S2 (Lifetime) failure, help with options

Discussion in 'TiVo Coffee House - TiVo Discussion' started by WhoAmI, Nov 29, 2006.

  1. WhoAmI

    WhoAmI New Member

    25
    0
    Nov 11, 2006
    MA

    Advertisements

    Last night my 8-month old, lifetime-subscribed Series 2 (540080) failed in some strange way. Here's the sequence of events:
    - did a title search, then went back to watching a recorded program
    - after a minute or so of normal playback, suddenly TiVo rebooted
    - when it came up, it installed the service update (happened to have gotten 8.1 that morning, TiVo support confirmed)
    - that finished and it rebooted, then said it could take up to an hour to finish
    - I started watching my other TiVo, and later noticed the S2 front panel was dark
    - no video signal from S2, so after a while I decided to power cycle it
    - it showed welcome screen, then the "almost there" screen for a few minutes
    - then video signal turned off (TV shows no signal)
    - within a minute, green light and nightlight on front panel went dark, stays like that
    - I can tell the hard drive is on, and the USB-ethernet adapter has power lights

    I've tried rebooting a few times since then, including with the USB adapter and serial cable disconnected, and the behavior is the same (welcome, almost there, no signal, no lights). I left it in the dark state overnight, no change in the morning. I called TiVo this morning and spoke to a knowledgeable tech support guy, and we couldn't come up with any solutions. If I was paying monthly, they'd just have me buy another one (for free), but this has lifetime. So the options from TiVo are to send it in and pay $49 and the shipping to get it fixed (because it's less than a year; after a year it'd be $149 for my particular case), or to write it off and transfer my lifetime to a Series 3 (not a practical option, but they noted it anyway).

    I suspect the problem is a software problem, not hardware, and was hoping there was a way to force it to boot the other system partition (assuming the S2 does that; I know the S1 did). It's certainly not true that any part of the system is completely failed, because it partially boots -- if the hard drive had failed, you'd expect to get nowhere. That said, it's still possible the drive has major corruption. I had the thought that perhaps the little animated video it plays at startup got corrupted, so when it tries to play that it crashes, so I tried hitting the TiVo button on the remote repeatedly as it showed the "almost there" screen, hoping to bypass it, but that didn't work (the little yellow light did acknowledge receiving the remote commands though, notably).

    So here are options I can think of:

    1. send it in for repair
    this leaves warranty intact, but I lose video files and pay ~$80

    2. open it up and try to use hacker tools to work around software problem
    might be able to blow away "bad" OS files, force it to boot backup OS
    might be able to recover video (not a major consideration)
    if disk is actually failed, might be able to copy OS from another machine and build a new disk -- I have an identical S2 I bought at the same time for a family member (is this possible, or would it reject the copy?)
    voids warranty, risks ending up with useless device (sizeable money loss)

    3. sell the unit as-is, assuming a decent market for lifetime subscriptions
    down side is that I had a sizeable investment in this S2 that probably would be lost; it cost $220 plus $300 for lifetime; that same money now buys upwards of 5 years with a monthly subscription

    4. get a Series 3 and transfer the lifetime
    way too much money (I'd also have to upgrade cable and television); would still be worth the extra $80 then to get the S2 working again for it's free year after the transfer

    5. buy an upgrade drive from the TiVo community store
    would this even work if my drive is dead?
    kind of pricey -- would cost more than service from TiVo

    I think option 1 is probably the most sensible, and then open it up at the 1-year mark and copy the hard drive so next time I can repair any disk problem. I'm not afraid to open it up and play with it, but option 2 seems risky. Option 5 is interesting if I can just pop the drive in, but I'm screwed if the real problem isn't the hard drive.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. funtoupgrade

    funtoupgrade New Member

    2,000
    0
    Mar 15, 2005
    You are estimating $30 shipping but if you use FedEx ground from a Kinko's or FedEx manned facility the cost we be closer to $15. You can use an image from an identical working unit to reimage the drive on problem unit with no risk. Test the drive with the manufacturer's downloadable drive test utility before doing this to eliminate a flakey drive. If not good then you can buy a larger drive for testing with the new image. It could always be used in the replacement if that's the way you decide to go. Don't worry about messing up the warranty. If you return a TiVo just make sure it has an original drive in it. There is no way they can tell what has been in there and what has not. I would not waste my money on a pre-imaged drive. For the same or less money you can get a huge drive. Good luck on whatever you decide.
     
