captpackrat: (TV)
The antenna arrangement I was using had one major flaw: since the various UHF TV stations are in a 90 degree arc and my old UHF antenna was highly directional, pointing the antenna at one group of stations would cause reception problems with the others.

I missed the past three Fox Sundays, and had to throw away nearly a week's worth of mid-week programming because the shows were totally unwatchable.  It was well past time to upgrade my UHF antenna.

The one on top is my Winegard YA-1713 High Band VHF antenna.  It's pointed at Lincoln to pick up KLKN (ABC, Live Well Network) and KOLN (CBS, MyNetworkTV) as well as KUON (PBS/NET, PBS World, Create) in Ashland; all three still broadcast in the high VHF.

The lower one is an Antennas Direct DB8 multidirectional UHF antenna.  It's pointed towards Omaha to pick up KMTV (CBS, Live Well Network), WOWT (NBC, AccuWeather), and KETV (ABC, MeTV), and the shape of the antenna allows me to also get a strong signal from KXVO (CW, Azteca America) and KPTM (Fox, MyNetworkTV, Estrella TV) in Gretna and KHIN (PBS/IPTV, PBS Kids/Create, PBS World) in Red Oak, Iowa.

There are a handful of stations I still cannot receive.  I will never be able to get KFXL (Fox) in Lincoln, because it broadcasts on UHF and is a measly 14 kW.  I have never been able to get KYNE (PBS/NET) in Omaha, but they have a rather short transmitter (117 meters) and only broadcast at 200 kW, nor can I receive KBIN (PBS/IPTV) in Council Bluffs, Iowa, which also has a short tower (98 meters) and only 200 kW of power.  (Most of the UHF stations in this area use 500 to 1000 kW of power and have towers 400-500 meters tall).

I still need to replace the mast.  This one is much too flexible and wobbles around a lot in high winds.  I'm not really sure how to get anything this tall that is strong enough not to bend without being so heavy we can't lift it into place.
captpackrat: (TV)
On Sunday evenings, our local RTV affiliate shows old episodes of the 80's TV program That's Incredible!  It was an early reality television show featuring people performing stunts and stories of unusual or miraculous events.  It was hosted by John Davidson, Fran Tarkenton and Cathy Lee Crosby.

On this particular episode, they show a child named Dustin Domine, son of Randy and Shelley Domine.  Dustin was born with a rare immune deficiency which confined him to a sterile hospital environment for the first two years of his life.  He eventually received a "miraculous" new medical treatment which allowed him to live at home and live a semi-normal life.   "Miracles of Medicine!"  End of story.

Nearly 30 years later, I can punch that name into Google and find out immediately what became of little Dustin.  Unfortunately, the story didn't have a happy ending. 

I wonder if the producers of the show had ever imagined the existence of the Internet and the ability to instantly search for names, places and events.
captpackrat: (Camera)
Assorted pics I either forgot to upload or uploaded to Twitpic but not here.

The antenna I put up for my SO.  I wish I'd done more research; while this antenna works well, it's really overkill.  Separate VHF and UHF antennas would have worked better.

Saw this car with a tiger tail at the Omaha Costco.

Taking the Plattsmouth Bridge across the Missouri River.  These photos were taken back in October when I drove to Iowa to inquire about a marriage license.

After visiting the Mills County Courthouse, I stopped at the nearby Mile Hill Lake at the foot of the Loess Hills.  I walked around the lake, across the dam and up into the hills.  I used to go on these kinds of hikes all the time, but it's been a while and I'm a bit out of shape.

Christmas 2009, I bought stockings for my SO and my roommate.  Not just any kind, but stockings that were appropriate to their "furry preferences".  But I had a very hard time finding anything appropriate for me.  I finally found this stocking with rabbits that was perfect.

Birds are made from bird seed!

Have you given your dog a wet nose today?

Engrish is my favorite language.

One of my relatives!  It's a cute little kids book about packrats.

A Folkmanis Pack Rat puppet.

I've not had much luck getting pictures of the birds.  Every time I try to step outside to get a shot, the more colorful birds fly away.
captpackrat: (TV)

Originally I tried putting a UHF antenna on the highest piece of furniture in my bedroom.  Results were pretty terrible, I could get only 4 stations reliably.

