Saturday, October 26, 2002

Yes I'm still alive!!!

Well, I have to admit, I'm a bit embarrassed at having neglected the site for this long. Don't know if it is even still read by anyone anymore, but I thought I'd put up a quick post.

My time is being sucked up by my latest passion: My Apple Titanium Powerbook G4 Laptop



My Aconda still continues to work flawlessly and I am still VERY hapy with it. But here are some interesting tidbits:


  • If you're looking to get a new HDTV, you may want to make sure that it has DVI ports if you want to be completely "Future Proof". Apparently my inside sources tell me that DVI is the future standard for HDTV ditigital interfaces. Just a warning though, this standard is designed to be "Piracy Resistant" and will be DTCP compliant. Your older legacy (ie the Aconda's analog inputs) will still work with the current crop of HDTV decoders in the future, at least with Over the Air HDTV broadcasts.
  • A product to keep an eye on is the Sony Grand WEGA line of HDTV's. I just saw the 60" Letterbox version at Sony's Metreon while visiting here in San Francisco (priced at a very reasonable $6,000) and was VERY impressed. Apparently an equally impressive 50" version will be out in the next year at a very competitive $4,000 US!!!! That may very well be my next HDTV.

OK, that's all for now. Thanks all for staying tuned in despite the infrequent postings. I will attempt to keep this siteup as a source of information (namely the FAQ and Service Menu stuff) for all to use.


Dave

Thursday, March 28, 2002

Artificial Intelligence

I just rented this one and I gotta admit, I really liked the story. I can however see why it didn't do very well in the theaters, too brooding, too dark and a bit too moralizing. Great movie for you who are avid Science Fiction genre readers/fans though. Sort of a modern/futuristic Pinoccio (did I spell that right?) meets Gataca meets Wizard of Oz. The DTS soundtrack was also terrific.

One disappointment though was that there were many (too many, like greater than 20 in the whole movie) visible MPEG artifacts in shots that didn't look like they were that complex or fast moving enough to give an MPEG encoder pause. Perhaps they were just using too low a video encoding rate? Or maybe it's my older Sony DVD player showing its age? If you watch this DVD, let me know if you are seeing as many MPEG artifacts on your DVD player and let me know what model player you're using. Just kinda curious if my stuff is getting stale...

Dave

P.S. Still haven't gotten around to watching the SuperBits yet, but seeing these MPEG errors makes me want to look at a few key sequences in these SuperBit DVD's really closely.

P.P.S. Updated the previous post about the Home Theater Hi Fi site, they ain't perfect, but a nice resource none the less. As with anything offered to you as advice from anyone, always take it with a grain of salt and realistic skepticism even if there are alot of pretty pictures and numbers to go along with it.
Another really good Resouce

I don't think I've mentioned this one before, but the Home Theater HiFi web site has some of the best written, comprehensive and informative articles I've come across on the internet. They do get very technical and their writeups far surpass the level of detail I've seen in MOST print Home Theater/HiFi rags. Best of all, they are free.
Here are 2 really good ones to check out for starters:
  • Understanding DTCP (and it's implications for the HDTV buyer/viewer, a must read)
  • Progressive Scan DVD Players (perhaps the most detailed and intelligent article I've found discussing how progressive scan DVD players work and don't work. Many myths shattered, new problems revealed, another must read!)

The only downside I can see is that they are occasionally prone to endorsing extremely expensive solutions and miscellaneous strange "tweaks" (example here) that make absolutely no sense from a scientific standpoint. I suppose all high end HiFi magazines are a bit prone to these types of excesses though. I personally fall on the pragmatic side of things (see r3mix.net for some interesting counterpoint and criticism AND great information on making good MP3's) and REFUSE to pay like $2000 for a pair of interconnects and I also can't hear the difference between two good quality optical and coaxial digital conections no matter what anyone says (and I have the engineering papers and data to back it up too!! :). Save your money for what'll really matter folks.

So much good reading, so little time.

Dave

Thursday, March 21, 2002

Back in Town, Snowboarding and stuff about Spam

OK, no new Aconda or HDTV news with this posting. Well, actually, just one: Watched "Blow" on DVD yesterday, quite a good movie but the DVD transfer had quite a few mpeg encoding artifacts during fast panning sequences. Maybe the way to go is with those "Superbit" DVD's I haven't gotten around to looking at yet...

I was just in Colorado Snowboarding (yeah, I know their snow sucks right now, CA is going off however and I'll be going up to Mammoth next week). Luckily, we were checking out some Snow Cat operations and the new Silverton Mountain operation. The snow wasn't the best to show off these areas but if you like steep trees check out "San Juan Snowcats" operating out of Purgatory ski resort. I personally liked the terrain served by "El Diablo Snowcats" for snowboarding. Both operations are run by really mellow, nice guys that'll let you do much more (ie. less handholding) than anything you'd find in Lawyer saturated California. If you REALLY like steep expert only terrain, you've got to check out Silverton. Sure you have to hike a bit to really get to the really good stuff, but believe me, they have perhaps the BEST lift accessed terrain I have ever skied in the continental U.S. "Powder" magazine had a few writers skiing there when we were there, look for a write up there soon. WARNING, NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART or ABILITY. It is truly lift served backcountry terrain and you'd best know what you're doing. I like their slogan: "Skiing for CORE skiiers/riders NOT real estate buyers."

BTW, for those of you sending me e-mail, you will notice that I've removed the original e-mail address and changed it to an anti-spam version "at" instead of "@" and "dot" instead of "." I've been forced to do this b/c my poor e-mail account is innundated with 100-200 spam messages in a 24 hour period and I'm pretty sure that the spammers have been harvesting my address from this web-page. Just edit the e-mail into it's correct syntax in your e-mail program and you can get through to me just fine. I have even begun to use a e-mail filtering program Spam Eater Pro which is highly reccomended. It has given control of my e-mail account back to me, successfully getting rid of 98-99% of all spam. Maybe I should set out a Spam Bait Trap like these guys did too? (Don't follow the link unless you want to see a never ending loop of randomly generated links and e-mail addresses designed to screw with automated e-mail harvesting programs. Why make their job easy eh? :) Too bad it's come to that.

OK, I promise, a "Superbit DVD" review soon. Hmmm...wonder if I should just convert this page into a Snowboarding/Backcountry Skiing page? : ) just kidding.

Dave

Thursday, February 28, 2002

The Blue Planet - Seas of Life

I saw parts of this wonderful 4 segment documentary produced by the BBC on the Discovery Channel about a month ago. It was beautifully written and filmed. If you are a Nature show addict like me, it is a must see.

Nicer still is the 2 DVD set that is now available. You get the original series and some really nice "making of" extras as well as a still picture gallery and some nice trivia. For the most part, the extras aren't that impressive compared to the documentary itself which can more than stand on its own. A really nice surprise was that though it is listed as being in "Full Screen" format (I was expecting 4:3 aspect ratio), it is acutually presented in a 16:9 Anamorphic aspect ratio so it looks REALLY nice on the Aconda.

Definitely worth checking out and adding to your collection. I also bought 2 Super Bit DVD's while I bought these discs at DVD Planet (also known as "Ken Crane's DVD Superstore on Beach Blvd in Huntington Beach, CA): "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "The 5th Element". What can I say, I'm a really weak man :) A comparison of these "SuperBit" DVD's will be posted as soon as I can sit down and do a critical comparison to my original non-SuperBit versions.

Dave

Sunday, February 24, 2002

Well I was afraid of this...

I've talked about the threat DTCP copy protection poses to current HDTV equipment owners in terms of making our current equipment incompatible with a protected HDTV broadcast before. At it's worst, we'd be left with a 480p signal not the 1080i we've all spent so money to get. There is an interesting thread a www.Slashdot.org on how New HDTV Encryption Obsoletes Sets. See also this Home Theater Hi Fi article that the Slashdot thread references.

