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🎭Entertainment => Entertainment General => Topic started by: JeffVolp on November 05, 2011, 01:12:49 PM

Title: Pending analog to digital TV changeover
Post by: JeffVolp on November 05, 2011, 01:12:49 PM

I'm looking for suggestions on how to deal with a pending analog to digital TV changeover.

We now have analog TV feed from the cable company.  We have no converter boxes, and all of our equipment is still analog, including three high-end DVRs that allow us to watch programs when convenient for us, not for the broadcasters.  Those are Panasonic DMR-E100Hs, (pre HD) which store programs to harddrive.  Aside from no monthly fee, one big advantage over TiVo is that we can edit down programs and save to DVDs or SD cards.  That is one feature I don't want to lose.  The primary reason for not going digital is because those DVRs would become obsolete.

The cable company said they would be doing away with the analog feed next year, so we will have to address the changeover.  Cable TV costs about $60 per month without any premium channels.  We do have access to most regular stations by direct transmission (which would require all new equipment or HDTV converters), but my wife likes several channels only available via cable.  I'm in sort of a quandary on how to proceed when cable does away with the analog transmission.  I am posting here to see how others have addressed this situation with minimum cost.

Jeff
Title: Re: Pending analog to digital TV changeover
Post by: William8 on November 05, 2011, 01:33:17 PM
I'm sure the cable company will offer converters to their customers that still have analog TV's. They hate to lose customers.

But you are paying $60 a month I assume you already have a cable box, doesn't it already receive digital signals, and output them over the coax output? Or are you paying $60 for internet and basic cable as I am?

Might be time to get an HDTV either way, I love mine.
Title: Re: Pending analog to digital TV changeover
Post by: JeffVolp on November 05, 2011, 02:28:00 PM

Yes, the cable company would be happy to rent us converter boxes if we would switch to digital.  But that would prevent the DVRs from choosing which channel to record.  The E100H doesn't have any means to control what channel a cable box is tuned to.

Basically, the DVRs record everything for the week unattended, and we watch programs when convenient, usually weeks behind when it was recorded.  (We catch up in the summer when it is too hot to go outside.)

$27 for basic cable, $34 to include the "non-broadcast" channels (no premium), and $41 for Internet (8M).

Researching TiVo further, I see they now have a means to transfer recorded programs over to the PC, where they can be written to DVD.  However, that is $500 + $500 for the fee, and I would have to run more Ethernet links into outside walls.

Jeff
Title: Re: Pending analog to digital TV changeover
Post by: Dan Lawrence on November 05, 2011, 03:20:32 PM
The  Pending analog to digital TV changeover now is a crock.   The changeover was four years ago.   Comcast in the Baltimore County had to send out small convertors of those who had analog "cable ready" sets that convert digital signals to analog.  In Baltimore city, (1984) the system required a box for every TV that had cable service.  My kitchen has a small TV that was only 3 years old (we were a Neison customer, and when we stopped, they blew up my old kitchen TV and gave us "brand new" one) so Ii got two "Government Cheese" coupons (actually 2 cards that looked like an ATM card) and $6.00 and got a digital converter (A Maganvox) that converts digital signals to analog (since that TV is on my outside antenna).

BTW the Government is not giving out those cards anymore, plus almost every TV station in the country already went digital in 2007.
Title: Re: Pending analog to digital TV changeover
Post by: JeffVolp on November 05, 2011, 04:23:35 PM
The Pending analog to digital TV changeover now is a crock.

Not for some of us on cable.  Maybe the world passed us by, but we have been using our analog equipment without a glitch except that our 4:3 screens cut off the sides of the picture.  That has been adequate for most of what is on TV today.  We have the HD projector in the media room for DVD & BD movies.

If you had read my original post, the "Pending" refers to our cable company will be cutting off the analog feed, forcing us holdouts to make the transition.

As you probably know, I'm a strong believer in "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".  Well, my stuff ain't broke yet, and I'm looking for the most cost effective way to maintain the same capability we now have after they make the transition.

