When Should You Update Firmware on Your A/V Gear? - Page 2 - AVS Forum
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post #31 of 54 Old 01-25-2013, 04:18 PM
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For transparency reasons I'll start by saying I'm the CTO of Zektor (we make AV switches).

This has always been a big pet peeve of mine. It's just not that hard to create unbrickable firmware updates! The statement "Be sure not to unplug unit during firmware updating", always makes me a little queasy.

In hopes that some engineer from some other company reads this and fixes their update issues, I'm going to describe how we handle firmware updates. (This article caught my attention., maybe I'm not alone.)

First off, the firmware inside the unit is divided into two parts. The boot-loader, and the main program. The boot-loader's job is to go into a loop waiting for new firmware, and once found, update the main program.

There is not a modern embedded processor sold, that will not let you hardware protect the boot-loader. So we make the boot-loader read only. The boot-loader never gets updated, so this had better be well tested before shipping!

On power up, the first thing that is executed is the boot-loader, is does a full CRC32 check of the main program, if it passes, it jumps into the main program, if it fails, then it waits for a new firmware update.

As simple as that! This takes care of bricking 99% of the time. Some scenarios:

User starts firmware update and power is lost.

-- In this case, the half loaded firmware will not pass CRC32, and once the power is restored, the device will not jump to the main program, but will wait for another attempt at downloading the new firmware. Just start up the firmware updater and try again.

The firmware file is corrupt (we do a full CRC32 of the firmware before even starting an update, but who knows).

-- We CRC check each individual packet being sent, and if it fails the update is aborted. The switch is reset, the CRC32 fails, the device jumps back into the boot-loader and waits for another attempt. If at the end of the entire update the CRC32 fails, we jump back into the boot-loader. This allows you to download the firmware again, and give it a try.

Ok, how about that 1%? A scenario:

We send out a piece of firmware that passes CRC32, but because of a programming error the main program bricks the device.

-- In this case there's a problem, the CRC32 passes so it never goes into download mode. Each time you power up it passes the CRC32 check, jumps into the main program, and bricks.

So we added one more test at power up. We pick a button somewhere (usually the power button). If you hold this button down when you plug in the unit, it will skip the CRC32 check and jump directly to the boot-loader waiting for new firmware. Combined with the fact we *always* allow downgrading to a previous version, this gives you the chance to downgrade and call us up and tell us our new firmware sucks! But at least you're not without a switch.

Believe it or not, we dislike having switches sent back to us for unbricking as you do. (Ok maybe not quite as much, but you get my drift).

So knowing how simple this is, why is it possible for new devices to brick when you upgrade the firmware? Fix it fellow engineers, it's not that hard!
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post #32 of 54 Old 01-25-2013, 05:18 PM
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I have an LG BD670 bluray player. When the unit notifies me that a FW update is available, I first check to see if other people have installed it and if they've had any problems after updating. LG isn't too forthcoming with what exactly the FW addresses so I usually don't even bother updating. I have updated FW on occasion, and have also downgraded it as well when the player started acting flakey. I also had an LG BD570. I did update its FW on it a couple of times. One day the unit would not power up at all. Don't know if it was related to a FW update or not, since some time had passed since the FW was updated.

I don't think I'm going to update the FW anymore and there is an option to hide the popup saying one is available. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and all that.

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post #33 of 54 Old 01-25-2013, 07:26 PM
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I have NEVER done a firmware update on anything, and so far everything still works.

Have had a Panny bluray player for many many years, and a Yamaha receiver, Samsung tv's. All over 4 years old. No updates.

Of course, i do not do anything with them and the internet, i dont have wifi or a hard connection, i just use them to play blurays, power a surround sound system, and watch tv.

So far, so good. Havent had a bluray disc bomb out on me yet.

Just bought a Sony bluray player for another room, dont intend to do updates on that either, i hope it continues to work for a long time.

Firmware updates totally suck for many people, you know some of us are older and low-tech people, and dont have anyone to help us. Years ago you plugged something in and it worked until it broke, thats what i want. Hopefully i can continue along without an update, because i dont even know how to do one, and as i said, i am not connected to the net.

Even if i got hold of a cd that had an update on it, if something went wrong when i input it i would be dead, would have to call Geek Squad or someone like them, and most of America is like me, not like you experts here. I think technology has advanced beyond the abilities of an awful lot of people.
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post #34 of 54 Old 01-25-2013, 08:27 PM
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I always do updates on all my devices except my mobo and I have never bricked anything ever. But like many here I am always apprehensive because of the "do not turn off device until update is complete" message.
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post #35 of 54 Old 01-26-2013, 12:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Djoel View Post

On another note why is it that Bricking ,and firmware updates go hand in hand,. What I'm trying to say it's 2013 can't this little mishap can be avoided, like rolling back the procedure before the connection was broken? I've personally never bricked a player ever but the fear is there, just like most of us.

