Devolo Support Sucks.

There. I’ve said it and I mean it.

Their products, when they work, do work fine. But when something goes wrong, you can’t count on support. So I’m steering clear of their devices AND their support, and I’m sharing my feelings in this on my blog.

Here’s the rant (quite a long read, got a lot to get out of my system) :

Devolo support seems to consist entirely of first-level support people that only know how to provide support by sending you a pdf with ‘things you can try’. At no stage did I feel that I reached second-level support or that I talked with someone that actually *read* my emails and asked me further technical info based on previous emails.

The overall feeling I got from the emails was that they wanted to get rid of me, but didn’t know how or that they were obliged to follow the rules, i.e. always respond to a customer request, even if it is to resend the same pdf with the same info you sent previously.

As you can read in my other blog posts, last year, about 7 months ago I needed a solution for routing my ethernet signal to my new work room on the first floor. Having used Devolo Dlan Duo devices before without any problem whatsoever I went out and bought 3 Devolo DLAN AV500 devices : 2 with just one ethernet port, 1 with 3 ethernet ports for the various devices (even my TV now has an ethernet port).

From the start, something went wrong with the device that was connected to the router. Every so often it would hang and I would need to go downstairs and unplug and replug it. Then it would work again. Later I found out that it’s actually the ethernet port itself that shuts down, it can still be reached via the power connection so you can actually do a reset from the DLAN cockpit software without needing to unplug it.

So to restate the fact :

  1. The device works, and works fast, no slowdowns, no short dropouts, it just works
  2. Suddenly it stops working, usually when transferring a large amount of data
  3. You ‘reboot’ it and it works again, just as fast as before
  4. It will -days or hours- later suddenly stop working again
  5. See 3…

This didn’t look to me as a typical hardware problem : it’s solved when you restart the device or reset it to factory settings. To me, it looks like a software problem, one or other counter is going haywire and a reset is needed.

So I contacted Devolo support via email in October 2012, and began a very long email back-and-from conversation that lasted until last month June 2013. To be honest, there were usually a few weeks between the answers what with work and family, so not every day a mail was sent.

I also wrote 2 blog posts about this problem that got quite a bit of reaction from other people who are having a similar problem. At the moment I’m writing this, at least 20 people have expressed that they are having the same problem. There have been 1172 visits to that particular blog post already, and unless they do something to fix their product it will only go up.

In the end, after numerous tests (update of the firmware to the latest dev build then, plugging 2 devolo’s in one extension cord to see if they have a good connection, having to confirm and reconfirm and then again reconfirm that no there is no slowdown AT ALL, switching one device in for the other) Devolo software support decided  that my device had a hardware fault, based on the fact that when it crashed, there is no visible indication that it has done so. And then it told me to sort it out myself by going back to the shop and asking for an exchange.

Tell me how YOU can explain to a shop attendant that you want to exchange the device because it is faulty when it shows NO VISIBLE indication that it is faulty ? I don’t know about shop attendants in your country, but the ones I know in Belgium are quite aloof and suspicious when you want to return hardware after 7 months of use.

I have several times told Devolo support that I am not the only one with the problem, please see my blog and read the comments. At no time did they respond to this. Probably because then they might have to actually investigate it, spending time and resources to actually solve the problem for everybody affected.

In the end I bought a new device to replace the Devolo DLAN 500AV+ but this time a Powerline device from D-LINK. Since both the devices use the same common “Homeplug” standard, they just recognise each other and start working together immediately together.

Problem solved, at my expense of course. But at the expense in the long run of Devolo as well. I’m no longer a customer of theirs, will buy other devices than Devolo, and I am making the world know of this so other people know what happened.

Fun Project : visualisation of all the flemish schools

I’ve had a bit of fun recently with visualising some open data from onderwijs.vlaanderen.be where I downloaded the address list of flemish schools for kindergarten and “lower” schools.

  • imported the csv list via “base” in an sqlite database
  • added longitude and latitude fields to the db
  • wrote a small script that used geopy to query google for each address and add the coordinates to the db
  • then created another small script using pygmaps to create a custom html file which includes the necessary coordinates for each point on the google map.

The result is that I never knew how many schools there were in Vlaanderen !

Schools in Flemish Belgium

You can read more in the original post (in Flemish) that I made on the dataconnect website, where I advertise for my web site design and consultancy. For the full map, click on the above image to go there.

A Small iPhone to Android Survival Guide

Here are a few tools that I discovered to ease the transition from the iPhone world (iCloud, iTunes, Contacts, etc) to the Android world. These tools help you to approach the same level of comfort that you have with your iPhone (although it’s certainly not a complete experience).

