Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Getting The Best From Your HDTV

Bringing home your shiny new HDTV is just the beginning

A very smart man once told me, “Paul, don’t re-invent the wheel”. He wasn’t being derisive or mean, he was simply reminding me of a basic tenet that I sometimes forget. I was reminded of it today when considering how to write today’s HDTV article, and in my research came across a series written by Becky Waring for PC World magazine. It says it all, and does so far better than I could, so I am simply going to point you to it! She covers all the bases, and if you own (or are about to own) a HDTV, I’m sure you’ll find it well worth your time.

“Bringing home your shiny new HDTV is just the beginning of your home theater adventure. But don’t settle, as many HDTV buyers do, for just plugging your new set into your existing setup. The next steps you need to take after bringing your HDTV home are crucial to both your enjoyment of the set and getting the most out of your investment…”
Please see How to Install Your HDTV

Other titles in the series are:
How to Get the Best Video Signal for Your HDTV

How to Improve the Picture and Sound on Your HDTV

How to Connect Your New HDTV Properly

Stream HD Video From Your PC and Other Devices

[a brief aside: I seem to be coming across articles by Ms Waring more frequently of late, and I’m glad of it. She is top-drawer.]

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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September 29, 2009 Posted by | advice, dtv, hardware, HDTV, how to, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

40 Days To Armageddon

(Or, Are You Ready For The Digital Switch?)

In just a few short weeks the world will come to an end, and life as we know it will cease to be.

Of course, what I’m referring to the upcoming digital TV transition.
Congress mandated that February 17, 2009 would be the last day for full-power television stations to broadcast in analog. Broadcast stations in all U.S. markets are currently broadcasting in both analog and digital. After February 17, 2009, full-power television stations will broadcast in digital only.old_tv_set

What do I need to do to be ready for the end of analog TV broadcasting?

If you have one or more televisions that receive free over-the-air television programming (with a roof-top antenna or “rabbit ears” on the TV), the type of TV you own is very important. A digital television (a TV with an internal digital tuner) will allow you to continue to watch free over-the-air programming after February 17, 2009.

However, if you have an analog television, you will need a digital-to-analog converter box to continue to watch broadcast television on that set. This converter box will also enable you to see any additional multicast programming that your local stations are offering.

Analog sets should continue to work as before if connected to a subscription service such as cable or satellite TV. Also, analog sets should continue to work with gaming consoles, VCRs, DVD players, and similar products that you use now.

Will I need a special antenna to receive DTV over-the-air?

In general, dependable reception of over-the-air digital TV programming will require the same type of signal reception equipment that currently works to provide good quality reception of analog TV programming. If you need a roof-top antenna to receive analog TV broadcasts, the same antenna generally will work to receive digital TV broadcasts. You should not have to purchase new antennas that are marketed as “digital ready” or “HD ready.”

What is the Converter Box Coupon Program?

To help consumers with the DTV transition, the Government established the Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program. Every U.S. household is eligible to receive up to two coupons, worth $40 each, toward the purchase of eligible digital-to-analog converter boxes.

The coupons may only be used for eligible converter boxes sold at participating consumer electronics retailers, and the coupons must be used at the time of purchase. (Please note that these coupons will expire 90 days after mailing). Manufacturers estimate that digital-to-analog converter boxes will sell from $40 to $70 each. This is a one-time cost. For more information on the Digital-to-Analog Converter Box Coupon Program, visit www.dtv2009.gov, or call 1-888-388-2009 (voice) or 1-877-530-2634 (TTY).
[note: the coupon program’s funding has already been reached, and if you’re just acting now, you’ll be put on a first-come-first-served waiting list which may, or may not get you a coupon.. depends on how many coupons are cashed/expire.]

Today’s free link: The place to get answers to all your questions about the digital transition (in fact, the info above was largely copy > paste from there) is the special website provided by the Federal Communication Commission, http://www.dtv.gov/consumercorner.html

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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January 8, 2009 Posted by | advice, HDTV, how to, News, shopping for, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Get new life out of your old DVD’s

Many of us put off buying a Hi-Def disc player until the “format war” was settled, and many of us still haven’t shelled out the big  bucks for the winner, Blu-ray, yet. Instead, we keep on watching our collection of movies using our “standard”, old, DVD players.

This works fine until you bring a HDTV into the the scenario.. and then our old movies look sorta, well, old. (Certainly they don’t look Hi-Def!

