Continuing problems with the Internet of Things and cloud requirements
November 8, 2017 9:22 AM   Subscribe

In the ongoing tradition of cloud required devices being killed by their creators, Logitech will be bricking the Logitech Harmony Link in March of 2018.

Owners still under warranty can swap it for a Hub, but users out of warranty (and Logitech cut the warranty period recently) get a whopping 35% off a purchase of the **NEW** Logitech Harmony Hub! No word on how long Logitech will permit you to use the Harmony Hub before they brick it and ask you to buy the next new thing. Disturbingly, in Logitech's forums the words "class action" are censored by its anti-obscenity bot forcing users to misspell or use creative punctuation to discuss their legal options.

We talked about the similar problem with Nest/Google killing the Revolv last year on the blue. And not long after killing the Revolv, the Nest wound up with network related bug that prevented it from working (and leaving several users cold) for a while.

This week also saw the revelation that the MantisTek gaming keyboard contained what seemed to be a keylogger in its "cloud driver". Subsequent investigation showed that while it was uploading information to a mysterious Chinese server, the info seemed to be metadata about how often each key was pressed rather than the actual keypresses themselves. Still, the secrecy surrounding the system, and no apparent way to opt out, has people concerned about privacy.
posted by sotonohito (57 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, I guess I'll never buy anything from Logitech ever again. It's like they decided to pick the most dickish way possible to do this.
posted by bshort at 9:27 AM on November 8 [4 favorites]


...of Shit.
posted by Fizz at 9:31 AM on November 8 [13 favorites]


And this is why there should be federal regulations for this type of product, forcing them to be able to have a known end-of-life, including options to run it without support from the parent company.
posted by Canageek at 9:43 AM on November 8 [14 favorites]


Disturbingly, in Logitech's forums the words "class action" are censored by its anti-obscenity bot forcing users to misspell or use creative punctuation to discuss their legal options

WUT.
On a typical Wednesday in November, due to the mysterious forces that govern the web, the story suddenly blew up after newer posts to Logitech's forums caught the eye of Reddit, spurring a tide of angry (and amusing) comments.

The ire was fued by claims that Logitech was censoring the words "class action lawsuit" in the forums, replacing it with "***** ****** *******." The words were visible in spots when I looked at it, but there were tips in the Reddit thread about circumventing the censorship with unicode characters, which could be why.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:46 AM on November 8 [5 favorites]


Never forgave them for killing the Squeezebox (it was an affordable Sonos).
posted by notyou at 9:49 AM on November 8 [7 favorites]


And this is why there should be federal regulations for this type of product, forcing them to be able to have a known end-of-life, including options to run it without support from the parent company.

This would be awesome, and simple. Just like hazard warning on packages, a simple black and white box stating "this device will continue to have cloud access until January 1, 2020."
posted by filthy light thief at 9:52 AM on November 8 [14 favorites]


I really want to love the IoT. It is fascinating to me, and I think it really could simplify our increasingly complex lives, but the people who are building it keep doing shit like this.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:59 AM on November 8 [18 favorites]


I fear that someday Steam is going to screw things up. My pla is that next time I get an external hard drive I download all of my games onto it. Then come hell or highwater I have them stored and my software will still play the games.
posted by Ber at 10:01 AM on November 8 [5 favorites]


I fear that someday Steam is going to screw things up. My pla is that next time I get an external hard drive I download all of my games onto it. Then come hell or highwater I have them stored and my software will still play the games.

I know a few people who have done this because they have the same concerns and worries. Thing is, so many of these games these days require constant always online to work and/or require updates and patches.

