back to article Nest thermostat owners out in the cold after software update cockup

Owners of Nest's space-age thermostats are boiling with rage after a software update left them frigid – and facing a long process to get the devices back up and running. The problem stems from firmware version 5.1.3, which was pushed out to homes in December. The glitch has left the internet-connected thermostat unresponsive, …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    " Like many companies these days, the Nest terms and conditions explicitly forbid customers from entering into class-action lawsuits against the company. Instead, all disputes are to be settled by arbitration on a case by case basis."

    Whether this is a valid term or a meaningless jumble of letters could depend on local consumer protection law.

    1. Martin Summers Silver badge

      Yeah but unfortunately lots of people would read the terms (or be referred to them) and shrug thinking there was nothing they could do. I've always loved that phrase "does not affect your statutory rights" following the preceeding bullshit telling you you have no rights. It really boils down to a battle of wills when you have to remind customer service departments that in fact the law comes above the crap they have actually started to believe themselves.

      I hope nothing like this happens to Tado. The worst glitch I've ever had is it not realising all occupants are out of the house and the heating staying on full all day. At least the cat was happy though.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        It correctly realized the cat was at home...

        ... and thereby not "all occupants" were out of it. Or maybe the cat reprogrammed it to stay warm. You'll never know what a cat can do when you're not looking at him or her.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It correctly realized the cat was at home...

          Indeed, I for one welcome our new feline overlords:

          p223. Cat left in a cold shed with a heater controlled by a random switch programmed to be on 50% of the time. Cat present, heater on 51.2% of the time, Cat absent: 50% of the time...

          http://noosphere.princeton.edu/papers/docs/stokes/Chapter%204.%20The%20Evidence%20for%20Psi%20-%20Experimental%20Studies.doc

      2. Nigel 11

        haven't ever seen a Tado but ... are you sure that your car hasn't worked out that if it jumps up the wall and bashes the thermostat often enough, the thermostat thinks someone is still in the house and turns the boiler back on? My parents' cat learned to ring the doorbell to be let back in. There was a cat-flap, but the doorbell was more fun. Another cat learned to open the fridge to steal food and then to close the door behind it, presumably because it did not like the draft of cold air coming out of the white box.

        Cats are the opposite of Artificial Stupidity: well-honed Natural Intelligence, adapted to running on a smallish CPU with far too little RAM. (If they always rembered what they worked out yesterday, we wouldn't stand a chance).

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Holmes

          One tends to notice

          are you sure that your car hasn't worked out that if it jumps up the wall and bashes the thermostat

          Unless it's a very smart car.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I wonder which company is fueling this. I mean my best is working perfectly, had no problems over xmas and new year.

      All this is likely to do is make all companies not bother with field feature updates ( which braindead twitter users will naturally also be outraged about)

      1. ipghod

        Ugh. I have 2 of the things in my new house... The upstairs one no longer holds a charge after the software update, but works fine if I swap it with the downstairs one.

        it's bizzare. has been working fine all year, and then just suddenly... not.

        I didn't want wifi enabled 'smart' thermostats. This is def. one of those 'to much of a good thing' kind of things, and why I personally think the 'internet of things' is going to wind up being way too much trouble for most people to bother with.

        I mean, really. When keeping your 'smart device' going consumes more time and energy than it's supposedly helping you save, whats the point?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The salesman tried to flog me these things when I updated my heating system last year. For a while my heart was tempted by the convenience, flexibility and shininess of the things. Fortunately my brain then kicked in and demanded to know why I was contemplating spending a shedload of money on features I'd never needed in the past and truthfully couldn't foresee needing in the future, not to mention the risks of rapid obsolescence and compromise.

          A year on and the basic, non-networked thermostats work fine, have never left the house freezing, won't need an update unless the SI unit of temperature changes, and are probably good for another couple of decades.

  2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    IofT

    Remind me why one needs a thermostat connected to the web? The older, less sexy versions seem to work just fine and are not prone needless bugs.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: IofT

      Maybe they expect a post to their FB page from the thermostat telling everyone how nice and warm the house is?

      You've got a very valid point and have me wondering the same thing. I guess I don't get it..I must not be hipster enough.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: IofT/FB

        "Whohoo, I have the house all for myself and it is cozy and warm! Good thing the humans left and there is only a cat here. No humans here, no siree. Only me. Here's the address: ...."

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: IofT

      Connected to the web - definitely not.