They do bring up an interesting point though, with how slowly these HDTV standards are being implemented, my good old Aconda may be long dead before it is actually made obsolete...

Dave

Friday, February 22, 2002

Yet another article on the sad state of HDTV

I've gotten my HDTV setup working, but honestly, it's pretty limited when you compare what is available on cable and sattelite. Of course I still assert most of what's out there being pushed out by the networks is pure crap anyways, only PBS and a few cable offerings like The Discovery Channel or The National Geographic Channel really seems to consistently put out quality programming HDTV or not.

Check out this article: Tube Tied - We still want our HDTV. By Fred Kaplan

It nicely summarizes the current dilemma for most consumers looking to go to HDTV. Realistically, except for those who are early adopters or HT enthusiasts like you and I, HDTV really isn't worth it for the average consumer. In the end, the very fact that widespread adoption and reaching critical mass in the marketplace has been so difficult to achieve may kill the whole thing before it has a chance of really getting going. We may be relagated to a really mediocre digital SDTV world and that would be really lame.

Dave

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Back from Snowboarding again and other stuff...

Whoo Hoo!!! We broke 20,000 page views!!!! Sorry about the infrequent posts and slow e-mail responses folks, I am gone Snowboarding an awful lot during the winter, maybe things will get a bit better after...er...June?

Gregory Singer wrote in with this interesting tidbit:
"You may be interested to know that Bose and Loewe have teamed up together and Bose is actively marketing the Loewe sets through its retail stores. The sales person I spoke to said something about "exclusive distribution" but I am pretty sure he was mistaken on the exclusive part since it is available in several different places."

I do appreciate all the cool e-mail and nice comments people write in with. I'll try to respond to technical questions as best I can, but understand that I'm not any sort of a hardcore Electronics Tech guy but just a hobbyist. If you have any real technical questions, I encourage you to consult your manual and Loewe's Customer Support department (see a couple posts down).

If anyone out there would be interested in being a regular contributor (NEWS and INFO not $$, the rent is free here after all) or a co-editor, please contact me as I do feel bad about the infrequent postings. Updating and maintaining this site properly is getting to be a bit too much work for just one really part time guy.

Dave
Some more HD Offerings coming soon

I think most of what is on broadcast TV is an absolute waste of time, but I do love movies and the Olympics (if they'd only get rid of some of those sappy "Human Interest" stories and just show more of the dammed events!!!).
HD Movies

'Breakdown', February 20th on CBS

'You Only Live Twice', February 23rd on ABC.

'The Rosa Parks Story'. February 24th on CBS.

'Tarzan', February 24th on ABC.

'Practical Magic', February 25th on ABC.

'Diamonds are Forever', March 2nd on ABC.

'Crossed Over', March 3rd on CBS.

'Live and Let Die', March 9th on ABC.

'The Man with the Golden Gun', March 16th on ABC.

'Beyond the Prairie II', March 17th on CBS.

'The Spy Who Love Me', March 30th on ABC.

'Moonraker', April 6th on ABC.

'For Your Eyes Only', April 13th on ABC.

'The Pilot's Wife'. April 14th on CBS.

'Octopussy', April 20th on ABC.

'Two Against Time', April 21st on CBS.

'Living with the Dead', April 28th on CBS.

'Living with the Dead, Part Two', April 30th on CBS.
Olympics in High Definition

Wednesday, February 20 -- Day 13
3-5:30 p.m. ET - Ice Hockey Semifinal, womens
5:30-7:30 p.m. ET - Speed Skating Men's 1500 meters final
7:30-8 p.m. ET - Ice Hockey Semifinal, women
8-11 p.m. ET - Figure Skating Ladies' Short Program

Thursday, February 21 -- Day 14
3-5 p.m. ET - Ice Hockey Quarterfinal, men
5-6:45 p.m. ET - Speed Skating Women's 1500 meters final
6:45-8:45 p.m. ET - Ice Hockey Quarterfinal, men
8:45-11 p.m. ET - Short Track Women's 3000 meter relay and men's 1500 meters finals

Friday, February 22 -- Day 15
3-5 p.m. ET - Nordic Combined Sprint, K120 Competition
5-5:30 p.m. ET - Olympic Recap
5:30-8:00 p.m. ET - Ice Hockey Gold Medal Game, women
8-11 p.m. ET - Figure Skating Ladies' Long Program

Saturday, February 23 -- Day 16
Noon-1:30 p.m. ET - Speed Skating Men's 10,000 meters final (limited)
3-5 p.m. ET - Ice Hockey Semifinal, men
5-7:30 p.m. ET - Figure Skating Champions Gala
8:30-11 p.m. ET - Ice Hockey Semifinal, men

Sunday, February 24 -- Day 17
3-5 p.m. ET - Short Track Women's 1000 meters, men's 500 meters relay finals
5-6 p.m. ET - Olympic Recap
6-8:15 p.m. ET - Ice Hockey Semifinal, men (encore)
8:15-9 p.m. ET - Speed Skating Women's 5000 meters final
9-11 p.m. ET - Ice Hockey Bronze Medal Game, men

Sunday, February 25 -- Day 18
3-5 p.m. ET - Ice Hockey Gold Medal Game, men
5-7 p.m. ET - Closing Ceremony

Enjoy,

Dave
The 27 GB successor to DVD's

You know how I've been holding out for a REALLY big jump in DVD technology (beyond Progressive scan cuz my Aconda does line doubling well enough for my myopic eyes) before upgrading? Well the next big step may be just around the corner.

BBC's web site is carrying this article about the Next Generation DVD format. Also see this Matsushita Press Release.

It is nice to see that the various DVD player makers will be collaborating on a unified standard for this higher density DVD format rather than splintering into multiple incompatible or semi-compatible formats that is the current situation with DVD-RAM, DVD-RW and DVD+RW.

Sure having 13 hours of regular video on one higher density DVD is nice I guess (you know, if you want the entire 1st season of the Soprano's or the X-Files on one handy disc), but what I'm really salivating for is full resolution High Definition movies in 5.1 surround sound...heh, heh, heh....: )

Dave

Friday, February 01, 2002

Update on the U.S. Loewe Warranty Situation

I have been corresponding via e-mail with Paul Fredrickson (V.P. Marketing) who has provided some valuable information about the status of current and future Loewe owners here in the U.S. Loewe's U.S. subsidiary, Loewe Opta Inc., has begun operations. They are in the process of getting their IT infrastructure in place so they don't have a web site, customer inquiry 800#'s, customer inquiry e-mail addresses and such in place..yet. However they can be reached for any questions or inquiries at the address and phone number below:

Loewe Opta Inc.
10 Cordage Park Circle, Suite 213
Plymouth, MA 02360
Phone: 508-830-0025


Loewe Opta's staff is made up of many of the friendly faces formerly employed by Sensory Science that were working to support the Loewe brand. I am assured that the transition should be essentially painless for U.S. owners. Loewe Opta will honor ALL Loewe warranties on currently purchased Loewe products and future products.

Here are the answers to some of the questions I posed Loewe Opta about the current owner's warranty situation, I think this should clear up most concerns. (Note I've paraphrased some of the responses given to me, so these are not verbatim, but I believe it accurately reflects Loewe Opta's position):
  • If you purchased a product and registered your warranty with Sensory Science/Sonicblue or have proof of purchase that the product is within its warranty period, then Loewe will have a record of this and the product is covered by the warranty that came with the set. The warranty remains unchanged: 2 years parts and labor.
  • Like other products, you should always go through your dealer first. Many of the Loewe dealers also have the ability to service the product directly. If they can not service the product, they have a relationship with an authorized service center that they use to support their customers.
  • Product service will be handled locally by authorized service centers who have been selected by the manufacturer. These service centers have been have trained by the manufacturer in the repair/adjustment of Loewe Televisions, they have been provided with service and support information, and have access to Loewe parts.
  • Typically, most service issues can usually be performed by servicers in the field (ie. on site, in your home). Failing that, the unit may need to be taken to the service center for off site repairs.
  • Payment for any service on a Loewe Television is handled by the local servicer who now sends all of his warranty claims to Loewe if the product is in the warranty period. Of course, if it is outside the warranty the owner will have to cover the costs of the repair and any needed parts.
  • Loewe plans to continue to serve the market with it's existing dealer and service network established over the last several years and expects to continue to selectively expand this network through high-quality specialty retailers and installers throughout the country.

