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back to article Virgin Media nukes downloads after SuperHub 'upgrade'

Virgin Media has dismissed claims that a software update for its SuperHub kit is at fault after punters complained their downloads are being damaged. A spokeswoman at the telco told The Register that it was too early to tell if the SuperHub's firmware upgrade from version R30 to R36 was the culprit for the reported data …

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Anonymous Coward

Why oh why

Why oh why do people persist in using Virgin Media?

They were ok in the Cabletel days, good value and great customer service.

However every single piece of kit they put out - be it the uselessly slow Pace boxes, the freezing Samsung boxes, the rebooting TiVo boxes or the Superfail hub has been amateur hour at the telecoms.

And don't even bother trying to get a useful answer from Customer Service. You'd be as well opening the window and shouting your problems for all the help it does.

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Linux

Re: Why oh why

It's really a choice between two evils, BT or Virgin. Some people opt for ADSL and some for Cable, it's a bit like voting: everyone gets to vote, but, no one actually gets what they're voting for.

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Re: Why oh why

I've never had any problems with the broadband hardware from VM, or with the service, which has been excellent for the past ten years. My original (NTL) cable modem gave me nine years of trouble-free operation, and when it did finally expire at the end of last year, VM sent out a replacement SuperHub immediately with no fuss and at no cost to me.

BT, on the other hand, failed repeatedly to fix a persistent fault on my landline, so I dropped them, and I never intend to use them again if I can possibly help it.

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Re: Why oh why

Because, as far as I know, they are the only one who deliver the actual speed you pay for. My mother is on Talk Talk 24Mb, she gets 2-6Mb at best. My father has Sky and get's about 8mb on a good day. I've got 30Mb on Virgin and I always get 30Mb.

Virgin have their customer service problems, but so do everyone. When my modem was on the blink I expected a long wait, but they couriered a new one out and I got it first thing the next day. Then again I lost FTP when they upgraded the modem, took me two days to realise that the modem had been upgraded as I only log in when I want to change something.

To me, it seems that they are the best of a bad bunch when it comes to broadband.

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Re: Why oh why

Because not everyone got the bad hardware and not everyone gets the bad service.

I've had them for 4 fours now, they were in the place I moved into for 5 years before that. They consistently provided phone and Internet connection for all that time to the point that nobody (including many previous tenants, my girlfriend, and later me) bothered to change to anyone else.

This is coming from someone that hasn't used a BT connection since 33.6k modems were in fashion and worked with PlusNet exclusively for years (until they were taken over, but I still hear good things about them) purely because I wanted the high-end of technical service and didn't really care about download speed so long as they were honest and fixed problems quickly and didn't have many problems to fix. Hell, the first guy I ever spoke to at PlusNet on the phone (literally, the guy who answered) was able to take off interleaving on the ADSL connection when I mentioned I was experiencing latency on my SSH sessions and he knew all about it and fixed the problem in literally seconds.

In my whole Internet life at home since I was at uni 15 years ago, I can count the number of Internet connection outages I've personally experienced on my fingers, most of them to do with home moves and/or BT. Before that, I was on BT because it was all my parents would allow because they didn't want my brother and I to "play with the phones" (but were happy for us to tie up the only phone line from 6pm to midnight EVERY SINGLE DAY back in the modem days!).

My previous move, 4 years ago, I moved from a PlusNet broadband account that was about 10 years old to the one that was in the flat I moved into with others. It was Virgin Media. I dreaded it. I work in IT, use it for all my entertainment, and the connection needs to be GOOD for me (especially if I'm sharing it with others). We didn't even have TV on the package back then because we had no TV licence, and the modem looked like something from the NTL days. Barring one minor incident, years later, with a PPV movie (Serendipity before anyone jumps to conclusions) cutting out half-way, I can't really find any fault with them. We had an old 10Mbps cable modem for years. Then they gave us a set-top-box for the TV only. Then they put us on a 30Mbs wireless router a few years ago. Still no problem.