      Connected and interfaced to the house alarm, presence detectors, people schedule and secure remote control via smartphone - definitely yes. You are looking at a couple of hundred quid saving on average for a 3-5 bedroom house where there is nobody 8:00 to 15:00 and has reduced occupancy 15:00 - 18:00.

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: IofT

        Maybe, maybe not. There's hell to pay when you're attempting to heat back up multiple rooms that cooled significantly down, and it might just take the rest of the evening to get back to anywhere near desirable temperatures, considering most people don't have "preemptive regulation" thermostats that fire up half a day earlier to get where you want them by the time you want them...

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: IofT

          You'd also need to take into account how air at different temperatures could move among different rooms and floors unless doors or the like don't stop it properly, otherwise you may end up to spend more than you thought.

          And sure, to gain the most saves a thermostat should start heating at least half an hour/an hour or so before you need to use a room (depending on the heating tehcnology and building characteristics), and may stop earlier than you leave - but it has to be able to know (or predict it well enough).

        2. Nigel 11

          Re: IofT

          it might just take the rest of the evening to get back to anywhere near desirable temperatures

          What do you live in? A mediaeval castle? Or are your radiators and boiler woefully under-specified? (Or you might find that your radiators are full of sludge and emitting heat at less than a third of their rated output).

          I've always programmed the timer to turn the boiler off at the time I leave for work and on again about half an hour before I'm expecting to get back. Plenty warm enough when I get in. This in a Victorian solid-walls flat with draughty sash windows (albeit with the assistance of waste heat from downstairs who are always in)

          Being able to turn it on using my cellphone, or even better to program my cellphone to turn on the heating when the GPS tells it that I have started my return journey, would save me significant amounts of money and CO2 emission.

      2. tony2heads

        Re: IofT

        Get clock thermostat then!

      3. LDS Silver badge

        Re: IofT

        The thermostat needs just to be connected to a control unit (preferably via cable which also powers them), and then that control unit could also receive data from other sensors to perform needed actions (and share them if needed). Those thermostats could be pretty dumb (and cheap) sensors - but it looks we're going towards Sirius Cybernetics Corporation devices and their silly behaviours just because it can be done - and just because it is more difficult to slurp data from dumb devices.

      4. d3vy Silver badge

        Re: IofT

        " You are looking at a couple of hundred quid saving on average for a 3-5 bedroom house where there is nobody 8:00 to 15:00 and has reduced occupancy 15:00 - 18:00."

        Sod that - It might seem like being tight but our heating gets switched on one hour at a time manually.

        Might have to put up with the house being a bit chilly for a few minutes when we first get in but honestly its never been an issue.

        I honestly dont see the point of spending this much money for the benefit of the house pre-heating when your on your way home. Though if there is a reason I'd be happy to hear it!

        1. Chloe Cresswell

          Re: IofT

          I have a 3 bedroom end terrace. If a nest could save me a couple of hundred quid a year, I'd be impressed.

          My gas bill last year was £43..

      5. F0rdPrefect

        Re: IofT

        "Connected and interfaced to the house alarm, presence detectors, people schedule and secure remote control via smartphone - definitely yes. You are looking at a couple of hundred quid saving on average for a 3-5 bedroom house where there is nobody 8:00 to 15:00 and has reduced occupancy 15:00 - 18:00"

        My idiot, non-connected, 1970s technology, timer handles that for me.

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: IofT

        "Connected and interfaced to the house alarm, presence detectors, people schedule and secure remote control via smartphone - definitely yes. You are looking at a couple of hundred quid saving on average for a 3-5 bedroom house where there is nobody 8:00 to 15:00 and has reduced occupancy 15:00 - 18:00."

        for an initial outlay of only about ten years worth of that saving plus maintenance / repair / replacement every few years as they become obsolete or unable to interface with the latest Bluetooth 20 specs and calculated at todays energy prices, yet energy prices have declined over the years

        bit like paying for a house over 25 years and thinking you've made a profit when you've paid interest that makes it 5X the initial price really

      7. Quip

        Re: IofT

        couple of hundred quid saving on average for a 3-5 bedroom house where there is nobody 8:00 to 15:00 and has reduced occupancy 15:00 - 18:00.

        A mechanical switch can do that, on in the morning for a few hours, on in the evening. Yes, sometimes there is someone home all day, easy enough to push the overide and have heating all afternoon. If it works most of the time there is not much saving for the fine control of a few exceptions.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Nest apologists

          There is ONE main function every thermostat must do to be fit for purpose. Nest failed on that. They deserve to go under as a company.

