pace V3 Sky+ HDD corrupted by power cut

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pace V3 Sky+ HDD corrupted by power cut

Postby IrishSteve » Thu Oct 18, 2012 11:30 am

Folks,

This may help someone, we have a Pace Sky+ box that some time ago was fitted with a 500Gb disc, and most of the time, it behaves itself, and the extra space is a real bonus. We were watching the F1 GP at the weekend and the power died, and came back about 45 seconds later. The irritation was that the box refused to come back up, even after trying a forced software download, and there were a significant number of recordings on the disc, so a reformat wasn't a simple decision. It absolutely refused to play ball, so it was time for some more detailed work.

First step was to put the original 160 Gb disc back in and see if the box recovered. It did, despite the data on the disc being a couple of years old, so that meant the box as such was working, and hadn't been fried. Tried the 500 disc again, no go.

Put the 500 in to a caddy and did a backup with copy+, and it appeared to be happy with all the information it found on the disc, and copied OK.

Put the 160 in to the caddy and checked to see if there were any different files in the root directory, and there appeared to be a difference, so tried putting that file on to the 500, but still no go.

Tried rebuilding the MBR and the BIOS using the utilities, but still no go, so in the end, put the 500 back in the Sky box, and did a power up format, which of course cleared the disc.
That at least got the box working again, which meant that it was a corrupt file somewhere in the boot process.

At that stage, formatted again and then took the disc out of the Sky box, and put it back in the caddy to see if there was anything that might help with the recovery, nothing immediately apparent.

Then tried copying the files from the backup to the 500 disc with copy+, and after the copy had finished and it had gone through the endian checks, tried the box again in the sky box, it booted, did a planner rebuild just in case, and it came back up, and all the recordings were there, which was very pleasing.

Seems that a file needed for boot was corrupted when the power failed, and I can only assume that having formatted the disc and rebuilt it from the copy, the corruption was in an area of the files that is not affected by a copy, so moving the files across from the backup didn't re corrupt the data needed for the boot to work.

Not sure if anyone has the information to analyse this any deeper, it is a problem we've seen before on occasions, and on that basis, it would be helpful if there was a way to do the equivalent of a windows check disk on the Sky disc, and then if necessary do the relevant repair to the file structure.

So, has anyone had any success in unravelling the disc structure in more detail in order to make it possible to do these sort of repair? if you have, has the information been published anywhere?

Thanks

Steve
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Re: pace V3 Sky+ HDD corrupted by power cut

Postby pcbbc » Thu Oct 18, 2012 12:01 pm

Hi Steve,

Yes, I've come across this refusal to boot on many occasions. In fact I even had it happen to my own box, and a backup and restore with Copy+ saved the day.
On some models of box/firmware the situation can also arise where the box boots, but box reports "Sky+ features are unavailable". Again a backup and restore fixes this.

My assumption is somewhat different from yours. I do not believe there are any "hidden files". Firstly because I understand the Sky+ disk structures (and how the different from standard FAT32) very well, and have never seen any evidence of and "extra" hidden files. Secondly because a FSR is not actually necessary in the process in order to get the disk back up and working - All that is required is a simple backup and restore with Copy+.

What I think is happening here is that on boot there is some kind of "check disk" like activity going on (this is evident from the amount of disk head chattering that goes on during boot with large disks containing large numbers of programs). When a disk gets heavily fragmented, this process can fail in some way. Perhaps it gets stuck in an endless loop, runs out of memory, takes too long and a watchdog timer kicks in - I can only guess. But regardless, the box firmware then is either stuck in the loop (and never boots) or in some cases recovers but deems the disk file system "damaged" (and therefore refuses to allow Sky+ functions).

One of the useful "features" of a backup and restore is that the backup (and hence also the restored version) of the disk is actually a fully de-fragmented version of the original file system. There may also have been a few errors in the underlying file system (orphaned clusters etc) which will have been corrected along the way. Although in the examples I have seen, I couldn't find any evidence of this. It just seemed like the file system was perfectly valid, but quite heavily fragmented. So a guess based on the available evidence would suggest that as this is the only difference between a non-working and a working system, file system fragmentation and an iffy implementation of check disk seems to be the culprit.

Of course, to give the Sky engineers some credit (and the stuff they have been doing of late on the new Darwin platform certainly shows they deserve it) the check disk code may be perfectly valid given the sizes of disk they expected it to be able to cope with. But when you substitute a 500GB drive over a stock 160 one and increase the size of the FAT tables by over 3 times it's quite possible that some assumptions made by the programmers may no longer be valid.

But anyway, I am glad that a backup and restore saved your recordings!

Regards, Stuart.
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Re: pace V3 Sky+ HDD corrupted by power cut

Postby IrishSteve » Thu Oct 18, 2012 12:35 pm

Stuart,

Thanks for the comments, that's interesting, I don't know the Sky format at all, but have spent more years than i care to admit to sorting out PC type issues, errors and other nasties. Your explanation seems a lot more logical than mine, and the thought of a heavy fragmentation would indeed be valid, in that we tend to do a lot of timeshifting, if only to be able to fast forward over the adverts :) , so there is a good chance that it was upset with the time to complete.

