Archive for Linksys

A Follow Up To The Linksys WRT32X Firmware Issue

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 14, 2018 by itnerd

One of the things that I promised to do when Linksys released the firmware to fix the issues that popped up late last year. Now I did test a beta version firmware. But now there’s a released version. It is version 1.0.180118.3 and it is available here. Release notes are available here. If you read the release notes, there is one note that you may want to pay attention to:

Known issue: the Google/OpenDNS/Custom DNS server functionality may not work
consistently. This will be resolved in a subsequent release.

In other words, if you’re like me and you don’t use your ISP’s DNS server settings. And instead you choose to use your own settings, you may have an issue. That’s a bit of a downer. But fortunately for Linksys, that’s where the bad news ends. I can’t find anything wrong with that. Plus the speed increases that I noted in the beta are still there. Thus if Linksys fixes the custom DNS issue, which if they’re reading this I’d really like that fixed, then this firmware would be perfect.

In short, when that firmware appears, I will consider this issue fully closed. But as it stands now, if you have a WRT32X router from Linksys, you should update your firmware now.

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EXCLUSIVE: Linksys Rolling Out Firmware Fixes For WRT32X & WRT3200ACM

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 17, 2018 by itnerd

I just got off the phone with representatives from Linksys who shared with me some news in relation to the WRT32X and WRT3200ACM issues that I’ve been writing about for the last month.

First, they shared with me the root cause analysis of the issues that these routers have had. One cause is this Google issue that I wrote about yesterday. But I want to add to what I wrote yesterday to say that the problems with things like Google Chromecasts and Google Home killing your WiFi also extends to Android phones. Why is this important? When I was trying to troubleshoot the WiFi issues with my WRT32X, I had a couple Android phones turned on and connected to WiFi. When they were turned off, I found that I had a much better WiFi experience than when I had them turned on. This was validated by the experiences of users who were on the Linksys Community. Now this confirmation, further validated by Google saying that they are issuing a fix for this behavior, explains what I was seeing.

However, Linksys isn’t waiting for Google to fix this. The beta firmware for the WRT32X and WRT3200ACM that I told you about this past weekend has a fix for this issue in it. Now I did mention that it was a beta, but I couldn’t find anything wrong with the WRT32X variant of this firmware. Thus I feel comfortable recommending that you install it. But if you don’t want to run beta firmware, which by the way is completely understandable, production firmware is either out or will be out soon. In the case of the WRT3200ACM, that firmware is live as of now. All you need do is turn on the auto update of your router and you’ll get it. One thing that I should note is that about 50% of WRT3200ACM routers that are in production have received this update already. The version for the WRT32X is coming very soon as it’s still in the QA process. But if you have a WRT32X, you may want to proactively turn on auto update to get this firmware when it appears as it should be out sometime over the next few days. When it does pop up, I’ll post an update on what my experiences with it are.

One other thing. To further ensure that nothing else that can be classified as “bad” happens. Such as the Google fix breaking something else, Linksys will be monitoring the situation and be doing additional validation on the Google fix to ensure all their users are happy. One thing that was stressed to me on the call with Linksys is they really want to do right by their users. That’s why you saw them handing out replacement product such as Velop whole home Wifi nodes to customers. WiFi is important to everyone everywhere and Linksys gets that.

In closing, I have an ask for anyone who has a WRT3200ACM or a WRT32X. When you get this firmware update, please leave a comment below with what it’s like as I think it’s important for people to share their feedback on this. Given the results that I saw with the beta, I suspect that users will be very happy once they get the production firmware on their routers. And I think that the world should know about that.

The Linksys WRT32X Firmware Fix Works. Now How Does Linksys Make Sure That This Never Happens Again?

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 13, 2018 by itnerd

For the last 28 hours, I have been testing the firmware update that Linksys has released for the WRT32X router that according to them solves the connectivity issues that were introduced a month or so ago with another firmware update. When the firmware was released to the public, I wanted to test the firmware over an extended period time because some of the issues manifested themselves over a 24 hour period. Other issues manifested themselves when Android devices were present. Thus I threw a couple of the Android phones I keep around for testing with car infotainment systems at it as well. The results were positive:

  1. I noted that the WRT32X was faster than before as it gained just under 100 Mbps in raw speed getting up to a speed of 823 Mbps. That put it in the range of the ASUS and Netgear gaming routers which had beaten it rather handily when I tested each of those products.
  2. All the stability and connectivity issues that I noted were no longer present.