Then I moved the antenna outside onto a short mast, just a few feet above the roof line.  This improved things dramatically and I could now get 9 stations.  Better, but still not great.

When I replaced the old VHF antenna on the other side of the house with a much larger and more powerful VHF/UHF antenna, I stacked the old antenna on top of my UHF antenna, and inserted an additional 5 foot segment into the mast.  I pointed the VHF antenna at Lincoln and the UHF antenna towards Council Bluffs.  I could now pick up the 7 VHF stations in Lincoln, while the greater height and slightly altered angle allowed me to pick up and additional 6 UHF stations in Omaha and Iowa, giving me a total of 24 TV stations.

This setup was adequate, though KLKN on the far side of Lincoln just barely came in.  When I built my new computer, I upgraded to a Hauppage dual tuner, which proved to be far less sensitive than my old ATI single tuner.  This made KLKN almost unwatchable, which was a real bother to me because that station is the local RTV affiliate.  So I searched around and ordered the biggest, most powerful VHF antenna I could find, which turned out to be a Winegard YA-1713 high-band VHF antenna.  Since there are no low-band VHF stations (channels 2-6) in the area, a high-band antenna (channels 7-13) made a low more sense.  It finally got (almost) warm enough for me to work outside yesterday.  I also replaced the regular dual-shield coax leads from the antenna to the amplifier with quad-shield and I raised the VHF antenna a couple extra feet, which theoretically should improve the signal even further.  I was also able to refine the direction I was aiming the antennas.  The results aren't quite as dramatic as I'd hoped, but KLKN is coming in completely stable now, which is all I really wanted.

The only nearby stations I'm missing are KFXL, a UHF Fox affiliate in Lincoln, and KYNE, the PBS affiliate in Omaha.  Trying to receive KFXL would require another UHF antenna aimed at Lincoln and a highly complicated series of filters and signal combiners. Since they have only a single subchannel and I already get KPTM, the Omaha Fox affiliate, it's totally not worth the effort and expense.  I'm not sure why I can't receive KYNE; it might be because they have a fairly small tower (117m).  They have a total of 3 subchannels, but since they carry pretty much the same programming as KUON, I'm not really missing anything.
captpackrat: (Fail)
A rather surprising guest star on today's episode of Hawaii Five-0, originally broadcast in 1975, titled "Computer Killer".

(Click on images to enlarge)

A shifty-looking "computer consultant" watches a gentleman meeting up with an attorney and heading into court.  He notes the man's license plate, then gets back in his car and makes a call on his car phone.

His rotary dial car phone.

Then he opens the suitcase sitting in the passenger seat, revealing a keyboard and screen.

He turns the unit on, clearly revealing the model, an ADDS Envoy.

The terminal boots up.

He attaches the headset of his car phone to an acoustic coupler on the side of the terminal.

The modem connects to the Department of Motor Vehicles, which apparently hires "computor programmers".

The guy hits some keys on the keyboard, which has mysteriously changed colors (continuity error!)

DMV data for the car owner very slowly begins to fill the screen.  The baud rate looks to be about 8 or 10 bits/sec.

After getting the data he needed, he writes it down on a pad of paper.  I guess he spent so much money on the portable terminal and car phone that he couldn't afford a printer.  Notice the keys are orange again.

There are several other more traditional terminals and oldie computer equipment (IBM, Control Data, etc) in the episode, but the portable terminal and rotary car phone were the most interesting.  Oddly, I can find almost nothing about ADDS on the internet, and there don't appear to be any photos of this particular model of terminal.
captpackrat: (TV)
On today's episode of Emergency!, the crew is watching an episode of Adam-12 on TV.

Yet there was a cross-over episode of Adam-12 which guest starred the firefighters and doctors from Emergency!, so the two shows occur in the same "universe".

What's even funnier is that I recognize the episode they are watching.  It came on the same channel just a week or two ago.
captpackrat: (TV)
It's weird when you watch a TV program and see someone who would later star in another related series.  So far on Adam-12 I've seen Randolph Mantooth, Bobby Troup, Ron Pinkard, Tim Donnelly, Marco Lopez and Art Balinger, all of whom would later star in another Mark VII series, Emergency!, as Paramedic John Gage, Dr. Joe Early, Dr. Mike Morton, Fireman Chet Kelly, Fireman Marco Lopez and Battalion Chief Conrad, respectively. 