Hope that helps, it sure puts my mind at ease that we are not (and were probably were never) in a warranty/support limbo. To tell you the truth, I haven't had a single problem with my Aconda to date (14 months and counting) so it all hasn't been an issue, but I'm glad we have a definitive place to go for answers now.

Dave

Monday, January 28, 2002

Loewe now without a U.S. Distributor

Yup, bad news folks as this may be a real inconvenience. Many have written in pointing out that Sensory Science has apparently been absorbed by Sonic Blue. In the process, Loewe lost it's U.S. distributor as Sonic Blue has decided not to pick up the Loewe distribution contract. See this article for the details.

Ouch!! So what do we Loewe owners do now? I dunno, I haven't had a problem with my Aconda yet, but I'm not looking forward to finding out. I guess I'll have to go through "The Good Guys" where I bought mine, sure glad I ended up buying that 4 year extended warranty now that my 2 year warranty, as offered by the company formerly known as Sensory Science, is in question.

The Sonic Blue web site lists as their ReplayTV/Go-Video/Cal Audio/Loewe PR guy, someone named Jonathan King (jking@sensoryscience.com). I'm gonna e-mail him and see what the official support for current U.S. Loewe owners will look like. I encourage you all to write in, after all, we are entitled to a 2 year factory warranty. Hopefully it's still good given how expensive this bugger was (even more $$$ for the 38" Aconda owners out there).

In the mean time, check out these support links offered up on the Sonic Blue web site (well, I had to dig around a bit to find them but here they are for all to share):

I have looked up the approved Loewe "Service Centers" in my area and I'm making note of it for prosterity as this may be my only source of help until a more permanent U.S. presence for Loewe comes into being. I'd advise you all do the same.

We should all write/call/E-Mail Loewe as well as to this Johnathan King fellow and try to get some information as to what is really going to happen to our warranty coverage!!!

Dammit, I hate getting back from vacation to have this crap waiting for me :( At least my Aconda still looks nice...

Dave

Sunday, January 27, 2002

Yet another reason to hate broadcast TV

Yup, back again. Sorry I was out of town for awhile snowboarding in Whistler B.C. I'll try to get back into the swing of things again and start posting more...

You know, I don't think I ever really can say that I miss watching TV. In fact, our whole country as a whole would probably be better off NOT watching TV at all (except for perhaps PBS and some other rare quality offerings). Here is an article on Slashdot about how broadcasters are Trimming Television to Sell More Ads. As if digital cable didn't already look crummy, now they're shaving off one in every 44 video frames to get another ad in. There is nothing these whores won't do for another 30 seconds of Advertising revenue.

Yup, that's why I use my Aconda mainly for DVD movies...that and video games!! Take back your life folks, dump the cable/broadcast crap, use the money you save to get a HD Decoder, pull in GOOD quality video for FREE and rent lots of DVD's!!! That and get out of the house more and have a life. And for god sakes get the dammed kids out from in front of the TV mind suck; They're getting way too fat and juvenile diabetes is becoming a REALLY big problem here in the U.S.!!!! For shame.

OK, rant over, go back to watching re-runs of Friends now. I think I'll go out for a run instead :)

Dave

Wednesday, January 02, 2002

James Bond in HD on ABC

Back in town now and it looks like I'm going to get some really good play out of my HD Decoder now that I've gotten a decent outdoor antenna hooked up to it. Just in time too because during the next couple of months, ABC's going to show the following classic James Bond movies in HD:

On January 26th "Dr. No", on February 2nd "From Russia with Love", on February 9th "Goldfinger", on February 16th "Thunderball", and on February 23rd "You Only Live Twice".

My LA ABC affliate KABC's HD broadcasts are in the full 16:9 aspect ratio with Dolby Surround audio. I wish the other stations did things this well. CBS has the most primetime HD programming but alas, their broadcasts are seldom in full 16:9 (unless there is something wrong w/ the Sony HDTV decoder that I'm using and someone else is seeing them in full widescreen! If so, write in and let me know). It looks like ABC is giving them a run for their money. NBC better do a good job with HD Olympic coverage or risk falling a distant 6th or so.

Other movies of note in HD on ABC: "Mary Poppins" on January 19th. "101 Dalmatians" on January 20th. "Alien Resurrection" on January 21st.

Enjoy,

Dave

Friday, December 28, 2001

Going out of town...

OK, I'll be snowboarding for the next week. Mammoth is going off right now and the backside/backcountry calls. I've been putting up longer but more infrequent posts lately so check back in about a week and I'll try to find some more interesting stuff to write about (gonna borrow a "X-Box" and I'll write up about it ASAP). Thanks for all the e-mail, keep it coming, I'm still having fun doing this. I hope you all are still having fun reading this.

Hope you all had a very Merry X-Mas and have a Happy New Year. May the coming year offer a better, kinder and more peaceful world for everyone.

Be good, be safe,

Dave
My HDTV Saga continues...

Well, I got my HDTV decoder back from my friend and decided to give it another try. If you remember, I was getting pretty pitiful reception with an indoor amplified UHF/VHF antenna (read: glorified Rabbit Ear antenna). The reception with the 1st Generation RCA DTC-100 I was borrowing earlier was actually BETTER than with the newer Sony HD SAT-100 that I'm borrowing now. So in anticipation of the upcoming Winter Olympics to be broadcast in HD by NBC, I got off my duff and set up an external antenna.

Part 1: First, I had to sneak onto the roof of my Condo building by...er...bypassing a few locks here and there (luckily I'm on the 3rd floor so dropping the wiring down and routing it discretely wasn't a big problem). Heh.

Part 2: Went to my friendly local Radio Shack on PCH in Newport Beach where there was, amazingly enough, someone (the manager) who knew about pulling in HDTV/OTA broadcast signals. He reccomended a very economical package which consisted of the following: U-75R UHF Antenna $20, 5' Gray Antenna Mast $8, Wall Mount $7, 100 ft Low Loss Coax Cable (Indoor/Outdoor, get this type as the cable will be exposed to the elements) w/ ground wire $30, 75-300 Ohm Coax adapter $3, and some miscellaneous coax hammer in clips $2. Grand total: $76 w/ tax. Nice, much cheaper that I thought it would be. Actually, come to think of it, almost cheaper that that crappy indoor UHF antenna I have that doesn't do squat!!!

Part 3: Routed the wire (biggest pain in the ass of them all, I'll spare you the knuckle skinning details) and put up the antenna only about 4 feet off the deck of the 3rd story roof. Pointed it vaguely in the direction of Downtown L.A.

And.....Voila, we are now watching HDTV!!!! Actually, for how little fudging and how little money I spent, I'm pretty impressed with the reception. I could pull in almost ALL the LA HDTV stations and even a couple of San Diego ones!!! The Sony reciever re-maps the Physical Station to whatever the broadcaster defines as it's a Channel # that corresponds with it's actual channel number (ie. even though KABC is on UHF channel 53, the HD-100 remaps it to 7.1 b/c ABC is usually channel 7 in this market). I don't recall the RCA DTC-100 doing that, though on that one you could re-name the text labels for the channel which you can't do on the Sony.

