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I’m a big fan of Star Trek, and the repeated use of the number 47 in TNG and later has been fun to follow. This morning, something made me think of the Battle of Wolf 359 and then I realized there was a “47” reference in there.

The number halfway between the “3” and “5” in “359” is 4.

The number halfway between “5” and “9” is 7.

47.

On Thursday we had Verizon FIOS Internet/TV/Phone service installed; we were previously Verizon analog phone customers and had Comcast TV/Internet service.  After using the new service for a few days, I’m pleased with the Internet and blown away by the TV – more about that later.

Some of my neighbors made the switch from Comcast to Verizon FIOS recently, and with the free installation and temporarily free equipment Verizon was offering, it was time to try it out.  Before we ordered FIOS I called Comcast and gave them a chance to keep our business by offering us more TV services for a similar price.  We had kept our Comcast bill low for years by not subscribing to the “Standard” service tier, which meant we had a big gap between the Basic channels and the ones we were getting on Digital Preferred.  We’ve also had the HDTV/DVR services a number of years.  To compete with what we’d get with FIOS, Comcast would have had to give us the Standard tier for free (minus the extra HD stations to match Verizon FIOS TV Essentials that we ordered).  They wouldn’t commit to any deals beyond 6 months, so we ordered FIOS.

To prepare for the FIOS install experience I read forum posts and talked to neighbors and friends who had recently ordered the service.  I was pleased when I found out that the Internet and TV services would share the existing coax wiring (like Comcast) because it meant that no new wires would need to be run.  The FIOS ONT box and its battery backup were small enough to fit comfortably next to the other utilties on our basement wall, right near all the coax leads and the telephone punchdown block.  I had mounted a surge protector near there to prepare for the install, and the system was plugged into that.

Verizon had committed to starting the install between 8-Noon on Thursday at the time of the order and they had followed up with automated and human calls over the 2 weeks prior to confirm that we were still on schedule.  They estimated 4-6 hours of install time.  I got a call from the installer (Bill) around 8:30 Thursday morning to let me know he’d arrive soon.  He arrived at 9:30 and the install lasted until about Noon.  I worked with him when required and did proactive testing on my computers, which really sped up the process.  The Internet service is delivered through a nicely-appointed Actiontec MI-424-WRv2 wireless router.  For the TV service we got the Home Media DVR for the family room HDTV and a standard-def box in the master bedroom.  The cable boxes took about 20 minutes to activate over the Internet service; once done, Bill gave me a demo of their features.  They’re Motorola boxes similar to what Comcast uses, however the gorgeous menus and their responsiveness leave Comcast in the dust.  Two really cool things we get with the Home Media DVR include the ability to watch SD stuff we’ve recorded on the upstairs box and Media Manager software, which lets a computer on the network serve pictures and videos to the DVR.  I’ve played with the pictures so far.  There’s also a feature that lets you interact with your DVR over the internet, but I haven’t set that up yet.

The router is full featured and has advanced settings like Q0S that I will be digging in to to optimize Skype and move things like FTP and Bittorrent to low priority.  It has an easy-to-use web interface that clearly shows you the devices that are on the Ethernet, Wireless, and Coax networks (including the cable boxes).  I quickly opened up RDP and FTP services for my server and verified that was working within the first hour after the install.

Since I still have Comcast services until Monday, here’s a comparison of my Comcast “Performance” service with the Verizon 2/10 (up/dowm Mbps) service:

They’re similar, as I expected, but notice the much lower ping time with Verizon.  I’m pretty pleased with the internet performance I got from Comcast.  The reason we moved to FIOS was the difference in TV services for the price, as well as to get better telephone services like flat-rate US long-distance calling.

Speaking of price, we’ll see how the two vendors compare after our initial promotional pricing expires.  We were paying about $120/month ($90 Comcast/$30 Verizon) before and I think we’ll be paying about $110/month to Verizon for the first year an then about $130/month in the second year.