Then I moved again recently and I *TOOK* that Virgin account with me to the new house. The date was fixed in advance. The installers turned up on time. They ran brand-new cables to the house (which was previously BT and Sky, I think). They drilled a nice, neat installation. And the installers *insisted* on giving me a SuperHub. I'd heard all the rumours and tried my best to avoid it like the plague. They insisted to my girlfriend that I had to have one, despite me having a 30Mbps router and an equivalent package. I got home to find a SuperHub installed. I put it straight into Modem mode, connected it to my own wireless router, it's been flawless ever since (so I don't even have the article-stated problem either!).

I wouldn't TOUCH them if it wasn't for their service. I would literally change supplier same-day. I still have a BT-supplied line active in the house (an automated BT woman talks to me when I pick it up but I have no line-rental on it or anything), I have 3G connectivity to transparently handle any interim installation so it really wouldn't bother me to ring up any ADSL supplier and get them to activate that other line to replace Virgin. My TV has Freeview, we have an old Sky box and satellite dish cabled into the house next to the TV already, and I have the Virgin Media STB separate from the Internet. I can literally change any component over to any other supplier within minutes or, at worse, a few days and still keep my existing connection running until I'm sure I'm happy with the new supplier. I don't. Because Virgin have given me absolutely ZERO reason to, as of yet. And I'm someone who has a mental blacklist of things like restaurants and companies that screwed me over 10+ years ago and I refuse to touch them or their subsidiaries ever again.

I hear the scare stories too, but I don't have the same experience. I've moved several times, darted around London, and never really had a problem with them. Maybe, just maybe, what you hear are the vocal minority and your own experiences whereas, actually, they're not that bad at all (whether in some areas of the country, or some packages or whatever) - certainly no worse than anyone else and INFINITELY better than anything I've ever had through BT (despite the fact that PlusNet are now BT-owned, they still do a better job than plain BT offerings, or so the people who used them on my recommendation years ago still tell me today...).

I honestly could not find anyone I would want to activate that old ADSL-capable line I have running into the perfect socket position on the wall, just ready to go, and a small stack of old ADSL / ADSL2+ routers that I have preconfigured for my network from my old houses. And there's no reason to even look because I don't have a bad experience with them.

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Re: Why oh why

"Why oh why do people persist in using Virgin Media?"

Because by-and-large it works? I'd prefer it if I could connect my own router, but that is my only real issue with their Internet service. I know about "modem mode" but that still means I have to use their crappy Netgear unit.

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Re: Why oh why

@Miek

+1 to you!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why oh why

Darn sight more reliable that Sky's shite offering via BT in my area!

On BTs shitty old lines I was lucky if I got 1.2MBs ( yes 1 point 2! ) Sky said tough, nothing we can do about it. I jumped to VM and for the same price I get 20MBs solid all the time and it's died for about an hour just once in the last 12 months.

Yes VM are shit but they're definately the lesser of two evils!

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Linux

Re: Why oh why (@Miek)

Yup, race to the bottom pricing means service goes out the window. They're all fine until something goes wrong. Personally I've had a couple of issues with Virgin over the last few years, but once the calls were placed the engineers that came out were quite happy to bend the rules to actually fix the problem quickly.

Having just been through an issue with PlusNet (a connection for work), I was less happy with them, current advertising campaign notwithstanding. Took 8 days to fix what appears to have been a simple authentication problem (at their / BT's end) with minimal communication from PN support. On the bright side, I did find a dodgy connection in the wiring and doubled my download speed (3.3 - 7.8Mbps) as a result.

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FAIL

Re: Why oh why (@Miek)

PlusNet are owned by BT. There's your answer as to why they were rubbish.

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WTF?

Re: Why oh why

Not everyone has had bad experiences. I have the 500GB Tivo Box, Super Hub and 30Mbit broadband and I don't have any issues. Granted, I did have some issues with an old Super Hub when I was living elsewhere but overall this past 8 months since I've moved into my new place it's been fine. I just wish I could increase the storage on the Tivo box.

Not sure if the areas make a difference as I'm in an ex-Eurobell/Telewest area.

Now BT on the other hand... god awful BT Vision box, billing problems... but again I might have been one of the unlucky ones.

