Friday, December 22, 2006

Digital is Dangerous

What the government hasn't bothered to tell anyone in its push to get us all to switch over to digital TV, is that installing it can be bloody dangerous. Having recently decided to experiment with digital, in the hope that I might finally be able to ditch my cable provider, I purchased a digital freeview receiver. Now, knowing that my existing TV aerial is useless (that's why I got cable in the first place), I decided to use an indoor aerial as a temporary measure, just to see if I could get a signal. Now, much to my surprise, I did manage to get a signal - although reception can be badly affected by weather conditions - by positioning said aerial on the highest book shelf in my living room. Adjusting it requires the use of steps. Whilst adjusting it the other evening, in the vain hope of getting Film Four, I lost my footing and fell off of the steps. Luckily, the coffee table broke my fall. Unfortunately, my fall broke the coffee table. That's the second coffee table that's died on me in a year (I didn't fall on the old one, it collapsed of its own accord after fourteen years service). Somewhat miraculously, I escaped with bruising.

Perhaps the worst aspect of this incident has been the lack of sympathy I've received. My best friend' merely commented that it sounded like a less dramatic version of the incident which had killed Rod Hull. Less dramatic? From where I was lying - amongst the wreckage of my coffee table (£9.95 from Argos - I'd always recommend cheap tat if you intend falling on your furniture, it collapses on cue, thereby avoiding serious injury to you) - it seemed pretty bloody dramatic. Still, at least my fall wasn't the result of being attacked by a large flightless bird. Now, I don't remember seeing any mention of this kind of thing when I bought the bloody freeview receiver - I just thank God I wasn't installing a new aerial on the roof. Mind you, there are a lot of things they don't warn you about with regard to digital - it's susceptibility to interference from central heating thermostats, for instance. Or the relative weakness of its signal compared to analog. In fact, it's so bloody unreliable, I wonder why we're all being forced to switch to it - trust me, the extra channels really aren't worth it: wall to wall repeats and low grade crap.

Apparently, all my problems could be solved with the installation of a new outside aerial, according to the websites I've sought advice from. Loft and indoor aerials are most certainly not recommended and you have to point your aerial precisely at the nearest transmitter. In which case, I'm witnessing a technological miracle. By pointing my puny indoor aerial in a direction in which there are no digital transmitters (according to said expert websites), I'm able to receive most of the digital channels. I'm guessing that a slightly bigger aerial, mounted a bit higher, will get them all with no problems. Indeed, all the external aerials on the street here feeding freeview boxes point in the same direction as my indoor one. Obviously, the fact that these websites all seem to have been advised by (and link to) the Confederation of Aerial Installers (CAI) - whose members will probably charge you around £200 to rig a new aerial - is purely coincidental. As usual, I'm preparing to fly in the face of conventional wisdom, and try installing a loft aerial for my digibox. I'm already getting in the new plaster board for the ceiling repairs...



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