Bad Voltage Episode 80 Has Been Released: The Two-Percenters

In this episode, we devote the whole show to a different format: a wide-ranging discussion on Linux adoption and market share, following the news that it’s been trending up and over 2% consistently for a while now. Taking in the current state of hardware, Steam gaming, new devices from everyone else, and whether mobile is eating desktop or not, myself, Stuart Langridge, Bryan Lunduke and Jono Bacon dive deep into where Linux is going and whether we want it to get there at all.

Listen to 1×80: The Two-Percenters

–jeremy

From the Bad Voltage site: Every two weeks Bad Voltage delivers an amusing take on technology, Open Source, politics, music, and anything else we think is interesting, as well as interviews and reviews. Do note that Bad Voltage is in no way related to LinuxQuestions.org, and unlike LQ it will be decidedly NSFW. That said, head over to the Bad Voltage website, take a listen and let us know what you think.

Bad Voltage Episode 77 Has Been Released: Wax Cylinder Coming Soon

Stuart Langridge, Jono Bacon, Bryan Lunduke, and myself present Bad Voltage, in which three idiots fail to recognize the glory of having the theme tune from The League Of Gentlemen as one’s ringtone, we create Garcia’s Law, and:

  • 00:02:01 Google have long been a player in the chat or IM ecosystem. But just lately their approach in this area seems to be getting more and more confused. What’s the deal, big G? You’ve got Allo and Duo and GTalk and Hangouts… what’s the end goal here?
  • 00:24:33 Open sourcing your hardware. Kyle from OpenMYR, who are currently kickstartering wifi-controllable motors1, asks the BV team: are we doing the right thing, publishing the hardware source for our creations? When’s the right time to open your hardware: before it exists, after it exists, or never? We look into the question and give some thoughts

Listen to 1×77: Wax Cylinder Coming Soon

–jeremy

From the Bad Voltage site: Every two weeks Bad Voltage delivers an amusing take on technology, Open Source, politics, music, and anything else we think is interesting, as well as interviews and reviews. Do note that Bad Voltage is in no way related to LinuxQuestions.org, and unlike LQ it will be decidedly NSFW. That said, head over to the Bad Voltage website, take a listen and let us know what you think.

Bad Voltage: Philips Hue vs LifX, and are smart bulbs a good idea?

On the next episode of Bad Voltage, we discuss whether smart bulbs are a good idea. To get the conversation rolling, I started out with a brief introduction of two systems I use: Hue and LifX. Here’s how the segment starts:

The Bad Voltage team thought it would be interesting to have a discussion about smart bulbs: whether they’re a good idea or not, what the future holds, etc. Before we do that though, I thought I’d give a brief introduction of the multiple smart bulb solutions I have running in my home.

The first system I have running is Philips Hue. Based on the low-power, wireless mesh network zigbee standard this system requires a hub to operate. The Hue line offers a wide variety of options, including standard lights, accent lights, spot lights, light strips, integrated switches and more. Setup is a breeze and while the stock app could be more intuitive the large number of 3rd party applications and integrations more than make up for that. The bulbs are bright and color saturation is acceptable. One down side to this option is that it’s on the pricier end of the spectrum.

The second system I have running is LifX. Based on traditional wifi, no additional hub is needed. The LifX line is limited to standard white and color bulbs. Setup is once again a breeze and the stock app is intuitive and full featured. It includes some nice touches such as cool effects baked into the app that you can only get with Hue by using 3rd party apps. The number of 3rd party integrations isn’t as large as Hue, but has been growing steadily recently. The bulbs have the greatest brightness and color saturation of any smart bulb I’ve seen. The price of LifX bulbs are comparable to Hue.

Depending on your needs and design requirements, I’d recommend both systems. There are less expensive options from GE, Wink, WeMo, Cree and others but I’ve never used them so cannot comment on how they compare. With that brief intro out of the way let’s get to the first question my co-presenters had. Are smart bulbs a good idea? Let me give you a few examples of how I use the bulbs and then we’ll get the discussion going from there. First, on the more practical side I have a bunch of automations setup that make my home safer and more convenient. Open the front door when it’s dark outside and my living room lights go on. Open the basement door and the basement lights go on (which is especially handy while doing laundry). Next, as I have Redshift adjust the color temperature of my screens at night, the lights in my office also adjust to reduce the amount of blue light as it get later. Lastly, on the less practical side, when my favorite team scores a touchdown various lights in my house flash the team colors. So, fellow presenters, what do you think?

