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Open Source is the gamer's friend

This list shows more than six dozen free Open Source games; PC, Linux, Mac OS.  Free, now. 


DTV Conversion Day Postponement?

June 12th looks like the new deadline for DTV conversion, says the NASDAQ newswire.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Rockefeller, D-W.V., and committee ranking Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas said their staffs are drafting a few changes to Rockefeller's proposal to postpone the digital switch until June 12.
In the House, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., has introduced his own bill that would put off the digital TV transition until June 12. Waxman's bill also would extend the expiration date for all outstanding or not-yet-issued converter box coupons to Sept. 15. People who previously ordered coupons and didn't redeem them would be allowed to reapply.{snip}


K1ER reports from Hawaii (which converted a week ago) on DTV conversion

Having worked with the FCC during the FIRST conversion to DTV (Hawaii), here are a few background things you SHOULD KNOW since they'll help you answer questions from the other 49 states.

1.  The conversion was mandated by CONGRESS to free up the present analog TV spectrum for OTHER USERS.  (follow the money).

2. The conversion was DIRECTED by CONGRESS.

3. The $40 coupon program was run by the former Bureau of Standards now NIST.

4. The FCC was ordered to deal with the public and broadcasters during the conversion.

5. For those who can receive it THE DIGITAL PICTURE IS BETTER.

6. The transmitting antennas are moved OUT OF CONGESTED (populated) areas where they never belonged!  From the tops of buildings to outlying less populated areas.Ed. note: That applies to Hawaii only.

7. Many antennas are in WORSE COVERAGE locations because (for example) protected birds ran into them in the old locations.  (reason for moving the tower and antenna from 10,000 ft on Maui to 4,000 ft)Ed. note: That applies to Hawaii only.

8. Some Digital signals are lower power in addition to the above antenna move to poorer coverage.

9.  There is NO IMPACT on people using Satellite TV or CABLE.

10. People losing coverage are "urged" (Ed. note: Urged by the FCC, not hams.)to move to Satellite or Cable TV.

11. The $40 coupon is ONLY issued ONE TIME to any address AND they EXPIRE shortly after issue.  MANY!!!!! people ordered the coupon and did not CASH IT!.  Resulting in the FUNDS for COUPONS being tied up like "outstanding checks" so the NIST STOPPED issuing COUPONS.  As the COUPONS Expire unused, funds are being applied to NEW COUPONS but the DELAY is over 8 weeks!


The FCC is taking the heat from viewers for problems NOT under their control and NOT caused by the FCC.


Those involved with assisting the FCC need to understand all this to better deal with the public.

I'm not sure the GOVT wants this made PUBLIC but the ARRL should understand it so they can better inform those hams assisting the FCC in this very difficult conversion when they have a question.


Lots of viewers are going to be unhappy!  But it is NOT the fault of the FCC.



Clearly faster, cheaper Internet

Clearwire AKA 'Clear' opened up Metro Portland as its second city where individuals and businesses can get high speed wireless internet via WiMAX at reasonable cost, and after a cost analysis, we took the plunge.

The home service pricing below includes $5/mo to rent a Motorola 2.5GHz WiMAX transceiver. You can buy instead of rent, but since hardware gets cheaper, we figured we'd rent at first... besides, if there's a failure, they're responsible for the transceiver if they own it.

$25/mo provides up to 768 kbps down, 128 kbps up.
$35/mo provides up to 3,000 kbps down, 384 kbps up.
$35/mo provides up to 6,000 kbps down, 512 kbps up.

There's no $35 sign-up fee if you obligate for 2 years of service instead of month-to-month, and there's a seven day 'remorse' period for cancellation. There's also mobile service and business service, both spendier than home service.

The hookup took 5 minutes; plug in power, let it find the signal (two towers within a mile of our suburban unincorporated area), then unplug the DSL 'modem' and plug the ethernet cable from the DSL 'modem' into the back of the Clear transceiver, then power cycle the WiFi router/switch. Did not have to make ANY changes in the settings of the WiFi router/switch.