          The whole idea that you can actually save money with them is laughable anyway. If you have a pattern of when you are home and not home, if Nest can learn it SO CAN YOU! Then you can set your 7 day programmable thermostat. You can also turn down your programmable thermostat on a hold temperature before you leave on vacation, while your Nest will have to figure out for itself that you're gone.

          The only way a Nest could save anyone 200 pounds a year would be if they previously either had a manual thermostat with a single setting for 24x7, or they had their programmable thermostat set several degrees higher than their Nest keeps the house and they just never realized they would be comfortable at a lower temperature. I used to keep my house warmer, until one winter when I tried dropping a degree a week to see when I felt 'cold' and found I was comfortable several degrees cooler than I had previously kept it. Saves a few bucks and fewer problems with winter dry skin since the furnace isn't running as much.

          Can't believe people are still defending Nest after that huge fiasco! Obviously they didn't test their updates very well - it isn't like a PC where there are thousands of hardware configurations! Not sure why would they ever deliver any updates during the winter anyway. Do it in the fall and the spring only. Or hell, even the summer. If you get a bum update in the summer and lose your AC, it can be uncomfortable, but losing it in the winter could mean burst pipes and thousands of dollars in damage! But I guess Nest doesn't care, they have a EULA which they think absolves them from all responsibility. Someday someone needs to test these EULAs in court.

    3. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: IofT

      Q: Remind me why one needs a thermostat connected to the web?

      A: Same reason industrial control systems should be. Icon gives example of possible results.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: IofT

      I save hundred of quid a year in real terms due to its learning aspect based on use pattern prediction and weather forecast dàta.. My home feels warmer and I spend less on heating it. Best thing I ever bought. Paid for itself in year 2, free money after that.

    5. Paul Kinsler
      Joke

      Re: Remind me why one needs a thermostat connected to the web?

      Becasue you can keep it disconnected from your heating system, and feed it fake data? It'd be like the heating version of those timers you use to turns lights etc on & off to make the house look less unoccupied. :-)

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: IofT

      Remind me why one needs a thermostat connected to the web? The older, less sexy versions seem to work just fine and are not prone needless bugs.

      The actual driver for this is that a good quality programmeable thermostat is a pain to set up, and an equal pain to tweak or optimise. If you're happy with a manually adjusted stat, then you don't have this problem, and if you're happy with a single temperature stat, then again there's no problem

      But if you want different temperatures at different times of day (for either comfort, cost or eco reasons), then although programmeable stats have been available for decades, the user interfaces are grimmer than death (well, maybe not quite). Take the Eberle unit on my wall, works a treat and has done for twenty years. But setting up system time, day, four time zones for seven days a week with different household routines on some days....its a pig. The vast majority of digital stats seem to have crap, counter-intuitive four button interfaces designed by the same mongs that design digital alarm clock user interfaces, or multi-storey car parks.

      So, in theory, automating the process, using modern understanding of UI, and having learning algorithms makes incredible sense. The unfortunate thing is that the potential has been put at risk by over-ambitious concepts (like smartphone control, and control over internet), an excess of suspect quality software, a lack of attention to security and testing, and a complete disregard for privacy and reliability.

      The perfect solution never involved wifi, internet or smartphones, but would still have had a decent UI, touch panel interface, learning algorithms. It would be an appliance, pure and simple, but a good one. By proper testing and conservative specification there would never then be a need for risky software updates, and no problems of security or privacy. Somebody probably already makes this, but the masses are flocking to buy the latest shiney, web-enabled Googley-Appley tat, and any product designer wanting to do the decent thing will be told by the PHB and the marketing department that they have to have app control, wi-fi and internet....

      1. Adam Hartfield

        Re: IofT

        Ledswinger wrote:

        "The perfect solution never involved wifi, internet or smartphones, but would still have had a decent UI, touch panel interface, learning algorithms. It would be an appliance, pure and simple, but a good one."

        Honestly, the Honeywell thermostat I had installed six weeks ago seems to be what you describe. Its UI is a breeze, it is a touch panel, and it pre-emptively starts the heat so that the house is up to temp by the time I told it I get up in the morning. The four-period seven-day setup was easy to do with a question-based wizard. It's so much easier to use than the RiteTemp it replaced. I programmed it and haven't had to touch it since.

