Antenna TV Research 2018

I created the Platteville HDTV Antenna and Streaming page to be dedicated to both streaming tv and local antenna tv solutions. For Platteville WI area residents, you can replace costly CenturyLink/DirectTV/Dish with a lighter package of live streaming cable channels and Madison broadcast channels.

CenturyLink no longer allows Platteville residents to sign up for PrismTV. Pushing new customers to DirectTV. CenturyLink will sell DirectTV to you as a “bundle discount”, but it is actually the same price as unbundled if you were to purchase seperate. The cheapest plan from DirectTV costs $70, on top of what you already pay to CenturyLink for internet. New subscribers to DirectTV are signed up at a 50% discount for the first 12 months, afterwhich your bills double and they equipment rental fee you to death. When I cancelled DirectTV after the third year, my bill was around $160 per month. That is a LOT to pay for local TV channels and a few dozen cable channels!!

What is the better way?

For just internet, CenturyLink’s cheapest plan without discounts is $45 for 25Mbps internet. Streaming TV needs at least 5Mbps for HD video and 8Mbps for super HD video. CenturyLink maintains a minimum goal of 80% of the promised speed. Meaning, at worst you should never drop below 20Mpbs. This is plenty for a 2-3 person home. If you do drop below 80%, call CenturyLink and complain that they fix it.

There are many streaming services to choose from. here are a few that I have researched.
- YouTube TV ($40 and includes local ABC,CBS,FOX,NBC Madison channels)
- Hulu TV ($40 and includes local ABC,CBS,FOX,NBC Madison channels)
- Sling Orange or Blue ($20 and includes local FOX,NBC Madison channels)
- DirectTV Now ($35 and no local channels)

The YouTubeTV and HuluTV services both include all the major local Madison channels. No antenna required. If you do not have a recent smart tv with a Hulu or YoutubeTV app built in, you will need to purchase a streaming device for your tv. There are three big streaming platforms FireTV, Roku, and Apple. Between YouTubeTV and HuluTV, I find that the Hulu FireTV app is much faster to navigate than the Roku Youtube app. The FireTV YouTube app can only be installed by sideloading using an unofficial app.

Best streaming stick for Hulu: https://amzn.to/2xTPYe3

Total monthly costs so far are $45 for internet and $40 for online live streaming. Not including any additional streaming packages that you may want, such as Netflix.

What about cheaper?

Cable companies have pushed hard the last 30 years, convincing multiple generations that TV isn’t free. I am always surprised at how many people I talk to do not know this.
Your local TV channels are free, you don’t have to pay for them! It is not a scam or illegal pirating. Your local stations are wirelessly broadcast to your home. All you need is the correct antenna to pick them up.

The Madison market has around 26 channels that reach Platteville, plus 1 Dubuque channel. Here is an up to date list.

3.1 CBS channel3000.com, , 3.2 MyN mynetworktv.com, 3.3 ION iontelevision.com, 15.1 NBC nbc15.com, 15.2 CW cwtv.com, 15.3 Antenna TV antennatv.tv, 15.4 Weather weathernationtv.com, 21.1 PBS wpt.org, 21.2 Wisconsin wpt.org/wisconsinchannel, 21.3 Create createtv.com, 21.4 PBS Kids pbskids.org, 27.1 ABC wkow.com, 27.2 Me-TV metvnetwork.com, 27.3 Decades decades.com, 40.1 Christian kfxb.net, 47.1 FOX fox47.com, 47.2 Comet comettv.com, 47.3 Charge watchcharge.com, 47.4 TBD tbd.com, 57.1 Independent wi57.tv, 57.2 Movies! moviestvnetwork.com, 57.3 H&I handitvnetwork.com, 57.4 Stadium watchstadium.com, 57.5 QVC qvc.com, 57.6 Laff laff.com, 57.7 Escape escapetv.com, 57.8 Grit grittv.com

Sound good? Well, not so fast. You live in the Platteville area. The wireless broadcasts from Madison are weakened by the area hills. In order to receive them, you will need an outdoor antenna. Depending on your location and elevation, you may also need the antenna roof mounted.