I don't get this either. Zonn beat me to the punch a little bit, but I was a firmware engineer for a company producing enterprise-class products. Firmware bricking was not an option. The kick is, the method we used is so simple! Basically, the device stores 2 firmwares. And these days flash is cheap, too. When you do a firmware update, it copies the firmware into the secondary slot, and verify that it reads back correctly and do a CRC check. If that passes, the final step is to simply flip a bit indicating to boot to the new firmware slot and not the old one. If anything goes wrong in the process, and it never gets to that last step that switches the firmware to boot to, the next time you boot up it will just load the previous firmware as normal, and you can try again. Even it if passes, if there's still a problem booting to the new firmware, it will switch back to the old one. There's a few more technical details, but that's the gist of it.

I don't understand why, when how simple this is, that all consumer devices don't have something like this built in these days. I worked on this 10 years ago!
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Originally Posted by KingLeerUK View Post

To give some perspective on the possibility of human error:
- my entire AV rack is on a CyberPower rackmount, server-grade UPS, it can run for almost 20 minutes unplugged from the wall if necessary and the plasma display isn't on
- I formatted the USB stick "clean" before putting on the .bin file for the firmware upgrade from Samsung
- I waited a really, really long time for the firmware update process to finish, over 15 minutes

Alas, no scheme will help you if the whole process goes smoothly but code in the firmware doesn't work.
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Originally Posted by LeeC22 View Post

Crash free BIOS has been a standard feature of PC motherboards for absolutely years. ... Why manufacturers of devices that are guaranteed to need firmware updates, choose not to implement any kind of ROM based backup BIOS, is beyond me.

I believe Netflix does not allow this, or Zonn's method, for any device that has Netflix on it. I'll explain in my next post.
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post #36 of 54 Old 01-26-2013, 01:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KingLeerUK View Post

To their credit, the one thing that the Samsung BD players had going for them in the firmware department was that you could re-apply older firmwares on top of new ones to roll back the clock if you wanted to. I am certain there are thousands of Oppo BD9-93 owners out there who would love to have that option given the ISO support withdrawal.

It is my understanding that Netflix does not allow firmware roll-backs on any Blu-ray players or other consumer electronics devices that have Netflix. Oppo allowed rollbacks on all of their players prior to the BDP-93. It was them who said the 93 could no longer allow it because otherwise Netflix would not let them put Netflix on the player. And I think other streaming companies have the same rules.

I think this is silly, because anyone can use an old firmware version by simply not updating.
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Originally Posted by LeeC22 View Post

Why manufacturers of devices that are guaranteed to need firmware updates, choose not to implement any kind of ROM based backup BIOS, is beyond me.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zonn View Post

On power up, the first thing that is executed is the boot-loader, is does a full CRC32 check of the main program, if it passes, it jumps into the main program, if it fails, then it waits for a new firmware update.

As simple as that! This takes care of bricking 99% of the time.
I believe both of these methods would not be allowed by Netflix. All you would have to do to roll back your firmware is pull the power cord during the update, then wait for the recovery and upload any firmware you wanted.

But still, the method I presented in my previous post would work because it doesn't let you roll back - it just doesn't discard your 'current' firmware until the new one has been fully loaded and verified. And I don't understand why this isn't widespread.
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post #37 of 54 Old 01-26-2013, 02:06 AM
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Hello guy's,

I have a Cambridge Audio receiver that might need an update but I don't even know where to start looking for it.
When choosing subwoofer 'on', the main speakers also move more. I would expect the opposite¿
Any help appreciated.
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post #38 of 54 Old 01-26-2013, 05:14 AM
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My problem with updating firmware was WAF related; my wife kept getting the pop up to update firmware on the TV she used to use in the bedroom and so she clicked "OK" because I used to preach to always update everything. In that particular update, it totally changed the UI for everything I had spent days training her how to use (streaming movies, etc.) She was not happy and now has kicked me out of my "man cave" to use my easier to use AV set up... seriously, I rarely get to watch any of my DVR'd shows or Blu Rays anymore... it kinda sucks.

I've since stopped with my "update everything all the time" mantra.

"As you know, you build a home theater in the room your wife gives you, not in the room you might want or wish to have at a later time"
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post #39 of 54 Old 01-26-2013, 11:05 AM
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I have never done any updates on any of my electronics, except for the Windows updates (which I read about before allowing the computer to proceed). Because I do not do any streaming or other downloading of media, my system is completely isolated from the world, except for the power cord. Everything continues to work as well as it did out of the box.
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post #40 of 54 Old 01-26-2013, 02:05 PM
 
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I've been burned TWICE on firmware updates- once on a Vizio TV last year, which after the update caused its frame rate to stutter. Others on this forum reported the problem also, but Vizio would NEVER admit to there being a problem and I ended up getting money back from the warranty I had bought on it.

