Spectrum + Roamio - SDV / Tuning Adapter problems, any magic?

Discussion in 'TiVo Help Center' started by bradenmcg, May 13, 2020.

  1. bradenmcg

    bradenmcg Big Geek

    43
    1
    Dec 28, 2007
    Mayfield...
    I've been using a Roamio with Spectrum for years now. My area used to be Time Warner (TWC) before the buy-out.

    I've had the same tuning adapter (TA from here out) for ages. It's a Cisco STA1520. Had to power-cycle it every once in a while, maybe once a month or so, but it was generally pretty reliable.

    As of January or February of 2020, it has been a total crapshow.
    Behavior: SDV channels (of which there are a significant amount, especially HD premiums, on Spectrum) simply won't tune. When I check the TA diagnostics, it was a mixture of "DAVIC: not connected" in the RF Stats, or no Server IP ("Pri Ip-Port" was all zeros) under the "SWITCHED DIGITAL VIDEO" section, or occasionally no "RF Ip Addr" in that same section. Occasionally, the green light on the TA would flash a few times (seemed like 4 was the most common?) and the Tivo would stop all recordings and behave like the TA had rebooted, but it hadn't actually been restarted (and SDV channels didn't come back after this blinking, but any recording was now trashed).

    Reboot the TA and everything worked fine again, for some indeterminate period of time ranging from a day or two, to even a week or two if I was lucky.

    So I took that TA back to Spectrum and got another one. Swapped it in, and the same behavior, except actually more frequent (once every few days). Changed out the power brick as well, did not help. Got a third TA, swapped it in, same behavior, and even more frequent (like daily now).

    I'm getting tired of this dance. Swapping TAs is a pain in the ass with the long hold times due to covid19 (and apparently the @ask_spectrum Twitter team, who are usually much quicker and more helpful, can't handle TA swaps). Do I simply need to keep replacing TAs until I get another "good one?" Any idea why/how my first TA worked fine for years and then suddenly began to suck, could it be something in Spectrum's core/headend and not the TA at all? I have the TA sitting on top of my Roamio in a "TV stand," but it is open both front and rear (glass shelves) and there are a good 6-10 inches above the TA so it's not like it is baking in a tiny space. So I don't think it's a heat issue?

    Is it possible this is a TiVo issue somehow? I've replaced the USB cable between the TA and Tivo a few different times just to be safe, no changes or improvement from that. When the TA starts misbehaving, only a power-cycle / reboot of the TA helps; unplugging and replugging the USB does not.
     
  2. CoxInPHX

    CoxInPHX COX Communications

    2,474
    66
    Jan 14, 2011
    Phoenix, AZ
  3. bradenmcg

    bradenmcg Big Geek

    43
    1
    Dec 28, 2007
    Mayfield...
  4. dlfl

    dlfl Cranky old novice

    8,887
    702
    Jul 6, 2006
    Dayton OH
    More and more Spectrum/TA horror stories appearing on this forum over the last year or two. Just do a search on threads with “spectrum” or “tuning adapter” in the title. I’m in a Spectrum, formerly TWC, service area near Dayton and happily ended my cable TV misery last November. I have YouTube TV and re-configured my Roamio (base model) to OTA and use it as a backup (lifetime sub so no monthly expense). I’m quite happy with this setup and also save money and avoid the frustration of dealing with sleazy Spectrum cable TV reps when they increased my rates every few months. YTTV has my locals except for the sub-channels, and has an unlimited DVR. I find myself using the TiVo less and less, mostly for ME TV, which YTTV doesn’t have.
     
  5. bradenmcg

    bradenmcg Big Geek

    43
    1
    Dec 28, 2007
    Mayfield...
    So, I don't want to jinx it by posting about it here, but...

    two words: power supply.
    The bricks that Spectrum provides are apparently hot garbage?

    I had a nice 12V brick that actually exceeds the rated amperage, it was originally from Soekris Engineering and was powering one of their small single-board computers (I was using it to run pfSense as a router at home). It uses a detachable 3-prong IEC C13 cord on the inlet side (like a computer/monitor power cord).

    With nothing else to lose at this point, and not wanting to go back to Spectrum and replace the box (and brick) yet again, I swapped in this other power supply.

    Haven't had a problem for at least two days now, when it was previously a nightly occurrence... again, knocking on wood here. Not going to say it's truly solved yet, but I'm keeping an eye on it and will report back here when/if it acts up again.

    Worth mentioning: all of my A/V gear, including the Tuning Adapter and TiVo, is plugged into an APC "Line-Interactive" UPS (IT server-grade unit, a Smart-UPS X 1500). So either any voltage fluctuations that might be bothering the TA's brick are too subtle to trigger the UPS's interaction (??), or the Spectrum/Cisco brick is just pure garbage and isn't good enough on 12VDC, regardless of the input side.
     
