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Old 7-Dec-2009, 3:43 AM   #1
andy.s.lee
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Getting Started

The posts in this thread will help you become familiar with some the resources available at this site.

Last edited by andy.s.lee; 8-Dec-2009 at 2:23 AM.
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Old 7-Dec-2009, 5:32 AM   #2
andy.s.lee
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Join Date: Dec 2009
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Signal Analysis Tool

Quick links: Try it here (TV Fool), or here (FM Fool).

There is a version of this tool for TV analysis (TV Fool), and one for FM analysis (FM Fool), with some minor differences between the two. This guide is based on TV Fool, but for the most part, both of these tools function the same way. The tools start with a few paragraphs like the following:

"Have you ever wondered what television signals are being broadcast in your area? Perhaps you've recently purchased a new HDTV and you're looking for some High Definition content. Or maybe you're just looking for some additional sources to compliment your existing cable and/or satellite services. Well, here's a tool that can analyze your location to help determine what FREE broadcasts might be available in your neighborhood.

This tool can help answer questions like

* Which broadcasters are transmitting locally?
* How far are the transmitters from me?
* Which direction should I point my antenna?
* How strong are the signals in my area?
* What analog and digital channels are available?"



STEP 1: Click on the words [>> Click HERE <<] to begin using the tool.



STEP 2: Fill in the form for the location you would like analyzed. You can enter your location as a street address or as a coordinate. To use coordinates instead of an address, select the appropriate radio button where it says "Select input method".

You can enter a location at any level of accuracy you wish (e.g., zip code only, cross streets, exact address, etc.). It is recommended that you enter your full address or exact coordinates, if possible, because this affects the accuracy of the report. If there are any terrain obstructions in your vicinity, a rough analysis might not be accurate enough to give you a realistic view of what you can get.

If you know how high your antenna will be mounted, you can enter that information too (in feet above ground level). You may want to re-run this tool multiple times using different heights to see how much of a difference it makes. BTW, there's an even easier way to play "what-if" scenarios if you use the Online Interactive Maps tool (see next post).

You can optionally enter a title for the report. This text will be included at the top of the report so that you can reference it later and remember what it was for.



STEP 3: Click the button marked [Find Local Channels]. This will run the analysis and take you to the results.

At the top, you have some options (radio buttons) to view different subsets of the data. You can view all channels, digital only, or analog only. Now that the analog transition is over, there are mostly just digital transmitters on the air, however, there are still some "low power" analog transmitters that are still operating (they were not subject to the same shut-off deadline as the "major" broadcasters). If you are an area that depends on some of these "low power" transmitters for service, you may still want to pay attention to the analog stations in the reports.

The reports themselves have been put into image files. If you click on any of the "save image" links, you can download a copy of the reports and save them on your computer for later reference.

The "radar plot" in the report shows the strength and direction of your local stations. Longer bars represent stronger signals. The top of the circle represents true north (like on a map). There is also a red "N" in the outer ring of the circle representing magnetic north. This can help you aim your antenna if you using a compass to orient yourself.

The numbers next to some of the bars represent the real channels that those stations are brodacasting on. If you see any bars that are a little thicker and have a yellow outline, it means they are on VHF channels (2 thru 13). It is important to know if any of your desired channels are VHF because some antennas are not designed to work at those frequencies. You must make sure that your antenna type matches the types of signals you want to receive.

The table in the report lists individual stations, ranked from strongest to weakest, along with more detailed stats about each entry. For each station that interests you, be sure to pay attention to the real broadcast channel (this will tell you if you need a VHF-capable antenna), the background color (green, yellow, red, or gray), the Noise Margin (NM), path type, and azimuth.

A graph along the bottom of the report shows the stations plotted according to channel and signal strength. This provides additional visual cues regarding channels that require a VHF antenna (if any). This graph can also be useful in identifying any co-channel or adjacent-channel interference issues. For example, in some situations, it's possible to have a very strong signal right next to a weaker one (because one is very close and the other is far away), and this might impact your receiver's ability tune to the weaker station.

You can optionally click on any row in the table to see a "profile" view of the terrain between you and the selected transmitter. This cross-section plot is a way to visualize how the signal traverses the terrain on its way to your house. In the profile view, the transmitter is always shown on the left, and your house is always on the right.



STEP 4 (optional): If you are not sure about how to interpret this information, you can share the report with others to get advice. There is enough information contained in these reports (by design) to allow more experienced users to fully understand your situation and provide appropriate recommendations.

