Getting stuff to work under Verizon FiOS

Verizon set-top box showing test pattern

Last modified: Wed Nov 5 21:15:39 EST 2014

Disclaimers

The information on this web page may not apply to the current generation of FiOS equipment or firmware.

I'm not with Verizon.  I don't have access to all of the information.  Verizon continues to push out updates that may change system behavior from what is described here.  Your mileage may vary.  But here are my lessons learned, for your possible benefit.

Equipment

As of 2011-11-01, all STBs claim to be running Release 1.9, Build 10.95 of whatever:

We dropped the Home Media DVR in 2013-01 to compensate for cost creep.  We dropped the HD STB in 2014-08 for that reason and others.

In the first incarnation of FiOS we had a Motorola QIP6416-2 DVR, two Motorola QIP2500-3 STBs, and an earlier generation MI424-WR router.

Router and network issues

Can't get into router

You know the admin account name and password for the router, and possibly you even logged into it successfully before somebody pushed out an update that changed the login page... but now whenever you try to type the password, you get multiple characters per keystroke and the password field goes berserk.  You can't log in no matter what.  Using copy and paste to enter the password prevents the berserk behaviors, but you still can't log in.

This problem is caused by Verizon's customization of the router's login page.  The solution is easier than you might think.

  1. Stop trying to work around the problem with copy and paste.
  2. Stop trying to make the number of characters in the password field match the number of characters that you type.
  3. Close your eyes.
  4. Type the password.
  5. Hit Enter.

That's it.  The problem is inflicted by some weird JavaScript code that (a) only works with interactive keyboard input, not copy-and-paste, and (b) generates all those scary extra characters.  Use the force, trust your feelings, and just type the darned password.

Changes to MAC filter access list don't Apply

Symptom:  Persistent inability to connect to a secured WLAN despite putting in all the right security settings.

Cause:  Adding a device to the MAC filter list and clicking on Apply does not actually Apply.

Workaround:  After changing the access list, uncheck Enable Access List, Apply, re-check Enable Access List, re-check "Accept all devices listed below," Apply.

ARP doesn't work

Symptom:  Nearly always get Destination Host Unreachable when trying to establish a connection between the WLAN and the LAN.  The only time it even sometimes works is immediately after the router has been rebooted.

Superficial cause:  ARP broadcasts do not propagate reliably.  I'm not sure what role the MI424-WR is supposed to be playing in this, be it bridging or Proxy ARP or both, but whatever is supposed to be happening, isn't happening.

Workaround:  Static ARP tables on all hosts.  It's not much of a solution, going back to the dark ages of networking, but it's the best answer I have for now.  Probably there is a simple configuration setting on the router that totally fixes this, but I've looked and haven't found it.

Favorite web site suddenly horrible

Symptom:  You used to have no problem watching adorable kitten videos or downloading software updates from a favorite web site.  Suddenly, you can't get a single video to play for more than a few seconds before it stops and the downloads take an eternity.  The change was neither gradual nor episodic:  suddenly one day it got bad and stayed bad, regardless of the time of day or how many times you rebooted.

Cause:  Verizon has not admitted to deliberate throttling.  However, network congestion that you come by honestly, so to speak, doesn't behave like that.

Workaround:  If the problem is indeed deliberate throttling, then some technical means to defeat it might work temporarily.  However, it's an arms race at best, and at worst you could get in trouble for violating some service agreement or anti-consumer law (for messing with something that officially doesn't exist, duh).

TV issues

Can't get closed captions

Problem experienced with Motorola QIP6416-2 DVR and Sharp LC-32GP1U TV connected via HDMI, but probably applies to many other configurations:  Can't get closed captions.

The Sharp TV has the following behaviors with respect to closed captions:

Fortunately, the DVR has its own closed caption decoder.  You can enable it via Verizon's menu by doing Menu → Settings → Accessibility → Closed Captions.  With the 1.9 update (2011-10), you can furthermore change fonts, colors, etc. from the same menu.  In the old days, you had to do it like this (tested only with Motorola QIP6416-2 DVR):

  1. While the TV is on but the DVR is OFF and NOT RECORDING ANYTHING, press menu (either on the front panel of the DVR or on the remote) to access the DVR's configuration menu.
  2. Enable captions on the configuration menu and select fonts, colors, etc.
  3. Cycle power on the DVR.
  4. Should have captions now.