So it's still not a perfect plan, but I hear you. I have deep worries about this. But seeing how powerful Steam is, it doesn't look like it's going to shut down any time soon. It's basically an Amazon behemoth.
posted by Fizz at 10:04 AM on November 8


Some of the devices bricked were sold as recently as three months ago.
posted by kersplunk at 10:06 AM on November 8 [4 favorites]


Own your world. I have multiple backups of every bit of content I have ever acquired or generated. Although I use FB/Twitter, I regularly download my post archives, and every image I post to Instagram also is saved locally. And most of my photography I post on my own web site. And on the hardware side, I assume that any device I buy will stop working (due to obsolescence or break-down) in just a couple of years.
posted by twsf at 10:08 AM on November 8 [5 favorites]


So, if I'm understanding correctly, through all the rhetoric, the Harmony Link is a device which requires a server-based backend to function.
Logitech is discontinuing that backend, thus leaving the devices useless, but not "bricked" in the original sense of the word.

That is, they aren't sending a kill signal, or disabling the firmware or similar, as early reports seemed to imply.

The question then becomes, how reliant on the backend service is the device + app?
Does it need to check in once a day? When you first load the app?
Will it continue working indefinitely until you need to make a change to the configuration?
I can't imagine the app sends all commands to the server and then back down to the Link, that seems like it would be laggy as hell.

I mean, this was poorly handled from a PR perspective, but how long should Logitech be expected to support old products?
They're offering a free upgrade to a new product for people still in warranty and a discount for everyone else.
That's more than you get when your online game servers are turned off.
posted by madajb at 10:16 AM on November 8


And on the hardware side, I assume that any device I buy will stop working (due to obsolescence or break-down) in just a couple of years.
I mean, that's a commendably cautious approach, but what about going about it from the other direction and deliberately going for devices that won't be useless after year two? I don't want devices that will break down or become obsolete in a couple of years. My digital camera is over 7 years old, my mp3 player is 6 years old (and survived being dropped outside in the rain overnight), my mother's using perfectly functional speakers that are well over a decade old -- that's the kind of thing I want more of, if only it were something that could be selected for at purchase, rather than something only realized/confirmed after the fact.

I dunno, I just feel like perhaps the hardware-only side of the situation may not be quite as dire as stuff that requires ongoing services to be maintained, and I don't want to just give up and be like "welp, okay, take my money on a regular basis for your crappy junk".
posted by inconstant at 10:19 AM on November 8 [10 favorites]


I fear that someday Steam is going to screw things up. My pla is that next time I get an external hard drive I download all of my games onto it. Then come hell or highwater I have them stored and my software will still play the games.
Would "Steam apps" work if Steam itself wasn't working, though? My impression was that the whole point of DRM-free alternatives was that just having a backup of the game files was no longer enough to guarantee being able to run a game.

Or do you specifically mean downloading DRM-free version of everything?
posted by inconstant at 10:25 AM on November 8


I feel you, inconstant, but the logic of capitalism... In the photography world, many pros (and serious amateurs) joke that what they used to spend each year on consumables (film, printing) is now what they spend on new gear, as specs & performance improve... I would love devices to last, but when performance/features/uses advance at a fast pace I'm (often) okay with that trade-off.
posted by twsf at 10:25 AM on November 8


I pretty much stopped buying games once everyone went to Steam. Not that I was ever a big game buyer so they don't care, but I absolutely will not buy games that require an internet connection to work. Same for online, I only buy books and music that I can download and archive to my own library. If corporations can fuck you, they will fuck you so why give them a direct line to do it?
posted by tavella at 10:26 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


Logitech also bricked a barely-old cloud-based security camera system in the last few years before they debuted their new Logi product.
posted by reiichiroh at 10:27 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


I pretty much stopped buying games once everyone went to Steam. Not that I was ever a big game buyer so they don't care, but I absolutely will not buy games that require an internet connection to work.
You can play (some) single-player games through Steam without an internet connection -- pretty much everything I own, although my tiny collection skews mostly indie, so I don't know if triple-A games have their own extra set of hoops to jump through. There's still the whole "ethically dubious corporation with control over your access to purchased games" thing, of course! I just wanted to address the "require an internet connection" point specifically.
posted by inconstant at 10:31 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


So, if I'm understanding correctly, through all the rhetoric, the Harmony Link is a device which requires a server-based backend to function.
Logitech is discontinuing that backend, thus leaving the devices useless, but not "bricked" in the original sense of the word.


