Category Archives: Wireless

HTC Thunderbolt

Based on my previous post on Apple and their business practices (http://blog.drosenassoc.com/?p=59), I decided to upgrade my iPhone 3Gs to a Verizon HTC Thunderbolt. Getting on a 4G network was another major draw, as was getting off of the poor-performing AT&T network, with its dropped calls, congestion, and poor signal strength in places that I frequent. This is my review. In summary, I can’t recommend this phone except for a small segment of users.

The screen was great – very bright, easy to read, and responded well to touch and typing. Sound quality was great. Processor is fast. Having a separate radio for the 4G network means that you can use your phone for data during a voice call. And the Verizon network is rock solid.

In the end, it was battery life that got me to return the phone and exchange it for an iPhone 4. Both the Verizon store personnel, and their phone customer care, are aware of this problem and tell me that HTC is also aware of it. At times (that seem uncorrelated to use, etc.), the phone seems to run some background processes that just plain drain the battery. I tried a couple of the battery management packages, turned off GPS and WiFi, etc., but none of them seemed to make a major difference. So, I resorted to leaving the phone plugged into its charger while near an outlet, and purchased a nifty remote battery back that would give an extra 15-30 min of life. The final straw was unplugging the phone at 10:30 AM and having the battery be dead at 1PM. Totally not acceptable.

Also unacceptable was the fact that neither HTC nor Verizon had any sync software ready for the Thunderbolt. I spent a ton of time trying to sync the phone with my music and photos, but nothing worked. I finally gave up and called Verizon support to learn that HTC had not yet released the sync software. Through more hard work, I got Windows 7 to recognize the Thunderbolt memory and was able to manually copy music and photos.

On the good side, the Verizon 4G network rocks! Super-fast when it is available, which is often is in Seattle. During my trip to San Diego, I found that I was often on 3G and sometimes on 1x. As a promotion, Verizon allowed the Thunderbolt to act as a WiFi hotspot. This worked flawlessly and also was really fast. All of this seemed to be a great glimpse of the future.

And, lastly, some Google Android quirks (also known as design features). This is a phone, right? Well, I expected to be able to tag phone numbers/contacts as favorites. Turns out this is really difficult. You need to add a category of favorites, then use a widget to display your favorites. And you can’t list both home and mobile – you have to choose one. All of this makes the concept of “favorites” for calling or texting pretty lame.

Another quirk: the calendar. Unlike the iPhone, the Google calendar app does not allow for time zone support; it automatically resets calendars to your current time zone as determined by the phone. In other words, if you travel from Seattle to the East coast and book an appointment for 10 AM after your arrival, the Google calendar will change the time to 7AM when you arrive. While this is useful, if you are using outlook to coordinate a number of people in different time zones, it should be an option!

There is lots more I can add about both the phone and the experience, but I really can’t recommend the Thunderbolt until the battery life problem is resolved, unless you don’t need to be disconnected from power. But, if you fall into that category, you probably don’t need a cell phone!

Netgear Router Hell

I’ve always liked Netgear. They seem to be a company that stays ahead of the technology curve, makes reliable products and understand the balance between easy to use and advanced features. I no longer like Netgear.

My old Netgear router, which had been the paradigm of reliability, died suddenly last week. It was over two years old, so I didn’t complain too much. Instead, I made an emergency run to Fry’s and purchased the top-of-the-line WNDR3700 Range-Max dual band wireless N gigabit router. The two main features I really liked were: (1) very high speed processor that should give better performance, and (2) ability to configure 2 SSID’s, so that a visitor could gain access to the internet without getting access to either my security phrase or my local data. Very cool I thought.

Setup took me a typical time – about an hour. And after the usual of downloading the latest firmware, having to reboot all of the other switches and my modem, I was on the internet, transferring files, etc. The wifi worked with my iPad and iPhone. And for those regular readers, it also worked with my home theatre control system. All was good in the world again.

Given that it was past midnight when I finished, I waited to add the cool new features till the next day. It was then that my router stopped working. I enabled the guest SSIDs, and suddenly the wifi was dead. I went into the configuration menu, and noticed the radios were turned off, so turned them back on – only they didn’t go back on. So, I looked at the router, and the lights for the wifi were off. I manually turned them on. But they turned off on their own again as soon as I downloaded the config. Thinking I had inadvertently misconfigured the router, I reset it to factory configuration and started again. Then the problem repeated itself as soon as I turned on the guest network. I played with the various settings, but it happened every time. So.. I concluded I had a defective unit.

The next morning, I hopped in the car and drove the 15 miles to Fry’s, who were gracious about the exchange. Got the new unit home and it was exactly the same. By this point, I had invested well over 8 hours on this, not to mention the previous 4 I spent figuring out that my old modem had failed.

So, I began investigating on the web, only to learn that this has been a known problem with this unit since March. (See: http://forum1.netgear.com/showthread.php?t=49720&highlight=guest+ssid). The original bacth of routers sold prior to January, apparently do not have this problem. But the ones sold in 2010, all suffer from this issue. There has been a beta firmware upgrade available for two months that fixes the problem, but seems to have other issues. Netgear will release it, but only under NDA! So the message is, you have to suffer, call our customer service, be put on hold, sign and NDA, and then we will give you a less buggy upgrade, for a product that didn’t work to begin with. In other words, Netgear has known that they are selling a defective unit for over three months, continue to sell this unit, have not notified their retailers, and let customers know that this was a problem.

This is intolerable and unacceptable behavior, the kind that should be punished by fines, and big ones at that. My time is valuable to me, but apparently not to companies like Netgear that feel it is acceptable to have their customers to their testing, spend countless hours making a defective product work, and then have to beg for a solution that exists. They should just recall this defective product and either replace it with one that works, or refund 100% of their customers money, and also give a credit for future products.