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Rabbit Ears To Stage a Comeback Thanks To DTV

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the standing-on-one-leg dept.

Television 265

Jeffrey Breen writes "Like Monty Python's Killer Rabbit, cheap indoor antennas seem harmless to satellite and cable providers. But with the digital TV transition in the US, rabbit ears can suddenly provide digital-perfect pictures, many more channels, and even on-screen program guides. Already feeling pressure as suddenly budget-conscious consumers shed premium channels, providers must now get creative to protect their low-end as well."

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Not rabbit ears (5, Informative)

show me altoids (1183399) | more than 5 years ago | (#26858873)

Rabbit ears don't pick up UHF signals; they are for VHF which is going away. It's the "loop" part of current antennas which will receive UHF.

Re:Not rabbit ears (2, Informative)

Jeffrey Baker (6191) | more than 5 years ago | (#26858907)

Interesting, but i have a rabbit ears with no loop and I pick up numerous digital channels. Moving and turning the ears makes channels cut in and out. Therefore I doubt your assertion.

Re:Not rabbit ears (5, Informative)

jtara (133429) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859031)

A one-inch piece of wire or a dampened finger will "pick up" UHF, VHF, or Martian signals. It's all a matter of how well, not whether or not they do.

The "loop" is nominally designed-for and tuned to pick-up UHF signals. The "rabbit ears" is designed-for and tuned (by varying the length of the ears) to pick-up VHF signals. But either will "pick up" both bands with some degree of success. ("Both" bands is actually a misnomer, since the VHF broadcast TV allocations span multiple ranges with holes for other services, such as public safety, etc.)

Given that almost nobody bothers to tune rabbit-ears by adjusting their length, the non-adjustability of loop antennas, and the incredible width of the broadcast TV spectrum, most simple indoor antennas like this are essentially "random wire" antennas for most channels anyway.

Re:Not rabbit ears (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859075)

The first thought that I had after RTFS, was that the easiest way for the providers to "protect their low end" is to start jamming DTV...

Re:Not rabbit ears (2, Funny)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859249)

Enter the "whitespace" Ipod or Ipod-knockoff with its ability to broadcast on channels 2 through 51, thereby blocking DTV. (The official FCC term is TV Band Device - TVBD.) Coming Christmas 09 from your friends at Comcast. ;-)

Rabbit ears/loops don't cut it.

For almost forty years I've watch analog television with nothing but a settop antenna, and got around 20 stations. With digital I only get 3. Yes from 20 downto 3. Pathetic. The FCC designed the DTV system with the assumption that everybody would have a 25 foot high antenna. So off I went to buy and erect my 25 foot high antenna. Now I get 9 channels. 20 downto 9 is not too bad, although still disappointing.

Anyway you need a 25 foot or higher antenna. Rabbit ears/loops don't cut it here in "rural" Lancaster PA.

Re:Not rabbit ears (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26859319)

The problem with digital is that you must have good reception, at least with analogue you can get away with a weaker reception and it doesn't make a huge difference.

Re:Not rabbit ears (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26859545)

You hit the mark, , but every blogs Zero score is a potential victim of how smart or dumb the moderators , Digital is great, but at a much lower range overall, and it can pop in and out under conditions called Multi path making it even worse than a snowy analog picture .
So it's Great for some and Bad for many more .
The marketing of this tells us all or nothing, that's a half truth , it's all Nothing or a popping in and out annoyance worse than Analog NTSC TV snow weak picture

Re:Not rabbit ears (2, Informative)

MushMouth (5650) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859467)

I have found DTV reception to be far more sensitive to the direction of the antenna, combined with the fact that my television doesn't allow manual tuning, means that with only one antenna there are only a subset of channels available at one time, to get a different subset requires a five minute autoscan.

Re:Not rabbit ears (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859509)

Over here in York it's not much better I'm afraid. It really is nice in more populus areas like Philly though.

Re:Not rabbit ears (2, Funny)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859565)

The Lancaster-York stations mount their transmitters along the Susquehanna River, which is near... well... basically nothing.

Re:Not rabbit ears (1)

Jantastic (196238) | more than 5 years ago | (#26858923)

Exactly. I tried to RTFA, but look at the tie that guy is wearing. I knew something was wrong. He must be as clueless about UHF/VHF as... as... ok, as me. Doh!

Re:Not rabbit ears (4, Insightful)

Burdell (228580) | more than 5 years ago | (#26858927)

In general "rabbit ears" are set-top TV antennas of any type. Also, VHF is not going away (some DTV stations will still be using VHF). Only the top part of the UHF band will no longer be available for TV stations.

Re:Not rabbit ears (1)

show me altoids (1183399) | more than 5 years ago | (#26858955)

Hmmmmm..... I wonder how they got the nickname "rabbit ears" in the first place?

