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View Full Version : Stuttering, crossfade, Buffer empties and doesn't fill up



caldvd
2006-11-25, 12:15
Hi,
I have been working my way through solving the stuttering problem. I've had some minor successes, and some setbacks. I'd like to post my findings and ask a few questions.

Here are my system specs:
SS 6.5.0 (tried 6.5.1, but went back)
PIII XPPRO
D-Link 524
SB3 WiFi

Before updating to 6.5.0, the SB3 was basically useless. I was having so much trouble with stuttering, I didn't use it for like 3 weeks (major bummer). I bought a wifi range extender, but it was the wrong one, so I returned it. In the mean time, I updated the firmware on my router, updated SS to 6.5.0 and viola, it was rock solid for like 4 weeks, I played it and played it, with no stuttering.

As soon as the relatives came over for Thanksgiving, wouldn't you know it, the stuttering starts, so embarassing. So typical. I reboot, try just about everything, but to no avail. Back to MusicChoice (blah)...

So after everyone is gone, I read all the threads about the stuttering and try some different tacticts. One screwed me up, late in the game: Unchecking MP3 in the file list. I did this and then, guess what? ERROR: "Unable to play file" (all my files are MP3). I didn't remember that I had done this and reverted to 6.5.0. When it still didn't play any files, I remembered that check box and I was back in business.

But only for about 2 songs, and on the third song, it starts stuttering again. I noticed that it crossfaded so nicely between song one and song two, but it hung up when crossfading to song 3. So I turned off crossfade. From that point on, it has been playing fine. Seems like trouble with crossfade. Only until after about 10 songs and then it starts stuttering again.

So I think it is cool to use the Show Buffer Level setting for my display. I'm watching it when it has the above problem with the crossfade and notice that when it gets to the end of song two, it does not load song three into the buffer. I'm thinking to myself, why does it have to load the song right at the beginning? I mean, with a bit of flash memory the unit could load the next 10 songs into the buffer while song one is playing. This way, IT NEVER RUNS OUT OF BUFFER. I really don't understand the idea that only one song should be in the buffer at any given time. Maybe there is a setting to change this that I am unaware of? Even two songs would be better.

This statement re: the buffer from the server health pages makes me scratch my head:
This drains to 0 at the end of each track and then refills for the next track. (totally illogical in an era of cheap memory)

Here is my signal strength graph:
< 10 : 0 : 0%
< 20 : 0 : 0%
< 30 : 11 : 8% ####
< 40 : 68 : 52% #########################
< 50 : 21 : 16% #######
< 60 : 32 : 24% ############
< 70 : 0 : 0%
< 80 : 0 : 0%
< 90 : 0 : 0%
< 100 : 0 : 0%
>=100 : 0 : 0%
max : 58.000000
min : 21.000000
avg : 39.166667

And my summary:

Control Connection : OK
Streaming Connection : OK
Signal Strength : Poor
Buffer Fullness : Low
Server Response Time : Occasional Poor Response

The final thing I did was when it was stuck at 0 buffer (always between tracks) and not loading the next song into the buffer, was to pick up the SB3 unit and wave it through the air (to increase the likelyhood that it would pick up the wireless signal) and that works. So I'm back to thinking it may be that I need a wireless range extender.

However, I'm concerned that it is not the signal strength that is causing the stuttering and therefore a wireless range extender would not help. Why would I be concerned? Because for about 4 weeks after upgrading to 6.5.0 I never had any stuttering suggesting that my signal strength is fine even though it seems low. Not to mention that it plays an entire song fine all the way through once buffered, it is just the transition between songs where it gets hung up, leading me back to the buffer. Why should it not at least load the first xx seconds of the next song as the buffer starts to empty from the prior song that is is playing?

I believe that I would not need a wireless range extender if it would just buffer say, 10 songs, instead of

One

at

a

time.


Finally, I would like to use the debugging, but I'm not sure where to start. My goal is to be CERTAIN what is causing the stuttering before I go out and drop more cash on the extenders if those will not solve my problem.

Thank you for all your consideration and help.

I still love my SB3 and would not trade it for anything or ever sell it on E-bay. I'm in this for the long haul.

tek

Mark Lanctot
2006-11-25, 12:37
Why should it not at least load the first xx seconds of the next song as the buffer starts to empty from the prior song that is is playing?

It does, at least for me. The track will empty towards the end of the song, then refill as fast as it can for the next song.

