Apr 25, 2018

Cutting the Cable Cord


First things first! If you chose to undertake this project GOOGLE is your best friend. Second, the devices and apps that I mention in this blog are what I used. Please, do not take them as a personal endorsement. There are numerous other devices that can work just as good for you or perhaps better than the ones that I used.

Why I Cut the Cord

For very basic cable service I was paying $16 / month plus I had to pay rental for two boxes. Since most of the basic cable package is comprised of  FREE TV, I asked myself: Why am I paying for it? Then during the end of last year the local cable company said everyone needed new HD boxes to watch cable. These boxes were free (or so the cable company said they were). I had issues with the boxes that were sent to me. Their support was clueless. I also found out that their very basic cable package was going to have a price increase of $10. Hmmmm, why am I paying for this then. Time to cut the cord.

What do you want your "cable-less" TV to be like?

WRITE DOWN what YOU want on your TV. Do you want the latest TV shows? News? Weather? Movies? Or do you just want the local TV channels and that’s all you want. Depending on what you want your TV at home to be like will determine what device(s) you need. IF you want more than just "free" OTA TV you will still need internet access. So you will still have to get that through your local cable company.

What are your choices?

If you only want the “free” local TV channels the ONLY thing you will need is an Over The Air TV antenna, that's it!. These come in two varieties: outdoor and indoor. While an outdoor OTA is probably the best option (and surprisingly they are not very expensive. As a matter of fact the cost of an outdoor antenna is about the same as a good indoor one.) The downside to an outdoor OTA is installing it. If you go this route proper installation is a must along with the antenna having to be grounded (against possible lightning strikes). This cost that must be factored into your plan. 

For an indoor antennae there are many options available to you. Both indoor and outdoor antennae can be purchased online (Amazon, Wal-Mart, etc.) or in stores that have a digital and or electronics department like Wal-Mart.


What you need to know about antennae

First, you need to know how far away you are from the TV transmitters. This website, TV Fool should be consulted FIRST! It is easy very to use. Just enter the information in the appropriate boxes, wait for your report to be generated and wallah you have a nice map along with what TV stations you can get based on your location. Based on the report you can then determine what range antenna you should purchase. (You’ll also need this report to help you determine  in what direction you should point your antenna. I’ll talk more about this a bit later in this blog.)

Antennae should list the range of how many miles away that they will be able to “pick up” TV signals. Most common ranges are 30, 50 and 70 miles. (Based on the research that I did (using GOOGLE) I have to say the latter range is a bit of a stretch; while it is possible to receive "distant" stations just know that HDTV signals tend to be “weak” from transmitters that are located far away.)

Antenna placement and location

Based on the report that you got from TV Fool you have to figure out your location relative to the transmitters to properly “point” the antenna. For example, I live to the north of the transmitters so I have to have my antenna facing toward the south. After you “point” your antenna in the proper direction the next step is its location or placement in/on your home. The general rule here is the HIGHER UP the better the signal reception.

My Procedure for Cutting the Cord

I’ll list what I wanted on my now NO CABLE TV and then what devices I procured.

I wanted OTA TV from Albany.  I also want to be able to see some sporting events, movies. Wanting movies and sports on my TV would require me getting apps which I will talk about later in this blog.

My devices:
  1. OTA indoor antenna
  2. Amazon TV Firebox (attached to TV downstairs)
  3. Roku stick (attached to TV upstairs)
  4. ISP
I also have internet service provided by Earthlink. I have used them for over 20 years. Under federal rules, the local cable company has to allow alternative internet service providers the use of their local cable. Its high speed internet just like the local cable company provides but I am paying $20 LESS per month for my internet access.

Initial steps that I did: Initially, I bought an RCA indoor TV antenna at Wal-Mart. It was rated for 50 miles. It was on sale for $20 dollars and came with an offer for a 1 month free trial of SLING TV and a free Roku Stick to use with Sling TV. If I decided not to keep Sling TV, I could still keep the Roku stick. This is why I wound up getting this antenna.

While I was waiting the arrival of the RS (which came 3 days later), I began to “experiment” with this antenna.This part of going cable-free is probably the most tedious part of the project. It involves a bit of trial and error and it also involves knowing a bit about TV signal propagation.

First I tried placing it on the wall in the den downstairs, above where one TV is located. Being that it was on an interior wall, along with other obstructions I could only get ONE TV station. Obviously this was not a good location. 