  3. jonnycando
    Thumb Down

    Why?

    Does anyone at all, turn their hvac system over to a Internet connected doodad? That's something that must work, and anything software based is by nature persistently in beta. Honestly!

  4. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    An internet connected software controlled thermostat? Who could imagine such a device would be open to this mode of failure? Who couldnhave predicted this disaster?

    Oh hang on. I did, didn't I.

    No doubt someone will explain how being able to turn the thermostat up or down using their smartphone is worth what just happened, and what will undoubtedly happen again and again, given that the firm in question didn't anticipate a failure showing up at the worst possible moment.

    1. Zubov Nixtor

      Re: Bah!

      It already happened before, January 2014 according to my records, exhibiting the identical symptoms, as far as I can tell.

  5. Grumpy Fellow
    Holmes

    I can handle this one

    If (too_hot)

    {

    AC_On();

    }

    Else if (too_cold)

    {

    Heat_On();

    }

    Else

    {

    Heat_and_AC_Off();

    }

    1. steamnut

      Re: I can handle this one

      Yes, it works, although PID would be better ;-). But, to use an overused Microsoft expression, where is the "immersive" experience? Or should it be "immersion" experience?

      Personally, although I am a gadget freak, I don't' like the essential service in my house web connected.

      And don't get me started on Smart Meters. There will be lots of "Register" tales about them I'm sure.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I can handle this one

      Nest is way more than that... It's all about house warm up cool down profiling, patterns of when you are home and when you aren't. Weather forecast dàta and other data inputs used to dermine when to heàt your house.

      Your "çode" describes a conventional dumb thermostat.

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: I can handle this one

        AC mistyped "...dàta..." and "...heàt..." and *...çode..."

        Are you a coder at Nest Labs?

        Evidence for:

        1) Defensive explanation

        2) Subtle salesmanship

        3) Cân't tÿpē ã lïnè wîthõut mákíng ā mîstàkê

        Now, get back to work.

        1. Peter 26
          Angel

          Re: I can handle this one

          I know there is a lot of hate here, but the one thing I love about it is that you set what temperature you want the house to be at a certain time and it learns how long it takes your house to warm up after the heating is turned on. So if I want it hot by 7am, it will turn it on at 6:42 knowing it takes 18 minutes. (Before my solid brick house had external insulation added it came on 45 minutes beforehand! But then automatically reconfigured itself after the house insulation was added)

          Also the amount of times I've gone out for the day and forgot to turn off the heating but it realises I'm not home and turns it off itself to save me heating. I'm certain the thing has paid for itself over the last year.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I can handle this one

            And add to the fact it knows the outside temperature as well as what it's going to be later, and it might not even need to preheat.

            I'm staggered by my savings since I installed Nest. At least £30 a bill cheaper on the same tarrif. House doesn't feel warmer or colder, just a very noticeable cost saving

          2. DougS Silver badge

            Learning how long it takes your house to warm up

            My Honeywell programmable thermostat does that as well. If I set it for 60 at night and 65 at 8AM, it reaches 65 at 8AM by figuring out how long it takes to warm up. Don't act like Nest made some major advance there!

            1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: Learning how long it takes your house to warm up

              Yep, I'm fairly certain that my 20-year-old, $50 price class, digital programmable thermostats include that trivial function too. To the nearest five minutes if I recall correctly.

              Nest is obviously a haven for children.

      2. LDS Silver badge

        Re: I can handle this one

        Weather forecast data? Very useful, especially if they are retrieved from a station far away your home, and which can't take into account your local microclimate (which may be different due to the house position, sorroundings, etc. etc.) My heating sytems has an external temperature probe since the 1970s (all systems since then compared intermal and external temperature with the building charcteristic heating curve) - which does take into account what happens around the house, not somewhere else. Sure, it could be improved with local wind/humidity data and other sensors, but using Weather Channel data for anything beyond deciding to carry an umbrellla or not is IMHO pretty useless.

      3. Esme

        Re: I can handle this one

        @AC - well aye, but the point is that it's a hugely borkable solution to a problem that barely exists in reality.

        For instance, my favoured breakfast, when I bother with one, involves 1-3 'Biscuits of Wheat', depending on some hidden algorithm that some part of my brain I'm not generally very aware of decides upon and pushes into my forebrain. I then put said BoW's into bowl, add what seems a sufficiency of milk, and nom the lot.