The one thing that didn’t get set up on Thursday was our Verizon Online account, but I was able to quickly do that over the phone with a Verizon customer service rep on Friday morning.  They give you up to 7 accounts that have email/newsgroup/web services.  I couldn’t get “aharden”, but I did get “aharden3”, “alexharden” and “alex.harden”.  I may even go ahead and get accounts for Ryan and Zachary so they’ll be waiting on the boys when they’re old enough.

We used the DVR to play back some of our series recordings last night and it works just as good as Comcast’s.  The menu navigation is very different.  One difference from Comcast that I like is that the box doesn’t display the timeline bar as you’re skipping around the recording.  The FIOS TV remote is well-laid out and isn’t requiring much time to get used to.  Unlike the Comcast DVR remote, keys for skipping both forward and backward are provided.  I had to program a macro key on the Comcast remote to get the skip forward feature.  On Demand content is roughly the same between the two carriers, but one thing I noticed was that Verizon charges $6 for new HD movies.  Comcast charges $5. 

Let me know if you have more questions about the FIOS service.  I’m sure I’ll post more as I continue to use it.

I heralded the premiere of “Boston Legal” over 4 years ago and have watched it faithfully since.  Now that it’s finally done after a short fifth season, I’m going to miss it.  The comedy/drama blend, the speeches, the Dynamic Duo, the outrageousness, and the relentless breaking of the fourth wall all made for entertaining television.  Many episodes contained excellent social commentary as well.  I hope there’s some future for “Alan Shore” that we get to see.

I can’t get enough of Shatner; he’s got a new interview series on Biography Channel that I’ve started watching: Shatner’s Raw Nerve.

Nudged by a reader, here’s my predictions for the Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York TV market’s NFL games for the 2008 season.  Yes, I played the game last year; go back to that post for the background.  I’m starting with Week 3’s games, since Week 2 has been published.  I’m going out to Week 10 now.  I’ll do the remaining weeks later.  I’ll emphasize correct guesses and cross out wrong ones with a note.

Week 3, Sunday, Sep. 21:
CBS: Miami at New England, 1:00pm (I’d rather see Oakland at Buffalo!) Cincinnati at New York Giants, 1:00pm
CBS: Pittsburgh at Philadephia, 4:15pm
FOX: Arizona at Washington, 1:00pm

Week 4, Sunday, Sep. 28:
(Tough week!  Philly plays Sunday Night and Baltimore and Pittsburgh play on Monday)
CBS: Denver at Kansas City, 1:00pm Cleveland at Cincinnati, 1:00pm
FOX: Green Bay at Tampa Bay, 1:00pm
FOX: Washington at Dallas, 4:15pm

Week 5, Sunday, Oct. 5:
CBS: Tennessee at Baltimore, 1:00pm
CBS: Cincinnati at Dallas, 4:15pm
FOX: Washington at Philadelphia, 1:00pm

Week 6, Sunday, Oct. 12:
CBS: Baltimore at Indianapolis, 1:00pm (luckily, Pittsburgh’s on a bye this week)
FOX: St. Louis at Washington, 1:00pm
FOX: Philadelphia at San Francisco, 4:15pm

Week 7, Sunday, Oct. 19:
CBS: Baltimore at Miami, 1:00pm (eclipses Pittsburgh at Cincinnati due to “must air away game” regional rule)
CBS: Cleveland at Washington, 4:15pm
FOX: Dallas at St. Louis, 1:00pm San Francisco at NY Giants, 1:00pm

Week 8, Sunday, Oct. 26:
CBS: Oakland at Baltimore, 1:00pm
FOX: Atlanta at Philadelphia, 1:00pm
FOX: NY Giants at Pittsburgh, 4:15pm

Week 9, Sunday, Nov. 2:
CBS: Baltimore at Cleveland, 1:00pm
FOX: Detroit at Chicago, 1:00pm Green Bay at Tennesee, 1:00pm
FOX: Philadelphia at Seattle, 4:15pm

Week 10, Sunday, Nov. 9:
CBS: Buffalo at New England, 1:00pm Baltimore at Houston, 1:00pm (must have missed this on the schedule originally)
CBS: Indianapolis at Pittsburgh, 4:15pm
FOX: Green Bay at Minnesota, 1:00pm

(Flexible scheduling starts in Week 11; predictions, when made, will be less accurate!)

