back to article Another brick in the (kitchen) wall: Users report frozen 1st generation Google Home Hubs

Users of Google's Nest Hub are reporting problems with the smart screen, with some comparing its functionality to that of a brick. Except bricks have their uses, while a Google Nest Hub suddenly rendered frozen has little purpose beyond that of a paperweight. The Google Home Hub (later called Nest Hub) debuted in 2018. …

  1. chivo243 Silver badge
    Go

    Take my advice

    If you've now got a brick, take this opportunity to stop using them... think of it as Marie Kondo for your digital gear.

  2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    This is why these things are so cheap. You're not buying them, just paying 4-5 years up front rental on a service with a disposable dongle included.

    1. Red Ted
      FAIL

      ...and then you need to buy another.

      Yay, more e-waste landfill in the cause of Google's profits.

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Big Brother

      just paying 4-5 years up front rental

      2018 is some 3.5 years back, and even 4-5 years is pathetically short for a piece of hardware. I've got laptops, access points and other computery hardware in use that's at ten years and beyond, with nary a problem.

      But the replacements will surely be better. At spying.

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Linux

        Re: just paying 4-5 years up front rental

        My current desktop (Linux Mint, thanks for asking!), built this spring, is a Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Gaming 7 board ($150 off ebay). I make it a point to try to repurpose "obsolete" hardware. Of course my old (Core2 Duo) system is sitting on the floor, waiting for me to decide what to do with it...

        Point is: just because it's 5 years (or however) old, doesn't mean it's not fit for some purpose. I just want the option to decide for myself, rather than have $MEGACORP brick my hardware and then say, "Sorry, but you should have expected it because your gear is out of date!"

        Also: a home control tablet is probably the least obsolescent thing you could think of. If it worked when you bought it, the fact that it doesn't support all the newer features shouldn't be a reason to give it the heave-ho, if you're still happy with its functioning.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: just paying 4-5 years up front rental

          For that matter, why does a device of this type ever need such major updates, let alone a complete OS replacement? At most, they may need security updates, but that's all. If it worked when the user bought it, why "fix" it? There's be very little cost to Google to just leave them alone and a big payoff in PR by not having them turn into bricks after some random unrequested and non-essential update. Is it even possible to turn off updates? I assume, being Google, that these devices all talk to the mother-ship constantly and are not stand-alone home networks.

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: just paying 4-5 years up front rental

            For that matter, why does a device of this type ever need such major updates, let alone a complete OS replacement?

            Sadly I've seen far too many devices, often not IoT tat but professional controller cards, that have an embedded OS (frequently some variant of Linux) which turns out to have major security flaws, old OpenSSL, etc. Often the only fix is to upgrade the whole OS, since attempts to update just the flawed component drop you into insolvable dependency hell.

            That's when you discover that the ROM/RAM size which was more than adequate when it was designed 5-8 years ago now won't even suffice to boot the latest kernel, let alone do anything with it. Sometimes you can strip out enough to shoehorn it in, but it's rarely cost-effective.

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: just paying 4-5 years up front rental

              That's when you discover that the ROM/RAM size which was more than adequate when it was designed 5-8 years ago now won't even suffice to boot the latest kernel,

              That's not a new problem either.

              In the run-up to Y2K I was asked to verify a statement by some Cisco rep that the WAN routers we were using at some of the remote sites needed to be replaced, as updating them with an Y2K-resilient firmware couldn't be done due to lack of flash ROM space.

              So I logged in to them to get their current firmware level, hardware specs etcetera, and noticed that they were utterly unaware of the actual date and time. This had never been noticed as being a problem, and the upside of that was that even the one with the highest uptime was still over seven years away from the Dreaded Date. One that had recently rebooted was showing a date a good decade back.

              And as the worst that would happen once they reached *their* Y2K rollover[0] would be either a spontaneous reboot or a hang after which a local PFY would just switch them off and on again, it was decided to leave them as they were.

              [0] if they hadn't been replaced by then, that is.

      2. EricB123 Bronze badge

        Re: just paying 4-5 years up front rental

        "But the replacements will surely be better. At spying."

        Why oh why do people actually pay to give Google and Amazon a bigger pipe into their homes? Is having an Android phone not enough already?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google has decided

    that you MUST upgrade.

    Now good consumer... get on and order a replacement and don't complain if it also stops working in 2-3 years.

    Google must be obeyed. You do understand that don't you? Failure to comply will result in a credit rating that goes down the pan in a flash.

    They are more powerful than any government.

