antenna

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Emby Live TV 4

Watching Gilligan's Island on Android phone Emby app. (Click each pic to enlarge.)

Emby Live TV 1Emby Live TV 2Emby Live TV 3

A nice benefit of knowledge gained through cord-cutting:

Watching our own over-the-air (OTA) TV and DVR recordings on Roku at home, or on a phone or tablet anywhere in the world.


I recently upgraded a quad-core Windows 7 PC in our home office to Windows 10, then added back the now-unsupported Windows Media Center. (See previous post Add Windows Media Center to Win 10!).

We had an extra USB TV tuner from a past attempt to give Gaye the ability to watch OTA TV on her work PC. It proved too big a hassle for her to both do work on the PC and have the TV window up. The tuner had been unemployed for a few years. (She has a now-cheap LCD TV in her business office.)

Over-the-door antenna, attached to USB TV tuner plugged into PC

Over-the-door antenna, attached to USB TV tuner plugged into PC (click to enlarge)

To test Windows Media Center on the Win 10 PC, I had attached an unamplified Winegard antenna to the USB TV tuner, placed the antenna on top of our home office door, then plugged the tuner into the PC.

I first set up Windows Media Center, then ServerWMC, free software that allows other computers and apps to see program listings, live TV and recordings from the WMC PC.

(I have been doing this for the last two years in our theater room with another PC; see previous post Windows Media Center & Raspberry Pi.)

Seven local stations (including MeTV, Gaye’s go-to) came in strongly with this hastily improvised setup.

I didn’t diddle around with placing the antenna for better reception of the other channels. Maybe later.

Update, 10/6/2016:

WMC disappeared when my PC received the Anniversary Update for Windows 10 on 9/24/2016. I was able to get WMC working again; see my notes added to previous post Add Windows Media Center to Win 10!.

However, the driver for the old USB TV tuner is no longer supported, so I just ordered a $20 Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-950 from eBay to replace it. In the meantime, I can still see and play any shows I had previously recorded with Emby.

(Update 10/17/2016: The Hauppauge tuner worked great for all local channels! See the comment I added for this post.)

As long as you have WMC on any version of Windows, you should be able to get Emby working with WMC as follows.


Emby (formerly known as MediaBrowser) is a free media center program with its own Roku channel and smartphone app.

I remembered that Emby was supposed to serve up live TV, unlike its otherwise similar competitor, Plex. I had previously installed Emby as well as Plex on the PC (they don’t interfere with each other).

With all the pieces in place, it was a good time to give live TV a try.

Using the Emby server’s browser interface on the PC, I activated Emby’s own ServerWMC plugin. It enabled the Emby server to talk to ServerWMC on that PC.

(Nice setup guide: Stream Live TV with Emby and ServerWMC)

Thanks to my previous experience with both ServerWMC and Emby, it was not difficult to get all this working.

I went to the Emby channel on one of our Rokus, and found that the seven stations looked so good, you couldn’t tell they weren’t coming in via direct antenna. Likewise with WMC DVR recordings: perfect.

The secret of this perfection is in Emby’s transcoding.

Broadcast TV is in the MPEG-2 format, which is bulky and unforgiving of internet streaming. Emby automatically transcodes (converts) the video to .MP4, which Roku and most apps of all kinds have no trouble dealing with. That’s where the powerful quad-core PC shines; it has the processing power to do this conversion on the fly. (Our theater room PC has a weak though adequate-for-its-purpose Celeron 450 processor.)

I tried the Emby app on my wifi-only smartphone. Worked great. I ultimately restricted Windows Media Center to only the seven good stations, since trying to stream the poor reception channels tended to hang ServerWMC (and bad channels are no fun to watch anyway).

I set up WMC to DVR “The Bob Newhart Show” on MeTV, and “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” on Heroes and Icons, so we would have something to watch on the bedroom Roku if nothing good was on.

Then I wondered how it would work on a smartphone outside the range of our wifi router.

At a party last Friday, I tried it on Gaye’s iPhone. It failed, due to not being able to reach the server on our home PC.

To fix this, I set up port forwarding on our router to allow external connectivity to our Emby server.

“…you’ll need to open the web interface for your router, and forward TCP Port 8096 on your router to port 8096 on the Emby Server machine.” (see Emby Setup Port Forwarding note).

After I texted Gaye this week to give it a try when she had a chance, she reported that she was watching “Gunsmoke” while driving!

Obviously, watching TV while driving is not a good practice, even though we once played “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (downloaded to phone via Plex) during a round trip to OSU to visit a nephew.

Our timing was great; as the final credit rolled, we pulled back into our garage.

