Sunday, June 28, 2009

Death of Three Icons

In my life, I have noticed celebrity deaths coming in pairs and threes,
frequently thematically arranged. Orson Welles and Yul Brynner, two kings,
passed together in the 1980's. We lost Jim Henson and Sammy Davis, Jr., two
groundbreaking beloved entertainers, in the early 1990's.

Now Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson have passed away. And all
of them have spent time in the sci-fi fantasy world.

Ed McMahon, though never a big, featured player in the genre, did dutifully
bring his character to play in several episodes of "Alf," "Amazing Stories,"
"Sabrina the Teenage Witch," and the movie "Bewitched."

Who can forget the dreams we had of Farrah Fawcett after seeing her plead that
Michael York get "dark hair" in "Logan's Run," or in her space suits in "Saturn

And whatever else you can say about Michael Jackson, he was in the best produced
3D science fiction short film ever shown at Disneyland, "Captain Eo," and he
did create the "zombie dance" from "Thriller."

And here's one other thing that the two celebs who died on the same day have in common. They both got the world to refer to them by their first names.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Analog to Digital Conversion, Part 2: What to do if your digital converter box doesn't work, if it says “weak signal” or “no program,” or if the setup

What to do if your digital converter box doesn't work, if it says “weak signal” or “no program,” or if the setup wizard does not appear on the screen after you plug it in.

That's what happened to me when I finally got my Digitalstream converter box. I hooked it up to my VCR, attached my rabbit-ear antenna that came with my TV to the box, set the VCR (which I use as my TV receiver) to channel 3, made sure the switch on the converter box was set to channel 3, and turned it on. I got the Digitalstream logo, and then a moving, screen-saver type image of a box with the words “No Program,” followed by another one saying “Weak Signal.”

I assumed that either A) this would be fixed when the changeover to digital TV happened, or B) that my antenna just wasn't strong enough to pick up the new digital signals. B was confirmed for me when I saw the program being broadcast by Channels 2 and 4 saying that you may need a new antenna, and when I visited a Radio Shack in Manhattan. I was told that I would need a new antenna. I didn't have the cash on me, so I waited until today to visit the Radio Shack in my neighborhood.

Once there I found that there were several different models of antenna, a $20 model, a $30 model, a $50 mode3l and a $60 model, the difference supposedly being their strength. I took the cheapest one and hoped for the best. I came home and plugged it in and lo and behold, the same result as with the rabbit ears!

I called 1-888-CALL-FCC to see if they could help me. While the phone was ringing I picked up the remote control for the converter box and noticed a “Menu” button. Upon pressing it, I found a menu that included “Auto Scan.” When the service rep came on the line I told him my problem and he asked me if I has scanned for channels. I told him that I had just found the menu, and would call back if I needed him.

It seems that for whatever reason, the “Setup wizard” did not activate, and that I simply had to bring up the menu myself. So, if you find yourself in this situation, here's what you do:

1. Hook up the digital converter box to your TV (or your VCR if that's what you use to receive your signal)
2.Turn on the TV and set it to Channel 3.
3.Make sure the channel 3-4 switch is set to channel 3.
4.Turn on the converter box.
5.Push the “Menu” button on the remote for the converter box.
6.Find the “Channel” function or “Channel scanning” function.
7.Find the “Auto Scan” function
8.Select that function and “Update” or Rescan” for channels.
9.When it is done, exit the menu function and you are all set to watch HDTV!

Next: What I found there!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Analog to Digital Conversion, Part 1

So the Great Conversion from analog broadcasting to digital signals has occurred. Out of a sense of perverse curiosity I watched it happen Friday night. I tuned in at about 11:49 and expected to see some kind of tribute on Nightline or something to the passing era of analog broadcasts, the days when one could just buy a TV, plug it in, turn it on, and get all the information in the world for free. Perhaps they would give a more in-depth explanation for the treason for the change-over (“digital TV is so much better” just never quite rang true for me). Instead I saw that Channels 7 (ABC) and 13 (PBS) were already dead, 2 (CBS) and 4 (NBC) were playing a loop about what to do if you were still “seeing this message” (watching analog TV), 5 (Fox) was playing “The Simpsons,” 9 (My9) was showing “Law and Order,” and 11 (CW) was showing “Friends.” Most of the UHF channels were still active too, but some had shut off already.

The “The Simpsons” ended and in the middle of the credits, with no fanfare, or explanation, BLINK! It all went off. I quickly switched to the onher channels. Before long, they all were off except 17 (GCN), 35 (The Jared Whittaker Channel) and 60 (a home shopping channel). I actually got to see channel 47 blink off as well.

My friend Fred says this feels like a sign of the Zombie Apocalypse.

More to come...