dreams Geek TV

Digital TV

I had a dream last night that hundreds of new TV channels showed up on digital TV tuners. Weird.

I haven’t yet upgraded to digital TV. I’m in the unfortunate position of:

(a) having bought a 4:3 CRT TV at precisely the wrong time, about 7 years ago, just before the prices plummeted when widescreen LCDs and plasmas went mainstream, and apart from occasionally having a flickering line at the top (I think due to a bump while moving), that TV works admirably;

(b) not particularly wanting Yet Another Box and Yet Another Remote to have to deal with; and

(c) not having huge amounts of cash to throw around just now to buy a shiny new telly.

So I’m umming and ahhing. I suppose at some stage HD set-top boxes will become cheap enough that it becomes a no-brainer just to get the extra channels. Alternately a Digital Video Recorder might be the way to go.

I find the whole Freeview push amusing. All those ads. More than one person has asked what it actually means. They seem underwhelmed when I tell them it’s just digital TV. (And Freeview’s insistence that it’s all free is undermined somewhat when you point out that well, they’re not giving away set-top boxes, you do have to pay for them.)

The analogue signal won’t get switched off in Melbourne until late-July 2013, so I guess there’s a fair bit of time to continue procrastinating, but it would certainly be nice to get ABC2, and solve my slight ABC1 reception problem.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

22 replies on “Digital TV”

My main reason for getting a digital set top box (eventually) will be for getting ABC2. I hardly ever watch TV as it is, but I am keen on some sort of digital recorder so that I can record some shows that air later at night, which aren’t suitable for my night-owl of a child.

The most annoying part about freeview is that you still get the ads if you’ve GOT digital TV. At the very least, commercial channels should be smart enough to try and sell me something else on digital TV because I’ve already got it!

Come on Daniel, just get yourself an elcheapo box. ABC2 is more than worth the trouble. Or turn one of your computers into a Media Center with a cheap tuner from somewhere, and get digital recording at the same time. doesn’t even need to be that powerful a PC. With TV out on a video card you can use your existing 4:3 CRT.

Daniel, you’re downright un-Australian! There is only one reason for getting an HD set top box …

I bought my mum one for Mother’s Day – so she can watch ABC2 and the SBS2 – but left it to the last minute. I then search all the electrical stores within cooee of my house to no avail. Apparently, they had all been snapped up, including the exorbitantly expensive versions, so that true Australians could watch “OneHD”.

Yes, 24-hour sport without having to get pay TV convinced people of the value of HD digital TV. We can all now watch the European poker circuit, BMX tours of the US and all the other world sporting highlights in glorious HD!

we’ve got a similar issue with our CRT TV still working fine (damnit) … however, we bought a dual-tuner Topfield 5000PVRt around 5 years ago and never looked back … given the age you could probably find a cheaper older model which would be perfectly good enough. As a bonus, this model at least allows easy upgrade of the internal HDD – ours came with 80GB but now sports a 250GB drive … no matter the size they’re almost always full, in any case … :)
Although the unit doesn’t have any way to archive anything, it is possible to copy off the raw video stream via the USB connector and then spend ages compressing that into something that will fit onto a DVD … pain in the proverbial … we found that we could use our existing VCR to tape stuff in 8hr chunks … when that died we replaced it with a DVD-RW drive for much the same effect. In both cases, the quality of the S-Video signal was such that setting our recording device to long-play or high-compression was still quite watchable later.

You can get an SD version of One HD and ABC2 on a stadnard definition digital STB. They are (as far as I know) all broadcast in SD and HD at the minute. Will a HD STB allow you to watch HD on a non-HD TV?

About 4 months ago, I forked out just over $600 for a dual-tuner Topfield 7100 PVR and I have totally fallen in love with it. I also still use the old CRT TV but now that I have the Toppy I really have no reason to get a new telly until the CRT dies (other than for purely materialistic reasons, that is. Or if I win lotto tonight…).

Yes, the HDD does get full but I just bought a 1TB drive to download to if required. But to be honest, most of the stuff I tape is not for re-watching so I don’t worry about keeping for later or burning to DVD. And if the HDD is full and I’ve got something I taed ages ago, I admit that I will probably never watch it and delete.

Also, I only use the toppy remote now. The TV remote only gets used for turning the power on although I should probably banish the TV remote altogether and stick to using the TV’s button to conserve energy.

> Will a HD STB allow you to watch HD on a non-HD TV?

Absolutely. We got a 4:3 CRT just over five years ago (plus a VCR/DVD player at the same time). We’re now using a 16:9 CRT that my brother got a couple of years later (also not a HD TV) alongside a Topfield 7000, and we can watch the HD channels.

Two things, though. Make sure you set the video format, otherwise the HD channels (and the OSD) will just look like static (the remote had a button for this, which saved my hide). And make sure you have the latest firmware. We didn’t, and we were having all sorts of troubles with volume fluctuations and set-length recordings not stopping. All that’s been fixed with the firmware update.

If you get a PVR, make sure it’s a dual tuner. I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of single tuner models are, but they’re not very useful at all.

Oh, and, apart from the usual reasons for going with a PVR, there’s the ability to pause TV. I keep myself very well-hydrated, so I love pausing very much.

when i moved to live by myself i felt no need to get a TV. after about 6 months i was given a pretty good hand-me-down by my workplace as they were upgrading, but it still took me another 5 months to find an old arial in my dads shed to hook it up to for channels … one of the first ads i got when i hooked it up wwas to let me know i had to get a box to keep getting free TV … oh snap!

