back to article You've just spent $400 on a baby monitor. Now you need a subscription

Welcome to the Internet of Stings, an occasional series in which we report on connected devices that are abruptly bricked or rendered considerably more costly due to the actions of their vendors. Today's tale concerns the Miku Baby Monitor, a $400 device aimed at parents who want to check up on their precious poppet from the …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Mushroom

    "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

    Bait-and-switch, again.

    I understand that Miku got bought out by some new company who decided it had the right to make the change.

    It doesn't. It shouldn't have. You buy a company, you buy its obligations. You don't like its obligations ? Don't buy the company.

    This is why I will never have a "smart" house. The only thing that is smart is the vendor fees to keep everything working.

    I can use manual switches. Go to hell.

    1. johnfbw

      Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

      A Smart House is fine, its trusting a company to run it is the problem. If you have your own server (or NAS) there are plenty of devices that work with ZigBee or zwave that don't require any call home to manufacturer. Often these devices are the same price and much more customisable

      I'm sure there is a genuine market for a non-cloudy smart home (or one that runs on your own purchased cloud and is just managed by an external party)

      1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

        True - but check your NAS's specs before you head off to buy cameras. Most have limitations on the number of cameras you can attach before having to pay them more money. For baby monitoring this probably wouldn't be a problem cos one or two cameras would suffice - but the basic software that comes with the NAS sometimes has limitations on where the videos can be shown and how long they can be saved for and other annoyanceware. Unlocking these limitations will require the purchase of additional "plans".

      2. 43300 Silver badge

        Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

        Maybe, but much of the 'smart' functionality is unnecessary. Unless a 'smart' washing machine can empty the laundry basket, separate light and dark colours (and red things, of course) then load itself, there isn't much point. Personally, I've never found it difficult to turn the dial to '40 degree wash' and press start, anyway. Ditto heating (those magical things called timers have existed on central heating systems and electric radiators for many years).

        And in-home spying devices (i.e. anything with a camera and/or microphone) are definitely out. Smartphones and laptops are unavoidable, but they are treated with appropriate caution.

        1. johnfbw

          Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

          I do have a 'smart' washing machine and it does have two advantages - 1. I can set it to finish when I get home (if I don't know when I'm getting home) 2. It tells me when a load has finished if I'm not the person who loaded it (it's not like I patrol the room to monitor). both stop getting mouldy sheets.

          Smart heating is useful in all but the smallest houses. There are some rooms I don't use at certain times. Why heat a bedroom during the day? Why heat the lounge in the morning if going to work. These schedules change far too much for timers (which are often daily/weekly v weekend and the overrides usually need to be manually controlled). Then of course I always forget to switch to holiday mode. A lot of it comes to the ability to centrally control the finer points without wandering around the house.

          Properly managed you can significantly reduce your heating bill

          ...........As a complete co-incidence I actually got a message on my phone when I wrote point 2. Now I get to find out what the girlfriend set washing and then went to sleep.

          1. herman

            Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

            Smart heating is only useful if your home insulation is so bad that switching it off in some rooms will make a difference.

            1. Martin

              Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

              Or in other words - more-or-less any house over, say, fifty years old. Our hundred year old house has brick walls with no cavity. Insulation is a problem...

            2. Catkin Silver badge

              Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

              That depends on how pokey your home is. The other aspect to smart thermostats that's more universal is temperature target times. With a little learning, the system can work out how long to turn the heating on for in order to hit a particular target at a particular time, based on the current internal and external temperature. The alternative is needlessly running the heating earlier (when people are out or under a warm duvet) or having a temporarily cold home.

              This need will become greater as we move to more efficient heating systems with longer lag times and lower peak powers and yesterday's minuscule gain becomes tomorrow's next significant possible saving.

          2. Potemkine! Silver badge

            Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

            Why heat the lounge in the morning if going to work.

            To keep the thermal inertia of the room, especially the walls. It can be most costly to warm it up again rather than keeping the temperature at a constant level.

            1. Catkin Silver badge

              Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

              That's a bit of a myth that only might apply if you have a heating system with a much greater efficiency at a lower power level or if your energy is much cheaper at a particular time of day. Energy loss is proportional to the temperature differential.

              1. Potemkine! Silver badge

                Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

                Hmm, no, it depends also of the material properties of the environment like volumetric heat capacity or emissivity.

                The thermal flux by radiation is proportional at the temperature differential at the power 4.

                The thermal flux by conductivity is low because air is a thermal insulator

                However, the thermal flux by convection can be high if the difference of temperature in the room is important, for instance if the floor is hotter because of an heated room below.

                What should be calculated is the thermal power to inject to get back at a higher temperature compared to the compensation of the thermal flux getting out of the room at a certain temperature. Add to this that a colder room will pump the heat from other places, because of the temperature differential you mentioned

                1. Catkin Silver badge

                  Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

                  Sure, there's layers of complexity to thermodynamics but all those factors make it even more economical, in general, to only heat when needed. Even if the cold room is causing other (occupied) rooms to lose heat, that only becomes an issue if the peak heating power is the limiting factor. Otherwise, you're over compartmentalising the problem because you still have to pay to heat the entire property.

      3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

        A Smart House is fine

        I wouldn't go that far. Even if you build all the components yourself, you're still increasing complexity and attack surface, and adding new failure modes.

        Add features, add risk. That's how the world works. Maybe you're happy with the tradeoff; maybe you're not. Personally, I'd have so little return from a "smart home" (negative return, really, since I find the whole concept annoying) that it'd never be worth it to me.

        1. JamesMcP

          Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

          Zwave and Zigbee are not IP based. Their attack surface is minimal as you have to be within 100ft (or less) of the home to attack it. And then you need a dev kit or software defined radio.

          I have 80 Z devices and only the main controller has an IP address.

    2. b0llchit Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

      ...I will never have a "smart" house.

      I have a smart house. The -I- will flip switches on a very smart basis and the -I- also has a house. But, as a very smart -I-, it is always the -I- who gets to be smart, not the house and certainly no subscriptions so others may monetize my house.

    3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

      This is why I will never have a "smart" house

      I keep being asked by my energy provider when I'd like my 'Smart' meter fitted. They seem genuinely shocked when I reply "I'll only ever have one of those fitted if it becomes mandatory".

      There's absolutely no benefit to me for fitting it ("but you can monitor your energy use and turn off devices when not needed" they wail - I already do that since the PV management [1] software measures incoming energy usage and, if a device is on, it's because it *needs* to be on).

      They are an insecure mess that only benefit the provider.

      [1] We have an old-style rotary electricity meter - as fitted in 1997. It's quite satisfying in the summer to watch it spin backwards as the PV system dumps power back into the grid. A unit costs us 32p at the moment but the best feed-in tarrif that I could find only offers 16p/unit. So it's more beneficial for use to retain the old style meter than get a smart meter with an export tariff.

      1. 43300 Silver badge

        Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

        "I keep being asked by my energy provider when I'd like my 'Smart' meter fitted. They seem genuinely shocked when I reply "I'll only ever have one of those fitted if it becomes mandatory"."

        I took that approach, but unfortunately when I moved into the current flat it already had one.

        Last month it didn't send in its readings and they asked me to manually read it. Nope - if it was a non-smart one (as in all previous flats) I was quite happy to send in a reading once a month, but if their smartshit misbehaves they can deal with it!

        1. AVR

          Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

          I'd be surprised if the energy provider is disadvantaged by that. They can probably assume values when they don't have actual data, and those assumptions will be made to cover any likely cost.

