57 FAQ - Tips For SA (Cisco) STBs. (also Pace) - Canadian TV, Computing and Home Theatre Forums

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Old 2004-11-19, 04:50 PM   #1
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Default 57 FAQ - Tips For SA (Cisco) STBs. (also Pace)

This FAQ was created by 57 and Updated 2013.08.09

Several useful tips for SA/Pace STBs (Set Top Boxes) are included in this FAQ: Much (but not all) of the information in this thread is applicable to STBs running SARA, not the new firmware.

- How to check signal strength and other diagnostics
- Rebooting (Warm & Cold) Recommended once a month, or if you have any issues.
- Viewing Formats
- Advanced Setup Wizard
- Various other items of interest.

- Broadband connection signal strength - Post 2
- Problems? Tips - Post 4
- Remote controls - manuals, codes, tips - Post 5
- Repairs - Post 9
- Standalone mode, Broadcast Mode, SDV Issues, ROD issues - Post 10.
- Using SA8300HD after cancelling service - Post 11.

Signal Strength/Diagnostics:

Courtesy of BobFillmore, For 9865 (NextBox 3.0) & 8642 (NB2.0) & 4642 with latest firmware using the remote:
1) Press and hold the Exit key for two seconds until the power LED flashes on the front panel of the PVR
2) In quick succession, press the down arrow button twice, then press the 2 button. This will get you into the diagnostics section where you can browse all kinds of information - see RTN link below:

Additional Diagnostics Information:

SARA Diagnostics Pages Explanations - http://www.dslreports.com/faq/sciatl...nostic_screens

RTN Diagnostics Pages Explanations - http://www.cisco.com/en/US/docs/vide...L-26413-01.pdf

Diagnostics for 8642/4642 with the new firmware - turn STB off, then press vol+ and info simultaneously for several seconds. Diagnostics are apparently quite different, however. QAM level is under Manufacture Diag. New firmware reboot - press Settings, scroll down to Troubleshooting (below system).


Here’s a step by step guide on how to access signal strength information on Scientific Atlanta STBs. I believe this works on all SA STBs. (Some US service providers use Passport instead of SARA - this may not work on those STBs) Much of this also applies to Pace STB (550, 551). See post 3.

1. Tune to any digital station.
2. Depending on the STB, you may need to use the composite, S-video or component video connection.
3. On the box itself (not using the remote), press and hold the "+" (or select) button for a few seconds, the "envelope" (mail) light will come on. (the + button is the "bulls-eye" in the middle of the 4 "arrow" keys - on newer models like the SA8300HD it's the "select" button).
4. Press the "info" key next.
5. This takes you to all kinds of information.
6. Press the right and left arrow buttons (next to the "+" button) to scroll through the pages.
7. The signal strength information is on page 5. You need to look at the QAM side. The "level" should be between -10 and +10, with zero being about optimum (for digital stations). If the level is below -10, you'll see the number change to "orange" for "warning". You may have to change splitters, cable, etc to rectify the situation. Call your service provider and they'll usually rectify with better splitters, cable, possibly an amp or a new "drop" into your house. (Interestingly, many of us have found that the SA8300HD gives "false" signal strength readings of -20. If all other readings are "normal" and you've got no other issues, do not worry about a -20 reading on the SA8300HD)
8. On the same page is the Signal/Noise ratio. The S/N ratio is good if it’s at about 35 dB or higher, although a good HD signal can be received with slightly lower numbers. If your S/N is around 30-32 (or less) though, that could be a source of problems.
9. You can change channels while in the diagnostic menu and see signal strengths, frequencies, etc for various channels, however, they shouldn’t vary by more than a few dBs. You will notice that you won’t be able to see all the information for analogue channels. It will take a few seconds for the information to refresh for the new channel, so be patient. Make sure you check the signal on the problem channel, as signals can vary.
10. When you’re done, press the exit key to exit.

FDC Explained below:


You can also access this information from your couch as follows (information provided by bolmsted) This method also works for the 940 STB which doesn't have any buttons.:

1. Make sure you are not on a VOD or music channel.
2. Hold the pause key on the remote for at least 10 seconds until the mail light flashes on the front (if applicable). Release the pause button
3. Press page up (sometimes simply labelled with a +) on the remote and then you can page up/down through the screen info.
4. Press "exit" to leave the diagnostics.

While you are in the screens, pressing the "B" button on the remote changes the transparency of the background, allowing you to see the channel and the diagnostics at the same time.



By unplugging - simply unplug the unit - make sure it's not recording (or going to record during the time required to reboot) and that it's turned off first since it'll be buffering the channel you're on.

For 9865 - Settings - Troubleshooting - Reboot. Same warnings as above minus the turning off since it needs to be on for a firmware reboot.