Jeff
Title: Re: Pending analog to digital TV changeover
Post by: dhouston on November 05, 2011, 04:31:00 PM
The E100H doesn't have any means to control what channel a cable box is tuned to.
How does the E100H select the chennels/times it records now?
Title: Re: Pending analog to digital TV changeover
Post by: JeffVolp on November 05, 2011, 04:42:43 PM
How does the E100H select the chennels/times it records now?

Analog cable feed goes to the RF connector on the back, just like from an antenna (no cable box).  Then I program it just like a VCR - channel, time, day, etc.  It will record for months without any further attention.

It works similar to a TiVo, except there is no fee, and I can edit and archive programs to DVD or SD.

Jeff
Title: Re: Pending analog to digital TV changeover
Post by: Dan Lawrence on November 05, 2011, 05:29:18 PM
Ok, who's your cable company?  Ours is Comcast and as mentioned, in Baltimore City, we've had cable since 1984 and always had a box for every TV on the cable, and for us the digital change was four years ago, all TV stations went digital at the same time.   If your TV is analog, the cable made the digital conversion for you.  The reason for the changeover was to free the analog frequencies for other uses, particularly for the first responders, which is my understanding never was done.  Half of the analog frequencies were for first responders, the other half was auxtioned off to the cell companies so more "stuff" could solded to the cell phone users and supposodly the first responders never got the analog frequencies but the cell companies did. 
Title: Re: Pending analog to digital TV changeover
Post by: ITguy on November 05, 2011, 05:41:56 PM
To Dan Lawrence:

Quote
The  Pending analog to digital TV changeover now is a crock.

Your mother should have taught you the old saying "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all"!

Edited by original poster to remove flame content.
Title: Re: Pending analog to digital TV changeover
Post by: dhouston on November 05, 2011, 05:53:54 PM
So, in essence, you need an HDTV to NTSC converter?
Title: Re: Pending analog to digital TV changeover
Post by: JeffVolp on November 05, 2011, 05:56:23 PM
We are with Baja Broadband (previously Charter).  I am well aware of the history behind the nationwide conversion.  Not only was it to free up frequencies, but it was also to rake in more money selling them off again.  I don't think first responders needed anywhere near the bandwidth that was freed up.  That communication is mostly narrow bandwidth and limited range.

We would have needed a cable box for the premium channels, but all our TV and DVR tuners accepted the standard analog cable input.  When the nationwide conversion took place, Baja provided both analog and digital feeds.  As you said, they did the conversion for the analog feed.

Now that service will be ending, forcing those of us still in the analog world to finally make the conversion.  While the easy thing is to just accept their cable boxes, that prevents our using the analog DVRs for anything other than single channel operation.  There was a patent fight several years ago that prevented Panasonic and other firms from offering similar DVRs for the digital feed, leaving TiVo (with their fee) and the cable company DVRs as the only option.  None of them provide the features of the Panasonic DVR.

Jeff
Title: Re: Pending analog to digital TV changeover
Post by: JeffVolp on November 05, 2011, 06:10:26 PM
So, in essence, you need an HDTV to NTSC converter?

That only handles a single channel like the cable boxes.  The ideal solution would be a converter box that translates selected channels on the digital cable feed to analog channels on different frequencies so the TV and DVR tuners could still be used for channel selection.

Obviously the cable company is doing that now, but I don't think there is anything like that available to a consumer at an affordable price.  It appears the closest replacement for the Panasonic DVR is that TiVo unit at $1000 a pop (including the license fee).

Jeff
Title: Re: Pending analog to digital TV changeover
Post by: Brian H on November 05, 2011, 06:12:02 PM
I have Comcast here in CT. My part of the state still has analog and basic digital signals on the cable. Some parts have had the analog part discontinued. There web site lead me to believe. If you subscribe to basic analog only. They would give us up to two digital cable to RF antenna input converters no charge. My LCD TV can also do the QAM decoding so I have a few of the basic digital channels already on that TV.
Yes with the converter you pick input channel on the TV and it does all the channel selections.
Title: Re: Pending analog to digital TV changeover
Post by: dhouston on November 05, 2011, 07:29:08 PM
That only handles a single channel like the cable boxes.

So your current devices have their own tuner?

