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Buffering Explained

There are a lot of misconceptions in the streaming world about what buffering is, what causes it, why it happens and how to help avoid it. So we wanted to write an article addressing some of the causes of buffering and how to help minimize it, Please note that I did not say eliminate it as this is impossible.

But before we get into the buffering discussion I want to explain a little bit of how streaming actually works and explain what is happening behind the scenes when you click on something to stream.

So let’s go through what happens when you click on a link. When you click on a link in any program a script (Computer Code) connects your internet connection to the URL address of where that stream is housed. It can take a second or two for your internet and this URL address to be paired up and for data to begin to flow into your device. In most cases it takes a few seconds for the full amount of data the server you are connected to, to begin being transferred to your internet connection. This is why many streaming services like Netflix and Hulu will start off a video in low quality. Then once the full flow of data has begun they will switch to a higher resolution. This is done so that the stream will start faster and as you receive more data it will switch to high quality.

What causes buffering while streaming?

I have read some very interesting theories and ideas on as to why buffering happens. From people thinking that the graphics card can’t handle the stream, the processor is working too hard. As complicated as people want to make buffering issues out to be, it is actually very simple. There are really only two variables that can cause buffering while streaming.

Your Internet Speed and your Router

The first and usually most overlooked reason that buffering occurs is your own internet speed. Many users try to skimp out on upgrading their internet speed. If you are going to stream your video content you need fast internet. While you can get away with 10 Mbps down for most streams, this is really the absolute minimum speed needed for a good streaming experience. When you take into account speed lost through Wi-Fi (Usually much more than you think,) other devices in your house using bandwidth and fluctuations in the internet speed you are actually getting from your provider you can see how 10 Mbps can turn to 5 or below very quickly.

What is the recommend internet speed for streaming? This is a personal preference but we recommend for an optimal streaming experience you should have 25 Mbps or higher.

There are also several other factors that can affect your own internet speeds. The most common negative factor is Wifi. Wifi is extremely convenient for connecting lots of devices to the internet without having to connect them with a wire. With this convenience comes a downside. Wifi signal fluctuates up and down very often which can lead to buffering.

I cannot stress enough how quickly Wifi signal and speeds degrade over distance and through obstacles like walls. People are under the impression that if they are getting a wifi signal to a device that the device is getting the same amount of bandwidth as they pay for.

I have 200 Mbps down at my house and about 15 feet from my router through one glass door I get about 30 Mbps down to my Google Pixel XL. This goes to show how much wifi can degrade over distance and obstacles.

Another huge factor with your internet speed is who else is using it and what are they doing. If you have 10 Mbps down and a family member is downloading a bunch of stuff and another family member is playing an online game then there is a strong chance your video content is going to buffer.

Another great tip to help increase your speed is to reset your router once a week. Your internet provider spent time and money finding a router that they can give you that works just enough to provide a decent signal. They skimped and penny pinched as much as they could to save themselves money. So your stock router is not of the highest quality. With that being said, over time these routers degrade in the speed they are able to broadcast. By simply unplugging the router for 30 seconds and then plugging it back in we have seen many customers internet speed double. If you haven’t reset your router in a long time or forever it is a great idea to do this.

So to summarize your internet speed and how it effects buffering while streaming.

  • Minimum of 10 Mbps Down, while the preferred speed is around 25 Mbps Down.
  • Connecting your unit to the internet via an Ethernet cable is ideal
  • If you must use Wifi, make sure the unit is very close to the router (15 feet or under is ideal)
  • Make sure you have reset your router recently.
  • Keep in mind what others in your household are doing on the internet. If they are doing anything bandwidth intensive it can affect your streaming.

So let’s get into the second source of buffering while streaming. The second half of all of your video streams is the stream sources ability to give you data. You can have 1,000 Mbps down and be hardwired via Ethernet, but if the stream source cannot give you enough data you will get buffering. This a fact that most people do not understand. Take as an example, you are browsing the internet on a fast PC with good internet connection. You click on a website link and the site is very slow to load, you click on another link within the same site and it also loads very slowly. In this scenario your computer is working fine, your internet speed is fast, so why is the website loading slowly? Your computer? Internet connection? Graphics card? Operating system? It is none of these. What is causing the website to load slowly is the server it is using to deliver data for users to view its website. This server is having at least one of many possible issues. It could be overloaded with users, It could have its main internet connection lost and is using a backup internet connection, It could have had a physical hardware failure, one of the many servers it needs to pass through to get to your internet connection is down. These are just a few of the issues a server may encounter that will cause it not to be able to give out enough data to load a website or video stream.