Turn in tomorrow to hear what my fellow presenters think. In the mean time, what is your opinion on smart bulbs?

–jeremy

Moto 360 Sport Review (AKA the worst customer support experience I’ve ever had)

I’m an avid runner. And while I’ve run with an Android phone and various apps for quite some time, I’ve been increasingly wanting an Android Wear device that would make my many Garmin wearing running mates covetous. Enter the Moto 360 Sport, one of the first true Android GPS-enabled running smart watches. Considering how much I liked the Moto 360 Gen 2, I was eagerly awaiting the 360 Sport, which was announced at the same time as the Gen 2 but had a later release date.

moto360sport

The 45mm device comes with the same size 1.37″ display (including flat tire) as the Gen 2, but the AnyLight Hybrid display makes it easily readable even in sunny conditions. The silicone strap comes in Black, White, and Flame Orange but as it’s part of a unibody construction it is not changeable. While many reviewers have found the strap to be a lint magnet, after over a month of use I did not find that to be an issue. The device has an optical heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter, accelerometer, ambient light sensor, gyroscope and a 300mAh battery. Like the Gen 2, it is IP67 dust and water resistant.

Moving on to using the device, I found the construction to be solid and the watch comfortable to wear even during long runs. Most popular running apps have Android Wear support at this point, although I’ve found most (I regularly use both Strava and Endomondo and extensively tested Runtastic, Runkeeper, Map My Run, and Ghostracer) have at least one annoying issue that needs to be addressed before being a true competitor to dedicated running watches. The platform also seems to be a bit temperamental, which resulted in me missing out on data points for a couple interesting runs. For example, the data for my Boilermaker run (a 15k) shows over an hour of activity but a distance traveled of zero. That particular issue seems to related to a known bug with Endomondo and Wear devices that have GPS. On the note of the GPS, I found it to be roughly as accurate as my phone GPS, although getting a lock takes substantially longer. It’s less useful than I hoped though, as using the GPS and active display means the battery life isn’t sufficient for longer runs. The device has 4GB of internal memory which you can play music from, although I did not test this feature. I found the heart rate monitor to be accurate enough to be useful and a nice addition to my running metrics.

So, what’s the verdict? Although the Moto 360 Sport lacks more advanced features such as cadence and VO2 max, it’s a very capable device. For shorter runs it will allow you to leave the smartphone at home, and for long runs being able to see stats during your run while being able to move your phone from an armband to a pouch makes for a more enjoyable experience. The display really is top notch. With the original MSRP of $299 already marked down to $199 it’s a device I would have tacitly recommended now and as the platform matures I could have seen that turn into a much stronger recommendation. I was definitely looking forward to the second iteration of the device.

Enter Motorola Support

Unfortunately after 47 days of use, the device rebooted while I was running then shut off. Once I got home and put it on the charger it went into a boot loop. I did some research online and found out some other people had a similar issue. While most weren’t able to fix their device, I found one suggestion that involved completely draining the battery then charging it overnight. This worked a single time, but during the next run the device shut off and further research and troubleshooting were not able to resuscitate it. I was a little bummed, but these things happen with electronic devices and I went to the Motorola support site to start the RMA process. This is where the experience gets unfortunate and things did not start out well.

I tried multiple times to begin the process online, but received the following error: “100-02. Oops!!!” After that error persisted for a few days, I finally called support. Unfortunately support was not able to verify the serial number on my device, despite multiple attempts which included me sending them a photo of the sticker affixed to the box which contains both the SKU and serial number. After some back and forth I ask for an RMA despite the serial number issue, as the device comes with a year warranty and has not been out for even close to a year yet. I understand they have legitimate reasons for needing the serial number, but they can get that off the device once they have it. In this context, it’s not needed to validate warranty coverage. The rep said they could not proceed without a “scanned copy of the receipt”, despite me pointing out that 100% of Moto 360 Sports have to be in warranty. I also explained that as this is 2016 I purchased the device online and do not have a receipt to scan. After some additional back and forth, on August 2nd I send them a screenshot of the online order, while also pointing out this is a pretty silly thing to have to do. At this point I just want to get the process moving.