The TV I replaced it with, a Sharp, has been generally better but in November an update came out which added some online features. Something was wrong with the update because it caused my TV to freeze up while updating, after unplugging it I could still use the TV but all the online features were locked out until it could do a successful update. I didn't have any time to deal with it for several weeks, eventually it had to be taken into a shop to have a board replaced, which they said had been damaged by the bad update and would never be able to do an update again.
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post #41 of 54 Old 01-26-2013, 08:43 PM
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I install updates either 2 or 3 weeks after release, or when I next use the device in question. That gives enough time for problem reports to surface. Policy based on career experience:
  • Product Manager at small software company. Tremendous pressure to ship new software / versions means the cake is not completely baked when it's pulled from the development oven. Bugs and missing features may be missed in testing. Even if they're caught, the calendar may demand that the fix be deferred to the next cycle.
  • Systems performance at a large global corporation. Surprising number of NIC and storage firmware and driver releases provide significant performance improvements.
  • Last-stop IT trouble-shooting at a large global corporation. Too many times we find a missing patch is root cause for a mysterious problem that takes too long to trouble-shoot.
  • Experience with Microsoft showed that a release's fix and feature list is usually incomplete. Opened a case for a significant problem with Internet Explorer that surfaced in an August patch cycle and threatened to bring both our WAN and employee portal to their knees. MS support team checked with IE team, "No such problem." The no-such-problem vanished after the October patch cycle. None of the October patches had our problem in their list of fixes.

If an update is known to cause a problem or reduce functionality, then I skip it. Otherwise my tech equipment is pretty close to the vendor's definition of the leading edge.
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post #42 of 54 Old 01-28-2013, 09:25 AM
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I, at least, always make sure that I have the previous FW so I can undo an update. Of course, as posted, a FW update can kill of the device completly, but this I never experienced.
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post #43 of 54 Old 01-29-2013, 02:47 PM
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Never had a problem with my OPPO-93. But...I bricked my Denon 3311ci receiver 1 month after I got it eek.gif. After it was fixed, I promptly turned off the Denon updates...and never had a problem since smile.gif
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post #44 of 54 Old 01-31-2013, 09:30 AM
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I've been fortunate that I've never bricked a piece of equipment over a firmware update. I remember back in the day updating the firmware to my computer's motherboard a few times and being scared because I realized the consequences if the update failed. Now I think a lot of boards have dual BIOSes in case of stuff like that. I have a PS3 that is not connected to the Internet so I only usually update the firmware after three newer versions have come out. I use it as my Blu-ray Disc player, so it's probably a good idea to update the firmware here and there.
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post #45 of 54 Old 03-07-2013, 10:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imagic View Post

I can't stand it when a Blu Ray player requires a firmware update to play a new movie because of copy protection schemes. I have never 'bricked' anything during an update, but the concern is always there. It is absolutely a great idea to check for user feedback before updating with a brand-new firmware release. I feel better about updating gear that has battery power. Gear that's plugged into AC is susceptible to a power failure during the update, that's my #1 fear. Might be a good idea to use a battery backup (UPS) when updating AC powered gear.

Holy crap! This never even entered into my head before. I always knew about shutting off too early, but power failure!

Now I will back up everything connected to my UPS (Battery back-up).

I feel sick thinking of the scores of times I did this without a second thought...

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post #46 of 54 Old 03-07-2013, 01:18 PM
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For a long time I thought it couldn't happen(to me!). Then one day, while I was updating the bios of an Asrock motherboard, I lost power temporarily enough to brick the motherboard. I got a $25 replacement bios chip. Computer motherboards became smarter afterwards with a backup bios chip built in. But, every time I upgrade the firmware on the several bluray players I have, that old memory still haunts me. Ideally, one should own at least a small UPS for the peace of mind.
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post #47 of 54 Old 03-07-2013, 02:09 PM
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I've done every update when device says there is one. Oppo 93 Bluray player, Denon A100/Denon3808CI A/V reciever, XBox SLIM, DISH HD Sattellite and Sony XBR950HX Flatpanel. Never had a problem with devices bricking or anything not playing on devices. 100% update

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post #48 of 54 Old 03-16-2013, 08:04 AM
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I update all my devices when prompted. Now and then I'll look for FW updates for my laptap and nas and such so they are up to date. Between personal and work FW updates I've probably done well over 100 and never had a single issue.
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post #49 of 54 Old 04-11-2013, 03:30 AM
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I don't upgrade in general, only when I need an upgrade. If everything is working fine I don't upgrade.
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post #50 of 54 Old 04-11-2013, 03:54 AM
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I've been reading a bit and noticed the comments about updating AC powered equipment and having a power glitch or failure. This is a real concern and one I feel everyone should consider. My entire TV/DVR/DVD/BluRay/Internet Box etc set up is on an APS 500 VA backup UPS with an external battery that I can replace easily when needed.