Video content files are stored on servers. These servers have a limit in how much data they can transmit out to people. When these servers reach a level of users they get overloaded and are not able to give out as much data as may be needed for an end user to stream a file with no buffering.

Servers are not cheap to buy, rent or operate. Streams come from all over the world. Some are from multibillion dollar companies with massive data centers, some are from smaller operations and some come from free public servers that limit amounts of data and speeds. The long story short is that sometimes servers get overloaded, fail or go down.

So let’s sum up some of the misconceptions about buffering in while streaming.

  • Buffering has nothing to do with your units Processor speed, Graphics processing power or RAM
  • Buffering has nothing to do with your hardware

 What causes buffering?

  • Slow internet speeds on the users end
  • Wifi signal being weak and or degraded by distance or having to go through walls or other obstacles
  • Other users on your internet network hogging bandwidth
  • The stream sources server being overloaded with too many users
  • The stream sources server having internet issues
  • Your internet provider having fluctuations in their internet service

How to minimize buffering while streaming

  • Have at least 10 Mbps actually getting to the unit. 25 Mbps is preferred
  • Hardwire your unit directly to the internet via an Ethernet cable
  • Reset your router once a week
  • Pause a stream for a minute or two to allow it to build up some data

While most of the streams that you click on will work with no problems at all, you are going to encounter streams that just can’t give you enough data for whatever reason. You can have 1,000 Mbps and be hardwired and you will still have links that won’t stream without buffering. It has nothing to do with your hardware or the program you are using. It is just because the server can’t give you enough data.

 

So follow all of the steps to help minimize buffering while streaming and you will have a much better experience.

 

Wi-Fi Troubleshooting Guide

Enter the correct name for your wireless network

Selecting the wrong wireless network name will cause your wireless network connection to fail. If you are not certain that your SkyStream device is connected to the correct network Read Below.

When connecting your SkyStream device to your home wireless network, you will need to select the name of the wireless network. The SkyStream device scans all available networks and presents a list that is ordered by the strength of the wireless signal.

The wireless network name, sometimes called the SSID, is either the default name that was set by your ISP or router manufacturer, or the name you chose when you set up your wireless network.

How to find your wireless network name

  • Check to see which network your computer or mobile device is connected to. The SkyStream device will connect to the same network.
  • If you cannot remember the name of your wireless network, go to the support sites for your internet service provider or router manufacturer. Also, sometimes the default name is listed on the bottom of the router. 

How to get your wireless password

  • Enter the same wireless password that you use to connect your computer or mobile device to your home network.
  • If you have forgotten the password, go the support sites for your internet service provider or router manufacturer. They will be able to suggest the specific methods for their products to recover the password or reset it. Sometimes the default password is listed on the bottom of the router.

Tips for entering passwords

  • Passwords are case sensitive – Click the  on the on-screen keyboard to enter a capital letter.
  • You must enter the password exactly as it was set. This includes and Capital letters Symbols or Numbers.

Enter the password correctly

If you believe you know your wireless password, but it is not working, try re-entering it. It is easy to make a mistake entering your password, and remember that network passwords are case sensitive.

  1. Check to see that your router is working properly.Using your computer or mobile device, connect to your home network and try accessing the internet by launching a public website like google.com. If you can connect to the internet from another device, your router is successfully providing internet access and you can move to the next step. If you are unable to connect to the internet, try restarting your router (Tips below) before contacting your ISP.
  2. Improve the wireless signal strength. If your password is correct and other devices can access the router, but your SkyStream device is still failing to connect to your wireless network, the most likely problem is the strength of the wireless signal. The wireless signal gets weaker the farther your SkyStream device is from your router, and with more obstacles (like walls and cabinets) between your router and your SkyStream device.
  • If you can move them closer, the signal will get stronger.
  • If you can move them so there are fewer objects and walls between them, the signal will get stronger
  • Perhaps you can try moving the Skystream device closer temporarily, so as to verify that the signal strength is the problem.
  • Try re-orienting the router’s antennas
  • Try moving either your router or the Skystream device. Sometimes just a few inches or feet can make a difference.
  • Try moving your router and Skystream device higher up.
  • If your router or the Skystream device is in a cabinet, take it out.
  • If the TV is between the Skystream device and the router, try
  • Moving the Skystream device so that the TV is not blocking the wireless signal.