Rob

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Re: Why oh why

To add another reply:

Because it's either a consistent 10Mb/s (or 20 or 50 or 100 when I get around to upgrading) from Virgin or 2.5Mb/s through the 2mm wires from BT (probably billed as 10Mb/s).

Until somebody replaces the piss-poor 50+ year old cabling then Virgin will be the only choice for some areas. I'm not talking rural here either, but in the busy suburbs of a large city.

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Headmaster

Re: Because by-and-large it works?

I'm sorry, was that a question?

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Re: Why oh why

Its the same as sky, why do people insist on sky ? The same kit is crap and all you get told is turn it off turn it on again. Dont blame the telco blame the crapy cheap equipment (sorry i take that back - blame the telco for sending crappy equipment)

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Not entirely true

Regarding all their kit being rubbish. I disagree. Having had a superhub for as long as they've been around I have no complaints for existing downloads at 100Mb. It's a great little 5Ghz wireless router and my old 2.4Ghz N router nicely daisy chains off it for legacy devices.

Similarly, the TiVo I've had since February 2011 is a great PVR and doesn't constantly reboot. Some of the older stuff like 1990s Pace boxes and the earliest Scientfic Atlanta TV Drives were indeed slow beyond usable.

Don't just assume that because you've heard from a forum that there are issues that they apply everywhere. And their customer service do exactly what I would expect a first line desk to do: whatever they can't fix they get an engineer out for.

We persist in using Virgin Media because actually their product is really rather good and 99.95% of the time delivers exactly what you've been promised.

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Re: Not entirely true

For me Virgin Media's contention ratio (at least in my area) means they win hands-down over ADSL. This alone is worth putting up with all their other issues for. I think this is sometimes overlooked when comparing headlines bit-rates.

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Re: Not entirely true

There are a few issues with the SuperHub:

1) It is poorly designed. What is wrong with the idiot lights are the front and the cables at the back? Why is that blue LED on the front so freaki' bright? (I've tapped mine up)

2) Many "nice to have" features are missing (e.g. VPN) which could be solved by a firmware flash (which is what I would do, if it were my own router)

3) Provided router firmware is dreadful (needs a reboot after just about every change, PITA when trying to set-up a fine-grained configuration)

4) Updates are applied without prior notice or warning (ok, so that's more of a management issue)

That's about it really. The V+ box is pretty sucky and I don't think the TiVo would be much better to be honest (unless it allows streaming over the LAN; a feature that is sorely missing from the V+ unit). I don't like their bandwidth limits nor do I like the ridiculous OS-block they put on their catch-up service (they even block access to iPlayer via their catch-up service, even though it works perfectly; heck, they even block access to Help/FAQ!)

But you are right - by-and-large you get the advertised speed and the advertised service. The TV programming is largely terrible - but that is not really VM's fault.

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Bronze badge

Sugar coated?

Is the hardware made by Amstrad?

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Re: Not entirely true

The TiVo box is actually much nicer than the V+ box from a UI point-of-view. It's much faster and more responsive, navigation is easier (fewer button presses to get where you want to go, dedicated Home, Guide, and Recorded Shows buttons), and it's got lots of little bits of polish (if you scroll back in the TV guide, you can select programs and it will load them from iPlayer/4OD/etc, is one example of that polish).

Features like watchlists are good too - just add a watchlist to "Record anything directed by David Lean" and it will.

When I got it it was also £3 a month cheaper than V+ (although it cost me £50 upfront).

However, it won't do streaming, DLNA, or anything cool like that.

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Re: Sugar coated?

"Is the hardware made by Amstrad?"

Netgear

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Re: Not entirely true

Thumbs up from me for the tivo box. miles ahead of anything sky has ever made, IMO.

we do get the odd issue with network connectivity to the box but nothing major. its definitely changed the way we watch TV now, even more than the + boxes

it would be nice if it did streaming but i have 2 other video streamers and 4 music streamers anyway.

and the FF RW buttons are superb. there is a slight delay so when you go flying into the start of a program then press play it always rewinds a little to the start of the program. such a tiny feature but saves so many 'FFS' :)

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Bronze badge

I don't believe anything they say

In my experience they just say what suits them in marketing terms and only ever admit to problems when pushed by the media. I've been regularly lied to by customer services, where they just say what they think is required to get you off the phone (only they rarely succeed because I do work with Eurodocsis cable modems and HFC networks, so know what I'm talking about). Their service is so dreadful I now run two broadband connections. My Virgin connection for home working and a separate cheapie O2 connection for when the Virgin service goes down. The only reason I continue to use Virgin is because, due to the nature of my work, I need the fastest service available and that is the one benefit they do offer.