        Given the problems I had with overeating and a too sedentary lifestyle until just a few months ago, the above process had little to do with my actual nutritional needs - I just like eating BoW's. So, can technology help? Sure, it can! I can buy umpty gadgets that will tell me how many calories I'm burning, and I just bet that there are also umpty smartphone apps (not owning a smartphone I have no direct experience) that can offer suggested diets and workout schemes that, if I follow them to the letter can help make me fitter and more healthy. Problem solved? Welll... (looks around me) anecdotal evidence suggests that the success rate above previous methods is little different to any other solution. And I don't doubt a smart larder could take a guess at what I really need in the way of noms, but what it wouldn't be able to do (because I won't allow ANYTHING to get in the way of me and my noms if I'm truly hungry) is prevent me from overeating should I choose to do so.

        However, I have managed to lose about 6kg/1 stone (apologies, I stupidly forgot to bookmark or copy the official El Reg units) in just a few weeks, and whilst my fitness on an absolute scale is still poor, it's immensely better than it was and rapidly getting better by the week. How? I suddenly developed the willpower to stop overeating and exercise sufficiently to shed weight, and the combination of adrenalin and serotonin thus generated has made me feel happier and is keeping me at it. Even better, I then fell in love with a sport I hadn't heard of until recently, and as a result am about to buy membership of a gym. Had anyone suggested I'd ever do that even five months ago, I would have laughed and wondered what they were on.

        TL;DR version - the crucial ingredient was willpower - once I somehow mustered sufficient of it, the problem started getting solved, no geeky engineering (and the expense and failure modes thereof) required.

        It's the same with house heating - the crucial component is a thermostat, and a manually adjustable one can do a decent job. A manually adjustable one with a timer can do a better job. An IoT one is way more technology than the majority of use cases warrant, and I'd venture to suggest that only those with rare medical conditions could truly benefit from them, assuming they worked OK all the time - but to such people, system failures would be even more of a problem than to the rest of us.

        IoT is simply a way to add more failure modes to things in the vast majority of cases, so far as I can see.

    3. Jimmy2Cows
      Headmaster

      Re: I can handle this one

      <CodePedantMode>

      Close but no banana...

      Defensive coding 101 - never assume side effects in functions, and avoid adding side effects to functions.

      If (too_hot)

      {

      Heat_Off();

      AC_On();

      }

      Else if (too_cold)

      {

      AC_Off();

      Heat_On();

      }

      Else

      {

      Heat_and_AC_Off();

      }

      Plus there's no guarantee that turning the heater on turns off the AC, and vice versa. If the sample rate isn't high enough, transition from too hot/cold to too cold/hot could skip the Heat_and_AC_Off() call allowing heater and AC to be on together.

      </CodePedantMode>

    4. Nigel 11

      Re: I can handle this one

      Yes, it does seem like an ideal Raspberry Pi / Python project.

      The one thing I have not found yet is something like Honeywell's proprietary remote-controllable thermostatic radiator valve heads. Anyone know of an open equivalent (or how to hack the Honeywell ones? ) I really don't fancy installing zone valves and computer-controlled mains wiring on every radiator, the c/h plumbing is buried in the walls, and treating the whole house as a single heating zone is pretty wasteful.

      1. Robert Moore

        Re: I can handle this one

        > Yes, it does seem like an ideal Raspberry Pi / Python project.

        As it did to me a little over a year ago when I built my Raspberry PI controlled thermostat.

        Temperature sensor, Solid State Relay to turn on and off the furnace, and a cron job to adjust the temperature for time of day. Saved me a bundle last winter when I was traveling for work.

        Set the temp to 10C while I was away, then VPN into my home network, ssh into the r-pi, and reset to normal temps just before I started for home. By the time I drove 4 hours home the house was nice and toasty warm.

    5. Vic

      Re: I can handle this one

      You're going to want some hysteresis in there...

      Vic.

    6. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: I can handle this one

      Yeah, but a lot of design-people forget there needs to be a bit of hysteresis built-in.

      I used to have a client who were tenants in Danfoss London offices (they that have some knowledge of these things, but perhaps not so well-acquainted with the prevailing weather here). The back of the building was equipped with motorised sun-blinds which were activated by photo-electric sensors. Sometimes the staff became quite mesmerised by the ceaseless closing and opening of the blinds.

  6. Steve Gill
    Facepalm

    Surely there should be a mechanical backup that prevents the temperature going beyond an acceptable range. You know, just in case.

