Was getting 4 dots, now get 2...

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Was getting 4 dots, now get 2...

Postby imarx » Thu Jul 24, 2008 6:25 pm

I've had my Netflix player since shortly after it was released. It's been working great, and I used to get 4 dots every single time. The past couple of days, it starts at 4 dots, then sometime in the middle gets downgraded to two. From then on, it's always two dots.

Is anyone else having this problem? I have been watching at night, and I noticed other people have noticed reduced quality at night - has anyone brought this to the attention of Roku or Netflix?

I'd appreciate any insight into the matter.
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Postby DoomsDay » Thu Jul 24, 2008 6:46 pm

I have not had any issues at all for the last two weeks. I am on the east coast, I dont know how many servers they have that dish out the stream but it has been perfect for me. There are many things that can cause your problem. Your internet connection may be getting overloaded or is having problems in an area around you and is causing slow network activity. Depending on your bandwidth maybe you have other things going on on your local network that is eating bandwidth. Or possibly your using wireless and your signal is getting some interference. And last but not least, the netflix server may be having problems.

So its really hard to say what the actual problem is with any certainty. Your only choice is to try and eliminate one at a time. Start doing trace routes and see if there is a bad hop on the route to server, check your ISP's networking page to see if they are having any issues in your area. Try to eliminate all the local stuff first.

One thing I have noticed about the roku box and of course the instant watch on the pc is the same way, once you drop down in picture quality during a movie, it will never try to upgrade it back to what you were watching it at originally unless you pause it and exit out and resume it.
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Postby teddman » Thu Jul 24, 2008 8:04 pm

Just force it to 4 dots quality. This is the #1 tip on the forum, it probably should be made a regular menu option on the Roku.

Mark12547 wrote:There is an undocumented way to lock in a given bit stream.

Using the remote, hit Home Home Home Home Home Rewind Rewind Rewind FastForward FastForward (that's 5 Homes, 3 Rewinds, 2 FastForwards), keypresses about 1/2 second apart. You may have to try several times and the trick is to make the keypresses spaced out far enough. (Remember, the last two are <<< Rewind and Fast Forward >>>, which are on the bottom row of buttons, not the < and > keys to the side of the select button.) This will take you into debug mode. On this screen you would see something like this:

Code: Select all

NETFLIX                       bit rate override

Select a stream speed below to override the automatic stream
selection. This setting will remain in effect until you reboot the box.

      enable playback debugging []
                      automatic []
                       2.2 Mbps []
                       1.6 Mbps []
                       1.0 Mbps []
                       0.5 Mbps []
                            back[]




You can select the bit stream that you desire. The bit rates correspond to picture quality of 4 dots (2.2Mbps) down to 1 dot (0.5 Mbps).

As I said, the "debug mode" keystrokes are not documented, neither is this screen. That means it might change in the future and, if a microcode upgrade is loaded (which forces a reboot of the box), you may have to go back to this screen and set the mode again.

The good news is that the worst damage you can do on this screen can be undone by rebooting the box.
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Re: Was getting 4 dots, now get 2...

Postby seahorsejl » Fri Jul 25, 2008 1:29 pm

imarx wrote:I've had my Netflix player since shortly after it was released. It's been working great, and I used to get 4 dots every single time. The past couple of days, it starts at 4 dots, then sometime in the middle gets downgraded to two. From then on, it's always two dots.

Is anyone else having this problem? I have been watching at night, and I noticed other people have noticed reduced quality at night - has anyone brought this to the attention of Roku or Netflix?

I'd appreciate any insight into the matter.


This actually just started happening to me also yesterday. I came home and the box was blinking because power had flickered off during the day (Dolly remnants). I got it connected back to the wireless, but was only getting 2 dot quality. Before that I have been rock solid at 4 dots.

I will have to try the debug mode.

-James
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Re: Was getting 4 dots, now get 2...

Postby oldcrooner » Fri Jul 25, 2008 1:39 pm

imarx wrote:I've had my Netflix player since shortly after it was released. It's been working great, and I used to get 4 dots every single time. The past couple of days, it starts at 4 dots, then sometime in the middle gets downgraded to two. From then on, it's always two dots.

Is anyone else having this problem? I have been watching at night, and I noticed other people have noticed reduced quality at night - has anyone brought this to the attention of Roku or Netflix?

I'd appreciate any insight into the matter.


I've been experiencing the same thing lately also...usually in the middle to late evening time-frame. I'll have a film start off with 4 dots and then after a few minutes suddenly re-buffer and drop to 1 or 2 dots! After that occurs it seems impossible to get back up to 4 dots even though I show excellent router signal strength and my bandwidth still measures as 6-7 mbs. It does indeed seem that the Netflix servers are getting over taxed and are shifting down to a lower bitrate to accomodate?
"The truth is out there."
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Re: Was getting 4 dots, now get 2...