The problem in your case is, it may not be able to take much advantage of extra buffer. Your signal strength is marginal at best. If you're having this problem with MP3s, FLACs don't have a hope. In order to fill the buffer, the bandwidth needs to be higher than the playback bitrate. It does not appear to be all that much faster in your case.

Because your signal strength is marginal, certain things can upset it to the point that stuttering can occur. Microwave ovens, cordless phones, other wireless networks, even high humidity can all drop the signal strength and bandwidth. On Thanksgiving, all your neigbors were home, using their wireless networks, their cordless phones and their microwave ovens. Your house was full of people doing much the same things and there was a turkey in the oven, increasing the humidity in the air. It may sound silly, but things like that can actually screw up wireless networks.

While wireless extenders increase the apparent signal strength, they drop the bandwidth because they introduce another wireless hop. It would be better if you were to get a high-gain antenna for your router.

BTW your server isn't wireless too, is it? That would be the first thing to tackle if you're having wireless bandwidth issues - wire the server to the router.

caldvd
2006-11-25, 12:45
It does, at least for me. The track will empty towards the end of the song, then refill as fast as it can for the next song.

It does work like this when it is working, but appears to only work correctly for about 2 to 10 songs, at which point it stops at the end of every song and does not buffer unless I wave the SB3 unit in the air (looking quite silly, I must add).



While wireless extenders increase the apparent signal strength, they drop the bandwidth because they introduce another wireless hop. It would be better if you were to get a high-gain antenna for your router.

Great, thank you for this insight. I will not rush out to buy the range extender. Actually it was reccomended that I get the antenna for the router by one of my family members. Is there a reccomended or ideal antenna model or spec?



BTW your server isn't wireless too, is it? That would be the first thing to tackle if you're having wireless bandwidth issues - wire the server to the router.

Server is wired to the router. :-)

Thank you so much for your fast response. I look forward to posting my results after intalling the antenna.
tek

Mark Lanctot
2006-11-25, 13:31
Great, thank you for this insight. I will not rush out to buy the range extender. Actually it was reccomended that I get the antenna for the router by one of my family members. Is there a reccomended or ideal antenna model or spec?

I've never had to use one before. Make sure your router is compatible with it - I believe "reverse SMA" connectors are standard. They look like small TV cable connectors.

I think antennas are rated in terms of gain in dB. I remember hearing about 5 dB antennas?

BTW apparently they do not increase the strength in a 360-degree field, what they do is concentrate the existing signal, making it more directional but stronger in a cone extending upwards of the antenna. So adjust the antenna's position carefully.

Alternately, there are "directional" antennas that look like little satellite dishes that can "beam" the signal at high strength to one particular location. They are easier to aim than regular antennas and may be better at keeping neighbors out of your wireless network since the signal outside of the beam will be much weaker. Unfortunately this approach makes things harder if you have a wireless laptop that also needs access, unless the wireless laptop is in the same area as the SB3.

You may also want to try the antenna positioning tips and channel changing tips outlined here:

http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.cgi?NetworkProblemsSecondGuide

Excuse me, I'm just picturing you waving the SB3 in the air. :-)

Mark Lanctot
2006-11-25, 15:07
BTW check out this thread:

http://forums.slimdevices.com/showthread.php?t=29793

particularly SuperQ's two posts on high-gain antennae and their radiation patterns.

oreillymj
2006-11-26, 08:36
BTW - Before doing anything else, I would look at changing the wireless channel on your router.

All of these wireless routers default to channel 11, so it's likely that any routers nearby are affecting your signal strength.

Just changing to channel 1 can move your signal far enough out of range of noise caused by your neighbours.

You might need to re-config the SB3, but it's worth a try.

Mark Lanctot
2006-11-26, 09:23
All of these wireless routers default to channel 11, so it's likely that any routers nearby are affecting your signal strength.

Shouldn't that be channel 6?

Maybe it's different in your region.

Anyway it is outlined in the link I provided: http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.cgi?NetworkProblemsSecondGuide

caldvd
2006-11-26, 13:48
My router used to default to 11, however, when I updated the firmware (which had a date of Oct. 2006), it now says ch. 6. I could try changing it to one as well.

I ordered a D-Link (ANT24-0700) 2.4GHz Omni-Directional 7dBi Indoor Antenna for $16.00 after rebate on Amazon ( + free shipping).

I put the SB3 up higher (on top of the center speaker) which seems to help. And, I repositioned the standard antenna to point towards the SB3.