  3. WhoAmI

    WhoAmI New Member

    25
    0
    Nov 11, 2006
    MA
    Thanks for the info about re-imaging; I'm tempted to open it up. My identical unit isn't local so I wouldn't be able to use it until the weekend, but meanwhile what do you think of my chances of cleaning out a corrupted OS partition (assuming I can figure out which is which)?

    (For shipping I was figuring on $15 each way, though it's still a complete guess and I'm not sure if I have to pay the return shipping or not.)
     
  4. funtoupgrade

    funtoupgrade New Member

    2,000
    0
    Mar 15, 2005
    For me trying fix os not worth the trouble when reimaging is so easy. Don't think you have to pay for the shipping back to you for replacement unit but not sure. You are not going to hurt anything by opening it up - might as well become familiar with guts anyway. You can test the drive while waiting for image.
     
  5. WhoAmI

    WhoAmI New Member

    25
    0
    Nov 11, 2006
    MA

    Advertisements

    I'm not up on the current tools (haven't played with MFS Tools for a few years, since I did my Series 1). I've been trying to figure out if I could back up the drive from the identical unit and restore it onto my unit's drive without losing recordings on my drive. The how-to guides mostly assume your software is in working order or the your drive is to be wiped, but I'm considering something a bit different, trying to combine recordings from one source and software from another.

    My drive is a Maxtor; I'm trying to rustle up the bits to run diagnostics on it (need a PC and a floppy disk, neither of which I have handy). If the drive is okay, then I would next want to see if I could build a working disk to verify the rest of the TiVo hardware is okay (this might be a little tricky, to get my other TiVo together with a PC so I could copy it; or I could buy InstantCake). If that was also successful, then I could move on to trying to restore to my disk (preserving recordings) or just wipe it and build a new image on it. If I find problems with the disk or the logic board, then I think paying TiVo the $60-80 is the best solution.

    Of course, if at any time I start to feel like I'm spending too much time playing with this (running around borrowing PCs and copying other TiVo drives), I should probably just send it to TiVo because it's expedient and the cheapest fix that works whether or not the hardware is bad. I can resume playing with it after Christmas...
     
  6. wscannell

    wscannell Member

    2,352
    0
    Dec 6, 2003
    You cannot transfer recordings to a different TiVo and be able to play them.

    There are no tools to combine recordings from one drive with the system files from another.

    Your best bet would be to attempt to copy the drive with mfstools and see what happens. Use these instructions: http://tivo.upgrade-instructions.com/index.php
     
  7. classicsat

    classicsat Astute User

    17,877
    0
    Feb 18, 2004
    Ontario Canada.
    If you know how, you can just dd copy the system partitions over.
     
  8. WhoAmI

    WhoAmI New Member

    25
    0
    Nov 11, 2006
    MA
    I have tested the TiVo disk with the Maxtor tools (PowerMax), and it passed.

    I tried to copy the drive, but failed for logistical reasons. The PC I borrowed only had an NTFS disk, so I couldn't make a file backup. Then I figured out how to make a direct copy (backup piped to restore) and that failed because the 80 GB disk I have available is apparently marginally smaller, so it won't do it.

    I like the 'dd' idea, though I wouldn't want to try it on the actual drive (I feel like that eliminates the "send it in" option since that could make a mess of the drive. Can't try it without getting the other TiVo, a larger drive, and borrowing the PC again... This is starting to be a hassle!
     
  9. wscannell

    wscannell Member

    2,352
    0
    Dec 6, 2003
    If you used the -s 127 argument on the restore, this would cause the data to not fit on the new drive. Try omitting that argument. This will leave the swap partition the original size.

    If the destination drive is smaller than the source drive, even dd will not help.
     
  10. WhoAmI

    WhoAmI New Member

    25
    0
    Nov 11, 2006
    MA
    I didn't use -s 127; I tried this:
    Code:
    mfstool backup -o - /dev/hdd | mfstool restore -i -  /dev/hdb
    I think I did try just a -s on the backup side, but it didn't work.
     
  11. WhoAmI

    WhoAmI New Member

    25
    0
    Nov 11, 2006
    MA
    Well, there have been new, surprising developments.

    I put the TiVo S2 back together last night to try two things, first was to try to crash it by yanking power during the boot at various times, hoping to get it to boot using the other OS partition. No change there.

    Next was to see if TiVo-to-Go (well, galleon on a Mac, actually) could talk to it, as a way of pulling off recordings (suggested by my first call to TiVo, actually). To my great surprise, that worked. Though the TiVo front panel was still blacked out and unresponsive to the remote, I was able to start copying video off of it. I queued up about a day's worth of downloads, and settled in to watching some TV on my other TiVo after an hour or so.

