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Discussion Starter #1
Hey there. Long time lurker first time poster, etc etc.

My 9242 (dual-hd-pvr) has, over the past week, started to go badly south, and I've come here to describe the symptoms hoping you fine folks might have an idea whether it's likely an issue of signal, hard drive, or something fundamentally wrong with the unit (and if there are any tests or DIY fixes - and failing that, what I should do next).

First, a little under a week ago there started to be problems while watching 'live' HiDef tv and being a little behind (having had to pause for a bathroom break or phone call and thus being a few minutes behind actual-live). The machine was prone to spontaneously start to have a miniature A/V flip-out (digital pixellation blocks on-screen, audio cut-out) then 'jump to live' (the 'Live TV' overlay would appear on screen and the show jumped back to caught-up). I am sure nobody pressed the 'View Live TV' button on a remote, but the result was the same.

Over the past few days, all HiDef recordings from the past ~week have been having playback problems. The audio has been prone to cut in and out, and the video is prone to stutters and blocks of colourful digital pixellation (it really likes purple). Multiple attempted playback attempts of the same recording do not necessarily have problems at the same instants - sometimes a segment that was glitchy the last playthrough will be fine this time, or vice versa. So it does not look like the issue is a signal drop-out at recording time (or else the same passages would be corrupted on every playback). For the same reasons it also doesn't seem like hard drive failure - again, if there was a bad sector at record time the same passages should be glitchy on every playback attempt, it shouldn't move around. If it is a hard drive issue it seems to be on reads rather than writes. Yet recordings from more than a week ago seem unimpacted, so go figure.

Also, for recordings of events we watched live and then later reviewed the recording, the recorded playback was full of these A/V glitches while the live view had no such problems (again, unless we were behind in time and they jumped to live).


Still, wondering if the mostly-HiDef satellite's signal strength might be contributing to a low-quality recorded signal I checked the 'point dish' signal strengths. Nimiq 91 has been showing signal strength ranging from 90 to 97 (varying with cloud cover I suppose), and Nimiq 82 has ranged from 81 to 92. I haven't seen either one fall into ranges that should indicate a signal issue.


Has anyone seen this sort of behaviour before? What should I do next?
 

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Definitely your hard drive is on its last legs. I had the exact same symptoms with my receiver and then the hard drive failed completely. Check out ebay for a new 500gb drive. Search 9242.

Or if you have Dishcare Bell will replace it free. If not its $149, but it will be a refurb that somebody else returned.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you. I've done a bunch of research on the drives now and, dammit, the spare WD3200AAJS I've got apparently won't work (as it requires the mythical WD3200AAJS-57 or other -57 variants of common WD drives).

Well, I'm going to go ahead and offload what I can to my external drive (the recently recorded stuff just hangs on any attempt to archive to external, the "time remaining" never decrementing until I just abort the transfer - at least the old stuff can archive).

External drives are 'transferable' to a new system, right? If I were to trade my 9242 in (plus $150) for a refurb, I'll just be able to plug my external into the refurb and view / restore my old archived recordings from that? There's no requirement that it only be loaded/restored to the system that originally recorded/archived it?


Things seem slightly better right right now ... I had been operating for the past month in the last ~8 HiDef hours on my drive with the rest tied up on stuff I was unwilling to delete and too lazy to archive. Now that I've cleared more space the symptoms appear less prevalent - I suppose I've released some lower-mileage drive space back to the system while the portion I've been scraping repeatedly for the past month is no longer the only space available.
 

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Have you tried the following to see if the symptoms cleared up... a power button reset, resetting to defaults in the menu and unplugging for 5 minutes (not all at once.) Clearing NVRAM and formatting the hard drive might also help but you may want to archive the recordings first.
 

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Things seem slightly better right right now ... I had been operating for the past month in the last ~8 HiDef hours on my drive with the rest tied up on stuff I was unwilling to delete and too lazy to archive. Now that I've cleared more space the symptoms appear less prevalent - I suppose I've released some lower-mileage drive space back to the system while the portion I've been scraping repeatedly for the past month is no longer the only space available.
From my experience, this right here is your problem. If the file structure works the same as a PC, by working with very little disk space and not deleting older recordings (or deleting around certain ones) your disk is becoming more and more fragmented. All those little 30 and 45 second segments that are pixelated and screwed up are being sandwiched between parts of other recordings in the spaces made by deleting small recordings especially SD ones. If you can, make a huge amount of free space by moving off the largest files you have. Those ones will most likely be the most fragmented and deleting them will hopefully allow new recordings to "stay together" on the drive.
 