On August 4th I get a response saying: “In regards the replacement/repair process, we get an error from the system, in that case we opened a VHD ticket which is going to have a resolution within 24 to 48 business hours”

On August 8th, I get an update: “I wanted to let you know that I am following up your case, and that I have not received confirmation that the VHD ticket has been solved, but I already verified with the team in charge of it, they told me they are working on it.”

At this point I reach out to @Moto_support, but am told: “Please follow up with us via email”. I also now note that I am using this device to write a review for a site that gets quite a bit of traffic, hoping that will help expedite things. It does not.

On August 10th, I get an additional update: “I am contacting you to provide you updates about the VHD ticket submitted, it is still being worked by the team in charge.” It’s now been over a week since I initially opened a ticket with the support rep.

On August 11th the VHD issue is solved. They want me to ship them the device so they can evaluate it and then either repair or replace it, or give them $25 for the “Advanced Exchange program”. I explain that after over a week of waiting, the fee on the AE program should be waived and a device should be sent ASAP. They eventually agree. Via the email ticket I give them all contact information as requested. Shortly after I get a voice mail from Motorola with no callback number and no email contact info that ends with “just email us back, okay”. I guess this means reply to the ticket, which I do.

On the 12th, I get a call from Motorola. They now say the fee cannot be waived because the system will not let this happen, but it can be refunded after the fact. I point out that this directly contradicts what was previous said by them. They persist. I eventually capitulate and give them my credit card information. The experience at this point is getting really frustrating and taking up far too much time (believe it or not, this is just an overview of the event which included quite a few calls and back-and-forth emails over trivial issue and re-re-re-confirming information). I get an RMA email while I am still on the phone with the rep, which is encouraging. I just want to run and I now think a new device is on the way. I am sorely mistaken.

A short time later I get an email saying the credit card is “invalid”. We confirmed the number on the phone three times; it is not invalid. During the next call I note that it’s odd that the card would be invalid as I received an RMA. I am told: “even though you received shipping labels or tracking numbers, the system sends the emails automatically, that is why you received them, but in the system they did not go through”. This makes no sense, but I give my credit card details again. I get another RMA while on the phone, but notice that it’s for the incorrect device (a Moto 360 Gen 2, not a Moto 360 Sport). Looking back, the first RMA was also for the incorrect device. It is explained to me that this is normal and not an issue. A couple hours later I am told that my credit card was now declined. I have used this exact card before and after the RMA and the card is nowhere near its limit. I call the credit card company. There have been zero attempts from Motorola and zero declined transactions for the day. I am now starting to lose my patience.

On the next call I explain that the number is correct and the card has not been declined. They suggest I try to submit the request online again. I get the same “100-02. Oops!!!” error. I point out how ridiculous this is getting. The rep now suggests that I use a different serial number than the one that is on the box. This does not seem normal. Using the new serial number does get me past the previous error, however, and may explain the incorrect device issue. I now get a credit card error. I point out that it’s odd that the system never asks for a CVV, but they don’t seem to know what I am referring to. I try the online system again with a new card. One that has a zero balance and that I rarely use. This time I am met with success. They double check the system and everything looks good. Hooray!

Except, no. On the 15th I get an email: “I am contacting you to provide you updates about your case, I was checking it, and I found that unfortunately the order is cancel for invalid or missing Credit Card number”. I explain that this is odd even for this increasingly odd situation as I now not only have a 3rd RMA, which has been confirmed by Motorola, but a tracking number from FedEx. Surely the tracking number means a replacement device is on the way. I am told: “You have received FedEx shipping confirmation because shipping information and credit card information are being processed by a different systems.” I check my credit card statement and I have two pending transactions for different amounts:

Aug 12, 2016 MOTOROLA MOBILITY LLC $244.68
Aug 12, 2016 MOTOROLA MOBILITY LLC $250.86

They now ask for a “bank statement”. I tell them in no uncertain terms that they are not getting one and am now starting to lose my temper. They ask me to submit the request again from scratch. I point out how absurd this entire interaction has been and also note that the Fed Ex tracking number they gave shows that something has actually shipped. Between that and the pending charges, I think their system is incorrect and the third RMA has been processed. They do not agree. They also do not have an explanation for the multiple charges for different amounts, neither of which they see on their end.

On the 16th they touch base on the ticket. I respond with: “To confirm: All RMA’s have failed in some way and nothing has shipped, despite me receiving a tracking number. Is that correct?”