 If the wireless signal is still not strong enough, here are additional options:

  • Purchase a new wireless router that provides a stronger signal, or has more reliable software. Routers do vary considerably in their quality – so read the online reviews.
  • There are more advanced home network options, such as range extenders, “mesh network” routers, or powerline extenders (Sold at www.skystreamx.com) which can increase wireless coverage within your house.
  • Is Ethernet an option? The Skystream TWO has an Ethernet port on the back of the device. A hardwired connection will almost always provide faster more reliable internet speeds. Or Ethernet might be a temporary solution to verify that the wireless connection is your real problem.
  • Move the Skystream TWO to a different TV that is closer to your wireless router
  1. Restart your SkyStream device and your router
    • Unplug the SkyStream device from the power source, wait a few moments, and then plug it back in.
    • To restart your router, check the instructions from your ISP or router vendor. In some cases, you can simply unplug it and plug it back in, and in other cases it may require pressing a reset button on the device.
Note: It will take a few minutes before both devices have restarted.

Internet Trouble Shooting

There are many factors that come into play on a home network. This section will cover some remedies to common home networking problems. We do recommend that the SkystreamX unit is receiving 10 Mbps or 10,000 Kbps of download speed to operate properly.

  1. Rebooting your Modem – Modems are just like computers. Over time they slow down and need to be reset. We recommend resetting your router at least once a month to ensure you are getting proper speed being fed into your home network. To reset your Modem, simply unplug it from its power source for 30 seconds, plug it back in and let it reboot.
  2. Wifi Distance – Wifi signals are greatly reduced over distance and through obstacles and walls. If you are experiencing slow speeds using Wifi we highly suggest moving the wireless router closer to your SkystreamX unit. We also always recommend  a hardwired ethernet connection over Wifi as it is more stable and provides the maximum internet speed to the unit.

If you are having trouble connecting your internet to the Skystream Android TV Box, please watch the videos above for instructions on how to connect the unit to the internet.

How to run a Speedtest on your Skystream Android TV Box

How to connect Ethernet (Hardwire) to your Skystream unit

How to connect Wi-Fi to your Skystream unit

Random Notification Sounds

If you have signed into any email programs or social media applications, you can go to settings, apps, scroll down to the app and click on it. Then scroll down and turn off the notifications.

Low volume on certain streams

If different streams have different volume levels do not worry, this is completely normal. Each stream is created by a different person. Different people record the streams with different volume levels. If you find a stream that has a low or high volume level simply use the volume button on your Skystreamx remote to raise or lower the volume to a desired level.

Low Volume

If you are experiencing low volume on your Skystream Android TV Box please follow these steps to raise the volume level.

  1. Using the Skystream remote control, press the volume up button until the volume is at the highest level. If you see a sound icon with an X through it press the mute button to unmute.
  2. Using your TV or sound system remote control, turn the volume up to your desired level.

Connecting to a Sound System

There are three ways that you can connect your SkystreamX Android TV Box to an external sound system.

Method 1 (Suggested) – Almost all TV’s have an Audio out port. Some TV’s have a red & white component output and some have an HDMI or SPDIF (Optical Audio) output. Whatever output method your TV has, we recommend connecting the audio out to your sound system. With this configuration anything that is being displayed on your TV will have it’s sound sent directly to the sound system. This eliminates having to change the audio channels on your sound system for different devices.

HDMI Pass through

HDMI pass through is a feature on some sound systems. This feature allows you to feed the HDMI Audio & Video signal directly to the sound system and then have the sound system feed the video back to the TV. If your Sound system has HDMI pass through please follow the instructions on how to connect and enable it.

  1. Connect the HDMI cable from the Skystream to the pass through port on your sound system. With a second HDMI cable connect the HDMI pass through out to your TV.
  2. From your Skystreams home screen click on settings, click on Advanced.
  3. Click on Digital Audio auto-detection to turn it off.
  4. Click on Digital Audio Output.
  5. Click on HDMI Passthrough to turn it on.
  6. Turn the volume all the way up using your Skystream remote control. Adjust the audio level using your sound systems remote control.

 

SPDIF (Optical Audio) Pass through

SPDIF or Optical Audio is an option to play the sound from your SkystreamX to an external sound system or sound bar. Enabling this feature will allow you to push the sound from your Skystream to a sound bar using an optical audio / SPDIF cable.

  1. Plug an optical audio cord into the port on the back of your SkystreamX and plug the other end into the optical audio port on your sound bar or sound system.
  2. From your Skystreams home screen click on settings, click on Advanced.
  3. Click on Digital Audio auto-detection to turn it off.
  4. Click on Digital Audio Output.
  5. Click on SPDIF Passthrough to turn it on.
  6. Turn the volume all the way up using your Skystream remote control. Adjust the audio level using your sound systems remote control.