I'd argue that you're drawing a distinction that doesn't really exist. If the device functions until they do X, and will not function afterward, then I'd say that doing X is close enough to bricking as nevermind.

The question then becomes, how reliant on the backend service is the device + app?

Per all reports, 100%. Once they shut down the backend the device will become non-functional.

I mean, this was poorly handled from a PR perspective, but how long should Logitech be expected to support old products?

Personally, I'd argue for an absolute minimum of 20 years for devices of that nature if they want to keep it all trade secreted and closed source, and I'd prefer "as long as anyone is still using the device". As an alternative I'd be willing to accept them sending a final update that disables all DRM followed by open sourcing the entire backend and all code in the machine so that the community can establish its own servers and keep the device going as long as they want.

When you buy a thing it should work until and unless it physically fails.

As for old games, I'd also argue that any company selling a game dependent on a server should be obligated to maintain the server for 20+ years, or as long as people are still playing, or if they don't want to do that, opening the source on the game and server so the community can keep it going.

The idea that we spend money, real actual money, on stuff and then it just randomly stops working when the people who sold it to us get bored, or want to get more money from us, or whatever, is unacceptable.
posted by sotonohito at 10:36 AM on November 8 [30 favorites]


I should also mention that under the DMCA any attempt by Hub owners to reverse engineer the system so as to keep their devices function is a felony if Logitech used absolutely any form of encryption at all. And by "absolutely any form at all" I mean literally including ROT13 or simply A=B, B=C, C=D and so on.
posted by sotonohito at 10:44 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


It's almost like it's a bad idea to put internet connectivity into devices that don't really need them.
posted by runcibleshaw at 10:47 AM on November 8 [15 favorites]


You can't even set up one of the basic Logitech Harmony remotes without an internet connection. They work forever without a connection once set up, provided you don't want to change anything. And the Logitech set up software is absolute unreliable crap.
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:53 AM on November 8 [5 favorites]


We need to outlaw closed source software by adjusting copyright law so that no copyright on derivative works, like compiler output, exists unless the source is published along with the derivative work.

Yes, internet of shit stupidity goes beyond this of course, but we cannot really fix anything if users do not get control over their devices.

Intel Management Engine (IME) is quietly paralleling the internet of shit too, btw.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:54 AM on November 8 [5 favorites]


the logic of capitalism

...is not a natural law.
posted by praemunire at 11:06 AM on November 8 [4 favorites]


IIRC, auto manufacturers are required by law to continue providing spare parts for at least ten years after the car was manufactured.
posted by VTX at 11:15 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


You can play Steam games offline provided you've downloaded them. I've done this a few times (last was in a blizzard last year that knocked out our Internet). As far as music/books/movies, my rule is always that if I own a digital copy it gets downloaded. Streaming through the phone is iffy out here in the boondocks and I've seen the house lose it's connection enough times to learn.
posted by Ber at 11:16 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


I'd argue that you're drawing a distinction that doesn't really exist. If the device functions until they do X, and will not function afterward, then I'd say that doing X is close enough to bricking as nevermind.

Perhaps, but a device that can no longer connect to a service but is otherwise intact leaves open the possibility of someone figuring out how to emulate or do without that service.
It also leaves open the possibility of using the hardware for a different purpose, or using it in a degraded fashion.

The overblown headlines make it sound like Logitech is using some sort of kill switch to entirely destroy the devices, not deactivating a backend service.
posted by madajb at 11:28 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


"Devices and software that only operate in conjunction with a now-discontinued service" sound like a great thing to ask for a DMCA exception for. But that's a process that takes a long time and doesn't necessarily work. Until then, as observed above by sotonohito, anyone in the US who works openly on a substitute server for this or similar products risks prosecution under the DMCA.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 11:46 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


Bought a Squeezebox ~10 years ago. A year later it was unsupported. Thankfully they open sourced the local server software, so I've been able to continue to use the thing even though the screen has just about faded completely to black. But it was a major cautionary tale for me.