    1. Zubov Nixtor

      I believe there is,

      in the base, which activates at 40 or 45 degrees F, as I recall. That's pretty cold, though.

      1. Simon Harris Silver badge

        Re: I believe there is,

        "That's pretty cold, though."

        I think it's fairly common for thermostats to have a low-temperature activation that overrides the programming - more to keep the pipes acceptably warm than the occupants though (my Digistat does that at 7C).

    2. LDS Silver badge

      It should be designed with a "supervisor" that if anything doesn't work as expected, it should set a temperature in an acceptable range (say 18-20°C) and then display a message error and shutdown.

      And IMHO all sensors handling critical house functions like heating should undergo proper safety testing before being approved for installations. After all other devices like electrical ones have to.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Honeywell Chrontherm

      The Honeywell Chronotherms (and I am sure that they are not the only ones) have done learning for at least twenty years.

      And they have mechanical controls (max and min) to allow for misfunction and / or flat batteries

      And they support the proportional protocols to the heating unit (gas and electricity)

      And they are a lot cheaper.

    4. DougS Silver badge

      Mechanical backup

      The backup is 'replace the working thermostat you disconnected to install your Nest', followed by 'return your Nest to place of purchase for a refund as unfit for purpose'.

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Charles Manning

    This should be considered safety critical software

    Considering that old and infirm can literally die of cold (let's face it just about anyone can die in a Canadian winter), something like a thermostat should really be treated like, and designed as well as, medical equipment.

    But it's not. It's designed by the sort of twats that focus on "oooh shiny".

    Most of this Internet of Tat is built using crap vendor software that was originally designed just to prove theiir chips work. Most of the software "designers" just take a basic example and tweak it to perform the new function. They don't audit the code or anything like that.

    Result: crap code that hangs, crashes, gets into freaky power modes.... and potentially causes fires, water damage,kills people etc.

    It will all end in tears I say....

    1. Outcast !!!

      Re: This should be considered safety critical software

      IoT - Internet of Tears

    2. Simon Harris Silver badge

      Re: This should be considered safety critical software

      Considering that old and infirm can literally die of cold (let's face it just about anyone can die in a Canadian winter), something like a thermostat house should really be treated like, and designed as well as, medical equipment.

      Fixed that for you. If you're in a situation where people can die of hypothermia in their own homes, you need to look at the house as a complete system. Good insulation is probably more important, and ensure there are backup independent heating sources - a bulletproof thermostat is no good if the boiler goes kaput.

      1. Holleritho Silver badge

        Re: This should be considered safety critical software

        When I was in Canada, I was never in a house that didn't have insulation, and usually a good boiler in the basement pushing warm air through vents in the floor. Toasty warm inside all the time, and the heat never went off, when when the house was empty, because everything inside would freeze.*

        Heating is essential for life in Canada: houses, garages, car parks, buildings, you name it.

        *Freeze as in frozen solid, not 'gosh I am freezing'

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: This should be considered safety critical software

          Well theoretically yes, but it isn't like your house can suddenly get cold enough to kill you while you are sleeping. You'll know the thermostat has gone out.

          I'd be much more concerned with pipes freezing, which can happen while you are sleeping if it is very cold outside. Kitchens in particular often have pipes against exterior walls, and wouldn't take much of a gap in insulation for a pipe to freeze when it is below zero outside even though your house might still be in the low 50s when you wake up (i.e. wake up not dead, just upset when you get the heat working again and your kitchen floods)

  9. Darryl

    Funny, my programmable thermostat didn't have any issues. Oh, right, it's a cheap Home Depot special that works just fine even though (or because) it's not connected to anything but the furnace

  10. Ole Juul Silver badge

    Toys

    This is really not mature technology. I wonder if these guys want to come out and replace burst water pipes because their expensive plaything didn't actually work in the real world. Of course not. And anybody who bought into it should know not to take this stuff seriously.

    1. Chloe Cresswell

      Re: Toys

      My guess is they didn't know people used water based heating systems and were used to only hot air based ones..

  11. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Google a.k.a Alphabet

    Well, thank goodness these idiots aren't involved with anything safety critical, for example 'self-driving' cars.

    Uh oh... WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Google a.k.a Alphabet

      Maybe this is another reason for Google and Alphabet to split. Liability reasons when they start selling self driving cars. They won't able to take the EULA / shrink wrap license dodge with automobiles!

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Google a.k.a Alphabet

        Self-driving cars are obviously safety-critical, and therefore should be written to DO-178B or C standards, presumably DAL 'A'.

