Buffering in 10.1: audio issues? (log included)
Just getting started with a new XBMC build, and the last remaining irritation is buffering issues during playback. I'm sure there's a pattern, but I can't find it. I've fiddled with the settings in both Win7 and XBMC with little or no effect, and would appreciate guidance. I have considered upgrading to Eden, but I thought it might be wise to get the system working well with Dharma first. (I haven't seen too much indication that Eden was a magic pill for buffering/audio issues.)

Full log from this morning's attempts with 2-3 different movies: http://pastebin.com/4CRqSS4a (unedited except to mask network login info)

Build specs:

* PC: Homebrew i3 2100 in mini itx case, 8GB RAM, AS-ROCK H67M-ITX board, Win7 on 32GB SSD (Patriot Torqx), GT430 1GB video, onboard sound.

* Network: No ethernet to the living room, so we're using NAS storage on the router (Buffalo G300N), with a Buffalo Ethernet bridge/adapter whatever-you-call-it attached to the PC in the living room. Throughput from the network using that bridge seems fine for most applications -- it's serving Netflix on the XBox and internet on the PC with no issues. (Admittedly, those are generally less demanding.)

* Videos: We're streaming H264 MKVs built from full-size VIDEO_TS files (no compression). That might seem like an odd choice, but oddly, the uncompressed files streamed better than the compressed files did. Plus they look hella better. (Both are probably an indication I was doing something wrong in the compression, but hard drive space is cheap.)

I've tried streaming Analog and HDMI, both have issues. I don't mind piddling around with this, but I'd love to justify the hundreds of dollars I've spent so far by making it work quickly. (My husband would love that even more.) Can anyone help me narrow down the most likely culprits and next steps?
Update: I just now realized that W7 32-bit got installed. O_o I don't know how that happened -- I was sure I'd used the 64-bit CD. So that's my next step, cause 8GB RAM in a 32-bit system is just stupid. Tongue
Might as well try with XBMC v11 at this point, since there's a ton of bug fixes in it, and there won't be any bug-fix releases for 10.x now that v11 is out.
Thanks, Ned. I did install 11 after reinstalling with 64-bit Win7. (Rookie error.) The interface itself is much faster, and Eden is definitely sweet. But I'm still getting buffering issues that I can't seem to relate to a particular file type or size. However, I have *also* noticed that Netflix on the XBox is starting to have buffering issues as well. That seems to point to bandwidth problems.

I'm completely replacing the router today, on the theory that perhaps the chip in this Buffalo router is not working and playing nicely with high-throughput wireless. I've gone to a top of the line Linksys (EA4500 Dual-band N900). I'll install that and see how it works. If we still have issues, I'll try applying some QoS priorities. If we *still* have issues, I'll attach an external HDD directly to the box. If *that* doesn't work, then it must be some sort of software/decoding issue, right?

I would welcome additional troubleshooting suggestions.
Clarify the 'NAS Storage on the router' part - ethernet or USB attached?

Also is the router the WZR2-G300N? WHR-G300N? old WZ-G300N?

Whoops, I didn't see your reply about replacing the router while I was composing.
Yeah, even if it doesn't fix buffering (which I can't check until after work tonight), the new EA4500 router is the bomb. Smile Assuming the Buffalo ethernet bridge (AG300N) will play happily with it, it should help. I can isolate the XBMC traffic to a different traffic band. But it uses the Marvell chip instead of the Atheros (on the WHR-HP-G300N), and GoogleFu indicates that the Atheros chip can be problematic on some networks. So I imagine that will be the biggest gain.

NAS storage is a GoFlex 2TB drive attached to the router by ethernet. I'm obstinate, so I didn't set up all the management software, I just mapped the drive in Windows. (I'm difficult that way.)
How are the airwaves around you? Check with inSSIDer:

Interference can cause lots of problems. I'm lucky there are no wifi networks within a klick or two of my house.

Your log shows you are trying to stream DVDs so max bitrate of those is only 10 Mbits/s - I was doing those back in the Xbox 1 XBMC days with one of these guys:

Well, that's encouraging. ^_^ Or maybe discouraging, in that it means I spent a crapton on an expensive modem for no real reason. (At least games will be spiffy.)

inSSIDer is a very cool tool, thanks for the link. I don't know what it looked like before switching the modem, of course, but our network is now operating on a channel that's different from all neighboring networks. 5GHz band is completely empty, so I'll try setting that up for the media applications, and see if that makes a difference. But the graph only shows 2 neighboring wifi networks. Hard to believe that would cause so much trouble. We do have a 2.4GHz phone, but it wasn't in use when the problems started.

Maybe I'll create a little matrix of file types/sizes and sound settings, and see if I can find a correlation that way.

UPDATE: ahahahaha! I think we may have a winner. I carried the laptop into the living room next to the HTPC, and all of a sudden 8 more networks popped into the list. 3 are operating on channel 6, which I was using until just this morning. Tongue I've bumped to channel 4 now, which no one else is using, so I'll try again tonight with the new setup.
Note that channels 1,6,11 are non-overlapping so 1 or 11 (which ever has fewer networks) would work better than 4.

With 5GHz you wouldn't have to worry though - for example I can stream ~50Mbit/s full Blu-rays on 5GHz with 40MHz wide channels.
I'll pop to 11 then. Doesn't look like anyone's using that. I'll run a bunch of tests this evening to compare the ethernet adapter to the wireless-N adapter. I'm beginning to think that with the better router I might be better off with the wireless again.
Final update (I hope). I resolved the problem by reconfiguring the router and ethernet adapter settings. I set the router to use Channel 11 for the 2.4GHz band, and 36 for the (empty) 5GHz band. I set the ethernet adapter up on channel 36. (Odd note: even though I'd set up the 5g band with a different SSID, the ethernet adapter still reports the primary 2.4g SSID. But it's channel 36, so I know it's the right band.)

Popped that puppy back into the ethernet ports, rebooted, and it's running like a dream now. Smooth as a baby's backside. So I guess it was just interference.

I'm going to go back to ripping and streaming, and we'll see what happens. If it's still running without buffering in a couple of weeks I'll edit to mark this fixed, in case it helps someone else. Smile
This is why I usually tell people not to use wireless with XBMC if you can avoid it. Introduces too many variables. Plus wired SO much faster...
Yet another potentially final update. ^_^ The drop-offs and connection issues finally reached critical mass today. (It took a while for me to realize it was everything, not just the wifi streaming.) After replacing the modem, router, and cabling multiple times each, I finally convinced my cable ISP to send a field tech out to the house. Lo and behold, one of our cables had gone bad, and was causing massive interference in the home network signal. He replaced that cable, and all the connectors, and removed a few unnecessary splitters and an amp that was probably just amplifying line noise, and things seem to be settling down. I'll try streaming again this weekend. Hopefully it will be more stable now.

So, sometimes, it really is the wiring. I thought maybe my experience would help someone else.
Fix confirmed: Streams beautifully with no hiccups at all. Thanks for the support, everyone. ^_^
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Buffering in 10.1: audio issues? (log included)00