How did this happen?

How did this happen? (Click to enlarge)

Back to the Curve 50

Back to the Curve 50 (click to enlarge)

Two days ago, I noticed that Channel 2.1 was looking blotchy. That shouldn’t happen with an outdoor antenna.

8.1 didn’t even come in.

See photo at left.

Video Revolution had installed the Mohu Sky 60 outdoor antenna back in February. I can’t imagine how the F connector could ever come loose, even if only finger-tightened. But there it is.

I called VR to get someone out to reconnect it. They’re pretty busy right now. I’d do it myself, but it’s steep, and the risk/reward equation doesn’t seem to be right. (I also tweaked a lat muscle the other day.)

But in the mean time, there is the recording of General Hospital to consider.

Luckily, we have a backup: the Mohu Curve 50 antenna (link to previous review; also see it in the TTM aStore).

I had decided that the Curve really didn’t add much as an auxiliary antenna for COZI (47.2). But it is perfect for this situation.

I hooked it back up to the Radio Shack Remote Control A|B switch, still in place under the den TV. Aimed it east-northeast, switched it over to the B side of the switch, and we are back in business. Signal strength is fine for the network channels, which is what we mostly watch anyway. And General Hospital recording can continue as usual.

When Video Revolution finally gets around to us, I’ll switch back to the A side for the outdoor antenna. I think I’ll keep the Curve hooked up afterwards.

In the process of getting the AC cords redeployed back there, there was further fallout from the lightning strike earlier in the year. The gigabit switch, already weakened down to 4 ports from 5, decided to give up the ghost entirely. I had a backup on hand for that, too: the $10 TP-LINK TL-SF1005D 5-port 10/100Mbps Desktop Switch.

So all is well, except for a missing episode of General Hospital. I’ve recovered from that before; see previous post Saving YouTubes, viewing with Plex & Emby.

There are a couple of ways to handle it, buy the episode on Amazon Video or VUDU. Then my wife can watch it on the Amazon or VUDU apps on the TiVo.

Since the previous post, episodes have become less easy to find for free on YouTube. I found one poor quality upload. However, Dailymotion (based in France) does have an acceptable version. I could use the Chromecast to put it on the big screen in the theater room. But that’s not where she likes to watch.

So we’ll probably go the Amazon route. She won’t get to it soon anyway, due a backlog of shows from our recent vacation.

The cord-cutting cheer will continue unabated.

Merry Christmas!

(Later note: She got to that episode quicker than I thought. I was unable to find it anywhere but on Dailymotion. I put it on the big screen for her to watch while wrapping presents yesterday. I suspect that ABC has managed to dry up YouTube and other sources in order to promote their own subscription service.)


Two items might well be all you need to cut the cable TV cord.

It can be very easy, and a great gift for your family to not be paying a high cable bill every month.

First, I recommend the new TiVo BOLT (as of 2016, I recommend the new Roamio with one-time pricing, above. It has all the features of the BOLT I describe below.). It supercedes the TiVo Roamio series, includes all its features, and has a couple of new ones of its own. The above price includes the remote and a year subscription to the TiVo service ($150/year thereafter).

Depending on the antenna you use, the BOLT can give you most or all of your local channels and subchannels, with current and future program listings shown in a convenient grid display. (An internet connection is needed to download and update the listings.) It also is a full-featured, easy-to-use DVR, easily as good as the cable or satellite company’s.

In addition, it has useful apps including Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, VUDU, YouTube, Pandora, Plex, and iHeart Radio. You might not even need a Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV Stick to view your subscription and other content!

If you want access to all this in other rooms, add TiVo Minis. They are an easy way to get more out of your TiVo at a one-time-only cost. Each comes with its own remote. You can also use the free TiVo smartphone app to control a BOLT or Mini, and to easily set up recordings.

Read more in previous posts New product: the TiVo BOLT and Cord-cutting: What DID work for us.

Second, you will need an antenna. The Mohu Leaf Paper-Thin Indoor HDTV Antenna (Refurbished) might well be all you need. Try it. If you decide to upgrade to a powered and/or an outdoor antenna, you can still use this one with another TV.

Read more about antennas in these previous posts: Placing an indoor TV antenna, High winds can affect TV reception and Mohu Sky 60 antenna review.


In addition, if you are ready to replace your landline or cable phone service (and don’t want to rely entirely on your cell phone), the Ooma Telo internet phone can make it happen. See previous posts Ooma internet phone moves from office to Tiki room and Cord-cutting: Hold the phone!