Re:Not rabbit ears (2, Funny)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859331)

Please tell me you're joking. Hmmm. How did the antennas that look like two Bugs Bunny ears get named "rabbit ears". Boy that's a real stumper. A real puzzler. Why don't you ask me something easy, like how to solve the water tower puzzle in Zelda Ocarina of Time?

>>>UHF is not going away (some DTV stations will still be using VHF).

Yep! That's the understatement of the year. In my area I have:

6 - Philly
7 - Harrisburg
8 - Harrisburg
9 - Philly
10 - Harrisburg
11 - Baltimore
12 - Philly
13 - Baltimore

I've never had so many stations squeezed into such a small space.

Re:Not rabbit ears (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859423)

Why don't you ask me something easy, like how to solve the water tower puzzle in Zelda Ocarina of Time?

Do you really know how? I've been stumped for the last couple of weeks.... So what's the answer?

Re:Not rabbit ears (2, Funny)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859701)

gamefaqs.com walkthrough

Re:Not rabbit ears (2, Informative)

TheRealFixer (552803) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859171)

Correct. And, some stations who are currently simulcasting their analog VHF channel in DTV over a UHF channel are actually moving back to their VHF frequency after the cutover. I believe they have to get special approval from the FCC to do that, though. Most are just going to stick with their UHF allotments and let the VHF go dark.

Re:Not rabbit ears (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859341)

You don't need special approval to use channels 2 through 13. Those channels are just as valid to use as channels 14 to 51.

Re:Not rabbit ears (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26858933)

Bunny ears worked for my converter box. 11 channels, all with excellent quality. Frankly I was astonished, you NEVER got quality like that with analog VHF/UHF, and I wasn't expecting much. I just bought the converter box recently as a 'just in case' measure. We have Comcast here, and ever since they laid Insight to rest, multiple-week-long waiting lines for service have become a reality. When you live in an area known for rough weather, that's not good.

That said, a proper antenna - combo VHF/UFH - would probably work even better, but this stuff will work satisfactorily with bunny ears, which are themselves not much better than a coat hanger or a paper-clip.

Re:Not rabbit ears (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26859057)

Bunny ears worked for my converter box. 11 channels, all with excellent quality.

I've got the bunny ears and the digital converter box and the new digital bunny is substantially less watchable than the old analog bunny. The old analog bunny was fuzzy but you could still tell what was going down. The new digital bunny is either perfect or totally blanks out. The total blank outs are much worse than the old fuzz.

Granted, I live in the LA area so the blank outs could be an arc welder from the local factory or the wireless PA system from some mega church. Once everything goes completely digital the interference may get shut down but, right now, the new digital bunny is not a good scene.

Re:Not rabbit ears (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859269)

Here in Chicago, the DTV with rabbit ears is much much better than the old analog signal.

I live close to downtown, and there were certain channels I couldn't get at all with an antenna.

I prefer TPB to CATV or SATV, so paying for cable was never going to be an option. For the rare occasions where I want to see something on old-style television, the new digital signal is fantastic. We're getting lots of new channels, too.

How happy I would be if the cable-tv and satellite tv industry got hit with tremendous pressure to improve their products and services - and lower their prices!

Re:Not rabbit ears (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26859293)

Different strokes for different folks. I went from getting three channels tops at terrible quality to getting eleven in perfect clarity. Hopefully things will clear up in your area soon.

Depends on the market (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26858935)

Digital broadcasts will be on VHF in some markets.

Re:Not rabbit ears (4, Interesting)

JDevers (83155) | more than 5 years ago | (#26858947)

Not all DTV is broadcast on UHF and rabbit ears DO pickup UHF on the lower end of the spectrum. There ARE far better designs though and rabbit ears will not make a return.

Re:Not rabbit ears (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859141)

In my area, they're staying on the VHF spectrum - better range in fairly uncluttered area.

I get good signal >45 miles from the transmitters.

Re:Not rabbit ears (5, Interesting)

ryanw (131814) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859243)

You're absolutely WRONG.

Rabbit ears are back (at least in my house)! I am one who has realized that me and my family mostly watched "network shows". I am one who canceled my cable service and traded it for rabbit ears.

At this time DTV looks better than cable services. Digital Cable Services look worse then analog TV and tons worse than DTV, the compression is too high.

Rabbit ears are back baby..

Re:Not rabbit ears (2, Insightful)

JDevers (83155) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859681)

You should splurge the $20 and buy a better antenna. My problem isn't against antennas or even indoor antennas, but specifically rabbit ears. Why use a 1940s era antenna when there are far better and smaller designs. Check out the Silver Sensor or mount a $40 Radioshack antenna in your attic and you will get far better reception.

Re:Not rabbit ears (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26859395)

Not all DTV is broadcast on UHF and rabbit ears DO pickup UHF on the lower end of the spectrum

They broadcast on UHF but declare themselves as VHF. For example, here in Atlanta, DTV channel "5.1" is actually broadcast in the channel 27 frequency space. When you flip through the channels, you see programming at 5.1 and nothing at 27.1

Re:Not rabbit ears (5, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859043)

There are even better designs than the UHF loop. I built one of these [blogspot.com] , and it works great, even without a reflector. Extremely easy to build too. Something even better and a little more complex would be the Grey Hoverman [digitalhome.ca] .