Postby celving » Fri Jul 25, 2008 2:22 pm

oldcrooner wrote:It does indeed seem that the Netflix servers are getting over taxed and are shifting down to a lower bitrate to accomodate?

FWIW, Netflix's servers aren't overloaded.

I'd suspect you're simply being affected by congestion on your ISP's network. Obviously, their network is much more congested in the evening. If there's too much congestion, the Roku box will indeed switch to a lower quality stream.

(The downswitching is especially common with cable ISPs that advertise "Boost" features. "Boost" actually works by limiting the download speeds of long downloads. The Roku box, of course, is essentially downloading a very large movie file from Netflix.)
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I know what you mean...

Postby RebelElvis10 » Fri Jul 25, 2008 4:20 pm

Just starting like two days ago my Roku player has gone to 4 circles, which it has always been at, to just 2 for most things. I did the code to always get 4 circles, but then it took forever to download and start the movie or tv show. So I did my research on here and came across the QoS stuff and turned it off on my computer. I just did that this morning and since I have, I have gotten 4 circles on everything once again!! By the way, I am a new member and just signed up today because I have been reading this forum for about a month or two now. I have had my Roku Player for about two months as well.
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Postby Durf » Sat Jul 26, 2008 12:03 am

Don't forget it could also be wifi interference...if your running wifi.
That was my issue.
Great info btw here. Thanks!
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Postby RebelElvis10 » Sat Jul 26, 2008 5:33 pm

Durf wrote:Don't forget it could also be wifi interference...if your running wifi.
That was my issue.
Great info btw here. Thanks!


Good observation, Durf. It seems like, judging from here, that wireless is more apt to fluctuate in signal strength. My decrease though does not fit into this category. I have an ethernet cord connected straight from my router to my Netflix player. I actually went out and bought a 25 foot ethernet cord because of the signal strength difficulties. Again, since I turned off my QoS on my computer, my strength has stayed at 4 circles. Has anyone else turned off the QoS and had their signal strength jump?
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Postby Robert99 » Sun Jul 27, 2008 8:39 am

RebelElvis10 wrote:Again, since I turned off my QoS on my computer, my strength has stayed at 4 circles. Has anyone else turned off the QoS and had their signal strength jump?

Sort of.

I'm on wired ethernet, behind a NAT router (using the DD-WRT open source router firmware) handling the PPPoE with my ISP, and rarely my Player would just stop buffering/showing any content (but was still happy to download/view my queue info, just not play the content). Things would normally work, but when they stopped working not even rebooting the NetFlix Player AND my router fixed the problem (which you would assume would solve the problem if something got stuck in either the player or the router). However, with the help of ROKU tech support (which I'm sure just "loves me" at this point), I've finally discovered (assuming the pattern holds) that simply going into my router (via the router's web page from a computer) and toggling off QoS and then turning it back on seems to "fix" the problem. So while the NetFlix Player is usually OK with my router's QoS, for some reason the ROKU box (or the router?) can occasionally get "stuck" when the router's QoS is on, and only "unsticks" when QoS is toggled off temporarily (with not even a reboot of the router and the NetFlix player otherwise solving the problem). Weird...

NOTE: I normally have my router's QoS on, to make sure my VoIP (internet phone) always works without interference. So I really don't want to turn it off entirely (and have my phone calls interrupted by other internet activity, including the heavy downloading of my NetFlix Player) . But now that I've discovered that I can apparently "fix" my NetFlix Player (on those rare occasions when it does develop this problem), by simply toggling the QoS off and back on with my router, I am much happier. It still would be nice if whatever got stuck in the video stream would "unstick" on its own, but (assuming this pattern holds) at least I have a work around to get things going again...

NOTE: I've found that the hidden menu (home 5 times, rewind 3 times, fast forward 2 times) to set the quality is very handy, in part because the quality auto-detect will frequently pick a lower setting than your internet can actually handle (without breaks in the video).

My guess is this occurs because the Player does have a (few minute) buffer in it, and I've discovered (by looking at my router's bandwidth usage display) that the Player actually alternates between using as much bandwidth as possible (presumably while it is buffering) and using none at all (presumably when the buffer is full). As a result, it makes sense that the player could keep its buffer from emptying when your ISP's "average bandwidth" (even if/when the actual bandwidth varies a lot due to the network congestion) is still high enough to support the stream you are viewing. But at the same time, it also makes sense that the auto-detect will see the big variance in bandwidth caused by network congestion (possibly even including no bandwidth for a few seconds at a time), and assume that you really can't handle the higher bandwidth streams. So it makes sense that the auto-detect tries to error on the side of caution, which is probably why it often picks a slower speed than your ISP's bandwidth really allows.