The truth is simply this, to show you an actual HD image, your HDTV’s “input” (used to be called a “signal”) has to be HD– such as what you can get on (some) over-the-air channels, (some) satellite, and (HD) cable.. and Blu-ray discs.
What is missing from that list is all the DVD’s you’ve purchased so far— they’re “standard definition” (SD). Bummer.

So.. do you have to go out and purchase a whole new movie library, and a HD (Blu-ray) player to enjoy the “Hi-Def experience” you purchased the HDTV for? {Many of us would find this prohibitive.. Blu-ray players are around $400.} Fortunately, the answer is no.

Tip of the day: Enjoy near HD quality images from your (old) DVD’s buy purchasing a player that is capable of “scaling” SD signals up to 1080p (HD). [note: you want this ability even if your HDTV is less than 1080p] This “scaling” is sometimes called “upscaling”, “upsampling”, and sometimes “upconversion“. More info than you’d want to know about this can be read here. These types of players can be found for around $100.

I won’t bore you with the technical specs (you can click the provided links for that) but  I will say that upscaling uses a sort of intelligent “magic” to fill in the pixels required for the HD image.

Your HDTV has some scaling ability built into it, and this will help provide a fair picture from a SD source. It is possible that it does a good enough job with your DVD’s. But to get better results than you already are getting, a player with this capability is the way to go. Your SD DVD’s will appear much more “Hi-Def”, and you’ll enjoy watching them (again and again, if you’re like me) for years to come.

Today’s free link: (Yes, loyal Friends, I have posted this one before..) With the ability to scan your RAM, Registry, hard drives, and external storage devices for known data-mining, advertising, and tracking components, Ad-Aware 2008 can clean your system easily, allowing you to maintain a higher degree of privacy while you surf the Web

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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June 7, 2008 Posted by | advice, HDTV, how to, shopping for, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s good to be digital

We here at Tech–for Everyone Headquarters have been enjoying digital television for a week now, and I must say that I am glad we’ve finally joined the late 20th Century. I must say the recent technological advances may just spur the Powers That Be to break down and join the 21st Century and go “flat panel” and “Hi Def”. Wouldn’t that be something?

Loyal Friends and true of this blog will remember from last Friday’s article that I was looking for a solution to the question of what is going to happen to all of us — who have the ‘old school’ analog televisions — when the broadcasters stop transmitting analog signals (in 2009). And also, what about us folks who want to receive the digital signals, they’re already transmitting, now.
You will remember that the answer is to buy a new TV (with a digital “tuner” built in) or a set-top “box”. And an antenna. You will also remember that I could not find any evidence of the existence of set-top tuners, and that I invited my readers to help me out if they knew of any. Nobody did.
Because of that fact it appears that by 2009, every American is simply going to have to buy a new TV (with a digital “tuner” built in) and throw their current TVs in the landfill, or sign up with Comcast, DirectTV, or DishNetwork and pay for what we have been receiving for free all these many years.
Tip of the day: So, if you want to get rich, build a set-top digital “tuner” and sell it for $25-$35.. you’ll sell millions of them! I just cannot believe no one’s done this yet (that I can see).

We here at T4E H.Q. decided — like so many of us have — to sign up for a “bundle” of services; voice, video, and Internet, which is supposed to “save” us money, and the digital video we happened to go for was satellite. We now have 200 channels, and for a short trial-period we also get some of the “premium” movie channels. As I said, we’ve had this for a week now, and I can honestly say it is “good”.

There are a lot of benefits to “going digital” in our television broadcasts, not all of which mean a great deal to you and me. Things like “frequency allocations” and “limited spectrum blah blah blah” just doesn’t affect our daily lives.
But what does (to some small degree, anyway) is that the digital signal can carry much more information. What this means is our picture can be at a much higher resolution and our “color depth” can be greater. These things mean a sharper, brighter, and more colorful “viewing experience” (read, “picture”). I have found that this improvement is quite noticeable even on our old, analog TVs. Our picture has “pop” to it now.

Of course, to really step into the 21st Century, and get the most out of our digital signal, we really do need a television set that is capable of displaying the increased “rows” of resolution (called “1080i”) and giving us “Hi Def”. (And, take the digital-analog conversions out of the equation.)
Many of you have already made this purchase. The (typical) set no longer costs $6,000, [Do I really need say it? My first car cost me $600?] and are actually available for under a thousand now. And Christmas is coming up before too long…

And like so many of you have already, or probably will before too long, I have entered into the world of HDTV comparison shopping. A world of confusing jargon and too many choices — do we want plasma? LCD? DLP? And how about “viewing angles” and “artifacts” and “true blacks”?