Compact Discs are the future of digital music.
posted by rouftop at 11:54 AM on November 8 [6 favorites]


"the IoT ... could simplify our increasingly complex lives"

Things: The cause of and solution to our increasingly complex lives.
posted by paulcole at 12:11 PM on November 8 [6 favorites]


Perhaps, but a device that can no longer connect to a service but is otherwise intact leaves open the possibility of someone figuring out how to emulate or do without that service.
It also leaves open the possibility of using the hardware for a different purpose, or using it in a degraded fashion.

The overblown headlines make it sound like Logitech is using some sort of kill switch to entirely destroy the devices, not deactivating a backend service.

Given that reactivating the devices without the backend is just as hypothetical as, and no more likely than, users being able to recover their devices after a "kill switch", this seems to me like a spurious basis for your argument that one fork is better than the other in this trolley problem you are positing.
posted by howfar at 12:14 PM on November 8 [8 favorites]


The keyboard story annoys me because it illustrates how easy it'd be to do things the right way if the developers (or the project managers, honestly) applied some thought.

So you're manufacturing a keyboard and you want to figure out how many keystrokes a switch can take before it fails. Maybe you want to correlate that data with when the product was purchased so you can track down bad batches. Maybe you want to save money by using a less-expensive variety on barely-used keys (Scroll Lock, I'm looking in your direction). Heck, maybe you want to win some customer service awards and preemptively ship out a free replacement when your data shows a key is statistically likely to fail soon.

To do any of those things, you need to gather some data. You can do it in multiple ways:
  1. Aggregate the number of times a key is pressed into buckets like 1-499, 500-999, 1000-4999, etc. Submit the data you have gathered every month or so.
  2. Log and submit every keystroke and add it all up on the server.
Both of these methods will give you actionable information which you could use to make your product better (if you wanted to). One of them is also invasive and creepy and if you ran the idea past anyone they'd say you're insane.
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 12:24 PM on November 8


In the photography world, many pros (and serious amateurs) joke that what they used to spend each year on consumables (film, printing) is now what they spend on new gear, as specs & performance improve... I would love devices to last, but when performance/features/uses advance at a fast pace I'm (often) okay with that trade-off.

If you're constantly replacing perfectly good (and expensive) equipment simply because the new thing has (often marginally) better specs, that isn't the manufacturers fault. You're falling into the trap of bench racing. Chasing numbers. The old gear was great the day before the new gear was introduced. It remains great gear the day after, and remains so for many, many years to come.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:26 PM on November 8 [12 favorites]


Huh. I hadn't known this thing existed, and now I'm wondering how hard it would be to set up the equivalent with a Raspberry Pi.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:50 PM on November 8


So, if I'm understanding correctly, through all the rhetoric, the Harmony Link is a device which requires a server-based backend to function.

It remotely controlled multiple items through a single hub, either by a remote, remote keyboard, or phone app. None of this requires a server back end. Companies continually do this. They create a small device that is basically an ARM processor with a couple out I/O channels, put custom software on it, and have it only go through their web service back end. I don't care about open source, but at the very least, can we have a known API for setting up a server?

Granted if you have a firm well done API/standard for your IoT device, the Shenzhen factory that produces your geegaw will produce a second batch of them on a phantom shift and charge 5 bucks less.

Huh. I hadn't known this thing existed, and now I'm wondering how hard it would be to set up the equivalent with a Raspberry Pi.

The devil is in the details of the devices. The combo of an IR blaster, a receiver and a web server would not be hard. Collecting all the remote codes for every TV, Blu ray player and console under the sun is the difficulty. Looking at Google.....huh, how about that.

Maybe not that hard.
posted by zabuni at 1:02 PM on November 8 [4 favorites]


I was literally looking up specs on this thing last weekend to see if it would work as a Christmas present uniting my parents' household flock of smart devices. This sucks! It's especially egregious because the people most likely to be interested in a simple solution of "device that makes all my smart devices work together without having to staple them together myself using wire and Linux" are probably least likely to understand and accept "planned obsolescence, sucks to be you."