As far as I am concerned, this firmware is a winner and if you have this router (or the Linksys WRT3200ACM which had similar issues), you need to install it NOW.

So now that this story which I have been covering from a few angles since it started last month seems to be over, I want to take a moment to do a post mortem of the events of the last month as there were positive and negative points in terms of how this was handled:

  1. Seeing as a very crippling bug slipped out the door, I would hope that Linksys is reviewing their development and QA practices. Now I get that bugs get out the door from time to time. But this one was pretty bad and you have to wonder how it slipped through whatever processes they had in place. Thus a full review of how they do things from a development and QA perspective is in order. For bonus points, they should make the results public so that they can reassure their users that this was a one time event.
  2. At the start of this, my support experience when this issue first popped up was a fail. And it was apparently not isolated as Linksys customers emailed and Tweeted me saying that they had experiences that were similar to mine. Now the good news on that front is that Linksys is looking how they deliver support to their customers, and they are introducing a level 3 support group that is based in the USA (as their level 1 and 2 support is overseas) for those situations where they have a baffling issue that needs advanced levels of support. That’s a good move. But one thing that I tell my clients is that when you support customers, you have to have your best equipped and best prepared people on the front lines because they will solve issues faster and generate higher levels of customer satisfaction. I would suggest to Linksys that they look at that to head off something like this in the future.
  3. Also from the negative camp comes the fact that Linksys was slow to react to this. You would think that an influx of cases coming into their support channels, be it by phone, email, or social media would have set off alarm bells in the company. But it didn’t. From what I understand it was media coverage such as my stories on this issue that set off alarm bells inside Linksys. What I tell my clients who ask me how to head off something like this is that you have to have your ear to the ground at all times and be ready to jump into action instantly. After all, you should never find out about your bad news on CNN.
  4. When Linksys did finally react to this, they did right by their customers by offering up replacement products such as Velop mesh routers. That gave their customers the ability to get back online and it gave them breathing space to try and fix this issue. That was good and I applaud them for that. But the flipside to that was that even though they stopped selling these routers directly, they were very easy to find on the streets and online. Thus they were in effect adding to their problems every time one of these routers were sold. I would say that Linksys needs look at how to stop that from happening in the future because if I were the person who bought a router and then have it go wonky, and then I find out that this was a known and widespread issue, I would not be happy and I would not buy Linksys product again.
  5. Linksys going forward has to come up with the means to fix this stuff quickly. I say that because during the month that it took them to fix this, the following happened:
    1. Customers raged about this on social media, which is not the sort of press that I am sure Linksys wants.
    2. Customers who were fed up of waiting went to other router brands and are likely not to return to Linksys again. Not to mention that they won’t recommend the brand to their friends.
    3. Both Netgear and ASUS served up routers to me in hopes that I would review them, which I did. The reason being is that they sensed an opportunity to steal marketshare from Linksys. And from what they tell me, they succeeded on that front. And it’s a safe bet that if they did that with me, they did that with other people who review products. That’s not good if you’re Linksys.

Linksys should take a page out of the Apple playbook when it came to that vulnerability that allowed anyone to log into a Mac with root level access. It was fixed inside of 24 hours. Sure people said that that Apple dropped the ball when it came to letting that bug slip out the door. I know that I did. But Apple dropped everything and fixed it quickly, which meant that once people installed the fix, it became a non issue and nobody discussed it. Having this firmware issue sit out there for a month doesn’t do Linksys any favors. Thus they need to have the ability to react to these sorts of situations.

Is there anything that I am missing from this port mortem? If you think there is, or you have some wisdom to share, please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

UPDATE: Kieran Hannon who is the CMO of Belkin which owns Linksys reached out to me:

The tweet that he referenced says this:

What the customer (CB) is referring to is the fact that the firmware that Linksys has put out there for the WRT32X and WRT3200ACS is essentially still going through their QA process and is in effect a beta. I can see on one hand that one might be reluctant to install a firmware update that is still a beta. But consider this. The firmware works, Linksys is telling you up front that it’s a beta, and it’s a whole lot better than having a router with firmware on it that doesn’t work. Having said that, the above illustrates in a nutshell the challenge that Linksys has going forward.

