WAF

All posts tagged WAF

The kitchen counter

The kitchen counter, sans phone and answering machine clutter.

My wife got tired of having a wireless phone and an old answering machine in the kitchen, since she uses only her iPhone.

That’s really my thing. I still like having wireless phones available in several rooms. But I could see her point, and moved them out.

Undeniably, the counter looks better without them, and there is more food preparation area that is easier to clean. The new 24″ flat TV and TiVo Mini (both bought with our cord-cutting savings) take up only a small corner of space that wouldn’t be used much anyway. Cord clutter behind the set is down to an absolute minimum. But where do I put the phone and answering machine now?

As told in an early post, Cord-cutting: Hold the phone!, my first big cord-cutting salvo was to get rid of the cable company’s phone service and replace it with an Ooma Telo internet phone device.

It costs a measly $4/month in government fees (part of it covers 911 service), which is well worth it to still be able to use all those phones around the house. I kept our old phone number for a one-time $40 charge.

However, the Ooma device has been stuck back in our office where it could have the requisite Ethernet connection to the router. So we weren’t taking advantage of its ability to be a slick modern answering machine. Instead, we had an old Radio Shack machine on the kitchen counter (See previous post Lightning, round #3).

This morning, I ran across an item on Amazon: Ooma Wireless Plus Bluetooth Adapter, a little USB dongle that plugs into the Telo. It connects with your wifi network, allowing you to place the Telo in a location more convenient than adjacent to your router/modem. (It also lets your smartphone make a Bluetooth connection.)

I considered buying one, but two of the Amazon comments put me off.

One said the dongle runs hot. The other said, “When it loses its signal, the Ooma has to be completely reset. Frustrating. Put in a Powerline next to the Ooma and hardwired Ethernet to Powerline. Works much better.”

Well, there was my answer. We already use Powerline to get internet and home network to our theater room and den (see Powerline vs. Ethernet wiring). I had an extra Powerline adapter on hand. Duh.

Ooma in the Tiki room

Ooma Telo, wireless phone, X10 remote, LED light remote. Click to enlarge.

The Ooma Telo was moved to the next-best place for an answering machine: our “Tiki lounge“, a highly-trafficked area adjacent to both the theater room and the den. That turned a desk clutter item into an active, useful one.

While signed into my dashboard at my.ooma.com, I set the number of rings before voicemail answers to 4.

I can also review incoming, outgoing, and missed calls on the dashboard call log. Very handy to check out some of those bogus numbers we occasionally get calls from.

Just discovered a free Ooma app that lets me make outgoing calls on my wifi-only smartphone. If I subscribed to Ooma Premier for an extra $10/month, I could receive incoming calls on it as well. But the main objective of the cord-cutting exercise is to save money.

I would rarely if ever need to get my messages while away from home, but it can be done very easily with Ooma by calling your own number, entering your PIN, then following the spoken menu. (Or by using the free Ooma app.)

Clutter reduction, improved answering machine, and boosted WAF (wife acceptance factor) at no additional cost. Can’t beat it.

3 weeks ago in Cozumel, Mexico. Today in Tulsa, it is 9º F.

How we use our cord-cutting savings.

I could make this the briefest post ever if I just said “TiVo”.

It was certainly the key cord-cutting move for us. (See previous posts Cord-cutting status report #1 and Cutting the TV cable with TiVo Roamio OTA.)

TiVo Roamio OTA

TiVo Roamio

The TiVo Roamio, aside from being an extremely user-friendly DVR and TV tuner, has built-in access to video providers YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video (including Prime), Hulu Plus, MLB.TV, and VUDU (video on demand service).

Your favorite shows and series from all these can be easily integrated into the “My Shows” list of recordings. (See Streaming video as cable substitute.)

For example, my wife likes to watch the cable show “Hoarders” in the den (her HQ) on Saturday, so we added it to “My Shows”. It appears as any other recorded show, but when you click, all episodes from all seasons are listed. Some episodes are currently available on Netflix and newer ones are available on VUDU. So you pick one, select a provider, and watch. (See TiVo’s new OnePass feature: boon to cord-cutters.)

Of course, the Netflix or other options work only if you have a subscription, the VUDU option only if you have set up an account with them. (Episodes are $1.99-2.99/episode on VUDU, depending on whether you want SD or HD).

These “cloud” shows take up no space on your TiVo’s hard drive.

If you are saving as much as we are, you feel freer to pay for programming you really want. We recently bought the first season of “Better Call Saul” on Amazon Instant Video (it is not available on Amazon Prime currently).