        I doubt that they'd get away with mysterious 'machine learning' without a complete definition of the resultant neural network (if that's how they're doing it). Trained vision systems may have 'blind spots', as was demonstrated by the recent 'stopped balancing bicyclist' Google car bug. Next flaw might be something like not recognizing children in yellow raincoats holding red umbrellas.

        The way that they're approaching this is, as far as I can see, code monkey amateur hour.

        It'll be difficult to make a profit once the hidden flaws lead to huge lawsuits. They'll wish they were VW at that point.

  12. JLV Silver badge
    Happy

    A solution in search of a problem has found one, apparently.

    1. Charles Manning

      re:A solution in search of a problem has found one, apparently.

      Not quite:

      A solution in search of a problem couldn't find once, so caused one.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      If that's the solution, I want my problem back.

  13. Timo
    Flame

    the internet isn't the problem

    The "internet" isn't the problem here, it is that Nest automatically rolled out crap software. Imagine coming home some day and finding out your shiny shiny was remotely bricked by an update and your house is now very cold.

    Hey, didn't Nest have some other problem with their smoke detector in that they had to disable some functionality (after users had bought it for that function)?

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: the internet isn't the problem

      Nobody said the internet was the problem. And I'd say everyone here knows about crappy code, one way or another.

      1. Simon Harris Silver badge

        Re: the internet isn't the problem

        Is there no way to revert these back to the working factory-installed firmware?

        If I was king, I'd make it the law that all devices that can be upgraded over the air would have a big button that said "Sod this - put back the version that just fucking worked".

        It would have to be a big button to get all those words on it!

        1. JLV Silver badge

          Re: the internet isn't the problem

          Actually, that is a good question. What about reverting to the immediately preceding release instead? A lot of the Chef-based devops deployment cookbooks I have been looking at are based on delivering a codeline (for the actual application code, not the ancillary services) that gets stored in a directory, along with preceding codelines using a hash/incremental naming scheme. To activate that codeline, you just point "current" to it via symlink and the rest of VM only refers to "current" to run the application.

          Many actual cloud-y VM implementations don't so much do that as drop the VM and rebuild a new one with the new codeline, even though this mechanism is in place. Easier. In IoT land, however, you can't just nuke the device. But, at the cost of doubling storage requirements, you could implement a fallback-to-previous scheme.

          And, I would submit that the internet (culture) IS the problem here. Nest had a presumably stable product until they iterated it once too many times and got to a failed state. But a physical thermostat is not a cloud VM you can easily drop and replace. It requires a different state of mind in terms of management (avoiding bricking), security and user control. Ultimately it means acknowledging that its continued good operation is somewhat more important to the user than a cloud FarmVille or Twitter clone having six sigma uptime.

          On the positive side, at least we are seeing a culture that should encourage fixing bugs in embedded software.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: the internet isn't the problem

      "The "internet" isn't the problem here, it is that Nest automatically rolled out crap software."

      You're right. It being connected to the internet so that a 3rd party can make changes to your system whenever they feel like it is the problem.

  14. Long John Brass Silver badge
    Flame

    DevOps for the win

    Need I say more?

    1. Jimmy2Cows
      Trollface

      Re: DevOps for the win

      Nah, if it builds, ship it.

      Devops is expensive right? Surely we don't need all that added cost when you guys can just write some more unit tests? 100% coverage.

      What do you mean that's impossible? Just test everything.

      What do you mean you can't possibly know all the combinations to test for? Just test everything!

      We'll craft some meaningless and unenforceable T&Cs pushing all responsibility for failure onto the customer. I get a big bonus and promotion for saving the company a shit load of cash, and if something does go tits up I'll just blame the devs for not writing the correct unit tests.

      (Joking of course, but sadly I have worked in places where that was exactly the attitude from on high)

      Seems like what all the other IoT shit does, so why would hipster shiny-shiny Nest be any different?

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: DevOps for the win

      I'd say agile - as in running around the house to get warm...

    3. Peter Simpson 1
      FAIL

      Re: DevOps for the win

      Matt Rogers, "Director of Engineering", needs to learn a bit more about software testing, methinks.

      Seriously, up here in the (now) frozen Northeast, it's a big deal when your heat goes out -- pipes freeze, etc. Yet another reason not to let Google manage the heat in your house, I guess.

      // no ice cube icon?