  6. bradenmcg

    bradenmcg Big Geek

    43
    1
    Dec 28, 2007
    Mayfield...
    Bah, spoke too soon. It started misbehaving again tonight, although the behavior was a bit different...
    SDV stations would sit at a black screen and then eventually give a "channel not provided by Tuning Adapter" error from the TiVo.
    Then the TA started doing this thing where it blinks 4 times, and during that time the video goes black, even on a non-SDV channel. If I check TA diagnostics, the TA is showing a "LastUSBResetTime" that coincides with the 4 blinks on the "Serial Link Protocol" screen in diagnostics.

    This would make me think it's either the TiVo or the TA's USB at fault somehow. I'd be inclined to blame the TiVo since I've seen this problem with multiple TAs, but in past cases, rebooting the TA fixes the problem.

    So I rebooted it, and the random 4-blinks thing is gone, but now SDV still isn't working and I'm in the "Ready - B'cast Only" status for the TA, the TA is showing zeros for the "RF Ip Addr," and the Status for the SDV Server (these last two under the SWITCHED DIGITAL VIDEO heading in TA Diagnostics) is "Unavailable," even though I do show a "Pri Ip-Port" for the SDV Server itself (107.9.90.170-23000)

    Makes me wonder if all of this is actually just back-end problems at Spectrum...
     
  7. nrrhgreg

    nrrhgreg Member

    113
    1
    Aug 30, 2003
    My Bolt on Spectrum has been doing the exact same thing over the past few weeks. I'm having to restart my TA multiple times a day sometimes. I have the Cisco STA1520 too. Haven't tried to switch it out yet but am planning to soon.

    What part of the country are you in? I'm in the DFW area but on the side that has always been Charter/Spectrum.

    Definitely think something is going on with Spectrum's backend right now.
     
  8. bradenmcg

    bradenmcg Big Geek

    43
    1
    Dec 28, 2007
    Mayfield...
    My location is in my info on the forum, although it's getting cut off. I'm near Cleveland, OH. We were Time Warner for a while, and Adelphia before that.
    I figured that this sort of back-end stuff would be a per-headend deal (i.e. regional / sub-city level) rather than something national though. My city definitely has much older outside cable plant though. I've been tempted to switch to WOW, who just rolled out to

    Mine had actually returned to normal again earlier today, but is now misbehaving once again this evening (doing the 4-blinks and behaving like it was disconnected from the TiVo for just long enough to stop all active recordings). Just rebooted it and seems to be back to normal function again though... but I'd love to know WTF this weird brief blinking and "disconnecting" is all about. Super annoying because of the impact to ongoing recordings, even if they're not on SDV channels.

    When it was working earlier, the "SDV" section in the TA Diagnostics was showing "Connected", and most of the SDV channels were tuning in fine (although I've had a couple that didn't work, but I didn't try multiple times).

    I'm starting to wonder if it's somehow related to interference on the "FDC" frequency that the TA uses. Ours is at 75MHz here, and on that particular frequency I'm showing a signal level of -3 to -4 dBmV (per the TA diagnostics). These levels would be a little low, but normally within spec, at least compared to a cable modem (where "in spec" is usually -10 to +10, sometimes even -15 to +15). However, the SNR is often incredibly low when I look at the screen - at times as low as 30 dB. I know that the cable modem techs don't like to see SNRs below 32, and the SNR on the "FDC" seems to be lucky to hit 33 for me.

    I could remove one single splitter, which should increase the power level across the board and might improve SNR slightly... but it seems to me like 75MHz might just be underpowered or something. The signal tilt is pretty ridiculous across the cable modem frequencies here - my modem levels are as low as ~3dBmV and as high as 11dBmV across the range of channels I'm locking. That's a significant tilt, IMO.
     
  9. bradenmcg

    bradenmcg Big Geek

    43
    1
    Dec 28, 2007
    Mayfield...
    So returning to this after further research and having Spectrum out as well...

    Apparently the FDC and RDC are "special" in that they are very low data rate and will function with much lower SNR than (e.g.) cable modem or digital video QAM channels. 30 dB is still considered really good for FDC SNR. It can apparently work well as low as 20, sometimes lower (this was per a post from someone I believe [based on his past post history and implication that he may work for a cableco] to be knowledgeable over at DSLReports).

    However, I got a Spectrum tech out to look at things, because last Thursday or Friday SDV channels were broken again. Mysteriously they started working Saturday or Sunday and have been fine since, but I kept the appointment anyway because why not (it was free).

