Saturday, May 23, 2009

Digital Television in The Woodlands

This also pertains to Tomball, Spring and probably Conroe, Texas. Today I jumped into this ocean of digits and found that I like it! I sort of stumbled into it by buying a converter and then a digital antenna. Since my daughter was moving in back with us for the summer or even longer, her HDTV was the first experiment. As it turned out, all I needed was a small $30 antenna, just rabbit ears essentially. At first I thought this device did not work, because when I programmed the channels, I got noisy reception just like before. It looked the same - static reception, because we are so far away from the Houston broadcasting towers. But then I tried something, just out of intuition and curiosity. Wow! I found another signal source on the menu of the television set that was digital. The other source was the old analog broadcast method. The world of TV changed in an instant! Now I have perfect reception for those channels which have already converted to digital broadcasting. And when I mean perfect, I mean perfect! Essentially cable TV through the airway!

Expectations are soaring. Could this be the end of cable TV for us? There will be many questions to be answered soon. Will the value of having piped-in digital reception be significantly lowered? I believe so! Now the question for residents in our area will be, "do I need to have the hundreds of channels provided by my cable TV supplier?" Movies might keep us tuned in, but my son has already found an alternative to that. He has connected his wide-band internet to his TV and now watches on-demand streamed movies from Netflix for a fraction of the cost of cable. I just looked at my cable bill which includes about four paid movies. It is $150, but that includes wide-band internet.

What else might be on the plate? I just looked at my $60 bill for a house phone service. I can purchase equipment for less than $300 to move that service to the wide-band internet without any monthly charges. The house phone will have two lines (two telephone numbers) and one will be the same as I have now. There will be free calling to anywhere in the USA and low cost international call services available, as well as all the telephone amenities we are accustomed to such as call waiting, conference calls, and CallerID. In these times of frugality, I can see equivalent or even better service at much less cost.

Technology continues to offer useful alternatives to quality living, right here in The Woodlands. I am looking forward to the new technology television when the local stations all change their broadcast over to digital on June 12th of 2009. I need to find a place to dispose of my antenna in the attic. I have not used it for years but now it will be worthless. It just takes up space. I will research that issue and share the information with my readers... ps ... after receiving a comment from one of my readers below, I have added a reference on antennas.2 Apparently the old antennas will work. I will try out ours in the attic and update this article later.

Now the even better news. We have channels available right now which broadcast only in digital and never have been available for analog TVs. The Houston area is large and there is a wide variety of broadcasters available now. Each analog channel can and will broadcast sub-channels in addition to their current analog mainstream channels. For example, we will have 24 hour weather. I don't have that with my AT&T service except for an application they provide, a slow alternative to direct broadcasting. Of course we will not have a DVR service unless we take the broadcasts through a state-of-the-art home entertainment system or equivalent.

I wonder now how far away from the city one can be and still pick up these channels? There is more research to do. We will point our digital antennas South. I am not sure yet how much we might have to tune up direction to pick up all the channels.The standard network channels all will retain their channel numbers. ABC channel 13 will remain channel 13 for example. Some broadcasting may be on different channels until June 19th. I just previewed all available channels and am having a difficult time picking up channel 45. All others seem to be working just fine. There are three sub-channels for channel 2. Channel 13 had a dedicated sub-channel for the weather. They cover more than just local weather, sort of like the weather channel on cable. I noticed some temporary interference on channel 39. Maybe the weather will affect reception. The television set seems to adjust to fuzzy signals when it loses signal. I checked on reception grade using a website 1 that will characterize the reception expected in any given zip code; it shows we can expect a "strong" signal, so we qualify for indoor reception. There is a lot to learn. We will dedicate one of our TVs to this new technology and see where we will go from here with the others.

1FCC Information
2Antennas with digital TVs

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Vinyl Gloves - Extra Large

Have you ever had an "extra large" moment? A few weeks ago, I walked into my family doctor's office to get the ole annual checkup. I got through this one just fine, so I first thought. By this old age, I have had plenty of practice being checked out! The difference this time is that the doctor had something to say. He said, 'well buddy, I am going to send you to a Urologist. You have an enlarged prostate, nothing very serious, just need to get it checked out." "Well doc", I responded, just like any other God fearing adult male, "why do I need to go if there is nothing to worry about?" "Cause of your family history and your age and you just need to go." ... "ok then, whatever the doc thinks is appropriate to do."

In comes Indian Springs Guy to the Urologist! This is a first. I had to learn how to spell and pronounce that and then go for my visit. OK, I am placed into a small room like other doctors provide. I look around the inspection office. Two pair of vinyl glove boxes! Over the years I have grown accustomed to understanding what those things are used for. Then I notice in smaller letters - "EXTRA LARGE"!!

Oh no!!! My mind is going nuts. I hate these inspections! A truck might as well run over me. But "extra large"?!#%@$ After the inspection, the doc explains to me that indeed I have a problem of some sort although it probably is not serious. "OK, doc, if it is probably not serious, I think I am done with this." (thinking that maybe an inspection with extra large gloves will be a one time occurrence in my life). Doc responds, "you need to have a few more things done. You are not through yet" This is getting to sound like EXTRA LARGE in every way. "But doc ..." "But nothing... you need to have more tests. Tell you what, we will treat your PSA level with antibiotics first, then take a look at the issue again afterward. Sometimes this is caused by an infection." I could tell he did not really believe that. His eyes had vinyl gloves written all over them. Honestly, I saw an "Extra Large" reflection in them!

Today was "afterward" day. Here I was at the Urologist office again (see, I did learn to spell that). I review things in his office again, since once again I am waiting for him. I am reminded of his gloves as I see the same two boxes. I think to myself, here we go again. Extra Large! Please just don't do that again, realizing that the meaning of "extra large" may be totally different today. I get blood drawn - no problem, anything but the gloves. Then the doctor comes in. I grimace. He says, "have I explained to you the biopsy process?" Nope, not to me. He hands me a brochure and explains it. He makes out that there is nothing to it. Then no vinyl gloves today - whoopee! "We will get the results of the tests today in about a week. Then I will be able to advise you if you need to have the biopsy. We have to drop your PSA level 2.5 points for you to get out of this." I thought "but if I had known that earlier, I would not have run, or done anything else to aggravate the issue. I want as many percentage points as I can get."

Oh well. Now I know what the "Extra Large" really means and I am cringing on the thought of a next step at this very minute. So do you have your vinyl glove moments? I wish I could get out of this one.