Re:Not rabbit ears (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859553)

VHF is not going away. VHF-Lo (2-6) is going to be less used, but it's not going away completely. VHF-Hi (7-13) is going to be well-used.

DIY (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26858889)

Using rabbit ears, I picked up several new stations (other cities). But with such weak signal, they cut in and out too much. "Coathanger" antenna to the rescue!

Re:DIY (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26858941)

I am doing the exact same thing. The coathanger antenna is awesome....and cost all of $1.50 to make (for the transformer).

Re:DIY (1)

Jorophose (1062218) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859543)

Does it actually pick up all the channels in your area?

Is there a good guide out there to putting one together? Something smallish maybe?

I thought about putting one together, but then wondered if it was just a sick april fool's joke. I guess the fact that they seem to be a bit large and ugly is the tradeoff.

I do this now (1)

dotslashdot (694478) | more than 5 years ago | (#26858915)

I do this now--no cable TV at all, just DTV + Bunny ears. For me it sucks because I get a poor signal due to surrounding structures, thus the video pixelates and the sound stutters a lot. If I could get a decent signal, it would be a great alternative because the picture is crisp and clear.

Re:I do this now (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859007)

I still prefer analog's reliability because you can get between audio and video quality (fussy, dotty, etc.). With digital, you either get clear picture and audio or none! No between. :(

Re:I do this now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26859121)

exactly! i used to get decent (maybe a little fuzzy, nothing one couldn't live with) picture on 7 stations. now i get stuttering picture on 4, a few dissipated, and ONE clear station. (not counting the new added *.1-3 stations which are stuttering just as badly) DTV sucks, and they shouldn't drop analog.

Re:I do this now (2, Informative)

Jorophose (1062218) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859551)

It's because they're only broadcasting at like third power or something.

When analog is shut off, and the DTV stations increase their power, we should see things a lot clearer.

If only this was truly a threat to them (4, Informative)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26858929)

I don't think that rabbit ears are going to be a threat anytime soon. That PayPerView things is pretty compelling. Admittedly, in tough financial times switching to just a few local channels for free would be an option - until you look at unbundling your catv from internet and phone etc. I'm pretty certain that cable providers have a grip on how to bill this so changing really doesn't save you anything worth getting excited over.

Now, if bundling of services with savings was not allowed, and catv ISPs were forced to act like common carriers things might be different. That doesn't look likely to happen any decade soon.

As cynical as I am I expect that soon I'll be paying a penalty for using Vonage instead of the catv ISP version of VoIP; which is a sucky service BTW. None of the available VoIP services can compete with Vonage for features or price or price per feature in my area. No soft phone, no taking your phone modem on vacation, and North America Plan means only US and protectorates - no Canada or Mexico etc.

My mom has DTV and during a storm it sucks. Yes, with indoor antenna it still sucked. Pixilation was devastating to viewing pleasure. It had nothing I'd switch from catv for.

This is an interesting thought, but nothing we'll see in reality.

Re:If only this was truly a threat to them (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26859245)

I don't have cable and didn't even before DTV became widely available.

Hell, I don't even have a TV, I'm not sure I have any relevancy in this thread. I'm thinking about canceling my internet service and getting my fix from work, friends, and coffee shops.

pay-per-view (1)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859479)

With a bit of cleverness one could manage pay-per-view on broadcast tv. For example sacrifice a few channels for a rotating set of movies all requiring a decrypt (sent via the telephone).

add a tivo to this and everyone could have dozens of movies stored, ready to play as long as they subscribed to the decrypt code.

Re:If only this was truly a threat to them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26859641)

Vonage's $24/month package comes in around $32 in real terms. Verizon want us to use their telephone service with our FiOS net and TV service, neither are packaged. Because we won't (vonage's free European calls is primarily why we use it), Verizon have just put our net service up $7 purely because we aren't using their telephone service. Apparently our FiOS TV will get the same treatment once we come of the fixed price contract. By the summer I expect Verizon will have costs our services to be dearer to make Vonage a far less attractive option. At that point we'll cancel their TV service.

Saw this on Superbowl Sunday. (5, Insightful)

WiiVault (1039946) | more than 5 years ago | (#26858943)

The house I went to was tech savvy enough to realize our over the air HD picture was far less blocky and pixelated than the one provided by his HD cable package. If you can get locals with antenna, I would suggest it for any major sporting event. The difference is really amazing.

Re:Saw this on Superbowl Sunday. (1)

meatmanek (1062562) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859103)

Mod parent up. Digital cable is compressed more than over-the-air broadcasts, at least when the station only has one channel. When I watch digital cable, I notice a lot of compression artifacts that aren't there in OTA DTV.

