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Microsoft Cloud Authors: Pat Romanski, Andreas Grabner, Nick Basinger, Kevin Benedict, Liz McMillan

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High quality over-the-air TV

A picture named eyetv.jpgIn a post about Comcast: "I bought EyeTV devices for three of my computers so I could receive digital over-the-air broadcasts. It amazes people when they find out that such high quality transmissions are available for free over the public air waves."

I got a couple of questions wondering what I was talking about, and I promised to write about it here. So here goes.

A few years back a friend told me he had put an antenna on the roof of his house and was receiving digital versions of local TV stations. He showed me, but even though it was the familiar programming, I didn't understand what I was looking at.

Last night, when the Obamas were on 60 Minutes, I watched it in digital, using an antenna next to the computer, plugged into an EyeTV USB dongle thing. The picture quality was awesome. Every bit as good as if I were watching it over DirecTV, which I pay $100 a month for. I get KCBS, the local affiliate, over the air, for $0. It's totally legal. How could this be?

Well, it's really not that astonishing. When I lived in New Orleans in the 70s, I had a TV my grandmother gave me, a black and white tube set. I watched President Ford on TV, through an antenna next to the TV on the local NBC affiliate, WDSU , which I got over the air for $0. Only the quality was nowhere near as good. If my grandmother were alive to see the show she would not only plotz because we had elected a schvartze president (I'm sure she'd be happy about it), but the quality would probably astonish her as well. But the concept is exactly the same as over-the-air free TV in the 70s.

If you've been watching commercial TV you've seen the announcements about how on February 17 next year, TV is switching over to all-digital broadcast. This is what they're talking about. At that point, if you have an old analog set like the one I had in the 70s, all you'll get is static. Until then, believe it or not, that TV would still work.

The cool thing is that, because the signal is digital, it doesn't take much hardware to make it possible for you to watch that signal on your computer. There are adapters available for both PC and Mac, they cost between $99 and $200, and they work very nicely. Anyone who reads this blog has all the technical skills needed to make it work. And it's worth it just for the mind-bender, and for the times like yesterday when they have must-see programming on commercial TV, they get you access where ever your laptop goes. You don't need a net connection, this stuff is going over the air.

Here's a screen shot I took of President Bush at the Olympics this summer in an EyeTV window on my desktop iMac.

Read the original blog entry...

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