For the last fifteen years, I have been a one television family. That’s plenty for me, and the TV I have is enormous. But lately I got an elliptical trainer, and instead of sitting on my sofa watching The Daily Show and NBC News every night, I could be exercising. As it is, I am always looking for something to keep me entertained (distracted) while I am exercising and so far have been working through episodes of The West Wing, watching them on my computer screen, which is in the same room as the elliptical. But that’s just more TV to watch, so it would be good if I could combine exercise with TV I’m going to watch anyway. While I record shows on my Dish Network 722k VIP DVR, there is no way to copy those to the computer, so I have been thinking maybe I could get another TV. Prices on HDTV’s have come way, way down. This Christmas I have seen 51-inch TV’s for $400 and a 24-inch TV for $150. I was at Fry’s this past week getting a new hard drive and some anti-virus software and looked around at their TV’s. It seemed like most of the smaller ones (30 inches and less) were 720p instead of the higher resolution 1080p, but the 24-inch one on sale is 1080p (however the $400 51-inch TV was 720p, probably one reason it was so cheap).
I know my Dish receiver can support a second TV, but I’ve never set it up. I looked at the back of the receiver and the connections for a second TV were “composite” plugs (yellow for video, plus red and white plugs for stereo sound). I know composite is only for standard definition TV, and that to get HDTV output you need HDMI or “component” plugs (3 plugs for red, blue, and green video and 2 for sound). Plus I’m not sure how you wire any of this through walls to another room. I got online and found that there is a coax jack on the back that can be used to send a signal to a second TV as well, labelled “home distribution”. However it is also limited to standard definition (since coax can transmit many SD channels at once, it seems like they could figure out how to have it transmit one HD channel). You can actually get HDTV output for a second TV by using the extra HD output plugs (there are HDMI and component plugs for the main TV, so you can use the set of plugs that you are not using for the main TV), but then you have to watch the same thing on both TV’s, but again you have to get a long run of cables to do that and cut bigger holes in the wall to fit them through.
At first I felt bad that the second TV couldn’t be HDTV, but what I realized is that the standard definition limitation was going to save me some money because I still have my old 25-inch standard definition tube TV. So I went and dug it out of my junk room (incredibly heavy and awkward) and hooked it up to the coax jack of the receiver. I got nothing but snow, but then figured out that the TV was supposed to be on Channel 60 (later I saw that Channel 22 was better; it’s not like there are conflicting channels anymore since the old channels no longer exist, so I reset it and it does seem clearer). Now I have a picture, but it is the same as what is on the big TV. So I go into the onscreen satellite menus and enable two-mode television, but now I’m just getting a Dish screensaver. I need the second remote that came with the receiver. I’ve never even really used the first remote because my universal remote was programmed for the old satellite receiver and then worked fine for the new one I got last year. The second remote doesn’t use standard infra-red (IR), but radio frequencies (RF) since IR requires a line of sight and RF can go through walls. But it isn’t working at all. The manual said I needed to have the RF antenna hooked up to the jack on the back of the receiver, so I went back to my drawer of remote controls, did a lot of digging, went to the second drawer of remotes, and found it. Still nothing doing. Eventually I found out that I could program a new address into the second remote, so I made its address 4 instead of 1 (the first remote was also 1; I don’t know if this was a problem or not). Anyway, it seems to work. The last thing is I wanted to be able to control the TV power and volume with the Dish remote, so I found out how to program that into it. Now I can watch anything I have recorded and any channel from another room without paying a fee for a second receiver, and I didn’t have to buy a new TV!
The only thing now is that I need to get a cable back to the back room. I can’t go under the crawlspace because the back room is on a concrete slab. So I need to go up. Right now I have an antenna on the roof (actually on the roof of the back room) for over-the-air (OTA) broadcasts, but I hardly ever use that (there is an add-on for the Dish receiver that you can buy that lets you plug the antenna in and record or watch OTA broadcasts just like satellite broadcasts). So maybe instead of using that cable for the antenna, I can connect it up to the distribution jack and then unplug the antenna on the roof and run that wire into the back room. I could go down the chimney (I hardly ever use the fireplace; but that would leave the damper at the top of the chimney cracked, letting out heat) or into the back of the chimney at the ash dump (leaving that cracked for bugs). Or I could just drill a hole through the wall and caulk it, which is the best solution (though I hate drilling holes in walls). It’s raining now, but I might try something if it stops. I’m also not sure the cable is long enough to reach all that way, but more cable would be pretty cheap. The other possible option is to use a diplexer on the antenna wire which allows me to carry both the OTA and the satellite signal on the same wire, with one diplexer combiner at the receiver and the other diplexer diverger up on the roof. Then you get everything, I think.