Saturday, February 9, 2019

NordicTrack iFit Treadmill Video Freeze Despite Fast Internet

iFit coach video workouts are prone to buffer. They freeze in mid-workout and often never recover.  You have to exit the workout eventually.
iFit video often freezes and buffers forever
John Peel will have all the recovery time he needs as the video buffers.

See this Web page for many documented cases of poor video performance: http://www.apprview.com/lifestyle/ifitsmart-cardio-equipment/

Not a bandwidth issue.
Testing the connection with iFit support on the phone, I get well above their optimal speeds on the machine.  And, when I first start a video workout it loads 2 minutes of video into the "buffer" in about 4 seconds.  Great!

But then in about 4-8 minutes it freezes the video and a message says it's "buffering," and that when it reaches 60 seconds of video buffered it will resume.  But it never does! 

Even a 2 minute "pause" didn't help.
Even pausing (which the buffering screen suggest) does nothing to help.  Not even 1 more second gets loaded.  You eventually have to quit (and it does not save that workout) and restart.  And it may well happen again.

Numerous support calls to iFit Nordictrack have not resolved the issue.  Even reinstalling the software on the Android tablet (which is what the console is) did not help.




Here is a screen shot of my connection speed internally on the iFit console (hidden Android interface).



DNS Issue?   
If you go into the "hidden Android" interface (see below) you find a Chrome browser app on your treadmill's tablet.  Once when the video buffered I went into it and discovered that it would not access any web site, not even Google.  I got a "DNS not resolved" error message.  Once this happens, no sites can be accessed by the treadmill's console, not even Google, Facebook, YouTube, etc.   

The only solution is to turn WiFi off/on inside the Android OS settings. Then, surprisingly, you can relaunch the iFitCardio app (on the Android OS screen) and you do get back to your workout.  Unpause it, and you're good.  That's my in-the-moment "fix" for now.

Armed with this info about the DNS error, the latest iFit tech suggestion was to contact my ISP and see if it is an issue where iFit is being blocked by a firewall.  But a senior tech said they don't block devices or apps, and it was very unlikely on their end.  And given that recycling the WiFi temporarily solves the DNS/buffering issue, that seems likely the case.

What to do?
My longer term "fix," based on a search of "Android OS DNS issues," was to create a static IP on my local WiFi for the treadmill.  You can do that inside the Android OS under the WiFi advanced settings.  And at the same time set every DNS server in the chain (treadmill, my Plume AP's and Asus router) to Google's DNS server (8.8.8.8).  This has seemed to help, but not totally fix the buffering.  It's gone from maybe two out of three workouts to about one out of three.  A times I go several days with no issue.

Is buffering customer demand related?
I had been thinking that iFit's video servers were getting swamped at peak times, causing buffering.  It seemed that way on many occasions.  And maybe that is in the mix.  If so, it could only be part of the problem as it would not explain why the buffering is linked to a total DNS error for all sites, including iFitCardio.



I've even had Google Street View workouts freeze (it says "image not available").  These can't be data intensive at all, since they are just a photo every 4 seconds or so.




My Equpment:  
  • I have a late 2018 NordicTrack Commercial 1750, latest ROM.  
  • 1 Gigabyte fiber internet that tests 33Mbs on the internal treadmill tablet (half what other 2.4Ghz devices test in the same location).
  • But it's faster than iFit tech support said I needed for high quality video.
  • One problem is that when the treadmill starts up it causes interference on the 2.4Ghz band according to the tech's at Plume.  
  • Unless the router or wireless AP is right in the room, a few feet away, the WiFi speed can drop like a rock to less than 3Mbs on the Android tablet that controls the treadmill. I've seen this happen!  BTW, my iPhone get's over 500Mbs at the treadmill location!
  • To overcome this I had to move one of my Plume SuperPod mesh Access Points to about six feet from the treadmill. 
Hidden Android OS in Your NordicTrack?  
Yep.  The iFit support person on the phone walked me through accessing it:  
  • Go to your account (your name).  Then go to Settings, then Maintenance.  
  • Then in the white area at the bottom of the Maintenance screen do this:  
  • Tap quickly 10 times, then wait a full five seconds, then tap 10 more times, then DRAG up from the extreme bottom edge of the screen to reveal a small pull up menu.  
  • On the menu tap the white circle to go to the Android desktop.  
  • Then tap the white circle with the six white dots to reveal the Apps.  
  • Choose the Browse app which opens up Google.
  • Then type in "Ookla speed test" search, and and then run it on your console.
  • The tablet in your treadmill is a full blown Web device.  I even streamed the entire Titanic movie off YouTube once to test the connection.  Didn't buffer by the way.







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