Sound volume fluctuates randomly

Problem:  The sound volume fluctuates randomly sometimes, most noticeably when listening to a music station.

This problem is caused by an STB feature—audio compression—that, ironically, has the purpose of making the sound volume more consistent.  Compression does help bring up those channels that broadcast at unusually low volume, but it is not good for music.

The way to disable this feature is Menu → Settings → Audio → Dynamic Range, OK, and change it from Heavy to None.

DVR fails to record a scheduled program or only records part of it

Possible causes (other than buggy DVR firmware):

  1. You tried to record a channel that you aren't subscribed to.  This can easily happen since the guide is not always caught up with which channels went away this week.
  2. You tried to record more than two programs at the same time, or you tried to watch a third channel while two programs were recording.
  3. If you schedule one program to record immediately after another and the programs have safety margins on the start and end times, there is a brief period of overlap in which you will need both tuners and may unknowingly blow away a third program.  To avoid this, you need to edit the detailed recording options to eliminate the safety margins.
  4. If more than two "record entire series" programs apply at the same time, the DVR will choose the two with the highest priority and ignore all others.
  5. The program guide is wrong, not the execution of the program per se.  This is worked around by doing a manual program.
  6. If the list of series recordings becomes very long, you'll be confused about what should record and what shouldn't, and the DVR might be too.  If you tend to hit "record entire series" a lot, it's a good idea to go through the list once in a while and purge those series recordings that are no longer active.
  7. There is a setting in the DVR menus to choose whether to record repeats or only first-run episodes of a series, and another setting to choose how many episodes of a series to retain.
  8. Power failure or network failure.

Banner ads in program guide, annoying stuff always popping up

For what it's worth, there are menu options to tone down the active content under Menu → Settings → Notifications.

The banner at the bottom of the program guide was a particularly intolerable annoyance that stole real estate from the already too-short channel listing.  For many months there was nothing you could do about it.  As of 2014-08 you could turn off the random ads, but the banner didn't go away; it just turned into a fixed Verizon banner.  In 2014-10 it finally went away.

Current DVR firmware flubs

(Note:  This has not been updated in a long time.)

Issues noted since 1.9 update (2011-10):

  1. At various times, the DVR ceases responding to the remote for around 10 seconds, during which time it queues keypresses.  You have to wait patiently rather than continuing to hit buttons or you'll be sorry when it suddenly wakes up and tries to do all that stuff.  This is an old issue that has persisted.
  2. A certain sequence or timing of turning on a TV, receiver, and DVR can lead to a black screen of death.  Try changing the order in which things are turned on.
  3. The option to list only subscribed channels won't stick.
  4. Wish list:  Would be nice to be able to suppress the SD channels that duplicate subscribed HD channels without losing the non-duplicate SD channels, and simultaneously suppress all channels that are not subscribed.

I no longer have the equipment to test for bugs in home media streaming or remote operations on DVRs.

External hard drive disappeared

Don't blame me if you lose your programs.  The following worked for me and did not erase the contents of the external drive.

  1. Ensure that the DVR and the external hard drive are on.
  2. Unplug the eSATA cord from the external hard drive.
  3. Plug it back in.
  4. Unplug the other end of the eSATA cord from the DVR.
  5. Plug it back in.
  6. Proceed through the DVR → Enable More Storage menu option.  It should say something about external storage was already enabled on this box so press OK to reboot, and NOT something about formatting your drive.  If OK, allow it to reboot, and hopefully the drive will come back.

The wicked, evil fembot

If you have made her acquaintance, you'll know who I'm talking about.  If you haven't met her yet, you will.

When you need to get rid of her, the magic word is "agent."  Use it insistently.  She might refuse to budge unless you first choose which of the following options best describes your problem, yadda ya, but having done that, you should get through to an actual real live person.  I'm told that hitting zero repeatedly also works.

Hopefully that will be an improvement.  I don't worry about robots passing the Turing test.  I worry about people flunking it.

If she goes off on a tangent, try saying "continue" or yell any three-syllable curse that ends with "you."

These tricks only work by phone.  There is no way to get through to a live person by e-mail.


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