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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have had the Starchoice Motorola 530 PVR for a couple of years. A month or two ago it simply stopped recording. When I press record it will perform the usual functions and the indicator lights will show that it is recording, but nothing will actually record. I have spoken with customer service on this issue several times, but they repeatedly want to send out a tech to look at it because they think it is an alignment issue (see below). Because I use the satellite in the US so that I can catch better hockey coverage and CFL games, I cannot have a tech come out to my house.

When I check system status I am getting 81 and 84 for signal strength on line 1 (picture) and line 2 (PVR), and am getting ECB of 5.0 (line 1 - picture) and 5.1 (line 2 - PVR). The customer service rep says that this is where the problem comes from -- that my alignment is off, which is preventing the PVR from working and that the ECB needs to be at least 9.0.

My questions are:

(1) Is this correct? Could a low ECB prevent the PVR from recording even though I'm getting HD picture fine?

(2) If so, what's the fix? I've tried realigning the satellite but can't fix it. Is the best solution simply hiring a local satellite installer that is familiar with *c to correct my alignment?

(3) Are there other non-PVR hardware issues that could be causing this such as a poor LNB or cables? If so, thoughts on the best way to isolate and fix the problem?

(4) Any other thoughts on what could be causing this and how to fix it? If it is a hardware issue with the PVR itself, I know that I need to get my ECB high enough that the tech will realize that the PVR is the problem, not my alighnment, so that they will be willing to replace the PVR.

Thanks so much for your help.
 

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Your signal strength is quite low - I've got 9.9 ECB here. In my experience, low signal (weather related, or snow on the dish) does not prevent recording, but might result in bad recordings (pixelation, audio problems, skipped sections). Does your DVR list show anything? If so, can you play those recordings?

Here is one check you can do on your hardware to see if the harddrive is acting up: Options 6-4-9-7-7 (the "nine" doesn't show up on the list, enter "nine, seven, seven" anyways), then option 1. Then left arrow to Diagnostic R. You should get some stats on the hard drive, unless it is toasted, in which case it'll probably crash or hang trying to get to Diag-R (unplugging and plugging back in will get you back to where you started if it does crash).

You are going to have to get that signal fixed, you say you tried to realign it, but couldn't. Perhaps it is now even worse. If your dish is accessible and you have two people, and it's already close (getting some signal), it should be possible to peak it yourself. Before loosening anything, tune to channel 299, then leave one person watching the signal (under "installation settings"), and go to the dish. Grasping the dish from behind, and from the edges, flex it each of up, down, right, left and note which direction(s) the signal improves in. Verify that a few times, then cautiously try loosening the bolts that hold that axis in place and make some slight adjustments. You should be back in business within a couple of hours at most.

LNB's and cables and switches (if you have any) could all cause similar problems - best way to isolate is to start with the dish alignment, because you've already moved it and it's kind of certain to be out. Two bad cables at once is very unlikely (both tuners in the PVR have same signal). Bad LNB is also rare, but possible.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Tico - Thanks very much for your reply. No, we do not have anything left recorded on the PVR. When I first called in to *c about the issue the customer service rep did a factory reset, which wiped everything off of the PVR (I've since learned that was an error on the rep's part, but such is life). I ran the diagnostic test you proposed and, as you predicted, the PVR crashed when I hit the left arrow to go to 'Diagnostic R' (the screen I was on said 'Diagnostic A' -- is that correct?).

Based on this I assume that the PVR is cooked, right? Assuming that's the case, could that also cause my low ECB ratings? I tried adjusting the satellite as you suggest last night (left, right, up, down, etc.), but each time I moved it off of where it is now the signal dropped (it is currently at 81 when on channel 299). I know that the PVR is on warranty, but starchoice won't replace it without sending out a tech as long as they think there is a problem with the alignment. I've contacted a local satellite installer who can take a look at the alignment, but will charge $150 to do so. Obviously I'd rather not pay this if it is the hardware problem with the PVR that is causing the ECB rating to be so low and therefore messing with the alignment won't yield any improvement.

Any other thoughts? Or thoughts on how I can convince starchoice that it is a PVR issue, not an alignment issue?

Thanks again.
 

