Cord Cutting – Step 2 – Roku


An “unfortunate incident” happened today that pretty much changed everything I’d “planned to do” into “not getting done”.

My TV died.

It was an old 19 inch Philips / Magnavox from somewhere around 15? years ago. Who knows. I’d bought it for my daughter when she was of some age old enough to operate a TV and not so old as to be into computers and the internet. Standard tube NTSC TV. This year she gets married… Moved it to my bedroom when she moved out after college, that even some years back.

For the last few weeks the vertical deflection was failing. Sporadically it would just show a very bright line across the middle and the lower 1/2 of the screen normal. Jiggling the wires on the back would fix it (that indirectly jiggled the board inside). It slowly got worse, and today was just not giving me a usable image for more than a few seconds. I took the back off, cleaned out the accumulated precipitate of a decade and inspected. Nothing obvious failed. So either inside a chip somewhere or more likely leakage of “something” to “somewhere it shouldn’t be” through the dirty old wires. I wiped things down with damp paper towels to clean it all, and repositioned wires away from contact points that were not on any schematic ;-)

Upon drying and reassembly, it would power on briefly, give a horizontal line, and power off. OK, it was going to get there anyway I just accelerated the process. Most likely by about 2 days… Being a decade overdue for an upgrade anyway, it is now in the recycle pile.

But that meant that at 9 AM I was sans TV in my favored space. I could go to the living room, but… hard to hear that one from the office (next to the bedroom) and I mostly listen to TV news (dashing in to watch if something interesting pops up). Besides, I’d been plotting for about a decade to get HDTV “soon”… So off to do the “compare and contrast” on prices, features, and risks. That last category recently added…

On The Road Again

I shopped Costco, Walmart, and Best Buy.

Not too oddly, the Best Buy parking lot was surprisingly empty… And all their Geek Squad trucks were still parked. Something about the news saying they were spying on their customers for the FBI seems to have dampened business. Inside had about as many staff as customers. When I came out, my car was alone in its row, and the two rows each side of me were empty. I counted 25 cars in that lot (one of two) that included staff. Perhaps companies ought to consider that before bending over for The Feds Spying Operations…

Interesting too, was that in Costco I asked about the Smart vs Dumb TVs. The clerk (who was actually clueful) and I got to talking. Seems a LOT of folks were asking about “dumb TVs” as they didn’t want their TV to spy on them. Note to Samsung et. al.: You will see a large drop in Smart TV sales for a while. Perhaps a long while…

Now I’d planned to do this particular shop and buy in about 6 months (when I had about 6 months left on my AT&T / DirecTV lock-in contract) as I didn’t want to “upgrade” my Sat-TV boxes to HDTV and start another lock-in cycle (don’t know if they do that, but AT&T likes to start new lock-in cycles without telling you and frankly, I just was not interested in sending even one more dime or risking one more dime…) I complained about my being suddenly trust into the clutches of AT&T (when they bought DirecTV) and how a bait-and-switch got me (surprise!) a 2 year lock-in, and my intent to “cord cut” at expiration, in a posting here:

But now I had to do the shopping and decision on an accelerated basis and without the prep work I’d planned.

Now the good news, if you can call it that, is that I’d planned to replace the Big TV in the living room. A big old Sony Tube thing that’s a “2 man lift”. The sound has started to get “buzzy” when there is text on the screen, so some crosstalk between the video driver and the sound. Since there usually isn’t too much text on the screen for what the spouse watches, not a major issue. For the “News and Finance” shows I watch, with lots of text and scrolling tickers, a big issue. A BIG replacement TV would be costly. The 19 inch job in the bedroom, a lot cheaper. Also, in the smaller sizes, you can’t really see the difference between 720p and 1080p. (Really, you can’t. Unless you are way too close to them, the eye can’t resolve that fine.) That’s cheaper still. So my risk in buying the wrong thing is reduced a lot. Having partial deafness also means that the generally poorer sound quality in the little ones just is not detectable by me anyway. So I set out to do the buy.

Going Shopping

First I measured both present TVs. Vertical, horizontal, diagonal. I wanted at least the same vertical size so that the non-HDTV Sat-box picture would be essentially unchanged. Diagonal doesn’t tell you that on different aspect ratios. 4:3 vs 16:9 IIRC. I’d need at least a 26 and preferably a 32 to get roughly the same image in the bedroom. A 40 inch would be OK in the living room, but bigger better. Since last I looked, the prices of 720p in under 40 inch sized sets has plunged, especially in “dumb” TVs. The big 1080p (and even worse, the 4k that you can’t see unless you have a whole wall TV…) prices are still rather high. Like $500 to $3000 high, depending on features. For THAT, I need to do very good homework. The 24″ to 32″ 720p jobs were down in the $120 to $280 range. OK, I can live with that.

Unless folks want to see my comparison spreadsheet of “store, model, price” I’m not going to post it. I doubt it is much use anywhere but here for anyone not buying a dinky TV. The “bottom line” is that I decided NOT to get a “smart TV” since there seems to be at least 3 main technological “lock-ins” and a lot of “no idea what you are buying” involved. I also like the idea of a Raspberry Pi or Odroid running my TV under my control and with the ability to filter what it sends, receives, and does.

One common “lock in” model has Roku built in. It tended to cost about $25 more than the same model without it. Another lock-in had “Chrome-cast” built in. Asking the Clueful Clerk at Costco, seems you MUST have a Chrome Device to ‘cast’ from for it to work. While I have devices that run Chrome, I don’t particularly want my TV to stop working if the tablet is with me at Starbucks, nor do I want the spouse to call me asking how to boot and configure the Pi Stack. Some others seemed to have “something else” but nobody could tell me what, but they were “Smart”! The box said so…

I decided to “go modular”.

Now, being partly deaf, and having a spouse who sometimes likes to not hear my TV, I like to plug in a headset or sometimes route sound through a stack of equipment. That, it seems, is now an unusual challenge… Samsung, in particular, seems to only have this strange square thing for “Digital Sound Out”. All the others seem to have that too. Now all my stuff has nice round RCA plugs, not a square glowing thing… Very few sets now seem to have either RCA sound out or headphone jacks. Maybe you get them in the $5000 sets… That pretty much eliminated the names I’d heard of before and anything “smart” too (as they were mostly Samsung at Costco and Samsung seems to hate sound out jacks). Walmart had several things I’d never heard of ( “Hisense” and “Element” )in boxes with essentially none of the essential information on the outside of the box. They were cheap though. $90 to $120 or so. For $240 range you got names you had heard of, but still no idea what was inside.

The key missing bits were: Anything technical. What goes-intas and goes-outas are on the back? Composite video? RCA Jack audio? Antenna? What? What tuners are built in? What does “Smart” mean? (Vendor lock, added costs when you try to use it, WiFi? Or is WiFi a goes-inta / goes-outa? etc. etc.) Heck, Walmart even had one that didn’t list the resolution at all. 720p or what? Best Buy had one with audio jack. “Insignia” brand. I’d not seen it before, so asked flat out “What brand is that? I’ve never heard of it.” The semi-clueful clerk (the 3rd one they brought over…) said it was their house brand, but couldn’t say the words “house brand” mumbling around the edges with things like “Oh, that’s a brand only we carry”… until cornered and pressed.

OK, I had my matrix with model numbers on it for the ones I thought had promise. Off to Starbucks to get the real info. Reviews. Specs. Etc. etc.

The Buy

In the end, I bought a mid-ranked TV from a maker I knew despite one guy panning it and saying the color was bad. It looked fine to me in the store. I got a Toshiba 32 inch from Best Buy for something like $130. Dumb 720p. It had a headphone jack (conveniently hidden in an inaccessible recess on the back…) and both NTSC and whatever the new one is ATSC? and QAM? The cable one. So I can get HDTV over the air (when I make / hook up an antenna) and it can understand the old school signal put out by things like my VCRs and DirecTV box. (One gets the R-W-Y RCA Composite jacks, the other daisy chains or comes in on NTSC… some plumbing required to get it all hooked up again).

A bit on impulse, and because I was spending about $150 less than I’d expected, I bought a ROKU Stick. $49. Why? Well, it’s a quad-core-in-a-stick and folks have rooted it:
So someday when I’m not interested in it AS a Roku anymore, I can play around with hacking it. But mostly it was just to have SOME HDTV input “out the gate” without a lot of work. I had no idea if I would like it, if the cost of buying stations would be a pain, or what, but as some stations are free, figured “what the heck – at least it isn’t Google”.

Also, the overall impression I’d gotten was that “smart” TVs has essentially done a minimal “glue on” of Chromecast, or Roku (or maybe Amazon TV?) and basically it was the same thing but NOT built in. That makes it mobile so I can take it with me to hotels and friends houses. It also means I can unplug it and unplug power from it and be SURE it isn’t talking to anything when I’m not using it. I really really like being able to kill power and put an airgap in the connection to the TV.

The Setup

Brought it all home, and proceeded to spend a couple of hours taking apart the old stack, cleaning dust bunnies from the table top, carting things to the recycle pile, unboxing, attaching feet ( 4 screws ) and then hooking up cables again.

