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AM21 Guide for Anyone Living in Washington-Baltimore Region

Discussion in 'DIRECTV HD DVR/Receiver Discussion' started by mjfoxtrot, May 21, 2018.

  1. mjfoxtrot

    mjfoxtrot Member

    51
    7
    Apr 18, 2018
    Washington,...
    I know there have been a fair amount of helpful postings over the years by people who have figured out how to work around the channel limitations of the AM21 OTA tuner. I've seen some other postings on DBStalk that explain how to get missing subchannels in markets such as Chicago and Los Angeles. So, I thought I would create my own for anyone who is interested in getting all the channels in the Washington-Baltimore region.

    For those who don't know: DirecTV DVRs and receivers will get OTA channels if the AM21 tuner is attached via USB cable. But where it gets tricky is when it comes to adding the channels to the program guide. DirecTV's system is not typical when it comes to adding channels . . . a typical OTA tuner on a TV, for instance, will simply do a channel scan and add whatever channels it finds. DirecTV doesn't do it that way. Instead, you put your primary and secondary zip codes of your area into your antenna settings on your DVR or receiver, and the box will "phone home" to get the list of OTA channels that DirecTV has deigned to allow you to tune.

    When I did the initial setup on my AM21/HR24-500, the program guide showed 41 channels for my primary (21045) and secondary (20884) zip codes. But a separate, independent scan I did on my Bravia television's tuner showed that I get 58 OTA channels, meaning DirecTV's program guide was not allowing me to tune in 17 channels that my antenna receives. So here is what I did in order to get those extra 17 channels:

    1. I found zip codes in different areas that would enable me to get those missing subchannels. For instance, two of the subchannels DirecTV was not giving me were 7.4 and 13.2. I particularly wanted 13.2, because that is the CBS' "Decades" channel that runs lots of fun old campy TV shows like Hawaii Five-O, Mannix and Green Acres. So, I consulted this handy list that shows every digital channel number for hundreds of zip codes across the U.S.: Antennas Direct | List of Digital TV Stations

    2. I did a new initial setup for zip codes 32401 (Panama City, Fla.), which gets channels 7.4 and 13.2, and for Milwaukee, Wis. (53201), which pulls in two other subchannels I was missing: 20.4 and 45.3. DirecTV found the channels and added them to my D* program guide. More importantly . . . Once they are on the channel guide, it means I can tune in the channels on my DVR and use its capability for all those good things like pause, rewind and fast-forward. But due to the discrepancy in channel programming in the Panama City and Milwaukee markets, the shows listed on the program guide are incorrect. But that's a price I can live with in order to get the channels.

    3. I did another initial setup (you can run as many setups as you want, because your previous setups are saved) for Albuquerque, N.M. (87101). This got me subchannels 5.2, 5.3, 20.2, 20.3, 23.1, 23.2, and 32.2 (nice bang for the buck on this one.) For the secondary zip, I put in Santa Ana, Calif. (92701), which got me subchannels 2.4, 22.4, and 54.4.

    4. One final initial setup, this one for Marietta, Ga. (30008), which got me subchannels 14.2, 14.3 and 14.4. Done! The DirecTV program guide now gets all 58 OTA channels that my attic antenna receives.

    You'll find some duplicates in the program guide - for instance, channel 13.1 was listed twice after I did the Panama City setup - but this is easily filtered out by making a custom favorites channel list on the HR24.

    The biggest downside of this, of course, is that the program guide will not show the correct listings for the 17 channels I added. But getting the channels is the bigger issue to me, and I can always look up program guide data for my local area on my phone if I really need to see what is on my newly-added channels.

    Hope this helps someone.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2018
  2. coconut13

    coconut13 Member

    312
    24
    Apr 14, 2013
    By extensive work with my own AM21 I know you can only run 10 different zip codes, before it starts wiping the first zip code out. Also, for your application in DC, there are alternatives to get "correct guides" on certain channels. For instance: if you use either Weslaco TX (78520) or Mobile AL (36602) it will give you the correct METV guide on 5.3. Another one is Decades 13.2, run Sacramento CA (95811) to get the correct guide for that channel. I know if I studied more, there might be more. I know it's possible to get guides for maybe Movies, H&I, etc. on the wrong channel, but you could reference the guide in this scenario. Fort Myers FL (33901) would give you an H&I guide on 20.2. Greenvillle NC (27834) would give you a Bounce guide on 14.2. I know if you studied this you probably could get all the channels and stay at 10 different zip codes, with using Weslaco, Sacramento, etc. to get some of the channels with correct guides.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2018
    mjfoxtrot likes this.
  3. mjfoxtrot

    mjfoxtrot Member

    51
    7
    Apr 18, 2018
    Washington,...
    Thanks, coconut, for the advice! I really appreciate you sharing your expertise on the AM21, I have read several of your posts in other threads. So you were indeed correct about Stockton, Calif. and Weslaco, Texas providing me with a few channels that have the correct programming guide. I also found a few others. To summarize:

    - Stockton, CA (95201) gets me the Decades channel with the correct programming guide on the correct channel number (13.2)

    - Weslaco, TX (78520) gets the Me-TV channel with the correct programming guide on the correct channel number (5.3)

    - Houston, TX (77001) gets the Heroes & Icons channel with the correct programming guide on the correct channel number (20.3)

    - Waterloo, IA (50701) gets the PBS Kids 24/7 channel with the correct programming guide on the correct channel number (32.2).

    I was hopeful about several others zips I found that reportedly would work, but they did not. According to the AntennasDirect channel database, Bismarck, ND (58701) has the escape channel on 2.4, which is what I need. But DirecTV's database doesn't have 2.4 for that zip code. Also, Little Rock, AR (72002) has TBD network on channel 7.4, but no dice again in the D* database. I found similar disappointments with zip codes for three other channels that should have gotten me the correct guide, but D* does not have the channels in its database. What a shame that DirecTV abandoned updating that database.

    I also appreciate you letting me know that tip about only being able to run 10 unique zip codes before the system starts wiping out the first zip in the system. I had definitely run into that previously and couldn't figure out what was going on. I ran a CLEARMYBOX to get everything back to square one and made sure this time to keep the number of zip codes to a reasonable amount. I think the actual number on my HR24-500/AM21 setup seems to be less than 10; it starts doing funky things on zip code entry #9.

    But here's the biggest issue that I am puzzled by, and I've noticed you have commented on this from time to time as well: The channels that I added in this manner do not "stick" very well after a reboot. I tested a few reboots and I will often lose several subchannels I added, such as channel 20.3 that I got through the Houston zip code. The problem is even worse after a reboot if I do not have my "true" zip codes in the Initial Setup's Primary and Secondary entries. In my case, the Primary zip code is 21045 (Baltimore) and the Secondary is 20001 (Washington.) If I reboot with anything other than those zip codes, I lose a ton of OTA channels (basically, all or most of the local channels that I would normally get for my area.)

    It's easy enough to make sure 21045 and 20001 are set as my default Primary and Secondary zip codes before I reboot, but what I don't get is why I will lose other subchannels I added from out-of-market zip codes. Shouldn't the channels I added to the program guide just stay there? Can't figure out what is causing them to disappear. The only thing I can think of is that the HR24, upon reboot, checks to see what the current entries are for primary and secondary and will refresh the guide to just reflect those two zip codes. I suppose this makes some sense, as the original programmers of the DVR probably never envisioned a day when anyone would put in more than a primary and secondary zip code.

    I don't reboot my boxes that often, but it's a pain to have to keep running these antenna Initial Setups. They take several minutes to run and it's just not practical to keep doing it. I wish there was a way to make the changes permanently stick so I wouldn't lose the extra zip codes I previously input. Is there any way to do this?
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2018
  4. coconut13

    coconut13 Member

    312
    24
    Apr 14, 2013
    Sometimes on a single, random reboot my DVR/AM21 will retain all of my AM21 channels obtained by using 10 zip codes. But, any double reboot or software update, the DVR/AM21 will only retain the channels of the 2 zip codes stored (or the last 2 run) in the DVR at the time of the reboot. So if you want your home zips or other zips channels saved make sure the 2 zips are stored in the DVR. No way to remedy this. Just something you have to put up with, if you use multiple zip codes to attain channels in your area. It can be very annoying sometimes, if you have a lot of software updates or close together power outages. Another thing to remember is the sequence you run the zip codes. Anything first run usually takes precedence in the guide. For instance: If you run 3 different zip codes with a 5.3 channel, the first one usually stays in the guide, the second sometimes shows up as a duplicate 5.3 (sometimes not). The 3rd run 5.3 probably doesn't show up in your guide.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2018
  5. mjfoxtrot

    mjfoxtrot Member

    51
    7
    Apr 18, 2018
    Washington,...
    For me, the maximum number of zip codes I can enter is definitely eight, not 10. Maybe this discrepancy is due to different DVR model numbers . . . mine is an HR24-500. Do you happen to know what model yours is? I've confirmed that eight is the max on mine. I've used a CLEARMYBOX twice, and on both occasions, I could enter eight unique zip codes successfully with no issues. But on zip code #9, it erases the first zip code I entered, which is the primary zip code. So, effectively, the hard limit on my HR24/AM21 is eight zip codes.