The flip side to this is that digital cable doesn't cut out when you look at it the wrong way.

Didn't work for me (1, Interesting)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 5 years ago | (#26858969)

We have a small set in the kitchen with rabbit ears, after putting on the converter box I can only pick up two channels. With analog tuning I can get six. I tried the box in another room that has a jack for the outdoor antenna and it picked up everything plus new some new stations I didn't know we could get, so I decided to do a coax drop into the kitchen.

I live about 25mi from the transmitters. Such is the life in rural America I guess.

I cut the cable (5, Insightful)

asolidvoid (964293) | more than 5 years ago | (#26858977)

Here in the Bay Area I get about 42 digital channels over the air, many of which are HD. Between that and all the streamable content on sites like Hulu, and Netflix on demand, the case for paying a monthly cable or satellite fee really does seem pretty weak these days. (At least for those in major metropolitan areas.)

Re:I cut the cable (1)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859197)

Is that 42 primary channels, or is that including subchannels? If those are all primary channels, than that is an awful lot. Also, surely only a few of those are major networks. What are the rest? Do they have much good content?

Re:I cut the cable (1)

asolidvoid (964293) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859465)

That includes subchannels. Of course, a lot of those subchannels are programed separately - for example, Fox has a subchannel (maybe a different station all together?) which seems to be nothing but latin dance music videos. Lots of asian programing in the upper channels. One station is just jazz music with no video content (like the music channels on sat. TV if you've tried that). The 3 distinctly programed PBS channels are good and the NBC subchannel with nothing but winter sports is strangely addictive...(luuuged!) Mainly though, it's all about the major networks in HD plus the few cable shows I would have watched on comedy central/CN that are now free to stream. FWI: I'm using an RCA ANT 1400 Multi-directional indoor antenna.

Not for me! (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 5 years ago | (#26858983)

Currently, I use a DB2 bowtie antenna since rabbit ears don't work back in end of 2005. Even with a bowtie (30 miles), sometimes I get dropouts and weak signal strengths like on KABC7's digital 53 (channel 7 for analog), KNBC4's digital 36 (horrible since Super Bowl day almost two weeks ago), etc. I am only under 20 miles to most of these stations (NW direction at 323-324 degrees heading on a compass).

Two weeks, KABC did its digital test on 7 instead of 53 and shutting down its analog channel 7 for 15 minutes after 2:00 AM PST. I woke up for this (yep, I am that crazy) and my two HDTV tuner PCI cards [www.bbti.us] could NOT pick up digital channel 7 at all. with the bowtie antenna. I was told rabbit ears would work. I recalled rabbit ears were too weak for all TV stations when I tried in end of 2005. :(

I will have to buy a new antenna (that supports both UHF and VHF) or add to the bowtie on 6/12/2009 (can't test now since there are no digital channels like 7 [lowest from what I saw for the changeover]. :(

Re:Not for me! (1)

Shelled (81123) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859111)

I use the DB2 on a microphone stand, antenna four feet off the ground, pointed out a patio door, ground floor into a two story courtyard, 150' down the back side of a hill fifteen miles from the transmitters and still pick up reliable signal. That is, however, directly into a television. Maybe PCI tuner cards aren't design for optimum sensitivity.
And yes, OTA digital look spectacular if source permits.

Re:Not for me! (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859201)

Yeah, OTA digital rocks when it works. The antenna is in my upstair room (can't put it on the roof or in the attic) and face facing the wall next to the window on its left (can't face the window becuase its glass has those special coating to keep heat out and it's new from last summer. I did notice downstair's folks have this Terk antenna (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/21gxjlDsZwL._SS500_.jpg ) and have very little problems with their Zeinth converter box (manufactured on April 2008).

Re:Not for me! (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859217)

By the sounds of it, you need a decent roof-mounted directional antenna. I have one and it works for getting TV from over 45 miles away.

Of course, my antenna is longer than I am tall.
http://www.winegarddirect.com/viewitem.asp?p=HD8200U [winegarddirect.com]
And I don't even need an amp!

For you, something cheaper would work:
http://www.winegarddirect.com/viewitem.asp?p=ANWGHST [winegarddirect.com]

Re:Not for me! (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859407)

Yeah, I was told that but I can't put it on the roof or in the attic. :(

'Rabbit Ears' ? (0, Flamebait)

lbalbalba (526209) | more than 5 years ago | (#26858991)

ok, call me a complete idiot, but WTF *are* 'rabbit ears' ?

Re:'Rabbit Ears' ? (1, Informative)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859013)

Two possibilities:

- The things mounted on the head of a rabbit to increase its ability to hear
- The antennas you put on your television to recieve analog(digital possible?) television signals.

In some countries this was widespread, others had antennas put up on top of the roofs.

