Sunday, 1 April 2012

Enforced televisual abstinence

We moved into our house in Bendigo in December, and having moved house a few times, one of the things I've gotten into the habit of doing on the first day is finding and setting up the TV and all the other things that plug into it.  This time I also had to retune everything, because it's a whole new state.

You can imagine my confusion and frustration when, on its first pass, the tuner on the TV only identified six channels.  Not six signals which, with digital multi-channelling, represents something like a full complement of free-to-air channels.  No, six channels in full.  And even those were pretty unwatchable, with very weak signals.

As you do when you've moved into a house someone else used to live in and you find something sub-standard you didn't know about before, I looked sullenly at the ceiling and thought evil thoughts about the previous owners, and wondered what they had done to entertain themselves.  At this point I also recalled the satellite dish on the roof and the multiple points for plugging in decoders around the house.  Ah.

So, I deduced that they probably didn't use the digital terrestrial broadcast signal, and likely didn't know there was a problem because they were getting all their channels through the satellite.  But that was a problem for us.  We've never had cable or satellite, and have no intention of starting now.  I've heard people say it's great if you watch a lot of sport.  Well, the only sport watched in the house is the odd cricket match and some Moto GP, but neither is anything like compulsory viewing.  And there's not much else on those pay channels that we feel we absolutely must see.  However, we rely a bit on our TiVo to pick out the free-to-air shows we actually do want to watch.  We rarely watch anything live.  Without proper reception this isn't possible, so something had to be done.

Thankfully, my brother the sound and lighting engineer was visiting the weekend after we moved in and, on learning of the problem, he made it his mission to rectify the situation.  Mast-head amplification was his prescription.  So, off to Jaycar we went and obtained said equipment.

This part was kind of comical, because we actually had to leave the shop three times.  Seriously, the first time we sat in the car and he was sorting through the box of components and said "Shit, we need a [insert technical description of a part here]". OK, so we both hopped back out and went back into the shop.  The second time we were actually a couple of blocks away before he realised there was something else we were going to need.  Back we went.  It would have been pretty annoying if we didn't really need all those parts!

So, he installed the amplifier, ditched the VHF aerial (no VHF transmissions in this part of the world any more), and having had a look at the alignment of the neighbours' aerials, decided the remaining UHF aerial was pointing in the right direction.  Even so, after mucking about with the gain on the amplifier for about half an hour, we still only had about 20 channels from a possible 26 or so.  And quite a few of them were still dodgy.  Well, he and his minions had to leave for home, several hours away, so we left it at that.

About a week later, having done some research which suggested the remaining aerial may not be suited to the full spectrum of digital transmissions in this area, I went and got a better one, and used Google Earth to work out precisely where it should be pointed.  Following this effort we went down to about 16 channels, most of which are still pretty weak.  Around this point I realised it was time to stop wasting money and get a professional in, but we really can't afford that right now.

So, about ten weeks have passed with no progress ... and there's been much less vegetating in front of the goggle-box by us or the minions.  Yes, they are working their way through some TV series' we have on DVD, but I think that's a bit different to just plumping for whatever's being served up.  And there's a lot more reading going on.  This evening, for example, Mrs G and I were both reading "The Hunger Games" on our respective Kindles before we simply headed for bed (she finished the book, I'm not quite there yet).  Prior to that we were having "family movie night", which is where we all agree on a movie from the shelf, make popcorn, and sit down as a family to all enjoy something.  Tonight was "Up".

Given these developments I'm starting to think that maybe the TV reception is not a situation that needs rectification.  Would it be wrong to keep telling the minions that we can't find the money to have it fixed?  How long do you think we can keep that up?

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