    The above is only slightly tongue in cheek.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Google has decided that you MUST upgrade.

      now go fetch that card / android phone, good boy, good boy, now, here's freebie, there!

    2. ravenviz Silver badge

      Re: Google has decided

      "They are more powerful than any government"

      They are certainly worth more!

  4. Slx

    Meanwhile my 1970s thermostats and light switches are still working perfectly as the e-waste piles up.

    1. Natalie Gritpants Jr Silver badge

      My Z-Wave switches hidden behind the wall switches continue to work, and the switch on the front toggles the lights even if the computer it all runs on is shut down. Updates only happen when I choose. See home-assistant.io for details

      1. J. Cook Silver badge

        ... Or hubitat for a similar solution that does about the same thing.

    2. Richard Jones 1
      WTF?

      Mine are only from the 1990s, but I updated my office light switch from night sleeping to early morning awake with lights on. Then, when the sun rose, I again updated to normal daylight and the lights went off. Judging by the house temperature and the fact that my wife is comfortable, the thermostat is doing all that is needed to maintain comfort. So far both devices, and a number of other similar examples, have provided almost 30 years of round the clock service, so have our fingers. As a result, everyone is happy, except perhaps the dog, who now wants their evening walk at 13:30 hours.

  5. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Devil

    Google's

    Fsckya OS.

  6. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Tumbleweed

    Where are all those eco protesters?

    Nowhere to be seen.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: Tumbleweed

      Those 'Eco protesters' would never have bought this tat in the first place.

      They are there laughing their heads off at the collective stupidity of those who did fall into the trap set by Google/Amazon/Facebook.

      If you did buy one of these bits of spyware are you going to replace it with another one?

      If the answer is yes then why? Care to explain for us... the uneducated as to why we have to kneel down to Google etc and pay money for them to be allowed to spy on us...?

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: Tumbleweed

        I know the people that think these things are cool, and helpful. They can barely use a computer, and Do NOT Touch type, that's why it's to say hey google or whatever... Not IT people in any sense of the word, it's sad that it takes way more education than most people will ever have to use this IoT TAT in a remotely safe fashion...

        1. ChipBoundary

          Re: Tumbleweed

          I work in IT, have for 15 years, and have one of these in every room of my home. None of them are bricked and I use them daily for lots of things. They're fast, convenient, and have truly helped me get a handle on my time management over the years.

          I wake up every morning and listen to a litany of news sources of my choosing, along with immediately getting the weather forecast for the day, my reminders and appointments for the day, and a host of other functions.

          I go to bed each night and it turns my phone and devices on DND, reminds of me of the next days goings-on, asks if I want to set an alarm, and plays soothing white noise until I fall asleep.

          It's perfectly fine if you choose not to use devices like this, but I find them delightful.

          1. Alumoi Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: Tumbleweed

            Nice wife you have there. Russian mail order?

  7. Howard Sway Silver badge

    the slings and arrows of unexpected updates

    Well, someone's certainly making an outrageous fortune selling all this flaky Internet of Brick stuff.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: the slings and arrows of unexpected updates

      Have an upvote for bringing the Bard into the discussion

      Very apt as I'm in the middle of writing a Sonnet. (don't ask why)

  8. Paul Uszak

    Why is Google not liable for damages?

    Isn't it time that legislation was passed to recover damages from the up-daters?

    If you take your car to the garage for an MOT and it falls off the ramp and is damaged, the garage is liable. Same with services delivered to patients at a hospital. Surely Google/IT provider should be liable for damages too. Either fix the code, or if totally bricked replace it. This would force companies to test upgrades rather than have the end users do so.

    I understand that software is a little different to hardware, but is it actually? Is it only different in the consumers' minds because they want us to think that way? Now extrapolate and go forward in time. I foresee all products having embedded software and network connectivity. What if all my beer cans get bricked due to a wonky ASDA.OS up-date and I can't remotely open them? I'd want pre-cooled replacements.

    Perhaps the consumer needs a paradigm shift.

    1. Oddlegs

      Re: Why is Google not liable for damages?

      This would force companies to test upgrades rather than have the end users do so

      More likely companies would decide to simply not bother with upgrades for older hardware. This is already the case with most mobile phone manufacturers.

      1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

        Re: Why is Google not liable for damages?

        "not bother with upgrades for older hardware"

        Also a win for the consumer, who retains a non-bricked and therefore functioning older device. I would argue an insecure working device is better than a secure brick. Because you can choose not to use the working device, but you can't choose to use the brick.

