Saturday, February 15, 2014

Friends can help ... Samsung / Onkyo ARC problem resolved!

Just came home from dinner with Richard and Nancy. Richard was as puzzled as I about the problems with the TV and receiver.

After much wine and discussion, he asked if I had reset the TV to factory settings. I had been offered this by the technician, but rejected it for no good reason. So, I thought I would try it.


Yes, now all works!

Thanks, Richard!

And, now I can see the Onkyo on-screen settings when watching the Smart TV content too. 

Samsung Repair Update & Systems Integration Rant

The Samsung service man came yesterday. I helped him turn the TV around so that the back could be removed. That revealed two printed circuit cards, each about 8” x 10”. They were connected by four flat cables, multi wire, each with a connector at both ends. One card was clearly the power supply, and the other was the electronics for the picture.
He systematically unplugged each cable and reconnected it. After he did that, he reattached the AC power cord, and it was obvious the LED screen lit up.

So it was a power supply problem, sort of, we think.

The connectors may not have been properly seated right at the factory, and a bit of vibration in shipping may have loosened the connections. Or maybe not.

He put the back of the unit on, and we turned it around, so that he could bring up the service menu. When he did that he did see an error code. It indicated that a watchdog timer had timed out on a single occurrence. He said he needed to do a bit of research, possibly order some parts, and if necessary he would arrange for a second visit.

I left the TV running from about 1 o’clock in the afternoon until about 11 o’clock at night, and there was no problem whatsoever. So maybe it is all right. Time will tell.

Which brings me to the second topic, that of system integration. When I bought the Samsung Smart TV, it was with the intention of occasionally watching Netflix movies, or a similar Internet movie source. So, I was careful to select a TV that was a smart TV and had an audio return channel, ARC.

My router connects to the TV, the TV to an Onkyo receiver, and the receiver to my speaker system. I can select an Internet source, such as BBC news and I can hear the audio through the TV speakers for example. The Onkyo receiver has the ARC set to auto, but when I select the TV/CD input the way the manual says to, I do not seem to be able to activate the ARC function.

One thing that’s making all of this a little bit more difficult than it ought to be is the fact that when I am looking at Internet content on the TV, I cannot see the Onkyo on-screen display. The Onkyo receiver is supposed to display an indicator on its front panel when it detects a signal on the ARC line. I have never seen this indicator light up.

So which unit is faulty? Is it the Samsung Smart TV that is not providing a signal on the ARC? Or is it the Onkyo input card which is not recognizing a signal on the ARC?
Yes, this is the joy of system integration. And, unfortunately in this case, Google is not much of a help. If you have ever read a TV or receiver manual, you will know they are not much help either.

It may be something quite simple, but at this point I really don’t know what else to do.

Oh yes, I spent 20 bucks on an optical TOSLINKcable and have the TV connected to the receiver. That should have provided the appropriate audio to the receiver, but that doesn’t seem to be working either. And that’s really disappointing, because the Onkyo manual seems to suggest that the optical connection is a valid alternative to the ARC and is supposed to be used when the TV set does not have the ARC function.

That points back to the Samsung, and I have asked the technician to do a bit of research on this for me. We did go through the various sound settings on the TV and he agreed that I was unable to set the output to “receiver”, although at the time this was not a valid test perhaps, since the receiver was not connected.

As I’m writing this, the only thing that comes to mind is that the HDMI cable is not one of these magic HDMI 1.4 versions, and may be not supplying the ARC signal. On the other hand, that really doesn’t explain what the issue is with the optical connection.

If anyone it Samsung is reading this, please recognize that your material on the web, on the TV, or in the supplied documents does not help anybody solve such problems and it’s very frustrating.

Surely, Samsung should be able to write a page that says "Want to connect your Smart TV to your Surround Sound receiver? Do this or this or this." Same with Onkyo.

I've already had the Onkyo in for service. They said the HDMI board was frequently faulty, so much so that they repair them even after the two year warranty. Could that be the problem?