To reboot your STB (with SARA firmware) without unplugging it, press the two volume buttons and the info button simultaneously (all three buttons at the same time on the STB itself). Do not touch anything on the box or the remote until the time appears (takes a couple of minutes). Even then, it may take some time for the IPG to reload its information.

You can also reboot your box from your couch (bolmsted):

1. Make sure you are not on a VOD or music channel
2 Press the pause button when the remote with the remote in VOD mode.
until the mail light flashes (if applicable) (just like for the diagnostics screen)
3. But instead of paging up to get into the diagnostic screens (and then up/down for various screens) you initially press page down
4. You will get a code on the front of the set top box. Press stop 3 times on the remote and voila it will reboot [the "LED" circle going around, or "boot" appears].

It's not a bad idea to reboot your STB once a month when you have no immediate need for it and it's not recording. These STBs seem to be a lot like computers, if you don't reboot them once in a while, errors seem to crop up...

You can also do a warm reboot via the Rogers website, or via phone call to Rogers (may be called reauthorize, reset, reactivate, etc), or via the Quick Start Guide Menu - Self Service - Need Help (may take 20-30 seconds after you select "confirm" to start the reboot process). This assumes you have a STB which has the QSGuide, like the SA8300HD repeated presses of the guide button take you to the guide or IPG. You can also change the guide order here from QSG to IPG first.

Sometimes a "warm reboot" (above) is not enough to reset things. Try unplugging the unit for a minute (Cold Reboot) and replugging it in if the warm reboot doesn't work. Always give the unit some time after the reboot to "settle" - say 30 minutes. Make sure you don't have any recordings going on at the time of a cold reboot and turn the unit off first if possible.

Hard Reboot: See instructions below courtesy of Bplayer:

Cold reboot AKA Hard reboot: A Hard Reboot will refresh all available software and modules on the system, as well as clear out the memory cache. The IPG and other data may take up to 30 minutes or more to fully download.
• Turn off the PVR and wait 10 or more seconds.
• Unplug the power cord from the PVR and wait 10 or more seconds.
• If you are resetting an external drive too, unplug it's power cord at this point and wait 5 or more seconds, then plug the power cord back into the external drive and wait 5 or more seconds.
• Press and hold the power button on the 8300's front panel. While the power button is depressed, plug the PVR power cord back in. Continue to hold the power button until the PVR display says "boot" and/or begins to cycle a few times (usually about 15 seconds).

NOTE: A Hard Reboot will resolve MANY issues with not only external drives, but memory issues too. You should WAIT until the reboot is completely finished before powering up. It usually takes about 5 - 10 min, depending on your application and IPG data. The best way to determine when the download is finished is to watch the front panel indicators. On the front panel, where the : (colon) separates the hours and minutes, the bottom " . " dot will appear after all the OS firmware has been loaded. A PVR getting a download or initializing will be blank. Leave the PVR alone until the dot appears.


What Format is Going to the TV?

The following applies to the SA3250HD - how to tell what the STB is transmitting to the TV in terms of format. (It also applies to the SA8000HDs that have passthrough enabled.)

You can check formats by viewing the small box that displays the STB output. It says 480i, 1080i, 720P, 480P depending on your channel selection, your "wizard setup" and whether you selected "pass-through (Auto-DVI/HDMI)" or "upconvert" in the "Settings" menu, etc.

You enable the small box by switching between channels that have different formats. Each time you switch between formats (720P and 1080i for example) you will see the small box.

You can also enable the small box by repeatedly hitting the "#" button, but this enables the stretch mode, so be sure to switch back to "normal" to see the actual format. Hitting "#" on a 480i signal will force an HD output - don't know why - it goes back to 480i if you go back to "normal" (unstretched).

The SA8300HD shows the output format on the front of the PVR.


Advanced Setup Wizard:

Note, that the Setup Wizard doesn't work on the 8642 or 9865 with the latest firmware. The setup is now automatic by the STB. This is also often the case if using an HDMI connection from other STBs - the wizard works, but then is overridden the next time the STB comes on.

The SA and Pace STBs have a setup wizard that you go through. See if you can find the page that guides you through the wizard. If you don't have it, follow the instructions below:

1. Turn the STB off.
2. Press the "Guide" and; "Info" buttons simultaneously (on the STB, not the remote).
3. This takes you to the wizard.
4. If you've got a 4:3 TV the wizard is very simple.
5. If you've got a 16:9 TV, then go into the "advanced" mode (which is still pretty simple)

Once you've finished the wizard which asks you the various formats your TV can display, exit the wizard and turn on the STB.

