Yet Another DirecTV Thread...

jjamesjjames AMX Sustaining EngineerPosts: 2,898
So I don't really care for Duet modules - they're terribly bloated and when I've got 11 DirecTVs to control, it bogs down the system terribly at startup.

Anyway - I decided to go with my own code. However, I've noticed that the satellite boxes are very sluggish at first if they've not been used for quite some time. I can't recall if this is normal or there's something special the Duet module is doing to keep the boxes "alert" . . . I've tried sending a "power on" command to keep it "awake" . . . but it doesn't seem to help.

Any ideas?
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Comments

  • a_riot42a_riot42 AMX Wizard Posts: 1,619
    jjames wrote: »
    So I don't really care for Duet modules - they're terribly bloated and when I've got 11 DirecTVs to control, it bogs down the system terribly at startup.

    Anyway - I decided to go with my own code. However, I've noticed that the satellite boxes are very sluggish at first if they've not been used for quite some time. I can't recall if this is normal or there's something special the Duet module is doing to keep the boxes "alert" . . . I've tried sending a "power on" command to keep it "awake" . . . but it doesn't seem to help.

    Any ideas?

    Every once in a while I send them the "Wake up you lazy bum!" command.
    Paul
  • the8thstthe8thst Junior Member Posts: 470
    I am pretty sure this is normal for all of the DTV boxes.

    Maybe sending a command to check signal strength or current channel would be better to keep the box alert because they will actually make the box do some processing?
  • ericmedleyericmedley Senior Member - 3709 Posts Posts: 4,141
    the8thst wrote: »
    I am pretty sure this is normal for all of the DTV boxes.

    Maybe sending a command to check signal strength or current channel would be better to keep the box alert because they will actually make the box do some processing?

    I still haven't seen enough benefit to justify switching to rs232 on the DirecTV. They've burned me so many times in the past with their serial ports that I'm pretty shy to dive in again.
  • jjamesjjames AMX Sustaining Engineer Posts: 2,898
    The reason we've switched to RS-232 is for a few reasons:

    1) Once the box is awake - it's very quick. No channel "macros" to send, just a "Go to this channel" and voila, it's there.
    2) Channel feedback.
    3) Much easier to change baud rate than it is to find a new IR spot and / or having to tape up 95% of the IR window because their new firmware update messed with the IR sensitivity.

    I am sending it an "$FA,$82" command (Active) every 10 seconds, but that does not seem to help. I guess I'll have to load up a duet module and just watch what it does.
  • a_riot42a_riot42 AMX Wizard Posts: 1,619
    jjames wrote: »
    The reason we've switched to RS-232 is for a few reasons:

    1) Once the box is awake - it's very quick. No channel "macros" to send, just a "Go to this channel" and voila, it's there.

    If you set up your IR just right this is possible over IR as well, at least very, very close.
    jjames wrote: »
    2) Channel feedback.

    This would be nice to have, but I can't see dealing with the headaches to get it though.
    jjames wrote: »
    3) Much easier to change baud rate than it is to find a new IR spot and / or having to tape up 95% of the IR window because their new firmware update messed with the IR sensitivity.

    If new firmware messes up the IR sensitivity then an installer has to go out and fix it. If its a baud rate issue, then its a programming problem.
    Paul
  • jjamesjjames AMX Sustaining Engineer Posts: 2,898
    a_riot42 wrote: »
    If you set up your IR just right this is possible over IR as well, at least very, very close.
    Maybe, I know it's a "lame" excuse to switch to 232, but you wouldn't be able to switch a channel this fast. It's literally instant (less than a tenth of a second); now of course you do have to wait for the box to acquire the station - but that doesn't count. :p
    a_riot42 wrote: »
    This would be nice to have, but I can't see dealing with the headaches to get it though.
    Not a headache at all, very simple actually. You ask it it's current channel, and it tells you. I can't see it being any more simple . . . of course you just need to do some parsing, but it's quite simple.
    a_riot42 wrote: »
    If new firmware messes up the IR sensitivity then an installer has to go out and fix it. If its a baud rate issue, then its a programming problem.
    Paul

