Archive for June 12, 2009

Reception Help for WSIU TV Over-The-Air

WSIU-TV Carbondale ceased broadcasting analog over-the-air television on January 29, 2009 and is now broadcasting digital only. If you are having problems receiving WSIU over the air since February 3, 2009, the following guide will help you troubleshoot your WSIU-DT digital 8 reception problems. These instructions are for WSIU-DT Carbondale only. You must have a digital TV set, or analog TV connected to a digital converter box.

Step #1 — Antennas
You must now have a VHF antenna for WSIU-DT. Prior to February 3, WSIU-DT broadcast on UHF channel 40. Channel 40 was loaned to us by the government during the DTV transition over the past two years while we still broadcast on analog 8 (which we ended on 1/29/09). On February 3, 2009, WSIU-DT changed digital channels from UHF channel 40 to the original vacated VHF channel 8. Check the antenna information section below for more information.

Step #2 — Channel Scan
Rescanning of converter boxes or digital TV’s is required after WSIU-DT changed from digital UHF channel 40 to digital VHF channel 8 on Feb 3rd. Check your TV or converter box manual for instructions. If rescanning does not work then try Step #3.

Step #3 — Reset
Some converter boxes or digital TV’s will need to be reset (by button, menu, or powering down for a few minutes) to erase all previous WSIU information and allow the rescan to work properly. Unplug the digital TV or converter box for a few minutes, plug it back in and then do a channel scan again (step#2). You may have to do this several times before it works. Lastly, if the above fails, you may be able to force a system reset by starting a channel scan and unplugging the TV or converter box while it is scanning. Wait five minutes, plug it back in, and then rescan for channels (step#2).

Antenna Information
(For WSIU- you must have a antenna capable of receiving VHF signals.)

If using an Indoor antenna:

  • be sure to extend the “rabbit ears”
  • rotate the antenna a quarter turn and rescan again if you are unsuccessful finding WSIU-DT the first time. Repeat this process again if needed.
  • try placing the antenna closer to a window for better results
  • be aware that aluminum siding may affect indoor antenna VHF reception

If using an Outdoor antenna:

  • for best results, your antenna should be pointed at our transmitter located at near Du Quoin, IL
  • if your cables are old they may be a problem- RG6 is the preferred type

You may find some indoor antennas work better than others. Also beware of antenna which are advertised as “HDTV Ready”. Sometimes they are UHF only. It is important that the antenna is designed to receive VHF television channels also. The antenna that you previously used to receive analog channel 8 is ideal.

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LCD HDTVs: More, cheaper LED models on the way

Click to enlarge. [ Photo: Samsung ]

We expect to see more LED-lit LCD TVs, like this 8000-series Samsung set, thanks to falling LED backlight prices. Click to enlarge [Photo: Samsung]

We’ve generally been impressed with new LCD TVs that use LED backlights instead of conventional cold-cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL). However, these models have tended to be significantly more expensive than their lamp-lit counterparts, and thus have largely been reserved for pricier step-up series.

But rapidly falling prices will make LED backlights increasingly common in LCD TVs, predicts El Segundo, California-based market research firm iSupply. In a new report, the firm says that by 2013, nearly 40 percent of all LCD TVs will use LED backlights, up from about 3 percent this year. Some manufacturers, such as Samsung, have already shifted a good portion of their LCD models to LED backlighting.

While the first LED-based LCD sets we reviewed, from Samsung and Sony, were “full-array” backlights that span across the entire back panel of the TV, we’re now seeing more TVs with “edge” LEDs, which are placed along the perimeter of the set. Full-array backlights are more expensive, but they can be locally dimmed—where some segments of the LED panel can remain dark while others are illuminated—which can improve black levels and contrast. Edge LED backlights can’t be locally dimmed—and we haven’t seen the same black level and contrast improvements in these sets—but they do allow sets to be thinner and lighter.

Another benefit: Compared to CCFLs, LEDs are “greener,” in that they’re more energy efficient and don’t contain mercury, a carcinogen.

The good news is that if you’re considering an LED-lit LCD set, prices are coming down. According to iSupply, the price difference between LED LCD TV and its CCFL-lit counterpart can range from $300 to $700, depending on the size and type of LED used. But that gap will narrow, the company says, as panel suppliers reduce the premium for LED to under $100 for 40- and 42-inch sets, and to about $150 in the 46- and 47-inch screen sizes.—James K. Willcox

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McAfee, Symantec Agree to Change Renewal Practices

If you’re a subscriber to McAfee or Symantec’s security software, you’ve probably noticed automatic charges for renewals on your credit card, even when you didn’t request them. Look for that practice to change, now that the two companies have agreed to pay $750,000 in penalties after settling charges stemming from an investigation by New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo.

