Using smartmontools to test a Motorola VIP1963 disk


As seen in my previous post, I’ve been having problems with some harddrives in my workstation. I’ve also had some problems with my TV’s digital box, a Motorola VIP1963.

At first there was some trouble with time-shift not working, but this could be resolved by simply rebooting the device. This wasn’t really worth noting because this device is constantly on and never rebooted, so I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later.


Suddenly the other day, the device rebooted on it’s own, and when it came back up it gave me an error message saying that the harddrive could not be found. This message was in swedish:

Hårddisken kunde inte hittas , vill du starta om och försöka igen?

Rebooting as suggested didn’t make any difference, the same message just appeared again. Ignoring the message and proceeding anyway, I could see that time-shift was not working. Starting a TV recording gave me an error message saying I didn’t have a digital box with recording functionality:

Du saknar en inspelningsbar digitalbox. Vänligen kontakta kundtjänst, tel 90200.

I’m looking for previously recorded TV shows, but they seem to be missing.  Obviously this doesn’t look good at all and I have no valid warranty on this device so returning it to Telia is not an option.

Looking around in the menus, I find an option for making a harddrive test; Inställningar -> Systeminställningar -> Starta hårddiskkontroll. This gives me another error message that the harddrive is missing:

Systemet lyckas inte hitta digitalboxens hårddisk. Vill du starta om digitalboxen för att återansluta hårddisken? (Felkod: 701)

Ok, so I’ve been toying with the idea to upgrade the harddrive anyway and replacing it with a harddrive suitable for Audio/Video equipment, and designed for long-term usage. I unscrew the 6 screws to see what harddrive is being used, and this is what I find:

Western Digital Scorpio Blue 320GB AV WD3200BEVT, 5400 rpm, 2.5" size, SATA 3Gb/s and 8Gb cache

Not so bad. According to Western Digital this drive has “ultra-quiet operation and low-power use for portable digital device”. I think I’ve read somewhere that AV in Western Digitals model number indicates this is a harddrive suitable for Audio/Video equipment, but I can’t see this noted anywhere.

What’s on the disk?

I remove the harddrive and connect it to my workstation, having no idea what to expect to find. My workstation connects this as /dev/sdc and this is where it gets interesting! Apparently /dev/sdc1 is recognized as having a JFS filesystem! There is also a /dev/sdc2, but the filesystem on this partition is not recognized.

I begin with a filesystem check:

fsck /dev/sdc1

This completes with no errors.

I try to fdisk /dev/sdc2 too, and this operation seems to default to using fsck.ext2 and fails with an error message:

ext2fs_open2: Bad magic number in super-block
fsck.ext2: Superblock invalid, trying backup blocks...
fsck.ext2: Bad magic number in super-block while trying to open /dev/sdc2

The superblock could not be read or does not describe a correct ext2

Of course I’m curious to if it’s possible to read the recorded TV shows on /dev/sdc1. A file listing looks like this:

ls -F /media/temp1/
a_l1eojm_2DqM0H/  a_l1eojm_fxraJZ/  a_l1eojm_uctyrg/  assetdb.db.5@
a_l1eojm_2hr5Cw/  a_l1eojm_hHRl6r/  a_l1eojm_uvQ3Nd/  assetdb.db-journal@
a_l1eojm_2xAncO/  a_l1eojm_hYRvQS/  a_l1eojm_V2JZha/  assetdb_l1eojm.db
a_l1eojm_908A3A/  a_l1eojm_iccNH0/  a_l1eojm_w0RUZ5/  assetdb_l1eojm.db.1
a_l1eojm_a1Qx2z/  a_l1eojm_ixJCnn/  a_l1eojm_Wgjjjw/  assetdb_l1eojm.db.2
a_l1eojm_aDstdm/  a_l1eojm_l2wfDo/  a_l1eojm_wPUqYZ/  assetdb_l1eojm.db.3
a_l1eojm_AIZ222/  a_l1eojm_lji6Um/  a_l1eojm_XMc6FW/  assetdb_l1eojm.db.4
a_l1eojm_AVJddo/  a_l1eojm_lxfb59/  a_l1eojm_yCpwqZ/  assetdb_l1eojm.db.5
a_l1eojm_aZu2mn/  a_l1eojm_mX374y/  a_l1eojm_ydwCZV/  assetdb_l1eojm.db-journal
a_l1eojm_ByxdnB/  a_l1eojm_nwlw8g/  a_l1eojm_ZmKwr6/  asset_MbQuN7/
a_l1eojm_dR7p0n/  a_l1eojm_o7F7gd/  asset_3ProLZ/     asset_zEj0Je/
a_l1eojm_dROs9c/  a_l1eojm_Ob8h4l/  assetdb.db@       reserved@
a_l1eojm_Eu0G7O/  a_l1eojm_p9Ktaf/  assetdb.db.1@     scheduler.db
a_l1eojm_euVWHy/  a_l1eojm_pEYpnS/  assetdb.db.2@     static/
a_l1eojm_EVTDbC/  a_l1eojm_qSveDC/  assetdb.db.3@     temporary/
a_l1eojm_fW6WSg/  a_l1eojm_SrhkAi/  assetdb.db.4@