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Anonymous Coward

Mostly happy customer

My Tivo (which I got free, by waving my fist in the air = hence anon) has been working 100%.

Superhub has the new firmware and is downloading / uploading fine. It's kept all my fiddly settings. Not massively keen on the super-huge fonts.

When I do get connectivity problems, I've had an engineer out really quickly. Mostly when I've needed phone support (or have used it) I have had good people on the other end, wherever in the world they are. Not always though.

I had a crappy time with BT. And an appalling time with Talktalk.

On the other hand, my speed boost has moved back six months and they should have said. That's bad.

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This post has been deleted by its author

FAIL

What's UI efficency again?

They've also managed to break the page for adding reserved IPs, as well as changing the UI from annoying to fucking horrendous.

PFsense here I come!

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SuperCrud

Does not suprise me.

I have a new superhub that upgraded itself to R36 on first use.

I can't even get a good enough wireless signal (I was advised to use my old router with modem mode after they confirmed that the wireless N signal was too crap to even get 26mbs down when sat next to the superhub) with my superhub to get this download bug.

Shame as the actual broadband connection is brilliant (consistant low ping gives me geekgasms), but the Superhub spoils the whole service.

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Re: SuperCrud

Yeah, our superhub has rubbish wireless, but we're all using wired connections anyway, and if I cared that much I'd pick up a decent wireless router and stick the hub in modem mode.

As for the customer service, it's been ok for us. Not as good as Be*, but ok., and at the end of the day, it's faster than anything else we can get here.

* when I used to use them a few years ago, dunno what they're like now

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Unhappy

Virgin seem to cripple their kit before letting it out the door

Start of the year they upgraded me, and send me a new modem/router (not the superhub, the one down from that).

I have set my network up to be 192.168.1.x . Their poxy router simply couldn't be configured to take that - and it couldn't be put into modem mode to allow me to use my existing router. Repeated calls to overseas just put me through the same steps again and again, with the "technician" expressing surprised when I got the error message about not being able to use that address.

In the end I had to reconfigure my network.

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Anonymous Coward

"To get around this some users have had to resort to putting the SuperHub into modem mode and then connecting their own router to bypass the router in the SuperHub"

To be honest that was the first thing I did when I got my "superhub" a few weeks ago ... read too much about issues with it to consider trying it as a hub and as my router which connected to my previous VM modem (had to be updated to superhub to get the 20Mb->60Mb upgrade) was working fine saw no need to disturb that!

Been with VM since way back in the United Artists days (probably ~17 years) and had broadband from them for about 12 years (think it started at 256kb ... now its 60Mb!) and in that time only had one period of around a week or 2 when they were doing some network upgrade that made everything flakey. Had a VM TiVo for over a year now and probably had one reboot (and that was ages ago before the first main software upgrade) so its behaving brilliantly (had series 1 TiVo for previous 10 years and VM TiVo a big improvement with multiple tuners and reliable channel change!)

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Anonymous Coward

Otherwise known as the..

...SuperDud.

So many customers have had issues with the SuperDud with wireless connectivity among others. Being a regular reader of the VM forums it appears many users have to turn off the firewall and put the hub in modem mode for it to actually give a semi-decent connection. That is ignoring the oversubscribed UBR's which continues to be a problem in many areas even after 2 years of these issues.

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Devil

virgin are great

Virgin are great... if you ring them up once a year and tell them how sh!t they are they give you loads of free services.

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Re: virgin are great

The only slight problem being that if they follow procedure they extend your contract for a year when you do that.

Makes it a little difficult to leave if they actually become shit and stop giving you freebies.

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Re: virgin are great

Just don't sign the papers, they never follow it up or cut you off.