    The tech tested signal at my Tuning Adapter and said it was close but not quite within spec (per his test equipment, it was marginal). This is with only 2 total splits after the ground block, a 2-way for modem & TV, and then a second 2-way at the TV to share between Tivo and TA.

    He went outside and tested from the tap, and while looking at things he noticed (squirrel?) damage to the aerial. :eek: So he replaced the aerial drop, then came in and swapped the 2-way by the modem over to an "unbalanced 2-way" (I guess it's called a directional coupler, it's a Commscope SVDC6G ). Since my modem was relatively "hot" anyway (5-9dB on the downstreams), it could tolerate the additional loss, and he said it would give less loss to the TV area (Tivo & TA)... although it seems to me like the difference between ~3.5-4dB (SV2G splitter he removed) and ~2.3-2.8dB (SVDC6G he installed) should not have been enough to matter much, and the chewed aerial probably was a larger factor...

    Water ingress makes a lot of sense as a possible cause to me, especially since problems cleared up once we got more heat / less rain... but I don't know if it makes sense from a physics / practical standpoint. Time will tell how this all holds up, I guess.
     
  10. bradenmcg

    bradenmcg Big Geek

    43
    1
    Dec 28, 2007
    Mayfield...
    Continuing to talk (mostly) to myself here...
    STA1520 still a POS. Kept getting the "4-6 blinks" and apparent loss of USB connection to the Tivo (causing the Tivo to lose the TA's channel map and having to fallback to the cable card's map, which causes a brief video / signal outage as it happens).

    Got sick of the headache and just unplugged the Cisco box for a few hours. Before hooking it back up, I rigged a 120mm computer fan to blow into the Cisco from the left side (where the RF/tuner section is). My thought process here is that it's somehow heat-related.

    Blowing from the side, it helped, but eventually started misbehaving again. So I unplugged it and let it cool down once more, and then this time put the fan right on top, blowing straight down into the center section (which is where the main CPU of the TA sits).

    It's been stable for ~2 days now... (knock on wood)

    So now I'm wondering if sticking a small heatsink on top of the CPU of the TA would be a worthwhile exercise?
    The CPU on this board appears to be BGA, although I did not pull the entire board out of the case of the Cisco to be 100% sure. Wonder if it's something similar to the old Xbox360 problems where repeated heat cycling caused problems with the solder joints...
     
  11. cwoody222

    cwoody222 Well-Known Member

    11,846
    409
    Nov 13, 1999
    Buffalo, NY
    It’s a problem at the headend and/or your account is misconfigured at their end.

    It’s not hardware, faulty boxes, bad signals of others.

    It’s Spectrum. They don’t know how to support their own equipment. Your best bet, keep calling and hope you get a smart tech who can find what’s wrong with your account setup.

    My father had similar problems. And his SDV worked flawlessly until he got a new TiVo and switched his cable package. Then, over a year of similar issues.

    His ultimate solution? He switched to Fios.
     
  12. bradenmcg

    bradenmcg Big Geek

    43
    1
    Dec 28, 2007
    Mayfield...
    Respectfully, maybe this was the situation for your dad, but I don't think it is for the two situations I'm dealing with (both my own and my parents, which I'll get into in a few paragraphs).
    My SDV worked great for a year or more, with only the occasional reboot needed of the Cisco TA (maybe once every few weeks). This included a plan change from L-TWC over to one of Spectrum's plans - no problems.

    Then my Cisco box started pulling this "I'm going to randomly blink 4-6 times and kinda-sorta disconnect from your Tivo" stunt. I put up with it for a week or two and then finally swapped it... and each of the 2 or 3 boxes I've had since then (I've lost track) has been the same story. Works fine for some brief period (8-24 hours at max), then starts pulling the same blinking thing... assuming of course it's even getting the correct "lock" to the headend equipment (IP address and communications with the SDV server). I can certainly write off the upstream problems to the headend or outside plant, and apparently I did have outside issues with my drop from the tap to the ground block, but even after that was repaired, the Cisco TA kept pulling the blinking stunt every so often.

    Until I put a fan on it, and now it's been solid for nearly 3 days without issue.

    Well, of course it's Spectrum... the question is whether or not it's something 100% plant or headend, or if some of this is endpoint hardware related (i.e. do you really have to cycle through 8-10 of them before you get a "Good" one, or is this something that can be fixed by the consumer with a fan or heatsink or both...)

    I haven't even discussed it here because I'm trying to solve one problem at a time, but my parents have the same setup I do (Roamio w/CC and TA, with Minis for other TVs) on Spectrum. They live about 3 miles away from me, different neighborhood and node/amps, but possibly the same headend (no idea how I'd know this for sure). They have had even worse luck with TAs than me, they keep getting the stupid blinking and "fake disconnection" making it basically impossible to watch anything. But if they leave the TA disconnected or powered off, they're missing a big chunk of channels.