So far, it has been playing all day with only one stuttering moment, and I was standing there watching it and again it was hung up between songs (would not load the next song w/ out stuttering). At that point to get it going I waved it in the air, which worked, and decided to put it up higher on the center speaker. Since then, maybe 4 or 5 hours no stuttering. But perhaps the humidity is low today?

One more question: If I go hardwired, am I guaranteed to never, ever, have stuttering?

Thanks,
tek

Mark Lanctot
2006-11-26, 14:06
One more question: If I go hardwired, am I guaranteed to never, ever, have stuttering?

Never say never, but as long as the wires are in good condition, you will never get stuttering caused by low bandwidth.

oreillymj
2006-11-27, 04:48
Perhaps it varies by vendor. My experience of everything I've bought is that it was set to channel 11 when powered on.

Channels 1, 6 & 11 are completely non-overlapping.
So if you're seeing poor signal strength on channel 11, it worth switching to 6 or 1.

If you have a wireless laptop, it's worth installing and running NetStumbler to see what other networks are in operation around you.

I used to have a jpeg showing what nearby channels overlapped each other but cannot find it now.

Mark Lanctot
2006-11-27, 07:09
I used to have a jpeg showing what nearby channels overlapped each other but cannot find it now.

Something like this?

http://technet2.microsoft.com/QueryWS/GetOpenContent.aspx?assetID=87018765-a919-4f94-99d8-999c34c737ee&DocumentSet=en-US&RenderKey=XML

from

http://technet2.microsoft.com/WindowsServer/en/library/b064b275-604f-43e8-a699-cb8e4676874f1033.mspx?mfr=true

oreillymj
2006-11-28, 15:15
Precisely. I wish the 802.11g standard had included auto-channel switching.

Our local telephone/broadband supplier gives out their routers on channel 11 with a cryptic SSID. What are you supposed to do, knock on all your neighbours doors and ask them to switch channel?

802.11n will only make this worse as it hogs 2 channels.

Mark Lanctot
2006-11-28, 16:02
802.11n will only make this worse as it hogs 2 channels.

It's going to get like a battle: these devices put out so much power and interfere so strongly with other networks that the only way to get wireless networking going for your own use is to get the strongest AP in the neighborhood and blast everyone else out!

It'll then be an arms race with your neigbors getting stronger APs, etc.

When all's said and done, there will be no survivors. ;-)

I just hope someone comes out with an 802.11n AP that you can tweak like the 3rd party firmwares allow you to for the Linksys WRT54G. That way you can turn up the transmit power and overwhelm your rivals.

It sounds kind of silly and maybe it is, but I can see it starting to happen.

caldvd
2006-12-04, 19:15
I purchased a 7db omni-directional indoor antenna.

I get down to playing my music from my local machine (not internet radio).

I fired up a playlist and it played and played no stuttering. I played all sorts of local random mixes for many many many hours and no stuttering. I'm standing there for hours watching in amazement at the buffer fills up with such speed. Fills up to 100% in like 3 seconds as the previous song is ending. I am in Squeezbox heaven.

A few days go by, and I decide that my music is boring me. I turn to the fabulous SomaFM Groove Salad. I play and listen buffer steady at 10seconds (even though I tell it to buffer for 20) and it doesn't drop below 6 seconds of buffer. I listen to internet radio for a day. Turn the box off at night, listen to the radio again the next day, change a bunch of stations, absolutely perfect. I'm so glad I got that antenna.

When I go back to my local music, again I get problems with the buffering. It will not load the whole song unless I wave the squeezbox in the air. It just stops at 4%, then goes up to 10%, and then to 16%, and then to 14%, and then to 10%....then at the next song, stuttering. I'm getting loads of signal now too, at least 65% to 70% at all times.

I'm running 6.5.1 - 10751
Windows XP EN cp1252

Also, I lost my tray icon. Usually, I get rid of these things, but I actually liked this one because it told me the state of the server (running, stopped, etc.) and I don't of any other way of checking the status. How ironic. I'm sure there is a way to get this back and even though I RTFM, I can't seem to find it.

A neural transceiver is required for maximum communication,
we will work as one mind. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

caldvd

oreillymj
2006-12-05, 13:48
That way you can turn up the transmit power and overwhelm your rivals.
Personally I don't like the idea of turning my house into a Microwave. It'll be interesting to see the long term effects of people living in houses with 2.4Ghz transmitters running 24/7.



