Antennas, iPhones And Droids: Updates On Recent (And Not-So-Recent) Stories
Every time I think Windows Vista Ultimate’s Media Center utility can’t get any worse, it goes and unhappily surprised me again. I’ve been traveling a lot this past month, so I haven’t been watching much ATSC-broadcast material from my thin-air home office, but I’ve been periodically monitoring the recording queue via the WebGuide interface. Several weeks back, I noticed that episodes of 24, House, The Simpsons and Family Guy weren’t showing up in the recording list (thank goodness for the Hulu viewing alternative!), which would normally indicate a reception issue but doesn’t make sense in this particular case because Fox affiliate KRXI delivers to me the strongest signal of any Reno broadcaster.
When I got back to Truckee a few days ago, I noticed that the primary 11-1 channel was reporting zero signal strength but the 11-2 sub-channel was coming in just fine. That didn’t make sense, since they were derived from the exact same UHF channel 44 transmission. But when I dived into the Media Center configuration information, I had my annoying answer. Recall that Media Center doesn’t do a scan for broadcast signals; instead it relies on periodically updated Program Guide information sent down from Microsoft’s servers to not only provide upcoming show details but also zip code-derived broadcasters’ call signs and physical channel specifications. So what did I find when I perused the atscchannels.xml file which Media Center uses (and periodically updates coincident with Program Guide refreshes) for its call sign and physical channel cache?
‘KRXIDT’ at physical channel 44 no longer exists; instead there’s an entry for cryptically named ‘KRXILD’ at channel 21. KAME is at channel 21, not KRXI…and more accurately, I should say KAME was at channel 21 back in its NTSC days, because now its ATSC beacon is on channel 20. So why was I still getting KRXI’s 11-2 sub-channel? That’s because I’d hard-coded its information in Media Center’s atscprefs.xml file. Appending KRXI’s 11-1 details to atscprefs.xml, thereby overriding the bogus data in atscchannels.xml, got me up and going again with KRXI. And while I was at it, I tweaked a few other channels’ specifications. PBS affiliate KNPB recently installed on Relay Peak (which is visible to the naked eye from my front porch) a reflector for its primary channel 15 beacon. Although the antenna I’ve got pointed at Relay Peak (and Slide Mountain behind it) is VHF, not UHF, I’m still able to use it to tune in channel 15 with reasonable signal strength. And by redirecting Media Center away from ABC affiliate KOLO’s primary Slide Mountain transmission on channel 8 toward a channel 24 translator on Peavine Peak, I’m able to tune in KOLO with decent signal strength, too…that is, as long as the weather’s not foul.
As I mentioned in a follow-up addendum to my iPhone-themed post of two days back, I was able to secure a stable handset by re-upgrading to jailbroken v3.1.3 and not applying the tethering-inclusive mobileconfig hack that’d worked for v3.0.1, instead relying on the tethering tweak built into MyWi. However, I’m still pondering migrating to AT&T at some point in the next few days, before the $30 unlimited data service option disappears. T-Mobile reception is once again flaky-at-best up here; it seems that whatever AT&T tower I’d previously been tapping into is no longer interested in accepting roaming connections, thereby making the migration to a Google Nexus One or other T-Mobile-cognizant handset unpalatable. And given that I’m therefore going to stick with an iPhone, it’s long frustrated me that with T-Mobile I’m not able to tap into a 3G data network but instead need to surf at EDGE speeds.Transitioning to AT&T would end up costing me roughly $30 more per month (I’m happy to dump SMS), but I’d be able to harness the carrier’s UMTS HSPA network that’s active up here. T-Mobile’s continued reliance on archaic GPRS in the Lake Tahoe Basin is pretty pathetic in comparison. And thanks to ultrasn0w and MyWi, I’ll still be able to jailbreak and tether the iPhone, so that my connected laptop can benefit from 3G cellular data service, too. While the Apple/WalMart $97 closeout promo on the 16GByte iPhone 3GS is tempting, I’m not very motivated to lock into a 2 year contract. Instead I’d just go with a month-to-month plan on my 8GByte iPhone 3G instead.
Speaking of handsets, the Verizon/Motorola Droid for my work cellular account arrived yesterday, and the phone number porting from my Sprint/RIM BlackBerry appears to be successful. I’ve only done a limited amount of playing around with the Droid to date (stay tuned for a update after this weekend’s likely intensive inspection), but so far I’m quite impressed. The reduced thickness and weight compared to my friend’s T-Mobile G1, which like the Droid integrates a physical keyboard, is quite impressive. And I’m happy to report that although the Droid doesn’t natively support tethering, June Fabrics’ PdaNet installation was a breeze and the program works as advertised with my Mac over both USB and Bluetooth connections. I also snagged a protective silicon skin and a few other accessories at notable discount.
Happy weekend, all!