Speedtest.net reported an average around 5,400 kbps down, 400 kbps up, which is not too shabby at all, better than advertised and better than the mean of 1,204 down, 588 up which $55/mo. Qwest DSL provides. The latency was higher, but still reasonable for gaming.

We'll still keep our landline, as we're belt+suspenders when it comes to calling 9-1-1, but the Vonage Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) line is probably going over to Clear when they're ready to start offering voice service, depending on the entire feature set once they're ready to talk about their $25 VOIP package. Update: OBTW, Vonage works better than it did with DSL.

The salesrep in their Clackamas Promenade store, John L., knew his product, wasn't pushy, and was easy to deal with. He was able to show me the tower location and calculate whether it would work OK based on my street address, and said the metro area had been mapped with drive testers, street-by-street, to make sure those estimates were accurate.

Their other stores are at 1512 N.E. Broadway, the Uptown Shopping Center and 1233 N.W. Lovejoy, and they sell through oodles of dealers, e.g., Grate Computers in NoPo, Agility Computers in Gresham, Budget Computers in Beaverton, Gadget Guyz in Vancouver as well as numerous others.


More details on the Nokia Series 60 SMS vulnerability

I reported earlier on the ability on anyone who dislikes you to shut down your Series 60 Nokia phone. If they have your cellular number and adequate dislike, they can turn your cellphone into an expensive, silent brick.

The Register, with their customary evenhanded (i.e., snarky to everyone) has revealed more details including how to resent your phone after an attack.

Since that requires erasing everything in your phone memory, backing up daily is recommended. You can back up to a memory card in your phone, or to a PC, but please, BACK UP YOUR DATA.


Is your TV digital-ready?

Update: Easy-to-remember Tiny URLs have been created to make it easy to remember web addresses for this series.

tinyURL.com/dtv-pdx Flowchart of what to do and list of old vs. new Portland area channels.
tinyURL.com/dtv-qanda Questions and Answers about DTV and the conversion.
tinyURL.com/dtv-ready This post.

This National Association of Broadcasters web page allows you to enter the make and model of your TV set to find if it's digital-ready.

And, OBTW, it's official; the Feds have run out of converter coupons, says the NY Times. Yesterday's blog post reviewing the less-spendy converter boxes seems to have been a good idea.

Don't overlook post Number One on the Tele-Apocalypse which gives you a very simple flowchart to show what to do.


Questions and Answers about Digital TV Converters

Update: Easy-to-remember Tiny URLs have been created for articles in this series.

tinyURL.com/dtv-pdx Flowchart of what to do (if anything) and list of old vs. new Portland area channels.
tinyURL.com/dtv-qanda This post.
tinyURL.com/dtv-ready How to tell if your TV set is digital-ready.

Update #2: Added link to detailed converter reviews at http://dtvconverterboxes.blogspot.com/

Q: I need an explanation in another language. Where can I find that?
A: https://www.dtv2009.gov/

Q: When does conversion happen?
A: It happens Tuesday, February 17th, by Federal law. A town in North Carolina has already converted; Hawaii converts on January 15th.

Q: Why?
A: Digital channels can fit closer together without interfering, so the Federal government can sell the old frequencies to use for police, fire, public service, and new cellular data services. Sometimes, reception quality improves even on older analog-only sets using converters. There are other advantages to television stations; they can split their channels into sub-channels and have multiple signals with different programming.

Q: What does a converter do?
A: All converters receive the digital signals from new transmitters and convert the signals to analog so they can be used with older TVs and VCRs.

Q: Are all the stations ready now?
A: Most stations have digital signals, plus analog signals, now. The digital signals are now on different channels to avoid interfering with analog channels. Some major stations will switch on February 17th. Some small stations will stay on analog channels, but only small channels and small transmitters. Here's a chart which shows channels now and after for Portland.