    Exactly. I can change the baud rate remotely as to where an installer needs to go out. Our company would much rather spend 5 minutes on a programming fix for one job over an installer with 30 minute drive time, an unknown amount of time to fix the sensitivity issue, and then 30 minutes again to drive back. :D
  • a_riot42a_riot42 AMX Wizard Posts: 1,619
    jjames wrote: »
    Maybe, I know it's a "lame" excuse to switch to 232, but you wouldn't be able to switch a channel this fast. It's literally instant (less than a tenth of a second); now of course you do have to wait for the box to acquire the station - but that doesn't count. :p

    That's pretty fast, but like you say tuning the channel takes 2-3 seconds so shaving off a few milliseconds from the channel selection won't make much difference to the user.
    jjames wrote: »
    Not a headache at all, very simple actually. You ask it it's current channel, and it tells you. I can't see it being any more simple . . . of course you just need to do some parsing, but it's quite simple.

    It's not a headache until DTV changes the way it works and breaks everything.
    jjames wrote: »
    Exactly. I can change the baud rate remotely as to where an installer needs to go out. Our company would much rather spend 5 minutes on a programming fix for one job over an installer with 30 minute drive time, an unknown amount of time to fix the sensitivity issue, and then 30 minutes again to drive back. :D

    I would rather send a tech than a programmer because we have more techs than programmers. Sending these highly paid, prima donna AMX programmers to do simple little fix ups isn't really economical.
    Paul
  • jjamesjjames AMX Sustaining Engineer Posts: 2,898
    a_riot42 wrote: »
    I would rather send a tech than a programmer because we have more techs than programmers. Sending these highly paid, prima donna AMX programmers to do simple little fix ups isn't really economical.
    How is sending someone out to drive an hour, plus the time on site more economical than having a programmer fix the problem never even setting foot in the house?

    Time yourself in changing the following text:

    SEND_COMMAND DATA.DEVICE,"'SET BAUD 9600,N,8,1 485 DISABLE'"
    to
    SEND_COMMAND DATA.DEVICE,"'SET BAUD 19200,N,8,1 485 DISABLE'"

    I dunno - took me about 5 seconds. Unless you're typing with your ear - I don't see how this takes more time than it would sending a tech out to fix it. Just my humble opinion though . . . I very well could be wrong.
  • a_riot42a_riot42 AMX Wizard Posts: 1,619
    a_riot42 wrote: »
    I would rather send a tech than a programmer because we have more techs than programmers. Sending these highly paid, prima donna AMX programmers to do simple little fix ups isn't really economical.
    Paul

    Sorry, I meant:
    a_riot42 wrote: »
    Sending these highly paid, prima donna AMX programmers to do simple little fix ups isn't really economical. :)
    Paul
  • jjamesjjames AMX Sustaining Engineer Posts: 2,898
    My bad . . . the power of the smiley though is definitely strong! :P

    I was REALLY confused as to why one would think sending someone out would cost cheaper . . . LOL! I'm thinking to myself, "He truly can't think that!"
  • Joe HebertJoe Hebert Junior Member Posts: 2,154
    jjames wrote: »
    Once the box is awake - it's very quick. No channel "macros" to send, just a "Go to this channel" and voila, it's there.
    Do you see a noticeable time difference between RS-232 control and well timed IR control when changing stations? From the time the user hits a preset button until the time the user views the station, can you tell the difference between an RS-232 or an IR controlled box?

    I?ve been on the fence while deciding if the RS-232 controlled boxes offer any real bang for the buck.

    The ability to know which station the box is on would be much more appealing if it notified us on COS instead of making us poll it all day long. It just doesn?t seem worth it. A lot of stations now overlay their logo on the picture and if need be the info button is always handy. I can see how knowing the current station would come in handy though if you wanted to record the current state of the device.

    I sure wish DirecTV would bring back the 5.17 DisplayText (0xAA) command as shown in the attached image.

    If I could send text to the OSD I?d be all over it like stink on a pig.

