High-def crap is still crap

Getting ready for the switch has added benefits
Getting ready for the switch has added benefits

ON TV there is a toothless swamp-man attempting to subjugate an innocent turtle.

But this is preferable to the other channels with sitcoms featuring charmingly dysfunctional families whose mental disorders never seem to preclude top cosmetic dental care.

TV's dearth of relevant shows (and its comedic extremes in dental hygiene) have me pondering my options in the lead-up to the big digital TV switchover.

On November 27, the Northern Rivers will switch from analog to digital TV broadcasts, requiring a set-top box or a digital video recorder (DVR) with old-style TVs. Or you can convert with a gaming console with DVR and digital tuner capabilities, such as a PS3.

My current $40 set-top box will see me through the switch, but will it save me from spending a night with a toothless turtle hunter?

While the digital revolution hasn't really revolutionised what we watch, it has revolutionised how we watch, with on-demand 'time-shifting' functionality. Time shifting is almost like having your own TV station, based entirely around your preferences, that you can watch any time you like.

Cable TV and telco subscriptions offer DVR gizmos that allow you to record and time manage your shows. Or you can buy your own DVR for from $250 to $500.

A good inexpensive option for the discriminating viewer, advises Alex Clarke of Lismore's PowerMax Computers, is a USB TV tuner which turns your computer into a TV and DVR.

"USB tuners allow you to watch free-to-air TV on your computer, record shows more easily and access the program guide. Best of all, you don't need an internet connection, and no matter how much you watch, it won't contribute to your download limit. One popular model is the Elgato eyeTV which PowerMax sells for $129," he said.

Whether you upgrade with a set-top box or DVR or ditch it for a TV-receiving computer, the good news is that going digital doesn't require a new TV.

And for $129 I can time-shift the turtle hunter out of my evening

Get ready for digital TV for cheap

  • Converting your existing analog TV to digital (not HD) may not give you all the possible benefits of digital TV, such as widescreen pictures or high definition picture and sound quality. Check first.
  • The Digital Switchover Household Assistance Scheme (HAS) can help those having trouble making the switch. The HAS provides assistance to older Australians, veterans and people with disabilities or their carers. If you are eligible, the scheme provides an HD set-top box, a demonstration and warranty for free. Visit digitalready.gov.au.
  • If you decide to watch free-to-air channels through a subscription television digital box, check with the provider in your area about the cost of a monthly subscription. Most come with a DVR, so compare this to the cost of buying your own DVR which can be up to $500.
  • According to Lismore City Council's waste operations co-ordinator, Kevin Trustum, the dumping of old lead-filled TVs has increased in the lead up to the switch. To ensure TVs are recycled safely they need to be sent to your council's waste and recycling centre. Dumping a TV attracts a $1500 on-the-spot fine.


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