I tell you, it just ain’t like the old days anymore. It used to be that you would go into the store and say, “I want a Zenith (or whatever brand you were loyal to), and I want the biggest one you got.”
No. Those days are gone, and gone forever.

And so, Dear Reader, I will go forth, and I will shop. I will research and explore. I will analyze the competing technologies and compare their features and benefits. From time-to-time, I will report my results and findings here… and maybe you will find my results helpful and time-saving. Maybe, Santa is thinking of a HDTV for your house too?

Today’s free link: today’s link is an alternative to Skype which, most of you know, is a program that allows you to place phone calls from your computer. Skpe also allows you to video chat with your friends and family (who have webcams and Skype), however the video component is not the greatest. If you do a lot of video chatting, or video “conferencing” and aren’t really satisfied with Skype as your free solution, try SightSpeed instead.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul, All Rights Reserved

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September 22, 2007 Posted by | advice, hardware, HDTV, shopping for, tech | Leave a comment

What’s up with Digital TV?

Big things are happening around Tech–for Everyone H.Q.. In part, this is due to the upcoming change in how we Americans  receive our broadcast television programming (of course, I’m referring to the switch from analog broadcast signals to digital due in 2009), and in part due to the beginning of football season.

Those of you that watch television are probably aware that some of your shows are being broadcast in “Hi Def”. Some of our local newscasts are very pleased to be coming to us in Hi Def, though I cannot (and I’m a fairly imaginative guy) imagine the advantage of that.. two people reading teleprompters, in HD??? This is possible due to the fact that many transmitters are already broadcasting digital signals, as well as the analog we’ve been getting for decades. For more details on the technology of HDTV and digital broadcasts, click here.

To take advantage of these signals/broadcasts, all the sources (I could find) tell you that all you need is: “Over the air with an antenna: Most cities in the US with major network affiliates broadcast over the air in HD. To receive this signal an HD tuner is required. Most newer HDTV televisions have an HD tuner built in. For HDTV televisions without a built in HD tuner, a separate set-top HD tuner box can be rented from a cable or satellite company or purchased.”

Okay.
The way I read that is I can either buy a new TV (with a “built in tuner”) or buy a set-top “box”.  I should tell you that we here at T4E Headquarters are extremely CHEAP and getting us to part with a dollar is a major undertaking. We do not buy new TV’s if the TV we’re already using isn’t dead-as-a-doornail (and the repair cost is equal to, or greater than, a new one). We “get our money’s worth” out of any investment and ride it until the wheels fall off.
A new TV is out of the question.

So I went looking for digital antennas and set-top tuners. I found the antennas easy enough ($19.99 and up), but no one could help me find the tuners. They seem not to exist.
That fact rather startled me. What is going to happen to all those Americans who cannot afford a new TV (with a built-in “tuner”)? It is a fact that not everyone has $1,000 for a new TV.
And if a new TV is required, what’s going to happen to all the old analog TVs? Do they get tossed in the trash? (Mother Nature won’t be pleased with that!)

It seems to me that a digital signal to analog output ‘box’ is an absolute necessity and simply must exist… but I couldn’t find one. I did find DVRs that could do this for around $300 (and up). Around T4E HQ, three hundred bucks is a prohibitive amount. Not a not-do-able amount, but it gives pause.

So we joined the ranks of thousands of other people and ordered satellite TV as part of a “bundle” (a package of services) and helped a monopoly become even stronger.
But we get football. Lots of football.

Perhaps my readers know of a set-top tuner, or another more affordable solution for people to deal with the upcoming end of analog broadcasts. I simply cannot believe that all these existing TVs will become garbage, or that we’ll all be forced into paying for television (that concept is downright un-American!). I really would appreciate some feedback on this topic.
If I simply did not look hard enough (or, in the right places) please let me know.

Today’s free link: IrfanView is a free digital image viewer, organizer, editor, converter, and more. It’s list of features and abilities is too long to list here, so take a look by clicking here.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul, All Rights Reserved.

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September 15, 2007 Posted by | add device, computers, hardware, HDTV, how to, PC, shopping for, tech, Windows | 1 Comment