(Yes, there was an crossover episode with Adam-12 and Emergency!, but these particular episodes were aired long before Emergency! and the actors play other characters.)
captpackrat: (TV)
Emergency! tonight had a small child stuck in a hole on a construction site.

At the exact same time, the secondary tuner was recording the episode of the Simpsons where Bart fools everyone into thinking a small child is stuck in a well.

captpackrat: (Simpsons avatar)

Clicky the image to enlarge.
captpackrat: (TV)
I've spent hundreds of dollars to improve the TV signals we receive here.  Two antennas, 2 ground rods, 2 amplifiers, hundreds of feet of ground wires, ground blocks and assorted accessories.

While it helped somewhat, there were still stations that just would not come in.  It didn't make any sense that I had a dedicated VHF antenna, aimed directly at a VHF station, with a powerful amplifier, but I could barely get any signal at all.

Worse, my SO's television was coming in terribly.  Even channels that should have been clear weren't coming in at all and he was becoming frustrated.  I tried diagnosing the problem by plugging my portable digital TV into the cable just before where it entered his room and the signal was fine.  So obviously the problem was the cable connecting into his TV.  I replaced that, and low and behold, his TV started working perfectly again.

I examined the cable but couldn't find anything wrong with it.  Then I noticed it was marked RG-59.  This was the old standard for analog television, but cable and satellite systems require RG-6.  The replacement cable I gave him was marked RG-6 and the rest of the cable run was marked CATV, so it was probably RG-6 as well.

I checked the cables in my room and everything was RG-6, except for one short segment between the amplifier power injector and the computer.  That was RG-59.  I replaced it with an RG-6 cable, and bingo, every station starts coming in perfectly, even KLNK, the weakest.

All this trouble because of a simple piece of cable costing about $2.

Now I can get 8.2, an RTN (Retro Television Network) affiliate that runs all kinds of classic TV shows like I Spy, Adam 12, Dragnet, Emergency, Ironside, Kojak and Quincy.  I should

tl;dr, check your TV cables and replace any marked RG-59.
captpackrat: (TV)

Oh hai, I uprgaded ur antenna.

Yes, they're supposed to point in different directions (though the one up top needs to be reoriented slightly)

Steiff Jolly Hase plush puppet.

Tube boob

Nov. 8th, 2010 12:40 pm
captpackrat: (TV)
I had an epiphany last night; all the stations in Lincoln are VHF, while all the stations in Omaha are UHF.  The amplifier for my antenna has inputs for separate VHF and UHF antennas, so I could use the old VHF antenna that used to be on the other side of the house with the UHF antenna on my side, with the two aimed in different directions.  Then I'd be able to pick up 7 additional stations without needing a rotor, giving me about 23 stations total.  Not bad for broadcast TV.

The existing mast is a bit too low.  It's just above the roof line, which is adequate for a single antenna, but not two.  Fortunately, the mast is modular; I just need to insert another segment.  I'm also going to need a new transformer, as the one on the old antenna is not really the right type and is hopelessly coated in electrical tape.   The most biggest difficulty, however, is undoing the guy wires supporting the mast.  I wrapped them up pretty tightly, and I'll have to climb the ladder again to get to them.  I've never been fond of ladders.
captpackrat: (TV)
While the new house was wired for satellite, the old house wasn't.  Instead, the former occupants had put up a small VHF antenna and wired it into the east bedroom (which became my SO's).  The antenna worked adequately until the switch to digital TV, when nearly all the local stations switched from VHF to UHF.  The old antenna became utterly useless.  My SO tried to make due with an indoor antenna, but something happened recently and reception went to pot.  He started becoming very frustrated, so I went out and bought the biggest, most powerful antenna I could find along with an outdoor amplifier.  It's an RCA VHF/UHF antenna that claims to have a 100 mile range and is rated Green (medium-long range) by itself and Purple (extreme range) with an amplifier.

(This is a different antenna from the one I installed a couple weeks ago; that one was for my room only.  There is no wiring between the two rooms and running a wire would be very difficult.)

