"Entertainment page #16"
September/October 2009 (10,009PH)
BEST VIEWED IN 1024 x 768

Home (AES Computers )



Click here if you have your own question/s to put forward. There doesn't have to be any answer/s provided.

Questions to ponder on :
In the future, would it be practical &/or desirable to try to tilt the Earth's axis closer to zero degrees to lessen the seasonal effects and make life more comfortable ?

Why do computer operating systems take so long to start up from cold ?
This is really perplexing as the electronics are working in nanoseconds, the hard drives are working in milliseconds (in the worst case scenarios), and all the detecting of devices is already done by the motherboard BIOS.

Why are desktop hard drives still mechanical instead of flash drive design ?
This would save a lot of aluminium being tied up in the hard drive make-up and would speed up the hard drive functions.



Click here for crossword No 7
(answers at bottom of this page)

Click here if you have your own cartoon you wish to see displayed.

Articles from "Rick's Workbench"

Tale of interest No.15
The Set-Top box man cometh (or ringth) : part 1

This time we are having a break from the guitar amp.
Instead, I present a saga that has gone on for about 2 years, involving :
- standard definition set-top boxes for Digital T.V. reception,
- fringe area signal strengths,
- and really old T.V. sets.
I have reached the limit on what can be done in this sorry saga!

It all started about 2 years ago …
My partner’s father was interested in, and subsequently purchased a standard definition set-top box for his T.V. set in the lounge.
He was worried about the Government’s decree about phasing out analog T.V. in the near future.
The target date for this happening has been postponed several times!
He is of the age that “doesn’t understand modern technology”…. In other words …. Can you hook it up for me?
It should only take you 5 minutes!

Oh Yeah!

His current set-up was hopeless for Digital T.V.
The T.V. itself was quite modern and presented no problems as it had external video and audio inputs.
The antenna system was the problem.
He lives in what is best described as a fringe area as far as UHF signals are concerned.
His analog T.V. reception was quite reasonable as there is a local translator transmitting the analog signals on the high band UHF (Band 5).
Trying to get a signal for digital T.V. was another story.
The only source is Mt. Wellington here in Hobart.
His antenna was pointing the wrong way and was not suitable anyway as it was a dedicated Band 5 type …. and his house was built on the side of a hill.
Just looking at the height of the antenna from the ground made me feel dizzy! (I’m not getting up there …. No way!)

I contrived a makeshift antenna from indoor “rabbit ears” and mounted them in his lounge room up as high as possible. This produced a passable result for the time being.
It was prone to electrical interference resulting in the picture and sound breaking up occasionally.
I told him that a proper outdoor antenna would be the only way to improve the situation.
He said he would get up on the roof one day and move the antenna.
He subsequently did this but it still didn’t work.
In the meantime, he kept pestering me to get the reception better for him.
I tried in vain to improve it but to no avail.
I told him to get a new antenna.
He had more or less learned to accept the situation.

The months went by with the situation still the same …
I then predicted what would happen next …
He’d want the little set in the bedroom to show digital T.V. one day soon!
In anticipation for this, I purchased a R.F modulator from the tip shop for a modest sum.
I knew that his little set was fairly old and did not have external video and audio inputs on the back.
This was when the real saga started!
It began with a request that I “retune the telly in the bedroom for TDT”.
Now our TDT is a digital only station! (Basically channel 10 but with local advertising).
I told him that it is digital only and that he would need another set-top box to receive it.
I don’t think he believed me at first, asking several times over the next few weeks to “retune his telly”.

One day, he announced that he had purchased another set-top box for the little T.V. and "could I set it up please?".
I gathered up all the things I was likely to need … Cables etc.
I tested the R.F. modulator before I left home to make sure it worked.
I headed up to his place and set everything up.
The antenna situation was still the same so I used “rabbit ears” again for the antenna.
The result wasn’t as good as the set in the lounge.
I figured that the signal strength wasn’t as good in this part of the house.
I mentioned the antenna situation to him again.
He basically didn’t want to know about it as "the expense would be too high!".
Anyhow, after a lot of mucking around, a reasonable result was obtained …. For a couple of days!

He was soon on the phone with a complaint about most of the channels either saying “No Signal”, or breaking up badly. I thought it strange because it worked reasonably well previously.
I mucked about with the “rabbit ears” a bit but couldn’t get a worthwhile result.
I then tried re-tuning the set-top box and that seemed to improve the situation.
I thought it a bit strange but put it down to “one of those things”!
The same thing happened a day later … I was suspicious now!
I told him to bring the set-top box to me as I was going to test it at my place with a known good signal strength.
It behaved just the same .. It needed to be re-tuned again!
Right! That set-top box is faulty … The tuning is drifting!
I told him to take it back to wherever he got it from and get another one.

Of course he lost the purchase receipt so it couldn’t be returned.
I then tried to re-instate analog reception for his little T.V. but it “wasn’t as good as it used to be” …
Yes, the outside antenna was pointing in the wrong direction after he tried fiddling with it again. (refer back to my comment about the height of the antenna!).
The “rabbit  ears” were again used!
Eventually, another set-top box was purchased and I went through the setting up process once again.
I “re-discovered” a Band 4/5 UHF antenna around the side of my house.
I was intending to put it up on the roof but I didn’t have a ladder long enough.
It had languished there for several years!
This may well have been the solution to the reception problems the”set-top box man” is having! After a clean up, it looked quite promising.

He was on the phone to me with a problem … ”It is stuck on one channel!”
I had to go up and investigate the situation.
He was right!
This set-top box insisted on grouping the channels into several groups.
The group that was currently selected only had one channel … hence, that was the only one that could be brought up.
I had no idea why it did this, and assumed that the wrong buttons were being pushed on the remote control to get it into this mode.
I got it back to normal with all the channels arranged alphabetically.
I mentioned the antenna that I had, and my idea of swapping them.
He agreed to that and, in exchange, I could try his antenna at my place.
He brought it to our place, along with a suitable ladder, so I could mount it on the roof in place of our old pay T.V. antenna.

His antenna worked well …
My antenna also worked well at his place with only the occasional flicker of bad reception.
I mentioned to him to try getting an R.F. amplfier and installing it before the splitter.
In the meantime, his set-top box was playing up again … Same problem ... It was stuck in one group.

I suspected the wrong buttons being pushed again … until I was presented with the remote control!
His wife had wrapped it in packing tape and a carefully cut out piece of cardboard that blanked out EVERY button except, channel up and down, and the power button!
Of course I had to remove all this mess to get it back into it’s normal mode.
It at least ruled out the wrong buttons being pushed this time!
I suspected this set-top box had a fault too!
It was confirmed when it did it a third time.
This time I found it very difficult to get back into normal mode.
I felt sorry for him and gave him one of my set- top boxes to use … I knew that worked perfectly.
He kept the receipt for his set-top box this time and convinced the shop to refund his money!
Until part 2 next time … Bye                                                                                                              © Rick's Workbench 2009


All rights for this article belong to "Rick's Workbench" in Tasmania


 Disclaimer  :  We do not recommend attempting mains powered projects or repairs without qualified assistance.
                                                     The articles from "Rick's Workbench" are for entertaining reading only.


Click here if you have your own article you wish to see displayed.

Home (AES Computers )



Click here for answers to crossword No 7


Return to top of page