Week 11, Sunday, Nov. 16:
CBS: Baltimore at NY Giants, 1:00pm
CBS: San Diego at Pittsburgh, 4:15pm
FOX: Philadelphia at Cincinnati, 1:00pm

Week 12, Sunday, Nov. 23:
CBS: NY Jets at Tennessee, 1:00pm (This one’s a toss-up since Baltimore’s on FOX and Pittsburgh plays on Thursday.)
FOX: Philadelphia at Baltimore, 1:00pm
FOX: Washington at Seattle, 4:15pm NY Giants at Arizona, 4:15pm

Week 13, Sunday, Nov. 30:
CBS: Baltimore at Cincinnati, 1:00pm
CBS: Pittsburgh at New England, 4:15pm
FOX: NY Giants at Washington, 1:00pm

Week 14, Sunday, Dec. 7:
CBS: Cleveland at Tennessee, 1:00pm Cincinnati at Indianapolis, 1:00pm (WHAT?)
FOX: Philadelphia at NY Giants, 1:00pm
FOX: Dallas at Pittsburgh, 4:15pm

Week 15, Sunday, Dec. 14:
CBS: Buffalo at NY Jets, 1:00pm
CBS: Pittsburgh at Baltimore, 4:15pm
FOX: Washington at Cincinnati, 1:00pm (here’s hoping for Tampa Bay at Atlanta)

Week 16, Sunday, Dec. 21:
CBS: Pittsburgh at Tennessee, 1:00pm
FOX: Philadelphia at Washington, 1:00pm (if this gets moved to 4:15pm, I pick Carolina at NY Giants)
FOX: Arizona at New England, 1:00pm (PHI/WAS was flexed to 4:15pm, and CAR/NYG was flexed to SNF)
FOX: Philadelphia at Washington, 4:15pm

Week 17, Sunday, Dec. 28:
CBS: Cleveland at Pittsburgh, 1:00pm (if it gets flexed, I pick Jacksonville at Baltimore)
CBS: Denver at San Diego, 4:15pm (unless the Pittsburgh or Baltimore games get flexed to this slot) Jacksonville at Baltimore, 4:00pm (giving myself this one because it was flexed in)
FOX: Dallas at Philadelphia, 1:00pm NY Giants at Minnesota, 1:00pm
FOX: Washington at San Francisco, 4:15pm Dallas at Philadelphia, 4:15pm (another selection that was flexed)

Final tally for 2008:

  • Number of games predicted: 46
  • Number of correct predictions: 38
  • Accuracy: 38/46 = 83%

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about the upcoming DTV transition.  The DTV coupon program is in full swing and converter boxes are widely available.  I got my two $40 coupons a few weeks ago and bought my first box yesterday.  Based on reviews at AVS Forum and the comparison on Wikipedia I chose to get the Zenith DTT901.  Circuit City showed them in stock in their Harrisburg East store, so I picked it up from there.  I already had a Radio Shack ATV 1000 combo VHF/UHF/FM indoor antenna, so I plugged that in to the DTT901.  I was pleasantly surprised when I performed the first auto-scan and received all the local digital stations clearly except for WPMT-DT (Fox). 