So far I’ve installed the following :

  • iSyncr : lets you sync your iTunes content audio and video – needed to sync your music
  • Swiftkey : this keyboard has predictive input and allows you to swipe your words, which is way faster than pecking the words out – the iPhone really should have this type of input as well !
  • MX Player : plays all the videos I’ve thrown at it, has all the codecs
  • 1Password : it’s a weak “read-only” solution so you’re not able to add new content to it, but at least I still have all my passwords with me when I need them – free.
  • 1Weather : a good weather forecaster, but there are several ones around
  • Kindle : the ebook reader from Amazon

Here are a few links from similar iphone-to-android-switchers :

Samsung Galaxy Note 2

gn2

After being fully integrated in the Mac World with iPhone / iMac / iTunes and whatnot, the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 caught my eye. I don’t use my iPad that much, and am constantly reading Kindle ebooks on my iPhone cos I always have that close to hand.

The Note 2 with it’s 5,5 inch screen will hopefully be a bit more easy on my eyes than the small iPhone screen.

I’m off to try something new ! I fully expect to have some troubles integrating with iTunes, but so far I’ve already seen 2 apps that allow me to do just that.

And apparently, I’m not the only one who is switching away from an iPhone.

I love iFixit ! Highly recommended !

Last week the HD in my mother-in-law’s hand-me-down iMac went the way of the dodos and crashed, loosing all the information on it.

Did you know you can burn a copy of Ubuntu (I used 12.10) to a CD and it will load and boot on a mac, even with EFI firmware ? This helped me verify that the disk was indeed dead and non-salvagable (it was the /Users directory that was totally destroyed !).

The 24 inch screen is still great, the CPU (an 2,16 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo) is a bit slow nowadays but still more than good enough for surfing and showing photos and playing music, so I figured why not replace the hard disk and save some money ?

I visited iFixit.com and checked if they had a repair guide for that particular iMac model and sure enough it was there. I bought the necessary hard drive and Torx screwdrivers, and I have just now succesfully replaced the failed 500 GB disk with a 2TB disk.

When I subsequently booted from the Snow Leopard disk, it couldn’t see the drive, but a quick trip to the disk utility made it show itself, and I was able to format it and continue the installation – everything is just fine, thanks to those iFixit people !

Note that iFixit is a free service, but you can help them out by buying repair tools or hard disks from them, or writing your own guide.

I figured I could help point some people in the right direction – they have an amazing amount of DIY repair manuals !

PS – for those who break the temperature sensor on the HD or the wires (I didn’t) : there’s a software solution for that !

Devolo Powerline AV500+ network problems (2)

In a recent post I wrote about the persistent network problems that I had with my Devolo Powerline and that I solved it.

Wrong ! Turns out that the firmware update was not the answer – I now have anywhere between 1 and 4 days before I have to pull the devolo plug. I have contacted Devolo support, but they only sent me a faq about what to do when you have a slow network connection and how to solve it.

But this is not my problem – everything works fine, at reasonable to very good speeds, when *suddenly* the network connection drops. Bam, no more network connection. Usually when I’m copying something to the NAS. Like I’ve suddenly reached a limit on file size or file transfers and everything is cut off.

The only way to solve it is to remove the devolo powerplug (that is downstairs and connected to the router) from the mains, wait 10 seconds or so and reinsert it. That does the trick just about every time (sometimes it is the Telenet router that hangs, but that only happens once in a while).

Update : in the comments on this post people have found an alternate solution : using the devolo management software, you can restart the device remotely, and then it works again (the connection over the powerline keeps working so you can reach the device that way).

I’ll try and keep a count here on how many times I have to restart the devolo plug.

20121118 : reset devolo powerplug
20121125 : reset at least 4 times (doing heavy moving of content to NAS)
20121128 : reset 2 times (telework today, only citrix connection)

Update December 29 2012 : this problem has kept on appearing intermittently – either after a week or several times a day. It seems to indicate that there is a problem with the amount of data throughput.

Update April 09 2013 : I’ve received a new firmware from Devolo to test out, and applied it to all the Devolo AV500 devices I have. The problem is *less* when the network is stable (ie low usage, mail check and such) but worse when actually *using* the network. I now need to reset the AV device about 5 times on a work-from-home day instead of 1 or 2 times.

Update April 14 2013 : received another mail from Devolo to test out the devolo boxes. The test consisted of plugging in 2 devolo boxes on an extension cord so that they are connected via the same socket. A good linkage apparantly is that both the “power” and “home” icon on both devices give a “green” light. I’ve taken a picture of this and added this to the mail I sent back to them. I honestly don’t think I’ve gotten to the second level support as yet, all the things I’ve done until now have been the basic “check this, do that, there is a bad connection, you must be doing something wrong” type of answers that a typical first level support tends to give. I am persisting in keeping in contact with them, and hopefully I will get some more technical requests…

Update April 28 2013 :  I’ve received a few more questions about how my devolo boxes are setup, what type of modem that I use (a eurodocsis 3.0) and so on. I’ve sent those on, and they have now asked me to switch the devolo’s about to see if the problem is located in one physical devolo item or if this problem is caused by a network situation. I have yet to do so, but will do that in the following days. The questions have become more technical, the solution (switch em around) not yet, but it’s a logical thing to test.