Q: Do I need a converter if I have an HDTV set or a Digital-Ready Set?
A: No.

Q: Do I need a converter if I have cable TV?
A: If you use cable TV, you don't need a converter. The cable system handles conversion for you.

Q: Do I need a converter if I have satellite TV?
A: If you use satellite TV, you don't need a converter. The satellite system handles conversion for you.

Q: Do I need a converter if my building has a community or shared antenna?
A: Maybe, so check with your building management to ask if they will be doing the digital-to-analog conversion for you.

Q: I use 'rabbit ears' or an indoor antenna now. Do I need an outdoor antenna for the converter?
A: Maybe. My next blog post on this subject will explain how to estimate if you do. Many indoor antennas will work well in the Portland Metro area, especially if you can see Council Crest from home. There is no 'digital' antenna; the same antenna design works for digital as analog, but you may need a better antenna because your favorite stations are changing to UHF from VHF (like our ABC and CBS affiliates) or because digital requires a better quality of signal; snow now equals problems later.

Q: I use an outdoor antenna now. Do I need to change it?
A: Maybe, see above.

Q: What are the rules for the converter coupon program?
A: You must buy a converter on the NTIA approved list after getting a coupon.
http://www.ntia.doc.gov/dtvcoupon/rules.html explains more and lists a phone number.

Q: Must I have a coupon to get a converter?
A: No. If you don't use a coupon, you can buy whatever converter you wish.

Q: How much does the coupon get me?
A $40 credit on the spot from participating dealers.

Q: Are all converters $40?
A: No, some have extra features and are as spendy as $300.

Q: Which converter boxes are NTIA-approved?
A: They're listed at https://www.ntiadtv.gov/cecb_list.cfm - see the next item.

Q: What are the NTIA-approved converters available for sale nowadays? What makes and model numbers can be bought with coupons?
A: Here's a list. * = Manufacturer says it has Analog Pass-Through.

AccessHD: DTA1020D, DTA1020U, DTA1010D, DTA1010U, DTA1020AD *, DTA1030D *, DTA1050D *, DTA1080D *, DTA1080U *
Airlink101: ATVC102 *, ATVC101
Alpha Digital: AT2016
AMTC: AT2001
Apex: DT1001, DT250 *, DT502 *, DTA250A *
Artec: T3A, T3AP *, T3AP Pro *, T3APro
Cadence: DTVC-9
CASTi: CAX-03 *
Channel Master: CM-7000
Cleartech: CT DCB100A *
Coby: DTV-102 *
ComponexX: CX-900A *
Coship: N9900T, N9901T *, N9988T
Craig: CVD506 *, CVD508 *
Digital Steam: DSP6500C *, DSP7500T, DSP7700P *, DSP7700T *, DTX9900, DTX9900D, DTX9950 *, DX8700 *
Dish Network: DTVPal Plus *, DTVPal *, TR-40CRA *
GE: 22729, 22730, 23333 *, 23334 *
Goodmind: DTA1000, DTA1100 *
Gridlink: GLT-200
iNet Access: SSR 1921 *
Insignia: NS-DXA1, NS-DXA1-APT * (Note: A BestBuy house brand)
Kingbox: K8V1
Lasonic: LTA-260
Magnavox: TB-100MG9 *, TB100MW9, TB100MW9A *, TB110MW9 *, TB110MW9A *
MaxMedia: LuTRO *
Memorex: MVCB1000 *
MicroGEM: MG2000
Philco: TB100HH9 *, TB150HH9 *
RCA: DTA 800B, DTA800B1 *, DTA809 *, STB7766G1 *
Sansonic: FT300A
Spica: AT 2018 *
Sunkey: SK-801ATSC *
Tivax: STB-T8 *, STB-T9
Venturer: STB7766G
Winegard: RCDT09A *, RC-DT09
Zenith: DTT900, DTT901 *
Zentech: DF2000, EZTV DF2000L *
Zinwell: ZAT-857, ZAT-950A *, ZAT-970, ZAT-970A *