You will read online that there is no “best” antenna and you need to do research to choose an antenna that will work for you. If you live in the Platteville area, I have already done that for you. Pick any of my recommendations, properly mounted and aimed, and you should see some level of success.

Click here for a one page handout I wrote, listing Do it Yourself HDTV Antennas that WORK in Platteville

Ammo Counter Mk3 – Collaboration with AmmoCounter.com

I have partnered with Nathaniel of AmmoCounter.com to develop the ultimate ammo counter solution.  The circuit is a derivative of my MK3 design.  I am calling it MK3 SMD.  The new circuit is exactly as tiny as my MK3, but has modifications to allow the outsourcing of manufacturing.    In addition, with Nathan’s feedback I was able to put the finishing touches on some never before seen software features.  This is so awesome!

Here is an official announcement from AmmoCounter.com  Nathan will be selling the MK3 SMD with my firmware, along with some fantastic accessories this year.  Check it out ~!

The previous feature set of the MK3 was the ability to have 10 programmable clip slots.  Two buttons below the display are used to change clip slots.  Holding the button accesses a menu where you can modify the size of the clip in memory.  This was a huge feature for me.  Allowing me to assemble a batch of ammo counters and ship them fast.  My designs prior to MK3 required me to wait to assemble the ammo counter until after a customer had purchased, so I could hardcode the clip sizes on the chip.  No longer.  The MK3 Ammo Counter can be assembled in large batches, pre-programmed with a default set of clip sizes.  Then the customer can change the clip sizes to whatever they want.  No special programming hardware required.  Just press the buttons to access the menu!

I have been working hard since announcing the MK3 Ammo Counter and am now ready to unveil the next revision of firmware improvements.  The setup menu system has been completely rewritten, the code structures made lean, and the display driver now supports dimming, and more!!  The menu system is super simple to access.

  • Faster selection of Clip Slots You can now select the next or previous slot instead of cycling through all slots.  The front buttons are used for both resetting the displayed count and changing the clip slot.
  • Same great selection of Fire Modes  Count Down, Count Up, Burst Fire.  From Nerf, to Paintball, to a Prop weapon build, this counter will do it all.
  • Display Brightness  is adjustable!  I never received a complaint that my Ammo Counters were too dim.  The opposite actually.  Especially indoors, the white displays I used were too bright!  Well, I kept the same super bright white displays.  Instead adding built-in dimming feature to the firmware to allow you to select how bright you want the display to be.  Works fantastic!
  • Low Ammo Flashing When enabled, the display will blink when a low ammo count is reached. Using the menu, low ammo flashing can be set to OFF or 1-9 ammo remaining.
  • Auto-Reset When enabled, the counter will auto reset a few seconds after reaching zero ammo. You no longer have to press an extra button while changing clips! If you like the button or like the counter reset synced to when you remove your clip, you can easily disable the auto-reset. Using the menu, auto-reset can be set to OFF or 1-9 seconds.
  • Compatible with Multiple Light Break Sensors. Using the menu, the fire input can be changed between Active High or Active Low input.  Allowing compatibility with any sensor with a TTL friendly voltage output.  My personal favorite is the OPB100Z as a complete sensor solution.  However, I have also heard reports of success using Adafruit’s IR Break Beam Sensor.  Nathan will be selling his own Light Break Sensor kit.
  • Faster Scan Rates  This is a no brainer feature, but the new scan rates allow for faster detection speeds for the IR Sensors.  The scan rate is so fast now, that detecting fast paintballs is no problem at all.

Lastly, I will be selling my owm MK3 kits on Etsy for a limited time, check it out~!


Network Connections in Windows 10

Windows 10 can be great, but a lot of things have been dumb since Windows 8. Like how they hide access to Network Connections. The window that on WinXP and Win7, was used for all things network related. All it’s functionality is still there, you just have to find it.

There are several ways to get to the now buried window, but with this method you can reach in two clicks.

  1. Right click the Start Menu and select Network Connections. Done? Ha, no. Welcome to the Network Status setting window. Hardly.
  2. Now click “Change adapter options”.  You made it~! This is the “real” Network Connections window.