You'll note that your exact location is hidden in the reports, so you can share these openly without fear of giving away your mailing address to junk mailers or other unintended recipients.

These reports can be shared in many ways, and you can choose the method that works best for you, depeding on who and how you want to ask for help.

Option 1: Cut and paste the URL for your report. There should be a line in bold that looks like "http://www.tvfool.com/?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=29&q=id%3d##############" (the numbers at the end are a unique identifier for your report). You can give that URL to anyone, and they should be able to get to your report from any web browser. They will see a page that looks exactly like the one you are seeing.

Option 2: Use the "save image" links to save a copy of the report on your computer. The file you get (with a name like Radar-All.png) can be sent to anyone for review. The image contains all the relevant information that an experienced user would need to understand your situation.

Last edited by andy.s.lee; 7-Dec-2009 at 9:57 AM.
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Old 7-Dec-2009, 9:22 AM   #3
andy.s.lee
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Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 54
Online Interactive Maps

Quick links: Try it here.

The tool starts with a few paragraphs like the following:

"Now you can check your location for free TV with our interactive mapping tool. See the local TV transmitters on a map and check their signal strengths. This tool give you all our latest database updates, coverage maps, and signal analysis on a dynamic map with lots of information about every transmitter right at your fingertips. This tool will let you do all of the following:

* List available channels for any location
* Adjust the location being analyzed (to fix address lookup errors)
* Play "what-if" scenarios with different antenna heights
* See the direction of each transmitter to help you point your antenna
* Overlay coverage maps for each station
* Generate a summary report, which can be shared, printed, or saved for future reference"



STEP 1: Click on the words [>> Start MAPS <<] to begin using the tool.



STEP 2: Fill in the form for the location you would like analyzed. You can enter your location as a street address or as a coordinate. To use coordinates instead of an address, select the appropriate radio button where it says "Select input method".

You can enter a location at any level of accuracy you wish (e.g., zip code only, cross streets, exact address, etc.). It is recommended that you enter your full address or exact coordinates, if possible, because this affects the accuracy of the report. If there are any terrain obstructions in your vicinity, a rough analysis might not be accurate enough to give you a realistic view of what you can get.



STEP 3: Click the button marked [Map this]. This will bring up a map of the specified location, and a list of available channels shown below it.

STEP 3a (optional): You can reposition the orange marker (representing you) by dragging and dropping the icon on the map. Sometimes, the address lookup engine is not that accurate, and it may be necessary to fine tune the location by moving this marker.

The maps defaults to a "Terrain" view initially. You might be able to get more zoom levels or a better estimate of your location by switching the map to "Hybrid", "Satellite", or "Map" view.

The latitude and longitude of the marker location is shown just below the map. Each time you reposition the marker, the list of available channels is automatically recalculated and updated.

STEP 3b (optional): You can adjust the analyzed antenna height by editing the number in the "antenna height" box just beneath the map. You can enter any value in the range of 1 to 500 feet above ground level. Each time you change the antenna height, the list of available channels is automatically recalculated and updated.

This is the easiest way to play "what-if" experiments with antenna height. You can quickly test several antenna heights to see if any of your reception difficulties can be solved with a taller antenna mount (e.g., on the roof, or using an antenna tower). This depends a lot on your proximity to local terrain obstructions, and this feature makes it very easy to test.

STEP 3c (optional): You can get some visual cues to help you aim your antenna by enabling the checkbox labeled "Show lines pointing to each transmitter". This will draw reference lines on the map going from your location to each of the transmitters. Thick lines represent strong signals and thin lines represent weaker ones.

It is best to use this feature with the map in "Satellite" or "Hybrid" view if there is high quality overhead imagery available for your area. You might use it to identify landmarks or neighbors' homes that can be used as reference points to aim your antenna. The lines can also help you determine whether certain obstacles (e.g., tall buildings, trees, etc.) can be avoided if you relocate the antenna.

STEP 3d (optional): The coverage overlays for transmitters in your area can be turned on by clicking on the radio button next to any of the callsigns. This will cause the map to zoom out, load the selected coverage overlay, and pop up a balloon with a few transmitter stats. If you are no longer interested in seeing the overlay, click on the radio button labeled "Overlays off", which is just above the list of channels.