Recently added apps include Plex, iHeart Radio, Pandora, and Spotify (subscription only). These are not integrated in the same way as the video providers, but it is great to have them (especially Plex!)

All these TiVo features combined render other devices such as Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, or “smart TV” optional for many people.

TiVo’s program guide and interface are superior to the cable box/DVR we had.  More recent iterations such as the Hopper by DISH, Genie by DirecTV, and Contour by Cox created competitive pressure that resulted in the much-improved Roamio series.

Our kitchen TiVo Mini

Our kitchen TiVo Mini

The TiVo service costs $15/month, but a great way to get more for your money is to add a TiVo Mini (no extra charge beyond the cost of the device).

This is a little box that attaches to the mothership by Ethernet cable (or MoCA, Multimedia over Coax). We added two Minis, one for the kitchen, one for the theater room. (See The fruits of cord-cutting: new TVs, TiVo Mini.)

Our TiVo Roamio OTA has 4 tuners, and dynamically allocates them to each Mini as needed. If too many tuners are in use by viewers when a recording starts, viewers will be asked to click Select if they want to continue watching. If not, or if there is no response, the Roamio will take back the tuner and reassign it.

Other models have 6 tuners if 4 is not enough.

Having one recording repository serve every TiVo box makes it convenient to switch rooms in mid-program.

With a TiVo and a good antenna, you might well be able to cut the cable cord while keeping things as simple as they can be! (See previous posts Placing an indoor TV antennaHigh winds can affect TV reception and Mohu Sky 60 antenna review.)


This one got toasted by a lightning srike.

One minor complication you might enjoy is a Roku.

Like the TiVo Roamio, it has YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, MLB.TV, VUDU, Plex, Pandora, Spotify and iHeart Radio.

But in addition, it has a multitude of other free channels, some of the best of which are: Crackle, Comedy Central, Sky News International (HD), Shout Factory, Nowhere TV, and Tunein with thousands of free radio stations. (See Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee on Crackle.)

Other subscription channels include Sling TV, HBO GO, ESPN, and Showtime. (See Cord-cutters’ supplement? Introducing Sling TV.)

The remote is simple to operate.

If any of the additional channels grab you, a Roku is a good one-time investment to expand your choices.


Google Chromecast with HDMI extender cable, microUSB cable, USB power supply.

Google Chromecast

Google’s Chromecast device is an alternative to Roku, but smartphone-centric; you “cast” apps up to the big screen.

Castable apps include most of the usual suspects mentioned above (Netflix, Crackle, Plex, Pandora, etc.), with the notable exception of Google competitor, Amazon.

YouTube is an especially natural fit to this mode of viewing.

I previously described my devious method of using a Chrome browser tab and Chromecast to get 24/7 web versions of CNN, msnbc, and CNBC up onto the big screen. (See Use Chromecast to watch online cable news.)

If you are one of those guys who insists on entertaining with his smartphone, Chromecast will give you a much bigger stage to work your magic.


Linksys WRT54G router and Ooma Telo

Our Ooma on the right

An Ooma Telo VoIP (voice over internet) device replaced our landline phone service.

My wife does all her business calling and texting on her iPhone.

But I still like having cordless phones around the house, even though I text with Google Voice on my wifi-only smartphone. I was able to keep our old phone number with a one-time $40 charge.

The voice quality is very good. The only downside I’ve found is a slight delay, similar to cell phones I’ve talked on.

At a monthly cost of less than $4 in taxes, it’s a small indulgence. (See Cord-cutting: Hold the phone!)

Ooma was the first cord-cutting move documented in this blog.


There is more to learn and remember as you expand.

There are optional but more complicated things you can do.

Run free Plex or Emby software on your PCs, and serve video and music to your laptops, phones, and tablets, and to your TVs via Roku or Chromecast. (See 007 24/7 on Plex Media ServerPoolside fun with Plex remote access, and Media Browser: an alternative to Plex.)

Replace TiVo at a lower or no monthly fee with Tablo DVR or Channel Master DVR+, or Windows Media Center, or freeware like NextPVR. Warning: they all could work for you, depending on your needs, but none are as user-friendly as TiVo. (See RIP Windows Media Center (in 5-8 yrs).)

Save a TiVo-recorded show as an .mpg file, maybe later convert it to .mp4 for Plex use. Thanks to reader JJ’s comment on the previous post, I learned how to do it. I just followed all the steps at the Windows Install link on this page: pyTivo (free server software).

