Friday, July 6, 2007

Box #2 Update log (until 7/10/07)

Update Log from 6/17/2007 to 7/10/2007 (in chronological order)

  • [6/15]: As promised, I added tons of screenshots from the Diagnostics menus
  • [6/16]: Restructured blog content, added Crash #22a, #22b, #23, and Problem #5 in the Trouble Repor(t)
  • [6/18]: No crashes since the last update, performance has also improved with more spirited transitions from one program to the other, and more lively fast forwarding. Firmware is at 9.18, software version is 74.62-3337
  • [6/19]: The box froze on its own overnight. See Crash #24 in the Trouble Report for more details.
  • [6/20]: No crashes/freezes... I found another useful piece of information in the Diagnostic Menus. Check the link for details on them. If you select option #8, you can find out which one of the digital channels are encrypted. Why is this important? If you have a digital TV or another device with a QAM tuner, you can tune to those channels without the box. So you would watch one channel from the cable box, and another using the TV's/device's QAM tuner... The bad news is that you can only check two channels at a time by tuning them to tuner #1 and #2, and then going to the Diagnostic Menu. However it would be very time consuming to check every channel, since you can only do two at a time.
  • [6/21]: Box rebooted (not crashed) on its own while I was playing back a previously recorded program. The reboot happened about halfway into the program. This was added as Self-Reboot #1... Also added Problem #6 : Sometimes after a reboot, a scheduled program disappears from the list of scheduled programs (and I checked, the program was not escheduled or changed names). Both are listed in the Trouble Repor(t)
  • [6/22]: No new crashes or reboots, although I still think there is about 4-6% of unreclaimed deleted space, which may be cured by subsequent reboots.
  • [6/23]: No new crashes which is a good thing!
  • [6/24]: No new crashes even though I did a 10-hour marathon of VH1's History of Rock and Roll documentary... I also saw in the AV forums that I'm not the only one getting frequent crashes which means the problem is not localized or regionalized (are those actual words even?).
  • [6/25a]: No new crashes. This is starting to look promising! (knock on wood!). The transitions between programs seem to be faster as well.
  • [6/25b]: I spoke too soon. Another transition crash. Posted as Crash #25 in the Trouble Repor(t)
  • [6/26a]: The box rebooted on its own, however this was initiated from the cable company as the direct split off the wall also lost picture. I do not think the DVR is to blame for this one. Added it as Self-Reboot #2 in the Trouble Repor(t)
  • [6/26b]: Another transition crash following the self-reboot. Details at Crash #26 in the Trouble Repor(t). Just when I thought this box was starting to stabilize, it goes crazy again. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!
  • [6/26c]: Another crash, Crash #27. This time after I pressed STOP during playback of a previously recorded program. Someone please fix the file system of this DVR so it won't crash during transitions. Is it that hard?
  • [6/27]: No problems since the diva fits of yesterday (one self-reboot and two crashes).
  • [6/28a]: Another freeze during a program transition. Added as Crash #28 in the Trouble Repor(t).
  • [6/28b]: Added a link to the Wiki pages of the Motorola DVRs on how to program a 30 second advance button and macros taking advantage of it. This works on Comcast cable systems using the same remote as the Motos. I do not know of all the possible configurations and compatible remote controls.
  • [6/28c]: This POS has crashed again. If it wasn't for the $1 per month price, this would be a total POS! I am really frustrated with this "device". Added as Crash #29 in the Trouble Repor(t).
  • [6/28d]: 20 minutes after the previous crash, another one! Added as Crash #30 in the Trouble Repor(t). GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • [6/28e]: Yes, one more crash the same day. This box appears to have a file system issue when handling the transition between programs and/or the live tuner. Added as Crash #31 in the Trouble Repor(t).
  • [6/29] If anyone at Comcast or Pace is reading this, fix it ASAP please!
  • [6/29] I highly recommend this DVR if you plan not to use it!. On a more practical level, if you want to avoid the frequent crashes, avoid exiting playback until your in-progress recordings finish. As long as you continue to play or pause a program, the chances of a crash are much lower. But if you stop, exit or delete a previously recorded program you are currently watching, you probably have a 5-10% chance of a freeze/crash. Because this is at the promo price of either $0/mo or $1/mo (I guess we now know the reason why it was priced as such) this is a reasonable compromise (at least to me). But if you are paying full price, and frequently use this device, you may want to trade things off :)