Linksys Releases WRT32X & WRT3200ACM Firmware To Remedy Month Long Firmware Nightmare

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 12, 2018 by itnerd

If you’re an owner of a Linksys WRT32X or WRT3200ACM router, and you’ve been waiting for Linksys to release an updated firmware to address the connectivity issues that you’ve been dealing with for the last month or so, I’m pleased to say that this firmware has now been released. Here’s a quote from a post made by  Linksys Lucas who has been working with users on the Linksys Community on this issue:

Today I am happy to announce firmware to help resolve the issues that people have been running into with their WRT routers with networks that have Android devices on them.

I will keep the overall description short here, but this firmware incorporates a new WLAN driver that will help mitigate an issue that was discovered where Android devices coming in and out of sleep mode would crash the Wireless Network.

Both of these firmwares will eventually make their way to our update servers for regular download, however decided that a month of this issue is long enough for us to post this for all of you that have been following this in the community to download and use while we go through our final QA checks that are required before putting it on the update server. 

As of now I feel very comfortable with releasing these to everyone since we have had approximately 50 people actively Beta testing over the past week and a half or so.

The only thing that gives me cause to pause is that this firmware is still going through their QA checks. But I’ve watched the Linksys Community to see what those who have been testing the firmware for Linksys have been saying, and their feedback is positive enough for me to suggest that if you have either of these routers, that you install this firmware from the links below:

WRT3200ACM Firmware Download

WRT32X Firmware Download

One of the things that I committed to doing was to test this firmware when it appeared on my WRT32X and report back as to if it remedies the issues that users have faced. I will be doing that this weekend and I will have a report on this by Monday morning at the latest. But in the meantime, if you’ve got feedback about this firmware that you’d like to share, please leave a comment and share your feedback.

 

 

An Update To The Linksys WRT32X And WRT3200ACM Firmware Issues…. A Light At The End Of The Tunnel?

Posted in Commentary with tags on January 8, 2018 by itnerd

The last time I wrote about the firmware issues with the Linksys WRT32X and WRT3200ACM routers, I wrote about the fact that there did not seem to be any hope in the minds of users that this would get fixed. This despite the fact that Linksys was taking the commendable action of serving up Velops or routers to anyone who needed to get back on line.

But there may be hope for users based on this message from a Linksys employee that was posted on the Linksys Community Forum yesterday (click to enlarge):

linksysx.JPG

The fact that they have beta firmware for the WRT3200ACM is a positive sign. I say that because in the last week, this same employee have been getting more advanced users to test a piece of this firmware with largely positive results. Assuming that the users that test this encounter no issues, there may be an end to this for WRT3200ACM that is in sight. And hopefully WRT32X users won’t be far behind.

I will continue to monitor this and update you with any information that I find out.

UPDATE: A beta firmware is now available for the WRT32X (click to enlarge):

wrt32x

There is no word on how well this firmware works at this time. But I will stay on top of this story.

Belkin & Linksys Announce New Hardware & Software Ahead Of CES

Posted in Commentary with tags , on January 7, 2018 by itnerd

Belkin has a number of announcements in advance of CES this week.

For starters, it has announced that it is shipping the Wemo Bridge enabled with Apple HomeKit compatibility for the more than two million Wemo solutions on the market. With the HomeKit enabled Wemo Bridge, Wemo users can ask Siri on their iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch – “Siri, turn on Wemo” or “Siri, dim the living room lights,” or use the Apple Home app to control any of these devices. Users can also include Wemo products into scenes and rooms to work with more than one hundred other HomeKit compatible products and access them while on the go.

Wemo Bridge for HomeKit Hero.jpg

The Wemo Bridge empowers users do all the activities Wemo users enjoy on the Wemo app but also extends the Wemo functionality on the Apple Home App via the iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch.