As part of the settlement, the companies must clearly disclose any automatic renewal programs, as well as provide easy and transparent methods for opting out of such programs.

The companies also must disclose how long they will provide updates before a charge is incurred, provide a refund to any customer who requests it within 60 days of being charged, and pay the Attorney General’s office $375,000 each in penalties to settle any claims made by consumers.

 “Consumers have a right to know what they are paying, especially when they are unwittingly agreeing to renewal fees that will not appear on their credit card bill for months,” said Cuomo. “In other words, no more hide the ball with renewal fees.”—William Dilella

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DTV transition takes full effect today

June 12 DTV transition deadline digital TV digital broadcasts analog transmissions end

Friday June 12, 2009 marks the end of all analog broadcasts from nearly all but a minority of television stations in the United States.
[ stock photo courtesy of: Doru Lupeanu ]

DTV day has finally arrived, after what seems like the longest ramp-up in history. Here’s what you can expect, and what you should do, as full-power TV stations pull the plug on analog broadcasts and go all-digital.

Watch the clock. Stations will be cutting off analog broadcasts at various times during the day. Some made the switch in the wee hours of the morning while we slept, as soon as the date rolled over to June 12. Most will be making the change sometime between noon and 11:59 p.m. tonight, according to the FCC. You can telephone your local stations to see when they’ll be doing the deed.

Run a channel scan. This will pick up any new digital stations that just became available and stations that just increased their transmission strength. Because some stations might be changing over late in the day, rescan your channels again tomorrow, on June 13. For more help, check out our video guide to setting up and using a DTV converter box.

Check for new channels. You might find extra “side channels” with different programming from major networks. They should come up (as 2.1 or 2-1, for example) as you surf using the channel up/down button on the remote.

Get help. The FCC’s toll-free help line, 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) is currently up and running 24 hours a day. The 4,000 agents on duty can answer a question or tell you whether free, in-home local assistance is available in your area from a source such as AmeriCorps or your local fire department. You can also get hands-on help at one of the 600-plus walk-in centers set up nationwide. The FCC’s online DTV hub has all this information and much more.

Look for analog holdovers. You might find that some stations in your area are still sending analog signals. There are thousands of stations (technically called low-power stations, Class A stations, and TV translator stations) that did not have to discontinue analog broadcasts as of today. Many operate in more remote areas. If you have a DTV converter box connected to your TV, you’ll need to use the box’s analog pass-through feature to get those analog stations in addition to the digital broadcasts you can now get. If the box you bought does not have this feature, you can connect the equipment in a way that will allow you to pull in both types of broadcasts. A diagram in the brochure DTV Made Easy shows how to connect your gear. (If you have Adobe Acrobat, you can download a copy of DTV Made Easy here. —Eileen McCooey

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Last Call For Analog!

Twas the night before the analog shutoff,
and all through the house,
not a creature was stirring,
except Dad; scanning and tweaking his hot-dang antenna!

Ready or not, I’m throwing the switch at 12:30 PM tomorrow afternoon. Tonight’s phone bank callers were getting a little desperate and feeling overwhelmed with hooking up converter boxes.

I invited my buddy Fred Pace, Director of Engineering for the Clear Channel radio stations in Raleigh. Fred was a great help on the phones tonight, even though he’s a radio guy by trade. We had a good time and talked about HD radio, and how FM stations are now broadcasting sub-channels in digital. The system they use keeps the analog signal while adding the new digital channels that can received with new digital radios. We can’t quite figure out why it’s called HD radio, but it’s some really cool technology. I hope to post video from our conversations if I remembered to hit record on the camcorder. (Us TV folks get a little flustered easily)

I sort of envy the radio guys, because if they want to go live, all they need is a phone. In TV, we have to setup bi-directional communication links, color balance the cameras, light the scene, test the audio and usually feed in footage to use while we’re talking. My hat has always been tipped to our Photographers that do this everyday. It’s a demanding job, and they do it in all kinds of conditions.

I let Fred see our HD bitstream data rate, and he drooled over the bandwidth it takes to send Dolby AC-3 digital audio. HD radio uses 96 thousand bits per second, while Dolby 5.1 audio uses 384 thousand bits per second. That’s a lot of data and just a drop in the bucket compared to what we transmit, and your box has to receive and decode.

The whole world is going digital crazy these days, and as long as your antenna is up to the challenge, you’ll love the results. This is an exciting time we live in, and someday we’ll look back at all this and wonder how we put up with fuzzy pictures and bad audio for so long.

Watch me throw the analog switch on NBC 17 live, and on our website at at 12:30!

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