    I wonder why DirecTV decided to ditch the idea.
  • John GonzalesJohn Gonzales Junior Member Posts: 609
    Joe Hebert wrote: »
    I sure wish DirecTV would bring back the 5.17 DisplayText (0xAA) command as shown in the attached image... I wonder why DirecTV decided to ditch the idea.
    Probably in case a programmer get's pissed it prevents them from writing something like "DirecTV sucks!" on it :)

    a_riot42 wrote: »
    Every once in a while I send them the "Wake up you lazy bum!" command.
    Paul
    I have mine in a routine that fires if the response from the box is "zzzzzzzzzzzz" :)

    -John
  • jjamesjjames AMX Sustaining Engineer Posts: 2,898
    Joe Hebert wrote: »
    Do you see a noticeable time difference between RS-232 control and well timed IR control when changing stations? From the time the user hits a preset button until the time the user views the station, can you tell the difference between an RS-232 or an IR controlled box?
    I'll be back on the job site and will test out how quick it is via RS-232. I'm not quite sure how fast a "well timed" IR macro is, but it must be pretty darn quick. I typically set my CTONs and CTOFs to 2/3 respectively. And with channel macros I use the SP routine that's been posted here several times. So for a station to be spit out we'd be looking at 1.5 seconds, plus the "enter" command, so 2 seconds for all the commands to be spit out before it actually attempts to go to the channel. Like I said, this was never an issue with our clients, but being able to just spit out a command and have it take 2 seconds to view the channel was quite nice.

    The other thing too - and I'm sure you could fix this with some CANCEL_WAITs, etc. - but you could hit 15 presets as fast as you could (say 2-3 per second), and it will go through all of them and wind up on the last one you hit without it ever missing a beat. So the "reliability" of serial is what we've (I've) fallen in love with. And like I said, the channel and signal feedback is nice.
    Joe Hebert wrote: »
    I sure wish DirecTV would bring back the 5.17 DisplayText (0xAA) command as shown in the attached image.
    Are we 100% certain it's gone? I'll check today to see if it was just taken out of the protocol or if it's actually gone.

    I noticed that the module sends out several things every so often: time & date request, channel request firmware request and signal quality request. I've thrown these things into my programming to see if it'll make any difference - though I doubt it will. The client is complaining that AMX is slow to communicate with DirecTV; I've tried to tell him that it's not AMX, but that it's DirecTV - he keeps comparing it to his Dish Network boxes which he says are super quick to respond. I'm afraid he'll want to rip them out and go with the local cable company or Dish Network, thus switching all 11 boxes to IR. We shall see though.
  • ColzieColzie Senior Member Posts: 470
    jjames wrote: »
    The client is complaining that AMX is slow to communicate with DirecTV; I've tried to tell him that it's not AMX, but that it's DirecTV

    Is this with all commands? Have you cycled power on the DirecTV boxes? In my experience they slow down over time, even for IR control. Cycling power usually helps, at least for a while.

    My biggest complaint with the DTV 232 is the numeric entry. If you send several digits in a row you will not get them all 75% of the time. It isn't necessarily worse than IR, but definitely not better. I've written a buffer to improve reliability, but at the cost of speed.

    As mentioned, however the "direct tune" option works awesome! Super fast and super reliable. So the case can be made to queue the numeric entry until enter is selected, then direct tune that channel. That definitely would work for changing channels, but it would kill the ability to just send digits to the box. The biggest issue in my mind is jumping around in the guide (via channel). Sending a direct entry when in the guide changes the tuner's channel, not the position in the guide.

    A worse option? Two keypads (like the AMX Module). Or a button to toggle the type of keypad. Yeah, clients would understand that....
  • ericmedleyericmedley Senior Member - 3709 Posts Posts: 4,141
    My complaint is not so much with how the feature works or doesn't work currently. It has to do with the long history of DirecTV being rather fickle about the rs232 port in general. Their history (at least in my case) has been "on again - off again" The argument with them always boils down "Does it work with the IR remote? Yes? Well, then it's your problem, not ours" They're just not that friendly with integrators. (which is ironic on many levels) I've watched them turn the port off with a firmware upgrade with no warning. I've seen them sneak it back on without warning as well.

    That's why I just quit going there. If they give us a good 2 to 3 years of the actual db9 port staying on and working correctly, I'll maybe give it a try. But, I have a very low threshold of pain when it comes to having to go reprogram 40+ systems because a manufacturer is playing games.
  • jjamesjjames AMX Sustaining Engineer Posts: 2,898
    Yeah, it's all commands. In my experience so far, once the box "gets with it" and it's gone through a few channels, etc., it's quite quick - including the numeric entry (and it's reliable.) When it's first used after a while of not being used, the thing's terrible! You can hit guide, and literally 10 seconds later the guide will popup.