Q: What are important features?
A: You may find some of these important:
1) Analog Pass-Through, so you can easily switch to low-power channels which can still transmit analog after 2/17, and to switch to stations which won't go digital before 2/17 if you install before then.
2) An improved Electronic Program Guide (EPG), so you can search for programs you want and find the channel they're on now, as well as find program details.
3) Resistance to interference from VCR, DVD player, and other electronics.
4) Remote control to let you switch in and out of 'letterbox' mode.
5) Complete with a coaxial cable from converter to TV, a 'balun' adapter from flat antenna wire to the cable TV-stype "F" connector on the back of the converter, and a video+stereo cable to attach to a VCR or TV video and audio in sockets.
6) A longer warranty with local or very fast exchange if it fails. However, buying an 'extended' warranty is not recommended, for most electronic devices, if they're going to fail, fail soon after installation.

Q: What are the converters with the best reviews?
A: Here's what I found in a search for reviews I thought were worthwhile reading.

The DIGITAL STREAM DTX9900 http://www.hdtvexpert.com/pages_b/DTVconverters.html remembers channels you scanned for before and was sharper than brand-name competitors.

The DISH NETWORK TR40-CRA http://www.dishnetwork.com/dtvpal/tr40CRA.shtml is $40, hass Analog Pass-Through, and was liked for its advanced EPG (Electronic Program Guide).

The INSIGNIA NS-DXA1 http://blogs.consumerreports.org/electronics/2008/06/dtv-converter-1.html was essentially the same than the DIGITAL STREAM DTX9900.

The MICROGEM MG2000 http://blogs.consumerreports.org/electronics/2008/06/dtv-converter-1.html was small but sharp.

The MAGNAVOX TB100MW9 http://reviews.cnet.com/tv-hdtv-tuners-receivers/magnavox-tb100mw9/4505-6487_7-33255284.html?tag=mncol;lst is a basic converter with good resistance to interference http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/electronics-computers/tvs-services/non-digital-tvs/digital-converter-boxes/digital-tv-converter-boxes-first-look-3-08/overview/digital-tv-converter-boxes-first-look.htm and is only $25.

The PHILCO TB100HH9 http://blogs.consumerreports.org/electronics/2008/06/dtv-converter-1.html is a simple converter with pass-through.

The RCA DTA-800 http://reviews.cnet.com/tv-hdtv-tuners-receivers/rca-dta800/4505-6487_7-32887593.html?tag=mncol;lst has good reception, respectable video quality, and a basic EPG.

The RCA DTA-800B1 http://reviews.cnet.com/tv-hdtv-tuners-receivers/rca-dta800b1/4505-6487_7-33280761.html adds its own remote control for analog pass-through switching.

The TIVAX STB-T9 http://blogs.consumerreports.org/electronics/2008/06/dtv-converter-1.html was praised for its clarity and an improved Electronic Program Guide which shows details abou each show, not just the bare listings.

Other reviews are at the very detailed review site  http://dtvconverterboxes.blogspot.com
and at  http://www.hdtvantennalabs.com/converters/reviews.php

My next post on this topic is an explanation of how anyone mechanically handy and a few hand tools can make Do-It-Yourself antennas from recycled or inexpensive materials that rival the reception from spendy store-bought antennas.

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Denial-of-service attack possible on Nokia Series 60 smartphones

Executive summary?
  1. Significant threat.
  2. Back up your phone daily. If the DOS attack is successful, recovery requires a total reset which means you lose everything in phone memory.
  3. If strange messages start appearing with the @ symbol in them, shut off your phone or go into airline mode (no cellular reception). Backup to memory card, delete the strange messages and then backup to memory card again.
  4. Stay tuned for news of a patch from Symbian.
The gory details are here at FierceMobileIT.