In related news, Gizmodo/Kinja has been pimping the hell out of the Harmony / Hub for months on their Deals site, which makes me wonder how long the planned fire sale has been going on Logitech's end, and if Gizmodo will bother to cover the "p.s. Logitech sucks" part at all now.
posted by nicebookrack at 1:13 PM on November 8


PSA: Steam doesn't require an internet connection. If Steam went down tomorrow, you could just run Steam in offline mode and all the games you have downloaded would be fine. This used to not be the case (Steam required you to be online to go into "offline mode", which was super obnoxious) but Valve fixed that several years ago.

There's still third-party DRM (SecuROM, Denuvo, etc.) to contend with, but Steam helpfully warns you on the store page if the game has it. Even big-budget games on Steam (eg. the new Wolfenstein) tend to not have it these days, due to backlash. This doesn't really apply to EA or Ubisoft though, who have their own Steamalike launchers and do God knows what with them.
posted by neckro23 at 1:19 PM on November 8 [2 favorites]


If you're constantly replacing perfectly good (and expensive) equipment simply because the new thing has (often marginally) better specs, that isn't the manufacturers fault.

Maybe this doesn't apply to cameras, but it IS the manufacturer's fault if they're disabling devices through software instead of real wear and tear or actual marked improvements in hardware. Like my perfectly good iPhone 6S, barely 2 years old, that I can't update to the newest IOS version because it causes catastrophic slowness, and how Apple erased hundreds of older apps I purchased because they aren't 64-bit, then disabled my ability to back up those old apps to my computer by disabling the desktop App Store in iTunes. Sure, I can wriggle a workaround by installing older versions of software, but I as a consumer shouldn't have to wriggle just to use my own less-than-3-years-old stuff.
posted by nicebookrack at 1:26 PM on November 8 [5 favorites]


The Lurkers Support Me in Email Either way, the manufacturer should be transparent about collecting the information and make it opt in, not simply do it and keep the fact that they are doing it secret.
posted by sotonohito at 1:35 PM on November 8


Do the people who buy these proprietary connected devices even fully understand that they're dependent on the seller to continue offering service to them? Because these things have happened enough times that people should have realized this was a possibility. I mean, Logitech sucks really bad for doing this, but people buying things like this should be making some minimal effort to understand what the gadgets they're buying do.

There are huge environmental costs to disposable electronics, too. It's not just about the monetary losses to those who bought these things. (I do like how Logitech not only made money selling off their soon to be useless devices, but also passed on the costs of disposing of their electronic waste.)
posted by ernielundquist at 2:15 PM on November 8 [2 favorites]


I find it interesting that Logitech bought, and eventually discontinued, the Squeezebox line of products...but the server software you can install at home to run those products was open-sourced by the original company Logitech bought, so that software is still up-to-date and available thanks to a small but active community.

Meaning that Logitech could have discontinued their cloud-hosted equivalent to that software (built so non-tech users wouldn't have to run their own server software), but they didn't, and haven't for many years now.

It makes me wonder why that difference (keeping unnecessary mysqueezebox.com running vs shutting down the harmony cloud server) exists.
posted by davejay at 3:21 PM on November 8 [2 favorites]


Even the UK version of Gizmodo seems to has very declined to cover this, and the sheer nauseating positivity of it's Logitech tag is thus very intriguing...
posted by ominous_paws at 3:39 PM on November 8 [2 favorites]


I'm still using my first generation SLIMP3, the predecessor to the Squeezebox. When it dies, you can bet I'll be building something involving a Raspberry Pi and maybe Rune Audio rather than anything off the shelf which involves a mandatory manufacturer-hosted server.
posted by hades at 3:45 PM on November 8 [2 favorites]


Do the people who buy these proprietary connected devices even fully understand that they're dependent on the seller to continue offering service to them?

No. You just put it in, and it should work. Like my VCR, Blu-ray, or toaster.