          1. 43300 Silver badge

            Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

            The estimate was clearly wrong - I pay the exact billed amount every month, and their estimate for when the meter didn't communicate was a fair way below the amount any month has been since I've lived here, so whatever system they are using to calculate it isn't very accurate!

            1. fromxyzzy

              Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

              In my experience from the years before smart meters, they're just going to charge you the difference when they get access to the meter again.

              About 15 years ago that left me with a $1000 power bill one month because they hadn't had access to the meter for 20 years and the landlord finally let them in (I had no access either). Which meant a hasty move and never putting my name on the power bill again for as long as I lived in the area.

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

              "so whatever system they are using to calculate it isn't very accurate!"

              Wow! In my experience, whenever they get around to re-assessing my monthly payment, without fail the automated systems over-estimate my usage by a significant margin. Every single time I phone up and suggest the future payments are too high, the person on the phone has a look, agrees and puts it back down to something close to the current payments.

              I see from todays news that collectively, the energy supply companies are sitting on over £8B of customers over-payments and some of them, despite the law, are seeming quite reluctant to pay the customers their own money back on request. I've not personally had that issue, but with that amount of free money sitting in energy companies banks, there's probably a fair bit of interest they are making on it too.

              1. 43300 Silver badge

                Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

                "Wow! In my experience, whenever they get around to re-assessing my monthly payment, without fail the automated systems over-estimate my usage by a significant margin."

                Yeah, that's always previously been my experience too, hence I was surprised!

                As the previous poster days, I've no doubt they will add the difference onto the next bill when they get an actual reading from the meter.

              2. veti Silver badge

                Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

                They are supposed to over estimate "slightly", which means "up to about 15%". Also to read something like 90% of their meters in any 2 month period, and 100% (barring outliers which need to be individually managed and documented) at a longer cycle, probably in the ballpark of 14 months.

                Over-estimation is good for the supplier (reduces credit risk) and, arguably, good for poorer customers (because when they get a wash up bill, it'll be a pleasant surprise not a nasty one).

                1. 43300 Silver badge

                  Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

                  "arguably, good for poorer customers (because when they get a wash up bill, it'll be a pleasant surprise not a nasty one)."

                  This big question here is whether they can get the over-payment back, or whether the supplier does everything they can to hold onto it!

                  1. veti Silver badge

                    Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

                    The over payment is credit on their account, good for free electricity until it's used up.

                    If you really want a cash refund, I think most retailers will give you one. In the worst case, unless you're moving out, they might try to charge a handling fee for giving it, but you can try challenging that, it might work. But it's rare for the account to be more than a few dollars in credit, anyway.

                    1. that one in the corner Silver badge

                      Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

                      > But it's rare for the account to be more than a few dollars in credit, anyway.

                      Radio 4 over the weekend: many people have a hundred or more quid credit at the energy supplier (especially at this time of year, before the winter chills set in).

                      One chap, over £1500 (IIRC) in credit (they did not say how large or what type of property) wanted to reduce that by a few hundred and was getting the run around.

                      1. HT7777

                        Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

                        Having been a debt advisor for ten years the method I use is to divide my annual usage by 12 and set up a standing order for that amount. In practice I round it up a bit.

                        If the bill is larger than my credit (it never has been) it would only require a small payment to clear it. Currently I'm in credit by £307 but with the winter bills due this may tide me over till the heating is switched off in late April.

                        Standing orders have the significant advantage that you are in full control rather than let some useless corparation have carte blanche to take money from your account via a direct debit. Experience as a debt adviser taught me that direct debits are not to be trusted.

              3. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

                without fail the automated systems over-estimate my usage

                There's no "your cash in their deposit account" advantage to them underestimating your usage. See the recent articles around energy suppliers in the UK holding an estimated (irony) £8bn in customer funds.

            3. veti Silver badge

              Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

              The estimate will be seasonally weighted, and may also be affected by the previous occupant of the house if you've only recently moved in and didn't change supplier when you did.

              It will also make assumptions about what appliances you have, which may not be valid if you haven't told them and haven't been a customer very long.

              1. 43300 Silver badge

                Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

                Been there 18 months or so and they've had readings for every month up until now from the smart meter, so they certainly have enough data to be able to estimate fairly accurate.

      2. Trubbs

        Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

        *I keep being asked by my energy provider when I'd like my 'Smart' meter fitted. They seem genuinely shocked when I reply "I'll only ever have one of those fitted if it becomes mandatory"."

        Me too all the way. My only concern is the planned removal of the radio signal that tells my meter when economy 7 tariff applies. That may come before smart meters are mandatory...

      3. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

        > We have an old-style rotary electricity meter ... watch it spin backwards

        These are known as actual cloud energy storage. The best meters out there.

        1. Not Yb Bronze badge

          Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

          I once had an argument with someone who claimed bitcoin was a useful type of "cloud energy storage".

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

        I had a rotary meter that started spinning backwards when our PV system went online. Our electricity supplier wouldn’t accept the next reading as it was less than the previous one and used their estimates for our usage (based on history). It took almost a year to get them to install a smart meter. It was tempting to leave the old meter in place and make up readings that were a slight increase each time - but that would have been fraud and would eventually have been discovered. That would have been expensive. The smart meter doesn’t give a fortune on export but it’s honest (and the savings on actual use will pay off the PV cost in under 10 years).

        1. vtcodger Silver badge

          Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

          Our electricity supplier wouldn’t accept the next reading as it was less than the previous one and used their estimates for our usage (based on history).

          You are perhaps fortunate. Back in the 1960s when digital computers first started being used in the US to process meter readings, the software was likely to assume that meter readings less than the previous (due to error by the meter reader) were due to wrap around of the 5 digit readout space and to present the consumer with a bill for around 100,000 kwhr of usage. And yes, this actually happened from time to time ... think in terms of a rental or vacation cottage that is unoccupied for a month and a meter reader who had trouble interpolating the alternating backward reading dials

          1. veti Silver badge

            Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

            Happens to this day. Nowadays of course we have exception checking that spots that kind of thing, but there's always a few per month that still need manual correction.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

          We had similar, recently we bought a air fryer and so our gas consumption went down to more or less zero.

          Phone call from energy company accusing us of sending in false readings....

          1. Lurko

            Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

            "Phone call from energy company accusing us of sending in false readings...."

            Play them along carefully until they're explicit in the accusation (if they haven't already), and then raise a complaint. They'll issue at best the printed equivalent of mumbled and insincere apology, or a poxy ten quid bill credit, and then you take it to the Energy Ombudsman, demanding modest financial redress for their accusation of fraud - £100, £150 something like that. Money in the bank.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

              Important note: Don't do this if you're actually attempting to defraud the gas company with false readings.

      5. robinsonb5

        Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

        My provider annoyed me last week by sending an email titled "An essential smart meter install", inviting me to book an appointment - very carefully worded to imply that it's compulsory without actually saying so.

        This was followed a few days later by a phone call, which terminated abruptly when I politely said "no thank you".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

          My meter's so old it's probably out of certification. But as long as is legally possible I'll hold off having a smart meter. Why, you ask. Well because I've worked in the strategy teams of two VERY well known UK energy suppliers, and I know for a fact that smart meters are a bit like HS2, a shameful and wildly expensive con sprung on the UK populace by the imbeciles of Westminster.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

            Being someone who has a smart meter (compulsory in order to have PV) they are simply all about time of use tariffs i.e. being able to charge you more.