After losing the cable/satellite box, you may need a new clock for the set-top. The one at the top of this post does the job quite nicely for us.

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas, with no cords attached!

32" LG LED TV, Winegard FlatWave indoor amplified antenna, Roku XDS

32″ LG LED TV, Winegard FlatWave indoor amplified antenna, Roku XDS.

Our cord-cutting arsenal:

Ooma Telo internet phone device

5 TVs: LED (2), plasma, flat-tube, ’83 CRT
TiVo Roamio OTA 4-tuner DVR
TiVo Mini extender (2)
Mohu Sky 60 powered outdoor antenna
Winegard FlatWave indoor antenna (2)

Roku streaming media player (3)
Chromecast streaming media player
Blu-ray player

TiVo “Peanut” remote (3)
Logitech Harmony 890 remote
X10 universal 5-in-1 learning remote.
Smartphone

Netflix & Amazon Prime subscriptions

Windows 7 PCs / free Plex &
Emby software to serve
music/TV/movie libraries.
Windows 7 PC / free Windows
Media Center DVR with
recordings on external drive.

Raspberry Pi computer w/ free OSMC, PleXBMC, & ServerWMC software
to access content on Win 7 PCs

X10 analog video sender / receiver
Powerline network adapter (4)
Gigabit Ethernet switch (2)
Kinovo HDMI switch
Powered USB hub (2)

(The list entitled “Our cord-cutting arsenal” appearing at the bottom-right of this blog shows the hardware and software we use for all five of our TVs. Since you can’t tell which items are in each room, I am breaking it down by room, highlighting the hardware used in light yellow, content in white.)

The bedroom is another simple room, hardware-wise (See previous post The workout room TV setup for my wife). The presence of the Roku box gives her access to other content via software.

After a freakish lightning strike, our 1989 20″ tube TV, no great shakes to start with, looked like it was on a bad trip, emitting weird green and purple colors. (See Lightning-pocalypse Saturday.)

Perhaps it could have been degaussed, but it was finally time to upgrade and simplify the setup. (See the old setup in Eliminate a cable box.)

The tube TV went to Best Buy along with the other stricken electronics. (See Best Buy accepts 3 dead electronics items per day)

It was replaced with a new 32″ LED TV.

Now that there was no need for a digital converter box, we could also dispense with the Logitech Harmony 650 remote and use only the new TV’s dedicated remote. A minor problem had been that the Harmony “thought” the old TV was still on after the sleep timer turned it off. Correcting it the next evening was a hassle for my sleepy wife, and therefore not a feather in my cap. (See previous post Logitech Harmony 650.)

We are using only an indoor antenna in the bedroom, rather than another TiVo Mini. A Mini would be great, but that would require us to get an Ethernet cable to the TiVo Roamio in the den. The only way to do that would be to wrap it around the house and add outlets in both rooms. Too much trouble for now.

However, the indoor antenna does well for all channels except RSUTV, which is not a sleeptime favorite, anyway.

The Roku box is now plugged into the new TV with one HDMI cable. When we want to use it, I pull its dedicated remote out of my bedside drawer.

We could watch anything on Netflix or Amazon using the Roku, though we don’t often do it.

But on Sunday nights, my wife sometimes likes to watch old English favorites such as “Keeping Up Appearances” or “Fawlty Towers”. This can be done by selecting the Plex or Emby channels on Roku. Either can stream the programs from one of our own Windows 7 PCs.

I had previously ripped the shows from DVDs and placed them on the PC in the proper file structure and naming convention. Plex and Emby servers running on that PC then were able to retrieve artwork for the Roku onscreen menu. (See Saving YouTubes, viewing with Plex & Emby.)

Why is Emby preferable to Plex for video content in the bedroom? Because we have a first generation Roku in there. The Plex channel app for that older device appears not to have been updated for their latest transcoder server software. Thus it delivers less than optimal video for files in the .mkv format (an .mkv file is the immediate product of MakeMKV, the DVD-ripping software I use).

Plex on the Roku XDS still works well with .mp4 video and .mp3 audio. If I weren’t so lazy, I would convert all those .mkv files to .mp4. But since the Emby app on Roku is doing a fine job handling .mkv transcoded by the Emby server software, why bother? A selling point of both Plex and Emby (though both are free) is supposed to be that they can handle a range of file types. (See 007 24/7 on Plex Media ServerMedia Browser: an alternative to Plex)

Someday we will probably upgrade the Roku box, but it’s not worth doing until another natural disaster strikes, or a newer device offers some extra functionality we want.