Run free media center software such as OSMC (formerly XBMC) on a Linux-based machine such as the Raspberry Pi. I use my Pi as a front-end presentation for Windows Media Center DVR software running on a network-attached Windows 7 PC. With the free PleXBMC add-on, the Pi also front-ends Plex servers running on other household PCs. In addition, it offers unique free content, such as ESPN3 in HD. The interface is slick and stylish, with many free skins available to radically change the look.

The Pi is flexible and fun, but setting-rich and sometimes frustrating; recommended more for the tinkerer than the casual user. (See previous posts Raspberry Pi computer leads to Atari on Wii“Let’s kill Uncle first!”Windows Media Center & Raspberry Pi, and The missing context button.)


The tool that enabled evolution.

Logitech Harmony 890

Here are a couple of ways I tamed some of the complexity created by adding new boxes and new modes of delivering media to our theater room:

A Logitech Harmony remote eliminated a bucketful of remotes for the all the above devices, plus Blu-ray, receiver, HD radio, VCR, etc. The Harmony online database knows about all your devices by model number, and gives you workable default button settings for all your activities. You can customize to a high degree, and I’ve had a lot of obsessive fun getting it just right for me.

Ultimately, the Harmony unifies and simplifies your TV experience. Best money I ever spent. (See 2014: A Cord-Cutting OdysseyLogitech Harmony 650Cloning the TiVo “Peanut” remote.)

When I can’t remember off-hand which show is where, I look at Our post-cord-cutting TV menu on my smartphone.


The most important lesson I have learned:

Keep the basic TV/DVR system user-friendly and reliable. This maximizes the wife acceptance factor needed to successfully cut the cord.

I enjoy dealing with the complexity entailed by extra functionality, but my wife and many other sane and smart people do not. You can have simple, or complex, or both co-existing as we now do.

As The Keeper of Talos iV (above) thought, “May you find your way as pleasant.”

In the year+ I’ve been writing this blog, we’ve tried a lot of cord-cutting measures. It might be useful to review the ones that were less than totally successful.

Most of the following items could work for others; here’s why they didn’t for us (links to relevant past posts are in parentheses).


1. Mediasonic HomeWorx Digital TV Converter Box with PVR (see Eliminate a cable box)

We bought our 36″ tube HDTV new in 2002 to use with cable. It does not have a built-in TV tuner, so in order to cut the cord, we needed a converter box to get digital TV with an antenna. This particular box cost only $35, and also had the capability of recording shows on a USB drive. I delusionally dreamed this could replace the cable DVR service.

But it was simply too clunky and kludgy as a PVR (DVR) to inflict on my wife. Doing so would probably have dealt a fatal blow to my cord-cutting ambitions. So it moved to the bedroom to serve as a digital tuner only. The price was still good for that use only. I finally traded it to a friend when we replaced the bedroom TV.

2. Cheap Component-to-HDMI converter (see Replace the old TV?)

We had already cut the cord with a TiVo Roamio OTA, but were watching the 36″ tube TV using the lower quality composite input (yellow, red, & white plugs) with TiVo. That was because the TV has only composite, component and S-video inputs, rather than the HDMI needed for the best quality TiVo connection.

I ordered two different HDMI-to-component video converters in succession from Amazon, but neither worked worth a hoot. I learned that the cheapest one on the market that would totally work was the HDFury Gamer 2, and it wasn’t that cheap.

Most people would probably be better served by getting a new TV, but I wasn’t ready to tote that still-working 217 lb. TV to Best Buy for recycling (see Best Buy accepts 3 dead electronics items per day).

3. Raspberry Pi/Windows Media Center PC as DVR (see The Life of (Raspberry) Pi)

I hardly attempted to get my wife to use this; the Pi/Windows combo is not casual user friendly, and is prone to periodic hiccups of various sorts. But I’ve learned a lot from it, and WMC captures TV shows reliably in a format that can be converted to .mp4 (unlike TiVo See JJ’s comments and links below; you CAN pull videos from TiVo with the free pyTiVo program!)

If you have a PC with an HDMI output, you could plug it directly into the TV and use WMC without the Pi. But Windows 8 is the last version to support WMC, so you would be out of luck by 2023, 2020 for Windows 7 (see RIP Windows Media Center (in 5-8 yrs)).

4. Roku Highlights online document (see Our post-cord-cutting TV menu)

This is a list of all the Roku channels with the content of current interest to us. It is in the form of a Google Doc, so I can look at it and update it from tablet, smartphone or browser. The idea was to remind us of all the shows we might watch, and which device or channel they’re on.