Here's my line up (sorry if it comes out cluttered on a narrow screen):
(Station - Local Affliate - Channel on the Sony Tuner [ Physical Channel ] @ Signal Strength 0-100% : Comments)

CBS - KCBS - 2.1 [60] @ 100% : They're not broadcasting in full 16:9 and the framing is a bit off center.

NBC - KNBC - 4.1 [36] @ 97-100% : Also not quite full width but better than CBS. Centered.

local - KTLA - 5.1 & 5.2 [31] @ 100% : Full width 16:9 broadcasts. Great 5.1/Pro Logic surround sound. Channel 5.1 is English, 5.2 in Spanish when available.

ABC - KABC - 7.1 [53] @ 98% : Full width 16:9 broadcasts. Great 5.1 Surround/Pro Logic surround sound.

local - KCAL - 43.1 & 43.2 [43] @ 0-95% : I don't think this one broadcasts at night.

FOX - KTTV - 11.1 [65] @ 100% : The Simpsons but in SDTV upsampled to HDTV, doesn't look that good. Doh!!

UPN 13 - KCOP - 66.1 [66] @ 91% : Sitcom hell, just like the SDTV UPN station. Just my opinion though :)

local - KWHY - 42.1 [42] @ 97% : The Spanish languange Channel, Telemundo in HD? I think I'm too white/asian for this one.

local - KSCI - 18.1 & 18.2 [61] @ 100% : Asian programming. Korean mainly on 18.1 and Chinese on 18.2. I'm too white for this one too, even though I'm technically Asian :)

San Diego - KGTV - 10.1 [25] @ 95% : Who are these guys?

PBS - KPBS -- 15.1 & 15.2 [30] @ 0-90% : Man I wish I got this signal more clearly, some broadcasts have weird horizontal bars across the picture. Interference? I think it is a signal protocol problem actually. Good looking stuff in full 16:9 width too, too bad my Sony reciever has problems with their signal. Lots of wattage though. I don't think they broadcast at night either.

ABC San Diego - KFMB 8.1 [55] @ 52-90% : Not as wide screen as 7.1 and the surround sound isn't as good. Man these guys are cranking out some serious wattage for me to pick it up from here!

The Ones I Don't recieve:

PBS - KCET - 59.1 [59] @ 0% : The local Huntington Beach HDTV affliate, I don't think they are actively broadcasting any DTV signals at this time. I'll keep looking for it though.

San Diego - KNSD [40] @ 0%
San Diego - KSWB [19] @ 19%

Alot of the programming is just SDTV/NTSC resolutions or video sources upconverted to 1080i so it still looks a bit crappy. The big 4: CBS, NBC, ABC and PBS have some programming produced in HD natively though. PBS has some especially nice stuff.

I wish more of the stations broadcast in full screen 16:9 but many broadcast in 4:3 unless they are showing programming produced for HD or filmed in HD. The black bars are a bit bowed in on my Aconda coming from the Sony tuner, I think the problem was less severe w/ the RCA unit but still present. I was able to stretch the image proportinately by playing with the VGA geometry settings to get most programs to fill the screen, unfortunately, the settings for one channel sometimes aren't good for a different channel. That and the geometry you set in the service menu for regular TV/DVD/VHS viewing doesn't seem to apply when viewing in the VGA/480p/HDTV 1080i mode. Also, some channels are shifted to the left of center, namely CBS compared to the other channels. Dammit!!! For what it would cost for one of these HDTV Tuners (if I'd actually paid for one that is), it SHOULD be perfect. Dammit, another early-adopter tax.

Sorry for the long post, hope some of you find it interesting. Feel free to write in about your HDTV experiences. I'll update my channel information list as I play around some more.

Dave

Saturday, December 15, 2001

A nice DTS source

You know, I'm not really a Sting fan but he does put out some really well produced/engineered albums and he has always been on the cutting edge in terms of pushing the medium (ie. big proponent of the DTS format). So I was trying to find a copy of "Brand New Day" in DTS and I began to realize that most record stores don't really stock the surround audio formats (DTS, SACD, DVD-Audio), in fact, many didn't even know what I was talking about.

Forget your run of the mill Record stores or places like Barnes and Noble. Even the Virgin Megastore here in Costa Mesa didn't stock any surround audio formats. Tower Records had a weak little section buried in an obscure corner w/ a total of maybe 30 titles (though admittedly they're stocking more and more in the last few months). Amazon.com for the longest time didn't even have DTS as a search term and doesn't have a DTS/Surround Audio listing that I inow of.

Where did I finally find this thing? Actually, there was this place called "Ken Crane's Laserdisc Superstore" over on Beach Blvd. in Westminister/Huntington Beach but it has morphed into DVD Planet which offers some pretty darned good prices (about 10-25% off retail) in the store and over the internet AND they have a REALLY GOOD selection of Surround Audio titles. Heck, they even bother indexing stuff by DTS, DVD-Audio and stuff. I like it and I like that they're actually just around the corner so I don't have to wait for shipping!!! (P.S. Usual "I don't work for these guys and they don't slip me any $$" disclaimer cuz they don't. This effort is purely an act of love baby!)

Dave

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Dave takes a look at the 38" Aconda

I finally got a chance to check out the 38" Aconda at the Good Guys here at the Tustin Marketplace in So. Cal today. Keep in mind that this was only a brief viewing under less than ideal conditions: There was alot of really bright overhead lighting (not at all representative of how you'd be viewing it at home) that made the screen look washed out and required cranking up the contrast (not good for the lifespan of the phosphors on your tube). Also, the unit in question wasn't calibrated with any sort of test patterns so in addition to there being too much contrast (with very visible blooming) to compensate for the lighting environment, the color and saturation were all off. I tried to adjust it by eye but we all know that this isn't really an accurate way of doing things. Luckily a very knowledgeable salesman by the name of Rob Manassero was there to help me adjust things. I've spoken with Rob on a couple of previous occasions and he is refreshingly well versed in the finer points of Home Theater, HDTV and the Acondas (as well as all the RCA's/Proscans, Sonys, Mitsubishi's and all the other 16:9 HDTV's this flagship branch of the Good Guys stocks. OK, I'm a bit jaded having met too many salesmen who are obviously just making things up and throwing around big terms/words to intimidate/impress to just make the sale. It's nice to meet someone who's an actual enthusiast and who knows what he's talking about). If you want to see this set in So. Cal, this is the only location that has one to show that I know of and you should ask for Rob as he is quite helpful, and a nice guy too (the guy spent all sorts of time with me knowing I absolutely WASN'T in the market for another Aconda. What?! I'm not made of money you know!).

The first observation: I have to agree that the Sony XBR 40" does look much brighter (as someone else who's written in has commented on) and has better color saturation. The picture is quite clear and I think that with some adjustments and a darker viewing environment the 38" Aconda could look much better but I am pretty sure that the Sony 40", the 30" Aconda and the 34" Sony 16:9 tubes are much brighter. I don't know if this is a limitation of the 38" Tube size or if it is a problem with the RCA/Thompson tube the 38" Aconda uses. The resolution and detail on this TV was quite nice despite the lack of brightness, it seemed to be at least as clear as the 40" and 36" Sony XBR's but not quite as good as the 30" Aconda. The picture just doesn't seem as vibrant as on the 30" and seems, well, more subdued. On a HD source you could make out the fine details quite nicely with good reproduction of the "Depth of Field" effect that gives a HDTV image it's "3-Dimensionality" as described by some. This was done much more nicely than on let's say any of the non-DLP rear projection TV's in the store (you loose some of this "Depth of Field" reproduction due to the softness introduced by convergence problems in a non-perfectly lined up CRT projection TV in my opinion). The Mitsubishi 65000 being the exception as it's DLP driven projector has to be seen to be believed, I think the Mits is even nicer than most of the Plasma displays I've seen, but man that $12,000 price tag is a bit heavy.

