The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Mindcamp and Linksys Bait and Switch

Posted by Deliverator on October 30th, 2005

I am getting very excited about Mind Camp, which is now a scant week away. The guest list is locked and looks to be a great bunch of people. I noticed a few names from my Microsoft days, including Donte Parks, and am looking forward to chatting with them again. Ryan is going to be showing off Microvision’s Nomad wearable computer. The tech in these is uber-cool in that instead of using LCD goggles or some other form of HUD, it uses a laser to “draw” the screen directly on the back of your eyeball. Ryan is going to be getting the demo unit a few days in advance, so I hope to have a chance to play with it a few days in advance. Rob and Matt have put together a very slick demo of OLSR based mesh wireless networking. They have it running on Macs, PCs, Metrix boxes and the venerable Linksys WRT54G.

Rob revealed something rather disturbing about the new WRT54G routers hitting the store shelves. Linksys has once again pulled a major bait and switch. The version 5 hardware is a totally different beast from all the WRT54Gs that have gone before. These new units don’t appear to be Linux based (VXworks is likely) and have greatly reduced hardware capacities. These new units appear to have only 2 MB of ram vs 16-32 MB for recent WRT54Gs. Many people have bought the WRT54Gs because of it being a widely available, extensible open hardware platform. Though Linksys may save a few dollars in manufacturing costs, they can expect a lot of returned hardware, especially as they don’t note hardware revision information on the box.

I am very disappointed with these actions, which reflect certain consumer-unfriendly practices that I thought were years in Linksys’s past. Linksys used to have a very bad habit. They would put out internally different pieces of hardware with identical physical packaging, boxes, etc all under a common model name. The only drivers available for these devices were the ones of the cd, which were often buggy beyond belief. That different hardware revisions existed was hardly ever noted on the still poor Linksys website, so it was perfectly possible to download the wrong firmware and hose an access point or install the wrong driver. I can hardly count the number of clients that have had difficulties with Linksys’s early wireless USB adapters, for instance. Initial purchases sometimes come down to the bottom line of which is cheaper, but long term brand loyalty is built on experiences after the box is opened, and at that Linksys is failing miserably.