Grumble 49... 2004

Terrestrial Digital TV

What's really bad about digital TV?

Answer...It relies on software.

So what's so bad about software?

Answer.. its produced by programmers.

 I'm afraid we are beginning an era where we will be at the mercy of dreaded software upgrades from peculiar quarters. Those who aren't aware of software upgrades have either got a very very old computer or haven't got a computer at all. The whole of (that part of) Industry has been striving to produce software for computers that actually works properly. To be sure Windows 3.0 had it's limitations as did 3.1 and 3.11 (note the way the version numbers are sequenced somehow getting sharper and sharper as it were). Then we had Windows 95... the perfect operating system that would be with us for evermore. Not so... a new version Windows 98 was soon around, promising not only to clear up all the shortcomings of Windows 95 but it would be lightning fast as well. It was lightning fast.. so long as you upgraded your computer... faster processor and more memory etc. Then there was a decided flurry of new products once the perfection of Windows 98SE (that's Windows 98 with ALL the bugs fixed... well almost) had paled; dreadful Windows ME, quietly dropped for Windows 2000 and shortly after Windows XP. The latest at the time of writing (September 2004) is Windows XP SP2. Absolutely everything is now hunky dory as they say. I think not quite... Even upgrading to SP2 is fraught with difficulty. Broadband is imperative for starters... patience would be a virtue also as it takes forever to install once the download has taken place. Not to mention lock-ups and mysterious messages about one's bang up-to-date anti-virus software being suspect. Is this a ruse to sell new Anti-Virus software I wonder?

Have a peek at the list of known shortcomings for SP2 by the way. There's absolutely loads and loads of them. Even my latest NERO is flagged with a warning panel portending ill omen if you proceed beyond this stage...

Since I penned this... a postscript... Symantec and or Microsoft have fixed the dire warning that the "industry standard AntiVirus", isn't installed , when it actually is... very odd! And worst of all, those chancers using processors that weren't designed when they bought their motherboards, having invested in the latest expensive Prescott models found that their systems went from lightning fast one day to dead as doornails the next. This fault is typical, as one is expected to download the latest "upgrade" to get the dead system working again.

Enough of this and back to the original reason for making this grumble...

My terrestrial digital receiver (which for the moment shall remain anonymous) was working tolerably well. That is.. despite losing channels when plugs were pulled at the the local transmitting station, for example. Who thought that we had to RESCAN every time a signal disappeared? I looked very hard but couldn't find a crystal ball in the original packing...I thought that software had all the answers? Six months after the event I still come across people who, when asked about their digital reception mention casually, after saying how clear the pictures are, "we can't get ITV any more".

I did notice in the early days all sorts of strange glitches in certain types of pictures... "artifacts" they're called by people that know about such things.. they don't seem to be that much apparent now. Is it that my eyes are now accustomed to the poorer quality of digital compared with analogue? Or is it perhaps that programme producers are taking care not to move cameras diagonally?

Transmission powers have been creeping up too This will inevitably increase coverage and, by adverse effects on adjacent analogue signals, help viewers to move to digital more quickly than they really wanted to. I used to receive analogue Channel 5 but now it's gone away, crushed to death by adjacent digital signals.

I must get to the point.

I turned on my TV a few days ago and saw, not a "flawless" digital picture, but a mysterious message.

It was a "sofware upgrade" taking place.

Did I ask for a software upgrade?

No. It just started.

"Upgrade" implies something better. Something absolutely worth having?

After waiting ages the software upgrade was over and a flawless ITV picture appeared.

I say flawless ITV PICTURE. I didn't mention SOUND.

Well the sound WAS flawless and the picture was flawless.

The trouble was that the sound didn't actually match the picture.

The picture was happening ages after the sound came from the speakers.

Like those awful dubbed films, recorded in Urdu or suchlike and dubbed over in English. Something not quite right. Something blinking awful in fact.

I wrote to the manufacturer.

Just before the "BEST REGARDS" was the message that I'd have to wait about six weeks for things to be put right!!!!

Not only is the sound absolutely awful on some of the channels, the program guide is missing as well.

I'll try "TEXT". I know it takes so long that you sometimes miss the program you want to see, but it does work tolerably well.

Well it did the other day!

This new UPGRADE has caused the TEXT screen to LOCK UP. I've seen this problem somewhere before. Where was it now?

I remember... Windows 95/98/ME/2000 and XP. They were always locking up. XP still does.

Oh no...not again..

Not more incompetent programmers!

This latest UPGRADE is a DOWNGRADE.

Anyway, I said to the Pace person that if they wouldn't give me a new box in place of the faulty one I'd stop recommending their products to my customers. They wouldn't and couldn't care less so I've stopped recommending Pace to my customers. Admittedly I could return the faulty box it to the retailer, but that would involve a round trip of 40 miles and my valuable time, not to mention the fact that they probably wouldn't have one of that model in stock.

It seems I'll have to wait until November before the software bug is fixed. I'll probably cut my losses and buy a box made by a different manufacturer.

If anyone else is having the same sound sync problem try this. Select another channel and when this has established switch back to the original with the bad lip sync. This sometimes cures it. The Text channel locks up when successive channels are stepped through without stepping downwards to see what's on. Select BBC1 and step down a couple of programmes. Then step onto the channel you want to check. If you get a lock-up, press the return button. To clear the lip-sync glitch, switch to BBC1 then back after a second or two. If the set locks up press all the buttons on the remote at least once and if you're lucky, after a blank screen you should see a picture.

Now new digital terrestrial Teletext....

By the time you've stepped through reams of pages, waiting at each for an age for the "loading" sign to disappear, to see what's on next it'll be too late and you'll have missed the next programme. Instead use the feature that shows all the programmes at once, called "guide" although even this can take an age... and lock up if you have a Pace receiver.....

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