If I ever get to the bottom of this, I will let you know.

Oh, I should tell of a success. My PC feeds an HDMI cable to the receiver. Then I must set the reciver to the PC HDMI source and on the PC I can then duplicate the desktop onto TV. Then, I can select the PC audio output devices, see the HDMI output portion of the PC is ready for enabling, enable it and get PC audio playing through the receiver. So, I don't really have to use the Samsung Smart TV function at all, but this is a too clunky solution to the original problem.

It's a bit embarrassing, I'm an Electrical Engineer. This should all be easy for me and it is not. What do "regular" folks do to get this stuff working? I've helped a lot of people with their TV and sound systems and PC problems too. The manufacturers just don't seem to provide the info needed and don't have the sense to play nicely together.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Samsung Issues and Dodge Delight

I’m having some Samsung problems.

In late October, I bought a 65 inch Samsung smart LED TV. I bought it from Best Buy, and because it was quite expensive I decided to take the extended warranty. I don’t normally do that, but it may turn out that that was a good decision. A couple of nights ago, I was watching the Olympics and much to my surprise, the TV would repeatedly shut itself off and restart again. Now recently I had had trouble with my receiver, and I figured this was the receiver acting up again. I didn’t really want to disconnect the receiver, since it had so many speaker wires and HDMI connections, but eventually I did. I was mentally prepared to take it back for repair, for the second time. Much to my surprise however, when I connected the cable box to the television directly and turned it all on, the problem was still present. In fact it soon got worse in that the TV would cycle through its power on and off cycles with no opening logos on the screen at all. Time to invoke the Best Buy warranty.

When I called their number, I was transferred to a company in British Columbia that does their service work or at least does service work for Samsung during the first year of purchase. That would’ve made the call on Monday evening, and a very nice man arranged for a diagnostic call on Friday sometime between 9 AM and 4 PM. I didn’t like the term diagnostic call, as I really would’ve preferred a repair call, for the reason that I’m going to explain now.

It turns out that two years ago we bought a large and very beautiful Samsung refrigerator, a side-by-side door unit that at the time was their largest capacity. This was when we were doing our kitchen renovation. For two years, the refrigerator worked wonderfully. Then last Labor Day it started to give us problems by running continually. We were able to get a diagnostic call after about a week. Are you starting to get a pattern? The diagnosis was that a certain part was needed but alas the part was not in stock, and in fact would not be in stock for many weeks, until the end of October in fact. This gave Diane an opportunity to buy a second refrigerator which we put in the basement next to the upright freezer. So, after about a week without a refrigerator, we were able to struggle through but it was inconvenient.

It looks to me as if the TV will go through the same pattern. I’ll let you know.

Now it’s true that any piece of electronics can go through what is called an infant mortality issue. Failures occur in modern electronics either very early in their life, or very late in their life when their normal lifetime comes to an end. If you draw a graph, it looks very much like a bathtub. Lots of failures early, then along period with a very low failure rate, followed by the end of service life rise in failure rate. The thing is, I’ve gotten very used to having consumer-electronics simply not fail. Oh, I should mention the refrigerator had two problems, one of which was an electronic problem, the other was a mechanical part. I think the same statistical issues apply.

On a more positive note, my Dodge 2005 Caravan has given me very few service issues. However, this week, at 103,000 km, it did need a brake job. This would be its first brake job. New front rotors and pads were needed. However the rear drum brakes only needed a little bit of cleaning and adjusting. As you can see, I’m pretty easy on the brakes. I tend to avoid high speeds, and leave lots of room between me and the vehicle ahead. That’s something I wish everybody would do, not just in the winter, but all around the year because it tends to allow everyone to get where they’re going a little faster. It’s also a lot less stressful.

I’ll provide an update when I know a little bit more. Until then, I’ll have to struggle along watching the older 50 inch Samsung rear projection TV in the family room seated on my wife’s new La-Z-Boy sofa, the one with the electric motorized recliner. Life is tough...