The good news is that the 38" Aconda's comonent video inputs seem to work just fine w/ the Denon 2800 Progressive Scan DVD player and Sony's newer Sony DVP-NS900V Progressive Scan/Multichannel SACD player. I don't know what the problem is with the chipset or signal timings on the DVP-S9000ES that gives the Aconda such a fit. They had one in the store but it was hooked up to the 40" XBR and I didn't get a chance to get them to hook it up to their Aconda. I think the 38" Aconda they had on display had either a problem with the Component Video cabling or one of the input jacks on the Component Video input cluster as there was a bit of a shimmering/jittering when playing back DVD's from the NS900V and the 2800 in the top 1/3 of the screen that wasn't present when you view the HDTV source. Also, the overscan and Horizontal and Vertical amplitudes/offests on the demo 38" Aconda unit were a bit off with the DVD picture being just a bit off center and a tad too small and thus showing some wierd lines at the top of the screen. We played around w/ the Service Menu settings and were able to correct these problems easily. However, Rob is going to have their Tech guy come by in the next few days to really get the set adjusted well. Maybe the sucker got a bit knocked around a bit on the long ride over from Germany? : ( If you get one of these, you may want to have it unpacked and checked thoroughly in the store before you go. For the money you're paying, I should think you'd have a right to see it adjusted perfectly before you take it home unless you're feeling really brave.

Also Steve brings up a really good point, bring your DVD player or get them to hook up an identical model (assuming they stock it) in the store to make sure it works w/ the Aconda. So far, it's only been the Sony S9000ES Progressive scan that has been reported to give the Aconda fits but it's a bit too much money to gamble with in my opinion and well worth the hassle of unhooking/hooking up your preferred DVD hardware. A little of headache now will save you alot of headache later.

This is a REALLY BIG TV, and really heavy too. You'd better make sure your floors can take the reported 220 lbs of weight, not to mention your furniture. I think the same styling of glass stand may be available for the 38" as was for the 30" but this store didn't have it. Make sure whatever furniture/cabinetry you put it on is stout. It is a very nice looking set w/ the surrounding black laquer border curving off to the same degree as the tube itself. Altogether a really nice looking package, though I am a bigger fan of flat screen TV's. I think the amount of geometry distortion you get at the corners when you go up to a 38" screen makes a Flat Screen Tube TV not workable (Someone correct me on this point if I'm mistaken).

Man, this is getting a bit long in the tooth. OK, realize that I only spend about an hour with the thing and only auditioned 2 DVD players and the HDTV mode (via a Loewe HDTV Decoder box) in the store (as stated before, a less than perfect setting) without a perfectly calibrated TV. So, What do I think?...

Honestly, I'm a bit dissappointed with the flatness/dullness/lack of brightness of the tube. I think for the serious $$$ involved, it should be a bit more of a stunner. It doesn't have any Firewire or DTCP expandability so it does seem a bit dated compared with the Sony XBR units (though much prettier asthetically) which are looking like a bit more of a bargain considering the Sony 34" 16:9 comes WITH a HDTV decoder built in. I would like to see the Aconda again after it's been adjusted properly and parked in a better viewing situation before passing final judgement though, I think it has potential. Loewe, I know you can do better!!!

Dave
A 38" Aconda Owner's initial impression of his new toy...

Steven Madoff was kind enough to write in and share his thoughts on his new 38" Aconda.

"The picture is terrific, but it doesn't give the impression of depth that a really fine flat-screen TV offers. That would include the Aconda 30" and the Sony 34". I've spent a good deal of time looking at the Sony in their anchor store in New York. It's a superb picture, but it doesn't have the fineness of either Aconda. The color of the Aconda 38", after tweaking, is wonderfully subtle. It captures motion perfectly, without any artifacting that I can tell--and I've watched a lot of movies with it now. If this were a flat screen, I think it would have definitely been more impressive--and yet it's still incredibly good. There is no question that if I could use the progressive scan of my Sony, the picture would be even better. I think it's a shame, and a bit astonishing, that Loewe and Sensory Science didn't catch and correct the chipset issue with the Sony player that forces me to use the TV's progressive scan, while putting the DVD on interlace."

"I'm using a B&K AV307, two pairs of Vienna Acoustics Bach speakers, the Vienna Acoustics Maestro center channel, a REL Strata III subwoofer, and the Sony 9000ES DVD/SACD player. It's a knockout system."

"I'll try to write more about the TV soon. But definitely tell your readers to watch out for this problem by finding out about compatibility with the Aconda 38" and their player before making the big investment."

Thanks for the writeup Steve, I just got to see one in person today and I'll post a write up later tonight (gotta go to the gym and work out some post X-Mas party flab). I don't own a 38" Aconda personally so I don't feel qualified to post more than some superficial impressions but those of you who went and bought one of these babies pipe up and send in your reviews/thoughts and I'll put it up for all to read.

Dave
Dave's Aconda turns 1 year old

That's right folks, my Aconda is now 1 year old (well 1 year plus 5 days) with 1,746 hours of viewing time on it according to the Service Menu. Whoohoo!!! That and the Aconda Insider web site had over 10,000 hits as of a week and a half ago. Forgot to commemorate that milestone.

But, I think a summary of my personal ownership experience would be a more usefull thing for you guys:

Overall: I am VERY happy with the Aconda. It's gotten to the point that I can't really stand watching "regular" TV's any more. I have all the connectivity I need in my current setup (5 Disc DVD Changer, VCR, HDTV Tuner and all audio played through my Denon Reciever/Amp to my 5.1 NHT Home Theater speaker setup) and room for a few more components yet to boot. The picture quality remains unparalleled by any other set I've seen recently except maybe the new 40" Sony XBR (but that's the nature of technology: constant forward motion and improvement for cheaper. As things should be : ).

I have not had any major reliability or functionality issues. The geometry problems seen with the side black bars bowing in at the lower left and right corners were easily corrected with some tweaks via the Service Menu. There appear to be for slightly "Hotter" spots (lighter patches when the screen is showing a completely black image when viewed in a completely dark room) that were of some concern but honestly, when I am viewing an image/movie/DVD/broadcast, I don't even notice this. Apparently a ROM upgrade might correct this (and I have an older ROM version) however it hasn't bothered me enough to go through the hassles of getting an upgrade (that and I'd have to re-calibrate w/ Home Theater Essentials afterwards, a 1-2 hour affair that I don't relish having to re-do. Come to think of it, I think I'm supposed to re-calibrate every 6 months according to the really anal experts right? Yeah right!).

The Aconda works well with my (now rather old) DVD player in interlaced mode. As I've expressed before, I'll wait for the next really big jump in image quality/performance (ie. HDTV DVD's) rather than invest in the minor incremental improvements in video quality of a Progressive Scan DVD player (a hassle as I'd have to run it through the VGA port so that means a European or custom modified DVD player or using a Component to VGA transcoder). I do enjoy hooking up my PC and playing some really nice looking video games in 640x480p. I gotta tell you, even in such a low resolution and with the weak i810 based graphics accelerator on my poky 466MHz Celeron PC, it looks WAY BETTER than any PS2 or console based video game I've ever played.

At 1,746 hours of useage on the Aconda, I'm averaging 4.72 hours a day of useage. I'm pretty sure this is well below the national average for this country (it's like what, a really disturbing 6-8 hours a day of TV viewing right? No wonder our kids are getting dumber and fatter!!) and most of the viewing time is my girlfriend watching Animal Planet several hours a day. This number works out to about
1000 DVD's of viewing time assuming about 1.75 hours per movie (and I'm pretty sure I haven't watched 3 DVD movies a day for the past year!).

