By Bill Pfleging
If all goes according to plan, June 12, 2009 will spell the end of analog broadcast TV in the US. On that day, all analog (over-the-air) broadcast stations will turn their signal digital. Here's how to tune in for free HDTV on your laptop.
1. Get a USB Tuner/Receiver The FusionHDTV7 USB from DVICO ($99) turns your laptop into a PVR -- record, pause, fast-forward, and rewind. It allows users to convert recordings to MPEG2/4 or Xvid/DivX/DVD for burning and archiving. Use the Electronic Program Guide (EPG) for scheduling and the Picture in Picture (PIP) function to watch a second, third, or even fourth program on the same screen. Supports Windows XP and Vista, and includes remote control.
For Mac users, Pinnacle's TV for Mac HD mini Stick is another USB-powered TV tuner. Its integrated signal booster improves reception and allows you to watch and record your favorite programs. It comes with a mini remote control; both include a basic antenna.
2. Get a High-gain Antenna A simple $10 rabbit ear with a loop antenna from Radio Shack could do the trick, but you may need more for your tuner. Find a better one on Amazon or eBay by searching for “DTV antenna.” You'll see prices from under $20 to well over $100. The higher the dBi, the better the reception.
Or with a little wire and tubing, you can build an excellent homemade DTV antenna that can meet or even beat the quality of commercial ones. Get detailed instructions by searching for “DTV antenna” on YouTube to find videos that illustrate how to easily create powerful antennas. Why spend money when you can show off your geeky abilities?
3. Use an Amplified Antenna The type of antenna you need for digital reception depends on how far you are from the transmitting station and where your antenna is located. An amplified antenna can make the difference between a fuzzy picture and a clear one. The Terk HDTVa Indoor Amplified HD antenna (under $50) extends the range and quality of reception for all DTV broadcasts.
Bill Pfleging is a computer consultant who writes about technology for national publications, such as ComputerWorld, Razor, and Inc. Pfleging is also a tech columnist for a newspaper in upstate New York and the co-author of The Geek Gap: Why Business and Technology Professionals Don't Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive.
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