Why should I need a degree in computer science?
posted by jonnay at 5:31 PM on November 8 [5 favorites]


Do the people who buy these proprietary connected devices even fully understand that they're dependent on the seller to continue offering service to them?


I do, and still buy them. Mostly because I have yet to actually keep one around without upgrading long enough to face this problem. Really depends on your use case.

There's no serious competition for Harmony in this space that I'm aware of (good physical remotes that can control everything, with actual buttons not just touchscreens [which are terrible as remotes]).
posted by thefoxgod at 5:40 PM on November 8


You know, if even 1% of the people who bought these things called up Logitech and asked about warranty service, as their item had mysteriously stopped working, I bet this wouldn't happen very often in the future.

Or hey, Logitech probably has an address, right? Mail them the damn things. Deluge them.
posted by Slinga at 5:42 PM on November 8


Sure, there should be consumer protections in place to protect people from predatory practices. In the US, though, there are very few of those, and that's not going to change in the right direction any time in the near future. Things are likely to get a lot worse, in fact. You are on your own.

You don't need a computer science degree, but people do need to do some basic research before they opt into technologies they don't understand. They need to understand that the "cloud" means "someone else's computers." They need to understand, at some level, how the technologies they adopt are dependent on and otherwise interact with outside systems.

And again, that is not about to change any time soon, no matter how much we may wish it would. The only right we as regular humans have at this point is the right to not buy into these shitty, exploitative systems.
posted by ernielundquist at 6:28 PM on November 8 [1 favorite]


Shout out to my Raspberry Pi running Home Assistant for the, uh, intranet-of- things.

Home Assistant is amazing: it's local only, connects to hundreds of IoT and "smart" things (some of those devices might require internet access to communicate, but I don't buy those), and can work with IR blasting things too!
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 7:05 PM on November 8 [6 favorites]


Screw this noise. Always-on, cloud-enabled stuff is such a big "no" for my personal life that.. bleh?

It's sort of a pain in the arse and requires editing config files by hand in a text editor (in my case, in vim through ssh on a pi3) but I'm using Home Assistant to stitch together a bunch of IoShite things for home automation. My setup doesn't touch the interwebs, which means I can't do any fancy remote control stuff unless my phone/tablet/whatever is on my local network, but I consider that a feature rather than a bug.

Of course the benefit to the cloud is stuff "just works" as long as somebody's footing the bill for the cloud servers. I wouldn't want to explain hass configuration to a nontechnical person. I'm not sure what the non-cloud alternative for that userbase is.
posted by Alterscape at 10:12 PM on November 8


The IOT, in case anyone is confused, is a fucking stupid idea that mainly exists to give the ad industry new tentacles.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 10:51 PM on November 8 [4 favorites]


What is all this shit and why does anyone need it?
posted by WeekendJen at 1:18 PM on November 9


No, it isn’t. The ad industry has nothing to do with the IoT.

The issue is that you have a ton of proprietary companies building devices that work with proprietary engineering, that are intended to work together. At some point, companies have to decide to: a) decide on a standard for their industry, or partner group, and agree to it, b) build to that standard, c) sunset devices not built to that standard. The companies developing these products are still barely up to A at best. There is no IoT standard, and there’s a shitload of legal work to be done that will enable these companies to protect their own work while maximizing compatibility with other companies’ products. There are several organizations right now, each developing *a* standard, but we are still miles away from any standard becoming the go-to fro the entire industry.

You don’t have to buy a connected device, though, so until the standards meet your satisfaction, then don’t buy them. The Harmony Home Hub is only one of many devices you can use to network your connected devices, and not even the best one by a long shot. Just don’t buy it. Keep your regular RFID TV remote that came with your television. Solved.
posted by Autumnheart at 1:20 PM on November 9 [1 favorite]


All these devices are hubs that link your smart TV, smart lights, smart thermostat, smart garage door, etc. together so that you can control them all with one app and one set of commands. That’s why people want them.
posted by Autumnheart at 1:22 PM on November 9


Consumer protection laws should mandate 5 years since last sale of the item before you are allowed to turn the servers off. Plus make it so that these responsibilities transfer, and that money has to be put aside for the running of such servers in the case of the company going bankrupt.