            The grid has its system profile for usage - Drax dashboard etc will show you the general daily profile for the UK - and those with the old style meters have to be billed using a flat rate by necessity giving the supplier the peak usage problem where they can get hammered on price for unexpected surges.

            However, if you can get people onto smart meters you can hammer the crap out of them financially during the peak use periods in order to profit whilst not actually building the infrastructure to really cope with said usage or running the gauntlet yourself, becoming a low risk ticket clipping middle man in the energy supply system.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

          "An essential smart meter install"...very carefully worded to imply that it's compulsory without actually saying so.

          I think they are under pressure from Government to deploy them in customers homes and get fined for not meeting targets, so despite them not being compulsory for the end users, they are effectively compulsory from the point of view of the energy suppliers, putting them in an awkward position of having to be lying bastards[*] to meet some random Government target.

          And yes, I've had almost the identical experience about once per year for the last few years, including the phone call ending fairly abruptly when I say no thank you :-)

          * well, more so than usual, anyway :-)

      6. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

        The argument for electricity smart meters is purely bullshit. Anyone who wants or needs to reduce their usage will already have decided to do so. And a smart meter won't change that if they haven't. A campaign to help people insulate their homes and use energy efficiently would be far more effective. But that won't make as much money for investors.

        1. Dimmer Bronze badge

          Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

          For me the smart meter, or my utils version of has been beneficial. For the most part.

          Good:

          They give me detailed charts incremented by the hour for the last 2 years of my usage.

          They know when power is out and for who.

          Bad:

          They know when the power is out so they only allow u to talk to an automated system that informs you it is out. There is no emergency number.

          We had to call the emergency services when a tree downed a hot line on a major highway and there was no way to communicate to them the urgency of the situation.

          Oh, and watch out for the pleading and bribes the smart thermostat vendors throw at you. If you fall for it you will be locked out of your thermostat when it gets really cold or hot. You only own what you control.

          1. Not Yb Bronze badge

            Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

            Counterpoint to the "no emergency line" is...

            The correct response to a downed power line on a major highway IS to call emergency services first. They've got more direct access to (and experience dealing with) the electric lines, and can stop traffic while also getting the electric repair guys on site in a hurry if needed.

          2. ITMA Silver badge

            Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

            Things tend to be rather better regarding grid outages here in the UK.

            Where I live if the power goes out I look at the UK Power Networks website (on my phone via mobile data) and, more often than not, they already know of the issue from their own infrastructure monitoring equipment.

            If not I can just give them a call. I can even register to receive SMS updates on my mobile, which are pretty efficient and comprehensive, for that specific incident.

        2. Headley_Grange Silver badge

          Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

          A good argument for smart meters is demand pricing and only recently some power companies have been offering cheap or even free electricity to consumers to get them out of the peak demand times and run their washing machines and tumble dryers overnight.

          A good argument for not getting a smart meter is demand pricing with the likelihood that in the absence of a powerful regulator the power companies will find way to raise electricity prices dramatically just when people have little choice but to turn the heating on.

          Which of the arguments you prefer depends how much of a cynic you are.

          I haven't got a smart meter, and I've no intention of ever getting one.

          1. ITMA Silver badge

            Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

            Don't forget the ability to remotely cut customers off from the electricity supply without having to bother with such things as getting a warrant to gain entry to your home.

            1. I could be a dog really Bronze badge

              Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

              UK specific.

              Well technically they still need the warrant - they just don't need to send someone round.

              In practice, have a quick search - in one case, a judge rubber stamped a few hundred warrant requests (in bulk) via a phone hearing that lasted just a couple of minutes (presumably long enough for some misinformed underling to state that "yes we've gone through all the alternatives and this is the last resort" even though they actually hadn't. Another quick search will bring up the related fact that disconnects have rocketed in number since the remote facility came along with "smart" meters.

          2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

            Re: some power companies have been offering cheap or even free electricity to consumers

            Sounds like the opening salvo of another bait'n'switch.

            Get the gullible suckers onto smart meters now. Plan to jump immediately to demand surge pricing once the last holdouts have been forced to switch (not mandatory yet, but you can bet your arse it's being lobbied for). With £8Bn of customer overpayments sitting in their collective accounts, energy companies can afford to play the long game.

      7. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

        Unfortunately in some places smart meters are the price of getting PV in the first place.

      8. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "I'll only ever have one of those fitted if it becomes mandatory".

        no, you'll have one when they've hiked up your 'non-smart' rate to such a point that you'll be forced to accept their meter. And no, I'm not gloating, we're in the same boat.

      9. JulieM Silver badge

        Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

        My primary objection to having a Smart Meter fitted is the loss of payment options.

        Right now, I can top up my Actaris key meter at any PayPoint outlet; such as my local newsagent, which is open until 21:00 every night, the 24-hour petrol station a little further away, or various shops in town.

        But my electricity supplier told me Smart Meters can only be topped up at a Post Office. The nearest of which is about 25 minutes from my workplace (the one near my home closed down some years ago and is now a florist's shop, after a long spell as a barber's shop), opens after I start work and closes before I finish.

        Seeing as I get an hour for lunch and the Post Office often has queues longer than ten minutes, a smart meter would leave me effectively unable to pay for my electricity.

        At least the supplier agreed with me that under my circumstances, a Smart Meter would not be an improvement.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

      > It doesn't.

      But do we know what did the fine print actually say on the registration page? The old "click here to agree to ten sides of Ts &Cs"! I'm willing to bet it never actually promised to be free at all, let alone "for the useful lifetime of the device" (whatever they decide that might mean), let alone forever.

      "You say you haven't been asked to pay a subscription so far? Hmm, according to our records, you have: you ticked that box! Yes, it was very affordable at the start, wasn't it?"

      > It shouldn't have.

      Welcome to Real Life, as defined by the companies, not the consumers.

      > This is why I will never have a "smart" house. The only thing that is smart is the vendor fees to keep everything working.

      Now, that is a sensible approach to take: keep away from the buggers, don't give them any extra opportunities to bamboozle us.

    5. ChoHag Silver badge

      Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

      The house always wins.

    6. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

      "This is why I will never have a "smart" house. The only thing that is smart is the vendor fees to keep everything working."

      I think it was Robert Llewelyn that did a show featuring a "smart home" with all of the gadgets and they admitted that it cost more for all of the stuff than that stuff would ever save in energy costs. This was assuming the companies, often startups, would be around to supply parts and service. Most of those companies disappear without a trace and don't supply servicing docs for their products.

      I'm fine with manual switches. I also have some X10 remote stuff since it's easier than wiring more switches for things and I can also remotely control my outside lighting from several places around the house. I also like that if I were to hear an intruder, I could switch on a light behind them rather one near me giving my location away.

      I wasn't raised in a quiet house. My parents figured a tired child is going to sleep no matter what and tiptoeing around when I was asleep was a bad thing to do so my crib was out where my mom could keep an eye on me and just got on with householdy things while I napped. Baby monitors weren't a thing way back in 50 BCE so it wasn't an option for my parents. What worked for them will still likely work for today's parents if they just did a bit of thinking for themselves.

      1. C R Mudgeon Bronze badge

        Lighting and intruders

        "I also like that if I were to hear an intruder, I could switch on a light behind them rather one near me giving my location away."

        Which, unless the light is *directly* behind him, will light you up perfectly from the intruder's POV, while leaving him in outline from yours -- not to mention, it'll be you, not he, who will be blinded by the sudden glare (since if he's facing you, he'll be facing away from the light).

