concept is relatively the same, though measurements are quite different. This antenna is considerably smaller.

I wound up installing two antennas. The one above is from the instructions I linked to. The second was an antenna I built about 4 years ago. I am also building a media server which will act as a DVR. I didn’t want the DVR sharing a signal with the rest of the house, thus, I installed two antennas. Considering I spent a total of $6 per antenna, it was cost effective enough for me to do 2. I also still had about 500′ of Coaxial cable left over from when I finished my basement a few years ago. If I actually calculated the true cost, it could be considerably more than $6 per antenna. As you can see, I installed mine in my attic.

The location of this antenna can be quite important. Luckily, my house is not in a valley so being in my attic works great. I was able to get all the channels even when the antenna was in my basement, though signal strength was definitely affected.

TV Buying Guide


I get a lot of questions from people who are looking to purchase a new TV. Buying a TV can be a very confusing and frustrating process. Hopefully I can make it a little bit simpler for you.

A lot of your decision-making process will be determined by 2 primary items.

  • Size

  • Budget

You should consider these two items before you even begin. They may both may be flexible but you should have a starting point. Once you decide these, you can move on to the more complicated stuff.

Now it’s time to get started looking at the rest of the specifications of the TV.

  • Display Type – There are 3 types of TV’s. LED, LCD, and Plasma. Each have pros and cons. See below for pros and cons of each
  • Screen Size – The size of the screen is measured diagonally (the bigger doesn’t always mean the better)
  • Native Resolution – This is the screen resolution the TV is capable of displaying the picture as. You will see numbers like 1920 x 1080. Your goal would be to have this number as large as you can find. Anything 1920 x 1080 and above is great.
  • HD Resolution – There are several numbers you may see but the two you will look for would be 720p or 1080p. For displays 32″ or smaller a 720p can be fine. Anything larger than 32″ you would not want to go with anything less than 1080p. If you can, always go with the 1080p.
  • ED Resolution – This is a resolution setting found on Plasma TV’s. Make sure that if there is an ED Resolution indicated that it matches the HD Resolution. A high ED and low HD may mean a lower priced TV but also a lower quality picture. They both should be 1080p.
  • Dynamic Contrast Ratio or Contrast Ratio – Defined as the ratio of the luminance of the brightest color (white) to that of the darkest color (black) that the system is capable of producing. What does this mean for you the buyer? Basically get the highest ratio you can find. 1,000,000:1 or higher is what you should be looking for.
  • MPRT or Refresh Rate – This is one of the more important specs. The higher the Hz the better. A good LCD should be 120Hz or higher (240Hz is desired). A good Plasma will be 600Hz. A good LED display will be 120Hz but 240Hz is better.

A good place to look for product reviews is www.CNET.com. Go to this site and either enter the model number of the TV you are interested into the search or go to the Reviews tab and look at the different televisions the site has already reviewed.

Also check out CNET’s TV Buying Guide for more help. Click Here

Everyone has their own opinion so do your own research and see the product before you buy. Verify the stores return policy before you purchase just in case.

Display Type Pros and Cons

Plasma

Pros Cons
Best true black levels Slight potential for burn-in
Great home theater image quality Reflective screen can cause glare
Wide viewing angle Lower native resolutions
Fastest refresh rate Can be quite heavy

LCD

 

Pros Cons
Higher resolution than comparable-sized Plasmas Relatively expensive for 60″ or larger
No danger of burn-in True black not as good as Plasma
Available in wider range of sizes Relatively narrow viewing angle
Relatively inexpensive Lower quality action & sports if refresh rates are lower

LED

Pros Cons
Plasma-like true black quality Most expensive right now
Very energy-efficient Limited sizes available above 40″
Has most of LCD pros as well Relatively narrower viewing angle
Much thinner Some have indicated sports and action are lower than Plasma

The Magic Elixir is Still Here


Gone are the days of the magic elixir sales man who travels from town to town scamming people into buying some magic substance that will heal all their medical ailments.

Wait… No… Those days aren’t over. In fact, there are probably more “Magic Elixirs” now than there were before. They may not be more dangerous than some of the elixirs that had poisonous ingredients, but they are costing our society millions if not billions of dollars in wasted expenses every year.

Technology is not immune to these tactics and it’s amazing to talk to people who have been duped by these bogus products. I’m not going to call out any particular product but I have a hard time listening to these products claims to double your computer’s speed, or products that claim that viruses can damage your computer to the point it cannot be fixed so buy this product to fix it.

These companies prey on people who have little to no knowledge of their own computer for their own personal gain. It is unethical and just plain mean. I’m all for charging to remove a virus, but to sell someone a product that is likely causing more problems than it fixes is a problem.

I’m not sure what the solution is, but I find that these garbage companies would have a harder time succeeding if radio and tv stations would be a little more careful about who they allow to pay for advertising time on their respective stations. It’s one thing to get duped from a product found on the Internet. It’s another to get duped by a crappy company you heard about on the radio.

I have no true answer, but it really frustrates me how our radio and tv is so quick to take advertising dollars that they don’t consider the products they are advertising.

With the holidays here, it is only going to get worse, so do your best to inform staff, students and others to avoid these bogus products. If you can prevent someone from buying into these bogus products it will make your job a little easier in the end. Too often we end up hearing the horror stories from our co-workers and they hope you can help them. Hopefully prevention will result in those companies going brankrupt sooner rather than later.