It’s fine as MY doc, not so much OURS. Gaye just doesn’t approach TV that way. I do, so I serve as the TV butler, verbally reading from the list when needed.

Since my original post, I have periodically updated the doc and added the content available via Chromecast and Raspberry Pi as well. All to aid my own memory.

5. Antenna placement (see Mohu Sky 60 antenna review & The Riddle of COZI)

(Click to enlarge)

I had the Video Revolution installer place the outdoor antenna on the highest, easternmost point of our house, in hopes of getting the best all-around signals. (He found the height daunting, but if it hadn’t been, I would have tried it myself.)

As it turned out, reception was generally very good. But a few of the higher frequency stations suffered when spring brought foliage and wind. Our street is downhill from the affected stations, so there was no way to put the antenna high enough to avoid the trees.

One other corner of our house might have had a better shot at less obstruction to the east (where a majority of network stations are for us). We don’t know. But it may well have had problems with other stations, even if it slightly improved the Coweta stations.

Ideally, I would have experimented a bit more. But due to the sheer height/steepness of our roof and the lack of attic access, that would have been difficult. With the installer’s meter running, and seeing good reception on all stations that day in March, I locked it in.

This summer, all channels have been consistently good.

6. A|B switch with set-top antenna (see Mohu Curve 50 antenna & COZI in the den)

(Also tried in the spring) The switch selected between the roof-mounted Mohu Sky 60 antenna, and the Curve 50 sitting on the TV. The idea was that when one station’s reception suffered due to the usual factors (wind, trees blocking the signal), another antenna sometimes did a better job.

In practice, it just didn’t work well enough or often enough to mess with it. Not the Curve’s fault; there was just no consistent good placement for it within the space restrictions imposed by the den TV’s location.

7. Hulu Plus (see Streaming video as cable substitute)

In short, we love Netflix, and Amazon Prime to a lesser degree, but Hulu Plus not at all. We dropped it.

After going with a TiVo Roamio OTA as our DVR, Hulu Plus would have been almost superfluous anyway.

A major key to cord-cutting success was reliably delivering daily episodes of “General Hospital” that could easily be rewound, jumped-back, and reviewed, and Hulu wasn’t it.

I found Hulu’s interface poor and the commercials annoying.

8. Powerline to connect a TiVo Mini to the TiVo host box (see The fruits of cord-cutting: new TVs, TiVo Mini, comments)

I successfully used a long Ethernet cable to connect the TiVo Mini in the kitchen to the TiVo Roamio OTA in the den, as recommended. (The other recommended way is MoCA, multimedia over coax.)

I then replaced the cable with a Powerline adapter, a way to send data packets over your house wiring (see Powerline vs. Ethernet wiring). This was an attempt to eliminate the wire.

It worked for a time, but started taking too many errors to be acceptable. I returned to the long Ethernet cable, and did the same when we added another Mini in the theater room.

A Powerline adapter effectively delivers internet access to the Roamio, and thus to the Minis too, but it isn’t quite up the job of moving the video data.

9. Finding ways to provide the cable shows my wife can’t live without (or just wants)

I was really worried about this, so I tried a number of things:

— Plex channels (see Free Plex channels = cable substitutes? and NBC/msnbc discontinuing video podcasts)

— VCRing  a lot of “Survivorman” before cutting the cable.

— Plex personal media content (see  007 24/7 on Plex Media Server) such as my wife’s favorite Sunday night shows, “Keeping Up Appearances” and “Fawlty Towers”, and Saturday fave, “The Outer Limits”. I also ripped our favorite movies from DVD for Plex.

Of those three items, only the latter proved to be of use to her.


The things that DID work will be in a future post. A high wife acceptance factor (WAF), as always, is primary.

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.

Mohu Sky 60 on the apex of our roof

Mohu Sky 60 on the easternmost apex of our roof

This is our new Mohu Sky 60 antenna, suitable for indoor or outdoor use. Its design is based on a mudflap antenna developed for covert military communications by Mohu’s parent company, GreenWave Scientific.

Mounting it in the attic is difficult in our house due to our vaulted ceilings. It’s hard to reach a good place in the attic to hang the antenna, then to get the cable down to the TV. You also lose some of the signal every wall it passes through.

I wanted the maximum signal strength, so an outside mount as high as I could get seemed best.