    2. AndrueC Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Why is Google not liable for damages?

      Devil's advocate here :)

      Services are not normally treated the same as goods. A car falling off a ramp is obviously damage that has to be rectified but a hospital treatment that doesn't turn out as hoped for is unlikely to be actionable unless you can prove negligence. And going back to the unfortunate car - if the car doesn't fall off the ramp but is not fixed to the owner's satisfaction that too might not be actionable. If any parts were paid for you can ask for that aspect of the cost to be refunded but the time spent by the mechanic need not be refunded unless you can prove incompetence or gross overcharging.

      Consumer law generally only requires that for services:

      * The charges be reasonable and easy to understand.

      * The work be done to a reasonable standard with a reasonable degree of skill.

      Consumer law does not require that the result of a service be exactly what the customer wanted. The law even allows service providers to fail completely. 'Reasonable' is usually defined as 'what you'd expect from similar service providers'.

      Software updates are a slightly grey area.

      1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

        Re: Why is Google not liable for damages?

        I would suggest a slightly different opinion. An optional upgrade that *you* choose to apply which fails could *possibly* be deemed your problem (I don't agree with that point of view but hear me out ...)

        If however the supplier insists that your device, for continued operation, is automatically updated by that supplier, then I would suggest the full and continued operation of that device is the responsibility of the supplier. In the UK at least, I believe consumer law still decrees that goods should continue to be fit for purpose for a reasonable lifetime - electrical equipment used to be ten years from purchase - otherwise there was a reasonable case to claim recompense from the manufacturer/supplier. I'm not sure whether Brexit has changed that rule but I don't believe so.

        In this case, a device being bricked by the supplier when only three years old (deliberately or otherwise) certainly contravenes the 'reasonable lifetime' clause ...

        I'll have to look into the depths of the consumer regulations but I'm sure suggested reasonable lifetimes are still there.

        1. katrinab Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: Why is Google not liable for damages?

          6 years in England, 5 years in Scotland. EU law says 2 years, so Brexit doesn't change that.

        2. Paul Uszak

          Re: Why is Google not liable for damages?

          With respect, bollocks.

          Go on and try. Go to Curry's and try to take back your three year old TV that's now been bricked. Explain your consumer rights. Draw a diagram. Cause a scene. The Saturday girl will press the panic alarm, the police will be called. Then you might be tasered because that's the most convenient thing to do before lunch break. The police might use chemical weapons on you too. There were 492,000 recorded incidents where a police officer reported the use of force on an individual in England and Wales in the year to March. Argos is probably the same.

          If it bricks, count yourself lucky that it was the device and not you. I'm referencing Jordan Walker-Brown who'll never walk again. Now about that TV...

          1. Martin
            WTF?

            Re: Why is Google not liable for damages?

            What the...?

            Just because the police are sometimes a bit trigger happy, doesn't mean that it's dangerous to try to return your TV to Curry's. What on earth brought on that rant?

            Curry's or Argos might well say that it's no longer their responsibility, once the item is out of guarantee. And you may have to start writing letters to their head office, or the the head office of Samsung/Panasonic/insert other TV manufacturer.

            But you'd certainly start by politely trying to return your TV to Curry's or Argos. And I've never heard of anyone being tasered for politely but firmly trying to return their TV.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Why is Google not liable for damages?

            You know 'Use of Force' also includes applying handcuffs, and requires a UoF form to be completed?

            Calm down.

          3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Why is Google not liable for damages?

            "With respect, bollocks."

            Bollocks! (No respect given)

            Returning goods to the seller for a full or partial refund, depending on the fault and age of the item, is exactly how consumer protection law works in the UK. I had an almost 2 year Espresso machine replace at Currys just a few months ago, no questions asked. Brother In Law had a failed 4 year old TV replaced last year.

            Most people don't seem to bother though, especially for smaller items. I always pay be card, so they just look up the transaction and refund on the spot. I've used my consumer rights a number of times and never had an issue with a refund, replacement or repair.

        3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Why is Google not liable for damages?

          "I'm not sure whether Brexit has changed that rule but I don't believe so."

          It hasn't. The UK was behind the EU upgrading it's consumer protections and went further than most EU countries in implementing it. Hopefully that will remain in place.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Why is Google not liable for damages?

        "unlikely to be actionable unless you can prove negligence."

        Brtcking all the devices on a certain level of firmware sounds like negligence. Clearly they didn't test it on that version before sending out the updates. Bricking devices with bad updates is a known issue across the industry and should be taken into account.

