Taking a break from looking up hook calls for AndroidTV Live Channels to chronicle my experience using flash drives with the HW150-PVR:
To summarize, I was using the Mediasonic for recording the wife's daily shows. They get recorded, copied to the computer, sometimes commercial-removed if I have time, and then converted to h.264 for inclusion in the Plex library. She (typically on the weekends) will sit on the FF button for her daily shows until she sees a segment she wants to view. She can get through the whole week of her daily M-F shows in about an hour or two depending on how many segments she watches.
Originally I was using a small hard drive (this one, actually
) and powered via a powered USB hub due to concerns about the power availability from the USB port.
A while ago, I (like many others) began to use the Sandisk Ultra USB
flash drive for recording. At first, it was great. No problems ... everything recorded fine ... even 3+ hours of time-shifting live football worked flawlessly.
But about a month ago, things started to go south. It was infrequent at first. A recording would be missed, and all timer entries on that channel would be gone. That's not an unheard of occurrence with these boxes, so I just chalked it up to things you have to live with when using a $30 box with no internal clock. Re-enter the timers and start again. But a few days later, it happened again. Repeat process, and a few days later again.
It happened initially with enough infrequency that I couldn't pin it down to a probable cause. And there are certainly many things that could be at fault:
- The box itself is flaky.
- The drive is flaky.
- Write speed problems.
- Signal being lost.
- Bad PSIP from the station
Any of those could have been the problem. I live in a fairly remote area where it is not unheard of to lose the signal for a second while watching a program. On top of that - the station where most of her programs are recorded is notoriously bad in their PSIP. On one day, the time will be 2 minutes fast ... the next day 2 minutes slow ... the day after that right on. There was a stretch of 4 days there was no EPG data at all that was available.
So, initially I assumed the station's signal itself was the likely cause (and certainly may have been for some of the failures).
But, I finally started noticing a pattern of failure as time went on. The box would start recordings just fine (every time), but failed to finish them. I always knew when there was a failure when I came home and saw the box was still 'on' and not in standby. I would look at the PVR menu and see that the recording had not been written to the drive -- but also noticed that the entries for that channel in the timer menu were either gone completely - or the channel to record in the entry would be changed from 8-1 (the intended channel) with 38-0 as the channel. Where it got '38-0' I have no idea. The channel is actually broadcasting on VHF channel 8 and there are no UHF channels accessible to me where I live in the boonies.
When possible, I tried to watch the end of her recordings while they were in progress to see if there was some kind of visual clue on the screen that I could use to narrow down the cause. Of course, every single time I actually was able to monitor this - the recordings all successfully completed. Ha-Ha, Homeworx HW150-PVR, pretty funny joke on me.
When recordings started to initially fail, there were 2 choices available to me when updating my wife regarding the availability of her programs:
- Inform her that I don't have a particular airing of show 'X' for the week.
- Don't say anything and hope she doesn't notice.
I initially went with the 2nd option. Yeah, Yeah ... I know ... I'm a prick ...
As time went on, the failures started happening more frequently. I could see on those failures that PSIP data was still present (with varying degrees of clock accuracy), so that wasn't it. I could see decent signal, so that didn't appear to be it (at least for the moments I was able to check). But failure rates were still on the upswing.
I did things like reformat the drive (with various tests of sector size) -- both on the box itself or using the computer. I would get in the habit of either late at night or early in the morning doing a 'reboot' of the box via the physical power button to ward off any on/standby gremlins that could possibly be the cause. This would help for a day or so - and then the failures would return.
Eventually there were enough failures during a week that I finally heard called out from the bedroom where my wife was looking at her daily shows listings in Plex, "Hey - why am I missing 3 'Rachael Ray' shows this week?"
There were 2 choices available to me in responding to that question:
- Confess that the box had failed to record them.
- Try to convince her that the missing recordings were repeats
Okay -- I'm a prick ... but not a GIANT prick ...
I 'fessed up. They were missing because of failure. She was not spectacularly thrilled and as a result, now I have to record every single episode of 'Rachael Ray' (including repeats) because she wonders how many others she missed ...
Given that the failure point always seemed to be after a successful start of a recording - I theorized that perhaps the issue was the drive. Although working so well in the beginning - perhaps there was usage problems as time went on. I was hopeful that reformats would eliminate that, but as they always came back shortly - perhaps the problem was in sustained writes to the drive -- or problems with closing the stream and writing -- or who knows what other reason. Interestingly, using the flash drive for football time-shifting on Sunday still works perfectly with no problems whatsoever. So, I wasn't terribly confident in my initial guess - but since the flash drive was the only constant when considering signal, PSIP, drive, flaky box, etc - I decided to start there first.
So I dug out the maxone 320 GB drive referenced above and put that back on the box. This time, not even with the hub. I just let the box itself power the 2.5" drive. I figured best to start changing single items and observe results.
And so far ... no failures.
The drive has powered up -- recorded what it is supposed to record -- and powered down with the box. No failures. Granted, this is only after 4 days of testing, but I haven't had 4 successful recording days in a row for about 3 weeks.
Too early to conclusively say I've found the problem - but initial results do seem to suggest that the prolonged use of the flash drive is what led to at least most of my problems. If this turns out to be the case, I will admit I'm disappointed to not being able to use the flash drive. It was certainly a convenient way (and I would have thought easier on the usb power supply) to get her daily programs.
Curious to know how others who have been using the Ultra are still coming along. Is it still performing well after steady use a couple of months down the road? I had the same initial positive experience in the beginning as everybody else using it - but is steady usage of the Ultra simply putting nails in a coffin lid as each week of regular use goes by?