For the uninitiated, this window shows the network status better than the previous Win10 Network Status window. Right click your adapter and select status to gander at all the info.

 

win10_network_connections

TCL Roku 4k

The TCL Roku 4k is back on top as my recommended Smart TV for using an antenna. You can purchase this brand in various sizes (28 – 65 inches) from amazon, walmart, and target. Bestbuy has their own brand, Insignia Roku 4k.

The 4k model has faster hardware than the 1080p model. Even if you don’t use 4k, you will benefit from the better picture and faster menu navigation.

Features:
- HD Antenna Tuner – See my other antenna guides for more info on what Antennas work in the low signals areas (like where I live).
- Roku Apps – Roku has been a part of streaming tv since the beginning, as such, it has amassed a huge following from the major streaming networks.
- Pause and Rewind Live TV – Just plug in a USB flash drive to activate.
- 14 day TV Guide – *NEW feature* displays all your local TV listings.
- Smartphone remote control – Lose your remote? No problem, just open the phone app. You can also use your phone’s headphone jack for private listening of what is on the TV.
- Global search – You can search for a show across all your apps, including local antenna tv listings)

Between the ability to pause live tv from the antenna and the Hulu app, my need for a DVR is gone.

2018 Comparison of Verizon MVNOs

I live in an area with ZERO att/tmobile coverage. Sprint coverage is sparse. Leaving Verizon and US Cellular as the only towers with consistent coverage.

I am a user of Straight Talk. I chose them for their pricing at the time of $45 for unlimited calls and texts with 5GB of high speed data, unlimited low speed data.  The coverage was through Verizon and hit 95% of the places I travel.  Really good.

In the years since I switched to Straight Talk, they have increased that 5GB data allotment to 6GB, then 8Gb, and now 10GB.  What a deal~!

MVNOs like Straight Talk are able to offer lower prices than larger cell companies because they buy their data in bulk contracts from the same companies they compete with.  MVNOs then make themselves cheaper by doing away with niceties like customer service (Straight Talk is a Walmart owned company).  Perfect for folks that can solve their own technical issues.  You can buy a phone from the MVNO company, or bring your own Verizon compatible phone.  Is really a sweet setup that MVNOs have scored.

But, what else is out there? Since MVNOs are prepaid with no contracts, they make  it really easy to jump ship to another and take your phone with you.  Let’s take a look at other Verizon MVNOs and compare for 2018.  I got my list from whistleout, then excluded any that didn’t have Unlimited Talk & Text or had too much fine print on their fee structure.  I also looked at US Cellular MVNOs, but didn’t feel any were worth including.

Verizon MVNO Data $$
straighttalk 10 45 $4.5/GB
rokmobile 8 40 $5/GB
net10wireless 10 60 $6/GB
redpocket 8 60 $7.5/GB
pagepluscellular 5 40 $8/GB
twigby 4 40 $10/GB

Sorted by cost per GB, Straight Talk is still the winner.  The table also shows how crazy data pricing still is. If you are a light data user, using less than 4GB, Google’s ProjectFi is your best bet.  You pay for what you think you’ll use, then google gives you a discount on your next bill for what you don’t use.

But what about unlimited plans?

In 2016, we saw every major carrier bring back their own version of the coveted unlimited plans.  Each with their own gotchya in the fine print when you go above an arbitrary usage number.  This is why when you read about unlimited plans, it is in air quotes.  “Unlimited Data”

In 2017, we saw MVNO cell providers also announce versions of unlimited plans.  In the below table, I list the MVNOs that offer “unlimited” plans.  Digging through the fine print, I found the data threshold that you will be throttled or cut off.

Name Data $$
straighttalk 32 55 $1.7/GB
rokmobile 20 50 $2.5/GB
usmobile 14 52 $3.7/GB
pagepluscellular 10 55 $5.5/GB

You can see again that Straight Talk is on top. The 32GB number does not appear in their fine print, just a note about throttling the top 3% of users.  Digging through the forums, a rep admitted that this number is the equivalent to 32GB. I searched online for anyone who has hit this 32GB threshold and dealt with customer service, but didn’t find much.  Seems folks are happy with the service.  Straight Talk’s “unlimited” plan seems like a great deal at only $10 more per month.

