Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

High Definition TV is evil

High Definition TV is evil

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High Definition Television is like the lure you cast into the glass waters of an April morning.  If you're a Black Bass who's been starving on standard definition cable provider signals all winter, you'll bite that worm as fast as you can.

The lure is a nice juicy long one.  It starts with those warm plasma screens in torch mode at the local retailer.  All bright and shiny.  Maybe you don't bite, but instead you decide to nibble at the DLP buffet.  Eventually, it's going to get you, and it's only the start.

Eating at the HDTV buffet is a feast.  But as with all things, moderation is the key to longevity... right?  Longevity?  Screw that, this is battle.  Time to chow down.

If you thought the CD ripping and audio battle has been fought and won, you haven't seen anything yet.  Let me explain.

How many of you have subscriptions?  You probably have more than one.  One for your beloved iPod or Zune.  One for your television habits.  How much do you pay for the television?  Do you feel you have a good deal?

I'm a bonehead.  I actually pay Charter Communications for their "all you can eat" cable offering.  In other words, I pay for a bunch of channels I never use.  Part of the reason for this is because my teens like certain shows, and the parental units like others.  The channels I actually watch can be counted on my two hands and I have the normal set of fingers.  Being the typical American, I watch ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, HBO, SHOWTIME, CINEMAX, HDNET, HDNMV, DHD and some ESPNH. 

Last October I purchased my HP DLP HDTV.  It's been absolutely great.  We love it.  When we purchased the HDTV, we of course purchased the HDTV tier of programming from Charter.  We also swapped the standard box for the HD DVR at the same time.  The SA 8300 HD has been great and I enjoyed extending it with a bigger hard drive.

All of that joy has been shattered.

Charter Communications sends me a letter.  Apparently the parent company of the local ABC affiliate wants additional money for the HD feed.  I have no idea how much money Belo Broadcasting is asking Charter for in order to supply the feed.  I don't really care.  Charter refuses to pay Belo, and they drop the HD feed from the HDTV tier.  The letter explains we can still get the standard definition channel.  Not only is the channel dropped from the encrypted HD tier, they also drop the unencrypted QAM channel which I thought was against FCC regulations.

Charter is going to lose a customer...

Of the channels I listed above, some of them are requirements.  ABC is one.  Boston Legal, Grey's Anatomy and Lost simple won't do in standard definition.  We could probably get by with Boston Legal and Grey's in SD, but there's no way in hell I'm putting up with Lost in SD.  Why should I?

What to do?

This is where I get really upset.  Now, I have to evaluate the market and make changes.  I don't know about you, but I'm a busy person and this is an unwelcome distraction. 

If I go with Verizon FIOS TV, then I have to switch to the FIOS Residential plan because they won't put TV on my FIOS Static Business connection.  Combine that with the fact I then need to move my web and email services from my house back to a hosting provider and worry about outages, again.

I could keep the FIOS business plan and get my TV signal off DirecTV.  I had DirecTV many years ago.  I really liked having both the east and west coast feeds of everything.  That was before DVR's were invented and you still had a chance to catch your favorite show if you missed the early time zone slot.  The problem with the DirecTV HD DVR is it's only 50 hours of recording space.  I have over three times that right now and it comes in handy because my wife is a busy person.  We routinely have four weeks of shows sitting in the DVR for her to pick and choose from.

So why is High Definition TV evil?

Because even after you pay thousands or hundreds for the set, you are still at the mercy of the cable companies, telcos, and satellite providers.  Now those same providers might use the argument that the HD signal is provided free over-the-air (OTA).  Don't believe it.  Yes, some of those stations are provided.  However, ask people in the Seattle metropolis about their OTA.  Hell, I live in a flat state and can't get... wait for it.... ABC!!!  Isn't it interesting that all of the channels that are over-the-air in my area are UHF except ABC???  All of the UHF stations come in fine, but the ABC VHF signal is borderline and ends up being jerky.  You need a rooftop antenna to get good reception.  Evil.

So make sure before you get addicted, you know who your dealers are.  Don't expect the FCC and the state and local government to clean this up.  There seem to be some gray areas and if the ABC fiasco is any indication, you haven't seen anything yet.  I have no idea who's at fault.  It certainly isn't the consumers fault.  Ok, maybe it is.  The poppy and coca growing nations wouldn't grow their crops if the US didn't buy drugs.  Whew, there's a political debate to step in.  Maybe we'll do that one down the road.  Not!!!

So it must be my fault I can't get ABC.  HDTV is evil.

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  • You watch TV?  I didn't realize there was a time you actually turned off a PC or Xbox 360 long enough to see the things normal people do!  Oh wait, I forgot, you are not actually human.  In fact, Keith is Microsoft first successful AI project.  He requires no sleep.  He is fueled by Sushi, Sapporo, Saki, and the occassional draft microbrew.

  • Here's an article on Consumerist.com about Verizon FIOS...

    http://www.consumerist.com/consumer/verizon/verizon-fios-could-leave-you-in-the-dark-when-the-power-goes-out-232215.php

  • Thanks Charles.  I've had FIOS longer than most people in the US.  I'm on my second year.  The power and battery backup issue doesn't worry me.  My "phone" is via ATT CallVantage so as soon as the power goes down, so does the data circuit and VOIP.

    That's why we have cell phones.  If the cell towers are down, that's why we have Colt.  :)

  • It was a sad day. After a couple of years of non stop service, I flattened my Small Business Server (SBS).