I’m in the same boat with the CRT – too good to go buying a new telly for (even though I was tempted with the gov’t $900)…

Do yourself a favour and buy a STB – just having ABC2 alone makes it worth while. And the reception improves dramatically.

@Jordn – I had the dual tuner idea explained to me thusly: With a TV+VCR setup you get in effect two tuners, giving you the option of recording something whilst watching something else live … as most people want to retain at least this functionality when they get DVB equipment, the dual tuner PVR models are more useful[1] … obviously there’s no point in getting a second tuner if the unit has no HDD, however if you have them it is possible to watch something from the HDD and be recording two shows from different channels at the same time …
[1] Due to DVB channel multiplexing, in some circumstances it is possible to be recording two shows and watching a third live, eg: recording ABC1 and ABC2, watching SBS1. Bandwidth limitations[2] mean that my model won’t attempt to record more than two streams at once …
[2] Although my model of Topfield can’t display an HD signal, it can still pluck it from the air and store it on disk without problems … other PVR units may be able to do this too …

Ah, yes, pausing live TV. And when playing back, I have a ‘skip forward 30 secs’ button and a ‘skip back 10 secs button’. Great for ads. Although I heard that the Freeview labelled PVR’s have had this disabled so you must fast forward through ads?

The analog signal was recently turned off the in the USA, millions of people lost their reception overnight. I won’t be watching TV once they turn it off.

I got a dual-tuner Topfield around 8 years ago – I could never be without it. Years later Foxtel craps on about being able to record one channel whilst watching another, pausing live TV, blah blah blah – yawn, I’d been doing that for years!

On the other hand a basic el-cheapo digital receiver can be had for a whopping $50 these days – hell $30 on sale lately. Is there really any reason not to snap one up for that price? Sh#t for that matter they are such a mainstream device these days that, like DVD players, I have several of the bastards lying around doing nothing. I’ll sell you one of my old ones for $30 if you want!

Right now you’re missing ABC2, One (by Ten), and SBS2. Soon you’ll be missing ABC3. And a little later you’ll be missing the classic movie channel (what Seven have claimed they would offer) and Sky (what Nine will apparently offer). Plus there’s that eternal argument companies are making with the government to let them launch a fourth commercial TV network, and if that were to ever happen it’ll be digital. Even C31 is apparently going digital soon, and the amateur TV folks in Melbourne are about to switch their repeater system to digital shortly.

Analogue is already dead, it just doesn’t know it yet :)

I easily upgraded to an LCD digital HD TV when I moved to Melbourne a little over a year ago and had to buy a new TV. I left my US TV with a friend as it was old and would not work here in Australia anyway. I had bought it in 1990 and it worked flawlessly for the 18 years that I watched it. As mentioned in the other post the USA turned off the over the air analog signal recently but this only affects the relatively few people still use an antenna. Practically everybody in the US has cable TV or a satilite dish and these now carry a converted analog signal as well as a digital one so analog TVs connected to a service can still be used without a set top box. Cable has been available in the USA beginning in the 70’s and early 80’s and practically every home and apartment has the cable already installed. I was surprised when I came to Australia and discovered that many people here (including myself) still rely on antennas for their TV signal. It is also strange to see new antennas for sale in stores here as I don’t think they have been sold in the US for very many years now. For the relatively few that have no cable or dish and rely on an antenna discounted converter boxes are available.

Jed bear in mind the phenomenal size of the US compared to Australia, it makes sense that hundreds of broadcast towers scattered across the country for antenna reception just isn’t practical – whereas a satellite or cable based system is a worthwhile investment.

In Australia the majority of the population is confined to seven major pockets of civilisation, so it’s p#ss easy to have seven major broadcast points and antennas on every roof.

That said, for private operators such as Foxtel, Selectv, Galaxy, Austar, etc satellite has likewise proved to be the best approach. Furthermore most regional areas access their regular FTA television via the Aurora satellite service, though this until now has only provided them with extremely limited coverage – that is rumoured to change soon, they will apparently soon have access to the full freeview services via satellite. In fact if the rumours are true they’d be taking a big step AHEAD of city folks for a change, as that satellite freeview service is said to be MPEG4 based – which terrestrial digital TV isn’t slated to switch to for some time yet.

@malcolm: Yep, that’s pretty much it. Took us ages before we figured out that a dual-tuner PVR was what we wanted. Went to a _lot_ of places before any of the salespeople knew what we were after, which is slightly disappointing.

@Jordn: heh – never got to the point of talking to retailers about our Topfield … a friend was enthusing about one yet another friend had bought and it was pretty much a sale on hearing about it … found a business in Melbourne doing installations and selling them from their home … way, way before they hit retail in any big way …

And once you’ve sorted out digital TV, note that digital radio is now on air.

But it’s not just 2 or 3 TVs per house that need a set top box, but 10+ radios per house (including walkmans and car radios) that need to be replaced, so i suspect it will be possible to tune in with an old crystal set for some years yet.

Thanks for the plug! I’m captivated by the fact that the government is so keen, almost hell-bent, on ensuring that no Australian will be left behind when it comes to television. If only Bob Hawke, all those years ago, made the same efforts with no child in poverty by 1990!

On the flip side, TV provides a valuable service, especially out in the sticks. But as for myself, I find it a little difficult to upgrade without the lure of quality programming – something that’s been lacking on television for many years!

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