About 2:30 this afternoon I started working on replacing the old antenna.  It was mounted atop a 10 or 12 foot mast with one end driven into the ground and attached to the side of the roof part-way up.  Disconnecting the mast from the roof was easy enough, and I only had to climb 4 rungs on the ladder.  The ground was fairly muddy, so pulling the mast out of the ground would have been easy, had the former occupants not driven a couple twisted wires into the mud, presumably as some sort of (totally inadequate) ground.  Those wires managed to grab the mud making it nearly impossible to pull the mast out.  The clamp holding the wire onto the mast was stuck and didn't want to come loose.  Finally, with a ton of effort, I managed to wrench the mast out of the ground.

Only to discover problem number two: the installers left almost no slack in the cable and had securely taped the cable to the mast, well above my head, so that it was impossible to simply lay the mast down.  I had to pick the whole thing up and maneuver it around carefully, making sure not to smash out the nearby basement window, until I could get enough slack to lay the mast down.

I started cutting the straps of electrical tape to loosen the cable, then discovered problem number three, and the worst one so far.  The previous occupants had used half a roll of electrical tape around the connectors, which years of sun had baked into a solid plastic block.  There was no way to cut through it or peel it off.  Since the wire came out of the wall with no connectors, I would have to cut the wire and install a new connector.

I've got tons of tools for fashioning UTP ethernet cables, but I've never had to work with coax before, so I didn't have any tools.  I knew the local small-town hardware store wouldn't have anything, so I had to drive about an hour round-trip to Menards. I bought an RCA kit that claimed to have "everything" needed to attach connectors to cable.  I drive home, open the kit... and discover it doesn't have "everything", in fact, it's a whole lot of nothing.  Near as I can figure, the tool the kit comes with is for inserting the cable into the connector, you still need to strip and crimp the cable yourself.  I suppose I could improvise with a pocket knife and a pair of pliers, but this is going to be outside for years and years, so I'd rather do the job right.

I hop back in my car and drive the half-hour to Menards, pick up a pricey universal cable stripper (for coax, UTP and flat phone cables) and an even pricier ratcheting coax crimper.  If you're buying tools, might as well buy good ones, right?  Another half-hour drive home, then I start working on the cable.  By this time, the sun has gone down and it's beginning to get dark out.

The cable stripper works like a charm, once I figure out which way the cable goes in.  I jam a connector onto the end, then stick it into the crimper and give it a squeeze.  The crimper seizes up solid.  I can't open it, I can't squeeze it any farther, and there doesn't appear to be any sort of emergency release.  I try banging it on the concrete, I try stepping on it, but nothing works.  It was finally dark out before I gave up.

It should have taken a couple hours at most to replace this antenna.  So far I've spent nearly 5 hours on it, and I'll have at least another hour long drive tomorrow to return this broken crimper and try to find something else.  And I'm not even half way finished.


Sep. 30th, 2010 09:31 pm
captpackrat: (TV)
I bought an 8 foot copper ground rod and pounded it into the earth, which is a lot easier said than done.  Fortunately we've got a post driver; trying to use a sledgehammer on a rod that's taller than I am would not have been fun.

But now I've got something of a conundrum.  Attaching the antenna to the ground rod is easy enough, but if I do so, it raises the spectre of a ground loop.  To fix that issue, I need to bond the antenna ground rod to the main ground rod in the basement.  There's a hole in the basement wall so running a wire won't be much of an issue.  The problem I'm having is what kind of wire to use.

The best thing would be a bare copper wire, buried underground for the majority of its run.  The wire would act as additional ground making the system even more effective.  However, copper wire runs about $1.50 per foot, and I think I'll need about 75 feet to connect the two grounds.  That's almost double what I paid for the antenna in the first place.  I also really don't want to go digging a trench around the house.

Some websites are suggesting RG8 coax.  It's shielded and insulated, so I could just run it anywhere without having to worry about it. However, shopping around online, it looks like it's at least as expensive as plain copper.

The cheap solution would be braided electrical wire.  100 feet of 12 gauge wire is about $35 online, I could get thinner wire even cheaper.

The main concern I have is reducing the risk of a ground loop.  I don't need (or really want) the bond wire to absorb a lightning strike, as that's what the antenna ground rod is for.  I just want to bleed off any voltage potential that may occur between the grounds.

Anyone have any thoughts on the matter?

