Beware the Internet of Things: Nest Thermostat Glitch Leaves Users in the Cold

So, a glitch in a software update to the Nest left users quite literally cold as their nest devices stopped working. Very irritating, and the nine-step, time consuming fix sounds quite awkward to say the least. But there’s more:

Making matters worse is the lack of recourse. Buried deep in Nest’s 8,000-word service agreement is a section called “Disputes and Arbitration,” which prohibits customers from suing the company or joining a class-action suit. Instead, disputes are settled through arbitration.As a 2015 investigative series in The New York Times illustrated, the use of arbitration clauses is becoming widespread.

Nest’s terms of service “are inherently unfair to consumers,” said Sonia K. Gill, a lawyer for civil justice and consumer protection at Public Citizen, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. The terms, she said, limit damages and specify that customers need to travel to San Francisco for arbitration. “Who can afford that?” she said.
Moreover, Ms. Gill noted, you have to agree to keep the terms of the arbitration confidential, meaning you can’t warn other consumers about potential flaws.
So, if a pipe bursts in your home because the thermostat stopped working, or if your grandmother falls ill because the heat shuts off in the middle of the night and she doesn’t have a micro USB cable, you can’t sue.

After last week’s freeze, I’m thinking of ditching my Nest. I haven’t decided on a replacement yet, but I may take a cue from Kent Goldman, a San Francisco resident I follow on Twitter who had a similar issue with his Nest in November.

After being put on hold with Nest’s technical support for over an hour, Mr. Goldman went to his nearest Ace Hardware store (while still on hold) and picked up an old-fashioned mechanical thermostat for about $25.

Sure, it doesn’t let you change the temperature through your smartphone. And it won’t email you monthly usage reports. But it isn’t vulnerable to bad software, and it doesn’t require a Wi-Fi connection.

Just because it can’t send email, doesn’t mean it’s useless 🙂

Tux at 24

“Happy Birthday, Linux!”, announced slashdot today. I’ve been a user for a long time, my first direct experience of Linux was with a tiny district that shipped on four floppy disks, which even back in 1996 (I think, maybe 1997) was tight. I still remember being amazed that it could read from floppy while doing something else! The Windows and DOS operating systems I’d had on my old PC were hard pressed to walk and talk at the same time and floppy I/O always brought a momentary halt to any proceedings.

There was always a lot of talk through the years about if and when Linux would displace Microsoft on the desktop, but in 24 years it never really happened. What did happen though is that the desktop was itself displaced. Microsoft is no longer the evil empire of old, but its still supreme on the traditional PC. The thing is though, that were not using PCs so much anymore, its all tablets and smart phones, connected devices and smart  TV’s.

Guess what they run?


Not bad for a 24 year old!

US Govt wants to have its cake and eat it

“You can’t have it both ways,” Trevor Timm, the co-founder and the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, told Motherboard. “If the US forces tech companies to install backdoors in encryption, then tech companies will have no choice but to go along with China when they demand the same power.”

Banning the word ‘Internet’

Padraig Reidy over at Index on Censorship wonders when people will stop blaming the tool (e.g. facebook) as opposed to the behaviour (e.g. terror planning, crime).

Will this ever end? Hopefully. As time goes on, the distinction between the internet and THE INTERNET will become clearer. THE INTERNET is a culture; the place where the likes of Doge and Grumpycat come from, and all their predecessors (I still have a soft spot for Mahir “I Kiss You” Çağrı. Look it up, youngsters). The internet is simply a communications tool, like millions upon millions of tin cans joined with taut string. When we can get this a little clearer in our heads, then finding a web angle for every occasion will feel a bit silly, like blaming Bic for poison pen letters.

That is not to say that we should take the web for granted, or become blase about its use and abuse. But we must treat it as simply a part of the environment. Essentially, we have to stop thinking about things happening “on the internet”. There is no “internet freedom” — there is just freedom. There is no “internet privacy” — there is privacy. There are no “internet bullies” — there are bullies.

Put simply, we need to ban the word “internet”.

Well said. The internet is a tool that most of us use, even if indirectly, every day. Crime is crime, surely?

Reverse Showrooming

Laura Slattery in the IT reports two interesting nuggets from the latest Google Consumer Barometer:

When it comes to buying home appliances, the Irish are also notably fonder of a practice known as “reverse showrooming”, where they research a purchase online before heading into a physical shop to have it rung up a till the old-fashioned way.

And, apparently, we are quite unforgiving of poor site design:

“If issues are encountered while accessing websites via a smartphone, a quarter will find another site that works better rather than trying on another device.”

Reverse showrooming is a new one to me. I wonder is it that it’s easier to return an appliance to a physical store…