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How to Obtain a Mobile DTV Receiver Right Now

The most common question in my in-box these days is, "Where can I buy a Mobile DTV receiver?"

A search of Amazon shows one ATSC Mobile DTV tuner for sale--for in-car entertainment systems. However, there are few details on the Amazon page and fewer yet on the company's Web site.

So, what can you do if you want to see what's being broadcast on ATSC Mobile DTV in your market without spending a lot of money?

The answer is to download the Mobile DTV Viewer from Decontis.

According to Decontis, the Mobile DTV Viewer will work with the inexpensive Hauppauge WinTV 850 and Hauppauge WinTV 950Q USB ATSC tuners. I've recommended the HVR-950Q in the past, as TSReader can analyze both ATSC and QAM signals from the device.

I have not been able to test the software with a Mobile DTV signal, but have been in touch with a reader who discovered it the same day I did. I hope to have a report from him soon. If not, I'll be in Los Angeles after Labor Day and will have a chance to test it there. Because of the large amount of interest in receiving Mobile DTV, I didn't want to delay reporting on this software and welcome reports from readers who give it a try. The software allows a seven-day trial period for testing.

I did try it out at home late Wednesday, and after a bit of trouble picked up the only ATSC signal in my area. Some of the problems may have been caused by my using the HVR-950Q on a clear-QAM cable signal before I connected an antenna and fired up the Decontis Mobile DTV Viewer. After confirming off-air reception with TSReader, the software picked up the signal. The software displays the signal strength and includes an EPG.

If you install the software, do not make the mistake I did. I already had VLC installed so I canceled the download from Mobile DTV Viewer. This was a bad move, as Mobile DTV Viewer wants its own VLC libraries. Restarting the software did not give me the opportunity to install VLC again, and doing a conventional uninstall and reinstall didn't work. The program leaves its settings in the registry--it started up on the same frequency and channel that it was on when I uninstalled it. I didn't have time to poke around in the Windows XP registry and manually delete the entries associated with it, so I can't confirm how it works with conventional ATSC. It did find my QuickTime installation and attempted to play the MPEG-2 ATSC stream on it, but without success. Apparently the free version of QuickTime doesn't support MPEG-2, or at least not ATSC streams. QuickTime will work for Mobile DTV, where some versions of VLC had problems.

The program is still being updated. The version that I downloaded was posted only two days ago, so I expect to see improvements.

Broadcasters may also be interested in the atscSAM software. It allows detailed analysis of the ATSC Mobile DTV transport stream and tables. I'm trying to get more information on it and perhaps some software to demo for a more detailed analysis in my RF Technology column in TV Technology. The viewer software is very reasonably priced. I hope atscSAM is as well.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.