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satviewer22 - had you tried swapping the two coax cables? Since the reciever uses two coax feeds, one for each tuner swapping them should help narrow things down. After you swap coax cables you might see a lousey real time picture, but your recorder will start to work again. If this turns out to be the case it may be alinement or it could be a couple of other things. First check your coax ends of the weak line at the LNB. They can get rust in them. If it looks bad buy a new end, cut it back an reattact. Second select another output from you LNB and connect the "weak" signal coax into it. You might just have had an LNB go bad. You should have a quad LNB so you have two spares. Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
jcol -- thanks. yes, I should have posted this originally. When the problem first developed I tried switching the coax cables both at the receiver and at the LNB, and tried using a different LNB port for the out to the PVR. The readings remained the same each time, so I don't believe that it is an issue with the coax cables or a particular LNB port.

Could it be that the dish is aligned correctly but that the entire LNB has degraded (it is roughly 5 or 6 years old) and that is resulting in the low ECB ratings?
 

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(2) If so, what's the fix? I've tried realigning the satellite but can't fix it. Is the best solution simply hiring a local satellite installer that is familiar with *c to correct my alignment?
What exactly happens (or doesn't happen) when you try to realign your dish?

What part of "out of the country" are you in? Finding an installer with Shaw experience could be a problem, and perhaps you should check out a few of the items (below) yourself before paying someone to learn how to do a Shaw alignment. As stated elsehwere, your Ebnos seem a little low, though I have no knowledge of whether this could affect your PVR.

Have you eliminated the obvious things, like the possibility of something in the line of sight (tree limbs, etc.), verified the skew & elevation settings on the back of the dish, confirmed that the mast hasn't been knocked out-of-plumb, examined the connectors to see if there is any corrosion?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Joshuals,

I live in Seattle and the installer I spoke with said they install Canadian dishes "all the time" (I guess we'll see about that if I end up having to use him).

I have cleared all obvious issues -- there is nothing but blue (well, grey most days) sky in front of the dish and I have checked all connections to confirm that they are sound and not corroded. When I try to realign the dish, each direction I move it in reduces the signal from where it currently is. I started at 82 last night and moved it slowly left, right, up and down -- but each directly resulted in a reduction of signal. Based on this I'm not sure I can get a stronger signal than what I'm getting now (this leads me to wonder if it is the LNB or PVR itself that is resulting in the low ECB rating). I tried to go as slowly as possible, but perhaps I am doing the realignment incorrectly? My signal strength is currently at 81-82, which is at least decent, but the EBC reading is still low at 5.1. We've had the dish for about 5-6 years and I've never been able to get signal strength much above 82, and my signal strength was no higher than it is now when the PVR was working. Does it make sense that the signal strength would be reasonably good at 82 and yet the ECB be very low?
 

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Satviewer22 - It would seem to me that you've eliminated the alinement as a problem. If tuner 1 is showing good signal strength and ECB levels that means the dish is alined for that LNB. If you then connect that same coax to tuner two and that shows a significantly lower ECB level, doesn't that sort of point to a hardware problem with tuner 2? Just out of interest when you make a recordering what does the saved recording list show? Does it show the name of the show, the time etc? And when you try to view it what do you see? Is there ever a picture?
 

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Satviewer2 - Just checked my signals, Tuner 1, SS = 80 and ECB = 8.4 db. Tuner 2 SS = 92 and ECB = 7.4 db. Interesting that my tunner 2 signal strength is higher then tuner 1 but the ECB is lower. Guess ECB isn't totally dependant on signal strenght. Must be some sort of signal to noise rating.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks everyone on their thoughts on this. I'm dying to get this corrected for the upcoming CFL season and really appreciate your thoughts.

The signal strength and ECB/No. numbers for both line 1 (picture) and line 2 (PVR) are in the 5.0-5.1 range. Signal strength for both is 80-84. The picture works perfectly. The starchoice tech said over the phone that the low ecb of 5.1 is an alignment issue that is causing all the problems with the PVR, but it seems odd to me that the picture would work perfectly if that were the case.

Even if the Ecb was a bit low for the PVR, it seems that the recordings would just be pixelated or something (like they are on a windy day). Instead, there is no recording whatsoever. If, for example, I press record while viewing a program, it will ask if I want to record that program (normal), I'll hit yes and the scrolling lights will begin to indicate that it is recording (normal), however, it won't record anything at all and will show my DVR list as empty (not normal). Similarly, I cannot stop, rewind, or perform other normal PVR functions while watching a program.