Installation

I didn’t feel that the risk/reward ratio favored my scaling the steep roof to install it, so I hired help. Even the installer had qualms about clambering up there.

The Sky 60 comes with a filtered amplifier (powered by either USB or wall wart), mounting bracket, a short mast, and a 30′ RG59 cable.

RG59 is the lighter, more flexible kind. RG6 is the thick, heavy-duty one that the cable company uses. The installer was very down on RG59, even wondering if it is still made. Yes, it is. And it does quite well for indoor use and short runs. But I agreed with him that RG6 was the best choice for an outdoor installation.

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

I was able to save him time, and therefore me money by reusing the existing cable to our den, which I had traced to the cable box a week before. (After I did that, I hooked up the Sky 60 outdoors and hung it on a couple of nails at my highest reach for a few days to try it out, with good results.)

Once he got the mast in place, I did a Will Rogers and hurled a coil of the RG59 cable up there like a lasso. To my utter astonishment, I scored a ringer on the first try.

He lightly attached the antenna to the mast, and I connected up the cable temporarily so I could go indoors and check signal strength on all the stations with various antenna orientations.

To finish up, he tightened down the screws on the antenna, attached RG6 cable, and used a tall ladder to fasten it down the side of the house. He then grounded the antenna properly.

Indoors, I had already connected the TiVo tuner to the existing cable wall outlet. The Sky 60’s USB power cord connects to one of the TiVo’s two USB ports. (I use the other one to power a little LED clock, needed to show us the time with the cable box gone.)

The Sky 60 seems well-suited for a rural setting, where there is a lot of distance (as many as 60 miles), and a clear path to a distant antenna farm.

However, its compact, ultra-wideband design makes it an excellent choice for suburban areas like ours (81st & Memorial).

I want my RSUTV!

A majority of Tulsa-area antennas are located in Coweta and Oneta, 12-15 miles east-southeast of us. That’s close, but our street slopes down and away from them. That’s why I wanted to go as high as I could get.

But there are also tall trees in our immediate neighborhood between us and those antennas.

As I learned previously (High winds can affect TV reception), the higher frequency stations are more often affected by trees and the movement caused by wind. Those shorter wavelengths are close enough to the size of tree trunks and branches that the signals are more easily blocked or diffracted.

Tulsa-area TV transmitter locations

Tulsa-area TV transmitter locations from our house. See http://transition.fcc.gov/mb/engineering/dtvmaps

The standard advice is to point your antenna right at the antenna farm and hope for the best. That was the advice of the installer as well. We tried it and it worked.

But I also wanted to pick up KRSU-35 (RSUTV) in Claremore, to our northeast. It wasn’t happening with that orientation.

So I had him fudge the direction to slightly north of east, toward a low-tree corridor through our neighborhood. I still got high signal strength from almost all the other stations, but also a consistent signal and picture from Claremore.

The Sky 60 is billed as multidirectional, and it is, but its orientation made a critical difference in receiving the Claremore station, which is almost 30 miles from us.

We have been very satisfied with our reception of all the area stations, but one…

The Riddle of COZI

KWHB-47/COZI-47.2 (Independent, real channel 47), one of the higher frequency channels, occasionally freezes and not infrequently suffers brief, blocky blotches of pixelation on the screen. But KOTV-6 (CBS, real channel 45), close to COZI’s frequency, is rarely affected. Both of their antennas are in Oneta.

The signal strength we get for COZI is about what we now get from RSUTV, both on the low side of the acceptable range. KOTV and all the other channels in the Tulsa area (excluding KDOR, way up north in Bartlesville) show high signal strength as measured on the TiVo’s tuner.

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

The chart at right is custom for our street address and free from TV Fool.

It shows that KOTV’s “Noise Margin” (a rough estimate of signal strength, based on the topography of the area) is 65.3 dB, whereas COZI’s is 51.9. It’s lower, but not that much lower (KRSU is 26.4).

It also shows that the COZI and KOTV antennas must be either side by side or on the same mast!

The full wavelengths of the KOTV and COZI signals are between 17.5″-18″ so they would seem to be equally vulnerable to tree interference, and should behave very similarly.

By contrast, I have a flat amplified antenna taped to an east-facing inside wall in the theater room. I found one and only one spot on the wall where it works. (I could find no spot near the den TV where a flat antenna worked acceptably. That’s why the Sky 60.)

The flat antenna in the theater room does a better job with COZI than the outdoor antenna in the den, but worse with RSUTV to the northeast. That makes some sense, because the flat is aimed straight east, slightly more toward COZI and slightly away from RSUTV compared with the Sky 60.