Power-up was uneventful and it politely auto-guides you through the basic setup. The “manual” is online, but I didn’t bother getting a copy yet. It worked FINE right out of the box and I didn’t have anything about it I didn’t like. (Remember where I was upgrading from, though…) The remote feels a bit light and cheesy, but works and the buttons are reasonably placed (if not as ideal as on a Sony). The picture is Very Nice. The DirecTV feed was much better than on the old set, even if not as good as HDTV. Also the “stretch your picture” choices of format on the TV let you take the squinched up things and stretch them out (like DW news and Big Bang Theory on one channel) getting a full HDTV aspect ratio out of the “16:9 squashed into 4:3” ugly thing. It also lets you take the “16:9” with bars above and below as they “letterboxed” it into 4:3, then vertical barred on the ends on the HDTV as it is a 4:3 image in a 16:9 native: then stretch it both ways to proper aspect ratio and full screen (like Fox Business). Turns out just being able to undo those distortions in the DirecTV feed was “worth it” to me ;-)

If all it did at that point was give me a better quality image and proper aspect of my exiting DirecTV 4:3 feed, that would be more than enough for $130. Oh, and the stereo sound was much better too ;-)

A Roku We Will Go

Then I plugged in the Roku. You just stick it in one of the HDTV holes and attach USB power (included). Put the TV on that HDTV for input and away you go. Everything is done through the Roku Remote (yup, another remote…)

It too has a nice auto-set up process. Entering the WiFi network is just a ‘click one’ but typing my fairly long complicated password via the “move cursor over box of letters then click” was a bit of a pain. But it all did “just work” and it all was self explanatory. One glitch: At the early ‘set up an account’ stage, it puts up a captcha challenge that did NOT show up on my Android Tablet at all. I had to go to the Debian with Browser to get it to go. That was the first I saw of the captch and only then knew why the “continue” button was ignoring me on the Tablet.

Some bits I was quasi-expecting, but had not prepared for quite enough. I think I did “OK”, but with some warning could have done better. No, not the technical bits, the “keeping them out of my information” bits…

First off, they insist on knowing your name, address and phone number. Having a pre-built alternative identity would have been better. I had already put in my real name (lucky for me it is effectively anonymous). For the address I used my pseudo-me PO Box. For the phone number, I’d let my burner phone expire. Here I could have been more prepared… Lucky for me, they didn’t object to AreaCode 555-1212 (BUT demand exactly and ONLY 10 digits – no space or dash; and don’t say why it fails). It also wants an email address, and my bogus-but-live-one had expired, so I had to use my ‘2nd tier’ real one. Then it DEMANDS a form of payment. Since I planned to only use “free stuff” I didn’t want to give it one. Not an option. OK, for that I was prepared. I used my Walmart Prepaid Debit Card that has the PO Box address and zip code. Now the bad thing is this connects that semi-pseudo me to my IP address. Oh Well. I mostly played with it all to see if it could be done, not to have a “real pseudo-me” (or I’d not have used my real name and real address on the box set-up stuff and gotten real-me mail there…) Bottom line is they have a debit card with between $5 and zero on it to play with. I’m good with that. IFF I ever want to buy something I’ll have to go put cash in it. I’m good with that, too.

They also have you set up an “account” with password and (optional) PIN for purchases.

Then you are up and running. ( I think. I may have forgotten some minor bits…)

It is a bit strange how you get “channels”. There are categories and you scroll them. Pick one and you get a block of station logos with dinky descriptions. Click one you get a bigger description and an “add me” choice. Some are free (rather a lot). Some have “commercials if you don’t pay”. Some gave up and just give you commercials. Some are “enter your cable or provider info” for access (presuming you have cable or Satellite and are on the road with your stick, I guess). And some are just flat out “pay up to get it”.

I’ve not bothered putting in my “provider information” as I’m interested in “cord cutting”, so want to see how happy I am without it. Sling-TV being my target replacement provider, I’m going to give them a trial in a few months to confirm I’m “good to go”. Until then I’m just using the Sat-Box at low res for those channels. IFF I get the big one in the front room set up, I’ll add the provider info so the spouse gets the HDTV version of the Satellite channels.

Then I spent somewhere over an hour adding channels to my “home” list…

Now realize that these “channels” are more like “networks”. Many of them have a series of things you can chose between (like Netflix with rows of topics and shows in the rows). Some are just one channel / show. Some are sporadic service, so just give a banner if the “event” isn’t on. I didn’t add ANY of the pay channels. I’ve still got more channels than I can possibly watch…

Now I’ve already got Netflix for watching on the road on the tablet. That, alone, covers a lot of turf. Then IF you are an Amazon Prime member (that I’m not) you get that too. There’s maybe a dozen local channels from all over the country, and several news channels. NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox are all there. PBS has a lot of stuff up on the PBS channel. Didn’t get to look exactly how much as I was busy “adding channels”. Then there are the foreign language channels. I have some from Brazil, plus one “learn Portuguese” channel. Several Spanish (there must be near a dozen) including from Columbia and Dominica and several other places. A load of India and Iranian that I did not add, and more. Sadly, while I found an Italian TV channel, I did not find a French language channel. Nor German. Also I did not find RT or Al Jazeera. (Then again, I’m not sure I’ve searched all of it…) There is a YouTube channel and a Firefox channel, but searching for things by hunt and peck on the checker board with a remote is going to be a pain.

UPDATE to correct an error

UPDATE: There are A LOT more channels than I had thought, including RT and Al Jazeera (English and Arabic). What I had thought was the full list of channels to select from, with a soft of subsets below (as most places do things) was in fact exactly backwards. The list above the line was a selected subset of most popular, while the list by genre below the line was in fact the full list. There were over 400 general and move channels alone, plus a whole section of News that included RT and AJ along with a dozen other that interested me (The Blaze and Info Wars at one extreme, The Economist, WSJ, Reuters and more at the other end. DW and France24 in the middle. Even TED talks! The “Religion” category was huge with over 1200 channels, including the Catholic one that the spouse wanted.

There is a whole section of non-English programming with everything from Africa to Vietnamese, including some French and German stations. Brazil was well represented, Latin America over represented, and Eastern Europe not so much (but a little).

At this point, I had selected to 474 channels and spent much of the evening whittling them down to 400. (Deciding I really didn’t need the Community Service channel from Canton, Ohio for example… and that the Loony Toons channel was not so interesting when they demanded money – remember I’m running ONLY the free channels (with commercials for some) at this point.) I think that sometime tomorrow I can likely get it down closer to 300, especially as I start sorting through the “old movie channels” and keeping the nicer ones, dumping the “me too” with the same out of copyright movies, or the ones that have annoying hoops or too many commercials before you get to the movie…

Basically, at this point, I’m swamped in channels. It will likely take me a month just to sort out what I really want to keep (which of the 4 retro-themed “radio” channels, for instance, or am I REALLY ever going to watch a Coptic Church service?…) Sometime long after that will come “what do I wish I had that isn’t here?” At this point it is largely just a couple of series on CBS that I can get with an antenna… and maybe a more full FOX TV feed. Often the “News Channels” don’t include all the shows, just snippets from some of them. This is mostly (only?) for networks that are heavy on Cable / Satellite and get pressure not to give it away… But it will take a long time to look though all this and figure out if I’m in need of anything specific / more. With that, back to the original posting.

End of the UPDATE.

Some things let you put apps on your phone or tablet to control them. Some even take added hardware to do things like send your own video to "your channel" and more. A couple let you turn your PC into your own DVR for broadcast stuff (some hardware buy required).

Then there are the weird ones. Some "Government to the People" channel from an odd Latin American country. Community channels from places in who knows where. Channels set up by a few folks like a Country Western channel that looks like maybe a half dozen folks decided they wanted it, so did it. Many channels for "gamers", but I didn't see a "game shows" channel (but maybe was moving too fast to sort them out…)

I picked a whole bunch of stuff and, over the next weeks, will watch them for a little while each, deleting the uninteresting ones. In the process driving their marketing and pigeon holing software a little bit daft… What do you do with a guy who watches snatches of everything in several languages?

Eventually, when I feel like it, I'll set up one of the Pi / Odroid things to drive the other HDMI input and see if I like it better with a keyboard and mouse ;-) Then I'll have my whole Internet TV batch from up top available on big screen in high-def. That, then, will be the moment when I decide if the Roku is a “keeper anyway” as it has lots of stuff I want, or was just a fun experiment and interim solution and becomes a target of “recreational hacking” ;-) Or it might just go “out front” to the spouse who is unlikely to appreciate using a keyboard and mouse to drive the TV via Linux 8-0

In Conclusion

At the end of the evening, having sampled several HDTV things over the internet and liked the results A Lot, and having watched my 4:3 Satellite feed and liked it A Lot (being larger, clearer, and with ability to fix the aspect ratio munging on some channels), and having loaded up a 100 ish “channels” to wander through in coming weeks (and ignoring more…) I’m thinking this was one of the best “under $200” I’ve spent in a long time. Even if it was an “unexpected expense”. And even if it did keep me AFK (Away From Keyboard) for the whole day.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Human Interest, Tech Bits and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

80 Responses to Cord Cutting – Step 2 – Roku

  1. philjourdan says:

    DAMN! And here I have 4 nice CRTs that I could have sent you! (23-29″). ;-) Oh well, I am sure the “geek squad” will try to download my viewing habits from the TVs when I call Best Buy to pick them up. (yes, that is a /sarc – but not by much).

    I do not mind Smart TVs. Mine do not have Mics or cameras. And because I am lazy, they also do not have Internet access yet (guess the chicken littles do not realize that). But I went with the 4k for 2 reasons (I cannot tell the difference either). It was on the Cyber Monday sale (so a 55″ was only $350) and it makes a hell of a computer monitor! (Don’t tell my wife that). She is the one that wants the bigger and bigger TVs. SO I figure it will not be too many years before that one is re-purposed and winds up on my computer desk. ;-)

  2. LG says:

    Thanks for sharing your shopping experience.
    I’ll have to give Wallmart second considerations.
    I thought that the slow traffic in my neighborhood Best Buy was mainly a function of their location.
    Your description of their traffic pattern in the parking lot and inside the store is practically what I’ve observed.