Re:'Rabbit Ears' ? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26859109)

Third possibility:

- private firms and individuals contracted by a government to raid the carrot patches of an enemy

Re:'Rabbit Ears' ? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859059)

Back in the old days (like the 1970's or so) you could put an antenna on top of your TV. It was a pretty crappy alternative to wiring in a proper antenna. Typically it had a plastic plate with two telescopic antennas, one pointing left and the other to the right. The antennas could be moved around to get the best signal and a common form of popular entertainment at the time was arguing about the best position for the "ears".

Re:'Rabbit Ears' ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26859081)

Ok, you're a complete...no, just kidding. Back in the days before cable, people could put a small antenna on their TV. Since it had two antennas, it was nicknamed rabbit-ears. I just barely remember seen one, and I'm almost 50 years old. I believe they were a dipole antenna.

Re:'Rabbit Ears' ? (1)

lbalbalba (526209) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859215)

Ok,. so I am a complete idiot... Of *course* the rabbit ears must have referred to *actual* rabbit ears...

Here ya' go! (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859191)

Rabbit Ears [google.com]

Overly Optimistic (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859003)

Even in the NYC metro area there are a number of issues that are preventing my taking advantage of this theory. The channels that have switched to DTV seem to be harder to receive, and few are broadcasting in HD even though they have HD on the cable feeds.

I'd have to be pretty hard up to to turn off my cable subscription.

not just tv (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859009)

For consumers that use these services just for TV, they may in fact lose customers. That is why it is all about bundling. Even ATT is not happy with just your land line. They want you land, cell, internet, and cable all on the same bill. Services like comcast want the same thing, but they don't really have cell.

In any case, I suspect that while basic cable service is important to cover costs, not much profit it made.

Better than cable (3, Interesting)

indiejade (850391) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859015)

The Olympics last year were what motivated me to attempt to do the TV thing . . . so I found a very small set and got some rabbit ears. It was pleasantly surprising to discover the dual nature of the channel settings available . . . the old analog signal is still full of snow and noise while the digital airwaves really are better than cable. Channels are a little bit longer (e.g. KQED is 09-003, needs to be manually entered with the dash and all. Best of all, no monthly cable bill!

It's likely that the cable / satellite television industry is going to take a hard hit once people figure out that the can get clarity without paying for ridiculous "service contracts" and "package deals" and "bundles".

Re:Better than cable (1)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859297)

Interesting. My understanding was that most companies would broadcast primary content from -001, and use the other possibilities for alternate content. (Show re-runs, etc) and perhaps smaller local style channels.

For local channels consider that some small towns have simple channels available that display high-school basketball games, and the like, the rest of the time broadcasting literally a PowerPoint presentation of a few textual slides in a a continuous loop, with a local radio station rebroadcast as the audio, or a Muzak subscription/equivalent.

Some PBS stations will likely become secondary channels of the larger network affiliates, as this would be substantially less expensive, allowing the station's limited funding to be used more for programming.

Re:Better than cable (1)

Skim123 (3322) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859623)

I envy you and others who can get good signals over the air. I live in an urbanized area (San Diego) and still (for a few more days, at least) am using the analog feed. It's a bit snowy on some channels, but watchable, and I can change between two channels very quickly (ideal for football season when there's two games on two different channels).

The digital signal, when it comes in, is very clear and has much better picture and sound. Problem is, aside from the PBS channel the quality is horrendous. It pixelates and pauses a couple of times every minute, on average. And switching between two channels takes a good two to three seconds after the switch is made but before the new channel appears.

I suspect the move to digital will curtail my TV viewing even more unless the stations dramatically improve their signals in the near future.

I wonder how long this will last. (4, Insightful)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859049)

My brother hooked up an antennae at his place in LA, and now gets somewhere around 60 channels. All in perfect clarity.

Considering how much I HATE paying a cable company for ads(what happened to Ad-supported?), this is looking very much like something I am going to try out. Fuck Comcast.

But how will cable companies respond when broadcast stations start taking back business?

My guess, they will start BUYING them.

And do what? (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859241)

Why would a cable company buy an expensive broadcast facility, then not broadcast?

Seems to me, what you are getting at is that they want the programming... so they would have to buy the "network", then start dropping affiliates... but that has the same issue as buying stations and not using them, since the value of the network, is the audience of the combined affiliates.

There are lots of shows I watch that aren't broadcast anyhow (Discovery Channel, History, etc.) So, I am stuck with cable.

Cable sucks, but broadcast isn't so hot either, unless you like the "big" sports.

How much do you suppose the NFL would charge to give a cable company exclusive rights, with no broadcast affiliate's? Do you really think cable networks are going to outbid broadcast networks for everything?

Re:And do what? (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859359)

I wasn't implying they would shut them down. Simply control them.

If they can offer ad slots to BOTH mediums to a prospective client, all the better, not to mention issues of conflicting political agendas. They would also be able to maintain "exclusive" programming slots(premium programming confined to cable service).

Closing them down would just open the market for someone else to move in.