When I go back to my local music, again I get problems with the buffering. It will not load the whole song unless I wave the squeezbox in the air. It just stops at 4%, then goes up to 10%, and then to 16%, and then to 14%, and then to 10%....then at the next song, stuttering. I'm getting loads of signal now too, at least 65% to 70% at all times.

There's definitely some source of interference in your neighbourhood or else some sort of router bug. what make did you say you had?



Also, I lost my tray icon. Usually, I get rid of these things, but I actually liked this one because it told me the state of the server (running, stopped, etc.) and I don't of any other way of checking the status. How ironic. I'm sure there is a way to get this back and even though I RTFM, I can't seem to find it.
Look for the Slimserver item in the Windows Startup Group in your start menu. Either that or Windows has decided that the icon is inactive and hidden it.

caldvd
2006-12-05, 14:26
Hi,



There's definitely some source of interference in your neighbourhood or else some sort of router bug. what make did you say you had?

I've got a D-Link DI-524. Firmware is up to date.

I have a theory that after I'm done playing the internet radio, the SlimServer doesn't revert to the buffering method that it uses for local music. So it still trys to buffer using the same method as it would if it was only playing a streaming file. Why these should be different, I don't know, but it seems possible.

Another theory is that my system has been on for a week and it just needs to be rebooted. But it worked for days and days and no problems until after I played the internet radio?



Look for the Slimserver item in the Windows Startup Group in your start menu. Either that or Windows has decided that the icon is inactive and hidden it.

Slimserver Tray Tool is in Windows Startup Group. BTW, I turn off all that hiding business.

Mark Lanctot
2006-12-06, 14:47
Another theory is that my system has been on for a week and it just needs to be rebooted. But it worked for days and days and no problems until after I played the internet radio?

Try rebooting the router only.

I remember reading some posts where there was suspicion this particular router starts to perform poorly after a certain amount of data gets transferred, specifically from the Internet over the WAN port.

Again, just a suspicion.

Mark Lanctot
2006-12-06, 14:53
Personally I don't like the idea of turning my house into a Microwave. It'll be interesting to see the long term effects of people living in houses with 2.4Ghz transmitters running 24/7.

Eeep. That'd be me.

However I have not increased the signal strength beyond the default 28 mW. That's 28 *MILLI*Watts spread over my entire house. The amount of energy actually reaching me at any point in time is very, very small. It's no stretch to say you get much more energy from cosmic rays.

Also note that microwave radiation is non-ionizing. It can't damage DNA. Instead it will cause thermal burns due to its strong interaction with water molecules if it's intense enough (microwave oven). 'Course microwave ovens use hundreds or thousands of Watts and use special techniques to concentrate the radiation.

wduncan
2006-12-06, 15:14
See: http://bugs.slimdevices.com/show_bug.cgi?id=4384

I was also using 6.5 without this problem until I upgraded to the 12/1 nightly build to fix another problem.

So I wouldn't waste a lot of time fixing your network until this bug is fixed.

caldvd
2006-12-06, 17:34
See: http://bugs.slimdevices.com/show_bug.cgi?id=4384

I was also using 6.5 without this problem until I upgraded to the 12/1 nightly build to fix another problem.

So I wouldn't waste a lot of time fixing your network until this bug is fixed.


I wish this were the case, however, this bug happens to address Softsqueeze, and not SqueezeBox. It also deals with FLAC files, and clipping at the end of a file.

My problem is that after playing local files, then switching to internet radio, and then switching back to local files, it is as if SlimServer or Squeezebox thinks it is still streaming from the internet and does not buffer properly. Again, this is only a theory, but I have yet to hear anyone absolutely squash this theory.

Yes, rebooting the router may also do the trick. After I rebooted the system, all is well with the local files. I have not yet tried to test it yet, because, I'd actually like to just listen for a while before rebooting again.

I will test it again soon and post my results.
Thanks for all the support and great help!

Oh yea, and I'm running my microwave on quick-defrost from now on so I don't boil my body :-0

wduncan
2006-12-06, 17:42
it's sooooo aggrivating... I'll keep fooling with it too, but you shouldn't have to be a techie to listen to your music...

M3Rocket
2006-12-06, 18:29
I wish this were the case, however, this bug happens to address Softsqueeze, and not SqueezeBox. It also deals with FLAC files, and clipping at the end of a file.


Read it again--it affects the SB3 as well, and basically, any MP3 stream, or FLAC transcoded to MP3 stream, and I suspect just about anything transcoded to MP3.

wduncan
2006-12-07, 14:09
http://forums.slimdevices.com/showthread.php?t=30251

Fixed it in my case.