  3. jim2 says:

    I built one of these antennas and it is picking up stations from the reflector side. The reflector can be left off for equal bi-directional reception.

  4. bruce says:

    A fellow told me about a “fire stick” and “kodi” allows you free streaming of nearly everything. I didn’t believe him, couldn’t be true. But a search indicates otherwise, at least for now. I am in the process of acquiring the combination, so can’t say anything else.

  5. Steven Fraser says:

    Fun to read of your adventure! I’ve been running a componentized system (in various configurations) for a number of years, with the block component technologies replaced from time to time for necessity or infatuation. My blocks: 1 TV, 2 Hifi audio, 3 video, 4 Internet. When I married, block 1 was a 12″ Sony Trinitron, which joined block 2 already-installed Pioneer belt-drive turntable, stereo amp, and a pair of smaller Advent speakers. Through the years, we added block 3, first as VHS, then DVD and now Blue-Ray, but always 18-24 months behind the ‘current hot-shit’ tech curve.
    The only area where we have been early adopters has been in Internet. We ordered GTE ADSL (768K down, 128K up, phone wiring) the week it became available. They were just learning to spell TCPIP, so,we had startup issues. Put in a minimal hub, and CAT5 cabling, so had a 2-node, 10MBit network up fairly shortly. Upgraded speed when available/economical. We went wireless, upgraded the computers and infrastructure when we moved. Traded out Verizon FIOS when Frontier service started to decline.
    What we have now is still componentized: Block 1, 43″ Visio 1080i LCD display, with Spectrum Cable. Block 2, Sony Blue Ray/ CD player, to YAMAHA receiver, 3.1 channel surround via Polk Audio speakers. Block 3 through the same tech. (Note: the receiver has HDMI in and out) Block 4, 110 MBit/20 MBit Asymmetric Internet (measured speed), with 100 MBit wired connection to the BlueRay, and Dual-channel WIFI.

  6. llanfar says:

    I’ve a Samsung smart TV that’s a few years old. Last year I noticed the mic initialization visual durin tv turn on… I didn’t bother checking whether there was a setting for that. I just unplugged the CAT5. As I use a computer-generated (1Password on iOS) 16-byte password for the wifi, I don’t anticipate the tv being able to figure it out.

  7. Larry Ledwick says:

    I run my TV off of a simple dipole wire antenna, went down to Radio Shack and picked up a 300 ohm twin lead to F connector adapter (cost a couple bucks – Amazon lists them for $1.89 right now) and a small coil of 300 ohm flat twin lead, split about 8 feet of it and use it like old rabbit ears dipole. I plug it into the cable connector on the TV so I have no hardline cable connection to the TV at all, and only pick up on air programming. Most of the programming sucks but there are a couple local channels I like. Other wise I buy DVDs for a fraction of what I would spend on cable service, you get a handful of new DVDs every couple months and pretty soon you have quite a collection of stuff you know you will like to watch. Best dollar value for me are the sets of older TV series that I liked. I get home from work late in the evening after all the prime time shows are done anyway and turn on the TV to see what is playing on the few channels I like. If nothing interesting, I put in an old TV series and pick an episode (say the old Miami Vice series) and watch it while I fix some dinner.

    If I really want to see something more current I can stream it from Amazon Prime.

    Have not had a TV cable provider for 2-3 years except for internet only (can’t remember exactly when I cut the cord) and except for a few hot popular series everyone is watching I am perfectly happy. If you wait a year or so even those popular series show up in season sets on DVD or blueray, I just can’t watch the latest series in real time without streaming.

    Frankly I only turn on the TV to watch broadcast programing a couple times a week now.

  8. jim2 says:

    We haven’t had cable for a couple of years now. Use the gray-hoverman antenna and get about a dozen (non-hispanic) stations. Have amazon prime and netflix.

    I miss fox news, cnbc, and some reality shows, but am able to live without them.

  9. Jason Calley says:

    Your old CRT just gives you a single horizontal line? You can still watch it…

    Our TV failed with a horizontal line when I was a kid, but I discovered that the picture was still there, just compressed into that line. I found that if I moved my eyes quickly, changing my direction of view from the blank top of the screen, down to the blank bottom of the screen, (or vice versa), I could sometimes see — for just that brief moment when my eyes were moving — whatever the picture should be. In effect, I was doing the vertical motion of the scanning with my eyeball. Depending on eye speed, direction of motion, timing, etc., the picture might be right-side up, upside down, or distorted.

    I still amuse easily.

    Oh, jim2, good info on that antenna construction!

  10. Larry Geiger says:

    I have an outside antenna with a coax cable directly into the TV. We get all the main networks and a bunch of other stuff up in the high numbers. We watch MASH on METV every once in a while and turn on the weather when storms are coming (to Florida). No internet (on the TV). My wife’s a librarian and we mostly read when we’re not outside doing something. I haven’t watched a “news show” in decades.

  11. Power Grab says:

    My VCR/DVD player got to where it was turning itself on by itself repeatedly. It’s not that old. Of course, stuff isn’t supposed to last very long these days!

    When I researched the problem, only one solution was useful. They said you should clean out dust/grime from the sensor(?) that tells it to turn on. That’s probably what I should do. I have opened plenty of computers in my time, but I have never opened a video player. Is there anything I should be wary of? What do I need? Some swabs and alcohol?

  12. Dan_Kurt says:

    About ready to cut the cord. Have recently (few months) moved (after retiring) to a South Western city after forty one years in the North West. Now are watching (with wife) her choice of TV fare each evening Fox’s Hannity, rarely Tucker Carlson, occasionally Antiques Road Show, and a about every two weeks Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. To placate her I watch about an hour of TV with her starting at 9 p.m. from the DVR until she falls asleep. We then go to bed and I usually get up and go to my office and read to about 1 a.m. (I don’t need much sleep.) She asked how much were we paying for the TV to the cable company and just about fainted when I told her circa $125.00 per month. She hinted perhaps we should drop the cable. I think I will have an easy time with her in stopping cable when (promised) giga bit internet arrives to our neighborhood this Spring.

    As to Free TV, In my office I have set up a 32 inch HD Samsung TV I bought for my wife about two years ago so she could watch something while riding her exercise bike (which is now on Craig’s list). Now she has a gym membership and a home pool so she doesn’t need the exercise bike. I set up the TV in my office and bought an indoor antenna from Amazon (Winegard FlatWave Micro FL-2000 Digital HD TV Indoor Antenna {OTA / High-VHF / UHF / Ultra-Thin / Black and White – Reversible} – 30 Mile Long Range $19.99) and attached it to the TV. I received, believe it or not, about 80 channels and most were in HD but not all yet all received were watchable. The TV has not been used since. But when we cut the cord, the Winegrd antenna will go into the family room and the 32 inch will go on Craig’s list. In a large city with many Free broadcast TV channels these cheap antennas really work. Check out this url to see what one can expect to receive in one’s location:

    Dan Kurt

  13. Power Grab says:

    So how well do these new antenna options work when you’re about 60 miles from the broadcasters?

  14. jim2 says:

    Power Grab:

    There are two Gray-Hoverman configurations:

    Single Bay Gray-Hoverman (SBGH) for nearby to fringe reception range (approx. > 0 to 100 km or > 0 to 60 mi)

    Double Bay Gray-Hoverman (DBGH) for fringe to deepest fringe reception range (approx. 30 to > 160 km or 20 to > 100 mi)

    This is from the link below. Some of the other links may have better performance. If you build one with the reflector, it might be good to set up some sort of rotor, depending on the distribution of stations. Mine’s in the attic and is fixed. Works in my case.

  15. Larry Ledwick says:

    @Power Grab
    They can also be triggered by flashes of sunlight from like window flashes from a turning car. Had that happen at my place, as cars turn the corner to the road that goes past my place at some times of the day in the summer you will get multiple rapid sunlight flashes, that the IR sensor apparently was interpreting as the code to turn on.

  16. Graeme No.3 says:

    I have had a Hisense TV for ? years, at least 6. Never any problem. Mind you I would average less than an hour a day use. I feed in free to air via a Panasonic recorder/player equally old. Occasionally I use a DVD player which is connected to another of the 3 HDMI inputs.

  17. Dan_Kurt says:

    re: “So how well do these new antenna options work when you’re about 60 miles from the broadcasters?” Power Grab

    No first hand knowledge but check this out: &

    Dan Kurt

  18. E.M.Smith says:

    Ok, first an update, then I’ll go back and “read and respond” to your comments.

    Most of this morning was spent “sorting and sifting”. I started with the 143 channels I’d picked as “maybe of interest” yesterday and went through them one by one. Just enough peek at each to find out:

    1) Does it work?
    2) Does it require payment or subscription and I’d not noticed?
    3) Is it complete crap and I’m NEVER going to watch it no matter how much tequila has gone missing?

    I’m now down to 134, that includes 25 “broken ones” and 7 that “require payment or subscription but I might someday anyway” along wiht a block of about 20? “funny language stations”. Mostly Spanish and some Protuguese (Brazil), but one from Guadeloupe that is in French and a couple in languages I can’t understand but thought I’d gawk at for a while (like Iranian and Arabic and a Bollywood or two).

    In the end, I’ve got about 102 stations that work, are completely free, having something not too offensive or mindless on them, and are in a language I know some of (enough to watch) or have a curiosity about. There are about 70 to 75 that are English and likely OK to good; but a few of those are a bit crazy. There’s a “Fusion” channel that’s all what seems to be a blues / jazz / whatever fusion. There’s a all horror movies channel. The Women’s Lacrosse folks seem more into it than other sports with TWO channels. Then there is a high school somewhere in the midwest? with their own channel.