  • [6/29a]: One more crash, Crash #32 in the Trouble Repor(t). This time I did not even touch a button. It just froze at the end of playback. Lovely!
  • [6/29b]: It looks like one crash attracts another. This time I attempted to exit playback by pressing the EXIT button. Yet another bird-brain-freeze! Crash #33.
  • [6/30]: One more crash, crash #34.
  • [7/1]: No crash which is good news for a change!
  • [7/2]: No crash which is also good news!
  • [7/3]: No crash which is also good news! It looks like the crashes must be setting off some sort of a chain reaction of cascading crashes. I have been ending playback very gingerly and carefully as well, so that may have helped (I guess!)
  • [7/4a]: No crash which is also good news! I haven't been using it as much which may be helping :)
  • [7/4b]: Spoke too soon! Stopping playback of the first program I tried today caused another freeze/crash. Added as Crash #35 in the Trouble Repor(t). One thing to note is that the recorded program I was watching was from the same channel the live tunner was at. Coincidence or ?
  • [7/5a]: One more crash, added as Crash #36 in the Trouble Repor(t).
  • [7/5b]: The Pace is completely innocent with regards to Crash #37. The power went out and came back. A side-effect of the heatwave perhaps. But the Pace is completely innocent in this case. I wish I could say the name for the previous 36 :-)
  • [7/6a]: Another power outage in the middle of the night (thank you heatwave). Once again the Pace is innocent. Added as Crash #38.
  • [7/6b]: One more playback transition crash, crash #39. The only way to avoid crashes is to never playback a program you recorded. Which is an ideal usage pattern for a DVR ;-) This makes the Motorolas look like giants of reliability!
  • [7/8a]: A couple of hesitations but no freezes/crashes since the ones mentioned above. This despite marathon recordings of Live Earth concerts from two different channels. I broke off the recordings every 3-4 hours, I did not want to have giant 12 hour recordings - I wouldn't want to push my luck :) I did not attempt to use this to record the audio from Universal-HD, not sure what good that would do since there is no picture (this has SD tuners)
  • [7/8b]: Well, spoke too soon I guess. One standard playback transition crash (crash #40) happened. After the reboot, the DVR kept giving me a CIU (error deleting file) error every time I changed the channel, but functioned for a few minutes. Then it refuses to switch to the background tuner, and would not play any program from the hard disk. The only way to recover was the usual thing, unplug and replug... In the next few days I'll try to exchange this for another unit (if they have any left). Comcast CSRs insist that not all of the boxes are having this problem. Well I only tried two of them, and it happens on both. Maybe the third will the lucky one? Stay tuned!
  • [7/9a]: The box seems to behave reasonably okay at around 90% full. But the day is certainly not over yet! Not that I would want to jinx it.
  • [7/9b]: Once again I spoke too early. Two crashes (#41 and #42) and one self-reboot (#3) which you can find in the Trouble Repor(t).
  • [7/10a]: The only way to avoid the negative side-effects of crashes (incomplete recordings that were happening during the freeze/reboot) is to use it like a VCR: either watch something or recording something, but don't do both at once, otherwise the box may freeze and you probably won't have complete recordings because of the lost time between the freeze and a clean reboot. This may be okay for those who rarely or occasionally use this box, but I'm guessing you did not get a dual tuner DVR with a 120gb hard disk to use it like a VCR.
  • [7/10b]: I hope that no one bought this thing, but rathering renting it. Assuming they all behave like the two I had. One more crash with code ACC. How can you built a DVR and not pay close attention to the transitions from one program to another? It's almost impossible for me not to call it a POS. Newest crash added as Crash #43.
  • [7/11]: I don't like posting a "no crashes since" update because I am worried that it may jinx it and cause it to crash again. There was one close call where it hesitated exiting the program but managed to recover. Sometimes deleting some programs does not reclaim their space right away. Points to file system related issue perhaps.