You can use this feature to learn about any of the transmitters around you, or maybe to figure out why a particular channel is difficult to receive. Perhaps there is a terrain obstruction you did not know about, or the transmitter is not at the location you thought it was.



STEP 4 (optional): You can automatically turn this analysis (location and height) into a regular radar plot report (see previous post) by pressing the button labeled [Make Radar Plot >>]. This will create a share-able version of the analysis results that you can pass along to others when asking for help.
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Old 7-Dec-2009, 11:24 AM   #4
andy.s.lee
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Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 54
Google Earth Coverage Maps

Quick links: Download the files from here.

Please note that in order to use the Google Earth Coverage Maps, you must have the following:
  • Google Earth 4.0 or later
  • A very good 3D graphics card
  • Lots of RAM
  • Fast internet connection
  • BitTorrent client for downloading the files


If you need general help with Google Earth or BitTorrent clients, you might find some useful information at the following places:
Google Earth on Wikipedia
Google Earth home page

BitTorrent on Wikipedia
uTorrent home page (Win)
Vuze home page (Mac/Win)
Transmission home page (Linux/Mac)


STEP 1: These coverage overlay files are very large, so they have been organized into metro-sized packages to keep their download sizes manageable. Browse through the list of metro packages to find the package that is most appropriate for your location. This list won't cover everyone because the size of the overlays makes it impractical to support every possible location, however, most people should be able to find 1 or 2 packages that include their local transmitters.

If you are looking for the coverage map of a specific broadcast, you can try searching through the Callsign List, located here.

Click on the torrent link for the package(s) that you want. You should be able to open the torrent file with your BitTorrent client to start the download process. You can monitor the progress of the download in your BitTorrent client.

NOTE: If you are interested in downloading all of the metro packages at the same time, there is a torrent link at the bottom of the metro list that allows you to do just that. However, be aware that you must have a very high speed internet connection and lots of disk space to even attempt such a large download.



STEP 2: Once your BitTorrent client indicates that the download is complete, you can then open the *.kmz file in Google Earth.

As soon as the file is opened, you should see an aerial view of the world with several red and green dots marked on the landscape. Those dots mark the locations of the transmitters in the area (red=analog channels, green=digital channels). By default, the coverage maps are not visible when the file is initially loaded.

To see the available coverage maps, you'll need to click on the "+" sign next to "Tx maps On/Off" (look in the folders on the left hand side of the screen). This will expand the folder containing a list of all the included coverage maps.



STEP 3: The transmitters are listed with the digital ones first, followed by the analog ones. If you are looking for a specific transmitter, the maps are sorted alphabetically by their call sign. To view the coverage map for any of the transmitters, just click on the circle to the left of the transmitter's call sign. The map will begin loading, and within a few seconds, you should see the colored map appear on top of the terrain.

At this point, you can use the 3D controls of Google Earth to fly around, tilt, zoom, and rotate your view to examine the coverage map any way you like. You can select a different coverage map at any time and see how well all the different stations are reaching your neighborhood.

TIP: The terrain variations are easier to see if you set the terrain exaggeration to 3 (max) in the Google Earth options.

If you click on any of the transmitter icons, a balloon will pop up with a few vital stats about the transmitter plus a link to the FCC's transmitter web site.



If you would like to see screen shots of some of these steps, you can view this guide here.
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Old 8-Dec-2009, 2:13 AM   #5
andy.s.lee
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Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 54
Complete Google Earth Transmitter Icon Collection

Quick links: Download the files from here (TV Fool) or here (FM Fool).

Please note that in order to use the Google Earth Transmitter Icon Collection, you must have the following:
  • Google Earth 4.0 or later
  • A very good 3D graphics card
  • Lots of RAM
  • Fast internet connection


If you need general help with Google Earth, you might find some useful information at the following places:
Google Earth on Wikipedia
Google Earth home page


STEP 1: Download the zip file. It should have a name like FCC_TV_yyyy-mm-dd.kmz.zip or FCC_FM_yyyy-mm-dd.kmz.zip, depending on the type of icons included and the date the database snapshot was taken.

Unzip the file to get the original *.kmz (Google Earth) file.




STEP 2: Open the *.kmz file in Google Earth.

As soon as the file is opened, you should see an aerial view of the world with several red and green dots marked on the landscape. Those dots mark the locations of the transmitters in the area (red=analog channels, green=digital channels).

In the folders on the left side of the screen, the icons have been placed into separate Digital and Analog folders. You can toggle an entire group of icons on or off by clicking the checkbox next to the folder name.