    When you prune that kind of stuff out ( I’ve left it in for times when I can’t stand watching Yet Another Commercial Rerun) there’s the major news outlets all represented (what I care about most) so Fox, CBS, NBC, ABC and few others like Newsy (that claims to give you “news with the why”). Oddly, I did not see MSNBC nor CNN (then again I didn’t look hard). There are several Netflix Wannabe networks (some with dreadful taste in shows, some quite good). There’s a few “mood” channels (so one that just has normal folks weddings, another that has shots of gardens) and several that are YouTubes Grown Up (one very good lady singer and another lady doing travelogs – what a happy thing for her, she is on perpetual vacation filming it and commenting… and another is All Fights All The time while another is about cars and things that move fast and… you get the idea). Then there are 3? radio station channels. Looks like I can get just about any kind of radio station I want from most of the USA. Oh, and the usual Mega-Channels like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Fire, etc.

    My fancy was tickled more by things like the Spaghetti Western Channel and the one with a youtube like doggy conga line…

    I’ve sorted them “best first” (so Netflix et. al.) then “likely competitors” and Me Too Wannabes. Then a “block for the spouse” with some things she ought to like ( including the Bonanza channel … that seems to ONLY show Bonanza… and I have not figured out how to pick an episode). Then the radio stations, some Christian channels (for her to decide if she likes them or “it’s crap dear”. Oddly, no Catholic channel even though they are on the radio and Satellite) and then my News Block, and followed by the “What the heck is this?” oddities. I sorted the “takes subscription” and “likely broken” to the end of the queue. “someday” I’ll decide if I want to sign up, or “it hasn’t worked in 4 tries, just deleted it.”

    My only real disappointment is that there are almost a dozen? local TV stations from around the nation that are “up”, but it looks like they check the IP and dump your ass if you are not in their broadcast area. One may need a gaggle of “local VPNs” to enjoy them… ( “Where there is a desire there’s a methodology”…) I figure it is Yet Another Archaic FCC Rule keeping them bottled up. Oh Well.

    Oh, and there are 2 Weather stations (one of which is Weather Nation that is much better than The Weather Channel – that doesn’t seem to do much weather anymore and is NOT on Roku).

    OK, give me about 6 months of slowly working my way through the various lists of types of gaggles of movies and topics and shows and… EVENTUALLY I’ll get to that bottom of the scroll list of channels and ponder the “maybe broken or just not enough bandwidth at the time I tested it” stations and the “want your money and identity / login” ones. As it stands, I’ve got way more movies and series available than I can ever hope to watch along with more news than I can consume in a day. Or a week for that matter.

    Oh #2: Via the “YouTube Channel” I found RT, so that one is also available, via Youtube Indirection, which also implies a dozen others that are live feeds on YouTube.

    So, about 24 hours into it, I have the hardware and software set up, the guides and channels sorted, and 6 months to a year of “sampling a tiny while watching my usual” to go through.

    Those strongly into sports will note I said little about sports other than the Lacrosse channels that had names that did not shout “sports” at me… I’m just not that interested in watching other people have fun, I’d rather do it myself. There’s a load of various sports stuff, but it didn’t make it through the first cut of “maybe interested?”. Sorry, just not my thing. But it is there.

    Maybe sometime tonight, after I catch up all the things that got a “mañana” stamp on them get done, I can actually sit down and just watch something… ( I almost got sucked into the Charlies Angeles movie on one channel. Absolutely free, but likely a commercial going to be stuck in at some point… but I pulled myself away to “finish the sorting task”…)

    At this point my feelings are still strongly “very satisfied”, though a bit dampened by the 1/8 of non-functional and the half dozen of “subscribe or nothing” and the dozen or so of “what crap” channels. Then again, one person’s crap is another person’s favorite “Fails” or “Reality TV” show.

    Now all I need about an extra 8 hours a day just to watch TV ;-)

  19. E.M.Smith says:


    I’m getting out of the CRT biz… if slowly. Those suckers sure take a long time to die… A 50 inch for $350? Wha… where? (The living room is yet to do). “Cyber Monday”? I’ve heard that term before but never bothered to find out what it really means…

    And of what use is a “smart” TV that has no internet connection? Near as I can tell the “smart” is only downloading stuff from the internet…


    This BB had about 1/4 the usual cars in the lot. I’ve watched it for years… It is on my way to the Walmart ;-)

    Walmart is a mixed bag for me. Don’t expect ANY help from the staff and don’t expect any good product in the small end / low priced boxes. Costco had better brands and types (i.e. smart) in the smaller TVs though at higher prices. But limited brand choice – basically Samsung.


    Kodi is a Linux devoted to media things. On my “someday” list is a Pi, Cubie or Odroid with Kodi or similar on it driving the TV. Folks h ave done a “jail break” on the Amazon Fire and gotten into the world of free stuff. I’m more interested in “building it from the board up”. Then again, I dropped $50 on the Roku just to have stuff to watch for the year it is likely to take me to get a round tuit and build the thing…


    Look up Sling-TV. For something like $20 or $25 / month you essentially get the usual cable channels over the internet.

    @Power Grab & Jim 2:

    One of the “Dirty Little Secrets” about Digital TV is that it runs on the same frequency bands as old analog TV and ALL those old antennas were just fine for it. So all over the country folks took down large expensive high gain antennas and put up small low gain flat pad things. Just a waist. Yes, the digital tuners can make a decent picture of of a bad antenna, but a great antenna would let you git stations from even further away. Like 70 miles in stead of 40.

    With digital you either have a perfect picture, or get nothi9ng…

    @Steven F:

    Good way to think of it. On my “Oh Dear” list is what to do with the DVD player and, gasp, VHS decks… I’ve already got things on those two media and do NOT want to buy a third type. Similarly, I really like the complete lack of “NO YOU CAN’T!” from the VHS recorder (complete void of DRM :-)

    I’m thinking I’ll build my own DVR, then suck down the old media into it and any new recordings will go to the same device. DRM = Damn Right Mine! in my house.


    Air Gap Good… Mysterious Blinky Light Bad. While I like having blinky lights and unpluggable wires.

    @Jason Calley:

    Nice tip… but I’m old now and my eyes don’t move as fast as they used to ;-)


    Well, I’m more a news junky… and “Outside?” What’s that? I thought it meant an ‘edgy’ TV show…

    BTW, the old HP Buddy has a story of a client who had persistent 9 track tape failures. It would sporadically just unspool all the tape onto the floor… Traced it down to an optical end of tape sensor and a sunset facing window… They put sunblock film on the window and ‘fixed’ it ;-)

    We, too, have started collecting “Series on DVD” sets. Part of the push to move into cord cutter land. Frankly, I’d have been there already but for the surprise forced lock-in when the DSL died.

    Oh, an in my box of goodies is a few variations on the twin-lead antenna. Also have a couple of log-periodic on the roof. Just need to do the wire-it-to-the-TV… but for some reason it just hasn’t been a priority ;-) (Can you say “Broadcast Wasteland”? Or sing it to the tune of “Teenage Wasteland”?)

    @Graeme No.3:

    Nice to know. I was tempted but as this was a “do it now’ couldn’t expend the time to find out if they were any good or not.

    I’m giving myself at least a month then I’m likely to start in on the Living Room Upgrade…

  20. Power Grab says:

    Re: “With digital you either have a perfect picture, or get nothi9ng…”

    Heh…reminds me of the trip we took to the grandparents’ house that was going to make me miss one of my favorites: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I found out that I could jimmy the channel control dial on the little B&W TV in the back bedroom and hold it just off the mark and get the sound and sometimes some snowy video.

  21. Larry Ledwick says:

    EM if you have it in your list we have a local over the air tv channel called “Comet” it runs nothing but old scifi programs. Everything from The Blob and that period to Star Gate Atlantis and Star Gate Universe. I often watch it at about 11:30 pm when I get home one of those old scifi episodes is just about right to go with dinner.

    I am also a news junky but I get 99.44% of it from twitter and followed links – it is very very rare that a major story does not show up first on twitter and you quickly see links to the news outlets who are actually covering the story.

    The only time I go to local news is also on line to see coverage of local stories. I have almost completely stopped even browsing the TV news stations — either happy talk or crap, usually happy talk covered in crap.

  22. jim2 says:

    PG – the good thing about the gray-hoverman is you can build one for a few bucks, depending on what you have laying around. I used PVC pipe, some hardware cloth, and romex; all of which I already had. Used an off-the-shelf 300-75 ohm transformer, coax, and an antenna amplifier. The antenna amplifier I had to buy, and that was the largest expense.

  23. jim2 says:

    I considered Sling, but after reading the CNET reviews, I don’t think so! The ones from 2017 are pretty much the same as from 2016.

  24. E.M.Smith says:

    PBS has you go to their web site and “activate” your account before it works. Grabs an email address, so I’m going to get lots and lots of $Begging…

    So just FYI, I strongly suggest a bogus email to use for SPAM gathering…


    I think it’s because I’m eyes on screen and fingers on KB most of the time with TV as background. Even now, I’m laptop on lap while NCIS is on the TV…


    I’d not looked at reviews yet. Maybe it’s time. They do have a long free trial, FWIW.

  25. gallopingcamel says:

    TV technology is a big challenge to telecoms people like me. It seems that computer experts like you are also somewhat challenged.

    You mention:
    “Samsung, in particular, seems to only have this strange square thing for “Digital Sound Out”.”

    I think you are referring to the SPDIF (Sony Philips Digital Interface) output socket. This comes in two forms used primarily for Dolby digital sound. The “strange square thing” permits you to plug in a 0.9 mm core plastic optical fiber cable to hook up your Dolby 7.1, 5.1 or other digital audio system. It has been my ambition to own a Dolby surround sound system but I have held back because my wife would object to the sub-woofer (the .1 in 5.1 or 7.1).

