Vizio/WiFi Struggles

The earliest reference I can find to “PiVo,” the first PC-based DVR I built, is from 2007. Although I had ripped DVDs to my hard drive prior to 2007, after I set up PiVo, I went all in. I decided the future of home entertainment would be streaming movies, both over the internet and locally. I spent years converting my 1,000+ DVD collection into digital files — first as AVI files, and later, as technology improved, to MP4 and MKV format.

In 2011 we moved to our current house, and my little media streaming network hasn’t been the same since. When things work, they work, but sometimes movies buffer, sometimes they stutter, and sometimes the who thing locks up. I’ve changed so many pieces of the system that it’s been difficult to figure out where the problem lies, or really, exactly when it started.

When I started troubleshooting networks more than two decades ago, I learned the best technique was to start at one end and move to the other. I applied that to my own network, upgrading almost component along the way. When my array of four 2TB drives ran low on space, I replaced them with eight faster 3TB drives. I upgraded my external storage container from SATA-2 to the faster SATA-3, and upgraded my drive controller card at the same time. Eventually I bought a new server, and optimized it. It is no exaggeration to say I have spent thousands of dollars in upgrades trying to fix the problem.

The last piece of the puzzle was my wireless router. It was older than I remembered — 7 years, in fact — and so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to upgrade. I replaced my aging Linksys 2000 with a much more modern Linksys 7500. The new router has external antennas, new features, and is faster. It is a 100% improvement over my old router in every possible way.

It fixed my streaming problem. Finally, movies play without buffering or stuttering. My older 802.11n devices have a stronger signal, and my newer devices that use 5GHz are faster, too. After years of messing with my network, finally, everything was fixed.

And then, the living room television began randomly disconnecting from the wireless network.

Just to recap: my two WD Live boxes (the devices I use to stream movies to my televisions) are now working better. All three of our laptops, and the couple of desktops we have that use wireless, are working better. All four iPhones and both of our iPads are working better. My army of wireless Raspberry Pis are working better. Our two printers, which believe it or not are wireless, are working better. Every single goddamn wireless device in this house is working better.

Except for the living room television.

The Western Digital box I use has Netflix and YouTube apps, but so does the television. Susan and the kids like using the apps built into the television, because it’s less complicated and you only have to use one remote. I didn’t need to fix this for me. I needed to fix this for them.

I physically relocated the wireless router closer to the living room. That didn’t help.I changed the channel on the router. That didn’t help. I installed a device that reboots the router every day at 4 a.m. That didn’t help.

At a loss for ideas, I decided to hook the old router back up and connect only the television to it.

That didn’t help.

Literally, how could that not help? I had just returned things to the way they were before I started!

Shortly before putting my fist through the television, I remembered something. The other day when I turned on the television, I received a notification asking me to approve something. The television must have received a firmware upgrade. I checked online, and sure enough, Vizio recently upgraded the firmware of my television. A review of the television’s manual says that you cannot request an upgrade, reinstall an upgrade, prevent an upgrade, or roll back an upgrade. Upgrades are downloaded when your television is off (strange definition of “off”) and applied when you turn it on. No exceptions.

The symptoms, while not repeatable, are consistent. After 15-20 minutes of streaming directly through the Vizio television, the wireless network disappears. The green bars that designate signal strength are replaced with a triangle warning icon, and even in the setup menu, no wireless networks appear. Sometimes turning the television off and on fixes the problem and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve reset the television back to its factory defaults, and even unplugged it for an hour. Nothing helps.

As part of my troubleshooting last year I bought an EnGenius wireless repeater for a dollar at a garage sale. It didn’t help my network at all (in fact it kind of made things worse) but I threw it in a drawer anyway. I pulled the repeater out of the closet, connected the television to it, and tried that. No help. As a last resort, I reconfigured the device to be a wireless bridge, essentially simulating a wireless network cable. I used a network cable to connect the television to the wireless bridge, and gave it a try.

It worked.

It worked!!!

I opened Stranger Things on Netflix and let it run for several hours. It didn’t lock up once! Even though my current configuration is using my wireless network, it’s bypassing the actual television’s wireless network interface. The problem is definitely with the television’s wireless networking, and definitely was introduced with the latest firmware update. If Vizio is bored and looking for a problem to fix, that would be a good place to look.

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1 comment to Vizio/WiFi Struggles

  • AArdvark

    Glad you got it working but man, that’s a lot of hops to jump through.

    Remember when a software /firmware upgrade meant good things? There was no cringing and thinking:”uh oh, what bad things are going to happen now?”

    I’m thinking of the PS3 and the death of the ‘load other OS’ option.

    My Samsung just lost the onboard Youtube app for some stupid content reason. And there’s Apple stuff I heard about (loudly)

    Just when you get it right they mess with you.

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