Boob toob

Sep. 29th, 2010 07:06 pm
captpackrat: (TV)
I don't have a TV in my room, I've got a computer with a TV tuner and I use Microsoft's Windows Media Center like a TiVo to record my programs.  None of the rooms in the old house have satellite TV, and running a wire would be difficult.  My SO has an ancient outdoor antenna, but it's VHF only (most digital TV stations use UHF now), really old, beaten up and tiny, and the wire only runs to his bedroom and the kitchen; running a wire to my bedroom would require going through the narrow dirt crawlspace under the house.  So for years I've been making due with an outdoor antenna mounted in the corner of my bedroom.

This was adequate for some of the channels, mostly Fox and WB, but ABC, CBS and NBC were a crap shoot, sometimes it would come in clear, sometimes it would skip so bad it would be unwatchable.  And the signal for PBS was so week it couldn't lock on at all.  I've spent at least $50 on amplifiers to try to boost the signal, but they didn't seem to help much.  (And yes, I'd tried moving the plushies away from the front of the antenna.)

This last week, the signal was particularly bad.  I don't know why, the weather has been excellent, no rain, few clouds and little or no wind, so there shouldn't have been any interference, but most of the shows I recorded were unwatchable, even on Fox which is usually the strongest station.  That was the straw that broke the camel's back.  I went out and got some parts and set up the antenna outside.

(The little black box half-way down the mast is an amplifier)

The hard part was running a cable from inside to out.  I ended up drilling a hole in the corner of the window.  I think I got it close enough that bugs shouldn't be able to get in and it shouldn't create a draft.  If it does, I've got some expanding foam glue I could squirt in there.  I should probably find some way to attach the mast to the gutter to stabilize it in high winds; right now it's free standing.  I also took the opportunity to rerun the cable for my satellite radio.

Now I'm getting a fantastic signal.  All the commercial networks are coming in perfectly and I can now receive three digital PBS channels crystal clear and another 3 PBS channels with a 50% signal (which I might be able to improve by reorienting the antenna).

The biggest problem with putting this antenna outside is it's a great lightning rod that's plugged right into my computer.  I've got the cable running through a surge protector, but I doubt that would do much to stop a full-blown lightning strike.  I've got a lightning arrestor on order, but the best thing will be just to unplug everything during a storm.  I should probably get some kind of quick disconnect connector so I don't have to deal with unscrewing these irritating coax connectors.
captpackrat: (TV)
They don't make TV theme songs like this anymore.
captpackrat: (Camera)

Bike chain fail.

If you're going to chain your bike to something useless like this ashtray, at least run the chain through the wheels so someone can't just ride off with it.

Sounds like it should be a Furry show.  It's not.

A few weeks ago my roommate's dog somehow tore a nail and had to go to the vet for surgery.  Now she's missing the nail and it shows no signs of growing back.

We got lucky the other day after that really bad thunderstorm and had only minor damage to the fence.  Others weren't so lucky.

Woodchuck!  (aka Groundhog or Marmot)  He was just staring off into space when I snapped the photo.  I tried to get his attention so he'd look at me, but that scared him off.  They're almost as cute as bunnies when they run away.

I saw this license plate in town and had to snap a photo.
captpackrat: (Fruity)
I've got my computer set to record Sea Hunt, which is showing every night on a local station.

I must say, Lloyd Bridges has a DAMN fine butt.
captpackrat: (Mathnet)
I use Windows Media Center to watch TV.  My computer has a TV Tuner and WMC automatically searches for and records my shows to an external 1 TB hard drive.  It's supposed to automatically delete old shows to make room for new ones.

The drive was almost completely full, nearly a full terabyte of TV shows had been recorded, so I went through the list of old shows to manually delete stuff.

I discovered that WMC had never deleted any of the Law & Order episodes that it had recorded.  I had over a years worth of episodes filling up the drive!  It had recorded not just the new episodes on NBC, but also the syndicated reruns on the local stations.

I started going through and deleting old episodes, which freed up almost half the drive.   Nearly half a terabyte of Law & Order.  Yikes!  And I'm not really that big of a fan of the show.


Nov. 3rd, 2009 10:13 pm
captpackrat: (Bunny Butt)
Why do all aliens end up either being humans (weird forehead optional) or hideous bug/reptile/monster creatures?  Why don't we get more alien bunnies like Quozl or Redeeming Factors?


captpackrat: (Default)
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