The Roku has had no problems with wifi, but I had an extra Powerline adapter on hand, so I am using it instead. Powerline uses your house’s AC wiring as a conduit for Ethernet data. It’s not as high bandwidth as Ethernet cable, but better than wifi for streaming data. See previous post Powerline vs. Ethernet wiring.)

Everybody’s happy now!

Mohu Curve 50 atop our set, pulling in COZI TV. That's Sharon Farrell on "Marcus Welby, M.D."

Mohu Curve 50 atop our set, pulling in COZI TV. Sorry, my phone camera washed out the color, but it was there. That’s actress Sharon Farrell on “Marcus Welby, M.D.” Nice wig.

The folks at Mohu sent me a couple of antennas for review a while back. One was the Mohu Curve 50 (see below), the other was the Mohu Sky 60, reviewed this week (Mohu Sky 60 antenna review & The Riddle of COZI).

Recap of that post

The Sky 60 mounted on the roof solved all of our reception problems in the den, but one: COZI TV (a subchannel of KWHB-47).

KWHB’s antenna is close by, but our house is downhill and away from it, partially blocked. Large neighborhood trees add extra blockage to their signal as “seen” by the Sky 60.

None of the other five stations with antennas at the same site in Oneta (12 miles away) pose reception problems for us.

The lower frequency stations there, KJRH and KOED, operate with relatively low power (24 and 47 kW respectively), since their longer wavelengths are far less prone to obstruction.

The higher frequency stations (KOKI, KMYT and KOTV) are much higher powered (1000, 900 and 840 kW) in order to get their shorter wavelengths through ground clutter like our trees.

KWHB operates not only at a higher frequency than any of the other stations, but also at relatively low power (50 kW). Thus, our picture is often punctuated by pixelation when any amount of wind moves tree branches though the signal path to our Sky 60 antenna. (Also, KWHB’s antenna is more than a football field length lower than KOTV’s.)

We watchably receive the station in the theater room, but antenna positioning was critical. With a flat, amplified, wall-mounted antenna, I found an exact spot to miss the bulk of the local trees (or pick up a reflection of the signal, I’m not sure which), and get good signal strength on all stations, with the exception of KRSU in Claremore. There was no such spot in the den, but the Sky 60 pulls them all in well except COZI.

A way to get COZI in the den

Yesterday, I realized that I might be able to use the other antenna, the Mohu Curve 50, as an auxiliary to improve COZI in the den.

I now have both Mohu antennas hooked to a remote-controlled A|B switch that feeds the den TiVo box. I leave it on the Sky 60 all the time, except when COZI is on. Then I hit a button to seamlessly switch to the Curve 50. Presto, COZI loses most of the pixelation.

I found, not to my surprise by now, that pointing the Curve 50 in the exact direction of COZI was ineffective. What worked best was aiming it a bit less than 90 degrees away from the station, and placing it on the left side of the TV set-top (I took the above photo before this setup). It’s probably picking up a reflection of KWHB’s signal; I can’t even imagine the path it is taking. But it seems to work consistently.

(I want to mention again: this guy had good luck placing antennas in and near his basement window to pick up reflected signals! He also used two Mohu antennas.)

It may seem extravagant and a bit kludgy to use an extra antenna this way, but the result in our “special needs” den is that we are now receiving every station we want in our area.

Whatever works.

The Mohu Curve 50 antenna

It has a very high WAF (wife acceptance factor). When I told Gaye that we had a new antenna, she said “Where?” She didn’t recognize it as an antenna. To me, it looks like a little drive-in theater screen, though I’ve never seen one with a designer curve.

It is basically a Mohu Leaf 50 (for 50 mile maximum unobstructed range) with a stand and backing for rigidity and shape. Like the Leaf 50 and the Sky 60, it has a filtered amplifier powered by AC, with the option to plug into a USB port for power instead. Amplification doesn’t relieve you of the need to experiment with positioning, but it does add a noticeable amount of signal strength, which can make the difference with marginal stations.

It works best as your general coverage antenna if you are able to place it near a window or wall facing toward your antenna farm.

A flat thin antenna like the Leaf 50 is very flexible about the mounting height, but you are typically limited to either north-south or east-west orientation (depending on your house). For most stations, this would not be critical, since, like the Curve, it is multidirectional.

The Curve 50, having its own means of support, is flexible in orientation, which was vital for me to pick up the weak and obstructed COZI. Heightwise, you could place it on the TV as I did, or on a table or high shelf. It certainly looks better than any indoor antenna I’ve seen.

The best antenna for you depends on your location relative to the antennas of the stations you want to receive. The Mohu Curve 50 might be the one, particularly if the WAF is important to your choice.