I haven’t yet tried to adjust my antenna and manually tune in Fox, but I’m not all that concerned since I’m setting this up mainly to give us TV access in the event our cable goes out.  However, I like the ability to choose 16:9 or 4:3 for HD/widescreen shows and the 4:3 picture I get from the DTV is noticably cleaner than what we get over cable.  Checking back in on my DTV post of over a year ago, I think Mark Cuban’s comment hits the mark.  At the time I was convinced that the broadcast networks would go native widescreen and not worry about 4:3 protection.  In the meantime, they’ve moved their corner bugs in and graphics are 4:3 safe.  Our local stations (along with most others, I presume) aren’t producing any HD content.  Even WGAL and WHTM switch their HD feed into SD mode to do graphics overlays for station ID or weather alerts.  What remains to be seen is how cable providers will feed analog cable customers.  Will they have a choice of aspect ratios or be force-fed 4:3?

I really like the DTT901.  It’s small, has low operating heat, and its remote is small and simple.  I like being able to quickly zoom/crop the HD channels to optimize viewing.  I’ll probably buy another one with my second coupon.

I’ve got less time for TV these days, so shows that aren’t entertaining me are getting the boot. The first of this season is Heroes. It’s going absolutely nowhere and has too many characters. I’ve been checking out BBC America’s Torchwood, but it’s turning out to be more “fi” than “sci”. Might give it one more episode.

Why would a network affiliate bit-starve their flagship HD content to broadcast SD subchannels? That’s what WHP is doing. I used to chalk up macroblocking during CBS football games to the network’s transmission capabilities, but after years of following NFL HD discussion on AVS Forum I’m convinced that the games would look fine if WHP would either get rid of their SD subchannel (who’s watching it?) or bit-starve it and leave plenty of bandwidth for the HD content. I can forgive a little macroblocking during live fast-motion football shots, but when I see it in pre-recorded dramas like Numbers I think WHP (owned by Clear Channel) doesn’t really care what their programming looks like. On the forums, CBS is praised for their HD NFL coverage over NBC, Fox, and sometimes ESPN. However, the picture we’re getting in Harrisburg is being compromised by WHP.

I’m definitely interested in the over-the-air set-top-box (OTA STB) coupons that the government will be distributing to assist with the DTV transition. Namely, what kind of antenna and placement will be required for adequate reception with the boxes, and what kind of outputs will the boxes in the estimated price range have? The documentation is geared towards a box designed to connect to an analog standard-definition set via coax or composite video/audio, but I’m wondering if mid-tier (s-video, optical audio) and higher-end (component video, HDMI) options will be available and eligible for the coupon. With most of the HD programming we watch delivered by broadcast networks, I can’t help but think of investing in an over-the-air alternative to Comcast’s HD DVR service. Like other Comcast services, it never seems to get cheaper. Two HD OTA STBs connected to an HD Tivo or similar unit (or a carefully-crafted media PC) might seem like a lot of money in the short term, but after a year or two of Comcast bills are avoided, it would probably pay for itself.

Update (10/14): My post at AVS Forum: WHP Is Killing Cin @ KC

Update (10/19): I had thought WHP had two SD subchannels, one for weather and one for MyNetworkTV, but was mistaken.  They have just one SD subchannel for MyNetworkTV.  I’ve edited my previous comments.

Now that the 2007 NFL schedule is out and the doubleheader networks for each week are known, I figured I’d look at the schedule and attempt to determine what Sunday afternoon games will be shown by the Harrisburg area’s local CBS and FOX affiliates. I think it’s kind of pointless to predict all the 4pm games during the “flexible” portion of the schedule (weeks 11-17, starting Sunday, November 18th), so I’ll only attempt to predict the currently-scheduled 4pm games that involve regional teams.

For these predictions I’m assuming that we’re designated a secondary market for the following teams, in the following order: Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, and Pittsburgh Steelers. I’m also taking into account that traditionally our CBS affiliate (and presumably our FOX affiliate) will show a Steelers game in favor of a conflicting Ravens home game. (Reference.) There are surprisingly few Ravens/Steelers conflicts this season. Combine that with the fact that both local teams’ divisions are playing the AFC East, and you’ve got one happy Buffalo Bills fan here.