        There's far too much software and devices out there configured by default to auto-update and even set so can't refuse updates without taking action many users wouldn't know how to and it's obvious that after decades of buggy software and firmware and brickings, destruction of peoples data, removing functions the user paid for, that it's time "something must be done" to protect users from the negligence and cavalier attitudes of the manufactures. It's time their contracts and Ts&Cs were properly challenged in a court of law and not "settled out of court", allowing them to continue their poor and shoddy practices.

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Why is Google not liable for damages?

          Brtcking all the devices on a certain level of firmware sounds like negligence. Clearly they didn't test it on that version before sending out the updates. Bricking devices with bad updates is a known issue across the industry and should be taken into account.

          Oh I agree I just don't think the current framework of consumer law covers it. If it's 'a known issue across the industry' then it might be dismissed as being accepted as part of the normal purchasing experience.

          At the heart of the problem is whether you bought the hardware or the software and usually you've only bought the hardware. You get a license to use the software. Being a really naughty devil's advocate I could point out that the hardware hasn't changed. It is faithfully following the instructions given to it. The device can only be defective if it wasn't bricked because that would mean it wasn't responding to the software as it was expected to :)

        2. AndrueC Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: Why is Google not liable for damages?

          There's far too much software and devices out there configured by default to auto-update and even set so can't refuse updates without taking action many users wouldn't know how to and it's obvious that after decades of buggy software and firmware and brickings, destruction of peoples data, removing functions the user paid for, that it's time "something must be done" to protect users from the negligence and cavalier attitudes of the manufactures. It's time their contracts and Ts&Cs were properly challenged in a court of law and not "settled out of court", allowing them to continue their poor and shoddy practices.

          It's a nice idea and I'd love that to happen. However I think we also have to consider the impact that would have on the price of stuff and also the pace of innovation. There is a shortage of software developers - always has been, always will be - so making consumer kit more reliable and longer lasting is going to increase development life cycles significantly.

          Can you really see a sweat shop upping their game when working on the software for the next bit of consumer tat to appear? You might end up in a situation where there is an almost niche market of expensive quality kit that evolves only slowly and the rest is in a innovation race to the bottom.

  9. NXM

    Items that fail to work...

    ... after such a short time are subject to the consumer rights act 2015 and the owner can insist the retailer repairs or replaces it. Especially if they've bricked it with an update.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Items that fail to work...

      It would depend on the jurisdiction. Some have consumer protection law, some don't.

      1. NXM

        Re: Items that fail to work...

        Good point, should've mentioned it only applies in Blighty though the EU has similar laws.

    2. AndrueC Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Items that fail to work...

      Depends on the timescale. In the UK (and EU) It's only an automatic repair/refund/replace during the first six months. And even then after a couple of weeks or so the law says that repair is all they really need to do.

      After six months it's up to the owner to prove that the item was defective when originally purchased. In most cases retailers will waive this requirement because it's less hassle and fosters good will with the customer.

      Under EU/UK law the consumer also has several years during which to make a claim. However this is not some kind of extended guarantee. It's more like a 'statute of limitation'. You can indeed lodge a claim against a retailer if your five year-old washing machine has broken down. But whether you'll actually get any redress is another matter. Five years is a bit poor for a washing machine but the age will be taken into consideration in the judgement so you might only get half the price of a new machine. And that's assuming you can find an engineer to write a report saying why the unit was defective when you bought it.

      It's a pretty good system but it's not a panacea for all domestic purchase issues.

      But I'm not actually sure if any of this applies to a software update gone wrong. For one thing consumer law says your contract is with the retailer but can you really claim against Currys if a Microsoft update bricks your laptop? and given that UK/EU consumer law talks about defects at time of purchase does a software update count at all?

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Megaphone

        Re: Items that fail to work...

        If an update bricks your device, the limitation period starts from the time the update was delivered.

    3. alain williams Silver badge

      Re: Items that fail to work...

      Just what I was about to say.

      The big problem will be getting it to stick. Google will just ignore informal claims that people make. Taking it to the small claims court might work but Google know that most people will just give up as it is a lot of bother for not a lot of money.

      The best thing that people can do is to talk loudly on facebook/... about the problems.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Items that fail to work...

        "Taking it to the small claims court might work but Google know that most people will just give up as it is a lot of bother for not a lot of money."