Program your Ocelot or Leopard to send IR to change channels on the cable cox (leaving the TV off) and feed its HDMI output to the converter with its output always on a single channel to which your recorder is always tuned.
It wouldn't be that difficult to build a custom PIC-based device to send the codes needed, using an RTC to track time.
Title: Re: Pending analog to digital TV changeover
Post by: JeffVolp on November 05, 2011, 08:21:10 PM
So your current devices have their own tuner?

Program your Ocelot or Leopard to send IR to change channels on the cable cox (leaving the TV off) and feed its HDMI output to the converter with its output always on a single channel to which your recorder is always tuned.

Yes, the DVRs and TVs have their own analog tuners.  I had not thought about using the Ocelot to switch cable box channels, so that is an option.  But programming the Ocelot is certainly not as easy as entering some buttons on a TV screen menu, and is it not something that Kate could do.  (She normally sets up the DVRs.)  Also, the attached TV couldn't be used for anything else while recording unless it has its own cable box.  Those would put it pretty low on the WAF.

With respect to your link, all of this equipment except that in the media room is pre-HDMI.  (No flat-panels except this monitor.)

Jeff
Title: Re: Pending analog to digital TV changeover
Post by: Noam on November 05, 2011, 08:47:39 PM
Jeff, I was going to suggest something similar, but was beaten to the punch.
I'm surprised that you, in all your infinite geek-wisdom, haven't come up with a solution yet.

Time for you to invent the XTB-DVR ;)

Seriously. I don't know anything about the Panasonic DVR, but perhaps there is a way to make a user-friendly interface for a device to change the channel on the cable box at the appropriate time.

Years ago I had this in NY, with Time Warner cable. They offered a "Watch 'n Record" box, which had two tuners in it. It had connections to feed out to the VCR, and another to feed back in FROM the VCR. It had a separate feed out for the TV.
To record stuff, I would first set it up on the cable box, and then set the VCR to record on channel 3 at the appropriate times.

It sounds like this is about the same as what you are facing with a programmable "channel changer"
It may take a little practice, but this would probably be a lot cheaper than getting a Tivo, or a DVR from the cable company.

I don't know what the controls on your DVR are like, but maybe there is a way to skip the DVR programming altogether, and have the "channel changer" turn it on to record "live" when it changes the channels on the cable box. Then, there is only one device to program (the "channel changer").
Another way to go would be to build your own PC-based DVR, with a digital tuner card in it. It might be cheaper than getting two TiVos, but still not cheap.
Title: Re: Pending analog to digital TV changeover
Post by: JeffVolp on November 06, 2011, 12:00:23 AM
The E100H is a superb analog DVR.  While it has just a single tuner, it allows simultaneous record and play like the TiVo.  Coupled with the independent TV tuner, that gives us the flexibility that we don't want to lose.

Some newer DVRs included the ability to change channels on a cable box through a tethered IR transmitter, but the older E100H didn't incorporate that feature.

I have been researching the TiVo further.  While I don't save many programs, I also don't want to lose the ability to do so.  On the Panasonic, programs can be edited down and commercials eliminated if you want to spend the time.  Then 4 hours of program material is easily selected and burnt to DVD in just over 20 minutes.  TiVo includes no editing feature, but it can transfer programs to a computer.  That apparently works in real time, so it would take 4 hours to make the transfer.  The TiVo PC software doesn't support editing on the computer before burning the programs to DVD, but that can probably be done with still another program.  While it is possible to archive TiVo programs, it is certainly not as convenient as on the Panasonic.

A PC-based DVR sounds interesting, but I doubt that would have much of a WAF unless it incorporates easy menu driven programming.  I'll have to do some research on that option.