Re:I wonder how long this will last. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26859309)

I put an antenna on my roof in San Francisco. I can pick up about 40 channels or so, even a couple from down in San Jose. I still have satellite, but the locals over the air look MUCH MUCH better than the ones I get from DirecTV because they aren't compressed as much.

Digital-Perfect (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26859071)

rabbit ears can suddenly provide digital-perfect pictures

Measuring perfection should include the ability to degrade gracefully, and digital TV is absolute shit at that -- far worse than analog TV signals. Perhaps the worst part is that audio dropout happens much more easily than with analog signals; not only will you have tons of stations with pictures that lock up - as my parents digital cable did so often while visiting over the holidays - but you won't even be able to keep up on the story via the audio (not to mention emergency broadcast usage).

What's uppp, Doc? (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859085)

Seems like the cable-cos are going to start trying to play the part of the Bug Bunny Roadrunner Hour.... They just LOVE to keep racing over the edge of the cliff... hehhehe...

Better delay it some more then (1, Informative)

heroine (1220) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859087)

If rabbit ears ever come back, don't be surprised if it's delayed forever. Any plan which allows individuals to bypass cable providers is a conflict with the broadband tax credit, which explicitely requires you to pay a subscription plan for 5 megabit internet access to a major corporation, mainly Time Warner & Comcast.

Why give money to Time Warner if you're just going to let individuals suck it away with rabbit ear TV?

Re:Better delay it some more then (1)

arkane1234 (457605) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859427)

I know you are joking simply by reading your post (I sure hope...) but hey... This just allows people to recieve what has been on the airwaves for a while now, just with digital clarity instead of fuzz.
What is this broadband tax credit you refer to?
Since you've referred to Time Warner & Comcast, that narrows it down to either LA, Tucson, some various little cities or the northeast USA.
Either way, there's no way a law can come along to stop this. It's just a way to keep television on the air after the other channel frequency was sold.

Not so fast (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26859119)

Yes.
Rabbit ears can provide a nice picture , but The signal must be :
1) Much stronger , Limiting the range much more than old analog TV's with rabbit ears
and
2) free of local reflections

Otherwise Now instead of snow you get nothing or an annoying blinking in and out worse than a snowy picture , also the range will be more limited .
So rabbit ears where useful in the past for many will be useless for many and great for fewer

Waste of time? (3, Interesting)

ZERO1ZERO (948669) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859165)

Why don't you guys just install a proper rooftop / loft aerial and get a decent signal without all the fiddling? In the UK all most buildings where people live have an aerial and tv points in the rooms, in the same way each room has power sockets.

Re:Waste of time? (2, Funny)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859253)

It's not just in the UK. We also have them in North America, in apartment buildings, etc. Of course, you can "broadcast" on channel 3 by plugging the video out from your dvd or vcr into the wall jack. One of my friends used to interrupt the Saturday morning cartoons with 5-10 minutes of p0rn.

Re:Waste of time? (1)

FrostDust (1009075) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859287)

1) It's a lot harder (or you have to pay someone) to stick a large antenna on roof/chimney than placing a small one by your tv.

2) Aesthetics. Some places have rules that you can't have satellite dishes that are visible from the road, and I assume that'd extend to antennas as well. Also, some people may think that personally it looks bad and don't want it on their roof.
Yes, you'd have still have an antenna next to your TV, where it's more visible, but it's the customer's preference over which looks better. Also, I've seen some TV-top antennas disguised as other objects, (for example, a picture frame), that wouldn't look out of place in your entertainment center.

Re:Waste of time? (3, Informative)

shippo (166521) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859335)

In the US the major network affiliates generally broadcast on VHF frequencies, for which these rabbit ears are sufficient. In the UK we use UHF, which doesn't perform as well without a dedicated external or loft aerial.

The UK used to use VHF for television, back in the days of the 405-line black & white service. BBC1 was broadcast on VHF Band I, whilst ITV was on VHF Band III. You can still see some of these aerials on the tops of some buildings; they were needed as the UK transmitters were often many miles away, although it was possible to pick up some services on an indoor aerial. These transmitters were eventually switched off in 1985.

Re:Waste of time? (1)

arkane1234 (457605) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859451)

Probably because not everyone has a rooftop or the ability to put anything "in the air" above their living establishment.
Outside of the UK, there are things called apartments, and "home owners association" which prohibits having such things visible to the outside world.

Also, not everyone lives in towns that are less than 10 miles in diameter.

Re:Waste of time? (0, Flamebait)

hackel (10452) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859575)

Yes, it is very unfortunate that so many Americans do not, prefering to kill the planet by driving everywhere and wasting energy on ridiculous amounts of electronics equipment.

Re:Waste of time? (4, Interesting)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859605)

Outside of the UK, there are things called apartments, and "home owners association" which prohibits having such things visible to the outside world.

