My parents have a 20-year-old TV. They want to buy a new TV for the change to digital rather than buying a digital converter box for over-the-air reception. They do not have cable, and they are not going to get cable. Can they buy an LCD, plasma or DLP TV and use an indoor antenna to get reception? They will not put up an outdoor antenna. - James Young
I use an indoor antenna with my HDTV (I also have cable, but I am able to use the indoor antenna as well) and get a good signal. It's all a question of how strong the signal is from their location. That's mostly based on how close they are to the transmitting antennas.
Even if they get a signal now on the rabbit ear antenna, that is not a guarantee things will work with a digital signal. With analog signals weak signals might get fuzzy but still look OK. With a digital signal it is basically pass or fail. Either you get a terrific signal or you see nothing at all.
There's sort of an in-between stage where you'll have a signal for a while, but then it will freeze. And then pops back. But mostly it's all or nothing. If the signal they get now is very strong and the picture doesn't seem fuzzy, my guess is they'll do OK with digital. But that's not a guarantee.
Stations are using digital broadcasts (along with the old analog signals) right now. If you could persuade a store to let you take the TV home with the ability to return it if the signal isn't satisfactory, that would be the best solution.
A last thought: I can understand not wanting an outdoor antenna. But there are antennas that fit hidden in an attic. If there is an attic and a way to run coaxial cable to the location of the set, an attic antenna should deliver fine reception.
Help from a reader
(I've edited this note about uses for old computers, based on a recent column, to shorten it.)
Many old computers that choke on Microsoft Vista will handily run Linux operating systems, which are free and are very comparable in most areas. Ubuntu is available at www.Ubuntu.com/getubuntu. It loads easily as the only operating system or for dual-booting with an existing system such as Microsoft XP. As an option, it will copy Microsoft files, including Word documents, over to Ubuntu for you while it loads. You can try Ubuntu by running from the CD without installing it.
- Robert Redmond
Bill Husted writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.