Here are my predictions (confirmed games in italics):

Week 1, Sunday, Sep. 9:
CBS: Pittsburgh at Cleveland, 1:00pm (HD)
FOX: Philadelphia at Green Bay, 1:00pm (HD)
FOX: Chicago at San Diego, 4:15pm (HD)

Week 2, Sunday, Sep. 16:
CBS: Buffalo at Pittsburgh, 1:00pm (HD)
CBS: NY Jets at Baltimore, 4:15pm (HD)
FOX: Green Bay at NY Giants, 1:00pm (HD)

Week 3, Sunday, Sep. 23:
CBS: Miami at NY Jets, 1:00pm (HD, or Buffalo at New England, 1:00pm, HD) Cincinnati at Seattle, 4:15pm (HD)
FOX: Detroit at Philadelphia, 1:00pm (HD)
FOX: NY Giants at Washington, 4:15pm (HD)

Week 4, Sunday, Sep. 30:
CBS: Baltimore at Cleveland, 1:00pm
CBS: Pittsburgh at Arizona, 4:15pm (HD) (or Denver at Indianapolis, 4:15pm)
FOX: St. Louis at Dallas, 1:00pm (HD)

Week 5, Sunday, Oct. 7:
CBS: Cleveland at New England, 1:00pm (or NY Jets at NY Giants, 1:00pm (HD))
CBS: Baltimore at San Francisco, 4:15pm (HD)
FOX: Seattle at Pittsburgh, 1:00pm (HD)

Week 6, Sunday, Oct. 14:
CBS: Miami at Cleveland, 1:00pm (or Cincinnati at Kansas City, 1:00pm (HD))
CBS: New England at Dallas, 4:15pm (HD)
FOX: Philadelphia at NY Jets, 1:00pm (HD)

Week 7, Sunday, Oct. 21:
CBS: Baltimore at Buffalo, 1:00pm (HD)
FOX: Arizona at Washington, 1:00pm (HD)
FOX: Chicago at Philadelphia, 4:15pm (HD)

Week 8, Sunday, Oct. 28:
CBS: Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, 1:00pm (HD)
FOX: Philadelphia at Minnesota, 1:00pm (HD)
FOX: Washington at New England, 4:15pm (HD)

Week 9, Sunday, Nov. 4:
CBS: Cincinnati at Buffalo, 1:00pm
CBS: New England at Indianapolis, 4:15pm (HD)
FOX: Washington at NY Jets, 1:00pm

Week 10, Sunday, Nov. 11:
CBS: Cleveland at Pittsburgh, 1:00pm (HD)
FOX: Philadelphia at Washington, 1:00pm (HD)
FOX: Dallas at NY Giants, 4:15pm (HD)

(Flexible scheduling begins now; predictions will be less accurate. (Ed. 10/25: I’ll try to guess these anyways… 😉 )

Week 11, Sunday, Nov. 18:
CBS: Pittsburgh at NY Jets, 1:00pm Pittsburgh at NY Jets, 4:05pm (HD) (time change) (eclipses Cleveland at Baltimore, 1:00pm and Miami at Philadelphia, 1:00pm)
FOX: Washington at Dallas, 1:00pm NY Giants at Detroit, 1:00 pm (HD) (Miami at Philadelphia, 1:00pm won’t be covered by FOX)
FOX Doubleheader FOX: Washington at Dallas, 4:15pm (HD) (time change)

Week 12, Sunday, Nov. 25:
CBS: Tennessee at Cincinnati, 1:00pm (or Houston at Cleveland, 1:00pm (HD)) (Ed: Makes sense – Cleveland’s doing much better than Cincinnati right now.)
FOX: Washington at Tampa Bay, 1:00pm (HD)
CBS Doubleheader CBS: Baltimore at San Diego, 4:15pm (HD)

Week 13, Sunday, Dec. 2:
CBS: Buffalo at Washington, 1:00pm (HD)
FOX: Seattle at Philadelphia, 1:00pm (HD)
FOX: Doubleheader FOX: NY Giants at Chicago, 4:15pm (HD)