In the US, there's this thing called the "OTARD", which is basically a case of a governmental agency (the FCC) telling a bunch of quasi-governmental petty fascists (HOAs) to stay the fuck out of their territory. The OTARD says that if you need an outdoor antenna, homeowner's associations can't prevent you from getting one. They can't even delay you or try to make it hard through bureaucratic BS (the FCC is obviously well-acquainted with red tape).

http://www.fcc.gov/mb/facts/otard.html [fcc.gov]

If you don't own or control a spot to mount the antenna, you still may be SOL, but if you own your home, the OTARD lets you tell an HOA to STFU.

Re:Waste of time? (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859679)

"Why don't you guys just install a proper rooftop / loft aerial and get a decent signal without all the fiddling? In the UK all most buildings where people live have an aerial and tv points in the rooms, in the same way each room has power sockets."

This was once common in ancient suburban America.

In the city... (1)

Crimson Wing (980223) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859221)

"Rabbit ears", i.e., set-top indooor antennas only work well if you're in the city where most of your channels are being broadcast from. More than 20 miles or so out, and you'll be lucky to get half a dozen stations, even with a signal booster.

(Hrm...I need to change my sig; I'm using Win7 now...)

stations not broadcasting at full power yet (2, Interesting)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859265)

I get NBC, CBS, and PBS and all the crap spanish language channels just fine.

ABC and FOX aren't broadcasting at full power yet.

NBC is 1000kW right now and FOX is 35kW.

Even outside of city proper, you will be able to use rabbit ears once they make the switch and start broadcasting at full power.

Re:stations not broadcasting at full power yet (1)

ServerIrv (840609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859675)

If Fort Wayne, IN, if you don't live just outside the fence of the FOX station, you cannot receive an HD OTA signal. They are broadcasting in HD only to fulfill the letter of the law, but not the spirit. (statement accurate as of about 3 months ago, but may still be)

I only need one ear (1)

Simulant (528590) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859273)

I get all the local Baltimore HD channels fine with a single telescoping radio antenna located in my basement. Does need a bit of tweaking when you switch channels, but it's awfully easy to tweak.

dont forget (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859281)

to fine tune your rabbit ears with tinfoil...

Comcast (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859301)

Reduced the number of channels you get on basic cable. This is how they protect their bottom line, screw the customer.

Location, location, location... (1)

jmrives (1019046) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859343)

We live in Atlanta and have been using an indoor antenna for well over two years now. We get approximately 20 channels in our area. My girlfriend watches T.V. that way sometimes. I seldom do. But then, I don't watch T.V. much anyway. We also have a Mac-mini hooked as our digital entertainment hub. We buy some content from iTunes. We watch streaming episodes and movies from NetFlix (the quality suffers a bit). We, of course, receive movies and T.V. series via DVD and Blueray from NetFlix. All-in-all, we generally have plenty of content available.

Bullshit (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859401)

I use "rabbit ears" because I'm a cheapass, and because if I had a wide variety of things to passively watch on TV, I'd slowly waste my life away... but I still enjoy PBS because it's got a good mix of very interesting shows and very bad British comedy which I have no interest in watching.

However, the DTV transmissions are terrible, absolutely horrible, and pretty close to unwatchable. The picture is crystal clear, but has a very bad habit of breaking apart. I'll tell you, I'm excited that the opening of spectrum will enable great tech advances, the purchase by private industry has led to some badly needed revenues by our government, and there are now three PBS channels instead of one, but I wish they'd have done a little more planning around how much extra power it would take to get the same quality of service out to all current viewers.

Now, get off my lawn!

IPTV (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859411)

IPTV is another route providers can turn to. As an example see the package offered by Free.fr [www.free.fr] (in French). For example a company such as Bell in Canada which currently offers DSL and satellite TV could provider IPTV to their customers. This is an important alternative they should be turning to, especially when you consider the number of apartment blocks that do not allow the installation of satellite dishes.

When you consider the amount of junk on TV and the amount of adverts, I am not really sure I want to be paying for a service that charges me $30+Tax+Charges for a service that matches what I can get for free, and then charges me extra for channels with ad breaks every 5-10 minutes. If TV companies want to know why people turn to torrents, then they should consider that their ad schedule somehow turns a 1 hour film into a 3 hour film, with bundled grief.

Broadcast TV is dying... antenna's or not (1)

thesandbender (911391) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859471)

It used to be that cable channels were for public access, religious stations and poorly scrambled movie channels (that teenage boys would still watch late at night... *cough*) More and more, cable content is proving to be equal to or even superior to what broadcast television offers. The Closer, Burn Notice, Monk, etc. are all pulling in strong ratings. Yes... Idol pulled in a 14.8 rating last week and The Closer pulled in a 3.6. But... there are three broadcast channels and a ton of cable channels. The NFL moving Monday Night Football to ESPN and playing certain games only on the NFL network was one of the final signs. The broadcast networks have managed to keep this in their court for years... b/c it's a cash cow. They can't anymore... b/c of declining viewership. Death by a thousand paper cuts. Broadcast TV won't go away... but their programming is going to focus more and more on local news and cheap "pop" programming (like Idol).