Didn't realise that Copy+ was going to be happy to deal with the directory structure in that way, but it doesn't take very long to format in the box, if it's not needed, one less aggravation to have to worry about.

Yes, I was very happy to be able to get the box back, there's probably 20 or 30 archived items on it at the moment that are waiting for the right time to watch them, it's a pity the USB socket on the box can't be used to archive off without opening the box up.

Going to have to consider an upgrade before too long, we have HD set, but paying Sky an extra €15 a month for HD at the moment is not an option, we've already had to cut several packages out.

There is some sort of force the box to respond button press, but I've not isolated it yet, in that I tried pressing all sorts of things on the front panel after waiting an acceptable time, which got the box to do some disc I/O, and then it did indeed report that the SKy+ facilities were not available, but the box booted, so that ties in with your comments. Might try and work out more scientifically what the sequence was, but hey, if the box is down, the usual requirement is to get the darn thing back PDQ in order to avoid earache!

An option to be able to selectively copy would be a big help, there was a mountain of anytime stuff on the box that I would have cheerfully ignored, saving some serious time, but couldn't find a way to do it.

Then again, the standard Sky+ box days are probably limited, if for no other reason than that finding acceptable discs to go in them is becoming tricky, IDE discs are not exactly easy to find any more. That's going to mean either a SKy+ HD box, or going dreambox at some stage.

Cheers

Steve
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Re: pace V3 Sky+ HDD corrupted by power cut

Postby pcbbc » Fri Oct 19, 2012 10:02 am

IrishSteve wrote:Going to have to consider an upgrade before too long, we have HD set, but paying Sky an extra €15 a month for HD at the moment is not an option, we've already had to cut several packages out.
Second hand HD boxes are available quite often on popular auction sites. I've no idea what they go for these days, but can not be that much.
Also, I do not believe Sky repair or replace with SD boxes anymore - so if your box breaks you will get a HD box in replacement. Call them and see if they will offer you a new one without the HD pack - you don't have a HD TV and don't want one either (just say Sky+ keeps going wrong and you have to FSR to get it back again - well you almost had to right?).
In the UK the Sky "callout" fee used to be £65 (may have gone up a bit) and that covers all works and a replacement box. So maybe about €80, which at €15 a month is 5 months of a minimum 12 month HD sub.
So this should be the most you will be paying whatever method you chose to upgrade. Worth checking that it will be HD first, but almost certain that it will be.

Make sure you get a modern Amstrad DRX-890, and absolutely not the first gen Thomson box which are no longer supported (and the power supplies were always iffy).
You will then not have to pay the €15, but will get all the free HD channels. Not sure what the selection is in Ireland, but at least you will have a modern box with Anytime+ etc.
However please remember there is no upgrade path form SD to HD anymore, as Copy+ no longer works with the Darwin HD EPG. Sorry. Use ExPVR for HD boxes, but then that is not compatible with SD - C'est la vie!

There is some sort of force the box to respond button press
Not that I know of. And be careful because certain presses format hard drive (LEFT+RIGHT at power up) or download the latest box firmware (BACKUP).

An option to be able to selectively copy would be a big help.
Sorry, but RTFM :oops: :
Step 3: Performing a Disk Copy
Selecting Recordings to Copy
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Re: pace V3 Sky+ HDD corrupted by power cut

Postby IrishSteve » Fri Oct 19, 2012 10:54 am

Stuart,

Thanks for the update. Completely missed the selective copy option, probably because I was under pressure at the time to get the box back, I shall have to remember that one for sure. The Anytime area was almost full, they've been throwing all the Bond films into it recently.

Valid points re the box replacements, that may indeed be a way forward. I've been hanging fire a little, as Sky have recently announced that they have done a deal with BT to offer Sky broadband in Ireland, which is their entry into the Irish Internet market, and that will probably generate some promotional activity, Sky are being badly hurt by Cable supplier UPC, who are offering some very attractive packages in their coverage areas, as they've spent mega bucks putting in fibre optic cables, so they have the speed, and the facility to offer their equivalent of Sky's on demand, and without their own broadband offering, Sky are not going to get much take up on their service, the download caps on most ISP's are too restrictive to allow much use, and the charges for extra capacity are prohibitive.

The Backup and format options are well known, and documented on the local PC to save going looking for it, as they both get used often enough to make it worth having to hand, between here and the family, there are quite a few plus boxes, and they've all had "issues" at one time or another.

Thanks for the warnings about the the HD boxes, it's strange how Sky seem to get batches of boxes that have power supply issues, but having spent time this week replacing capacitors on a PC motherboard because they'd blown the end caps, I guess the problems of component quality have not yet gone away, there were huge problems a while back with counterfeit capacitors that didn't last or were otherwise faulty, and these things sometimes take a while to show up.

