Sunday, January 13, 2008

OTA HDTV and the DMA 2100

Another step in the many changes I plan following the install of the Linksys DMA 2100 media center extender is to bring HDTV back into the system. Obviously Microsoft rolled over for the cable industry in disallowing CableCard or any other legal method of displaying broadcast HD content besides over the air HDTV, so I had to reintroduce a DViCO Fusion HDTV 5 USB Gold to my hp z552 after banishing it to my gaming PC awhile back. The problem was that the z552 would get so overheated from the processor-intensive act of showing or, god forbid, recording HDTV over the air that you could barely hear the TV over the fan noise. Now that I have an extender, I'm trying again.

First I downloaded an updated driver for my Fusion HDTV box and installed it on my Media Center PC. Then I added the tuner in Media Center (it was automatically detected along with the channel names). Then I ran through the digital antenna setup.

In case I haven't done this to death in other posts, here is a list of channels that work if you are on the Upper West Side with a west-facing window that looks into your neighbor's window, 12 feet away, and has a slight northern view if you crane your neck to the right:

channel

description

status

1021

WCBS-DT

decent HD signal

1041

WNBC-DT

slightly pixellated HD signal but it's working

1051

WNYW-DT (Fox)

nice HD signal but of course then when I went to record the new Terminator show it failed -- but then I manually recorded it without incident

1071

WABC-DT

works, I think it's HD

1091

WWOR-DT

not sure if it's HD but it works

1111

WPIX-DT (The CW)

nice HD picture

1251

WNYE-DT

works and is widescreen but the picture wasn't HD

1311

WPXN-DT

works but the program isn't HD and it occasionally pixellates

1411

WXTV-DT

no TV signal, removed

1471

WNJU-DT

no TV signal, removed

1501

WNJN-DT

no TV signal, removed

1681

WFUT-DT

good signal (though not HD) and in Spanish. they were playing "The Legend of Drunken Master" though so that's cool :)

(In other words, this is a list that I made for myself to know what channels to remove that you folks can look at or scroll past, wondering why the hell you read navel-gazing blogs like this in the first place. Probably because you searched Google for "DMA 2100 HDTV OTA" or whatever the hell term landed you here. Welcome!) There were other channels that the digital antenna setup showed had very poor signal strength so I left them off. Let me note that this is much better than it used to be. Maybe the new 2.63 driver is more tolerant of bad signals? I have the same Terk V55 sitting straight up in my window the same way I've had it for a long time, so maybe the weather was conducive to HD OTA signals tonight or something.

Anyway, I scheduled "Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles", or whatever it's called, tonight, but unfortunately, Media Center threw a No Signal error right at 8PM. But when I went to the channel, it played fine, and when I pressed Record, it recorded the whole show. There were like two or three stutters in the recording but otherwise it looked and sounded great -- since I never download HD content and gave up on OTA a year or so ago I forget how good it looks. And having the computer recording the HD in one room while a different purpose-built device (the DMA 2100) renders it in another room means that you don't get the sense of an overheated engine or whatever the z552 sounds like when all its fans are blowing at high speed. It was a pleasant surprise to find that the DMA 2100 really handled the HD content without any complaints or stuttering (aside from what I just mentioned which I think was a signal, not DMA processing, problem). If only the writers' strike was over for the shows we watch, I'd be switching all my recorded series over to OTA HD immediately!

--sbreck

P.S. I am slowly assembling posts on the DMA 2100 from random problems, annoyances, bugs and fixes that I see. I'll keep posting them when a fully formed post on one or more issues appears, and will update this ending as I see them:

DMA 2100 initial impressions

Converting Canon camera videos and DVDs for use with the DMA 2100

Canon video conversion revisited

OTA HDTV and the DMA 2100

following up with Linksys DMA 2100 problems

…or just click the DMA 2100 label over on the right.

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