    I would love for a competent fiber provider to exist here, but I don't have that option. In my neighborhood I do have WOW available, but they've actually fully dumped linear video and explicitly want people to do internet + streaming. I've considered dumping TV and moving to streaming, but I'd have to sign up for several different services to cover all of what I want to see, and the assache of having to jump between them just to "change channels" is irritating as hell, and it won't really save me all that much money. The convenience of a functioning TV plan (with a TiVo) is worth it to me, if it would just work.

    I also have Uverse available, but that's much slower internet, and I'm far enough away from their pedestal that I couldn't even get 4 active tuners (and TiVo + UVerse is kind of a nasty hack too). I've had DirecTV in the past and am not a big fan. Their boxes are half-decent, but the cost is outrageous, and the outages from snow and rain are ridiculous.

    My parents literally have no choice other than Spectrum. Their house is butted up against a park, so they have trees all over the place, satellite isn't even a viable video service for them (plus my dad is a compulsive channel surfer and would go nuts over the massive delay in channel changes with satellite).

    Honestly, if Spectrum would at least make an effort to having decent video equipment, like whole-home DVR with multi-room viewing, I would probably get my parents off of Tivo just so they can have all their channels working again. But all of the boxes Spectrum hands out here are laughable capacity, you have to watch on the TV you recorded from, and there's no easy commercial skipping like we get on Tivo.
     
  13. cwoody222

    cwoody222 Well-Known Member

    11,846
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    Nov 13, 1999
    Buffalo, NY
    So you’ve gone thru up to 3 boxes and still think it’s hardware?

    I don’t buy the whole “they’re all so faulty, try a dozen until you get a good one” rationale.

    I think it’s just when you find a “good one” you’ve actually just got lucky with a proper pairing to their systems.
     
    samsauce29 and mdavej like this.
  14. Zephyr

    Zephyr Well-Known Member

    2,336
    172
    Sep 16, 2005
    Massachusetts
    We do this Spectrum dance every winter down in the Tampa area. We/they use the same TA box and, yes, we reboot once a month or so. But in all cases, it's the cable card and the folks who play with the bits and bytes in the backroom. Eventually, you get some engineer who gets it all straightened out in 30 seconds. Spectrum simply does not want to service Tivos and Moca is even more of a mystery with them and someone here led the way. I keep my diagram close to my heart each trip south. Good luck!
     
  15. bradenmcg

    bradenmcg Big Geek

    43
    1
    Dec 28, 2007
    Mayfield...
    Except there is nothing to "pair" when discussing TAs. With a TA, all they need to do is get the device provisioned with the right codes on your account. If you are doing a 1:1 replacement of a "bad" TA, this is easy for them to get right (they can "copy" from the old device, or possibly just do a "replace" routine so everything is done correctly). If that has been done, it will work, if not, it won't. The only thing that requires "pairing" is cable card to the Tivo. I've actually taken a working tuning adapter from my house and hooked it up at my parents' house - we both have the same video plan. As long as Spectrum isn't having some sort of conniption at the time, this works (but again, we are in the same "market" although not necessarily the same node / neighborhood).

    Any "intermittent" situation is either the TA itself being garbage (which I'm not yet 100% convinced is even a thing, but it may be), or something happening at the headend, or something signal-related.

    Obviously it's nearly impossible to know about the last two without having your own professional signal meter. So I'm trying to test the one portion that I can test.

    After about 4 days of working correctly, my "actively cooled" TA went back to almost the same failure mode, but not quite. This time instead of immediately going to the blinking light and loss of video, I was first getting Tivo errors of "this channel is not provided by the Tuning Adapter, please call your cable provider." Then it went to the blinking light and "signal loss."

    But after a reboot of the TA, still not functioning, so I'm going to write it off to headend at this point. (Signal levels all look decent, from what I can see.) So yeah, in this case, maybe it is Spectrum being clueless... but I don't think the TA is setup wrong. If it wasn't configured correctly, how would it work fine for 4 days?
     
  16. tim1724

    tim1724 Active Member TCF Club

    537
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    Jul 3, 2007
    Temple City, CA
    The last time I had trouble with my STA1520 it was very similar, with very bad numbers on the RF diagnostics screen on the TA and an inability to get an IP address. In my case it turned out to be due to a bad cable modem that was introducing a ton of noise on the wire. Spectrum replaced the cable modem and it immediately fixed the problem. The numbers all improved and my TA was once again able to establish a connection to the server.
     

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