I never even think about updates and power failures because I already have a UPS. I also check and test all household UPSs on a regular basis if they are not tested in action. A good rule is to test them a minimum of twice a year. Computer system UPSs should be tested once a month. I hate to lose work due to a faulty battery on a UPS!

This is because even a UPS malfunctions and will drop out with the power failure because the system battery was not checked or tested on a regular basis prior to being used and it wasn't up to spec and there was a power failure. Nothing is infallible so all things should be tested on a regular basis, just to be sure.

My update policy is simple, I'm only talking about AV equipment here, I'm in IT & Development so my computers are updated once a week in general, that usually gives me enough time to see if anything has been written about problems.

As to AV equipment then, I update ONLY when needed. I consider a need a feature I need that is not working or not working correctly. Gaining a download speed increase of less than 50% increase is NOT a need. Gaining 50% or better increase in download speed would be considered if I have been bothered by the present speed where the present speed didn't seem adequate and meet my present needs.

I still advise my IT customers to only upgrade to new computers & OSs WHEN it is needed, their software upgrades now require a new OS and the new OS requires new hardware. This saves down time and money, things which are never bad to save. And yes, I follow the same policy with my own computer and AV equipment.
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post #51 of 54 Old 04-11-2013, 04:20 AM
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I think you and I are of about the same generation. I went into technology and learned how to fix those things that would break, but where TVs of old would need new tubes every two years or so, & then transistor TVs needed real fixing every 5 - 10 years or so todays electronics do not "break" nearly as often, and the fixes are more in FW (firmware) than is (HW) hardware.

Like you I have not yet had to update any FW because while there have been updates available, I've never seen the need. The one time I did try was to fix a problem which ended up being one of those few & very far between HW problem which required a replacement DVD player p[aid for under warranty, so I haven't done any updates on any AV equipment I presently own for TV/DVD type stuff.

The lil ol' iPod is a different story:) - it seems that Apple updates the software & iPod FW almost every time I turn on the computer! But, I resist all update until I have time for them! None of them have changed anything for the better as far as I can see, and a few of the software updates have been for the worse in the sense of having to learn where they put things I was constantly using. And DON'T get me started on Microsoft updates, you really don't want to know!

I handle all updates for my Wife's office & her laptop PC as well and we use the one TV/DVD etc setup so I tread very carefully since as someone else found out, you mess with what the WF uses & you just may lose more than you ever figured on. Advice: One way to make sure you NEVER lose your man cave is to make sure the WF can't understand anything in it. On my man cave set up, it takes a minimum of at least three switches just to turn things on so they can be used & then at least two remotes to use the stuff. wink.gif

So I say GOOD FOR YOU yankeeman, stick to your guns & just use the stuff till it breaks!
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post #52 of 54 Old 04-11-2013, 05:26 AM
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Thanks PhilKE3FL, i still havent done a firmware upgrade on anything!!

As to the wifey, she could never figure out the VCR and that was so great. Now unfortunetely she has become an expert with the damn DVR and she drives me nuts with recording a million stupid shows and creating conflicts and so on. Help me!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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post #53 of 54 Old 04-11-2013, 06:07 AM
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My Sony BDP-S790 starts stuttering when playing DVDs after I update it, I reset it a few times to factory settings before realising it was the firmware update itself that was causing it. Now I don't update it at all.
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post #54 of 54 Old 05-08-2013, 03:58 AM
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Thank-you! I used to work on embedded software for satellites and if there's one place that can NEVER have a boot-loaded fail, that's it! It is more than a little difficult to get the satellite back to fix a boot-loader problem! So I could never understand a system or boot-loader lock-up, we NEVER lost a satellite due to a boot-loader lock-up, we wouldn't even release an upgrade/update to the sat until we tested it completely, I'd test my code, someone else would test my code, and a simulator would then run it for a few days or longer and duplicate what was going & coming from the sat to test it out one last time in "real life" usage.

On the other hand, I only update my AV firmware when I need it upgraded. If the unit is working to my satisfaction and I don't need a given update for any reason, then I don't upgrade. But then I grew up before upgrades were possible without buying a newer model so I got used to not upgrading until the old unit was dead & I couldn't fix it any more. My first TV lasted over 30 years until my son & I ripped it apart & saved the parts that were still good. By that time the picture tube was turning silver and being that old there were no replacements available anyway smile.gif
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