Unless you sign the papers and return them, it is not binding.

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FAIL

Re: virgin are great

Not true, a common misconception - in contract law you don't need to sign the contract for it to be binding.

If you use the service that they've offered and they can prove that you've paid them for it (i.e. the offer they made to you for the service has been accepted by you because you paid for it) - then the contract is deemed to be signed and will be treated as such by any court.

If you don't like the contract - don't use the service and don't pay for it then you'll be safe :)

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Happy

I'm just really glad I do my own routing! The modem they gave me when our old NTL surfboard finally died has been fine, and only once have I been jerked around by their customer service.

Maybe I'm one of the lucky ones, but I think they've actually improved over NTL's customer service in our area. I especially like that they seem to be quite prompt in putting any known problems on the answering machine so that you can just phone up, and find out if there's a problem without having to faff your way through the usual "Press 1 etc" stuff.

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Go

With VM for first time, since Jan. I do not want VM controlling my border security so I switched to modem mode the day it was installed and use my own firewall/router.

So far little to report for my 100Mb service - though during their "busy" periods I do experience issues with certain things - Spotify for example gets very bitty between 6 and 10pm, which is apparently due to their poor peering arrangements. Hopefully they'll sort this out in due course. I have been kicked out of online games regularly on PSN though.

Prior to this I was a Zen customer for 10 years, and had no complaints whatsoever. BT were occasionally a nuisance but generally it worked as expected (albeit I'd get a max of 16Mb where I was, not tried their fibre service yet).

I do have the same complaints about their customer service droids. When my parents had problems with their hardware, I recall spending an hour on the phone to them being asked to reboot my devices before they'd admit they had a fault and send an engineer round with a replacement part. Quite tedious but then they have to account for their hardware.

I liked the fact that Zen had degree-educated network engineers who knew their stuff and I could speak to them in my language when I did have problems - usually initial setup issues with house moves, which were largely due to BT...

I guess next time I ring up VM support I'll ask to speak to the network goth in the corner.

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Anonymous Coward

Agreed. Whenever I've moved suppliers I've always made sure that I can have a device that just does a straight pass-through of the internet connection so that I can configure and handle my network my way. Also makes it much easier when changing supplier as everything is still going through your own box first on the way out.

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Silver badge

OK while it works...

As with many large suppliers, VM is fine while it's all working, it's when you have to deal with customer support that it falls apart. It's (fortunately) been a long time since I had to speak to them but there are elements of comedy about the whole process.

I had a complete failure of TV and broadband. To me, that suggests a fault in their network. I called up the overseas support line and discovered that I could only report one at a time. I chose TV on that occasion. I went through all the useless 'power cycle your cable box' stuff, knowing full well that it was futile. Having exhausted the script, we agreed a date for an engineer visit[*] and the droid asked me if I wanted to be put through to the broadband people to report that fault. I'd lost the will to live by this point and declined. A few hours later it all mysteriously started working again and I got a call from a Scottish chap who seemed to know what he was talking about, noted that I'd got the visit booked and offered to cancel it if I no longer needed it because the network fault had been fixed.

Then they scrapped the useful usenet support groups and dumped it all on a crap web forum, which I've never bothered to visit.

[*] Another peeve shared by many, I'm sure, where they can't say when during the day it's going to happen so you end up sitting at home all day. If pushed they will sometimes manage to say morning or afternoon.

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10 years now for Broadband & happy

And 5-6 years for TV. The service has been rock solid with only a handful of short outages during the whole time.Still running a motorola surfboard hooked into my own router. Generally when I run a speedtest I am getting near as damn it the maximum speed - the couple of times it has dropped right off has been due to external issues. TV box is a Tivo. cheaper than Sky, and Virgin maintain the box unlike Sky. Yea, I know the box is not really mine, but not gonna bugger about with it.

Biggest gripe I have is with Tivo, and that is that VM have blocked network control, that there is no decent Android app, and that I cannot play my media from my upnp server on the Tivo. If they sorted that then I would order more actually.

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Jop

I kid you not

VM forum staff are now asking CUSTOMERS to install and run Wireshark to sniff the traffic. Unbelievable!