    If you don’t want to bother with fiber optics you will find an orange phono style socket right next to that strange red glowing “square thing” on most Samsung TVs. This is a copper cable version of the same SPDIF interface. You will need to buy a special cable that is orange or black with yellow rings on each end.

    I was going to throw my dumb TVs away but given the “Big Brother” antics of Samsung I may throw my two smart 4K TVs away instead.

  26. tom0mason says:

    Keep in mind that CNET may or may not give a wholly accurate review, CNET is owned by CBS.
    Maybe look at,review-2608.html
    or even
    except they are for the 2015 service with teething problems…

  27. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, if the BAD is still what Tom’s found, I’m in great shap:

    The bad

    ESPN is linear TV only, without on-demand or DVR capability
    As many commercials as on cable or satellite TV
    No Web interface
    Can watch on only one device at a time
    Lacks ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC
    Occasional buffering annoyances.

    Don’t do ESPN so don’t care.

    No change from my present commercials on Satellite, so “no diff”.

    Why do I need a “web interface” if it is on ROKU?

    It is mostly for the stations the Spouse watches (and I watch with her when we are both home). So one device is Just Fine. When I’m the only one here, still fine.

    ABC CBS NBC and a Sort-of-Fox are already on ROKU.

    Buffering is personal location and equipment dependent or volume surge dependent on the provider side. Simple fact of life in Web based TV. I have a fast spigot and if they get too many customers, they have the money to upgrade their servers. On Youtube IF I encounter buffering, I just hit pause and go raid the fridge and let the buffers get ahead of my demand.

    So I’m just not seeing much of an issue.

    I’m OK with that set of issues.

  28. E.M.Smith says:

    Well the Consumers Reports (from first launch time) adds a time delay (don’t care about it really) and a question of degree of compression and image quality. Well, since I’m used to Std TV and the 720 P is amazing, I don’t think I’ll care if the 1080 p looks more like 720 sometimes. For $100 / month cash in my pocket “I’m good with that”.

  29. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, the CNET review basically says it is run by the mafia and they use a 56 k modem to serve content ( severe /sarc; …) that usually isn’t there. OK, clearly I need to do some kind of vetting of real service quality before planning on it as my service. I also need a ‘backup plan’ for the particular channels the spouse watches. In looking at the list, a majority of them are CBS and over the air HD here. Hmmm….

    Well, looks like I need another spread sheet… Channel, Vendor, BCAST?, cost …

  30. David A says:

    I must say, true 4k is pretty cool.

  31. E.M.Smith says:

    While my purpose is to get away from AT&T (several decades of dealing with them has trained me to run away ANY time they get their hands on my services) I note in passing they seem to be setting up a SlingTV like service offering. WAY too expensive, but it exists: %2Btv %2Bstreaming#one-app

    Interesting comparison of offerings:,news-24578.html

  32. E.M.Smith says:

    Oh Dear. My bad…

    My counts of channels are “way wrong”.

    Roku had a set of categories, like “recommended” and “best free” and such, then under it another set that looked like a ‘by genre’ sort of thing. I’d just assumed the by genre was a resort of the other larger categories. I was “quite wrong”.

    This morning I took a look into ONE of those categories: “Movies and TV”. It alone has 742 “channels” (that each have collections of stuff). I’m only down to 200 in it looking things over and they are mostly NOT the same as the other list. Sigh.

    The “good news” is that many have a similar theme: Old Stuff. Good because I like a lot of the classic movies. One is devoted to “public domain” movies and says “from the ’40’s ’50s ’60s and ’70s (so I likely ought to look up when copyright expires on old movies…). Others are more “international” and around the world. One so far is dedicated to German Language films and TV (and claims to offer a ‘cloud based DVR’…)

    AND I’ve not even gotten into the other lists.

    At this point it has just sunk in that it might take me a year just to check out all the channels… At one a day, it would be 2 years just for “Movies & TV”…

    Furthermore, they have Playstation Vue as an option ( a competitor to SlingTV) for my “Bcast Cable Alternative”…

    Please accept my apology for my sloppy error of assumption.

    At this point, I’m thinking maybe by the end of the week I can at least get an idea how many actual channels are offered and develop some kind of plan for selecting and sorting… Who knew?…


    Hey, Simon – they have the “U.S. Weed Channel” for “all faces of cannabis – 8 categories of Weed related content”. Talk about a specific market segment…

  33. Larry Geiger says:

    My outside antenna looks like an old analog tv antenna to me. It’s from my old house so it’s 15 to 20 years old. But it looks like the one we had when I was a kid. I don’t know what a “digital” antenna looks like. It has a simple coax cable connection. Our TV is from Orlando and the broadcast TV antennas are between here (east coast) and Orlando out in the Mormon ranch. Somewhere. I get pretty good reception so far.

    Never bought a digital converter box. Just bought the 32in Vizio and plugged the coax right in the back (amongst the 20 other connection points). It’s turned on about 1 to 3 hours a week. Most of the time driven by the DVD player. Some weeks not at all, especially if we go to the movie theater on Friday evening. We get RedBox DVDs sometimes but my wife is a librarian and they have a huge DVD collection. Friday evening is date night and movie night. Somewhere.

    My thing is all my music CDs are on one computer in the computer room. I can easily pipe it anywhere in the house but I haven’t yet figured out how I want to control it remotely. Prices are such that I’m thinking about just duplicating it to some sort of mini-PC in the kitchen and bedroom. But I haven’t done it yet. Someday.

  34. Greg Hall says:

    Back in 2014, we went the Roku 3 route. Kept it 3 days an sent it back. Interface was klunky and slow. Fast forward or rewind required a complete reload of the program. We were use to SageTV. SageTV, even being10 yrs old is far superior to Roku in every respect.

  35. philjourdan says:

    @Steven Fraser

    The only area where we have been early adopters has been in Internet. We ordered GTE ADSL (768K down, 128K up, phone wiring) the week it became available. They were just learning to spell TCPIP, so,we had startup issues.

    Yea, I remember those days (circa 1999). I had Cavtel 356up/down (synchronous). And they were clueless about most things internet! it took them 6 weeks to get it straight. Then, about 6 months later, they changed their DNS servers without bothering to tell anyone! (they were doing Static IPs). So that was a few days without internet (before the era of Google DNS). I dumped them when I moved a year later, and figured another 6 weeks of pain, so I called the new company early. But by then they seemed to have their ducks in a row so it was quick. I had a very old gateway that only did 10mb back then (and the ISPs hated them because they could not tell how many devices were connected to them). I still have the gateway, although it is not used due to obvious reasons.

  36. David Young says:


    As a long-time fan of your blog I have been following your journey-of-discovery with the Roku with considerable interest. I migrated from the cable TV environment to a Roku 3 in ’13 and have never looked back, completely changed my TV watching world. You’re right – you won’t be able to even scratch the surface of the content that will now be available to you.

    Regarding your comment on Al Jazeera and RT, if you not yet discovered this both outlets are available as stand-alone, free “channels” on Roku, at least on my Roku 3. I occasionally watch RT. Select the “Streaming Channels” option,then select “Genres”, then “News & Weather”. Both channels should be there.

  37. philjourdan says:

    “Cyber Monday” is the online version of “Black Friday” and is the Monday after it. It started as the day that those who missed the deals on the Friday tried to find them on the internet the following Monday. It has grown – for both online and brick and mortar – to rival Black Friday as far as loss leaders are concerned. I did not see any deals this year for “Black Friday” that would cause me to run out and stand in line (I have only done that once in my life, and fortunately the line was not long and on Thanksgiving night). But then Amazon was advertising flat screens for $150 (for a 42″) and $250 (for a 50″), for Cyber Monday. But those went so fast, I was out of luck (You had to be ready to pounce as soon as they opened). I looked elsewhere and found 43″ for $180 (Best Buy) and then the 55″ 4k Smart at Walmart for $350. I bought 2 of those (kept one, and donated the other to the fund raiser raffle).

    I like Cyber Monday better because the only lines are in the browser, not in freezing temps or rain (the Brick and Mortars that now participate, usually only do so with their online presence. You will not find the items in their stores).

  38. jim2 says:

    My office setup consists of a Samsung 1080 computer monitor fed by a (cheap) Homeworx digital TV box fed by the antenna distribution amplifier fed by the hoverman antenna.

    The Homewrox has a 1 TB USB drive used to store recorded TV shows, as the Homewrox has a record schedule feature.

    Sound is provided by a Pyle PCA1 (cheap) stereo power amplifier. It is fed by a mechanical audio switch that is used to select between the Homewrox or the Tecsun SDR multi-band radio, or nothing for a quick mute.

  39. philjourdan says:

    @E.M. Re: Smart – correct. However the “smart” are almost as cheap as the dumb, and on the occasion you want to stream some content, you can connect them, stream and then disconnect them. As we have (now) 5 flat screens but only 3 boxes (FIOS), when we have company, we can connect them for the company. Otherwise, they are just as dumb as the dumb ones.

    So the NSA will get pictures of my friends in, perhaps, compromising positions, but not us.

  40. philjourdan says:

    a local over the air tv channel called “Comet”

    I enjoy their re-runs of the old Outer Limits (Wednesday nights I think).

  41. philjourdan says:

    Keep in mind that CNET may or may not give a wholly accurate review, CNET is owned by CBS.

    I have not gone to CNET for anything since they installed their wrappers on downloads (some of which are harmful). It was the go to site at one time, but no longer.