Jeff
Title: Re: Pending analog to digital TV changeover
Post by: Noam on November 06, 2011, 12:59:03 AM
A friend of mine built one that is based on Win7 Ultimate, and using Windows Media center with a hauppage tuner.
He said it is really to use. I'm not very familiar with the software options, but I know there are a ton of them for Linux, that are easy to customize. I'm sure someone has written a plugin for one of them, to control a cable box with an IR blaster.
Title: Re: Pending analog to digital TV changeover
Post by: ITguy on November 06, 2011, 10:44:37 AM
Jeff,

This isn't exactly what you're asking for, but you might want to check out the Ceton InfiniTV tuner.  Available as either a PCIe card or a USB external box.  It uses a "cablecard" provided by your cable provider and allows watching/recording up to four channels at once using only one cablecard.  Because it uses the cablecard, NO cable box is required.  It would require you to build a Windows 7 PC for the purpose, but the whole works should cost less than that $1000 Tivo, with no recurring fees and NO LIMIT on how much storage you want to put in the box.

It's really made for HDTV, but supports recording SD also.  If your TV isn't HD, you'd also need a DVI-to-component adapter cable, but that's $20 or less from various providers at Amazon.

Regarding the WAF, it uses Windows Media Center, which includes a channel guide, so that probably would work.

Anyway, there's more details here: http://cetoncorp.com/ (http://cetoncorp.com/) , and a YouTube search will give you a bunch of user videos regarding the installation and user experience.

In the interest of "full disclosure", I don't have one of these.  I dumped my cable provider for satellite.  Good to be rid of Time Warner, bad to be locked in to DirecTV, where I can only use their stuff.  :(

Regards,

ITguy
Title: Re: Pending analog to digital TV changeover
Post by: JeffVolp on November 06, 2011, 11:16:16 AM
Thanks everyone for your inputs.

The requirements for a PC-based DVR (including the Celton) are way beyond anything I have now, and that doesnt look as user friendly as a device designed to provide that one function.  It has to be really simple to use to have an acceptable WAF.

An article on ehow.com suggested the Moxi HD as a TiVo alternative.  That is an interesting option.  While slightly more expensive than the equivalent TiVo, there is no licensing fee.

Update:  Reading the Moxi reviews on Amazon, it looks like that unit isn't quite ready for prime time yet.  Certainly not the reliablity of the Panasonic, which goes for months unattended without a glitch.  The only problem we have with it is when the networks move their schedules arround.  I believe TiVo would track the changes, but the Panasonic just works off the timer.

The reliability issue seems to be related to the fact that it records 3 channels 24 hours a day with no ability to switch it off.  That is a huge amount of harddrive wear and wasted power for the 20 hours a week that we normally record.

Jeff
Title: Re: Pending analog to digital TV changeover
Post by: Backward Engineering on November 06, 2011, 12:39:28 PM
Jeff,

I have a similar situation.  I have DirecTV.  Not the cheapest way to go, but you are not locked into DirecTV equipment as stated by ITGuy.
I have older SD equipment.  NO HD receivers.  I use a ReplayTV box to control the RCA receiver via a serial port on the receiver.  The ReplayTV box is a DVR with a hard drive that I have upgraded to 500 GB.  At about 1 GB per hour, that's a lot of recording.  The ReplayTV that I use has a lifetime guide service that updates the guide every night and stores the program guide for the nest 2 weeks,  however DirectTV, which now owns the rights to the ReplayTV, recently announced the end of life for the service.  The uproar from the announcement caused DirecTV to reverse the decision to end the guide service.  An alternate guide service can be found at Schedule Direct, but that requires running a PC as a server to first download the guide and then send it to the ReplayTV box.  With a ReplayTV box you can transfer the files to a PC or another ReplayTV box over the Internet.  You can record a program while watching a previously recorded program.  And most importantly,  the version I have has the automatic commercial skip feature that was banned in the later models.  If you think you are interested in a ReplayTV box, I'm willing to trade one for one of your XTB-IIRs.  You have my email address.  I presently have a few of the ReplayTV boxes that I have upgraded from the original 40 GB hard drive.  More than I need for my personnel use.

Don
Title: Re: Pending analog to digital TV changeover
Post by: JeffVolp on November 06, 2011, 01:50:00 PM

Thanks for the offer on the ReplayTV box.  I had read about that yesterday, and except for the ability to control the RCA receiver, it doesn't really offer as much as we have now.  Reviews on Amazon weren't any better overall than for the Moxi.

In addition to recording the weekly cycle on hard drive, I still want to be able to edit and save selected programs to DVD.  It appears that nothing available today provides that capability directly.

Jeff