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The 45 second mystery

When I found the song I was looking for, I made my selection with the remote. I expected to hear the smooth sound of Dave Brubeck, but was greeted instead with a little music followed by pops, stutters, and finally an exit back to the menu. I tried a few songs with the same result, while others would just hang with no sound at all. I backed out to the main menu, and briefly tried the Pictures section, which seemed to work fine. I then tried the Premium Service menu, which turned out to be a list of Internet radio stations that also gave me stutters and pops before quitting. Time to check with the manual.

The manual had a section on firewall trouble, but I was a bit skeptical. I had told Windows to allow the server to make connections, and the fact that I was hearing some music between the stutters and pops told me that some data was flowing. Although I thought a firewall would be all or nothing, I went into the Windows control panel and disabled the Windows firewall.

When I replayed a song that had been stuttering, I now heard clear music. So I thought I had the problem licked until the music abruptly quit in the middle of the song. I tried several songs and noticed that they all stopped at 45 seconds. Strange. Then I tried the songs that hadn't played at all before. No go, they still hung up. Trying to isolate the problem, I tested various physical network configurations without change.

To see if the problem was hardware or software related, I downloaded a generic UPnP server from Twonkyvision. Twonkyvision's server can run on all of the machines on my network, including my Kuro Box, NSLU2, iBook, XP laptop, etc.

UPnP Server selection
Figure 4: UPnP Server selection

A quick test showed that the Twonkyvision server running on my XP machine served music to the MP115 fine. I could even run it simultaneously with the NETGEAR server, but where the Twonkyvision server would play a song, the supplied server would still fail. At least this isolated the problem to software.

At this point, I called in assistance from a helpful NETGEAR engineer. He recalled seeing reports of the 45 second problem and said that symptom was always related to a firewall. He also said that the Twonkyvision server used a different method of communication than the NETGEAR server, so a firewall could affect them differently. This still seemed odd - a firewall that allowed 45 seconds worth of music to pass before cutting it off? But if there was a known issue with firewalls, I was willing to look around a bit more.

Since this was a new laptop, I wasn't familiar with all of the software than had come pre-installed. I managed to find a McAfee Personal firewall that was configured in addition to the standard Windows firewall. This had to be it! I went into its configuration screen, turned security all the way down and tried again. No change.

This was getting frustrating, so I went into the McAfee screens and told it to trust the NETGEAR server. I told it to trust everything on the local network. I told it to trust the polite young man from Nigeria with a large inheritance he needed assistance with. I told it to do no filtering at all. None. And then I tried again. No change. A song would play for 45 seconds and quit.

Just before I gave up and dragged out my collection of vinyl 45's, I tried one last thing. I gleefully deleted the McAfee firewall from my laptop, rebooted and tried again. Success! Now I could actually play a a song from start to finish. I then tried one of the songs that previously wouldn't play at all and it also played all the way through! Now I was getting somewhere. On with the review.

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