  42. philjourdan says:

    The “good news” is that many have a similar theme: Old Stuff. Good because I like a lot of the classic movies. One is devoted to “public domain” movies and says “from the ’40’s ’50s ’60s and ’70s (so I likely ought to look up when copyright expires on old movies…).

    Do you remember how “It’s a Wonderful Life” became so popular? It was about 20 years ago, when the copyright expired on it and every channel in the world started broadcasting it during Christmas (a couple of years later, they figured out that the music was still copyrighted, so pulled it).

    Those are the films I love to watch over and over. I have seen the Star wars movies. But usually not more than once or twice. I watch the older movies (pre-1970) a LOT! They are fun to watch as the actors (and actresses) were really acting! it was not all staged with stilted dialog (the Schwarzenegger effect).

    There are only a handful of movies post 1970 that I enjoy seeing multiple times. I could live with those stations!

  43. E.M.Smith says:

    @David Young:

    Yup! I’ve spent much of the day adding more channels and sorting them into the order I wanted. The religion category alone has over 1200 channels…

    I’ve updated the posting on that point about what channels I found.


    “Digital Antenna” is a marketing “term”… The old regular analog TV channels run on the same spectrum and those antennas still work just fine. The newer antennas marketed as “digital” are basically just smaller crappier antennas since the digital signal cleans up better and you get a good picture even with a very marginal antenna. Some (most?) are also now the fractal antenna designs that didn’t exist before digital TV (but they work the same on analog or digital TV signals too…)

    @Greg Hall:

    I agree that the interface is a bit primitive. To move a channel from the bottom of the “home” list (where they all get stuck) to the top, you must scroll it up one line of 3 channels at a time to the top. Pushing the up arrow 100 times to move one channel is, er, and issue. But I figure I’m only going to do it once… Had I known that going in, I could have avoided it by selecting to add channels in the order I wanted them in my list. Oh Well.

    I’ve not seen a “Sage TV”. I’ll have to look it up. I’m happy with the Roku so far, but it was more a toy / interim patch than the end game ( provided I find something I like more). As a portable stick, even if I eventually get something else, it can be the travel TV package for the hotel room…


    Oh, yeah, DVR, need to make one of those too… ;-)


    Yeah, I’d noticed their downloads became painful, so stopped, some time ago. Then their articles changed. Now I only go there if a web search sends me to it…

    Spouse and I have gotten into the habit, after watch classical old movies in Palo Alto, of remarking how well done the acting was compared to today. We’ve come to believe there are two major reasons and one minor.

    1) Many of the actors came from Vaudeville so had years of feedback from audiences on what worked and what didn’t, and you do not get multiple takes to get your lines right.

    2) Many of the actors had real life experience to draw on, not just acting school on daddy’s dime. Like Col. Jimmy Stewart in Strategic Air Command, or the extreme case, Audie Murphy playing himself in a war hero movie about him. They didn’t have to ACT, just remember…

    3) The minor one being the Studio System that ran the actors through all sorts of training to “develop” them.

    IMHO the actors of today are over-trained and under-experienced, plus the directors are trying to make Techno-Pop-Sizzle and not a smooth story…

  44. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, there’s good and bad on SageTV:

    We’re thrilled to announce that SageTV has been acquired by Google.

    We’re also now thrilled that Google let us open source the SageTV platform! The source code is now available on GitHub.

    Since 2002, we’ve worked to change the TV viewing experience by building cutting-edge software and technology that allows you to create and control your media center from multiple devices. And as the media landscape continues to evolve, we think it’s time our vision of entertainment management grows as well. By teaming up with Google, we believe our ideas will reach an even larger audience of users worldwide on many different products, platforms and services.

    So it is now open source, good (hopefully a Linux version soon..)

    It is owned by “all your data are belong to us” Google, so any commercial version from them will be a data mine with you on the wrong end of the pick.

  45. Graeme No.3 says:

    When we switched to digital in Adelaide I didn’t change my antenna. There was a mixed system with the old analogue channels still running for months along with some of the new digital ones (others added later). I had excellent signal strength because my rooftop antenna had direct line of sight to the transmitter towers.
    Down in the valley (about 60 feet) we had to up-grade the antenna in the Bowling Club for the new digital monitor. No line of sight (mostly trees).
    When I was in Sydney we installed a new antenna on top of the block of flats and it pulled in v. good (analogue) reception from 40 miles away**, until the trees grew and the signal suffered when the leaves were wet.

    **rather than the local transmitters which ghosted with reflections from a high rise block, and because the regional TV would play matches live rather than edited highlights at night from the local source. We could have pulled the signal from 65 miles to the north instead but the majority wanted to follow the southern team.

  46. Larry Ledwick says:

    The switch to digital came just shortly after they opened up the UHF bands for broadcast TV then forced the VHF frequencies to be retired and pushed everything up frequency to compress the bandwidth used.

    The old analog TV’s use VHF frequencies and any old piece of wire could be made to work on VHF frequencies – it got a bit dicey once you got up to the upper end of VHF TV band (channel 9 and up) and the antennas got a bit more finicky and directional. Once the jump was made to UHF it was much more difficult to get good signals with an old coat hanger class antenna and you had to spend a bit more time getting an antenna that worked at the higher frequencies. They also had lower ranges of broadcast (this was a feature for the FCC as it allowed closer spacing of stations using the same frequency). This is why we now can have hundreds of channels, UHF (and digital) allowed closer frequency steps between channels.

    The shift to “digital antennas” is more a case of an antenna design which is happier operating at UHF frequencies and more broad band since the total spectrum increases substantially.

    The classic VHF frequencies (channels 2 – 6) spanned 54-88 Mhz, Channels 7-13 spanned 174 – 216 Mhz.

    Ghosting and reflections were more of a problem in that upper end of the VHF band (ie reflections off of buildings etc) would give you double images unless you could orient your antenna to have poor reception toward the weak signal and good reception toward the stronger of the two signals. This was the origin of the old TV top rabbit ears dance we had to do back in those days moving around the antennas and changing the lengths and spread so that we (by accident) put a null on the weak reflection and a good lobe on the strong direct signal.

    In the late 1980’s I lived right up against a mountain and had terrible reception on the upper end of the expanded VHF band. I actually got better signal with a high gain antenna pointed at a near by mountain to pick up the reflection, rather than pointed directly at the transmitter over the horrible direct path signal route that was masked by the mountain in my back yard.

    It was not until just before the cut over to digital that locally they started using the UHF band here in the Denver Metro area (channels 14 – 52) in fact for years we only had channel 20 and 31 in that band.

    31 was always a problem where I lived for that reason, until they put up a repeater near Boulder to broadcast into the shadow areas near the front range. The lower part of the high UHF channel allocation was from 470 Mhz – 698 Mhz (channels 4 – 51) where high frequency issues became important

    The later spread of upper UHF channels from Channel 52 – 83 were allocated in the high UHF frequencies just below microwave ranges from 698 Mhz – 890 Mhz) where you needed an antenna and feed line (coax) designed for those near microwave bands where transmission losses went way up with long feed lines and a very broad band antenna design that was happy at both the lower and upper limits of that UHF spectrum.

    Of course cable side steps that by going directly to coax and avoiding over the air broadcast issues like reflections and short range entirely.

    Luckily where I live I basically have line of site to all the major stations so have enough signal strength that for most channels it does not matter what antenna I use, but with that quick and dirty dipole I use, in some weather conditions is is a hassle to get one or two stations until the weather changes and reception is poor enough that you can have a good signal if you are standing up in the middle of the living room but when you sit down on the couch the signal drops and you get a no-signal banner on the tv until you find the magic location for one of the dipole legs just like in the old days with rabbit ears.

  47. p.g.sharrow says:

    @ LG; thanks for that fractal antenna construction link. Something that I have been looking for is an omnidirectional antenna that can a part of my dropping satellite TV. I have just the stuff to make an outdoor version…pg

  48. jim2 says:

    I’m going to have to build the fractal antenna and compare to the single-bay hoverman with reflector screen.

  49. Larry Ledwick says:

    You might want to look into discone antennas too, they are broad band (ie not picky about frequency band, inherently self tuning for the frequency you are working and dirt simple to make. If they work for you they are bar none the cheapest easiest antennas to use.

    They can be built as a skeleton of just 2 wires a flat top hat wire and a ^ shaped lower wire.

    In essence they are a horn antenna expanded into a 360 degree horizontal horn. They operate as a wave guide until the natural impedance of the horn segment matches the impedance of free space for the frequency you are using and then the RF radiates (or is absorbed) at that point on the horn.

    Not highly efficient but inherently broad banded and omnidirectional.
    You can increase the efficiency a bit for the skeleton version by using flat strap rather than wire to get low inductance and resistance losses in the antenna elements.

    I have used them for scanner antennas when I did not have any powerful local signals that would drown everything else. You can get a little gain by stacking two of them vertically about 5/8 wave length apart for the frequency you are most interested in.

  50. philjourdan says:


    The newer antennas marketed as “digital” are basically just smaller crappier antennas since the digital signal cleans up better and you get a good picture even with a very marginal antenna.

    I get a laugh every time I see a commercial for those things. They are selling over the air channels as some big secret! Every once in a while, I get sarcastic and tell some millennial that I am waiting for “wireless” TV! You should see the nods of agreement I get.

    As for the movies, I agree with your 3 reasons and will add one more. It is said that Henry Fonda was a raging liberal. So I’ve been told. But I never knew that. Why? Actors acted. They did not wear p_ssy hats and screech at you when they did not get their way. I have a problem watching the movies of the idiots who do. And that is most of the actors in Hollywood these days. I do not ask my doctor for Car advice and I do not ask my mechanic for medical advice. I sure do not want political advice from some idiot whose talent is in lying to people.