Really, I'd want a mandatory way to self-host servers. How hard is it to run an exe on your home PC and then type in an code onto your device to point it at the new server?
posted by Canageek at 2:43 PM on November 9


Keep your regular RFID TV remote that came with your television.

And your other 15 remotes. I've seen other things that will replace all your remotes, but most rely on smartphones as the UI which is a terrible and ridiculous interface for a remote control.

How hard is it to run an exe on your home PC and then type in an code onto your device to point it at the new server?

Well, that wouldn't necessarily do everything it does now, although it would at least be a useful subset (wouldn't work outside the home without some firewall work and probably dyndns, for example, and wouldn't necessarily integrate cleanly with IFTTT and other things).
posted by thefoxgod at 2:45 PM on November 9


And your other 15 remotes. I've seen other things that will replace all your remotes, but most rely on smartphones as the UI which is a terrible and ridiculous interface for a remote control.

I will say that staying within one brand for multiple electronics also cuts down on remotes. For example, I have a Sony TV, sound bar, and Blu-ray player, and while each came with its own remote, my TV remote controls all of them without me having had to do anything special.

And yeah, most rely on smartphone apps because it’s comparatively easy to develop an app that works on top of existing systems than to re-engineer the whole thing from the ground up. Harmony has a top-tier remote that is basically an LCD screen, and it costs quite a chunk of money compared to the lower-tier ones that run on buttons and/or use your smartphone. I’ve had a Harmony Home Hub and I personally thought that the Harmony app was poorly developed and that it was hard to set devices up on it, and I never did end up using it. (The hub came bundled with some stuff that I actually cared about, so it wasn’t a total waste.)

The fact of the matter is that many of these companies are either new to the industry, period, or have been in business a long time and their ambitions to pivot into the smart device industry are greater than their execution. In many ways it resembles the advent of the World Wide Web as a communications medium, and that was all over the place for MANY years before we finally settled on some best practices and turned them into standards. Companies are doing this by educated guess. Which is not to defend Logitech coming out with a product and then saying “Just kidding!” and making them obsolete mere months later. That will only throw a grenade squarely into their credibility as a brand.

If one wishes to adopt smart devices, it would be a good strategy to do one’s research, choose an ecosystem, and purchase those products which are most flexible as either smart or non-smart. For example, a smart light bulb will obviously still work like a light bulb if your internet connection goes down. A smart lock will still work as a dumb lock. And some brands have been doing solid work on developing an easily adoptable standard for their products, such as Zigbee or Nest. If a brand seems to be trying to do their own thing and not working on being compatible with the major players in ecosystems, then their products are probably not the best choice.

I did just find this article, which states that, thanks to consumer backlash, Logitech will now give all Link users a free Harmony Hub, as opposed to the previously offered 35% unless under warranty. So there’s that, at least.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:13 PM on November 9 [1 favorite]


The Harmony software is indeed terrible. Its just the remote (Harmony Ultimate is what I'm using) that makes it worth the setup pain. I usually end up using a mix of the remote and triggering it via IFTTT through Google Assistant.

I have a bunch of various things that could similarly lose some value if the company decided to kill them (all of Nest's stuff, Philips Hue, etc) but I'm OK with that for what I'm getting from them now (it is one of these things where the more you get the more value you get out of them --- I can control almost everything via remote/assistant/IFTTT now which enables a lot of cool stuff ---- obviously this is all "unnecessary", but so is having a TV for that matter).

The update is a more sane response --- and if they'd gone with that to begin with, they could have come out of this looking good. Instead they'll placate people but still lose some trust/reputation without getting any cost savings --- so basically they backed themselves into a bad situation.
posted by thefoxgod at 5:37 PM on November 9


« Older Men, get ready to be uncomfortable for a while   |   Cokers vs. Goshworth is a Barn-Burner Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments