Wednesday, 11 July 2012

10:42 – We’ve been screwed again by Roku. After we ran the Ethernet cable from the den to the router, everything worked fine. No delays, very good picture quality, and no drop-outs for re-buffering. Then, yesterday, I fired up the Roku box to watch some Netflix streaming. Roh-roh. The first indication of a problem was the time needed to buffer. Ordinarily, I see the buffering bar for maybe 10 or 15 seconds, and then the program starts playing in HD. This time, it took literally two or three minutes to buffer. I then got about three seconds of HD before it dropped the signal and started re-buffering. This time, it took three or four minutes to buffer, and the video quality was showing two balls rather than the usual four balls + HD. The program then ran for about two minutes before it blew up again and started re-buffering.

My first thought was that we might be having network problems with TWC, so I went to my office and ran some network tests. Our download speed was between 13 and 14 Mbps (HD streaming takes only 5 Mbps), and the latency looked fine. So I figured Netflix might be having problems and called their tech support. The guy told me there were no problems on their end, and then said, “Oh, wait a minute. You’re using a Roku box.” As it turns out, Roku pushed down a firmware upgrade earlier that day, and the Netflix support guy said it had “buried” them. He said there were two things that would solve the problem. He suggested first powering down the Roku box and our router, waiting a minute, and powering up the router and then the Roku box. If that didn’t work, he said to deactivate the Roku box and then reactivate it. He said that would solve the problem.

I did the power-down thing. No joy. It was still taking three minutes to buffer and then dropping the signal. So I took a deep breath and started the de-activate/reactivate procedure. (When I first set up the Roku box, that “five-minute” job took four hours, much of which was spent on the phone with Roku tech support, who speak only extremely Chinese-accented English.) I de-activated Netflix, did a factory reset on the Roku, and went through the procedure to re-activate. This time, it indeed took only a few minutes. But… No joy. Three minutes of buffering, followed by 2-ball video quality and frequent drops.

So I called Netflix tech support again, and told the woman who answered what I’d done. She said that one or the other of the things I’d done should have solved the problem, but said they did have a list of four or five other things I could try. She emailed that to me, and all of them had to do with wireless problems. So at this point I’m stuck. Netflix doesn’t know what else to tell me, and suggests the problem must be with my broadband connection. I’ve tested that, and it’s fine. It would be an amazing coincidence if this problem, which started when Roku pushed their damned firmware upgrade, wasn’t related to that upgrade. But there’s no way I’m going to call Roku tech support, which is as abominable as any tech support operation I’ve ever spoken to.

Talk about just-in-time inventory. UPS showed up late yesterday afternoon with a bunch of boxes from one of my wholesalers. Among them somewhere is a crate of 144 250 mL beakers, which is all I lacked to make up the batch of 30 chemistry kits that’s sitting waiting for beakers, as well as the new batch of 60 that’s currently in progress. And we’d better start thinking about making up more biology kits, too. We have less than 20 finished biology kits in stock and components to assemble 30 more. Sometime in the next few days, I’ll run 60 sets of labels for the biology kits and get Barbara started on labeling bottles.