  51. ossqss says:

    If you have a cell phone with an IR blaster, you can toss all your remotes away. Make sure you take the batteries out first :)

    I use the peel remote app and can control anything using an IR remote by model number.

    Be well. e

  52. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, a quick summary after a couple of days:

    I am quite happy with the TV. Sound is “OK” so folks wanting high end sound needs something else, but for me it’s fine (remember I don’t hear much above 5 kHz…).

    Per ROKU:

    I like it quite a lot. It is a bit of a “love / hate” relationship as it is “different”. There are many thousands of stations, that’s the good news. The bad news is that most of them are crap, or require a payment (no surprise, really…). So “Hey, they have The Blaze!”… but get out your wallet. Then there’s the “not going to jeopardize my Cable Franchise” channels. “OOOHHH! Look- Fox and Fox Business and CNN and …” then you find it isn’t the same programming. Snips and bits. Want to watch Varney & Co live? Go stuff it.

    Then there are channels like ABC news. Just a stellar design. They have their current news live feed (though I didn’t watch the parade long enough to know if the Talking Heads would cut in), AND lots of individual stories you can play as they interest you. BUT, they also have a whole row of “live feeds” from many places where they are “filming” a story (that might, or might not, make it onto the air waves). I watched the latest briefing on the Oroville Dam, live. They have realized all those trucks out their feeding live stuff back to the studio are of value “as is”.

    So “it’s different”. Habits need to change some.

    This morning I ran through: France 24, RT, Al Jazeera, ABC news, CBS news, NBC news mostly, as they had (collectively) great international coverage and decent USA coverage (averaging the domestic All Trump Hate All The Time against the international view) seasoned with some Red State Radio and NewsMax. Honorary Mention to Sky News who did decent European news UK Centric, but went off the deep end into Loony Left Trump Bashing when given the chance. Overall, quite enough news and viewpoints to keep me in touch with the globe, and centered.

    Notice the complete absence of FOX?

    Now they have historically been my “start here” first and most often viewed. They do have some bits (chopped and formed into news bites and opinion bits) but just not keeping up with the others. I understand their reasons. As “the top Cable News” they can’t risk putting that at risk for cord cutters. Oh Well. I’m much more than happy enough to go ahead with the cord cutting with what I’ve got.

    Going forward, I need to replace the downlead from the old roof antenna and see what all I get. My 300 Ohm folded dipole was not cutting it (only 29 channels, almost all of them sub-channels of just 4? stations, and I don’t speak either Chinese or Vietnamese so it really came down to one PBS station (5? channels?) and one local UHF. No VHF made it. Since the spouse wants the local CBS feed, I go onto the roof…

    I plan to do a “Channels and Evaluations” summary at some point. One thing I did find out is that in addition to the public channels list of thousands, there are also “private channels” that exist, and you can watch many of them with the right code, so more under the covers:

    About those thousands:

    Tom’s Guide makes a reasonable point:

    Best Roku Channels To Watch

    Roku’s streaming devices offer thousands of channels. Having a big selection is usually a good thing, but the chaff outweighs the wheat by a wide margin. If you want to get the most out of your Roku, you’ll need to find the best channels. Whether you want to watch movies, binge TV shows or listen to music, these are the apps that rise above the rest.

    And then presents a set of 28 slides, so likely about 20 stations ( I didn’t finish the list). The first 10 has about 50% overlap with my opinions, so “we’re good”.

    As I already had Netflix going into this, that fills much of the “good to have” space. Then the massive and diverse free news most of the remaining gap. After that, in that “chaff”, the spouse and I spent most of last evening trying channels and sorting keepers from tossers mostly centered on old, B&W, and “classic” (meaning copyright expired) movies and TV. It’s a bit of the wild west, with some folks wanting $Bucks / month or per show, and lots of folks “Free” after you sit through 3 commercials to find out they copied their old VHS library into their “channel” and didn’t do it all that well.

    Over time, much of that will sort out as reputational summaries start to float around.

    The one thing that has overwhelmed me is just the diversity of it. “Underserved” segments can thrive here. From the 1200+ Religious through a few dozen Foreign Language channels on to more “Classical Movie” channels than I could count and even some “soft porn” (think Nazi Camp run by a woman in leather corset and with riding crop… oh, and with the hat, of course…) Then there are the local “community channels”, some from government, some just “Some Guy” who wants to broadcast his local High School Baseball games. I even found one “Easter Egg”: One of the “churches” listed under the Religion heading has ONE film in it: “Plan 9 From Outer Space” (a cult classic of all time…).

    So I’ve gotten to “attend” a couple of Coptic churches just to see what it is like and what Coptic sounds like (and without leaving my couch). Dropped in on some Evangelicals, and attended Mass with the spouse, then a short stop at Jewish channel to round out the experience.

    Yes, the interface is primitive (then again, you don’t have to remember many buttons) and you scroll a lot of you select 500 channels to put in your “home” list. Clearly the better method is to sample them FROM THE SELECTION SCREEN, and only if you like them put them into your list. Not load it up then prune. My bad… Yes, many (most?) of the channels are cheesy or worthless or worse. (One “Religion” channel wanted you to pay up to $14.95 per movie for Christian Movies…) Yes, in many ways it is a DIY kit of parts.

    But at the end of the first few days, I’m thrilled with it. I can’t remember when I’ve gotten so much for so low a price. They have a $25 version that has an optical sensor on a wire. Plug into the set USB and place the sensor (gooey side down) on a surface pointing at your seat. I bought the $50 version that’s all in a USB Stick that I would guess is Bluetooth. Something non-optical and non-directional. ( I don’t know what makes the $100 one “more”…) That $50 is about 5 visits to Starbucks (and with this gizmo, I’m sure to miss that many in a year as “something is on” ;-) or less than one tank of gas (that I won’t spend driving to movies in theatres).

    At this point, I’m one good antenna away from being able to cord-cut and not really notice. Biggest loss will be Fox programs. OK, I’ve got Bloomberg for free for financial stuff (plus Financial Times, plus a few more – but CNBC wanted payments or registration or some such, so it got canned too. Oddly, some of the CNBC stuff shows up on the NBC news channel – so some exploration required).

    Couple ROKU with one good paid service (Netflix for us, for now) and you have most of what you get from the Satellite dish / cable. At this point I’m not even seeing where I really need Sling TV. I may still try it (mostly to see if quality OK now, and / or if it counts as a ‘cable service’ to activate the stations that ask you to ‘sign in with your cable service’… or maybe I can just find an article that answers that question ;-)

    So all up I’m at about $10 / month right now, with about a $35 / month max (and that is a maybe…) I’m good with that. I’m very much double plus good with that…

  53. Greg Hall says:

    FYI: Sagetv is one of the original DVR’s. Take a computer, add a bunch of tuners, connect it to both the Internet and OTA and download the “Guide” of shows and start recording. THe most radical Sage I saw was 8 tuners feeding into 4 harddrives and playing content in 4 rooms at once, all with different programs!

  54. jim2 says:

    I’ve compared the fractal (from LG comment) to the hoverman.

    Fractal base channels: 7,14,18,23,24,31,36,42,54.

    Hoverman: Same as fractal + 16 and 46.

    I’m guessing 16 and 46 are more distant channels, but pretty good for the fractal considering how small it is, and good for the hoverman considering it’s directional.

    On to the discone.

  55. E.M.Smith says:


    Thanks for the antenna comparison!

    Digging through my junk box today (looking for my old 300 ohm dipole and butterfly antennas) I came across an old spool of what looks like about 12 guage speaker wire. It got me thinking of using it to make a fractal antenna. Nice to know in advance the time won’t be wasted…

    I’m pondering plastic pins instead of holes as a way to avoid the threading, but need a closer look at the pattern to see it it all bends the right way…

    I’m also more likely to leave it flat rather than rolled. Most stations are directly N or S of me, and the flat ought to give bidirectional lobes.

    Then again, a new wire from the roof takes no thinking :-)

    Hmmmm… IIRC, a skeletalized discone made from wire is easy… but needs a balun or impedance match… or direct solder coax and I just happen to have some coax in the corner that had the end connector come off… going to the roof antenna…

  56. Larry Ledwick says:

    I’m pondering plastic pins instead of holes as a way to avoid the threading

    Hot melt glue might also work to knock together a prototype quickly with little fuss. I find it very useful for that sort of task, sets up much quicker than solvent based glue.

    Large sheet of cardboard with the pattern drawn on it, glue gun and follow the dots.

  57. E.M.Smith says:


    Note I added a bit about discone to my above quote.

    Great idea on the hot glue. I have one of them in a drawer along with a dozen sticks of glue, unused since the kids grew up :-)

  58. jim2 says:

    The fractal and hoverman both use an off-the-shelf 300-75 transformer.

  59. jim2 says:

    You mentioned you have an old CRT set. I open old TVs and monitors up, discharge the second anode with a wire/screwdriver with a good plastic handle, wrap a blanket around the CRT with the tip of the tube sticking out, and use pliers to break the little tip used to pull a vacuum on the tube. The air enters the tube slowly.

    I save the boards and coils. In fact, made the fractal antenna with wire from sweep coil. Those are great sources for HV diodes, capacitors, relatively high power resistors, and inductors. Also like to save the electron gun assembly cause I think they’re neat.

    I do that to most of my old electronics. I have several torroid cores that prolly could be used for a 4:1 balun.

  60. jim2 says:

    If you choose to de-vacuum a picture tube, you do so at your own risk. Blankets, eye protection, etc.

