WiFi Bridge with Tivo Mini + Bolt--Solved

Discussion in 'TiVo Mini' started by el_barto, Feb 5, 2017.

  1. Feb 5, 2017 #1 of 10

    el_barto New Member

    Feb 5, 2017
    This is a story all about how my life got... consumed with getting a Tivo Mini working with a Wifi Bridge.

    So about 3 weeks ago I bought a Tivo Bolt 500GB and a Tivo mini. I easily upgraded the Bolt to 2TB and got the cablecard working by calling the cable company and getting that set up along with a tuning adapter which was required for TimeWarner cable. Setting up the Bolt went pretty smoothly.

    But the Mini was another matter.

    I was easily able to set it up using an Ethernet switch connected by cable to my router, but the Mini is in another room and I didn't want to use a long cable between the two rooms and figured I could use a wifi client bridge between the two.

    That was easier said than done!

    To start, my main router is a WRT1900ACS

    I had used a wifi bridge before to connect two PCs and share files between them pretty easily, it was just a matter of setting up a wifi router as a client bridge using ddwrt (see Client Bridge - DD-WRT Wiki)

    I acquired a Linksys EA6900. and was able to set it up as a client bridge using ddwrt. Getting ddwrt on that router was another story, not easy.

    But for some reason this setup would not work with the Mini. The Mini could acquire an IP address and connect to the tivo service, but it could not see the Bolt despite the fact that I had set up the bolt on the tivo site for sharing and the bolt was connected to the internet and that the Bolt<->Mini setup worked when I used a LAN switch.

    I investigated IGMP snooping, tried various firewall settings, but with the EA6900 in Client Bridge mode the Mini wasn't able to "see" the Bolt on the network.

    And what was frustrating is that it would work for a minute, and then the Mini would lose the connection. If I rebooted everything and reconnected, the Mini would work for a minute and then stop working.

    So I went to plan b, which was to use a wifi extender that acted as a media bridge, so I got the TP-link RE580D.
    That device is basically also a client bridge, but it comes with its own firmware that has pretty basic settings which pretty much allows you to only connect to your Wifi AP and set up a bridge or a repeater and not much else. You can't install ddwrt on it, and it uses an outdated version of linux, I think when the latest version is and that one is no longer supported.

    So in terms of features and security, I didn't like the RE580D, but was willing to try it if it worked. But it didn't!

    Versus the 6900 it worked a lot better, I could watch TV shows on the mini using the RE580D, but as with the client bridge it would lose connection to the bolt, which was strange because I could watch 1-hour of TV or even live TV, but then when I went back to the main menu on the Mini it said can't connect to bolt box. And this would happen every time I watched something.

    I would have to reconnect the mini and acquire an IP address and it would work again, but I really wanted something more stable, since I've heard of people successfully using wifi with their Minis.

    So I really drilled-down to the packet level to investigate what was going on. I used Wireshark and Ettercap to view the packets going to the mini and basically I found that the RE580D was hiding the Mini's MAC address, and on the router it would show as a different MAC address.

    Why is this important? From what I saw, the Mini communicates with Tivo's servers via https (so you can't see what's being exchanged) and my guess is that communication is what authorizes the mini to connect to the Bolt and stream the video. So during that communication I'm guessing the Mini passes it's MAC address to Tivo, which then allows the Bolt and the Mini to talk to each other based off of their MAC addresses.

    This is why the Bolt and Mini have no problems connecting on a switch (since they can see each other's MAC addresses) and why a client bridge works with two PCs, but not with a Mini and a Bolt. Basically when you're using SMB on PCs all you need is the other PCs IP address, and you don't need to know the MAC address.

    But for the Mini<->Bolt connection, the fact that they must see each other's MAC addresses is crucial to streaming.

    In a client Bridge the MAC addresses of the clients on the wired side of the AP are hidden and don't get passed to the router via the wireless connection. So if the Mini and the Bolt need to see the MAC address, a client bridge isn't going to work.

    This insight led to my revelation and how I finally got the Mini working with Wifi: What kind of Wireless connection between 2 APs allows for the MAC address of the wired devices on each side of the connection to be transmitted? The answer is WDS, or Wireless Distribution Service! (see WDS Linked router network - DD-WRT Wiki) not to be confused with WPS.

    A WDS network is basically a way to connect 2 wifi AP's as if they were on a wired network, but wirelessly. The thing about WDS is that there is no standard, and different manufacturers implement it differently, so 2 APs from different vendors may or may not work in a WDS network. So the best bet is to have 2 APs with the same WiFi chipset and specs, and using the same firmware, in my case ddwrt.

    Since I had a WRT1900ACvS, I could either get another one, or upgrade to a WRT3200ACM (which came out a few months ago) and basically has the same specs, and Chipset (very important) as the WRT1900, which is what I did.