All the similarly named directories a_l1eojm_* are recorded TV shows, and contains among other files, files named chunk_0, chunk_1 and so on. This means that previously recorded material could probably be hand-picked for backup and transferred to a new harddrive, should you want to save only a few specific shows. The chunk files are media files which can be opened with mplayer or VLC. Unfortunately they seem to be encrypted, as only an itty bitty portion of the upper part of the movie is viewable, and the sound is a choppy as well. See picture for reference:

Video as shown in mplayer

Video as shown in mplayer

In hindsight I can see that it could have been interesting to take notice of what the file command said about the chunk files, as well as trying to find a recording from an openly broadcasted channel to see if these files get encrypted too. I didn’t think of this at the time, and now I can’t really be bothered to open it up again…

edit, here’s the output from the file command:

file a_l1eojm_tUB66T/stream/*
a_l1eojm_tUB66T/stream/chunk_0: data
a_l1eojm_tUB66T/stream/chunk_1: data
a_l1eojm_tUB66T/stream/chunk_10: data
a_l1eojm_tUB66T/stream/chunk_11: data
a_l1eojm_tUB66T/stream/chunk_12: data
a_l1eojm_tUB66T/stream/chunk_2: data
a_l1eojm_tUB66T/stream/chunk_3: data
a_l1eojm_tUB66T/stream/chunk_4: data
a_l1eojm_tUB66T/stream/chunk_5: data
a_l1eojm_tUB66T/stream/chunk_6: data
a_l1eojm_tUB66T/stream/chunk_7: data
a_l1eojm_tUB66T/stream/chunk_8: data
a_l1eojm_tUB66T/stream/chunk_9: data

Using smartmontools

Ok, so it’s time to run a few tests to verify the status of the harddrive. Is it really failing?

Ask the device to report it’s SMART health status:

smartctl --health /dev/sdc

This gets a test result of PASSED.

Ask the device to report all SMART information about the device:

smartctl -a /dev/sdc

Nothing out of the ordinary can be seen here. My previous failing harddrives have reported a specific time (counted from power on) that for example a CRC error occured.

Running a short self-test, with the harddrive still online. This takes a few minutes to complete, and the drive can still be used but may have degraded performance:

smartctl -t short /dev/sdc

The test can be monitored, and you can see how long it takes before the test completes:

smartctl -c /dev/sdc

Show information about a previously made self-test:

smartctl -l selftest /dev/sdc

Show information about previously logged errors (8 most recent log entries per default):

smartctl -l error /dev/sdc



The tests didn’t show anything interesting this time, and I assemble the digital box, boot up, and everything is working again. It could have been that the JFS filesystem was flagged as dirty and that an fsck solved this problem, but one would think that this could be handled by the ROM…

I run the harddrive test again from the menu; Inställningar -> Systeminställningar -> Starta hårddiskkontroll.

WARNING: When this test is available and you decide to execute it, it’s going to restart the digital box and remove any damaged recordings it finds.

Nothing gets reported as the device boots up. All recorded TV shows seems to still be available (I tried a few of them).

I’m keeping a close eye on you, Motorola VIP1963. You’ll get your new harddrive someday, but not today.



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2 Responses to Using smartmontools to test a Motorola VIP1963 disk

  1. Johann Helander says:

    du har inte forskat vidare i om det går att kopiera ut inspelade program?
    Jag har också lyckats få fram de kodade filerna och de ser ut precis som ditt exempel i VLC. Jag har bytt från Telia till Viasat IPTV och därför nyfiken på att spara de inspelade programmen.

    • apeekaboo says:

      Jag har bytt hårddisk i boxen två ggr nu på grund av hårddisk-krasch, men har aldrig provat att rädda några filer. Är för närvarande problem igen, men jag orkar inte med att fippla med skräpet. Kanske behövs det bara en fsck, men jag klarar mig hyffsat utan live-funktionen då Telia på flera kanaler tillåter att man startar programmet från början när man vill kolla på det.

      Tidigare erfarenheter med annan leverantör för mig att tro att dina program är krypterade med nycklar från Telia och de kanaler som du betalade förö, och därför inte kommer gå att titta på om du bytt till Viasat.

      Med min tidigare leverantör (och en annan box) så hade jag under en tid ett utökat kanalpaket som jag spelade in program med. När jag sa upp de extra kanalerna kunde jag inte längre titta på de inspelade programmen. Så där blev jag av med en del program som jag sparat… =(

      Med dessa erfarenheter känns det rätt misslyckat att betala nåt extra för att få inspelningsfunktion i sin box.

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