        I've never been in such a situation, thank the gods, but I've seen the same optical effect many times at large festival bonfires. The people a little further from the fire than I am are clearly visible, but those closer in are only silhouettes. (It's only those quite a bit further out that inverse-square fade puts into dimness.). Same thing at the occasional gig where they're using "blinders" -- bright lights aimed out into the audience.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Lighting and intruders

          "Which, unless the light is *directly* behind him, will light you up perfectly from the intruder's POV, while leaving him in outline from yours "

          My household lighting isn't pointed across the rooms so I wouldn't be getting a face full of light. My goal would be to get the intruder to turn towards the light that's just been switched on and away from me which gives me time. The same goes for outside lighting. Normally, the switch for an outside light would be next to an adjacent door. If I switch on the work lights I have on the garage for use on winter evenings while I can look out from a distant window, I don't give away my location. Hopefully, the trespasser gets nervous and takes off running. If they don't, I can play the remote for a disco strobe effect which should be all sorts of fun. Hmmmm. I have a party strobe that's been sitting in a box for ages..........

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Lighting and intruders

            Me, I have dawgs. Self adjusting, built-in alarm, see in the dark, fast, work in power failures, always armed, easily directed, unhackable, can't be subverted ...

            1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

              Re: Lighting and intruders

              You forgot superior hearing...

              > can't be subverted

              Ah, that depends. I hope YOUR dogs are that way.

    7. Piro Silver badge

      Re: "the sudden imposition of subscription fees"

      There's a difference between some online connected wireless gimmick gear and something like KNX, hard wired and local.

  2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Someone else's computer

    Anything that has an app that connects somewhere other than your own computer and sold for one off fee is not sustainable.

    They can ride it as a Ponzi scheme - by finding new customers to pay for the servers, but once customers pile up, problems start. Fees may no longer cover the usage of bandwidth and compute and naturally there is only one way to get out of this - cull the customer base and only keep those who want to pay subscription.

    To be fair - there should be regulation, where those companies would need to open up the API specification for their products and make it easy to point them at your local server when switcheroo inevitably happens.

    When you choose subscription you should also be able to shop around for cheaper providers of the same service.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Someone else's computer

      Alternatively there should be regulation to require sufficient money from the original purchases to be put into a trust to invest to finance continual running of the service. If there's money available to run the service it will be worth somebody's taking on the job.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Someone else's computer

        .. and an escrow scheme to make the API or comms structure public if the company goes bust (or it could also be used as a fine) so you don't end up with something that turns into e-waste.

      2. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Someone else's computer

        So say goodbye to any hobbyists writing some useful app, because they won't be willing to bother with all that. Some useful apps happen because someone wrote something for his own use, decided it could benefit others, so he polished it up enough that it can be sold and maybe he makes a little money on the side for his trouble.

        Even if you have this requirement, that doesn't stop version new point zero of the app from changing to a subscription model. Fine, you say, I'll just keep running the old one. What happens if you update the OS on your phone and that old version of the app stops working? You gonna downgrade and stay on an obsolete (and possibly insecure) OS because of one app? Even if you do, what if the "update the OS" was "you bought a new phone".

        Sure you can write punitive regulations saying money has to be put into a trust to keep running the service (and it isn't just about money...WHO is going to run it, how do you know that's enough money, how long is "continual" and so on) and add some even more heavy handed regulations requiring them to support updating older versions so they run properly on newer versions of the OS to people can stay on an older version if they want because of changes in the payments required, feature changes, bugs introduced or bug you relied upon being fixed.

        This is not the way to get a vibrant developer market.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Someone else's computer

          You seem to be assuming that a "smart" house of any kind must be controllable remotely by a smartphone while out and about. For many, many people, that simply is not an essential use case. For some it's actually undesirable. If the system running your house is "smart", why do you need to be able to control it? It should be clever enough to work out what you want based on normal activities, whether you are at home or not, how many people are present and in which rooms. There should be no need for remote control except in rare circumstances and especially no need for control by some company hosting a back-end.

          1. DS999 Silver badge

            Re: Someone else's computer

            This has nothing to do with whether it is remotely controllable. If you buy a smart light bulb, and there's an app that lets you turn it on and off, whether that is accomplished via your local wifi or whether it goes out through the internet to the cloud and back makes no difference.

            If the app writer decides to charge 99 cents a month, you have three choices. Pay up, replace the light bulb, or continue using an old version of the app that doesn't have that charge until it eventually stops working due to OS updates on your phone.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Someone else's computer

              > So say goodbye to any hobbyists writing some useful app ... so he polished it up enough that it can be sold and maybe he makes a little money on the side for his trouble

              > . If you buy a smart light bulb, and there's an app that lets you turn it on and off,

              Sorry, which is it? Are you arguing about a hobbyist writing an app or a manufacturer of smart lightbulbs writing an app?

              Those are two very, very different situations, yet you only seem to have the one basic argument...

            2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

              Re: This has nothing to do with whether it is remotely controllable

              If you buy a smart light bulb, and there's an app that lets you turn it on and off, whether that is accomplished via your local wifi or whether it goes out through the internet to the cloud and back makes no difference.

              Pretty sure "an app that lets you turn it on and off" counts as remote control. Whether you're in the same room or a different country is entirely irrelevant. Being in an app doesn't make it "smart". It just puts your ability to remotely control your lights in the hands of multiple backend operators, including the bulb maker, app provider, app provider's hosting service, and all the comms infrastructure in between.

        2. Headley_Grange Silver badge

          Re: Someone else's computer

          If someone sells me an app-based service for a fixed price then they need to include the costs of security updates, OS rolls, bug fixing, etc. in that price, not come and hold me to ransom at a later date. If they can't do that, don't want to do that or don't know how to do that then they need to make it clear that I'm either buying an unsupported service that might not work in a couple of weeks time or they should sell it with a subscription from the start. If they don't understand that software support and maintenance can be as expensive as development, moreso if it's multi-platform, multi-OS and they don't know how to cost it then they shouldn't be selling it.

          I wouldn't buy a toaster or fridge that was cobbled together by a hobbyist and I don't want to buy software-dependent services from one either.

        3. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Someone else's computer

          At some point, we put extra restrictions on people who choose to sell their products to the market. We don't let just anyone build and sell electrical hardware, for example. There are some safety tests they have to pass beforehand and there is consumer protection law that applies after they've sold it. If we removed both requirements, we'd certainly get more and cheaper equipment, and some of it would be just fine. However, some of it would catch fire or otherwise harm the customers, and we've decided that regulation is needed.

          A hobbyist making a product should still make a good product. I don't expect a regulator to check them for quality every time, but providing some indication that they're not scamming customers with what's effectively an early obsolescence plan is justified. I'd prefer if we could respond only after they do so, assessing a penalty on those companies that fail a reasonable test of product lifespan, but if that isn't feasible, then taking preventative measures might be justified. If I want to form a company to make and sell something, I already have various standards I have to follow. As long as those are limited to something that provides a real benefit to the public and enforced equally on all participants, it's something society decides.

      3. Martin M

        Re: Someone else's computer

        This is much more sensible. Opening up the API is nice and makes it possible to write an alternative server, but certainly doesn't guarantee it will happen particularly for minor products. Even if it does help users of this forum it won't help the 99% of people who don't know how to run their own server. Instead, financial incentives need to be aligned instead to let consumers compare cost of products properly up front.

        I'd combine your suggestion with an obligation to say in the product specifications/advertising how long the company will provide the service for (as a minimum). It's not reasonable to expect subscription-free service for ever, but it should be transparent when you buy. If they don't keep the trust fund topped up sufficiently to run it for the remainder of the time, and the product is withdrawn or the company goes bust - director liability for the shortfall.

    2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Someone else's computer

      TBH, as a dev, the whole app biz has become a ponzi scheme.

      It used to be, you could charge for software updates (i.e. the development work you spent a year doing), and the cost of maintaining old software was pretty much nil. I have stuff from the early 2000s that still runs fine on Windows today - or it will, if you click through all the warnings about it being an unsigned executable and so highly likely to eat your first born.

      But, on mobile apps, users expect updates for free. (Indeed, there's no way to charge, except as an in app purchase.) And I'm in the middle of updating our Android apps to support the latest billing API because Google has declared the old version void. And that's after only just having finished updating them to the latest Android API. Those updates forced on us by vendors are an ongoing cost that we can't recoup. And that's before we get to any backend hosting costs, costs buying certificates to sign software or being in the vendor's store. All of that is funded by new sales. It's not sustainable.

      So all new apps will have to have revenue stream: either advertising or subscription. It's not a model I like or agree with. But it's being forced on us by the markets and the hard economics.

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Someone else's computer

        "But unupdated apps are insecure!!" will wail the masses. (just ignore that they're mostly going to be insecure because of stuff that is not actually the app itself)

        1. Not Yb Bronze badge

          Re: Someone else's computer

          That, and every time I allow my phone to update, I immediately start getting "Warning: there's not enough storage space" popups. They never want to remove "features", as every time anything updates, it gets bigger, more complex, and a bit less secure.

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Someone else's computer

        You can still do an in-app purchase for an update or, as at least two apps I've used did, simply stop updating [app] and releasing [app]Pro. In one of those cases, they gave existing users of [app] a discount on the purchase of [app]Pro. Those models are available, and people will sometimes buy updates that way. Of course, it won't be as popular as releasing updates for free. One of the reasons I prefer that is that I've had software which includes, as the update for which I'll now be paying again, a bug fix for something they screwed up in the first place, which never helps my confidence. Still, don't pretend like the option isn't there. Not everyone will take it and you will have to decide how you'll handle users who decided not to update.

      3. Tony W

        Re: Someone else's computer

        What is wrong with the subscription model? I prefer to pay a moderate subscription for an app that's updated and from time to time improved, than to pay a one-off fee and a few months later find that the developer has vanished and the next update of the OS stops it from working.

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: Someone else's computer

          Well in this case it was the one-sided decision to move to a subscription model *after* the customers had paid for an all-up-front model.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Someone else's computer

            " Well in this case it was the one-sided decision to move to a subscription model *after* the customers had paid for an all-up-front model."

            So, you're saying there's a whole bunch of people that believe that for one low price they can have something that requires outside services for free, forever? Whenever I see something like that I think "scam" or "bait and switch". It's like the ads for lifetime internet access for one low payment. That's an easy one, somebody is selling access to their account and when suckers stop sending them money, they'll close that account if the provider doesn't notice scores of different people using the account. Magellan SatNavs with "lifetime" map updates define "lifetime" as three years in the fine print. Schools need to teach and test on the concept of TANSTAAFL.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Someone else's computer

              "Magellan SatNavs with "lifetime" map updates define "lifetime" as three years in the fine print."

              Funny you should mention that. I just updated the maps on my Garmin SatNav yesterday. The "lifetime map updates" was included in the price and it was so long ago I can't remember when I bought it. It's at least 10 years old now, possibly as much as 15. Oh, and there was also a firmware update too, so I suppose that must be quite impressive in terms of long term support :-) It did get "confused" a while back due the GPS roll-over so it didn't automatically switch into night mode at the right time and IIRC there were two firmware updates before some sort of s/w workaround came through. When it fails/dies, my experience with Garmin will strongly point me at another Garmin device :-)

              1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                Re: Someone else's computer

                "Funny you should mention that. I just updated the maps on my Garmin SatNav yesterday. The "lifetime map updates" was included in the price and it was so long ago I can't remember when I bought it. "

                I have a stack of those now that I pick up cheap at estate sales. They have all worked but needed a new battery/cell. The ones that don't have map updates get flogged off. What I'm looking for now is one with a video input to use as a backup camera screen. My old Magellan had that, but its maps are useless at this point.

                1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                  Re: Someone else's computer

                  but needed a new battery/cell."

                  Oh, yeah, my batery has been down to something like a 5-10 minute "life" for years, but since it only ever gets used in the powered window mount in the car, it doesn't seem worth the minor hassle nor minor expense of replacing it :-)

                  I never considered that feature of a SatNav might be a video in port. But now you've mentioned it, a combined SatNav/reversing camera makes sense, especially from before reversing cameras become more or less standard equipment on modern cars.

            2. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: Someone else's computer

              "So, you're saying there's a whole bunch of people that believe that for one low price they can have something that requires outside services for free, forever?"

              Some of the people who bought it may not understand that. Ask a person with no technical background how a video camera could stream information to their phone. I'm guessing you'll get an answer like "it's on the internet, my phone's on the internet, all they have to do is find each other and start sending data". We know that this is really true, but not what those cameras are likely to do because using a central server which connects the two together is easier for the users, but not every customer understands why that has ongoing costs, even though the costs for that are incredibly low. Similarly, the box says that this camera can analyze the audio and video to monitor certain activities, but how does the average customer know that it's doing that by sending the video to a server which runs that software? How can we know that ourselves without analyzing the traffic coming from it or reading the report of someone who has, since although it's more likely to happen that way, nothing prevents the manufacturer from including a more powerful SoC and running the analysis software locally?

              People buy a product with the assumption that it can do what the box says it can. They're not trying to work out the implementation details, because if they were doing that, they could build one of the Raspberry Pi-based alternatives that multiple people have described. If it needs an ongoing payment, they expect the box to say that, the way that legitimate products that require one do (it's not rare to see "Requires subscription, free for the first year, £4.99 per month afterward"). This is really not the same as lifetime deals for internet, not that I've ever seen such a thing, since the requirement for ongoing services is not specified anywhere.

              1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                Re: Someone else's computer

                " but not every customer understands why that has ongoing costs,"

                There's still the test for outside services since they'd need an app for their phone and the need to set up an account so the camera can report it's IP address and the person can log in and the app told where to find their camera.

                I don't even bother. I have a Mac mini tucked away that records when it's triggered so I have a recording of something going on. I don't need my phone to ding me every time there's a coyote or the birds are trying to nest under my front porch again. Even if somebody is burgling my home, by the time I get an alert and can call the police (and if they will show up) the perps are gone. There's a retired couple across the street that knows me and I keep them informed if I'm going to be out of town or have houseguests. That's the best since they could stand at their garden fence watching until the police arrive and maybe even record video with their phone. There isn't F-all I could do if I'm out except stress out.

                TL:DR, install good neighbors.

                1. doublelayer Silver badge

                  Re: Someone else's computer

                  "There's still the test for outside services since they'd need an app for their phone and the need to set up an account so the camera can report it's IP address and the person can log in and the app told where to find their camera."

                  This is my point: it is not obvious to the average user why this is an ongoing cost, because in reality the ongoing cost is so minimal, even if it's done that way, that it's basically irrelevant. The app for their phone was already written before they bought it. It isn't going to get a lot of updates unless they add features. The app's ongoing cost can be as low as continuing to pay the annual Apple developer charge. Meanwhile, if the app exists to facilitate finding your device, that can be as simple as storing a dynamic DNS name for your camera and giving that to your phone on request. That may well be what it's doing. Your cost is maybe 500 bytes in a database. That's negligible. Users don't know what those costs are, but they are justified to assume they're minimal and we, who know that the cost is real, know that it is. For the more complex features that probably have ongoing costs, there is, as I've already described, no method to know before purchasing whether those really have them by using another server or run them locally and thus do not have ongoing costs.

            3. Oddlegs

              Re: Someone else's computer

              "for one low price"

              "Low price"?The baby monitor costs $400! Given that you can buy similar hardware for $100 it's not unreasonable at all to expect that extra $300 to allow the manufacturer to rent a few backend servers for many years to come.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Someone else's computer

          The problem with the subscription model, in my opinion, is no one has yet managed to come up with a viable and workable micropayments system. There's too many middlemen wanting a percentage cut with a minimum "floor level", so you can't take out a subscription for, say 20p per month, or 1p per usage and similar things we were told would be happening Real Soon Now(R), or at least that's what I read in the tech press about 20 years ago, and repeated every other year or so since. Those middlemen all want a couple of quid/dollars for processing the payment. Interestingly, I believe the processing charge for using my debit card is 5p per transaction, and that almost certainly includes a profit margin, so ultra-low cost subscription models clearly are possible.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Someone else's computer

            I don't think that would help. If I offered a service and wanted to collect 20p per month, I could ask people to pay £2.40 per year or even two or three years at once. People probably wouldn't mind. The reason that this isn't done is that subscriptions tend to cost quite a lot more than that. They're not asking for £6 per month because fees, but because that's £5.80 more than the other one and money is nice. I admit that fees are a problem for particularly small transactions, but most of those are not the size that subscription-sellers want to charge.

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Someone else's computer

            "The problem with the subscription model, in my opinion, is no one has yet managed to come up with a viable and workable micropayments system. "

            Since a baby is going to be a baby for a while, instead of paying monthly, payments could be for service in 6 month increments. I have to pay my PO Box in a minimum of 6 month increments and I'm keeping that for the foreseeable future.

    3. that one in the corner Silver badge

      Re: Someone else's computer

      > To be fair - there should be regulation, where those companies would need to open up the API specification for their products and make it easy to point them at your local server when switcheroo inevitably happens.

      > When you choose subscription you should also be able to shop around for cheaper providers of the same service.

      Nice ideas, but these things are all just luxuries and fripperies; they aren't in any way essentials, barely even "nice to haves". You aren't going to get the required cooperation between the companies[1] or any help from consumer legislation, beyond the basics (and you *did* agree to the terms and conditions when you registered your toy on the server).

      Rather than idealistic dreams, work for realistic goals and then nibble away at the companies.

      For example, demand a clear statement of precisely how long you will have access to the servers given the package you have bought. This can then be covered by consumer law.

      Point out to the retailer that the lack of that statement, clearly on the packaging, is the reason you aren't buying.[2]

      [1] it will cost them money, if only to actually document their API - let alone clean it up enough that the glaring security holes are closed and the overall naffness of the design doesn't end up as the Daily WTF.

      [2] yeah, I know, this is just a pipedream[3], hoping that enough people would actually bother to do that often enough that the message even got back to the companies involved.

      [3] aah, sod it: "There ought to be regulation, why isn't anyone doing anything about this, etc etc etc."

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: Someone else's computer

        Nice ideas, but these things are all just luxuries and fripperies;

        By this logic, why have any regulation at all? After all everything beyond basic food and something over your head could be called luxury or frippery.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Someone else's computer

          "Something over your head"?

          "Many were increasingly of the opinion that they'd all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans."

          Douglas Adams

        2. that one in the corner Silver badge

          Re: Someone else's computer

          >> Nice ideas, but these things are all just luxuries and fripperies;

          > After all everything beyond basic food and something over your head could be called luxury or frippery.

          Sigh.

          The baby monitors and the smart light bulbs are fripperies, not consumer regulation.

          Sorry if this wasn't clear to you, but as I then went on to discuss how to get the existing consumer regs to come into play, shouldn't it then have become obvious that I was not attempting to argue against consumer protection? Leaving you with a great big hint how to disambiguate "these things".

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Someone else's computer

        "> To be fair - there should be regulation, where those companies would need to open up the API specification for their products and make it easy to point them at your local server when switcheroo inevitably happens."

        Perhaps the API can be held like a patent (but not a patent) for 5 years or if the company folds, whichever comes first. Anybody selling a service subscription would have to send their code along with any updates to a central server and have to reverify their existence every 30 days. The same requirements would apply if support/services are discontinued with no allowances for companies bitching about "core technologies" and that sort of thing. If another company wanted to come along and provide backend support from some abandoned products, they could do so and charge a subscription fee. I can imagine there might be a few small companies that would set up and do that sort of thing. I agree with others that it wouldn't work as a hobbiest project although if the code had to be put in the public domain, some might or could be willing to donate firmware updates and extend the functionality if there is a good installed base of users.

  3. johnfbw

    Device no longer working as sold

    Return for full refund due to manufactures design mistake

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Device no longer working as sold

      > Return for full refund due to manufactures design mistake

      Dear Mr Fbw,

      Read the fine print on the original packaging! Mwaa ha ha!

      Love,

      Miku Lawyers

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Device no longer working as sold

        EU warranty law would take precedence and would like a word.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Device no longer working as sold

          Warranty? The device is still 100% functional! I can prove it: look, this WireShark listing shows it is clearly sending a HELO to the hard-coded IP address and is now just waiting for a response, precisely as it was designed to do.

          1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

            Re: Device no longer working as sold

            and is not getting a response, which is a fault.

            In the UK you would have 6 years to get a refund.

          2. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Re: Device no longer working as sold

            Not relevant under EU law (and UK, for the moment).

            If it don't do what it was sold as doing, it's not "fit for purpose" and thus the vendor has to either fix it so it does, or refund in full.

            I've had one TV and one set-top box replaced under that law. The TV took some arguing and a rather public complaint, though.

            1. that one in the corner Silver badge

              Re: Device no longer working as sold

              > If it don't do what it was sold as doing, it's not "fit for purpose"

              And note that this does *not* simply mean what is written on the packaging, but what purpose you discussed with the vendor.

              If you are sold something called a "hat stand" after asking for something that will hold your umbrella, if it can not support the brolly it was not fit for purpose.

              If you tell the person in Currys you want a TV that works without an Internet connection and you can't get past a registration screen, that is not fit for purpose.

              The downside is that the vendor is going to argue that you never said you wanted a brolly stand, so best to get some proof of the discussion beforehand[1] - take in a list of requirements[2] and make sure it gets stapled to the receipt, along with that piece of card trying to sell you an extended warranty.

              [1] time was, vendors were honorable shopkeepers and their reputation meant a lot to them; nowadays - people still shop in Currys!

              [2] even worth playing the "our boy wrote this down for us" doddery old fart card, to brickwall when they try to convince you otherwise.

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Device no longer working as sold

          But, alas, who wants the cost (money, time, stress) of taking them to court over it? And what would you get if you won?

