Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Verizon FiOS Set Top Box Issues

Firmware download hoses up HDMI port

Verizon pushed down a firmware upgrade for their set top boxes on December 1st, and for the last week anytime you hit the guide function you were forced to see a message touting the new interactive services that the upgrade was enabling. You then needed to hit the OK key to proceed to the program guide, which was a pain, but a relatively small pain compared to the real problems that the upgrade caused for me.

Since the upgrade, my Motorola HD QIP 7000 set top box power cycles constantly when I try to shut it off. It wouldn’t be so bad if the box wasn’t in the bedroom, but it is.

The first night I noticed it, I had fallen asleep with the TV's sleep timer on, only to be awakened by a “Click”. At first I thought it was the TV turning off at the predetermined time, but it kept happening. Click, pause, Click, pause, Click, pause, over and over and over. It was very annoying.

I finally got up, flipped on the lights, and watched as the box first turned on, Click, then cycled through a couple of error code screens (8888 followed by ----), briefly showed the channel display, then… Click, shut itself off, only to repeat the process in an endless cycle. I had to unplug the darn thing so that I could finally get some sleep.

Next day I called Verizon and as soon as I mentioned the 8888/---- error codes, they knew what the problem was. Seems the new firmware update they’re so proud of breaks the HDMI port. When the QIP 7000 is connected via HDMI cable to a TV, and the TV is switched off, the box takes leave of its senses. Everything is fine as long as the TV is on, but once you shut it off, the box starts cycling. Sure enough, when I unplugged the HDMI cable from the TV, the box fell silent.

The good news is, they know what the problem is.

The bad news is, they don’t have a fix for it yet.

Until they do, you need to switch over to a set of component cables. You can also use coax or composite cables, but only component and HDMI give you a Hi Def signal on these boxes. The tech support person apologized for the inconvenience and promised to overnight me a set of composite cables. He also said that once the problem was fixed and I switched back to HDMI, I could hang on to the component cables, compliments of Verizon. Wowzers, such a deal…

Before I hung up, I asked how they were going to notify me when the problem was fixed. I got put on hold for a minute, and when the tech returned he informed me that I wouldn’t, I should just check and see if the HDMI cable works every once in a while. Nice.

I should mention that I haven’t had any problems with my HD DVR QIP 7216 downstairs; it works fine, HDMI connection and all. This problem seems to be strictly limited to the HD QIP 7000 model, although there’s also a possibility that the problem is with specific types of TV’s. I’ve got the 7000 connected to a 1 year old Vizio and the 7216 connected to a 3 year old Samsung. HDMI connectors and cables are required to be backwards compatible between versions, and the tech never asked me what type of TV I had, so it’s probably not an issue, but you never know. If I get ambitious maybe I’ll try swapping the boxes, just to satisfy my own curiosity.

As soon as the new set of component cables arrived I hooked them up, and the problem is now solved. No more power cycling, and I actually think the picture is a little bit better than it was with the HDMI cable.

How is that possible? Well, it’s hard to explain, but the quality of the picture is determined in large part by how the components (TV and cable box) process the signal being received. There’s a great write up here on the eacoustics forum that explains it better than I can. The quality of the cables also factors in, and the component cables I received today appear to be of much better quality than the HDMI cable they originally gave me.

By the way, while I was waiting impatiently for the arrival of my new component cables, I was unplugging the HDMI cable before I turned things off. It’s a better temporary solution than unplugging the set top box. If you leave the box powered down you’ll not only miss the guide updates, you’ll also miss the fix, when and if they ever send it.


jon said...

Wow - you really nailed the problem. I've been trying to figure this out for a few weeks, and when your post mentioned December 1st, I realized it started just about then. The clicking and the damn flashing 8888 were driving me crazy. I'll unplug the box tonight and give the good folks at Verizon a ring in the morning. Thanks!

berryjooks said...

My pleasure! It's a WICKED annoying problem.

The good thing is that so far it's the first glitch I've hit with the FiOS service since I switched over 7 months ago.

The bad is that Verizon should have sent out a notice to all of their customers the minute they realized they had broken something.

Anonymous said...

You need to be a consultant for Verizon. I've been having a problem for a while now and the rep sent me the cables, but didn't fully explain what I needed to do.... needless to say, I'm not the best technical person. I switched the cables, but I'm still getting the 8888. I reset everything, but it's not working. Now I've been on hold with Verizon for 37 minutes to see if they can clear it. FUN! I switched to FIOS after having horrible customer service with a local digital cable company.....

berryjooks said...

Hi Jennifer, tech support is just as bad with Verizon as it was with Comcast.

Sorry to hear the cable change didn't help, and I hope Verizon was able to fix the problem with a reset of the box. I'd love to hear back as to whether they were able to correct it or not.

If they didn't, try a little experiment and unplug the new component cable from the TV and see if the cable box stops power cycling. Inquiring minds need to know!