Now,  one of the drawbacks to this antenna is that the coaxial cable was only 16 feet long and it is NOT detachable from where it connects into the antenna. So I then went upstairs to my study-office-Man Cave where TV #2 is located. I placed the antenna in the window, had my TV perform a channel scan and bingo I got additional TV stations but not all (based on what the TV Fool report said I should receive. See image below).




When the RS arrived I configured it with my home network. Now with the SLING TV app (I have a few more apps, too which I will mention later) and the SLING “package” that I had, I could now watch what I wanted to and I could also switch my TV input to local TV channels, too.

Since my OTA antenna was not getting ALL of the local channels (by the way – when I say all of the local channels, I mean the primary channels [for me WNYT, WRGB, WTEN, and PBS, along with all of their associated subchannels, too], I decided to purchase a Mohu Leaf (indoor) antenna. This one afforded me more options and it was highly rated too. The cost was $50 (at Wal-Mart). One of the advantages of this antenna is that the antenna cord is detachable where it hooks into the back of the antenna.

So I swapped the RCA antenna with the Mohu. Then I did a channel scan on the upstairs TV and I wound up getting even a few more channels but still not all. The window in my Man Cave faces toward the southeast; based on the TV Fool report I needed to be facing toward the south. I looked at my options: on the upper floor of my house there are two bedrooms that have a southern exposure, however if I tried to use them it would require running cable across the upper floor of the house so this was a no go. But all was not lost! The attic has 3 windows in it – facing to the west, to the east and to the SOUTH!

So  I brought the Mohu to the attic. I replaced the 10 feet of cable with 50 feet. I placed the antenna in the east window did a channel scan and once again a few more stations came in but still not all of them. Next step I tried the south window, did another channel scan and yes I struck gold, I finally got all of the stations!

As you can see the tedious part of this procedure is having to find the best location for your antenna and then do the channel scans to see if you are getting all the stations that you're "supposed" to get. However, it is worth the effort to perform these.

Final step and another (optional) device

I’m a nice guy. I like to share as much as possible. My TV in my Man Cave was the only one getting all the FREE OTA stations. If someone else wanted to watch an OTA channel they would have to come upstairs into the Cave. So to avoid the inconvenience of having to share the cave at a time when I was doing school work or was watching a movie I had to find a way to “share” the OTA TV.

This where an AirTV streaming box and app come in. The box costs 120 dollars and the AirTV app is free. What the box allows is for one to be able to stream OTA TV channels to other TVs (and portable devices). One is limited though to only 2 streams at the same time; for e.g. I can watch WNYT upstairs and PBS downstairs at the same time but if I also wanted to watch another channel (or the same one) on my tablet, I would not be able to do this. You need the AirTV app installed on both RS or Amazon box and your smart phone, Android device or iPad or iPhone for installation. (I know it seems weird and overwhelming but its not. The instructions are very easy, even a cave man can do it!) The app on your portable device also allows you to be able to watch local TV on that device NO matter where you are.

My Apps: I like Sling TV. If you dig around on their website you will see that they have a  one week free trial available. Many antennae also have deals for Sling when you purchase that particular antenna. I have the SLING TV package that costs $25/month plus I added on the “Hollywood” package for an additional $5/month. This add-on allows me to watch TCM. (Go to the SLING website to see what additional add-ons they have (such as for HBO, Cinemax, NHL Network, etc.) and what channels you get with just the basic package. The neat thing about Sling is that it’s a la carte. You pay for what you want and its month to month, no long term contracts.

Sling, Netflix, Hulu, AirTv and Pluto TV (check this app out its pretty cool and its FREE) are installed on my RS and Firebox.  On the RS I also have the Roku Channel app. I also have Amazon Prime, too but I rarely use it for watching TV shows or movies.

Okay let me summarize things: What I needed to cut the cord:
  1. Internet access, 
  2. an OTA antenna, 
  3. a Roku Stick or Amazon Firebox
  4. additional apps.
What it cost me:

One time costs: Mohu leaf antenna $50. AirTV streaming device $118.  If you don’t want to stream OTA TV then this won’t be an expense for you. My Firebox was a Christmas present from my youngest son a few years ago and the RS was a freebie so these didn't cost me anything. However if you want more than just OTA Tv you will need to get one of these for each TV. GOOGLE around for the cost of each device. The Roku cost around 30 dollars. The Amazon Firebox is a bit more.