Let’s keep going.

Lastly, here are the larger cell company’s “unlimited” plan offerings.  Both att and verzion offer more than one “unlimited” plan.  So I filtered by the cheapest plan with unlimited talk and text with data speeds of 2Mbps or higher.  Unlike MVNOs and prepaid offerings, these are annual contract plans.  Locking you to that carrier for 2+ years.

Name Data $$
tmobile 30 70 $2.3/GB
sprint 23 60 $2.6/GB
att 22 60 $2.7/GB
verizonwireless 22 75 $3.4/GB

The results are surprisingly competitive to the MVNO “unlimited” offerings on a narrow view of cost per GB per month.  In addition, you can add a cost benefit of the additional perks offered by larger carriers.  Such as roaming, or free HBO. haha

Conclusions

If you are a light data user, really.  None of these options should appeal to you.  Stick with a Wifi Only smartphone plan, or consider Project Fi.

If you are a heavy data user, Straight Talk is a good choice until you want premium features like tethering or roaming.  At which point, you will have to re-examine offerings from the larger cell companies and see what is best for you.

If you are a moderate data user of 2GB to 10GB and just want a smartphone that works most the time.  Straight Talk is a far and away winner.

Volume Control for a Android Head Unit

I gave myself a birthday gift earlier this year.  Upgrading my truck’s cd/tape deck with something more modern.   I installed an Android Head Unit.  For less than $200 and a weekend of work, I gave my 2005 truck modern features such as bluetooth, reverse camera, gps navigation, and mpg gauges.

I have had the android head unit installed a few month now and am still really impressed.  The head unit’s speaker amplifier is a huge upgrade from what I had for sound quality before.  The radio receives stations for longer distances.  I use the bluetooth and reverse camera features daily.  The mpg gauge is done through the Torque app that was preinstalled, and it also has a nice feature of calculating fuel miles remaining.  Cool.

Only complaint that I have about the android head unit is the volume controls, or lack thereof.

When switching between bluetooth and radio sources, sometimes the volume difference is extreme and pressing the small digital buttons on the side of the display is a pain while driving.  There is no way to quickly and reliably change the volume without taking my eyes off the road.  The old radio was great at this, it had a volume knob!

So that’s what I decided to do.  There really isn’t much on the market for usb connected volume knobs.  A few exist, but are out of production or require special drivers.  To be compatible with all versions of android, I needed a volume knob that mounted as a normal usb keyboard.  No special drivers needed.  Don’t fall for the slick design of the Griffin USB/Bluetooth Control Knobs, they require drivers and are not plug-in-play compatible with android.

I was all settled to just make my own usb circuit using this instructable when I redid my initial search for an existing “no driver” usb volume knob.  Adding the “no driver” part and search around google, I actually found a few on amazon for about the same price it would cost me to make one. Around $20.  Deal.

Here are the ones I found while searching that should all work with android.  The device just mounts to the operating system like a usb keyboard.  Plug it into the android head unit’s OTG USB port and it will work right away.

I purchased the DROK unit and it totally worked! Awesome.  Trouble is, I had nowhere to mount the thing on the dash.  It’s HUGE! Around 3-4 inches across, it would look ridiculous mounted on my dash.

Being the hardware modder I am. I took the USB Volume Knob into my workshop and took it apart.  What I found was a lot of wasted space.  The knob pops right off, and the circuit inside is less than 2 inches.  I can work with that.

IMG_0975 IMG_0983

Examining the board, you can see some wasted real estate on the top.  Likely for programming and quality testing.  Holding the board up to the light, I checked the route of traces on both sides.  Traces that just go to the edge of the board and stop are not needed for operation of the circuit now.  I used my dremel to cut off a quarter inch from that side.  Doesn’t sound like much, but made all the difference fitting the circuit in a free spot on the stereo dash assembly.

IMG_0984 IMG_0985

You can see the shaft of the rotary encoder sticking out of the stereo dash assembly on the right hand side. Next step is to find a knob that fits the space, can be connected to a 0.25 inch shaft, and looks classy :)

Volume Controls with a turn of a wheel !!