          In the US I could see perhaps filing against the new owners in Small Claims Court for the original cost of the device, on the hope that they wouldn't respond and would be hit with a default judgement. So you'd get $400 less the filing costs. Might be worth it just for the lulz. But if you were foolish enough to purchase one of these things in the first place, are you the sort of consumer who'd go even that far?

          So the new owners will probably get away with this. Some users won't bother paying – some of them probably aren't even using the monitors anymore. Some will probably suck it up and pay, for a while. Eventually the new owners will stop making a profit on the service and they'll shut it down. Consumers lose, vendor doesn't care.

          And despite this happening over and over again, most people Just Don't Learn.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Device no longer working as sold

            "In the US I could see perhaps filing against the new owners in Small Claims Court for the original cost of the device, on the hope that they wouldn't respond and would be hit with a default judgement. So you'd get $400 less the filing costs. Might be worth it just for the lulz. "

            It would be a day sitting around in a over HVAC'd building waiting for your case to get called. A weekday too, so it's a day from work burning up PTO or losing a day's pay. This is the way I look at a customer not paying for many of the sorts of jobs I do (in this case, photography for estate agents). The cost of filing and the day off is more than what I charge for a typical job and in Small Claims, I couldn't tack on the time off as part of the ask. It's easier for me to claim a copyright infringement since non-payment or a bounced check nullifies the license to use the images and I always register my images with the Copyright office. My attorney has a nice letter where he explains all of this and how the bill has gone up by the amount of his letter sending fee and will continue to grow if the person requires more contact. If the matter is a few thousand, small claims court starts to make sense.

            Lessons in TANSTAAFL will continue until the mark learns or goes broke.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Device no longer working as sold

            "But, alas, who wants the cost (money, time, stress) of taking them to court over it? And what would you get if you won?"

            In the UK, it's the retailer who is on the hook. Most large reputable retailers will refund or replace for an obvious fault in my experience. I'd probably expect them to be less aware of "software faults" such as home automation remoter/cloud server no longer existing and be more reluctant to refund or replace because they don't understand the nature of the fault. Worst case is to go to small claims court, which is fairly cheap and easy to do and in many cases, the defendant won't even turn up and you'll win by default. At that point, the legal system it completely on your side and will enforce payment, even if that requires sending the bailiffs to their HQ.

        3. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: Device no longer working as sold

          And if the seller is some fly by night company that can simply close up shop if the EU comes knocking? What you propose works fine for products sold by Apple or Google, but if they are sold by one of those weird named companies in Amazon listings like FeeWeeCo and Brightspark the EU can't do squat.

          Their Amazon listing would be taken down after the EU tracks them down, and five minutes later the exact same product would be sold by a different weirdly named company - I bet those guys have a backup company identity ready to go, set up on Amazon, web site, everything. Swap out a few things in the packaging and they tell the EU "sorry we don't know who those guys are".

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Device no longer working as sold

            "Their Amazon listing would be taken down after the EU tracks them down, "

            Given how Amazon goes out of their way to make it look like you are buying from Amazon, they should be on the hook. eBay has been doing some of that and they need to be on the receiving end of some fines. It should be obvious that a marketplace seller is one somebody is buying from since too many people have faith in the Amazon brand and will stupidly trust that the transaction is with Amazon and not just them acting as a facilitator.

            1. DS999 Silver badge

              Re: Device no longer working as sold

              All Amazon is responsible for is delivering the product. Almost nothing they sell is actually made by Amazon, so they aren't on the hook for post sale support any more than Walmart is for the jeans you buy. Are you saying that you think Amazon should be on the hook for stuff they sell but someone else makes?

              The distinction between stuff Amazon sells and stuff sold by a third party through Amazon is (or sure as hell should be!) irrelevant to this case. Unless you are saying you want to upend the way retail has worked for over a century and force the store that sells you stuff to be liable for post sale support. Good luck convincing anyone else of that!

              If you look at Amazon there is plenty of stuff they sell from these weird named companies. There are also some of these weird named companies with Amazon storefronts that act as third party sellers. It may be a bit more difficult to get Amazon to stock/sell your products themselves than to set up a storefront, but probably not all that difficult given how many products from how many companies Amazon sells.

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Device no longer working as sold

                "All Amazon is responsible for is delivering the product. Almost nothing they sell is actually made by Amazon, so they aren't on the hook for post sale support any more than Walmart is for the jeans you buy. Are you saying that you think Amazon should be on the hook for stuff they sell but someone else makes?"

                If the poster is in the UK or the EU, then yes, the retailer is the one on the hook if they supply faulty goods, so Amazon is responsible for the the stuff they sell as Amazon, but not the other sellers using Amazon as a "fullfilment agent". I'm not sure I can remember[*] the last time I bought something that came with a "manufacturers warranty card" since almost no one ever filled them in and returned them because of the decent consumer protections in place.

                * It's entirely possibly I have had some more recently, but since it's basically just waste paper in the package, it would go in the bin/recycling with everything else not required and that info would not be committed to long term memory :-)

                1. that one in the corner Silver badge

                  Re: Device no longer working as sold

                  > but not the other sellers using Amazon as a "fullfilment agent"

                  I have had success in the last month getting two refunds from Amazon UK on something that were just "dispatches from Amazon" and "sold by" other companies (and, yes, those were the only returns I've had to make in a while, not "just the two successful ones"!). Back in 2019 I even had a hassle-free return for a second hand item "dispatches from Amazon" (the seller got the exact model number wrong) costing a few hundred quid, just via the normal website process.

                  Not going to claim that these are anything more than anecdotal evidence, certainly not that they are acting under duress of the regs (I don't claim to know where their liabilities under law stop - but I do note that they say "dispatches from", not "fulfilled by"), but if they didn't think they had to do these returns...

                  PS

                  Yes, yes, I deal with the devil and buy from Amazon. Not proud, just practical.

                  PPS

                  > I'm not sure I can remember[*] the last time I bought something that came with a "manufacturers warranty card"

                  Bought a camera lens new (a rare treat) in 2020, that came with one. Some of the second hand camera kit comes with that form, still blank, as the previous owner just left it in the box, but thise could easily date back to 2013 or so (rarely know the exact age of these things, just the condition)

              2. MachDiamond Silver badge

                Re: Device no longer working as sold

                "Almost nothing they sell is actually made by Amazon, so they aren't on the hook for post sale support any more than Walmart is for the jeans you buy. "

                Amazon does use contract manufacturers in Asia to make products for them if they see something a seller has is going well. If you buy jeans from Wallyworld (the retail arm of China), you can take them back to Walmart if they are defective. If Walmart was just a big box full of independent sellers along with their own section, it would be more like Amazon. If the High Street was plastered with signage that made it look like all of the shops were part of that brand, would you notice the small notice in the bottom corner of the front widow that you are actually shopping at Bob the Butcher? In the US, FedEx ground service mostly trundles around in vans with big FedEx branding on the side, but the owner/operator of those is a local company. Just look for the gray text with their info on the side in much small type. FedEx isn't the physical carrier of goods as they are delivered to you if the package is going ground.

      2. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid Silver badge

        Re: Device no longer working as sold

        The UK has the Unfair Terms Act, which prevents companies from being ****s. For instance it does not allow "the firm to transfer its rights and obligations under the contract, where this may reduce guarantees for the consumer, without the consumer’s agreement"

        There is also something in there about how terms and conditions can't override statutary rights (ie can't be contrary to law). And here the existing Consumer Rights Act might be that law they are breaking.