  15. djack

    Wouldn't touch it with a barge pole

    It and home automation is all well and good, but not when it relies on servers and services from other people. My house is my castlesecurity domain.

    That said, problems are not solely restricted to software. My hardware heating timer control occasionally sticks leaving the house cold.

  16. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Trollface

    Can one experience schadenfreude...

    on feeling a sort of shameful joy on reading this?

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Can one experience schadenfreude...

      Tautology alert!

      1. Ole Juul Silver badge

        Re: Can one experience schadenfreude...

        Indeed, I'm laughing all the way to the wood stove. No batteries, and always works.

  17. Ben Rose
    Megaphone

    Nest already outdated

    Get yourself a Honeywell Evohome - per room control, job done.

    1. xj650t
      Thumb Up

      Re: Nest already outdated

      Nest is fine for small flats or small houses, but EvoHome gives you individual control of the temperature in each room, no heating in bedrooms all day and living room nice and toasty, job done.

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Nest already outdated

        "...no heating in bedrooms all day and living room nice and toasty..."

        Being able to achieve a significant temperature delta from one room to the next is a strong clue that your house's thermal envelope is inadequate and is thus energy inefficient.

        It means that the uninsulated internal partition surfaces are nearly as effective as your outside walls. Consider also that there's often 3x or 6x more internal surfaces as external surfaces. Think about it. A cool or cold bedroom is an indictment.

        Our house is very well insulated. There are no heaters in the upstairs bedrooms. They're at roughly the same temperature as the rest of the house. And some of the internal partitions in our house *are* insulated R12, for sound deadening purposes. But the outside is R32+.

        A good thermal envelope should work towards evening-out the internal temperature gradients.

        'R2000 - The Better Built House', circa 1990. Our Internet bill is now about the same as our annual space heating bill. With electric baseboards, and +20°C.

    2. FlossyThePig

      Re: Nest already outdated

      That's what I'm going to install, not cheap though.

      In the mid '80s the magazine "Electronics Today International" had a project for a central heating controller. The controller had multiple temperature sensors including one outside the house to determine when to turn on the boiler to reach the correct temperature at the desired time.

      "What goes round comes around"

    3. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Nest already outdated

      How can a thermostat control rooms individually, unless you have electronically actuated dampers in the ductwork to send heated/cooled air only to where it is needed?

      Zoned heating/cooling is hardly new, but the expensive part isn't the thermostat and per zone temperature sensors it is the much more complicated and expensive ductwork - especially for a retrofit!

      1. Chloe Cresswell

        Re: Nest already outdated

        Well, you could use servo controlled valves on each radiator. Not everywhere uses air heating.

  18. DLSmith

    While I am not to be considered a Luddite, turning one's home and other valued possessions over to the control of all these IOT's is a BAD idea. It's not a question of if things will go wrong, but when, and how much it will cost you.

    My Hunter thermostat has two AA batteries that last for three to five years at a time, and still works, powered by the AC from the furnace/AC if the battery goes dead.

  19. ma1010 Silver badge
    Joke

    Uses Windows OS?

    "Have you tried turning it off and back on again?" Best if you can do it with an Irish accent.

  20. Nifty

    Mechanical solution

    I have 2 thermostats and 1 mechanical timer to automatically reduce overnight temperature.

    A flick of the daytime 'stat down to 15 degs when we all go out and back to 20 when back in.

    Very reliable so long as you remember the twice per year clock changes.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge

      Re: Mechanical solution

      "...down to 15 degs when we all go out and back to 20 when back in."

      If you can 'Yo-Yo' your house's temperature down and up by 5°C in the time it takes to go out for burgers (an evening out), then that's an indictment of its energy leakage.

      We could pull the main breaker (zero heat), go out for the evening, and come back several hours later to a house perhaps 2°C cooler. If we went out during a crisp (cold) sunny winter day, cutting the power, we might return to find it had risen to +22°C or +23°C from the passive solar gain. Our thermostats are programmed to reduce the nighttime temperature to +18°C, but it takes several hours to get that low (just a 2°C drop).

      Being *able* to Yo-Yo the temperature up and down quickly isn't a good thing. Ideally your house would have a much longer thermal time constant.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My boiler and mercury thermostats (and wood stove) have been running at >99.999% uptime for 30 years. Extremely low-maintenance. I see no reason to "upgrade" to new crap to squeeze out an extra 5-10% efficiency. Gonna keep those babies going as long as possible.

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