VPN/ Buffering?

Hi all.

I’ve been a Tablo owner (Quad) and user for about two years now. Overall, I’m very pleased. I say “overall” because nothing’s perfect, right? :wink:

When I first joined, like many newbies, I had to work through some kinks like pixelation (until I got a quality, roof-mounted OTA antenna).

And I had some buffering on occasion (the “spinning circle” on-screen of our hi-def television). We have a high-speed DSL Internet connection, and even though other devices we use in the house have great wireless connection speeds, I’d still see the buffering on occasion with the Roku’s Tablo app.

Back in January of this year 2021, I relocated the Tablo unit to our home office where there is a coaxial cable from the roof-mounted antenna, and then what I did was to hardwire the Tablo unit directly into our DSL modem/ router with a network cable. Basically, ever since then, there were no more buffering issues. I was even able to go into the Tablo’s Settings, and for both Live TV Quality and Recording Quality, I was able to put it at its highest setting of “HD 1080 - 10 Mbps, 720@ 60fps”; no buffering :grinning:

…that is, until recent weeks, when some buffering started showing up again. It has been almost a year since I saw that “spinning circle” :unamused:

99% of the time, we use and watch the Tablo through our Roku Ultra device connected to our TV; this is where I’ve started seeing the buffering again. Occasionally, I watch Tablo on my Android-based cell phone, and also the Windows 10 app for it on my desktop computer. However, I only ever seem to see buffering when I’m using the Roku app.

In recent weeks with the buffering being back on occasion (it’s intermittent, and I didn’t see a pattern at first), I have been in contact with Tablo Tech Support. They were very accommodating and helpful, and tried many things to see if they could nail down the issue.

I put my Tablo unit in remote-access mode, and they connected and took a look around: They got back to me with a good report; the Tablo unit is in good health, no signs of failure, speed of the Roku unit is excellent, and the hard drive I have installed inside is fine.

They also had me run an app known as “RouteThisHelps”. The results from that showed great things: Packets Dropped: 0.0%; Average Ping Time is 15ms (when it’s below 20 ms, that’s considered exceptional); connection quality: Great. The only negative thing observed by the Tablo technician was “…there are spikes in the amount of time it takes for information to get to your Roku”. Perhaps that’s so, but when I check my Roku’s Settings and go to Network, network connection is “Excellent”. And no other apps through my Roku ever show buffering, whether it’s Netflix, Hulu, or using the Plex app to stream video content from my desktop PC.

So…something occurred to me that I thought might interfere with the Tablo’s Internet connection and might cause buffering even though I’m hardwired in with a network cable.

On my desktop PC, I occasionally launch an app known as a VPN service (I don’t leave the VPN application running all the time; I only launch it manually when I want to/ need it); I’m sure a lot of you know what a VPN is. It’s one of the paid services, not one of the free ones.

I did some searching here on the forums, and VPN questions have been asked before. Sometimes a detail that comes up regarding VPN’s is a “router-based” VPN. My VPN is an application I have installed on my Windows 10-based computer.

But still: Does anyone know if a VPN running on a computer can interfere with the Tablo app on the Roku?

As I mentioned above, the buffering issue is intermittent, no pattern that I could discern. But then I thought…on the occasions when I launch the VPN app on my computer…is that when the buffering shows up?

I’ve written back to Tablo Tech Support and am awaiting an answer, but, thought I’d come here in the meantime to see what all of you thought.

I myself think the issue is with the Roku app version of Tablo; when I watch Tablo on my Android-based cell phone or the Windows app version, I don’t see the buffering.

I also found out from Tablo Tech Support (and have seen it here on these forums) that when changing channels on the Roku app of Tablo, that the time between changing channels - 10 to 15 seconds - is “normal”. When I change channels on the Android app on my cell phone or Windows 10 app, channel-change time is about 3 or 4 seconds.

Anyway, please let me know what you think regarding VPN and buffering; thanks,
Pez

As long as it’s just running on the computer and not the router, it shouldn’t interfere with any other device. The Tablo is communicating through the router, the Roku is communicating through the router, neither side of that equation involves the computer so the VPN shouldn’t be an issue.

It depends…on quite a few things. The number of devices that are connected both wired and wireless, activity on the current network, the ability for the router to “route” all the traffic (usually CPU dependent on the router), the bandwidth of the devices in use, etc…

A VPN will establish a connection, and utilize bandwidth, but usually not close to 100% of the bandwidth of the network. However, if you have a lot of other devices, and then connect the VPN, you can get close to 100% of the bandwidth, or come close to maxing out the routing capabilities of the router.

Personally, I only use VPNs when connecting directly to a specific network (i.e. work when I am at home), or I am surfing the net on an unsecure network (i.e. public wifi).

Hi Nilex & ronintexas; thanks for your replies.

Nilex: Yes, I hear what you’re saying, that the Tablo unit and the Roku unit are both communicating through my modem/ router, and that that doesn’t involve the computer and/ or the VPN. But you know how when there’s a tech issue, as part of troubleshooting, you try and determine patterns, or ask yourself “What changed, or what did I do differently?”. Even though I’m not 100% sure, I’m pretty sure that the only time I see buffering of Tablo is through the Roku unit and it’s while I have my VPN launched.

Well, I’m going to try a little experiment. My VPN program has a feature known as “Split Tunnel”, and when you utilize it, you can add “exceptions” to it by entering a device’s IP address and the VPN will bypass it and not include it; couldn’t hurt :grin:

ronintexas: A lot of what you mentioned I covered with the tech rep from Tablo.

And as far as the number of devices that are connected both wired & wireless in our household? Well, it’s just my wife and I; no kids sucking up all the bandwidth with a bunch of devices :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: There’s the desktop computer hardwired into the modem/ router (but the desktop computer is not always powered on), and the Tablo unit is also hardwired in. And then my wife uses her cell phone connected to our wireless to do various things (me? Not so much).

Well, maybe I’ll have some luck with my VPN’s Split Tunnel; as I mentioned above, couldn’t hurt to try.
Pez

Worth a shot like you say because my next thought was what @ronintexas threw out, that somehow the VPN was utilizing more of your overall bandwidth then it should be.