Oh yeah, I did accidentally break off one of the four plastic retaining tabs off the rear cable cover/clutter cover so it doesn't stay on quite as well anymore, oops. This happened on the day I brought it home when my friend took a turn too fast and the Aconda slid across the back of his Toyota 4 Runner and tilted over. Man did my heart stop, I think I yelled at him too. A tense situation, but the sucker is built SOLID and none the worse for wear even after Eric's driving and one year of use. I suspedt I'll be getting many more years of great viewing from this set, that is until something better/cheaper comes along and it gets retired into the bedroom...how decadent.

Projects for the new year: A better TV stand that also holds all my HT components behind some dark glass doors so that nasty rats nest of cables is hidden from sight, a nice look rack/storage system for my expanding collection of DVD's and Surround Audio CD's/DVD's, sneaking up onto the roof and putting up a better antenna for HDTV reception, finding a HDTV quality VGA cable, and upgrading my amp to a Denon 2801 or 3801 (but then I'd have to figure out how to add wiring for a second set of REAR Speakers, dammit!). The saga continues...

Thanks to all the regular readers and fans and thanks for all the kind mail. Keep the questions , informations and E-mail coming. Especially needed are reviews of 38" Acondas from those out there who have gone out and bought one. I have only seen the 38" Acondas in a store and don't feel qualified to comment on them except in passing. We'll all keep going as long as this stays fun eh?

Dave

P.S. I know, I write with ()'s way too much but wasn't an English major OK?

Monday, December 10, 2001

The Winter Olympics in High Definition

NBC & NBC'S DTV Affiliates in association With Mark Cuban's HDNet (Mark Cuban's High Definition Sports Network) will be providing selected 2002 Winter Olympic coverage from Salt Lake City, Utah in High Definition (1080i) and 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound. The broadcasts will be available via local NBC Digital TV Affliates as well as HDNet on DirectTV Channel 199. This is quite nice as those of us who are not DirectTV subscribers can enjoy the Olympics in it's full High Definition glory via OTA (Over The Air) HDTV broadcasts for my favourite price...FREE!!

Check out this article on Excite.com for more details: NBC and HDNet To Present Salt Lake Olympic Winter Games In HDTV. Good stuff!

Dave
Great Deals on DTS Audio/Videos

Those of you who have been following this site know that I personally really like DTS soundtracks/audio products. They just sound better to my ears and on my system. Unfortunately, they are a bit hard to find and tend to be a few bucks more expensive than standard audio CD's and non-dts DVD's. Check out the DTS Online Store where they have comprehensive lists of what is available on the DTS format as well as great prices on some clearance items. Some DTS CD's are at over 60% off the MSRP!! (Note, I do not work for DTS nor do they give me anything for my endorsement...but they could if they wanted to : )

Dave

Thursday, November 29, 2001

Problems with Progressive Scan signals and the 38" Aconda

A couple of people have written in saying that the new 38" Aconda isn't accepting a progressive scan (480p) signal properly via it's component video inputs. Namely with high end Progressive scan Sony DVD players. I'll have to look into this when I get around to visiting my local Good Guys. If there are any 38" Aconda owners out there, please write in and let me know so we can help figure out what is going on here. Maybe it's only w/ Sony DVD players? Maybe other brands will work? Maybe this is a problem with particular units?

I hope this is not a design flaw with the 38" Acondas as one of the promising features was the ability to accept Progressive Scan (480p) signals via BOTH the VGA and Component inputs. If it is a problem that can't be fixed, this thing's got some real issues. I figure for the very high price tag and as a high end Video product, such a problem is absolutely unacceptable!

Dave

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

Another great HDTV Tutorial

You know, I have always liked the "How Stuff Works" series of children's books. In fact, I'm not convinced that the books are only of benefit to children. MOST so called "adults" could learn quite alot from the book. I stumbled across an excellent tutorial on How HDTV Works on their web site that is worth checking out.

This is a good resource to pass on to those friends who come over and keep asking you about getting HDTV themselves. There is also a great list of links at the end of the article.

Dave
More 38" Aconda Sightings

Here are some recent Ads spotted around the country:

Good Guys (Los Angeles Times): Loewe ACO9383PB 38-inch 16:9 direct-view CRT TV $5499

Harvey (New York Times): Loewe Aconda ACO9383 38-inch 16:9 direct-view CRT TV $5499

Also, Matt wrote in after seeing a 38" Aconda being unpacked at "Domes" in Chesapeake, Va.

Looks like $5499 is the going price. However, given that there are other 38" direct views for much less (ie. the RCA and the Proscan) and that the Aconda still doesn't offer any Firewire/DTCP capabilities, it is looking a bit overpriced and obsolete in the grand scheme of things. I'll head by my local Good Guys in Huntington Beach and Irvine to see if they have one set up to look at. At five and a half grand, it'd better be REALLY good looking and much better than the competition to garner that price.

Dave

Tuesday, November 06, 2001

Bad DVD carries an inconvienent virus...

OK, not that I think many of my readers are interested in the "Powerpuff Girls" but who knows, some of you may have kids. If you've bought the Powerpuff Girls DVD make sure you don't play it in your PC or Laptop as it's install files (executables) have been contaminated with a really annoying virus, see this article on C-Net.com:

Powerpuff DVD packs viral punch

Rest assured, this will not effect your stand alone/regular DVD player (unless it happens to have a Window$ Operating System that is). Man, this sort of thing should NOT be happening.

Yet another reason to make sure your internet security is up to snuff. Remember, your friendly neighbourhood Aconda fan reccomdends you always:

1) HAVE A GOOD UP TO DATE VIRUS SCANNER RUNNING AT ALL TIMES.

2) RUN A GOOD FIREWALL, IF NOT A HARDWARE ONE, AT LEAST A REALLY GOOD SOFTWARE ONE LIKE ZONEALARM (the price is right...FREE, available at www.ZoneAlarm.com).

Don't say Dave didn't warn you.

Dave

P.S. I don't work for Zonealarm, they just have a really kick ass product. If you want to test your system for vulnerabilities and learn about internet security and hacker proofing your system in general, I also highly reccomend www.GRC.com

Thursday, November 01, 2001

Other ways to turn your Aconda on...

OK, so I thought I'd discovered all the little features and quirks of my Aconda. Ran across one today that was pretty cool and unexpected. Maybe some of you have noticed it already:

Turn off the Aconda, hit one of the numeric keypad buttons (0-9) and the Aconda will turn on and go to that channel.

That's it. Kinda of anti-climatic eh? OK, it's no earth shaking discovery, but still an interesting and convenient quirk. If you want more interesting stuff, I'm frankly running out of things to say and I'm probably repeating myself alot at this point. So write in and keep this interesting. Tell me what you've found out and we'll share the info/wealth. OK, back to watching TV.

Dave

Tuesday, October 30, 2001

Access DTV HDTV Tuner card for your TV

This looks like a really promising product, it's been mentioned here before, but here is a full review on AMDPower.com.

One of the notable features is it's PVR or TiVo/ReplayTV capabilities of being able to RECORD full bandwidth HDTV signals! This takes alot of hard drive space though at 9 Gigabytes per 1 hour of programming. However, with the price of large capacity hard drives coming down so quickly, this is a very viable alternative to waiting for HDTV capable VCR's and DVD Recorders which will probably be priced much higher than this card and a large HD. I'm not sure if this thing also records regular NTSC to the hard drive as well, that would be sweet as then you don't need anything else!

Interesting...might be time for me to move beyond my poky old 466Mhz Celeron system and build a REAL system to act as my progressive scan DVD Player/Scaler and HDTV Tuner/PVR unit...

Dave

Sunday, October 28, 2001

Choosing a TV?

Richard wrote in: "I was checking out your Loewe site and wondering if you still would recommend one at this time relative to what else is out there. I'm thinking of forking out the bucks to buy this thing because I like the picture, but there sure are some larger sets with many more features now."

Actually, a couple people have asked similar questions so I thought I'd put up the unexpectedly long reply I sent back to Richard. Just my little humble/common-sense opinion right? Feedback and responses appreciated. Too bad the comments feature is dead, this would have been a good use for it. Hmmm...gotta figure out how to put up a forum section.