Monthly costs: Internet $40. Sling TV $30. I am not including Netflix here since someone else is paying for it at the moment now and my Amazon Prime membership is a discounted one (student) membership. So basically with just SLING TV replacing my cable, my out of pocket expenses are only $30/month. Again the OTA TV stations are free.

Also note that I did not include phone service in my monthly expenses. I do not have phone service through my cable provider but I do have internet phone service. It only costs me $3.75/ month. If you want good internet phone service know, that like with NO CABLE TV in your house, there are many excellent options available to you that are both good and inexpensive if not FREE!  But to talk about them now would just make this already long post even longer. So I will make that another blog for another another day and time.

If you have any questions about cutting the cord start by GOOGLING them. Trust me its not a difficult project to DIY.


Jan 12, 2018

A LIST OF DEEP FREEZES AT GLENS FALLS, NY

DEEP FREEZES FOR GLENS FALLS, NY
A deep freeze is defined as a period of 10 consecutive days or longer where the temperature does  not get above 32°. This deep freeze climatology used the Northeast regional Climate Center database. The station is the Warren County Airport (now called the Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport). The period of record (POR) for the airport goes back to late 1944. Records are missing for some month in 1944 and 1947.
   
The most recent deep freeze from Dec 25th, 2017 through January 8, 2018 was a 15 day freeze. The last time a freeze of 15 days occurred was Dec 08-22, 1981.

40 Days
Jan 3-Feb 11, 1985
34 Days
Dec 16, 1969-Jan 16, 1970
29 Days
Jan 14-Feb 11, 1948
28 Days
Dec 22, 1976-Jan19, 1977
27 Days
January 27-Feb 22, 1978
Jan 25- Feb 20, 2007
Jan 26-Feb 21, 2015
24 Days
Jan 8-31, 1982
23 Days
Dec 8-30, 1989
Dec 19, 2000 – Jan 10, 2001
Jan 6 – 28, 2001
 22 Days
Jan 30-Feb 20, 1979
21 Days
Jan 2-22, 1945
20 Days
Feb 2-21, 1958
Feb 7-26, 1968
Dec 30, 1968-Jan 17, 1967
Jan 21-Feb 9, 1977
Jan 24-Feb 12, 1980
14 Days
Dec 11-24, 1945
Jan 10-24, 1978
Jan 17-30, 1987

13 Days
Jan 24 – Feb 5, 1955
Jan 2-14, 1974
Jan 1-13, 1976
Jan 19-31, 2008

12 Days
Dec 7-18, 1958
Jan 22-Feb 2, 1963
Nov 30-Dec 10, 1964
Dec 7-18, 1958
Jan 22-Feb 2, 1963
Nov 30-Dec 10, 1964
Dec 20, 1970 – Jan 2, 1971
Feb 1-12, 1974
Jan 15-26, 1976
Dec 23, 1983 – Jan 3, 1984
Dec 12-23, 1985
Feb 9-20, 1987
Feb 18- Mar 1, 1993
Jan 1-12, 1996
Jan 29-Feb 9, 2010
Jan 6-17, 2015
11 Days
Jan 14-24, 1946
Jan 26-Feb 5, 1951
Jan 4-14, 1954
Dec 22, 1966 – Jan 1, 1967
Feb 7-17, 1967
Feb 26-Mar 8, 1978
Jan 3-13, 1979
Feb 22-Mar 4, 1982
Jan 02-12, 1988

10 Days
Feb 18-27, 1946
Jan 24-Feb2, 1957
Feb 7-16, 1962
Jan 28-Feb 6, 1965
Jan 18-27, 1970
Jan 27-Feb 5, 1971
Dec 26, 1977 – Jan 4, 1978
Jan 13-22,1983
Feb 2-11, 1989
Jan 3-12, 1994
Jan 14-23, 1994
Dec 16-25, 2009
Jan 21-30, 2014
Feb 04-13, 2014
Feb 25-Mar 6, 2014
19 Days
Dec 31, 1980-Jan 18, 1981
18 Days
Jan 19 – Feb 5, 1945
Dec 27, 1967 – Jan 13, 1968
Jan 30-Feb 16, 1994
17 Days
Jan 24- Feb 9, 1961
16 Days
Jan 25-Feb 9, 1961
Dec 14-29, 1980
Jan 8-23, 1984
Jan 30/31-Feb 16, 1994
Dec 7-22, 1995
15 Days
Dec 08-22, 1981
Dec 25, 2017- Jan 8, 2018