Week 14, Sunday, Dec. 9:
CBS: Pittsburgh at New England, 1:00pm (flexed to 4:15pm) Oakland at Green Bay, 1:00pm (HD)
FOX: NY Giants at Philadelphia, 1:00pm (HD)
CBS: Doubleheader CBS: Kansas City at Denver, 4:15pm Pittsburgh at New England, 4:15pm (HD)

Week 15, Sunday, Dec. 16:
CBS: Baltimore at Miami, 1:00pm (HD) (eclipses Jacksonville at Pittsburgh, 1:00pm)
FOX: Green Bay at St. Louis, 1:00pm (HD)
FOX: Philadelphia at Dallas, 4:15pm (HD) (unless it moves to Sunday evening)

Week 16, Sunday, Dec. 23:
CBS: Cleveland at Cincinnati, 1:00pm (HD)
FOX: Philadelphia at New Orleans, 1:00pm (HD)
CBS: Baltimore at Seattle, 4:15pm (HD) (unless it moves to Sunday evening)

Week 17, Sunday, Dec. 30:
CBS: Pittsburgh at Baltimore, 1:00pm
FOX: Dallas at Washington, 1:00pm (Buffalo at Philadelphia, 1:00pm won’t be covered by FOX, and Pit@Bal will probably trump. Possible reference.)
CBS: Doubleheader CBS: San Diego at Oakland, 4:15pm
(NOT even going to bother trying to fix this one.  Both networks had doubleheaders, and games were moved around quite a bit since the schedule was first published.)
CBS: Buffalo at Philadelphia, 1pm (HD)
CBS:  Pittsburgh at Baltimore, 4:15pm (HD)
FOX: New Orleans at Chicago, 1pm (HD)
FOX: Dallas at Washington, 4:15pm (HD)

8/20: I’m going to update this entry occasionally to keep track of my accuracy. I’m also going to note which games were available in HD.

Great to see a new Heroes episode tonight, but did anyone else get the huge Watchmen vibe during Nathan and Linderman’s conversation?  Showing influences by giving nods to prior art is cool, but the plot Linderman revealed seemed to me to cross well into “imitation” territory.

I find it interesting that the Heroes wiki doesn’t currently have any references to “watchmen“.  Here’s the earliest reference I could easily find in Google to someone that raises the same question.  And here’s an article that would have spoiled it for me had I been looking for spoilers before watching this week’s episode.

…Because that night the Bills will be hosting Monday Night Football! They are scheduled to play Dallas to cap Week 5 of the 2007 NFL season, in their only non-1PM-Eastern game (so far).

I can’t believe I just found out about the airing of remastered ST: TOS episodes after visiting StarTrek.com last week, but that’s life.  I checked out the my first one last night, “Space Seed“, one of the greatest Original Series episodes (it spawned Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan).  I couldn’t tell from the FAQ whether we were going to be able to see it in HD or 16:9, so I recorded it from WLYH-DT.  The episode was 4:3 windowboxed, and I couldn’t tell if it was HD.  I assume it wasn’t. 

However, the episode looked gorgeous, and the digitally-rendered space scenes and opening montage weren’t distracting at all.  The credits had the same look and feel as the original.  The cleaned-up filmstock was noticably colorful, and even the ending credits were faithful.

I’m recording WHP-DT‘s showing late tonight to see if it’s in 16:9 just in case.  After that, I’ll subscribe to one of the weekly showings so that I can re-enjoy all these great episodes.  I just wished I’d noticed them sooner!  They’ve been airing one per week since last September!

Update (3/5): WHP-DT showed last week’s episode, “The Paradise Syndrome”, in 4:3 last night, even though Comcast’s guide expected “Space Seed”.  I just watched the beginning.  I’ll watch the rest of it later and will subscribe to WLYH-DT’s weekly offering since they seem to be following the published schedule.

@aharden

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