Pointing An Antenna

Most people point their antenna by trial and error — using a compass then fine tuning by judging picture quality or watching a signal strength meter on a TV or DVR.  Some people invest in a signal strength meter.  I have a better way.

I use a Silicon Dust HD Homerun to point my antennas.  The HD Homerun has many advantages over much more expensive signal strength meters including…

  • inexpensive
  • easy to use
  • simultaneously monitoring two stations
  • dual use
  • better information

An HD Homerun is a dual tuner device that streams your antenna signal on your LAN.  The least expensive OTA HDHR available at this time is the HDHR Dual which retails for $129.99 and is currently selling for $79 on Amazon.com.

It’s very easy to use…

  1. Attach the HDHR to you LAN and antenna
  2. Install and run the HDHR app
  3. Open two instances of the HDHR Config Tool
    • Set each to a channel you want to analyze
  4. Adjust the antenna to achieve the highest possible Symbol Quality

Notice I said Symbol Quality.  The HDHR app reports signal strength, signal quality, and symbol quality.  Per Silicon Dust…

  • Signal Strength (ss) is the raw power level as measured by the receiver
  • Signal Quality (snq) is how clearly defined the digital data is
  • Symbol Quality (seq) is the amount of correct or corrected data over the last second

A less technical explanation where the concepts are explained in terms of the experience of listening to a radio…

  • Signal Strength represents the volume
  • Signal Quality represents how clearly you can hear the lyrics
  • Symbol Quality indicates the percentage of the lyrics you could hear or guess correctly

Signal Strength is somewhat irrelevant; if your antenna isn’t pointed properly, it doesn’t matter how loud you turn up the volume, the static will prevent you from hearing the lyrics correctly. Similarly, amplifying a weak HDTV signal can result in a high signal strength but too much noise to decode the digital data correctly.

Use the Signal Strength for a rough idea of direction, but align the antenna for the highest Symbol Quality, ignoring Signal Strength.

Let’s take a look at a real life example…

hdhrus

Here I show my TVFool report next to two instances of the HDHR Config Utility.  As I adjust the antenna to pull in WMUR, I can easily see the impact of the change on WBZ.

Once you have your antenna pointed, the HDHR is a great tool for understanding performance issues.  When I am having a bad reception day, I pop up the Config Utility to see what is going on.

Finally, the HDTV was not designed as an antenna pointer.  You can use it to watch broadcast television via a number of apps and servers.  To sum things up, everyone should have an HDHR on their network!

By Len Mullen Posted in OTA, Tip

Sony BDP-S5100 Review

With my Roku 2 XS fleet grounded, I found myself once again in search of a device that would support my streaming needs…

  1. Netflix
  2. Amazon Instant
  3. Simple DVR
  4. Plex
  5. PlayOn

To my delight, the svelte BDP-S5100 did this — and more.   In fact, first and foremost, the BDP-S5100 is a highly regarded 3D BD player which upconverts standard DVDs, plays files off a thumb drive, and streams video.  It has both wired and wireless internet, can play files of a USB disk, and included apps from Sony Entertainment and the Opera App Store.

BDP-S5100 manufacturer refurbs can be purchased via Amazon for $54.99 and carry the same 90 day warranty as NEW Rokus.

The BDP-S5100 is a very good 3D BD player.   Review the specs here and read reviews from CNET, T3, and Trusted Reviews.  There are nearly 2000 user reviews and 1000 questions answered on Amazon.com.  The bottom line is that the BDP-S5100 is a great disc player.

The BDP-S5100 plays files off a usb device.  There is a usb port on the front and one in the back.  Supported file types include: .asf, .avi, .mkv, .mov, .mp4, .wmv, — just about anything.  One of my favorite features is that, if you start a video in a folder, when that video finishes, the next video in the same folder will play without intervention.  If you name the files properly, you can play through three or twelve parts of a series in order without intervention.  Great way to spend a rainy weekend.

