Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Cutting the Cord and Dumping the Dish

Since the SCOTUS decided that AEREO's approach to providing a cloud "ROKU accessed" DVR  and two antennas to watch 'real time' television is illegal, I have looked for a decent alternative to Aereo after ditching DirecTV and cable for television for the streaming service. Sure we have Hulu, but Hulu itself isn't the answer. Hulu is great for binge watching. It's not so great for casual watching.  Aereo wasn't perfect either.

The Linux based MythBuntu/MythTV is now our household DVR system. It is based on Ubuntu 14.04 and MythTV .27.  MythTV is a full featured and a low cost system.   After much experimenting, I thought I would post some of the things I have learned.   This first introductory post addresses the basic television watching and recording capabilities.   Additional posts will cover how it works and what makes it including tuners, metadata fetching, and streaming.

MythTV provides a DVR for broadcast television that has many features.

  1. Auto skip of commercials. Tired of that 4 minute break when watching MasterChef? Too lazy to forward it yourself?  This is a great feature!
  2. Time adjust of playback.  Speed up that show 1.1x, 1.2x, etc.  Very useful if trying to get through a show before the kid's bedtime. 
  3. Bookmark a show in one room, resume playback in another room.

Where is that antenna?  Well in our case of Dallas suburgatory, there are two antenna's required.  This due to the fact I don't want to mount my antenna outside incurring the wrath of the HOA, so it's the attic. We have radiant barrier that not only blocks the sun's radiation, but television broadcast too. Fortunately, most stations in the Dallas market are UHF and penetrate just fine. WFAA, is VHF and does not. Operating at 180-186 mhz this VHF station requires some special effort.

GE/RCA UHF/VHF antenna filtered and amplified for UHF only

But what about the Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA operating on VHF?   Meet the folded, half wave, dipole antenna. You can buy these, but why do that when you can easily make  your own?  You just need to know the frequencies you require and a calculator. 

The best calculator I found for this is here --> FOLDED HALF WAVE CALCULATOR

Folded Dipole Calculator. There are many, but I found this one to be superior

Using half inch copper pipe stuffed with steel wool, a few screws, a block of wood,  and a 300 ohm to 75 ohm coax transformer, I have my VHF antenna! Measured at about 22 inch length (55 total inches)  This half wave, folded dipole VHF antenna is set for 183 mhz or dead center of the WFAA broadcast signal specification.

VHF Antenna at 55" total length taking up about 22x4 inches

What's next?  Streaming internet radio through mythtv.