I'm ditching cable and going with antenna only. (1)

YojimboJango (978350) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859485)

It's more due to trying to save as much money in this economy as possible, but I don't think I'm the only one that's ditching cable in favor of antenna. My cable rates went up to $38 bucks a month, and when my wife and I sat down and looked at it we realized that we only really watch about 4 hours of TV a week, and half of that was channels we could get over antenna. It just didn't make sense to pay that much for the crap that they have on.

What improved coverage? (1)

GrantRobertson (973370) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859489)

In my area most people will be able to receive fewer stations after the switch. From what I have read, even big cities like LA will have reduced availability of channels. How is this going to kill cable?

Seriously? (-1, Troll)

Oktober Sunset (838224) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859501)

Are Americans really that lazy they can't go up a ladder and nail a proper aerial on the roof of their shitty wooden houses? Or are you all to fat for the ladder to support you?

Gray Hoverman antenna (2, Informative)

caseih (160668) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859511)

If you want to do DTV over the air right, you need to build yourself a Gray Hoverman Antenna. There are lots of plans for it on the net, including the hackaday sight. Takes most people a couple of hours to build and works very well. You can stick it in your attic, or just behind the telly.

Re:Gray Hoverman antenna (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859639)

If you want to do DTV over the air right, you need to build yourself a Gray Hoverman Antenna. There are lots of plans for it on the net, including the hackaday sight. Takes most people a couple of hours to build and works very well.

The Gray-Hoverman is good for UHF and some VHF-Hi, but not the only choice in the build-it-yourself category; there's also the 4-bay reflectorized bowtie. The AVS forum has a whole thread on variants of that, including the "mclapp" antenna, named after the user who optimized and built one of the best ones.

If you need VHF-Lo or a lot of gain on VHF-Hi, like I do, you're kind of stuck with the commercial varieties. I haven't seen plans for a good and practical VHF-Lo/VHF-Hi build-it-yourself antenna.

Never had cable... (1)

hackel (10452) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859537)

Frankly, in this day and age, anyone who pays for cable should be ashamed of themselves--they need to get out and experience the world not in front of a TV! And I say this as someone who does watch a great deal of TV, but still could never justify the ridiculous cost of cable television (in the US, at least). I don't need to repeat people's arguments here about how great internet TV is--it's true, and certainly the way of the future. Miro, Hulu, Netflix, etc. replace any need I would ever have for cable. I just hate all the international restrictions that prevent me from watching the shows I want as I travel around the world, forcing me to resort to bittorrent and other questionably-legal means.

I certainly hope this forces cable companies to change, lower their prices and innovate.

Cable (both TV and internet) is so much less expensive here in the UK, where there is actual competition amongst cable operators! This is what we are so lacking here in the US, champion of the so-called "free market." I wouldn't mind paying for quality content, as long as I can access it from anywhere and it's not encumbered with DRM. I want to cut out the cable companies making money and pay directly to the television and film creators. I also don't want to pay the ridiculous fees charged by e.g. iTunes. $1 for a single episode is still too expensive. I'd agree to a 1-year "subscription" for a particular show, if it was closer to 50p/episode.

Mine looks more like a serrated triangle (2, Informative)

MattW (97290) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859589)

But even an omnidirectional antenna gets every major network beautifully. Cable is an insanely weak value proposition. A good cable package in digital is like $75+ where I am. For $900 a year, I can buy every series I watch in HD, and have a lot left over. (In my case, a heck of a lot, since I only watch one show) And I have the antenna for backup.

care factor zero (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26859645)

It's official. You can literally post any garbage on Slashdot now.

Rough times yet for broadcast... (1)

Junta (36770) | more than 5 years ago | (#26859669)

First, I will say I use antenna only for TV. My signal does break up from time to time because I have a crappy attenna and haven't bothered to correct. With the same setup, the analog channels go really bad before digital starts to break up. I will the point where digital starts breaking up it does so rapidly. It's a misnomer to say digital doesn't accomodate degraded signals at all, it's actually fairly resilient due to the error correction available in the stream. Added bonus of no DRM-like crap in the stream. Cable and Satellite vendors like to encrypt the traffic such that end-users can not use them as they see fit.

I will also say I use MythTV for DVR function. It's great, though I pay a small fee for TV listings, it's much cheaper by comparison and gets me most of the shows of interest. Even without listings, while playing most televisions can get some info out of the stream to tell you text about what is playing.

However, the general experience is still degraded for most. DVRs are by and large tied into Cable and Satellite providers (broadcast market considered too cheapass to deal with the headache of no obvious integrated listings mechanism). Some channels are not on broadcast and probably would never be. Particularly with the lack of any sort of DRM even attempted, many networks are off-put (despite the futility of the measures taken so far).

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