    I have not reboot the boxes at all; perhaps putting in a reboot command at midnight or 1AM might help?

    Surprisingly, after putting in some commands (signal request, channel request, etc.) *most* of the boxes were much more responsive this morning. There's one particular box that will not "get with it" - and of course it's the master bedroom! Perhaps a bit of a faulty box?
  • jjamesjjames AMX Sustaining Engineer Posts: 2,898
    ericmedley wrote: »
    My complaint is not so much with how the feature works or doesn't work currently. It has to do with the long history of DirecTV being rather fickle about the rs232 port in general. Their history (at least in my case) has been "on again - off again" The argument with them always boils down "Does it work with the IR remote? Yes? Well, then it's your problem, not ours" They're just not that friendly with integrators. (which is ironic on many levels) I've watched them turn the port off with a firmware upgrade with no warning. I've seen them sneak it back on without warning as well.

    That's why I just quit going there. If they give us a good 2 to 3 years of the actual db9 port staying on and working correctly, I'll maybe give it a try. But, I have a very low threshold of pain when it comes to having to go reprogram 40+ systems because a manufacturer is playing games.
    We started using the RS-232 / USB ports for control once the Pro Box came out (HR-21PRO?) where it had a DB9 and we've not run into any problems yet of it turning on/off. I guess we haven't been using it long enough to see the issues you've seen.
  • the8thstthe8thst Junior Member Posts: 470
    jjames wrote: »
    Yeah, it's all commands. In my experience so far, once the box "gets with it" and it's gone through a few channels, etc., it's quite quick - including the numeric entry (and it's reliable.) When it's first used after a while of not being used, the thing's terrible! You can hit guide, and literally 10 seconds later the guide will popup.

    I have not reboot the boxes at all; perhaps putting in a reboot command at midnight or 1AM might help?

    Surprisingly, after putting in some commands (signal request, channel request, etc.) *most* of the boxes were much more responsive this morning. There's one particular box that will not "get with it" - and of course it's the master bedroom! Perhaps a bit of a faulty box?

    Have you checked to see how much free space is left on the harddrive on the Master Bed box?

    The boxes slow waaaaay down when the hard drive starts to get full.
  • jjamesjjames AMX Sustaining Engineer Posts: 2,898
    the8thst wrote: »
    Have you checked to see how much free space is left on the harddrive on the Master Bed box?

    The boxes slow waaaaay down when the hard drive starts to get full.

    I just checked . . . 1% left.

    This does make sense as the fastest satellite box has 100% free. Thanks for the tip, I'll let them know!
  • ColzieColzie Senior Member Posts: 470
    the8thst wrote: »
    Have you checked to see how much free space is left on the harddrive on the Master Bed box?

    The boxes slow waaaaay down when the hard drive starts to get full.

    This is a great tip for any DirecTV owner, not just ones we control. Thanks!!
  • TonyAngeloTonyAngelo Code Monkey Posts: 315
    We have done a number of bar/restaurants where having the ability to display the current channel on the Touch panel is very helpful. In most residential situations it's not a big deal because the person controlling the box is usually looking at it on the TV anyway. In a bar/restaurant setting, with one Touchpanel, where you can't see all the TV's knowing the channel number is really nice.
  • jimmywjimmyw Junior Member Posts: 112
    jjames I am curious to see your DTV code if I may, ill post mine up as well when I am back in the office. I am planning on rewriting mine as I wrote it in a rush and it seems quite fickle.

    Jimmy
  • jjamesjjames AMX Sustaining Engineer Posts: 2,898
    I unfortunately did not turn it into a module or a separate code block, and it's just embedded in the project. Next time I need it (which may be soon), I'll probably turn it into a module or an include file, at which point I'll post it.

    I'll be honest, it's nothing fancy - it's just enough to control the thing.
  • one and done

    I had this working a couple years back, but switched back to IR for reasons I no longer recall. In attempting to restore RS232 and gain the beloved SPEED of channel presets, I find BOTH of my personal receivers with the same behavior: I get a single FA following a receiver reboot, then nothing.