Reply to Richard:
This is a pretty complex issue that I probably couldn't do justice, here are a couple of points but the links to the on-line HT magazines I have listed on my site have some good intro articles on them if you browse around a bit.

Probably the most important thing to consider first is your budget. Set a firm budget of what you are willing to pay and try to stick with it as it is VERY easy for things to escalate out of hand. There is always a point of diminishing returns and you'll have to establish it early on. As with most consumer electronics/audio, there is a big price hit for added performance. As they say, you usually end up spending twice as much to add that extra 10% in performance. Be assured that the salesman will always try to sell you up so avoid the temptation. Remember dicipline!

Then, determine your viewing environment. How bright is the room and how big a screen do you need? The former determines how good the particular TV will look. For example, Front and Rear Projection and LCD's don't look good at all in a bright room. For these you will really need a dark viewing environment. The Plasmas are a bit brighter but not as bright as a Direct View (ie. Tube TV). Your distance from the TV to the seating position(s) determines what size you'd optimally like to have. If you would like a screen that almost completely fills in your field of vision, some say the screen size should be at least 1/3 to 1/2 the distance from the TV to the seating position. Any closer and the pixel effects become noticable and annoying.

Also consider the Aspect Ratio you would like. 16:9 TV's will for now cost nearly double that of regular aspect ratio TV's (at least that is how it is here in the U.S.). If you only watch broadcast TV programming and aren't really into HDTV or DVD's w/ letterboxing formatting, consider saving the money and going with a 4:3 or using the $ difference and go for a bigger 4:3 set. HDTV and Progressive scanning capabilities are really nice and will also cost you. Personally, I consider progressive scanning capabilities a MUST if you're going to spring for a nice TV. Remember not all line doublers are the same, you would like Inverse Telecine or 3:2 pull down compensation if you can get it (makes Film sources look GREAT, no effect on video sources). I only know of the Loewe and the Sony XBR450 series that have these built into the TV's themselves. You can get external line doublers/scalers but that is major $$.

Next consider the picture quality, you need to go and look for yourself to really get an idea. Be aware that most HT/Video stores have their TV's displayed in dark areas and have the brightness and contrast turned way up to make the pictures look more appealing but probably not at settings representative of how you would set your TV up at home. Kinda like using the bright shiny objects to attract kids, animals and buyers kind of paradigm...

For example, I don't have a large living room, seating position is about 12 ft from the TV. I didn't have a fixed budget but I tried to be reasonable (sort of :) and I have a bright viewing environment. I also wanted a tasteful looking TV that wouldn't dominate the room's decor. I watch alot of DVD's and not much broadcast TV and am getting into HDTV as well. So in my situation, the Loewe was a fairly good fit. I probably could have saved some $$ by going with some of the Toshiba or Phillips 32" 16:9 offerings, but I felt the Loewe's picture was MUCH better and liked having the built in VGA capabilities. The Loewe's design also REALLY stood out and I'm a big sucker for good design.

I have been impressed by the Proscan 38000 38" 16:9 as it seems like a good deal and alot of TV for the price. There is a RCA unit that is nearly identical to it also. BTW, the new 38" Aconda uses the RCA tube so springing $5500 for the Loewe versus $3400 for a Proscan 38000 is a bit of a reach as far as I'm concerned.

Sony has a nice 34" Letterbox set that runs about the same as the Loewe that looked nice but the picture seemed a bit dimmer and coarser/less film like. Don't know if it has a decent line doubler or merely Sony's DRC (480i -> 960i) process. I don't like DRC very much personally but you should check it out for yourself.

The Princeton Graphics monitors are very impressive but are expensive considering you can go up to a 34" - 38" tube for the price of their 30" unit. This is a conniseur's/Power User's monitor.

It seems the price of 16:9 TV's in general are coming down and their feature sets are getting better. One technology that is still quite expensive but very promising are the DLP Projection TV's. They offer the size of projection TV's with nearly the same brightness as a Tube. These guys are the one to watch.

Also consider that the Loewe doesn't have a 5C/Firewire port so as the HDTV copy protection standards evolve and the products are developed, your Loewe may end up with limitations. I don't think it is a big deal as things in the HDTV realm have pretty much stalled as of late and I enjoy having a good TV TODAY as opposed to always waiting for things to settle down. Only a couple of sets out there have a 5C/Firewire port and some aren't even DTCP compliant.

OK, that's just a very brief, superficial survey. There are many other subtle issues that are very relavant. I encourage you to browse around and take your time reading up before buying. Don't be in a rush to purchase and make sure you take your time playing around and critically viewing each candidate (play around with the video settings too and tune things down to normal levels as well, see if they will let you fire up the Home Theater Essentials or Avia DVD's test patterns and calibrations on them.) before dropping the big bucks.

Happy Hunting,

Dave

Sunday, October 21, 2001

More on the Phantom Menace DVD

Wow, there is actually alot more extra material on the second DVD in the set that I wasn't initially aware of. The second disc alone is almost worth the $18.00 I paid for the set. In addition to what I mentioned in the first post, there is artwork, story boards excerpts and 2 additional mini-documentaries (the 12 part one originally seen on www.StarWars.com and another 6 part one) on the making and design of the movie. This is alot of extra footage.

BTW, if you are watching the restored deleted scenes, there is a little surprise for you if you watch the complete Deleted Scenes with the Documetary on completing the deleted scenes. Kinda of a bunch of outtakes/spoof sequences like the end of "A Bugs Life" in the credits. Haven't seen anyone mention this in the reviews, maybe they hadn't seen the whole documentary yet.

Lots of fun despite the Jar-Jar presence. Why can't all DVD releases have so many goodies? I wonder how hard it would be also to create 2 edits on the same DVD, one the Theatrical Release and the other "Director's Full Edit" with such deleted scenes worked in where they would have gone as well as any other scene sequence changes/edits. You could select which edit you want from the main menu much as you currently select a sound option.

Dave

Friday, October 19, 2001

Digital Television sometimes looks pretty lousy...

At least when you are referring to non-High Definition Sattelite and Cable Ditigal transmissions. Many people have been asking my opinion of Digital Cable. I personally like the way ANALOG cable pictures look than the highly mpeg compressed signals used in digital cable. Unfortunately, in an effort to increase the number of channels (which also equals more revenue and drawing in more subscribers), both Digital Cable and Sattelite Cable companies have been really pushing the limits of digital video compression. Often at the expense of picture quality. See this New York Times article that talks about this bandwith issue (It is primarily addressing Sattelite cable, but the issues are similar with Digital Cable).

I'm personally sticking with my analog cable for now as the Aconda's internal line doubler really seems to bring out all those annoying mpeg artifacts that I see with highly compressed digital cable stations. That and you can't use the internal dual tuners/Picture in Picture if you have to use the digital cable tuner box and if you've ever tried digital cable, the changing of channels is AWFULLY SLOW, even slower than the Aconda's internal analog tuner which pushes the limits of my patience already. I don't mind having fewer channels, after all most of it is rubbish anyways... : )

(Ooops, I originally posted this on Oct 9th...to the FAQ section accidentally. So here it is in it's rightful home)

Dave
38" Aconda sighting...

Well an advertisement for one anyways. Harvey's in the New York Times is advertising the Loewe Aconda 9383 38-inch 16:9 direct-view CRT TV for $5500. Ouch!!! No sightings yet here on the West Coast, I'll try to stop by The Good Guys some time and see if they've come in. Hmmm, they were supposed to call me, those flakes!

If you want to see pictures of the 38" Aconda, check out the FAQ section of this web site or the Sensory Science web site (links to both are to the left).

