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Old 06-19-2009, 09:04 PM   #1
yizzung
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Comcast, 1TB-WD-expndr, attenuators, & pixelation

I have a 3 year old S3. Recently started seeing reboots, partial recordings, major pixelation. Two things may have contributed. I added a WD 1TB expander (external) and I started getting a hot signal from comcast. My cable modem died last week and was replaced.

I was getting major pixelation and random reboots up until late last night. So, I checked the diagnostics and was getting 100% signal strength with 35db SNR. According to many posts around here, this is too high so I bought some attenuators and dialed it down to around 30-32db and a signal strength of around 65-75. (I tried lower and various channels just completely dropped out, so this seemed to be the magic level.) No reboots yet but the attenuators have only been in place for a couple hours...

Unfortunately, I am still getting RS Corrected errors. Not into the thousands, but they are there. And ESPN2HD (as one example) is nearly unwatchable due to audio drop outs, freezing, and pixelation. It's unwatchable on both tuners, so I don't suspect this is a specific tuner or specific cable card problem. I ran the kickstart 54 test on the HDDs and both internal and external passed everything.

So, what do I try next? I suppose I should decouple the expander even though it passed the 54? Anyone else seeing this kind of problem?
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Old 06-20-2009, 12:27 AM   #2
ThAbtO
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The 75% signal strength is a bit low, I use Over the air only, and most of my channels are at 100% without any problems. Try signal strength range in the 90s %.
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Old 06-20-2009, 04:52 AM   #3
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I would not underestimate the extent to which the eSATA drive causes pixelization. I had mine for a while and had pixelization, short recordings and other problems. I took it away, and the problems went away.
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Old 06-20-2009, 12:12 PM   #4
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<i>The 75% signal strength is a bit low, I use Over the air only, and most of my channels are at 100% without any problems. Try signal strength range in the 90s %.</i>

I guess I read on the big FIOS-complaint posts that people were targeting an SNR of 31-ish and saying that an acceptable signal was down as low as 45-50? I can try to jack it back up a bit but the problems seem to gotten better by going lower than were I was (34-35 SNR).

<i>I would not underestimate the extent to which the eSATA drive causes pixelization. I had mine for a while and had pixelization, short recordings and other problems. I took it away, and the problems went away.</i>

I am not underestimating this either. But I guess I'm looking for (hoping for) some kind of answer other than "take off the external expander". I also don't really see how the external drive is related to RS Corrected Errors showing up...
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Old 06-20-2009, 12:34 PM   #5
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Quote:
The 75% signal strength is a bit low, I use Over the air only, and most of my channels are at 100% without any problems. Try signal strength range in the 90s %.
I guess I read on the big FIOS-complaint posts that people were targeting an SNR of 31-ish and saying that an acceptable signal was down as low as 45-50? I can try to jack it back up a bit but the problems seem to gotten better by going lower than were I was (34-35 SNR).

Quote:
I would not underestimate the extent to which the eSATA drive causes pixelization. I had mine for a while and had pixelization, short recordings and other problems. I took it away, and the problems went away.
I am not underestimating this either. But I guess I'm looking for (hoping for) some kind of answer other than "take off the external expander". I also don't really see how the external drive is related to RS Corrected Errors showing up...
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Old 06-20-2009, 12:51 PM   #6
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I am dialing the signal up slightly (SNR 33-35, signal strength 80-95) because last night, even with the SNR in the 31-range still resulted in a ton of partial recordings (4 hour-long shows chopped up into 11 pieces) and the new morning ritual I-just-rebooted-myself-THX-splash-screen...

Even at this new setting, I am still getting RS Corrected Errors (only on some channels and only about 1 every 90 seconds). So it seems that no matter where I dial the signal, it's still bad. I'm increasingly convinced that fine tuning the attenuation is a fool's errand. Doesn't seem to do anything other than make me feel like I'm doing something proactive.

I guess my question is: if I divorce the expander and the problems go away, do I assume that I have a bad expander? Or are these expanders just generally crap and should be avoided? As I mentioned earlier, the expander passed the kickstart 54. Is there another test I can try on thing, besides pulling the plug on it?
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Old 06-20-2009, 03:04 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yizzung View Post
But I guess I'm looking for (hoping for) some kind of answer other than "take off the external expander".
Sorry, but I don't have one.

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Originally Posted by yizzung View Post
I also don't really see how the external drive is related to RS Corrected Errors showing up...
I don't know about whether there is such a relationship, but what I do know is that the eSATA drive caused me significant recording reliability problems, AFAIC.

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I guess my question is: if I divorce the expander and the problems go away, do I assume that I have a bad expander? Or are these expanders just generally crap and should be avoided?
No idea.

My instinct, though, based on nothing other than innate pessimism, is that the problem is in the design of the TiVo box itself, with respect to how it handles eSATA. Don't quote me on that, though.
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Old 06-21-2009, 02:28 AM   #8
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I have removed the external expander and the problem still exists. Seems to be getting worse, in fact. Pixelation across the board on HD and non-HD channels. Freezing screens, unresponsive remote, reboots.
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Old 06-21-2009, 02:43 AM   #9
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yizzung,

If you've removed the external drive, then it sounds like your internal drive is failing.

Some things you should be aware of:
  1. A low to moderate amount of Corrected errors is normal and will not affect A/V playback.

  2. Corrected errors do not cause pixelization or any other video problems. Only Uncorrected errors in the thousands per second can cause pixelization. A failing internal or external drive can also cause pixelization.