  • Control Wemo Dimmer, Mini, Light Switch, Insight, and Motion Sensor from the Wemo App, Apple Home app or with Siri from your iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch
  • Create personalized scenarios such as movie lighting or schedule appliances for a morning routine
  • Set Schedules and Timers for lights and devices, and control it all by accessing the Wemo App or the Apple Home app
  • Sync lights with sunrise and sunset or personal schedules
  • Set up vacation mode to protect your home by randomly turning on and off lights.
  • So much more!

The Wemo Bridge connects to any home Wi-Fi router via an Ethernet cable, leveraging the Wi-Fi of the home router to communicate between HomeKit enabled devices such as the Apple iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch and well as Wemo smart plugs and light switches.

Availability and Pricing
The Wemo Bridge is planned for availability later this month in Apple Stores, Belkin.com and other select retailers for an MSRP of $49.99 CAD.

Next up is the news that Linksys is expanding its Velop, whole home mesh Wi-Fi line to include a Dual-Band offering and new software advancements that enhance performance with Intelligent Mesh technology, security features with advanced parental controls, network traffic monitoring, and web site blocking as well as ease of use with improvements in the Linksys app. Velop is now the most flexible whole home mesh Wi-Fi system on the market. It can be installed in different configurations to support any type of home, is compatible with any ISP modem or gateway, and both Dual-Band and Tri-Band nodes are 100% interoperable and interchangeable.

Linksys Velop Dual Band Hero 3-pack.jpg

Linksys Velop Dual-Band Whole Home Wi-Fi Mesh System

Linksys is expanding its Velop product line to include a Dual-Band modular Wi-Fi system, the world’s first mass-market Flexible Wi-Fi System, (available in 1-pack, 2-pack and 3-pack options) that can be installed in various mesh configurations providing fast and reliable Wi-Fi to the edge of a home network. Velop Dual-Band nodes are designed for performance as well as elegance; they stand about two inches shorter than the Velop Tri-Band solution and small enough to be placed anywhere with a clean and attractive look that appeals to everyone – which is unique to the mesh category of solutions for the home. Each Velop “node” is a powerful Dual-Band AC1300 device that serves as router, range extender, access point, and bridge which provides users the future proof technology they need as they bring new and more devices into the home.

Each node is configured during setup by the accompanying Linksys app (available for iOS and Android), which provides the industry’s simplest and most intuitive setup leveraging Bluetooth to securely communicate between the mobile device and each node. After setup is complete, the Linksys app serves as a powerful Wi-Fi management tool with useful features, such as guest access, parental controls, device prioritization, and insights that help Velop users get maximum performance and utility from their network. Velop helps users get the most out of their broadband subscription by delivering 100% of their speed to the edge of their network.

The Most Complete and Flexible Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi Solution on the Market

Velop is a union of high performing hardware, intelligent software, simple to use App, and cloud service features. This combination provides users with a solution that will future proof their home network for years to come.

Key highlights include:

  • Powerful Dual-Band – Each Velop node is a Dual-Band AC 2×2 802.11ac Wave 2 with MU-MIMO radio configuration with combined speed up to 1300 Mbps.
  • True Modular Mesh Design – Each node is built to connect with each other over Wi-Fi or wired Ethernet or combination of the two for best performance. They auto configure to connect in multiple different mesh topologies.
  • Intelligent Mesh Technology – The Velop system adapts to a user’s Wi-Fi needs. It self-heals and optimizes to consistently deliver fast, flawless Wi-Fi everywhere in home.
  • Velop Dual-Band and Tri-Band are interoperable – Velop is the most flexible wi-fi system which users can simply select a Velop system based on size of their home, internet connection or smart home readiness. Velop users can use both the Tri-Band and Dual-Band versions on the same network. Adding a Dual-Band node to an existing Tri-Band mesh network is an affordable way to extend coverage. Introducing a Tri-Band node to a Dual-Band mesh network will unlock future-proofed smart home capabilities and improve performance.
  • App-Led Setup – The new Linksys app automatically identifies the nodes to be setup using Bluetooth and creates a secure connection between the mobile device and each node. The app guides users through the installation process using visual animations where needed to clearly explain each step, including the transition from current networking hardware.
  • Patented-Pending Spot Finder Technology – The placement of each node is critical to establish a reliable connection. During setup, Velop will recommend the best placement to reduce latency, maximize throughput and improve range and signal strength.
  • Velop works with Amazon Alexa – Velop includes custom Amazon Alexa “skills” that can turn the guest network on/off and read back the credentials of both the main and guest networks
  • Automatic Updates – Velop is connected to the Linksys cloud service and will automatically monitor for updates and apply new firmware that unlock new features, resolution to security vulnerabilities, and improved performance as they become available. Some Whole Home Wi-Fi systems require manual firmware updates making them vulnerable to security infringements. Users have the option to turn automatic updates off. Also, frequent updates to the Linksys app ensure that the Velop experience will continue to get better over time.
  • Superior Warranty and Support – Velop comes with 3-years warranty and support