    But that's fine. I can live with eight. I was able to input all the zip codes I needed to get all the OTA channels in my area (58), and using your suggestions, I was able to get a small handful of the channels with the proper guide.

    I'd say an important tip in all this that is not stressed enough is the final step: Make sure you have your primary and secondary zip codes stored in the DVR that you will want to use as the default, just in case the box reboots and resets your OTA channel guide. In my case, I use the "true" home zips as the default settings.

    The latest incarnation of my setup seems to have taken pretty well so far. Last night I rebooted the box three times, and all three times, the HR24 kept all my OTA channels intact - including the newly-added subchannels from other zip codes - and didn't delete any of them. I've already recorded a couple of old Bob Newhart episodes on the Decades channel and they played back perfect.
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2018
  6. coconut13

    coconut13 Member

    312
    24
    Apr 14, 2013
    I run 2 AM21 applications. One on a HR24/200 and the other on an HR44/500. I use 10 zips on both to get the channels I need. 8 zips are the same and I use a couple different ones on each DVR to incorporate what I need. It was about a year ago, when I started needing 10 zips (with all the additional diginets, etc.) to get what I wanted. That's when I first figured out 10 was the limit. I have no clue, as to why 8 is the limit for you. Maybe? Total size of DMA's and total channels would be about my only guess.
     
  7. joewa1976

    joewa1976 New Member

    1
    0
    Jul 29, 2018
    Hey everyone. Long time reader first time contributor. I was wondering if any one of you could help me out? I live in the Baltimore/Washington area just like mjfoxtrot and was experiencing issues with the DirectTV AM21 OTA tuner. This antiquated piece of equipment has been causing me a ton of issues lately. It started when I attempted to scan my local channels (I can receive channels from both markets). For some odd reason the AM21 was not scanning the sub channels and Channel 4 (WRC). I attempted numerous times to use different zip codes for the Baltimore/Washington area but to no avail.

    SO, I perused this forum and found mjfoxtrot's posting regarding the utilization of out of market zip codes to force the AM21 to recognize local channels. This worked, for awhile, but now I am unable to revert back to my local channel listings. No matter how many times I attempt to restart and initiate a scan with local zip codes for DC and Baltimore the unit is stuck with California TV listings.

    Can anyone provide me some insight as to what I need to do to fix this issue? Does anybody know how to restart the AM21 so it clears all information? I unplugged and plugged the unit twice but this didn't work. I also did a restart of the HR44 (my DirectTV receiver) and this didn't work either.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
     
  8. GordonT

    GordonT Legend

    154
    4
    Apr 17, 2007
    Please clarify something for me: I thank that you and mjfoxtrot are talking about how to get the OTA setup to add channels to your guide that actually exist in your city but Directv database doesn't show them, so you have to resort to putting additional zip codes in. If so, my issue is different. I live in Tampa, FL and the following subchannels exist and are shown in the OTA map spreadsheet for Tampa, but they do not get added to my list of OTA channels:
    16.1-16.3 WUSF
    38.1-38.2 WTTA

    When you do the initial setup, does the AM21 actually check to see if it can pick up the signal for all the listed channels, and not add them to the list if they appear too weak. Otherwise, I can't figure out why these channels wouldn't show up.
     
  9. slice1900

    slice1900 Well-Known Member

    9,181
    1,058
    Feb 14, 2013
    Iowa
    Yes, I believe they won't get added if they can't be picked up during setup. Have you plugged your location into tvfool.com to get an idea how those channels compare to others you do receive in terms of signal strength where you are?

    Another way to check is to connect your antenna directly to your TV and let it scan. Unless it is over a decade old, your TV will have a newer/better tuner than the one in the AM21, so if you can't pick those channels up with your TV you almost certainly won't be able to with an AM21. If you can pick them up with your TV, its possible some adjustment/improvement of your antenna will help pull them in on the AM21.
     

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