TIP: There are a LOT of icons to display in these files. Trying to display all the transmitters on screen at one time can really slow down some computers and graphics cards. It might help to turn off the transmitter display first, zoom into an area of interest, and then turn the transmitter display back on.

If you are looking for a specific transmitter, they are sorted alphabetically by callsign within each folder.



STEP 3: To view additional information for any of the transmitters, just click on the icon or click on the name in the folder list. This will open a pop-up balloon that includes the station's channel number, transmit power, height (above ground and above sea level), plus a link into the FCC's online database query tool.
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Old 8-Dec-2009, 2:54 AM   #6
andy.s.lee
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Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 54
Callsign Lookup

Quick links: Try it here.



STEP 1: Enter the callsign of the station you are looking for. Partial callsigns are allowed if you are not sure about all of the letters used by the station.

You can limit the search to just analog or digital transmitters if you are looking for a particular entry. Most stations only have digital broadcasts these days, but there may still be some analog low power, Class A, translator, or booster stations that are still active in some areas (they were not subject to the same analog shutoff deadline as the "major" broadcasters).

Click on the [Search] button to locate the station's coverage map.

STEP 1a: If your search returns multiple results (because the letter combination was not unique), you will be presented with a list of all the matching stations. Use the radio buttons to select the transmitter that you are really interested in and click the [View map] button.



STEP 2: You should be presented with a map showing the selected station's coverage overlay. The station's channel, transmit power, and coordinates are also shown. A link the the FCC's online database query tool is also provided in case you wish to look up more information.

NOTE: This search tool will only succeed if it can locate a matching FCC database record and TV Fool coverage overlay. There may be situations when the FCC database gets updated, but the coverage overlays are not yet up-to-date. If the system cannot find matching FCC and overlay data, it will fail the search and let you know. If you get a failed search result, it could mean one of two things:
  1. the transmitter does not exist in the database
  2. the transmitter does exist in the database, but the information does not match any coverage overlays in our image library
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Old 8-Dec-2009, 3:53 AM   #7
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Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 54
Discussion Forum

Quick links: You can start at the top here.



Our forums, which you're already looking at, provide a place to learn, ask questions, share experiences, and simply have discussions about anything that interests you.

To really get the most out of the forums, it helps to keep the discussions organized. You're more likely to find the information you're looking for, or have your questions answered if you start in the right area.



We have arranged the discussions into the following hierarchy to help keep the discussions relevant to the topic at hand. More areas can be added as needed, or as discussions expand into other topics.


Welcome An introduction to this site, its features, and how to start using it.
Introduction

Getting Started
General Site Feedback / Discussion A place to discuss general issues with this web site or anything that does not belong to any of the site-specific areas below.

TV Fool Discussion / Database Updates Discussion specifically related to TV Fool, including the tools, downloadable content, and transmitter database. If you would like to suggest any TV transmitter updates/corrections, submit them here.

FM Fool Discussion / Database Updates Discussion specifically related to FM Fool, including the tools, downloadable content, and transmitter database. If you would like to suggest any FM transmitter updates/corrections, submit them here.

Help With Reception Give or get advice relating to OTA reception. If you're not sure how to interpret your signal analysis results, or if you want advice on how to improve your reception, there are a lot of knowledgeable people here willing to help.
Connecting with an Installer If you provide installation services or if you are looking for an installer to help you, post your information in here.
Special Topics A place for more in-depth discussion of OTA related topics. Learn, share, and discuss things like antennas, Digital TV (ATSC), HD Radio, upcoming broadcast technologies, and more.
Antennas Everything antenna related. How they work, commercially available antennas, build-your-own antennas, tips-and-tricks, computer modeling, performance comparisons, etc.

Digital TV and Mobile TV

IBOC / HD Radio

White Space

Reception Devices
Broadcaster's Lounge If you work for a broadcaster, this place was created just for you.

Enthusiast's Exchange Share stories and experiences. DXing, pet projects, design showcase, etc.


If you are new to using forums, there are many features you should become familiar with. Some of the most important things to learn first are
  • What all the terminology means (forums? threads? posts?)
  • How to search though the existing messages
  • How to post your own messages or replies
  • Editing and deleting your posts
  • Using attachments and images in your messages

There are many more features to take advantage of once you get the hang of it. For a full list of topics to learn more, go here.
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