  61. E.M.Smith says:

    Wire discone:

    An interesting parabolic into disc discone:

    I wonder if it would work bidirectional if reduced to 2 D as just two wires…

    DIY sits on the desk from coat hanger wire:

    In one of my ARRL Antenna books? they reduced the discone to wire like that, then made a 2D version by only having a lower inverted V and a straight wire top. For something like 80 meters where a full on cone is large… it worked but was more directional,.

  62. E.M.Smith says:


    Over the years, I’ve “let the vacuum out” ;-) from quite a few tvs… only a few with rocks or .22 …. and only one accidentally… The set was dead and headed out…

    Yeah, harvested many a TV in my day. My first power supplies were made using their transformers and 5U4 tubes or related.

    Unfortunately, I’m now in the business of de-junking a half century of accumulation, so not likely to disembowl this one. Besides, the circuits were mostly small integrated things, the flyback transformer barely the size of a salt shaker, and no tubes! (Other than the CRT). I suppose I’ll regret it someday, like letting go of my old power supply, but there just isn’t any room left.

  63. jim2 says:

    Isn’t Dejunking one of the stages of life?

  64. jim2 says:

    Good site for antennas. Has a discone calculator.

  65. jim2 says:

    Fractal base channels: 7,14,18,23,24,31,36,42,54.

    Hoverman: Same as fractal + 16 and 46.

    Discone: 7,13,16,18,23,24,31,36,42, (missing 46), (missing 54), 62

    So, the discone is pretty much a toss up with the hoverman. It picks up a couple more and loses 2. It was kind of a bitch to build. Had to make a 1:1 balun, mainly for common mode rejection as I understand it. Drilled holes in 1.5 inch PVC pipe to hold 12 gauge wire from romex. 8 elements for disk and 8 for cone. Was difficult to stuff all the wires through the PVC. Anyway, not sure where I’m going next.

  66. E.M.Smith says:

    Since the missing and gained are in similar frequency bands, that implies not frequency related, therefore directionality artifacts (especially for the Hoverman).

    You might find it interesting to plot the locations of stations vs your antenna orientaion including lead path.

    As the fractal is really a flat directional rolled into a circle, it ought to retain some directionality, if modest and moderated. Rotating it 90 degrees could be interestiong.

    Also, try changing polarization. Are all the signals the same when horizontal vs vertical?

    (Well, you said you were not sure where to go next 8-‘)

    FWIW, since you have the three of them, try various heights, then stack them (1/4 or 5/8 wavelength? And at which frequency?) I’d put the discone on top, the Hoverman below it pointed at the most stations, then the fractal wrapped around the pole… cable away from the front axis of the Hovermen – that ought to point what limited directionality it has the other way… but I could see using the fractal as a top hat to the discone… sort of..

    Lots of fun to be had once you have multiple antennas….

  67. Larry Ledwick says:

    It might also be simply a signal strength issue with the 2 channels you lost. The Discone has no appreciable gain, where the others might have a small amount of gain or at least directionality which could be eliminating some interfering signal on those channels. As you mentioned earlier, with digital you either get enough signal to process or you don’t, there is very little in the way of marginal reception.

    If you can get the transmitter location of the stations (not to hard if you do a search on the call sign) there are some data bases out there which will tell you the lat long of the actual transmitter, not the broadcast studio.
    Example: <- – – – list of call signs you can look up

    Then you can try playing with a reflector with the antennas and see if you can fix that. A flat reflector placed about 1/2 wavelengths behind the antenna should give you modest gain.

    The ideal spacing may not be exactly 1/2 wavelength but it should be close. The reflector can be an open screen of wires as long as the open spaces are smaller than 1/10 wavelength. The proximity of the reflector will also slightly change the impedance of the antenna so a little bit of tweaking might give you gain through both the reflection and slight changes in the antenna match for the signal you are most interested in.

  68. jim2 says:

    I have a transmitter map. Most of the stations I get with any of these are about 13 miles away. The hoverman pulls in one from 35 miles away that the fractal and discone didn’t get. All of them pulled in one station 46 miles away if the mileage numbers are correct.

    I think I may build one more hoverman. Most stations around me are in two directions.

    I don’t have much time to burn with other experiments right now. Maybe later :)

  69. jim2 says:

    OK, the one I thought was 46 miles away isn’t. It’s only about 13 miles away. So, the hoverman is the distance champ. Not a surprise. Some mods on the fractal might work, but I’ll probably ditch the discone. I only have so much room in the attic, so it will be in the way.

    EM – I don’t have enough space to stack in the attic. The discone angled elements are about 3 feet long. The PVC pipe holding them is 4 feet.

    I’ll probably play around with the fractal antenna at some point.

  70. jim2 says:

    Looks like I won’t have to build anything else. I tried pointing the business end of the hoverman towards the most distant stations, one of which is 80 miles out. The closer stations are on almost the opposite direction. It turns out the reflector side is adequate to receive the 13-15 miles distant stations, while the front pulls in the 40-80 mile ones.

  71. jim2 says:

    After a bit of time looking at the channels, there is a bit of pixelation at times on some channels. It’s a sunny day, but a storm front might zap some of the channels.

    I may end up making a second hoverman at some point. But OK for now.

  72. E.M.Smith says:

    The pixelation happens when you just barely have enough signal, then it fades just a tinsy…

    BTW, you could “stack” your antennas side by side in the attic… Hoverman pointed at the weakest stations and first on the feed, then the fractal say 5/8 wavelength at the desired station away, and the discone last to pick up some more… ought to pick up a few db on some of the stations (and each one being a different design, any dropouts in one covered by the other…)

    FWIW, you’ve convinced me to make a Hoverman. Likely will make a frame of pvc and suspend the wires with string… a “dreamcatcher” for UHF :-)

  73. jim2 says:

    I have a cluster of stations S and another further away set N. There are others to the W.

    Once I get over this weekend of building and do some more work on our kitchen, I’ll probably just build a second hoverman. They are only a couple feet tall and not too wide. But packs a good punch for the area taken. The discone might be good on a mast, but there’s no good place to put it in the attic that won’t block the hoverman. I only have 5 ft and some change height in the attic, so I’m up against constraints.

    I’m happy to have tried the fractal and discone anyway. I like doing stuff like that. I tried the fractal on my FM radio in the office. FM is between VHF TV and UHF TV. It sucked pretty badly compared to the 20 foot wire I normally use, although it did a respectable job on the TV with the preamp. The preamp feeds three TVs in the house.

  74. Larry Ledwick says:

    With antennas, you never know what you are going to end up with until you test it.
    The only problem with stacking multiple antennas is it gets really complicated to get a good SWR match in some cases. You might get lucky or you could lose as much gain due to impedance mismatch as you gain by stacking. Stacking identical antennas is a bit easier as they both have the same native feed point impedance so two stacked together fed in phase will have about 1/2 the impedance of each by them selves. A 1/4 wave matching stub will allow you in theory to match anything but would involve a lot of testing to get the best performance.

    Might want to look up cophased harness to see how matching is done on two stacked antennas if you have not played with them before. An antenna analyzer makes it much easier to see what is going on and they have gotten fairly cheap in the last few years (about $200 -$300 for common ham frequencies). A bit steep for a one time effort but save a huge amount of time if you build and match an antenna no one has published info on.

    Mine is similar to this (much older though)

    When I built the reception antennas for our aircraft crash beacon monitor the very best omni antenna I could build (for a single frequency) was a perfectly matched J pole made out of 1/2″ copper tubing and with the main radiator 5/8 wave long. Holy cow that thing had ears at 121.5 Mhz but by the nature of the matching stub it was a tuned antenna that would only work best at a single frequency or harmonics of that frequency.

    With the large diameter tubing for the radiator it have very low ohmic resistance and with a perfect SWR match it would really pull in weak signals with only the slight gain it achieved being a 5/8 wave radiator.

  75. jim2 says:

    For marrying the two hovermans, I plant to try a torroidal ferrite balun with two 300 ohm inputs and one 75 ohm coax output. The two antennas almost will be back to back. I’m wondering if they should be fed in phase (element to element) or out (element to reflector screen). Any thoughts on that?

  76. Larry Ledwick says:

    Depends on what your room limitations are and what bearing you have to your various stations.

    If you can get the right direction by stacking them side by side you want a “broad side pattern” which gives a figure 8 or hour glass antenna pattern at right angles to the axis between the two antennas. They should be fed in phase about 1/2 – 5/8 wave apart.

    If you must put them one behind the other to point in the right direction, you need an “end fire” pattern which also creates a figure 8 or hour glass shaped pattern but along the axis of the two antennas. Depending on how they are fed and spaced you will get a cardioid pattern or an hour glass radiation pattern, with an end fire (hour glass) where the antennas are fed 180 degrees out of phase and spaced 1/2 wave length apart.
    See figure 4-29 here:

    Cardioid pattern see figure 4-30 above and page 24 here (1/4 wave apart, fed 90deg out of phase):

    Click to access Antenna_Basics_8GE01_1e.pdf

    With proper spacing and phasing you can get just about any pattern you need. The built in directionality of the antennas you are using will be added to the above patterns which are only true if both antennas are true omnidirectional antennas (which are not really possible in real life although the discone antenna comes close).

    Basically you need to figure out what pattern would be the most useful to you and then pick the spacing and phasing to get that pattern.

    If you have two clusters of stations in opposite directions the figure 8 hour glass endfire or broadside would allow you to have gain in both directions.

    If most of your stations are all on one side then the cardioid would push most of your gain into that quadrant and if the back side null is pointed in a direction you have no stations, you will probably be able to hear all the stations you care about (especially) if the strongest stations can be heard off the side of the pattern and the weakest most distant station can be placed near the front center of the cardioid where it has maximum gain.

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