Update: An unexpected side effect of always having android think that a usb keyboard plugged in, the on screen keyboard does not appear when I select text boxes.  I have a couple of ideas, but it could be as simple as selecting the keyboard fom settings.

Mark 3 Ammo Counter

Nerf, Paintball, Prop Weapons. This is the ammo counter you want~!

il_fullxfull.1307046934_eifm


The Ammo Counter MK3 is a remix of my previous ammo counter design and is now completely reprogrammable by you with no additional tools! There are 10 clip slots in memory, you can easily switch magazine sizes with a single button press. In addition, each clip slot can be reprogrammed by you for any starting value up to 99. Each slot will remember your selected fire mode, semi-auto, full-auto, and count up.

Video tutorial: Coming Soon!

Features:
* Smallest Ammo Counter Circuit!
* Selectable Clip Sizes
* Programmable Clip Sizes (Default: 35, 25, 22, 18, 15, 12, 10, 6, 32, 99)
* Programmable Fire Types (Semi-Auto, Full-Auto, and Count Up Semi-Auto)
* Light Break Sensor Ready



Ammo Counter 2017 – New Design

This is a small preview of the new ammo counter design I am working on.  There are two buttons on the face of the circuit that will allow you to select from preset modes, or add your own!  No more hardcoded starting count values!!

More info to follow…

select_fire_outline

The finished circuit will be about the same size as my previous ammo counters.

A finished one

OTA Antenna FAQs

Here are some Frequently asked questions I get about TV Antennas in my town:

  • What is the best antenna?
  • Can I go bigger?
  • Can I pick up channels from both Madison and Cedar Rapids?

What is the best antenna?

The best antenna is the one that fits your budget. Here is my handout I give folks who ask. I have it broken into three budgets. < $50 / $120 / $200
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1x113jqeepDhK4VtcKPQecNvcxV7hLQJXG0ZTiL3sqp0

Can I go bigger?

Short answer, no. Long answer, it depends but probably is not worth it. You can explore this page which describes running multiple DB8 antennas. Midway down the page you will find “Why this 16-bay antenna might not work”. Take a read through.
http://www.hdtvprimer.com/antennas/16bay.html
http://www.hdtvprimer.com/ANTENNAS/32bay.html

Can I pick up channels from both Madison and Cedar Rapids?

Again, short answer no. Long answer, maybe. Antennas like the DB8e have multiple elements that can be pointed in different directions. Aside from halving your antennas efficiency by splitting it in two, the next problem is that some of the signal picked up by Side A is then radiated out of Side B. This results in your received signal dropping by more than 50% !
If you are thinking about adding a second antenna to overcome these losses, see above “Can I go bigger?”

OTA Channel List – Aug 2017

I did a scan tonight and found FIVE new channels I wasn’t aware of. If you have an antenna, do a channel scan on your tv to find the new channels. ION, 24/7 PBS Kids, TBD TV, American Sports Network, and QVC.

Here is an updated list of stations from Madison that we can receive in Platteville~! All primary channels are broadcast in 1080i or 720p HD, with the exception of CW, all subchannels are 480i.

3.1 CBS channel3000.com
3.2 MyN mynetworktv.com
3.3 ION iontelevision.com
15.1 NBC nbc15.com
15.2 CW cwtv.com
15.3 Antenna TV antennatv.tv
15.4 Weather weathernationtv.com
21.1 PBS wpt.org
21.2 Wisconsin wpt.org/wisconsinchannel
21.3 Create createtv.com
21.4 PBS Kids pbskids.org
27.1 ABC wkow.com
27.2 Me-TV metvnetwork.com
27.3 Decades decades.com
40.1 Christian kfxb.net
47.1 FOX fox47.com
47.2 Comet comettv.com
47.3 Charge watchcharge.com
47.4 TBD tbd.com
57.1 Independent wi57.tv
57.2 Movies! moviestvnetwork.com
57.3 H&I handitvnetwork.com
57.4 ASN americansportsnet.com
57.5 QVC qvc.com