I received the following response on August 17th: “That is correct all RMA’s have failed, and nothing has been shipped despite the tracking numbers you received.” I also received a package from Motorola. Containing a Motorola DROID phone. A PHONE! I can’t even begin to fathom how that’s even possible, considering the packing list actually says “MOTO3602SPORT – MOTO 360 (2ND GEN)” on it. I called my credit card company again, and at no time were any transactions declined. They do see both pending transactions from “MOTOROLA MOBILITY LLC” but “they are set to fall off your account because they were never finalized by the merchant”. Once they are no longer pending, I figure the phone is a gift and I plan to see if the Moto 360 Sport will blend. The DROID is a Verizon model, if anyone knows a charity in need please contact me. In the mean time, I’m in the market for an Android Wear running watch.

IMG_20160817_154305

Based on the above experience I must unfortunately recommend avoiding all Motorola products at this time, which is a shame. The outrageously bad support is a large blemish on a company that is putting out solid quality products. I still think the Moto 360 Gen 2 is one of the best Android Wear watches currently available. In fact, I’ve purchased the device for family and friends and it’s been very well received. Quite a few people have told me they purchased one based on my review and the feedback has been positive. I like the Moto 360 Sport and some of the phones look very nice. That said, the support experience above was so terrible, the Motorola internal systems are so broken and the issues so systemic in nature that I would not feel right if one single person had to go through the above based on a recommendation I have made. So, at least for now, keep away. Far.Away. And Motorola Support, please get your act together.

Moto 360 Sport Debacle

Note: Any text in quotes above are a direct copy/paste of the interaction. Luckily I have much of this in writing or on voice mails, but some did take place on the phone. Happy to provide supporting details if so desired. I have reached out and it appears I am not alone in this kind of experience with Motorola Support.

UPDATE: They are now mysteriously able to see that the RMA “went through, and I can see the device arrived to your home”. The rep also added: “I will ask you to send us the device since with the Advance Exchange submitted a hold has been put on the card you used, if you do not send us back the device the hold will become a charge.” which is in direct opposition to the statement I have in writing from the 17th that confirms there are no holds on my card. Let it sink in for a minute that the system they use is so bad, they don’t actually know if they are billing you or not.

UPDATE (August 19th): Someone from the “Executive Customer Relations” team (which based on the email address appears to be part of the office of the CEO) reached out to me. They included a tracking label to overnight the phone to them and said they would overnight me the correct watch as soon as they received the phone. So, progress. I had the phone to FedEx within an hour, and noted it would be a show of good faith for them to overnight me the watch now, since the issue has been going on for roughly three weeks already and we’re getting to the weekend. They responded, and insinuated they could do so but would not as a result of something I said in this post (the comment about the phone being a gift). My response: “Considering the show of good faith I made by having the package at Fed Ex within an hour of receiving your email AND the fact that we are on week three of this absolutely terrible customer experience AND the fact that I provided proof of shipping AND the fact that we’re on a weekend boundary that will cause another delay, I’m hoping you decide to ship something out ASAP”. I also included a photo of the Fed Ex receipt. They never responded, which is pretty disappointing and seems for lack of a better word…vindictive. I guess I’ll now be running at LinuxCon with no Moto 360 Sport. I also made it clear that this is no longer about me getting a working device. The readers, listeners and conference-goers that I have recommended Motorola products to or whom have seen me wear the device on stage and have made a purchase as a result deserve to know the systemic issues I encountered are being addressed. They completely ignored that part of my email but I will work to get it addressed. Stay tuned for further updates.

UPDATE (August 20th): After posting the previous update I also sent a very frank email to the Executive Customer Relations team. They had received the phone at this point and responded saying they decided to send me a new Moto 360 Sport via Saturday deliver, which I just received. Hopefully this marks the end of my particular issue. On to the broader issue, they said “We have completed a deep dive on your case and sent off coaching and feedback to ensure this does not occur in the future”, which is encouraging. I’ve responded noting that the technical system they use should really be evaluated, as the number of cascading failures just should not be possible (remember: the system allowed for the creation of an RMA when one doesn’t exist, showed one card as declined when my credit card company confirms it was not, put two holds for different amounts on a second card but then canceled the RMA while somehow still sending out a device, which then ended up being the incorrect device.  The billing issues are especially worrisome and it looks doubly bad when a tech company has this many technical failures). It is my hope based on their response that they will look into the failures and hopefully other people will not have to go through an experience similar to the one I have.