    So, following this guide (WDS Linked router network - DD-WRT Wiki) I set up the WRT3200 as my main router and as the WDS AP, and then my WRT1900 as the WDS Station connected to the Tivo Mini.

    And guess what, it worked. Now on the main router I see both the Bolt and Mini's actual MAC addresses, and I haven't had any serious disconnection issues on the Mini as I had with the RE580D. One thing I notice is that the sound goes out intermittently, but if I rewind, it comes back.

    One thing to note about connecting 2 AP's, especially in the AC 5Ghz range, is to not use DFS channels. What is DFS, basically from channel 52-144, the Wifi AP will dynamically choose a channel as to not to interfere with weather radar, and for 2 AP's using those channels the connection will be intermittent, so if you're using 5Ghz AC you should most likely use either channels 36 or 149 only, depending on how saturated your airwaves are. If you use Wireless-N and 2.4Ghz, you shouldn't have this problem, but your bandwidth might not be enough for the Mini, YMMV.


    I used WDS to successfully connect two AC 5Ghz wifi APs, one connected to the Bolt, and the other one connected to the Mini.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2017
    alexb and krkaufman like this.
  2. Feb 5, 2017 #2 of 10

    krkaufman TDL shepherd

    Nov 25, 2003
    Congrats; and thanks for sharing. Success stories are always good to have documented.

    As an aside, a coax outlet wasn't available near the Mini for a wired MoCA connection?

  3. Feb 6, 2017 #3 of 10

    el_barto New Member

    Feb 5, 2017

    I didn't have a cable in my room and I rent so I can't drill holes and do cabling stuff, so I was really looking for a wireless solution.
  4. Feb 6, 2017 #4 of 10

    krkaufman TDL shepherd

    Nov 25, 2003
    Roger! (and thanks)
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2017
  5. Feb 6, 2017 #5 of 10

    JoeKustra in the other Alabama TCF Club

    Dec 7, 2012
    Ashland, PA...
    It's nice when things work. I have four Mini boxes, all with wireless bridges. One Linksys EA-N66R, two Linksys WUMC710, and one TiVo wireless N adapter.
  6. dbpaddler

    dbpaddler Active Member

    Sep 25, 2004
    I have two of the Asus T-Mobile routers. One as a main and one as a media bridge in the theater room. Works like a charm with the ota and streaming from from. My roamio pro. Thinking of adding a Mini to the mix so I can watch live cable in there from the roamio pro. Can't imagine having an issue. Saves me running more ethernet witch I can do, but why if I don't have to. Just not sure about using the ota and mini together.
  7. alexb

    alexb Active Member

    Jan 4, 2003
    Kirkland, WA
    @el_barto, glad you got it working - what is your environment (house, apartment, dense city vs country, near airport or not, lots >10 other neighbouring WIFI points?) i found environmental factors have been key historically so wondered what yours were....
  8. raghu1111

    raghu1111 Member

    Nov 16, 2005
    Thanks for the thread. I naively verified that my client-bridge had good b/w (> 100Mbps) and immediately went and bought a Vox Mini. Unfortunately it didn't work. I struggled to figure out and until finally read this post.

    As you said the routers need to be connected through 'WDS' (not repeater or client-mode or client-bridge mode) for Mini to work. It is not necessarily the MAC address issue. Tivos discover each other using popular protocol 'MDNS', which uses local network broadcast (a.k.a ZeroConf). This is how other devices like iPhone/Apple TV discover each other. In my client-bridge these broadcasts were not making through. WDS is the only mode to connect routers that propagates these messages. Newer Wireless-mesh networks like Eero should work seem lessly, though I haven't tried.

    I had a TP-Link AC1750, and got another one of those. was able to set up WDS following their instructions. Seems to be much simpler to set up then with DD-WRT routers. The main trick that was not mentioned in their instructions was to select a fixed channel for wireless the both routers (default is 'auto').
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2017
  9. [NG]Owner

    [NG]Owner Member

    Dec 19, 2006
    Kansas City
    I guess I just got flat out lucky. I set up my very first Tivo Mini last night.

    TPLink 841ND (300Mbps Wireless N Router) set up as a Wireless Bridge to a TPLink Archer C7 (Simultaneous 2.4GHz 450Mbps and 5GHz 1300Mbps connections for 1.75Gbps of total available bandwidth). Both running Gargoyle firmware.

    Didn't have to struggle with anything. It worked out of the box. It was totally plug and play.

    It took me longer to get the Mini and the Bolt to have the same interfaces (old vs. Hydra) than it took for me to set up the network!

    Last edited: Nov 30, 2017
  10. dbpaddler

    dbpaddler Active Member

    Sep 25, 2004
    Nothing lucky about a dedicated wireless bridge. I have one setup with two Tmo Asus routers. Spot on. Zero issues.

    Sent from my SM-N950U using Tapatalk

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