But COZI’s signal strength on the theater room set, like KOTV’s, measures near the maximum, and pixelation occurs far less frequently, though high winds can still affect COZI’s picture in there.

Why does that antenna/TV tuner show maximums for both KOTV and COZI, but the Sky 60/TiVo combo reads a maximum for KOTV, yet much lower for COZI?

It’s a bit of a puzzle:

  • Are we getting a freak “bank shot” of COZI’s signal in the theater room, or finding a gap in the tree cover?
  • Is the compromise angle of the Sky 60 critical for COZI, but not for any of the other stations at precisely the same location?
  • Is even minimal tree movement periodically pushing COZI over the “digital cliff” despite my seeing steady signal readings?
  • Maybe the KOTV antenna is higher on the mast as well as having more power?

Since a small shift of the Sky 60’s angle was decisive in getting a consistent picture from RSUTV, might that same shift might have been decisive in losing a consistent lock on the lowest-powered (though not by much) signal at nearby Oneta?

Maybe not; new info: I did some digging at FCCinfo.com for KWHB (COZI) and KOTV data.

Key facts: both stations are indeed on the same tower and KOTV is 113 meters higher than KWHB. That’s 124 yards, more than a football field.

But here’s the eye-popper: KOTV broadcasts at 840.1 kW ERP (effective radiated power). KWHB at 50 kW ERP. Huge difference! No wonder KWHB has a harder time blasting through the tree clutter.

Re the misleading (at least to me) “Noise Margin” figures quoted above, TV Fool’s TV Signal Analysis FAQ states: “Please understand that this is a simulation and can only be treated as a rough approximation. Reception at your location is affected by many factors such as multipath, antenna gain, receiver sensitivity, buildings, and trees – which are not taken into account. Your mileage may vary.” Did it ever!

The mystery now is how I am getting a strong signal in the theater room, but only when the antenna is at a particular spot at the center and top of the wall.

It appears to me that the offset position of the theater room vis-à-vis the den gives it barely enough clearance from the trees to avoid impairment of COZI’s signal, at least at that one little spot. I wish I had “radiovision” so I could see the radio shadows and reflections in there.

We haven’t yet experienced the blooming of trees in the spring with the Sky 60 on the roof, so we’ll soon see how or if that affects our reception.

Luckily, COZI is more my channel than Gaye’s (it has “Run For Your Life“, which I record with my WMC/Pi setup in the theater room), so this isn’t a big crisis. And it is watchable a lot of the time.

Conclusions

As I had previously found (Placing an indoor TV antenna), you need to experiment with inside antennas for best performance. The same is true for outdoor or roof mounts. It’s difficult to predict where the best spot is going to be, and it is often surprising.

Experiment at leisure with different antenna orientations and positions on an inside or outside wall, or in the attic, and find out what works best at your house. Then you’ll be better prepared if you choose to do an outside mount.

When the stations you want are not all clumped together, tweaks and trade-offs may be necessary.

I had hoped that maximum antenna height would completely eliminate reception problems.

It almost did, but I had to tweak the direction to pick up a distant desired station (RSUTV) while keeping the others.

Sometimes-impaired reception of COZI may be the trade-off, but given its low power and our tree-laden, partially-obscured location relative to its antenna, COZI would likely be problematic for any antenna in the location I selected, regardless of its orientation. (I seem to have barely caught a gap in the trees with the theater room antenna’s precise positioning.)

I learned that two stations (RSUTV and COZI) received at roughly the same signal strength, albeit on the lower side of the acceptable range, can differ greatly in quality. One can come in consistently, and the other can be subject to frequent interference if it is on a high frequency and nearby trees are in the path.

Signal strength as measured on your TV doesn’t always tell the whole reception story.

(This guy had better luck placing his Mohu antennas in and near the basement window to pick up reflected signals! He also found a way to combine two antennas.)

Final notes

The Mohu Sky 60 is doing a bang-up job for us. It’s solidly constructed and was light and easy to move around in the experimentation phase. I like the unique appearance of the antenna up there; Gaye thought it looked like an alien artifact (which is to say she likes it a lot).

With the TiVo Roamio OTA DVR/tuner and the Mohu Sky 60, plus Netflix and Amazon Prime, our TV cable cord is well cut.

According to my calculations, we will save about $1750/year! And we didn’t even have any premium channels like HBO, etc.

(Full disclosure: Mohu sent me the antenna for free to review.)