Intelligent Mesh and New Software Features Rolling Out To All Velop Users

Linksys is introducing Intelligent Mesh™, an evolution in Home Wi-Fi engineering, that combines Linksys software and hardware to deliver Wi-Fi via the fastest path to the internet for the best experience possible. Intelligent Mesh helps provide better speed at distances, improved client handling between nodes, and dynamic improvements to back-haul to always ensure the best connection to the Internet. Velop Intelligent Mesh is organized into these 4 pillars and works seamlessly and automatically across both Velop Dual-Band an Tri-Band nodes:

  1. Self-Organize: The Velop system is a modular mesh system that support both Wi-Fi and wired back-haul, configures in AP/Bridge mode, works with any ISP modem or gateway and interoperates seamlessly across Dual-Band and Tri-Band nodes.
  2. Self-Optimize: The Velop system continuously calculates the signal strength and speed between nodes to help deliver the best internet connection to your devices. For Example, Velop uses patent pending Spot Finder technology during setup to automatically configure the mesh network optimizing both Wi-Fi channels and bands to provide best performance to each client device
  3. Self-Healing: The Velop system will reconfigure itself if a node goes offline so that the network continues to perform. Also, the Linksys app includes the Channel Finder feature to initiate a new channel scan to avoid interference or crowded wireless signals.
  4. One Network: The Velop system uses one network name, one password, one admin password for a consistent and secure mesh network of multiple nodes. Velop’s guest network will extend to all nodes and changing passwords to stay secure only requires a single update in the Linksys app or web interface.

Linksys is announcing new software features planned for automatic update in 2018:

Linksys is adding new software features in its Intelligent Mesh architecture to enhance the performance of Wi-Fi throughout the home as well as new parental control and security features thru in-app purchases that will add to the overall value of the system.

  • Client Steering by node: (Self-Optimize). Ensures device is connected to the closest node for optimal performance.
  • Backhaul Reconnect and Optimization (Self-Optimize, Self-Configure, Self-Healing). Nodes will reestablish best connection to the Internet in the event one of the nodes fails or joins the network.
  • Parental control improvements including website category content filtering with allow and block overrides
  • Automatic network traffic security monitoring for malware, phishing, and blocking of malicious web sites

Pricing and Availability:

The Linksys Velop Dual-Band Whole Home Mesh Wi-Fi System (available in 1-pack, 2-pack and 3-pack) is planned to be available this spring at major retail and online stores across Canada. Pricing will be $169.99, $259.99 and $379.99 CAD, respectively.

The new software features will be released as they become available via firmware updates and Linksys app updates for all Velop models starting this spring.

Next, Linksys is announcing the WRT32X Gaming Router.

Linksys WRT32XB for XBox.png

The WRT32X takes Xbox gaming to extremes by identifying,prioritizing, and accelerating Xbox gaming online traffic above all activities. With the Killer Engine on, peak ping is reduced by up to 65% on Xbox One, delivering exceptional reaction times and an overall superior experience.