Dave
The Phantom Menace on DVD

The reviews sounded good, and though I wasn't completely overwhelmed with the movie when I saw it in the theaters (and I HATE the Jar-Jar character and the slightly watered down plot), I said what the heck. It wasn't too painfull, $17.99 at Frys (Retail around $24.00) for a 2 disk set.

I have to say, the Video transfer is VERY high quality. I couldn't detect any visible MPEG artifacts at all which is pretty impressive considering the number very high speed, complex action sequences there are in this movie. The colors are vibrant and the images are extremely crisp and film like on the Aconda. Someone was really paying attention and optimizing the video transfer. The sound, while not in my favorite format DTS, is still a very impressive mastering in Dolby Surround EX (if you have that extra rear channel, it's in here) with lots of Low Frequency Effects to show off your Sub Woofer and bug your neighbors (I had to turn the LFE's to -10dB to keep it managable when I watched it last night, we'll try cranking it this afternoon ; ). The deleted scenes were apparently worked up to nearly full production quality just for the DVD release and the 60 minute "Making Of" documentary is excellent.

Over all, I'm happy with this DVD. It is one you should rent if not outright purchase as a benchmark/demo disk to show off your Aconda and your Home Theater system. Now if they would only offer a DVD "Jar-Jar" free edit...sort of a "By Popular Demand Cut" rather than a "Director's Cut"...

Dave

Tuesday, October 09, 2001

Hockey Fans Rejoice

NHL in HD begins on HDNet Oct. 4. It's nice when promises are actually delivered. HDNet, the all HD 24 hour Sports Network is bring 65 NHL season games to Direct TV subscribers.

Hey, where are the OTA HD Sports for the rest of us?

Dave

Wednesday, October 03, 2001

HDTV Program Guide

Hey, didn't notice this one before, but I stumbled across Home Theater Magazine's HDTV Program Listing/Summary. Showtime has a surprisingly large number of HDTV offerings, I had thought HBO had more programming but I may be wrong. CBS is again the leader in broadcast/over the air HDTV.

This one quite usefull and probably worth bookmarking.

Dave
Better HDTV Reception with ATSC transmission enhancements

Stereophile Guide to Home Theater's web site has an interesting article: An End To Fuzzy DTV?

The ATSC transmissions that currently exist are prone to multipath interference problems and those of you who own a ATSC/HDTV decoder can testify that Indoor Antennae reception is often terrible if you are not in close proximity to a transmitter. Interestingly it also seems that, according to several posts on AVS Forum, some of the reception problems may be due to the broadcasters not pumping out a truely ATSC compliant or poorly formatted ATSC signal.

Anyways, hopefully these enhanced transmission protocols and recievers will hopefully make HDTV reception more consistent and desireable. The fact that the reception via current ATSC set top boxes won't be effected is nice, but little solace for those who have sprung for the 1st and 2 nd generation HDTV STB's and are stuck with them.

Sigh, another example of the infamous "Early Adopter Tax".

Dave

Tuesday, October 02, 2001

Countdown to HDTV Deadline

Well, it isn't much of a count down as it doesn't appear that there will be any real consequences for the stations not making the FCC mandated deadline for conversion to Digital TV/ATSC broadcasting.

According to Mark Schubin's Monday Memo there are only 212 days left until the May 1, 2002 deadline for this conversion to take place. Of which only 208 stations in 70 markets (38 of which are Public TV stations! Go PBS!!!) have made the jump to digital broadcasting.

The good news is that if you happen to live in or near one of the major broadcast markets, you're in luck. If not, all that expensive HDTV capable equipment is rotting unless of course you are a Direct TV or Dish Network sattelite subscriber.

Ah the trials of being an early adopter.

Dave
FAQ Updated

I put up some pictures of the 38" Aconda and some specs with a link to the .pdf document with the full specs from the Sensory Science Web site are also present (Now that Sensory Science finally updated their web site a couple months ago). The link to the manual is broken, but I suspect that it is the generic manual for all the Loewe Digital TV's (ie. the Aconda). Still no word on availability or final pricing though.

Also, some assorted typos were fixed on the FAQ.

Dave

Monday, October 01, 2001

Sorry about the infrequent posts

I have been distracted by my other various other projects lately and haven't put much onto the Aconda Insider in the past couple of weeks.

One thing that has been taking up lots of my time is playing with and hacking into my new 3Com Audrey. For those of you not familiar with this thing, it is a dedicated internet appliance that has recently been discontinued by 3Com and is now selling for a measly $89.00 (original price was around $500). It is based on a very compact/small footprint Unix like real time OS called QNX that has a built in Web Browser, E-mail client and PalmOS compatible Address Book/Datebook/Palm PDA Hotsync functionality. For more information, see the Audrey Hacking web site.

This thing is really neat, you can even add on additional features like .mp3 playback, ftp, X-term/X-Windows, VNC, telnet, and home automation integration capabilities. If you're looking for a cheap second computer or thin client for your house this thing will do the trick. You shoud get one before they're all gone!

Sunday, September 30, 2001

The Phantom Menace coming on DVD

I think everyone is anticipating the upcoming release of this movie on DVD, well, except for all the Jar-Jar scenes anyways. There is an excellent preview/review of this disk on Wide Screen Review, see: The Phantom Menace Review

The best part may be in the DVD Special features: deleted scenes that have been brought up to full production/CGI to make for a finished scenes (George Lucas spent alot of time on this part) as well as an excellent 66 minute documentary about the production of this movie.

This one is definitely on my "Must Have" list.

Dave

Friday, September 21, 2001

JVC Announces 'HDVideo' Recorder Capable of HDTV Recording and Playback

According to the "I Love HDTV Newsletter":

JVC is introducing a new D-VHS format digital recorder, the HM-DH30000U, which is capable of recording HDTV broadcasts at full quality. Its D-VHS HS (High Speed) mode operates at a 28.2 Mbps data transfer rate, more than fast enought for the 19.3 Mbps needed for ATSC HDTV broadcasts with 50 GigaByte of storage capacity per cassette which provides 4 hours of full HD recording on a single cassette*, it will be possible to record an entire feature-length HD movie without having to change tapes midway. This model also features the D-VHS STD mode (14.1 Mbps transfer rate) for standard-definition digital recording in MPEG2 format, and the LS3 mode (4.7 Mbps transfer rate) which enables an incredible 24 hours of MPEG2 digital recording per cassette*. Although D-VHS is a totally digital recording technology separate from analog VHS, with the HM-DH30000U's multi-format recording/playback capability, users will be able record and view in analog VHS, Super VHS, and Super VHS ET, in addition to digital D-VHS.

Dave

Saturday, September 15, 2001

All HDTV Sports Network Web site

For those of you interested in the details and the schedule for the new all HDTV sports network available to Direct TV subscribers, check out HD Net.

Dave
Not even HDTV makes it palatable...

The events of September 11th were terrible beyond comprehension. I haven't been posting because like many of you, I've been fixated on the terrible tragedy that has befallen New York and Washington. What a horrible and senseless loss of life for nothing more than mindless hatred and zealotry.

Interestingly enough, I've been noticing that MOST of the really good reporting has been from sources like NPR Radio News and BBC World News. The reporting is much less sensationalistic, better researched and better thought out than the short sighted, all too visually oriented tabloid journalism that has unfortunately become the norm on TV.

I guess back to the routine, we ALL need to get back to our normal lives as best we can. Here are some posts though somehow they all seem pretty unimportant and rather frivilous in the grand scheme of things...

FAQ has some new info and updates too.

Dave
Setting up for recieving Over the Air HDTV broadcasts

This used to be a real chore when there were relatively few HDTV tuners available (and not really worth the effort considering how little native HDTV programming was actually available) but with ABC and CBS offering so much more in native HDTV this upcoming season and the advent of many more HDTV stations coming on line, it may now be really worth the effort.

Home Theater Magazine online has a nice article on Receiving OTA HDTV Broadcasts.

Dave