    Then suddenly, out of the blue, the S2 woke up -- lights came on again on the front panel. I think it responded to me pressing a button on the remote (to control my other TiVo), although that was set for the code used by the other TiVo and the S2 had not seemed to notice previous use of the remote. I switched the TV input and sure enough there was video again from the S2, sitting on a "lineup has changed" message screen.

    I had to re-program the remote code for the S2 -- it was now responding to the same code set for the other TiVo (as if it had cleared itself and learned the next code it saw after that). I poked around and things looked normal otherwise, and it was running 8.1. Another surprise, which I had noticed from galleon earlier, was that it had recorded a program several hours after it first failed on Tuesday, during the time when I'd left it on (and dark) overnight. I checked the recording and it's normal, with good video. So it was largely working when it was unresponsive.

    I continued to be concerned about the fan never seeming to be turned on, and it was running hotter than usual (up to 52 from 43, though still called "normal"), so I monitored the temp a while and put it in standby overnight. I'd not used standby in a while -- it goes dark just like when my troubles began, except of course that it wakes up and it makes sound effects if you hit the wrong key. It's like mine was stuck in standby. In the morning, the fan was finally running, so it is working after all.

    So, all would be well, except: it can't control my cable box via serial any more. I tried resetting the box and reprogramming the TiVo numerous times with no luck. I've switched to IR in the meantime. Could this be an 8.1 bug? I think maybe it is, and asked TiVo when I called them tonight. I got a bit less knowledgeable tech support person this time, but she had me try indicating General Instrument instead of Motorola, which was a good idea but didn't work (box is a DCT2224). I threw out the possibility that a cable box firmware change could be a culprit and she jumped on that, telling me to call Comcast. I reluctantly agreed -- it would have to be a bit of a coincidence if they changed the cable box since Tuesday. I called Comcast and got a nice rep (much shorter wait on the phone too), but she didn't know much about this sort of thing. She went off and talked to someone more knowledgeable and neither of them know of any way to change a setting related to a serial port. She at least confirmed that there have been no changes this week, however, which mostly rules them out in my book.

    Next I'm going to try to see if I can snoop the serial output from the TiVo -- need to rule out a hardware problem there. And perhaps I'll see if I can manage to get a reaction from the DCT by sending things to the port from the computer. If I see both of those things work, then it's got to be an 8.1 bug, right? Maybe there's a DCT protocol change that worked in 7.3 but not in 8.1.
     
  12. wscannell

    wscannell Member

    2,352
    0
    Dec 6, 2003
    Your TiVo was just in Standby. If power cycles when the TiVo is in standby, it boots up to standby. You just need to press the TiVo button on your remote to wake it up.

    Not sure why you cannot communicate via serial to the cable box.
     
  13. WhoAmI

    WhoAmI New Member

    25
    0
    Nov 11, 2006
    MA
    It power cycled the very first time while I was watching a recording on it (I had not put it in standby in a long time). I agree it seems like it was stuck in standby, but it would not respond to the remote at all during those first couple days.
     
  14. WhoAmI

    WhoAmI New Member

    25
    0
    Nov 11, 2006
    MA
    This makes no sense. After the IR blaster tuned to the wrong channel for the second time in three tries for recordings, I started to work on the serial port question again. I hooked the TiVo to a computer and verified it was spewing something out of the cable, so I knew that hardware is not completely dead. Then I connected it to the cable box to run through those tests again, to re-confirm that status. I pulled the plug on the cable box for a couple minutes and repowered it with the serial cable detached. Then I plugged it in and went through the TiVo setup. It still didn't work with Motorola. I tried General Instrument again, and it worked. I tried all these steps before, the latter while on the phone with TiVo, with no luck.

    I don't understand. This inconsistent behavior is annoying and troublesome. But, at least it seems to be fully functional again, finally.
     
  15. WhoAmI

    WhoAmI New Member

    25
    0
    Nov 11, 2006
    MA
    Two weeks later, and everything is still working fine.

    Some of the really long delays between pressing a button and having something happen seem to be gone, but it's still often noticeably less responsive than my S1. But no worse than it ever was.

    It is still controlling the cable box successfully, though I have noticed that it sometimes takes it several seconds to change channels for a recording now -- it could either be that it starts the recording a little earlier or it's being slower at changing, but now I have seen as much as 5+ seconds of a previous channel at the beginning of recordings. It isn't a problem (though it's nicer not to have that), it's just notable that it changed after I got 8.1 and also switched to the GI driver.
     

Share This Page

spam firewall

Advertisements