  3. Corrected errors do not cause audio dropouts, except in some cases where you are seeing a spike of hundreds or thousands over a few seconds. A dozen Corrected errors per second will not cause audio dropouts. In contrast, more than a few Uncorrected errors per second can cause audio dropouts.

  4. Signal errors do not cause partial recordings. These are caused by drive corruption only, do to a failing/failed internal or external drive.

    Signal errors can cause a failed recording, but when that happens, the entire recording is deleted and the TiVo's To Do List -> History reports the signal was lost. There's no partial recording.

  5. Signal errors do not cause reboots, unless you are seeing tens of millions to billions of RS Uncorrected errors per minute.

Based on the above, it sounds to me like your TiVo's internal drive is failing. I would follow the instructions in Section V of the Drive Upgrade FAQ. I would suggest the 1TB WD10EVVS ($90-$100).
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Old 06-21-2009, 03:48 AM   #10
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Well, I haven't even begun to read up on how to diagnose a failing internal drive--spent half a day reading 30+ pages of posts on pixelation--but your theory is gaining credibility with me by the second.

Despite the "pass" on all kickstart 54 tests from a few days ago, the Tivo is currently more or less disabled at this point. After a reboot, the system gets frozen on the first tivo menu screen (red background), nothing loads in the menu, the animated tivo dude and search lights are extremely jerky, and the unit is unresponsive to the buttons on the remote. HOWEVER, if I unscrew the cable, everything springs back to life. The menus load, the remote works, etc. Screw the cable back in and everything grinds to a halt again... Is this indicative of an internal HDD failure?

I'm really not sure that I can stomach another $100 experiment though, just to rule out the internal HDD. (Wasn't Tivo supposed to make watching TV easier?) This is really starting to bum me out.
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Old 06-21-2009, 04:09 AM   #11
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Well, I haven't even begun to read up on how to diagnose a failing internal drive--spent half a day reading 30+ pages of posts on pixelation--but your theory is gaining credibility with me by the second.

Despite the "pass" on all kickstart 54 tests from a few days ago, the Tivo is currently more or less disabled at this point. After a reboot, the system gets frozen on the first tivo menu screen (red background), nothing loads in the menu, the animated tivo dude and search lights are extremely jerky, and the unit is unresponsive to the buttons on the remote. HOWEVER, if I unscrew the cable, everything springs back to life. The menus load, the remote works, etc. Screw the cable back in and everything grinds to a halt again... Is this indicative of an internal HDD failure? I've seen this same symptom described but I don't know the diagnosis.

I'm really not sure that I can stomach another $100 experiment though, just to rule out the internal HDD. (Wasn't Tivo supposed to make watching TV easier?) This is really starting to bum me out. Based on some other threads, I am trying a kickstart 57 now but will not hold my breath.
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Old 06-21-2009, 04:15 AM   #12
yizzung
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Kickstart 57 did nothing. Tivo works great as long as cable is unplugged...
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Old 06-21-2009, 04:24 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yizzung View Post
The menus load, the remote works, etc. Screw the cable back in and everything grinds to a halt again... Is this indicative of an internal HDD failure? I've seen this same symptom described but I don't know the diagnosis.
Yes, that's another symptom of internal or external drive failure. When the coax is removed, the TiVo no longer tries to write the buffer to the hard drive.

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I'm really not sure that I can stomach another $100 experiment though, just to rule out the internal HDD. (Wasn't Tivo supposed to make watching TV easier?) This is really starting to bum me out. Based on some other threads, I am trying a kickstart 57 now but will not hold my breath.
I wouldn't call it an experiment. What you've described is a failing drive. There's no doubt about it.

If you don't want to pay $90-$100 for a 1TB drive, then you can always spend $48 on a 500GB drive. Be aware that "plug and play" external expansion no longer works on upgraded TiVos.

Edit: If you can't return your 1TB My DVR Expander for a refund, you could always remove its drive and use it as an internal drive replacement.

All hard drives fail eventually, be they in computers or DVRs. There's no way around that. In your case, it's not clear whether your particular drive had a three-year life, or whether it was damaged by some sort of surge (note your failed cable modem). TiVo does make it a fairly straightforward process to replace/upgrade the drive. If you don't want to do that, you can always call and order a refurbished replacement from TiVo for $150.
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Old 06-21-2009, 10:09 AM   #14
yizzung
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Thanks for the reply. It's not the $100. (I mean, what's another $100 on top of the $800 box, the $200/month cable bill, the monthly Tivo fees, the $25 bag of attenuators, the $40 in replacement coax, etc, etc?) It's the experiment part. I just didn't particularly want to order the drive, wait two days for delivery, burn another day putting it in, only to find that it was something else... But as long as someone around here is confident that this particular symptom can be attributed to this specific problem, then I'm willing to try.
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Old 06-22-2009, 10:23 PM   #15
yizzung
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Well, if anyone's still following along at home, I have ordered a $149 replacement S3 from Tivo and I have simultaneously scheduled another Comcast visit to check the cablecards and/or signal.

Tivo customer service thinks that either my HDD is dead or that something got fried on the internal circuits--reasonable assumption given that my cable modem was fried on the same day...

Comcast says that if they are able to determine that something on their end zapped my Tivo--I find this unlikely, but who knows--then they will figure out some way to compensate me for the replacement Tivo. We'll find out on Thursday.
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