Besides which, it's not as if anything really bad will happen if you lock your bandwidth/steam (using the hidden menu on the Player) at the higher setting (in my case I'm currently using the 3 dot setting, as the video on my TV looks just as good as the 4 dot stream). After all, the only thing that will happen if you pick a "too high" stream, is that the player will take longer to initially buffer and may stop and rebuffer a lot (if your ISP really can't handle that stream at that time). And if if buffers too much (to the point it is being annoying to you), just go back into the hidden menu and pick a slower stream. The point is, by using that hidden menu, you bypass the (overly "conservative") auto-detect, which (all too often IMHO) can easily pick a lower quality setting than your internet actually would allow, and instead get the stream quality/speed you ask for.
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Postby brwatters » Sun Jul 27, 2008 1:33 pm

You know I would by the my ISP is overloaded if my VUDU box has the same issue, However when my ROKU box dies I switch over to my VUDU box and get HD content to my HD TV in less than 5 sec and it NEVER fails during the whole picture, Thus my thought is Netflix and or ROKU is the real issue. Its not ready for prime time.
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Postby Robert99 » Mon Jul 28, 2008 6:01 am

brwatters wrote:You know I would by the my ISP is overloaded if my VUDU box has the same issue, However when my ROKU box dies I switch over to my VUDU box and get HD content to my HD TV in less than 5 sec

That still isn't definitive, and it could still be an ISP issue (and not even necessarily your ISP).

Remember, the (internet) route taken between you and NetFlix's servers is likely NOT the same route taken between you and VUDU's servers. And when dealing with the internet, the principle of "weakest link" applies. i.e. If ANY ISP between you and the destination is having slowdown issues, than your effective speed will be slowed down to the speed of that "weakest link" (even if/when it is not your ISP that is "at fault"). And since the route between you and NetFlix is not likely the same as the route between you and VUDU, it's quite possible that there is an ISP between you and NetFlix (that isn't between you and VUDU) that is experiencing congestion/slowdowns at some times of the day. Without complete "traceroute" info for the two services, it's really pretty hard to tell if this is happening or not.

Bottom line: The jury is still out about how much of this is a "design issue" dealing with buffering and auto-detection (which could presumably be addressed with a firmware update, and in the mean time "work arounds" such as locking the quality/speed seem to help), and how much of this is simply an ISP/networking/bandwidth issue.
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Postby DoomsDay » Mon Jul 28, 2008 6:55 am

brwatters wrote:You know I would by the my ISP is overloaded if my VUDU box has the same issue, However when my ROKU box dies I switch over to my VUDU box and get HD content to my HD TV in less than 5 sec and it NEVER fails during the whole picture, Thus my thought is Netflix and or ROKU is the real issue. Its not ready for prime time.


This product IS ready for prime time. Look at all the people that are not having problems. I mean they have sold 100k units and we have what, 20-30 or so people having random issues? Considering how quickly they can get back to you on the boards or if you call them, It doesnt appear to me that they are overburdened with a lot of calls.

And Robert99 is right, your vudu servers could be playing fine and the netflix servers have issues. Heck back when I played EverQuest 1, I had a problem with packet loss. for 3 months I stayed at 50% packet loss. Every other game I played or traceroutes I did all came back fine except to that one server. After having to buy a dialup account and proving that it was something roadrunner was doing, they finally got it fixed but it took drastic measures to get them to actually look at it.

The worst problems I have with the roku box are its detection of how good my network is due to it being on wireless(which is fixed by forcing 4 dot quality) and its updating of my instant queue which works, but requires me to go back and forth in the menu to get it to update. Ever since I got my dlink 655 router, I have not had one single time that my stream has ever rebuffered. My old dlink 514 router was having wireless issues thus why the replacement. This is during the day, during primetime on the east coast and during the middle of the night up to 4 or 5 am in the morning. So dont be so quick to judge that it is a problem in the player, it still sounds like it is a problem on your end or your isp's end.
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Re: Was getting 4 dots, now get 2...

Postby seahorsejl » Mon Jul 28, 2008 12:12 pm

seahorsejl wrote:This actually just started happening to me also yesterday. I came home and the box was blinking because power had flickered off during the day (Dolly remnants). I got it connected back to the wireless, but was only getting 2 dot quality. Before that I have been rock solid at 4 dots.

I will have to try the debug mode.

-James


Well, I tried the debug mode, and I was able to force the 4 star quality, but then it took forever to start a show.

My wireless is reporting excellent, so the problem (like others have said) must be upstream somewhere.
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Postby brwatters » Mon Jul 28, 2008 4:05 pm

Again,

Being a senior engineer with a national ISP I can tell you that if VUDU has better upstream peering than Netflix its a Netflix issue for sure in that they should 100% make it their business to make sure they have the best upstream and peering they can have as its part of their business model to make sure its works correctly for as many customers as possible and I would even further bet that Comcast has some pretty good peering agreements with LOTS of data centers and colo hotels across the USA, If this is a ROKU issue then they need to speak up about it and offer up a solution either via a hardware refresh and or firmware update, This issue is not one being experienced by but just a few I am sure.
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