        Actually, it's very little bother. And since Google or their legal reps are unlikely to turn up, judgement in your favour is highly likely. At least the first few 100 claims will be. Then Google will start trying to enforce their T&Cs which probably state that all claims must be made in the jurisdiction of Kalamazoo or East Texas or something, at which point, UK courts will tell Google that's an unenforceable contract term and start the erosion of the T&Cs.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Items that fail to work...

      yes, you can insist the retailre repairs or replaces it, but 99.999999999% won't bother, because it's a f... tedious process and the retailers have implemented advanced fuckoff techniques to make sure the odds of your success are even higher. They're also helped by the fact that this junkware costs little. I mean, how many years of (usually) pointless correspondence are you prepared to endure to MAYBE get your 50 quid back?

  10. getHandle

    Google

    Putting the speaker in "smart speaker"...

  11. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    Google Chromecast

    I bought one of the early Google Chromecasts. It was cheap, and I just wanted to use it to show American Football games from the NFL app. It was also an interesting experiment into Google and internet-o'-stuff.

    For example, Amazon are pretty platform agnostic. But blocked Chromecast for Amazon Prime Video. however there was an extension you could get on desktop versions of Chrome that would allow you to share the screen with a Chromecast anyway, but that meant having the PC on to watch telly.

    Then one day it wouldn't work. Turned out that Google had nuked the Chromecast app on my iPad, and I now had to download the Google Home app, so I could also use all their other IoT kit. They didn't bother telling me this, the Chromecast App still apparently worked - it's just you couldn't get anything to launch - but there were no error messages, nor had they bothered to send me an email to say they were killing their app.

    It was only researching it on the internet that I discovered they were now using a new app, so once that was downloaded and everything set up again from scratch it worked. Then a year later it just stopped working, I think because it's old and unsupported, but it's hard to find out because again, no error messages. And no reason for it stop working either - given that they could have just kept the old infrastructure going. It's not like Google lack the odd spare server - or are short of software engineers to keep patching legacy kit.

    Anyway the lesson I've learned is that Google customer service is shit, their hardware gets pisspoor support, their attitude sucks and they don't give a fuck. Reinforced by reading about what they've done to Nest on here.

  12. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Revolv

    I learned by what they did to Revolv.

    My local home improvement stores have HUGE Nest sales displays, with people to harass you about it. I do so enjoy telling the Revolv story.

  13. xyz123

    Deliberately bricked by Google - UK law means you can sue as they've taken away the device's functionality via a software update to get you to buy the latest version

  14. Archivist

    It's funny

    I have bought propriety solutions because they seemingly required less effort to commission and (hopefully) keep working.

    Now I think that that a little effort with IFTT and generic hardware would have been a better solution for the long term.

  15. ChipBoundary

    A bunch of lawyers here....

    They didn't intentionally brick your device. In fact, I have one in every room of my home, on the latest updates, and they all work fine. Any lawsuit you bring, or any issue you bring up with any world government will immediately toss this out. Your device could have been bricked for a number of unpreventable reasons.

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: A bunch of lawyers here....

      "They confirmed that the recent OS update has bricked hub devices with certain firmware revisions. They've been flooded with similar calls from other customers with this exact same problem."

      Even Google doesn't agree with your argument.

      1. SCP

        Re: A bunch of lawyers here....

        So where is the declaration of intent there?

        I am no fan of Google - and am convinced my old Nexus 7 was bricked by an automated update - but it does no favours to make obviously incorrect claims. :-(

  16. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I fear the future we are heading towards 'smart homes' where lights, climate control, entertainment media etc are all control by an Google, Amazon or Apple device. And it will be normalised for people to moan about sitting in the cold and dark because their heating or lights aren't working because an update bricked their device and people decided it wasn't worth having manual controls for these things any more.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Or worse. Brazil: the movie.

  17. aerogems Silver badge

    However much El Reg pays their headline writer, it's not nearly enough. Sometimes I read articles like this one just because of the amusement I get from the headline.

  18. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Regression testing?

    Seems like it'd be good to regression test -- have a virtual device in qemu with each old firmware, to make suire (at a minimum) that after installing latest firmware the device can boot enough to stick working firmware on (obviously it'd be better if it actually booted to normal operation.)

  19. ecofeco Silver badge

    So... (you knows what's coming)

    How's that cloud thing workin' for ya?

    And just how damn stupid do you have to be to trust total control of your house to some corporate third party that you have no control over and puts all your information on its servers?

  20. Winkypop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Riiiiiiiiiight

    - It’s called “Nest”

    - It controls parts of your life

    - You have to pay for it

    - It’s from an advertisement company

    - It listens in and knows your habits/purchases

    Hmmmmm, sounds utterly dystopian.

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