Hacking Windows 7 Media Center

Canceling Your Cable – Part 3: Free Over the Air Digital Stations

by @ 5:30 am on March 10th, 2009 in Atsc\ClearQAM, tv listings with 2 Comments

AntennaWeb As important as the digital media era is in bringing us the best of television over the internet there’s something to be said for the old school as well. The ability to bring in free high definition content via the digital air waves is also an enticing option. With the right antenna, free digital television can be had as far as 60 miles from the source.

The best resource for not only locating the sources nearest you but also helping to decide which antenna is best for you is found at Antennaweb.org. Entering you address into Antennaweb will return a list of stations broadcasting near you along with a color coded guide. The color guide is an estimate of the type of antenna you will need to pick up that particular station. Clicking on the guide color will also bring up a chart and description of the antenna needed.

Antennaweb.org color listing

As you can see it will also provide you with exact compass headings and distances to each station. This can be helpful for those who own a rotating antenna. For those of us who don’t have rotation equipment, Antennaweb will also provide you with a map by click the “View street level map”. Though it certainly isn’t Google Earth quality it can give you a general idea of which way to point your antenna.

Antennaweb.org Map

Once you’ve got your antenna setup, getting it to work in Media Center isn’t terribly hard. From the “Tasks > Settings > TV > TV Signal > Set Up TV Signal” you can setup your tuner to accept ATSC signals which is what you’ll need to get digital channels over the air. In some cases you may need to use manual setup if Media Center doesn’t detect ATSC signals automatically. Your tuner may or may not support ATSC, you’ll need to refer to the manual or manufacturer’s website for details.

Once your tuner is setup for ATSC, the TV Signal menu will now show an option for checking Antenna Signal Strength. This will go through the list of channels one by one checking the signal strength of each station then cycling back through the list. This can also help you fine to your antenna’s position along with the Antennaweb map.

digital signal strength

Getting your local channels live with digital over the air can prove to be the perfect supplement to content delivered over the internet. Being able to not only catch your local news live but also broadcast network shows in full HD can prove the last thing to take care of before turning off that cable for good.

You can even find directions to create a home-made antenna at tvantennaplans.com. The results of this do it yourself hack are actually surprisingly good, allowing me to pick up digital stations over 40 miles away with nothing more than some coat hangers and tinfoil. Of course results will depend on your location and the signal strength in your area.

Hopefully, this guide as well as the previous two on replacing your cable company bills with free alternatives have you well on your way to enjoying your favorite content for less. Unfortunately, at this time Antennaweb and 7MC don’t support ATSC in some countries including Canada. Be sure to check back often to find the best ways to save even more with your Media Center setup.

If you haven’t already be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the Canceling Your Cable series on Hack7MC!


Comment #192 from Ryan [Reply]

Over the air HD is totally the way to go. If you live close enough to a metro area, you can’t beat it. I have a nice HD antenna running into a Win7 Media Center box and it works beautifully.

Comment left March 19, 2009 at 2:26 pm Permanent Link

Comment #18019 from jamesc [Reply]

OTA is an interesting consideration. I almost bit myself. But, when I called Comcast to cut my cable, I was informed that I would be charged a $13 “internet-only surcharge” if I cancelled television.

When I asked what the cost of the cheapest television plan was that would remove the surcharge I was told “the $13 basic 13 plan”.

“So” I continued with the rep, “in other words, the basic 13 is free with internet service?”

“Yes, in so many words.” was the reply. So, I kept the basic TV.

So, imagine my delight when my PC’s tunercard pulled in the ‘basic 13′ QAM in perfect HD!!! HD through comcast is not offered until the silver $80/mo plan + $5/mo HD surcharge.

No climbing on the roof/in the attic to install an OTA antenna; no dupe antennas pointing in multiple directions. In fact, with little trouble at all I pulled in 2 NBC affiliates, 2 CBS affiliates, 1 ABC, 1 Fox, 2 PBS…all in HD; plus all the other locals in SD.

Not saying OTA isnt worthy. zero compression does yield a superior image. But, just weigh your options. HD may be just a tuner card away.

Comment left September 22, 2010 at 5:30 pm Permanent Link

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