Whenever doing the setup, or troubleshooting, disconnect ALL video connections except the one you want to use. Use ONLY component video or HDMI/DVI, not both. When troubleshooting also remove S-video connections, etc. If you can't get the HDMI to work (the SA8300HD displays 480i on the front for example) then use the component video cables to perform the setup first, then plug in HDMI/DVI.

With the most recent firmware, most STBs now communicate with the TV via HDMI to set the formats. If you don't like those options, the best option is to use Fixed-1080i which eliminates a few problems associated with Auto-HDMI, provides a bit less overscan and also doesn't seem to affect picture quality much, if at all.

Note also that some HDTVs (especially some flat panel Samsungs) do NOT accept certain signals like 480i over HDMI. You'll need to delete those in the advanced setup wizard, while using component video cables, or simply use component video cables
. Tip, you can go through the wizard using HDMI, provided you know enough to press the "B" button to get to the next format if confronted with a blank screen (a format the TV doesn't display). If the TV doesn't accept 480i, then enable 480P (Standard) instead for example.

Once you've completed the wizard, press the settings button twice and go to "set picture formats". Pick "passthrough" (auto-DVI/HDMI) as this will allow 480i, 720P (if enabled) and 1080i signals to go to the TV through the component video connection. If you pick "fixed" then you'll only get one format out of the STB.

If you only have one format out of the STB, the PQ is sometimes inferior and if you have a Plasma or CRT and you want to stretch the SD channels, your TV will not automatically stretch when switching from HD to SD, whereas the TV will if you stretch the SD channels with a 480i/p signal and the true HD channels will be forced into "full".

When using the DVI/HDMI output the component output is disabled, and the pass-through option is now called Auto-DVI/HDMI in the settings (pressed twice menu) under picture format and is identical to the component passthrough but just with a different name.

Some HDTVs will NOT allow 480i when using DVI/HDMI inputs, use the formats that the TV will accept when using DVI/HDMI, or consider the component video connection.

TIPS - You can get "fancy" by deleting several of the formats in the original wizard. If you only enable 480i and 1080i, then 720P will be converted to 1080i and make surfing the HD channels much faster because the TV doesn't need to reformat each time you get to a station of a different format. Also, you can experiment with the "upconvert1" setting as this will send a 480P instead of 480i signal to the TV. You'll have to decide if this is better or worse than the TV doing the upconversion. You should "enable" 480i/P STANDARD, NOT widescreen in the wizard. Why? See post below:


General Setup Wizard pdf below:


See page 15 of the above to see what "fixed, passthrough, upconvert1/2" do. (I have now re-enabled all my formats since Upconvert1 will output 480P and 1080i and If I want to enable all formats, I simply use "passthrough" instead - great for comparisons and for "fast surfing" when using upconvert1.)

Summary, for most HDTVs, enable 480i Standard, 720P and 1080i and "passthrough/auto-DVI/HDMI" If you encounter issues with HDMI cables, switch to component video, or try 1080i Fixed.

On some STBs, the fixed 1080i setting may have slightly less overscan than using passthrough (for SD channels).

You may wish to visit the SA (now Cisco) site as they sometimes have additional information on these STBs.

It's also possible to select "fixed" under set picture format and then scroll up to change the desired output format under "quick settings" a single press of the settings button.


One final recommendation. Go through all of the settings on your STB and see what the various options are and whether they are set correctly. Many people never bother to understand what the various settings in the STB do, consequently, they don't get the best performance from the STB, leaving the "default" settings which are often not correct. If you don't know what the setting does, if you press the "info" button, it'll usually tell you. Same goes for the user settings in your TV.

SA 2000/4 Remote Operating Manual Click the link below.


Tips & Tricks for the SA8300HD.


Last Resort

If for some reason you can't get the STB to do what you want and you've rebooted it by unplugging it, etc. This is a "last resort" item. You can reformat the iHDD (courtesy of websurferdude).

The Explorer 8X00 has a fairly simple procedure to erase the drive (start clean). Note that this process will erase all scheduled programming and will cause the unit to reload all programming data from your cable provider. On the plus side, it will repair any fragmenting problems.

"Press and hold PAUSE until Mail led is lit. Press PAGE down or (-),
and then press LIST three times. Turn box off. When turned-on,
formatting will begin."

For the 8642:, courtesy of fattest:

1. On Rogers remote, hold PAUSE until the mail icon is flashing.
2. Once it's on, release PAUSE, press LIST, PGDN, PGDN, PGDN
3. Display will say hdd3, and will reboot.

See also: http://www.digitalhome.ca/forum/show...&postcount=905

If you have an eHDD, connect it to a computer to format.

The phone number to reset the STB is 1-866-894-9962 (provided by Mole)

Please PM 57 if you have any comments or suggestions.'
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