I’ve been using DVBLink to share TV around my home for several years. Of all the issues with it, the most dreaded is the “Play Ready” error on Windows Media Center clients. The problem is this error message is meaningless — it is generated by Media Center, and just means it can’t get a signal from the tuner. The failure could be anywhere behind the scenes. Recently my 2 main clients started throwing this error completely out of the blue.
Other clients worked fine and the problem clients could access TV through the web interface. Following these results I felt confident that there was nothing wrong on the server end and turned to the clients for the source of the problem.
I inspected error logs on the server, which didn’t show any connection even being attempted, and hence showed no errors. After considerable digging I located the client error logs, but these were also unhelpful. I tried all the obvious things — wiping and re-setting up the TV tuners in Media Center, reinstalling the DVBLink client, checking network connections, firewalls, etc, but nothing worked.
Eventually, resorting to “let’s just try stupid stuff that shouldn’t make any sense” I tried copying over the entire DVBLink folder from “Program Files” on a working PC to one of the 2 failed clients. To my surprise this solved the problem!
Not being satisfied with this inexplicable solution I checked the sizes and modified dates for all the files on the fixed client, and the one still not working client. They were all the same! Determined to narrow the problem down I copied files, 1 at a time, from the non-working client, onto the working client. Eventually, one file “re-broke” the fixed client. The file was the configuration file — dvblink_configuration.xml
I checked the 2 files against one another. Both had the same modified date, and both were exactly 906 bytes. I opened the working file in textpad and found a bunch or sensible settings, and figured that somehow one of them had got changed without the file size or date changing. I opened the non-working settings file to compare settings in an attempt to identify the fault. The non-working file was blank! It seems that despite being the right size and date, somehow the file had become corrupt and wiped. Reinstalling the DVBLink client had failed to fix it (it hadn’t been removed and reinstalled, nor had it been over-written. Using the DVBLink settings start menu entry also had failed to fix the file.
I scanned the disk but found no other corruption. My best guess is that the PC rebooted, crashed, or lost power for some reason whilst something was reading the file. Unfortunately nothing (windows, or DVBLink) notified me about any file corruption, which made diagnosis very tricky.
In future, when reinstalling DVBLink I will always wipe the installation folder manually after uninstallation — I can recommend others do the same!
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