There are so many kinds of wrong with this.

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Re: I kid you not

The vast unwashed majority of the minority who have been getting problems will just write them off as "Innernet stuff".

Of the minority who bother to check the forums, the majority will see something is being done and do nothing believing it will eventually get fixed and hence, stop worrying about it.

Of the minority of the minority who want to do something about it, a further minority not scared by technology will install Wireshark.

What's the problem with that?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I kid you not

What I found even more hilarious is their question about the "power supply".

Do they really think that in some -few?- cases they have provided their customers with some "wrong" power supplies? That these "wrong" power supplies would make the superhub work fine 99,9% of the time, just adding some corrupt bytes from time to time? And only with version R36 of the firmware?

... Are they really so desperate?

(look like their forum is down right now by the way, maybe because of the sudden influx of visitors from el reg?)

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Windows

"they scrapped the useful usenet support groups and dumped it all on a crap web forum"

On which posts requesting support are answered *days* after being posted.

Brilliant!

At least with the usenet system there was instant support from peers which had to reduce considerably the workload for support staff. Usenet was too difficult for the average VM user so the support service was dumbed down, as usual, instead of educating the user base.

Last call I had to make to VM support it took me 17 minutes to get through to a chap in India who fumbled the greet, said hello a few times and cut me off.

For shame, my four year old son now knows the word w@nker :(

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Unhappy

Re: "they scrapped the useful usenet support groups and dumped it all on a crap web forum"

Last one I had to make ended up going through about 18 staff over 4 hours of calls.

By the time I moved up the ladder (staff member 17 or so) he said to me "You know more about how this stuff works than we do, I'll just ask your question directly to the guy above me" and when he came back his answer was "Oh, He knew what you were asking, he says it hasnt been done yet" *click*.

I moved to the forums and the 3rd Moderator eventually looked up what I wanted (and eventually became a thread that a good 30+ users latched on to so they could have the same problem fixed!... What is sad is that in those 4 hours of phone calls I was shoved over to their "Premium" line several times.

If you mention DHCP, TFTP, Configuration File, SNR, Packet Loss, DNS, or a quite a few other terms to the "Broadband Support" team you will often find that those are things they currently do not support.... *cries*....

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This post has been deleted by its author

Eek

Re: reluctantly

So you work for a CDN know all about network latency but can't identify the symptoms of a hidden transparent proxy being used to cache requested pages.

Ho hum

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Re: reluctantly

Good point, however the transparent cache is nothing new on this particular network, what interests me is the latency being added on the first TCP req to a particular site on a particular day. A transparent cache wont do that generally (though there could be a load issue, i suppose - but i dont see how that load issue would correlate to happen only on the first access of a site on a given day). So yes, in answer to your question, I can identify the symptoms of a transparent cache, this appears to be something a little extra. My hunch is the VM DPI system, but what throws me is why the latency was not on the original docsis network, but is present on docsis 3 (again, only on the first access of a given site on a given day). This could (note careful use of word 'could' there) indicate part of virgin medias DPI and regulatory compliance strategy is to have the superhub itself do part of the logging.

I havent really had time to do a full investigation, just letting people know what I have seen.

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super hub , too much in one box ?

thought,

I purchase an adsl router, and I might get one or two updates,

After a few years, it might be missing the latest features features, but it works reliable

The super hub,

which 'upgrade' are we on now ?

hay the last one even changed the gui on the log in page,

talk about deck chairs on the titanic.

now if they could split the function in two,

the basic cable modem part, and the add on parts,

I guess thats what the modem mode does, but that turns off the second part.

it still chews up power etc,

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Facepalm

Ahh the Virgin SuperDud.

Just put the Superdud in modem mode and use your own wireless router. A lot less pain than trying to get the damn thing to work properly. Glad I didn't wait for this firmware release.

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Re: Ahh the Virgin SuperDud.

I have the speed upgrade to 60Mb and also have the new Super Hub. I get the speed advertised and I was not even aware that the hub firmware had been updated. (checked the hub and mine has had the upgrade).

All works fine. Other members of my family in other parts of the UK also get excellent VM service so I can only assume that a majority of moaners are just trolls.

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