Update May 19 2013 : on request of devolo support, I’ve switched my dlan AV500 plus around with my dlan AV500 Triple plus. So the dlan device with the 3 ports is now connected to the router and the single-port dlan which was connected to the router  device is now on the other end. For two weeks I have not had a single crash !  For me that confirms that the problem lies with the single-port AV500 plus. Maybe it has to process all the other traffic and can’t cope while the 3-port device can ? I don’t know.
I’ve informed Devolo of the results and am awaiting their reply. I hope they take this serious and do an in-depth investigation and fix this with a new firmware release. After all, I’m not the only one that is having these problems, seeing all the comments below this post. And putting a 3-port dlan switch on your router where only one port can be used is a bit useless to me.

Update June 9, 2013 :   Devolo support thinks that it is just one faulty device and have asked me to reswitch back the devices to the original locations to confirm that this is the case. I’ve done that and do have the same problems again. This is on the latest published firmware. I’ve also pointed them to this blog and have asked them to read the comments in this post. It seems very unlikely that it is just one faulty device when all the people below leave comments with a “me-too” message – or perhaps there is a whole batch of them ? I still hope a firmware update will solve the problem.

The problem evidently still has not been solved. And there are now 5 6 11 19 people who have left a comment saying they have a similar problem…

Update August 4, 2013 : Devolo support has concluded that the device has a hardware fault and that it needs to be replaced. They told me to bring it back to the shop and ask for a new one. They determined that it was faulty because when it crashes it does not show it on the device (!) as all the lights stay green. I’m disgusted by this lack of customer support and have written a (long) blog post about this. I’m also solving my problem at my expense by buying another device from D-LINK to replace my faulty devolo with.  No more devolo or devolo support for me.

Update November 12, 2013 : in a comment below, Arturo has found that the devolo 500 units have a cooling problem – they shut down when too hot. Removing the cover as he did so they can get more air (or alternately, perhaps drilling holes in the cover) could also be a solution for you. But be careful – don’t get electrocuted !

Devolo Powerline AV500+ network problems

I recently moved my buro up one level to the first floor, next to our bedroom. As I don’t want our bedrooms to be bathed in wifi radiation all the time, I’ve bought and installed 3 develo powerlines AV500+.

Devolo DLAN 500 AVplus
Devolo DLAN 500 AVplus

You connect one of these devices to your router via a network cable, and plug it in a socket. Then you connect up the others. Your network data is passed along via the powerlines, without needing to put wifi everywhere (plus it’s a hell of lot faster – these ones can go to up to 500Mbit per seconds, fast enough to stream movies to your ps3 !).

I used to have 2 older Devolo devices, but those were manual setups – you needed to connect them to your computer, and run a config program to set the network ip address and other settings. It worked, but it was a nerd tool.

These AV500 ones are much more sophisticated and just work out of the box. Plug them in, hook up the network cables, and they just work. Excellent !

Additionally, if you want to, you just press a button on each and they set up an encryption between the devices. This is a way to prevent your neighbour – who may be on the same power network as you – from plugging in a similar device and getting access to your computers and NAS (Network Attached Storage).

You can also configure them via the DLAN cockpit program, which scans for them and shows them in a graphical way letting you change settings, etc.

The one I bought have integrated plugs that have an integrated filter that filters out the oscillations of the computers / networked devices that they work for.

The problem

The problem I had was that upstairs I was constantly loosing my network connection. It worked for a time, and then suddenly would shut down again. The other devolo in the living room worked just fine.

After some trial and error (involving a switch, a router and some reboots) I noticed that I had to unplug the devolo downstairs connected to the router, and then it would work again when I reconnected it.

Further investigation via the DLAN cockpit program showed that there was one thing different – the version number of the upstairs devolo was lower than the others.

So I upgraded this one to the same version as the other Devolo’s and hey presto the problem seems to be solved – my network connection has been consistently up for the last 48 hours !

So, the conclusion is that all Devolo’s need to be at the same firmware level.  Thought I would share it with you for those who might have similar problems.

[Please note that this did *not* solve all my problems completely, please read the followup if you are still having problems]

Bootstrap from twitter is very cool

A few months ago I mentioned Foundation from ZURB which to me was a pretty neat way to write some functional html and css code for a quick setup of a website or setting up a basic layout.

These last few days I’ve been busy with learning Bootstrap, which is made by the guys from Twitter, and while Foundation was definitely cool, I must admit that Bootstrap just fits me better and offers me more possibilities. YMMV ofcourse.

It may be because I had Foundation as a basis, and thus was already accustomed to the way things worked, but I learned the methods used much quicker than with Foundation.

I’ve made a decent, good-looking one-page landingpage website with a image Carousel in less than a day, and as a test I’ve reworked an existing website to see what it could do.

In less than a day I had a fully navigational website : full navbar, with menu, fluid rows that resized in most browsers on the fly with buttons and a good layout.

I am really impressed with the speed I’ve managed to make these websites, and I can see myself using bootstrap to built other sites in the future.