    Any tips from JJames or others who have been repeatedly successful with these DirecTV receivers?

    Thanks
  • TonyAngeloTonyAngelo Code Monkey Posts: 315
    pbohnsack wrote: »
    I had this working a couple years back, but switched back to IR for reasons I no longer recall. In attempting to restore RS232 and gain the beloved SPEED of channel presets, I find BOTH of my personal receivers with the same behavior: I get a single FA following a receiver reboot, then nothing.

    Any tips from JJames or others who have been repeatedly successful with these DirecTV receivers?

    Thanks

    Are you using one of the recommended Serial->USB cables?

    Have you tried a hard power cycle of the DTV box?
  • one and done
    TonyAngelo wrote: »
    Are you using one of the recommended Serial->USB cables?

    Have you tried a hard power cycle of the DTV box?

    Thanks for the reply, Tony. Yes, I'm using the GUC232A, and performed multiple hard reboots after plugging / unplugging the adapter. Following each reboot, I get a single incoming string "$FA,$0D,$0A" .

    These are the same adapters I used to write a NetLinx code block that was posted here a few years ago. It worked then...I'm not sure what's different now.

    I recall there was a baud rate change from earlier versions of DirecTV software, but I've tried 115200 (original), 9600 (as documented) and 19200.

    I'm using a standard AMX programming cable between the USB adapter and the AMX port. Is that still correct? (2-3, 3-2, 5-5)

    No more testing this week, but any other suggestions are appreciated for my next opportunity.

    Thanks!
  • jjamesjjames AMX Sustaining Engineer Posts: 2,898
    Paul,

    I've seen GUC232As go bad from time to time, only exhibiting one way communication (either from dev->AMX or vice verse.) You may want to try a different one.

    The baud that I'm using is 9600,N,8,1. The protocol is fairly straight forward, so I highly doubt it's your programming. I'll be on site tomorrow through the remainder of the week and will tinker a little bit with the DTVs. I would have suggested that you plug in the USB>Serial adapter with the box off, and then power it up. I do know that certain boxes do not support "hot swappable" USB devices and need to be powered up after the adapter is plugged in . . . but it sounds like you've done this already.

    I do run a timeline asking for the current channel every 10 seconds or so, and also about 2 seconds after I send a preset. Like I said, I know the protocol is not too difficult, but try sending this command every 5-10 seconds.
    SEND_STRING dvSat, "$FA,$87"; // Get current channel
    

    It should return something.

    What DTV box do you have?
  • perm182perm182 Junior Member Posts: 15
    Serial

    Just use the ir ports as serial. Set mode to data and use USB to serial adapters. There are tons of brands of adapters that work. We have them on over 100 receivers in many properties. Work great. I have all the protocol is here with a great ultility to control them through a pc that gives you the commands.

    http://www.dtvcontrol.com/
  • TonyAngeloTonyAngelo Code Monkey Posts: 315
    perm182 wrote: »
    Just use the ir ports as serial. Set mode to data and use USB to serial adapters. There are tons of brands of adapters that work. We have them on over 100 receivers in many properties. Work great. I have all the protocol is here with a great ultility to control them through a pc that gives you the commands.

    http://www.dtvcontrol.com/

    I don't see how this addresses the issue. If he can't control it using a standard 232 port why would a one-way serial port work instead?
  • TonyAngeloTonyAngelo Code Monkey Posts: 315
    pbohnsack wrote: »
    Thanks for the reply, Tony. Yes, I'm using the GUC232A, and performed multiple hard reboots after plugging / unplugging the adapter. Following each reboot, I get a single incoming string "$FA,$0D,$0A" .

    These are the same adapters I used to write a NetLinx code block that was posted here a few years ago. It worked then...I'm not sure what's different now.

    I recall there was a baud rate change from earlier versions of DirecTV software, but I've tried 115200 (original), 9600 (as documented) and 19200.

    I'm using a standard AMX programming cable between the USB adapter and the AMX port. Is that still correct? (2-3, 3-2, 5-5)

    No more testing this week, but any other suggestions are appreciated for my next opportunity.

    Thanks!

    I actually don't remember the pinouts of the patch cable between the AMX and the adapter, so trying a null modem might be worth it.

    As James said make sure the adapter is plugged in when doing the hard reboot.
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