 

 

No Volume

If you are not getting volume please follow the below listed steps.

1. TV Remote – Press the mute button to make sure the TV is not muted. Now turn the volume all the way up.

2. Skystrem Remote – Press the mute button to make sure the TV is not muted. Now turn the volume all the way up.

3. If the first two steps do not work, please try pressing the F8 key on your keyboard.

This should fix the volume issue you are having.

Video Cuts in and out for a few seconds

That is normally caused by a bad HDMI cable or the cable not being fully seated in the port. We would make sure that both ends of the HDMI cable are fully seated. If the screen is still blinking occasionally We would try a different HDMI cable.

No display at all on TV

If you are not seeing any display at all on your TV from the Skystream unit, please follow the troubleshooting steps below.

  1. Make sure that the Skystream unit is plugged in and showing a light on the front of it. If there is no LED the unit is not on.
  2. If the unit is on and displaying a light on the front, check to make sure that the HDMI cable is plugged into the Skystream unit and an HDMI port on your TV.
  3. Using your TV remote press the input or source button to change the input source so that it is showing the video from the HDMI port that the Skystream is plugged into.
  4. If none of these options work, test a different HDMI cable to see if the HDMI was not working properly.
  5. If you have done all of these steps, tested a different HDMI cable and are still not seeing any video display from the Skystream unit please give us a call at 888-963-9105

Video is fuzzy, color is off or flickers intermittently

If you are experiencing any of these issues please follow the below listed troubleshooting steps.

  1. Unplug the HDMI cable from both the Skystream unit and your television.
  2. Plug both of them back in and make sure that they are both seated firmly.
  3. If this does not fix the problem, try using a different HDMI port on your TV.
  4. If this does not work, please try using a different HDMI cable.
  5. If a new HDMI cable does not solve the problem please give us a call at 888-963-9105.

 

The language on my box is wrong

Go to settings, then Other, then more settings. Scroll down until you see a small white square with a letter A inside it. Once in there click the option all the way in the top and change language to English.

How to adjust the display size to fit your TV

Unit does not turn on at all

If your unit is plugged into a working outlet that has power, but you are not seeing any lights indicating that the unit is on please give us a call at 888-963-9105. Most likely the power supply has died and a replacement will need to be sent.

Unit lights up but does not display anything on the screen

If your unit displays an LED indicating that it is on but is not displaying anything on your TV, Please refer to the display section of the support page for help.

How to properly set the Date & Time – IMPORTANT!

How to connect a Bluetooth device

To enable Bluetooth click on Settings, Other, More Settings. Now turn on Bluetooth. The unit will start searching for Bluetooth devices. Follow the pairing instructions for the Bluetooth device you are trying to connect and allow the device to pair with the Skystream Android TV Box.

Application shows as incompatible in Google Play

If an application that you are trying to install is saying that it is incompatible with the SkystreamX, this simply means that the developer has not made their application compatible with Android TV boxes. There are not that many applications that are not compatible with SkystreamX units. But there are some that are just not compatible.

Google Play won’t open or gets stuck opening

If the Google Play app get’s stuck and will not go to the homescreen or gets stuck opening please follow the steps below.

  1. From the units home screen, click on settings.
  2. Click on other
  3. Click on More Settings
  4. Click on Apps
  5. Click on Google Play
  6. Click on Clear Cache
  7. Click on Clear Data
  8. Click on Force Stop and then OK
  9. Press the home button on your remote control
  10. Click on the Google Play icon to open Google Play

How to install applications from the Google Play store

Factory Resets

Please DO NOT do a factory reset on your Skystream device unless instructed by one of our technicians!!! If you have already done a factory reset, please email us at info at skystreamx.com for instructions on how to restore your device.

How to add or change your home screen Shortcuts (Bottom row of apps)

Click on the plus sign on the right side of the row or apps. A fold will open from the bottom of the screen that shows two rows of apps. You can click down to see the other apps that are installed.

To remove an app find the app that you want to remove. It will have a green check mark. Click on the app to remove the check mark. Press the back button and the app will be removed.

To add an app find the app you want to add. Click on the app and make sure the green check mark appears. Press the back button and the app will be added.

Note – You can only have 10 apps shown on the bottom row of apps. If you try to add more than 10 you will get a pop up telling that there is no space for the app.