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My experience with my 9200 is different. I have kept only about 10-30 minutes of HD space left for the last 3 years and the hard drive is still working fine. I record and watch 1-2 hours per day of SD material with no hard drive issues. My 9200 is over 5 years old and is still going strong.
 

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I don't believe that with PVRs there is a file fragmentation issue, due to the file system used. It's different than a computer and even with computers these days, fragmentation isn't as much of an issue as it once was.

There is some truth to the fact that one should not get too close to filling a PVR or computer HDD as this can result in issues. About 80% full on a PVR is the max recommended, even if it does "work" beyond that point.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
OK, I think I've done something horribly wrong and now I don't know how to get back on track.

I've got the flashing lights on the front of my unit (after a failed HDD diagnostics run). I've heard talk of plugging a USB drive into one of the USB ports to bring up a prompt to allow nvram clear but I'm not seeing this prompt. Should it happen right after I put the USB thumbdrive in without power cycling, or should I power cycle? Should this menu come up right away or should I have to wait 15+ minutes?

I'm shakin' here. Things were bad before, but now I fear I'll never get my system even booted up again.
 

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OK, two hours and some inexplicable voodoo later and it appears I'm back to pre-blinking-lights state. After the failure the system wasn't outputting on HDMI at all so I wasn't able to see .. well, anything on what was the only connection wired to my TV. It was only after connecting composite cables and checking the composite input on my TV was I able to actually properly boot up the system and make those darn flashing lights go away.
 

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Oddly enough, my wife's 9242 started to exhibit audio stuttering this week. But this was evident both on recordings and watching live. Stuttering on SD and no audio at all on HD.
I swapped out the HDMI cable for another HDMI cable - no good.

I switched over to the composite cables and now all is well again. Strange.
 

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57 said:
It's different than a computer and even with computers these days, fragmentation isn't as much of an issue as it once was.
Bell PVRs use a variant of the Linux operating system and the Linux EXT3 file system so they are exactly like a computer. Fragmentation can be an issue with the EXT3 file system. The most common method used to reduce fragmentation under Linux is to limit file system use to 90% capacity. That doesn't eliminate file fragmentation but limits it's severity. File fragmentation typically becomes noticeable at about 75% capacity, especially with large files. Fragmentation typically starts getting severe when used disk capacity exceeds 90%. Bell PVRs use disk drives that are optimized for video streaming. I don't know what that entails but large RAM buffers and optimized read/write algorithms are likely used.
 

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Thanks for the file system update - I couldn't remember which operating system BTV uses, but it's one not used by most computers, so not "exactly" like most computers. The gist what I said regarding the amount of HDD used applies.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Bullet point summary of events since my last post.


- went to Bell Store asking about out-of-warranty replacement. Clerk looked at me like I had two heads and told me to call SKYDISH support.

- Called SKYDISH support (from a phone in the Bell store). Described symptoms and asked about out-of-warranty replacement. Offshore phonepool grunt sounded doubtful but went off to speak to a manager. Came back saying that such a program does exist (news to him) but they will not initiate it until a technician steps though troubleshooting with me over the phone.

- My phone line at home is out right now (Bell again!) - I have a separate ticket in with Bell for that. Cell-phone dead zone, too. So I can't even begin to do this troubleshooting phase just to get permission to trade in my unit. Even if I could I'm not sure if I could activate programming without a working phone line anyway.

- I decided to pays my money and takes my chances with an eBay drive from that seller who sells 500GB PVR replacement drives from Canada. Seems to have good positive feedback from people who claim to be happy Bell PVR-drive-replacers.
 

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Bell stores are practically useless for anything satellite service related. They are geared more toward cell phones than satellite services.
 

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I think I must be on "speed-dial" from about 5 Bell World stores..... They call me whenever they get potential customers in the stores, as they are almost clue less.
 

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Epilogue: that eBay hard drive came in, I installed it, and all my problems have gone away (and my internal record time has almost doubled, too). Huzzah! Thanks to all for giving me the reassurance that it was likely just a flaky HDD and not something more irreparable.
 
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