We wouldn’t be talking about this device on a Roku blog if it didn’t stream.  It streams.  The BDP-S5100 streams content from Sony Entertainment as well as apps installed from the Opera app store.  Let’s start with the apps that matter most to most people…

  • Netflix: Netflix is a great source of premium programming.  The BDP-S5100’s Netflix app does not require a PC to activate.  A lot of people who are buying streamers do not own or use PCs, so this is a great feature.  The Netflix app supports profiles and Netflix Kids (unlike most Rokus).
  • Amazon Instant: Amazon Instant/Prime is another source of premium programming.  Prime registration can be completed via the streamer or a PC.  The interface is snappy and attractive, but I ALWAYS find it difficult to locate media I own.
  • Simple DVR: I have an antenna and six Simple DVRs.  These things are awesome.  They sit in my basement recording shows I like.  It’s important for me to be able to easily access the recordings.  While there is no Simple app for the BDP-S5100, there is a Plex app and this app plays files from the Simple DVR disks.  It will not, however, schedule recordings or stream live TV.
  • Plex: Plex is a free media server.  With Roku, you pay $4.99 for the client app.  With the BDP-S5100, the client is free (or included or not necessary).  The server shows up under the Video section.  When you select the server, you browse files and streaming media channels as if they were files on a computer.  Plex provides access to ‘cable’ program episodes posted to the internet.  Shows from CBS, Food Network, Fox News, HGTV, History Channel, MSNBC, MTV, NBC, Nick Jr., PBS, PBS Kids, Spike TV, The Colbert Report, The CW, The Daily Show, Vevo, The WB, and other web sites are available via Plex.  You must run Plex on a computer/server.
  • PlayOn: PlayOn is an inexpensive media server.  You pay around $80 for a lifetime subscription to PlayOn, PlayLater, HD plugins, and a Chromecast.  PlayOn provides access to ‘cable’ program episodes posted to the internet.  Shows from A&E, ABC, Adult Swim, Animal Planet, BET, Bio, Bravo, Cartoon Network, CBS, CNN, Cooking Channel, Discovery Channel, Disney, DIY, ESPN, ESPN 3, ESPN Live, Food Network, Fox, Fox News, HBO Go, HGTV, History Channel, Hulu (free), Investigation Discovery, Lifetime, Live News: BBC, Live News: Bloomberg, Live News: C-Span, Live News: NHK, Live News: RT, MLB, MTV, NBC, The CW, National Geographic, NFL Rewind, NHL, Nick, OWN, Oxygen, OBS, PBS Kids, Redbox Instant, Spike TV, SyFy Rewind, TBS, TLC, TV.com, VH1, Vevo, Vudu, WWE, and other web sites are available via PlayOn.  PlayOn also supports third party plugins.  PlayLater is a DVR for the channels that PlayOn streams.  You must run PlayOn/PlayLater on a WINDOWS computer/server.

The BDP-S5100 natively supports ACC Network (college sports), Amazon Instant, Crackle, Facebook, Huffpost Live, Hulu Plus, Netflix, MLB.TV, NBA Game Time, NHL GameCenter, TMZ, Vimeo, VUDU, WealthTV, XOS College Sports, Yupp TV, YouTube, and other content.  The Opera TV store adds games, social media apps, screen savers, and niche channels (Speed Racer).

The BDP-S5100 includes a web browser (authenticating on public WiFi is not supported on other streamers).  You can plug a keyboard into a USB port to help navigate the internet with the built in web browser.

Other areas where the BDP-S5100 distinguished itself from other streamers…

  • Sleep timer (my TV shuts itself off after the BDP-S5100 goes into sleep mode)
  • Parental Controls
  • HDMI Control with compatible televisions
  • Advanced BD settings
  • Rock solid performance
  • Snappy PS3-like user interface
  • Remote controls TV functions; has Netflix and SEN hot buttons; takes AA batteries

I highly recommend this device at any price and love it as a $55 refurb.