How to force stop frozen applications

How to Program the X5 Remotes programmable buttons

Press and Hold "Set" button until yellow light is solid, Press the button you want to program (Menu, Mute, AV/TV), Yellow light will start to blink.

Now point the remote that you want the X5 remote to learn from at the front of the X5 remote (Front to Front) and press the button that you want the X5 remote to learn. The yellow light will blink fast and then turn solid if it has received the signal. Now press and hold the "Set" button until the yellow light turns off. Test to see if the X5 remote has learned the function of the button you just programmed. If it does not work the first time try once again. Make sure that the yellow light blinks fast after pressing the button you want it to learn as this indicates that the X5 remote has learned the function.

The X5 can only learn IR (Infrared Signals), most remote controls use IR, but some of them use radio frequencies and cannot be learned by the X5 Remote Control.

How to Re-sink the air-mouse remote with USB dongle

Exit to the home screen. 
Make sure the USB dongle for the remote is plugged into the back of the SkyStream box. 
Press and hold the red TV button and the blue OK button for 7 seconds.  
Then release both buttons, the remote should now be paired and working.

SkyStream X5 Air Mouse Remote Control Trouble Shooting

1. Make sure the remote control is fully charged. You can plug the provided USB cable into a USB port on the X5 or plug the USB end into any cell phone charger to charge the remote. A red light will appear when the unit is charging. The red light will disappear when the remote is fully charged.

2. Make sure the USB dongle that was included is plugged into one of the USB ports on the left side of the X5 unit.

3. Turn on the X5.

4. Turn the remote on using the toggle switch on the left side of the remote. Make sure the toggle switch is in the on position. You should see a blue light at the top of the remote control.

5. Move the remote around and you will see the cursor move with the movement of the remote control.

If this procedure did not work and no buttons are working in cluding the direction pad buttons, please follow the instructions below.

Pairing the X5 Remote

Turn the remote switch to off, now push the Esc key and while holding it down turn the remote to on. The blue light should start to flash rapidly and you can let go of the escape key and the remote should pair itself. Make sure the X5 is on and you are close to it when you follow these instructions.

Please refer to the X5 button guide above to learn what all of the buttons do.

SkyStream X5 Air Mouse Remote Control Buttons

 

  1. Power Button
  2. Menu
  3. Page Up
  4. Page Down
  5. Rewind
  6. Back/Return
  7. Email
  8. Menu
  9. Set
  10. Mute
  11. AV/TV
  12. Navigation + OK
  13. Left Mouse
  14. Volume +
  15. Mouse On/Off
  16. Volume –
  17. Play/Pause
  18. Fast Forward
  19. Home
  20. Search

 

Remember to charge your remote by using the attached USB charger that plugs into your box or any USB charger. Also, be sure to turn your remote OFF when it is not in use to save battery life.

To stop using the Mouse feature and use the directional pad, press the Mouse On/Off (#15) button.

Trouble Shooting the Skystream Air Mouse

1. Make sure you have inserted both AAA Batteries into the remote control and have plugged the USB Dongle into the unit you wish to control. (Do not insert the USB dongle into the back of your TV unless you have a smart TV and are using this remote control to control your TV.)

2. If the remote control is not controlling the device that it is plugged into, simply unplug the device from its power source, plug it in and let it completely boot up again.

3. Press the Red Cursor button if the air mouse feature is not working.

4. If the red LED light on the top of the remote is not lighting up when you press a button try changing the batteries in the remote control. You can also try rolling them or pressing them towards the + connection side. Also make sure the batteries are inserted in the proper direction.

How to program the Skystream Air Mouse to control other devices

1.On the Skystream air mouse remote press and hold Red TV button until it starts to slowly blink
2. Aim the TV remote that you want to program front to front of the STB remote. press the button you want to program on your TV remote.
3. The Red light will turn on and stay on once it has learned the buttons function.
4. Press the yellow or blue button and the light will blink normally
5. Press the red TV button again
6. Test functionality
(Only 2 functions can be programmed.Red and Green buttons on bottom of remote cannot be programmed, only yellow and blue)

Skystream Air mouse Guide

SkyStream ONE Remote

Remote On / Off Issues

The stock remote that came with your SkystreamX should turn the unit on and off.

Any other remotes or USB Keyboards may or may not turn the unit on and off. We cannot control third party remote controls or modify anything to make them turn the unit on and off.

You can leave your unit on all of the time. The Android operating system was designed to be left on all of the time just like a cell phone or tablet. So if a remote control that you purchased is not turning the unit on and off you can simply leave the unit on.


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