Key features include:

  • Dual-Band (2.4 GHz + 5 GHz): N600 + AC2600 Mbps. Killer Prioritization Engine: Engineered router that prioritizes Xbox gaming and all gaming traffic.
  • Customized Gaming Interface: Custom-built interface and firmware for gaming traffic control.
  • 1.8 GHz CPU: Dual-Core promotes simultaneous high-speed data processing.
  • Advanced Security: WPA2 encryption and SPI firewall help keep your network safely connected.
  • Pro-Grade Gigabit Ethernet Switch: Gigabit is 10X faster than Fast Ethernet.
  • 4 High-Performance Antennas: Engineered to enhance dual-band communication; four external, adjustable antennas ensure supreme Wi-Fi® signal strength.
  • eSATA, USB 3.0, and USB 2.0 Ports: Share content viaan external storage device with ultra-fast data transfer speeds. USB 3.0 delivers enhanced performance over USB 2.0; eSATA delivers optimal data transfer speeds from external SATA drives and accommodates USB 2.0.

Pricing and Availability:

Availability for the WRT32X Gaming Router is planned February 2018 USA. MSRP $299 – other regions to be determined.

Linksys Gaming Software Enhancements to WRT32X

Linksys is adding “Killer” gaming prioritization for any device (computer, mobile phone or console) to the Linksys WRT32X. This means that users gaming on any device will get their gaming prioritized as #1 over all other traffic on the network providing for a better online gaming experience with less lag. We’ve done this by moving the Application level stream detection onboard the router which intelligently and autonomously recognizes the network traffic from devices coming into the router and prioritizes the traffic for a fully dynamic quality of service while gaming, streaming, and surfing – no matter what else is happening on the network. Also included are stylized improvements to the user interface to reflect the new Killer Prioritization Engine, as well as improved network traffic and speed test visualizations. The WRT32X will give gamers the advantage of faster frags and lower ping times! (Software Update is planned for Spring 2018)

 

Linksys Tries To Limit The Damage As Frustration Mounts Over WRT32X Issues

Posted in Commentary with tags on December 27, 2017 by itnerd

The last time I wrote about the issues with the WRT32X, I had had a chat with a rep from Linksys and I was reassured that they were doing everything possible to resolve the firmware issues that had been plaguing that router along with the WRT3200ACM. Since then I’ve noted on the Linksys community forums that Linksys is sending out routers for some with other models so that users can get online. Here’s an example (Click to enlarge):

linksys1

I applaud Linksys for taking this route. It’s not a cheap course of action to start handing out routers to users who are affected by this issue, but they need to ensure that their users are online and placated for the moment while they work on the issues with the WRT32X and WRT3200ACM.

Here’s the flipside to that. Time may be running for Linksys to fix this. I said in one of my previous posts that the company has hours or days to fix this if they want to maintain the trust of their users. It’s been weeks and the frustration appears to be growing based on this Reddit thread and these Tweets:

In terms of the second tweet, I have heard rumors of a stop sale on both routers. But I have not been able to confirm that. If and when I do, I will update this post.

I’ve also talked to my contact at Netgear who served up this router for me to review shortly after this story broke. Speaking on background, his comment was that he’s seen an uptick of Nighthawk router purchases. That’s great for Netgear, but bad news for Linksys as it suggests that people are abandoning Linksys for the competition. And those people may never come back. I’ve also reached out to my contact at ASUS who served up this router for me to test to see if the same is true for them and if and when I hear back from her, I’ll update this post.

Now I still believe that Linksys will fix this. And I also believe that by sending out routers to affected customers, they’re really trying to do the right thing in a very difficult situation. But time is starting to run out for them to bring this issue to closure. The reality is that the longer that this goes on, the possibility for this to get worse for Linksys increases. And it could get to the point where they aren’t a viable choice for people looking for routers. That would be a shame as they’ve got some great stuff that’s out there as well as some great stuff in the pipeline that I’ve seen and can’t talk about. But all of that won’t matter if they can’t resolve this firmware issue as quickly as possible.

UPDATE: I have two updates on this story to tell you about:

  1. Both routers that have this firmware issue seem to be unavailable for sale via Linksys.com. So it’s clear that Linksys has stopped selling them to customers directly. However I found them both very easily at everything from local computer stores that carry Linksys product to Best Buy and even Amazon. And salespeople in those stores are completely unaware of this issue. Thus the unsuspecting will be buying these products, run into this issue, and be none too happy when they find out that this has been going on for a while. Thus adding to the problems that Linksys is facing.
  2. ASUS has told me on background that they’ve seen a “significant” bump in sales of their high end routers due to this issue. Great for ASUS. Not good for Linksys.