Feedback on New Q&A column on OpenSource.com

I’m launching a new Q&A column on Opensource.com and I’m fine-tuning what topics I’ll cover. Anything Linux, Open Source and community-related are fair game. What do you wish you’d known about Linux before you started using it? What questions do you have about building and maintaining communities? What would you like to know about contributing to an Open Source project? If I use your question in the column, you will get full attribution (and I’m certainly interested in hearing general feedback about the column itself).

–jeremy

Bad Voltage Episode 70 Has Been Released: Delicious Amorphous Tech Bubble

Jono Bacon, Bryan Lunduke and myself bring you Bad Voltage, in which the wisdom of naming children for your favourite restaurant is debated, Stuart and his daughter Niamh Chipotle write the show notes from a New York cafe, and also:

  • 00:01:58 Is the tech industry in a bubble? is the tech industry ever not in a bubble? More importantly, what shape is the bubble? What can we do about it?
  • 00:17:20 Jeremy and Jono tag-team a further review of Google’s Pixel C laptop. Warning: contains gushing
  • 00:36:50 After discussing Nextcloud in previous episodes, we talk to Frank and Jos from the new project about their plans as a company and where they’re headed
  • 01:01:00 A catch-up on the current status of the Global Learning X-Prize

Listen to 1×70: Delicious Amorphous Tech Bubble

–jeremy

From the Bad Voltage site: Every two weeks Bad Voltage delivers an amusing take on technology, Open Source, politics, music, and anything else we think is interesting, as well as interviews and reviews. Do note that Bad Voltage is in no way related to LinuxQuestions.org, and unlike LQ it will be decidedly NSFW. That said, head over to the Bad Voltage website, take a listen and let us know what you think.

My Thoughts on the Pixel C

As Jono and I recently received Pixel C’s, we thought that instead of doing a traditional review (the device is 6 months old, so plenty of those exist), it might be fun to do a segment where I give my quick thoughts, he gives a short rebuttal followed by discussion including the rest of the Bad Voltage team. Here’s my bit. Tune into Bad Voltage tomorrow to see hear Jono’s rebuttal and the ensuing discussion.

The Pixel C is the first Android device in the Pixel lineup. The 10.2 inch tablet has an Nvidia Tegra X1 processor, 3G of RAM and either 32 or 64G of storage. It contains the sensors, cameras and other items you’d expect out of a high end tablet and is USB-C based. The device is very well constructed and with the optional keyboard weighs almost as much as Jono’s Macbook Air.

As the device has been out for over 6 months, I won’t get into specs or basic usability as much as I normally do. There are plenty of existing reviews out there if you want that information (although if you’re interested in me doing a more in-depth review at another time, I’m happy to do so). I will say that the device has a really premium build quality and performs extremely well. That shouldn’t come as a huge surprise as it starts at $649 once you factor in the keyboard. On that topic, the keyboard feels better than I anticipated and while its magnetic system is a little tricky at first, it’s not nearly as bad as Bryan would have you believe.

One thing many existing reviews mention is that while the hardware is fantastic, the hybrid nature of the device is really held back by Android. This review is to let you know that soon this will no longer be the case. Why? I’ve been running the Android N Developer Preview on the device for a while and the addition of Multi-window support has the potential to flat out change how useful the Pixel C is. The current split screen mode is a good start and has changed how I use the device. I think freeform mode will be the real game changer, although it looks like Google may choose to make that feature a manufacturer option, at least initially. If you have a device capable of running the Android N Beta, I recommend checking it out. So far it has been stable enough for me to use daily. The one minor change I’d make to the device is the addition of a small track pad. That aside, if you’re looking for a high end hybrid tablet, with Android N the Pixel C is definitely worth a look… especially if you can find one at a discount as it ages.

–jeremy

From the Bad Voltage site: Every two weeks Bad Voltage delivers an amusing take on technology, Open Source, politics, music, and anything else we think is interesting, as well as interviews and reviews. Do note that Bad Voltage is in no way related to LinuxQuestions.org, and unlike LQ it will be decidedly NSFW. That said, head over to the Bad Voltage website, take a listen and let us know what you think.