In summary, based on Tico's comment above and Joshual's comments, it seems likely that the PVR is cooked, which is causing the recording problems. However, this doesn't necessarily answer why I am getting the low Ecb number of 5.0 even though my signal strength is high-ish at 84. Could this be a worn-down LNB? An issue with the PVR itself? Or could it be that even though I'm getting an 84 signal strength I do have an alignment issue that is causing the Ecb to be low?

I'd really hate to have to pay the satellite installer $150 to come out and then not be able to improve the signal because the receiver is messed up, which will mean that starchoice won't issue a new PVR without sending out a tech, which will mean I'll also have to buy a whole new PVR for another $500, or whatever it is.
 

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Signal strengths depend on which satellite and transponder the tuner is tuned to. Tuner 1 and Tuner 2 will usually be different because tuner 2 stays on the last channel that it was set to record and does not follow tuner 1 settings.
 

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Have you checked the skew?

Low EbNo can be caused by incorrect skew angle (rotation of the dish by loosening the 4 bolts that hold the actual dish to the back plate.)
I think for Seattle the skew should be set at about 75 but can be fine tuned by loosening the bolts and making small adjustments while someone is watching the readings on the screen.
 

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Yes signal is a bit low.
The tuner won't drop digital lock until about 2.5 to 3 EcbNo.

If you get picture and it doesn't record, the box is pooched, plain and simple.
I bet even LOD or Pause Live TV doesn't work either.
When you tried Diag R and it rebooted, then your disk is toast.

If you are really in a pickle and warranty is done, check out the thread a friend of mine wrote a while back about replacing the hard drive.

For the U.S. problem, call them back and tell them the light pipes constantly scroll no matter what you do.
They will have you play silly games like disconnecting the coax and power cycle the unit.
Play along with them and keep insisting that the lights just keep scrolling and you never see it flash 1080i and it never lands on a channel or gives ANY video whatsoever.
You get No picture and no guide and no flip bar either.

Have them mail a replacement to some friend in Vancouver and swap it out.
I suspect your account has a BC address.
Tell them the new TELUS Satellite TV is looking pretty darn good right about now. Actually it is, just they HAVE to install it and they won't down there. Same with Bell.

The signal strength is nothing more than the voltage of the carrier from the LNB.
All it tells you is if the cable run is too long.
The EcbNo is the carrier to noise and is the usable signal portion on the line.
That you want to be the best possible.

You may just be suffering from a lot of moisture in the air or some minor absorption from tree like objects.
As long as the signal is above the digital lock threshold, it doesn't really matter a hill of beans.
The reason you want best possible is for those occasions when conditions naturally drop the signal and you want the most margin against fade.
If it's stable all year at 5.0, then enjoy it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thanks very much for all of your helpful responses. Last night I fooled around some more with the alignment and was able to get the following signals:

Tuner1: 81, Ecb/No: 8.9

Tuner2: 81, Ecb/No. 8.9

Based on this, and the really helpful posts that came up last night, it is clear that the only issue is that the hard drive is fried (as many of you have pointed out).

The only remaining issue is how to convince Star Choice to ship out a new unit without wanting to send a tech over. I do use a BC address for the account and most of my family still lives in BC, so this would be the ideal solution. Moose57 -- you suggest telling the customer serice rep on the phone that the receiver does not work at all? Rather than just telling them that I am getting picture and good signal readings, but that none of the PVR features work (which is true, I can't even pause TV or anything).

Any thoughts that folks have on the best way to convince starchoice that the box is broken and there's no need to send a tech would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
For the U.S. problem, call them back and tell them the light pipes constantly scroll no matter what you do.
They will have you play silly games like disconnecting the coax and power cycle the unit.
Play along with them and keep insisting that the lights just keep scrolling and you never see it flash 1080i and it never lands on a channel or gives ANY video whatsoever.
You get No picture and no guide and no flip bar either.
If I explain the situation to the *c rep this way would i still be getting a Signal and Ecb/No. reading? Or should I not be getting that either?
 
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