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    Update Log until 6/16/07 (reverse chronological order)
  • [6/16]: The Update log will from now on be posted at the Ground Control page
  • [6/16]: Added Crashes #22a, #22b, and #23, and Problem #5. All these point yet again to file system related issues... Also I restructured this post to (hopefully) make it more readable.
  • [6/15]: As promised, I added tons of screenshots from the Diagnostics menus
  • [6/15]: No crashes yesterday either, despite the heat wave :) A couple of cases the playback transition from one pre-recorded program to another was blazing fast. A couple of times there was noticable remote buffering, slower than the Moto, but not as erratic, which makes it more predictable and thus less frustrating.
  • [6/14]: Yeah! No crashes yesterday, despite the increase in temperature! Comcast continues to offer these for either $1 per month or $0 per month for 12 months. It's hard to argue with that price :-) Coming soon: screen shots of some of the diagnostic menus of interest. The one I like most is the detailed info page on each recorded program. Stay tuned!
  • [6/13]: I spoke too soon. Two crashes happened yesterday but there was a link! Perhaps a clue? See Crash #21 below for all the details!
  • [6/12]: No crashes yesterday after following the theory of not attempting to end a program when the tuners were about to transition. Will this work today as well? Stay tuned!
  • [6/11]: Appended two bullet points to the "Usage and Performance" section
  • [6/11]: There was only one crash yesterday, and now I have a new theory I will be testing: The crash happened at about the same time as the tuner(s) was/were transitioning as well. So perhaps the issue is affected/caused not only by an end of playback/transition situation, but also with what happens to the tuners. I'll keep a watchful eye out on it... In a couple of other occasions the recorder staggered a bit during the transition, but did not freeze or crash, also good news :-). This is Crash #20 below
  • [6/10]: Added three more bullets at the end of the Usage and Performance section
  • [6/10]: Now we are on a one-a-day crash schedule. Crashes have the same pattern, the inability of the device to handle the transition from one program to another. Sometimes the error code "ACC" comes up in popup error message, sometimes it just freezes after a few seconds of no picture but ability to use the menus (but unable to do any play-related operations). The occurance of this remains unpredictable which makes it even harder to explain to the Comcast representatives who think rebooting and sending a service tech are the cures for all problems. Explaining the bug to them is futile as they stop listening after the first 10 words. Grrrr!
  • [6/6]: I am developing a new theory on the end of program crashes. Instead of starting a new program immediately after exiting/deleting/ending a program, I am waiting for about a minute first. Perhaps the issue/bug causing the freezes is a timing one. If yes, then the # of crashes will go down significantly... Will update on this later on.
  • [6/3]: More crashing, blog restructuring postponed as I may get a different box! Grrrr! Crashes added to the Crash Log.
  • [6/1]: Over the weekend I will be restructuring this to (hopefully) make it more readable. If you have any suggestions, or things you want to see, please let me know! Thanks!... Crash #17 happened while the DVR was on its own. Not sure what it was doing at the time of the crash.
  • [5/31]: No crashes today either! The transitions from one program to another seem to be smooth!
  • [5/30]: No crashes today! This is good news!... On a blog note, I will try to find a way to make this more readable. I may have to re-arrange some of the things in this post ro break it in pieces...
  • [5/29]: A crash happened today see crash #16 below. Also the [percentage full] space under MyDVR was not correct before the crash. It did not decreased used space after I deleted a couple of programs, infact it went up 2% for one, and stayed put for another. I don't recall if this happened before, but I'll keep an eye out for it. The freed up disk space was reclaimed after the reboot!
  • A day without crashes! That was the calendar day of 5/28. That's always good news!
  • More freezing! Comcast please fix it!
  • The daily freezes continue, added crash #14 [5/27]. Needless to say this is annoying and had it not been for the $1/mo promotional price, this thing would have been returned to sender :-)
  • More crashes, upgraded the unattended crashes into Problem #4 [5/26]
  • Added crash #9a, 9b, and #10 [5/25/07]
  • I'm starting to think that Problem #1 may also have to do with switching from digital (100+) to "analog" (2-99 ADS), not just reaching the end of a program. I have remained on "analog" channels for a few hours without jumping to anything digital (100+) and no crashes yet. Only time will tell [5/24/07]. Update 5/25: It crashed again even though I did not touch any 100+ channels. See crashes #9 and 10. So much for this theory. Scratch it!
  • Added section at the bottom on how to find your software version (which also shows you your hardware version, so you don't have to go to the Diagnostics menu just to get the firmware version)
  • Added Crash #6 and #7 and #8, new Problem #3, but more importantly may have gotten more info on the reproducable problem #1, added as Problem #1b as it seems to be related. Read that section for more details...
  • Added Crash #5
  • The freezing/crashing is starting to get annoying!
  • More freezes/crashes, but they are the same problem, Problem #1
  • Some good news and bad news. The fast-forwarding issue with Box #1 (Problem #3) is not happening with this box. The bad news is that it crashes more frequently than Box #1 so far.
  • This is a brand new box I got on 5/18/07 to replace "Box #1" that was crashing daily. (For those keeping track, Day #1 is 5/18, Day #2 is 5/19, Day #3 is 5/20, etc).
  • Firmware version: 9.18. Software version: 74.62-3337


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