Will be able to find the HD channels shortly, Maplin were doing an offer at €100 of a combined sat and terrestrial HD box for Digital, as our analog TV service dies next week, and we can't record the free to air non EPG channels on Sky+, which is all the ITV's, as they are not part of the Sky Ireland package, and the quality of the (cable) repeater system locally means no way, it's still using VHF frequencies with huge quality issues, so a freeview equivalent box with record capability that can also get digital service off air is worth while, so that will allow me to see the free to air Sat HD's, and as I've got a multiswitch, all I need to do is run in a cable, no LNB messing to do, and the terrestrial signal is also on the same cable. A standard digital STB for terrestrial is close on €60, so an extra €40 for the freeview and time shift option using an external USB disc is a good offer.

How often would you recommend doing a copy of the disc to avoid the fragmentation problems. I don't know how long the 500 has been in the box, probably close on 2 years, and we've had a couple of occasions where the box didn't come back, the first time all the recordings were lost, this time, nothing lost, and it does seem that fragmetation could be the reason, as quite often, there are 2 recordings running in parallel.

As you say, Ce La Vie, and it's fine as long as you don't let it get to you. Not been easy here in Ireland in recent times, the economy here has been very much a factor for the last couple of years, and it's not showing any signs of getting better any time soon.

Cheers

Steve
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Re: pace V3 Sky+ HDD corrupted by power cut

Postby pcbbc » Fri Oct 19, 2012 11:40 am

IrishSteve wrote:Sky have recently announced that they have done a deal with BT to offer Sky broadband in Ireland, which is their entry into the Irish Internet market
Well, you learn something new every day...
Didn't know BT had started operations in Ireland. Really should pay more attention to those shareholder communications!

Still waiting for my exchange in SE London (Farnborough) to get Infinity (I can't believe it has been put back again to 2013 now!) and for Be (who I am extremely happy with in every other regard) to pull their finger out and get a fibre offering together. But I guess I should count myself lucky of a reasonably priced unlimited ADSL offering!
Not that I'm short of bandwidth as it is, but a bit more upstream would be better (like for my private VPN connection for when abroad :P - my current 1.3k ADSL up is a bit limiting in that regard, but just good enough for a bit of TV).

Thanks for the warnings about the the HD boxes, it's strange how Sky seem to get batches of boxes that have power supply issues...
No, without wishing to be too damning or libellous about Thomson, it seemed to be just about EVERY Sky+ box they ever produced! :oops:
The same power supply was carried over from the Sky+ to Sky+HD boxes and replacing the caps was widely known as a pre-requisite of owning one of these boxes for any extended period of time.

How often would you recommend doing a copy of the disc to avoid the fragmentation problems. I don't know how long the 500 has been in the box, probably close on 2 years, and we've had a couple of occasions where the box didn't come back, the first time all the recordings were lost, this time, nothing lost, and it does seem that fragmentation could be the reason, as quite often, there are 2 recordings running in parallel.
Well it depends how much you use it of course!
I used to backup my Sky+ every 6 months or so when I started with Copy+, but have become more complacent as time went on the the software reliability improved. These days I just don't bother, knowing I can fix an issue (usually just a backup and restore) if there is a problem.
So it's up to you. Personally, given the amount of effort required - remove disk, do backup, put it back - I'd say just use Copy+ if you run into a problem. But in the end I all suppose it depends how valuable your recording library is to you.

Not been easy here in Ireland in recent times, the economy here has been very much a factor for the last couple of years, and it's not showing any signs of getting better any time soon.
No. I know it's been bad over there. Best of luck that things improve for you soon.
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Re: pace V3 Sky+ HDD corrupted by power cut

Postby willywonka1000 » Fri Oct 19, 2012 11:53 am

Hi guys, this is going to seem a strange post but actually glad someone still on forums !!. Can any of you gents help me source a copy of +Extract that works as current one has issues, see here
as I have a drive I need to take stuff of I am really stuck, many thanks in advance Billy.....
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Re: pace V3 Sky+ HDD corrupted by power cut

Postby pcbbc » Fri Oct 19, 2012 12:09 pm

willywonka1000 wrote:Hi guys, this is going to seem a strange post but actually glad someone still on forums !!. Can any of you gents help me source a copy of +Extract that works as current one has issues, see "http://www.skycopyplus.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=2708"
as I have a drive I need to take stuff of I am really stuck, many thanks in advance Billy.....
I'm sorry, Neil who wrote +Extract is no longer supporting it. :cry:
So the versions in the downloads section is as good as it is going to get - sorry.
For HD boxes use ExPVR.
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Re: pace V3 Sky+ HDD corrupted by power cut

Postby willywonka1000 » Fri Oct 19, 2012 12:20 pm

Hi, thanks for the quick reply, I was reading all over net and I see the term "Darwin" HDD, any idea's as to what thisa refers to, and also what is EXPVR ..., sorry bit new to all this so excuse an idiot ...Billy.
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Re: pace V3 Sky+ HDD corrupted by power cut

Postby willywonka1000 » Fri Oct 19, 2012 12:23 pm

Hi, me again, please ignore last as just found out what both are, ta again Billy.
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