        The key thing is demonstrating that when you bought the thing, you had a justifiable expectation of how long it would last for including online functionality. Any weasly words in the terms like "service may stop at any time, free and on a best endeavours basis" would have to be made clear at the time of purchase to be valid (and might be illegal under The Act anyway). Burying them in obscure Ts&Cs is also against the Unfair Terms Act.

        Interestingly, the Competition and Markets Authority has a huge list of precedents that have been found to infringe the Unfair Terms Act at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/unfair-contract-terms-cma37. It includes this one that loads of firms still use in the mistaken belief that it's ok:

        "By completing your order form or electronic registration you will be deemed to

        have agreed to these terms and conditions."

      3. johnfbw

        Re: Device no longer working as sold

        Read the fine print that is inside the packaging or not displayed on the website you purchased it from. You can't be held to conditions you weren't aware of before purchasing

    2. zuckzuckgo Silver badge

      Re: Device no longer working as sold

      > Return for full refund due to manufactures design mistake

      It is often startups selling products supported by perpetual free proprietary internet services. The free service is to be financed by market growth so once growth starts to tapper (or does not materialize) they can effectively declare bankruptcy and sell off the assets. A larger corp can then be the "hero", buy up the assets but charge to keep the service going. Rise and repeat.

      If done "right" the stakeholders in the startup will already have been handsomely rewarded.

  4. John Sager

    Yet another bloody cloud device

    They all have a limited lifetime.

    Nice that it'll still work locally though. A bit of VPN using WireGuard would sort that for remote use. Are there any off-the-shelf border routers that support that though? I only found GL.iNet routers and that's not a mainstream brand. Of course OpenWRT supports it but that's not an option for most people.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Yet another bloody cloud device

      Yup.

      I have two security cameras. Don't want or need the cloud storage option (um, my internet up is about 60K/sec, far too slow to be useful there) so they can stream low bandwidth to me, and record in quality to an SD card.

      The internet was out the other day. And that's when I discovered that it's impossible to connect to these things without an active connection. There is no device name and no obvious ports open. So my whizzy app has to contact [China|Russia|Mars] to get an address and info on the camera that I'm looking at.

      That being said, I can't help but think that these things are loss leaders for cloud services. Otherwise there would be a normal port and it would support streaming in normal video so any old VLC-like would work.

      1. John Sager

        Re: Yet another bloody cloud device

        I have Reolink cameras. They do have a cloud system for viewing the camera or recorder output but you can set up the phone app to work locally so it just works over the VPN. I've also blocked the cameras and the recorder from making outbound connections. I can unblock that temporarily if I need to do a software update.

        1. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: Yet another bloody cloud device

          Thanks for the info.

        2. John Miles

          Re: Yet another bloody cloud device

          For a lot of Reolink stand alone cameras (not battery ones) - you don't need an app, you can just use the web interface - I've no complaints about them, especially for the money (and they can't talk out as they are on isolated network, reverse proxied through a server)

    2. Colin 22

      Re: Yet another bloody cloud device

      Fritz!Box routers support WireGuard and the company has a good record of updating the OS on existing hardware

      1. Manolo
        Happy

        Re: Yet another bloody cloud device

        Wireguard on Fritzboxen is a relatively new development. I have not yet set it up, I still use IPSec on my Fritzbox.

        It supports both at the moment.

        1. Manolo

          Re: Yet another bloody cloud device

          To reply to myself: it does not support both at the same time.

          You can use only one of the two and for Wireguard you are forced to use their DynDNS service, even if you have fixed IP.

          So go fsck yourself AVM, I'll keep using IPSec.

          1. that one in the corner Silver badge

            Re: Yet another bloody cloud device

            > So go fsck yourself AVM, I'll keep using IPSec.

            Have you tried asking them about it, before suggesting they do the anatomically improbable?

            The Fritz!Box kit and AVM have a pretty good rep overall, WireGuard support is clearly a very feature for them: allowing you to use your static IP may just be a firmware fix away - if you let them know that individual customers that have fixed IPs are still A Thing!

  5. Lurko

    I'm in two minds here

    Do I respect the brazen, merciless, greedy, profiteering hussle on show? This is what capitalism is all about surely, and customers have a choice of not paying the fee.

    Or am I outraged that punters get ripped off (ignoring that they undoubtedly agreed to a licence agreement giving the provider rights to do exactly whatever they want, when they want)?

    It's a tough one for me. But then again, when you buy any Internet of Tat device surely you accept you're the product, you have no rights, and government's not going to do anything to change matters. So on balance it's respect to the robdogs of IHM.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Internet of Tat device surely you accept you're the product

      And with MS about to get in on the act... the days of avoiding subscriptions (other than for things like a mobile phone and broadband) are numbered.

      So far I have managed to avoid this trap but for how long? Well... the Grumpy Old Git in me suggests that I will avoid it for for as long as possible. I have managed to avoid things like Netflix so hope is not lost (yet.)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is why I'm missing out on a lot of stuff

    My starting position is no subscription. I want to control what I buy.

    Hence Ring doorbells can fuck off.

    1. Doctor Tarr

      Re: This is why I'm missing out on a lot of stuff

      I’m OK with subscriptions provided I know up front what I’m getting into. What concerns me is when I also have to fund an expensive upfront cost for a device which can only be used with a specific provider - I’ve avoided this so far.

      In this article it’s disgraceful that they introduce the subscription after the purchase. I’d refuse to pay even if I was cutting my nose to spite my face.

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: This is why I'm missing out on a lot of stuff

      But how would you know there was going to be a subscription if you bought this (ridiculously expensive) baby monitor 6 months before that subscription suddenly became mandatory?

      1. David Nash Silver badge

        Re: This is why I'm missing out on a lot of stuff

        I am sure a lot of customers* of this kind of thing don't have a clue about how it works, what it does or doesn't connect to, they are just buying a baby monitor.

        *Not me, my kids haven't been babies for many years. And I avoid such connected/subscription/spying devices anyway.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: This is why I'm missing out on a lot of stuff

          They are just buying a wildly-overpriced baby monitor. They already failed the first test.

      2. Alumoi Silver badge

        Re: This is why I'm missing out on a lot of stuff

        How? Simple: if you see cloud mentioned then it requires/will require a subscribtion. Easy.

    3. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: This is why I'm missing out on a lot of stuff

      One of the energy companies was in the local shopping mall and displaying the smart thermostat offering the firm had. Cannot for the life of me remember which product it was or the energy company concerned but I do remember talking to the saleswoman there. She was effusive in her praise of the system and keen to sign me up. I asked if it was able to run on a closed loop system or did it require a network connection. She told me that central heating systems were nearly always closed loop and I clarified it meant the thermostat. Oh yest that requires an internet connection and a monthly fee.

      I said thanks but not thanks in that case, I have a thermostat that works perfectly and doesn't require an internet connection or a monthly fee thanks very much for asking. She tried to tell me about the benefits of being able to remotely control my heating and therefore the usage of electricity/gas outweighing the monthly fee. So I asked what security protections there were on the thermostat i.e. how easy would it be for someone to hack it and turn my heating off in the dead of winter. What happens if the company goes bust for example or my internet connection dies, will my thermostat continue to work? She wasn't 100% on that and made noncommittal responses to my questions. She did say it was unlikely that the energy firm would go bust and I said I was more worried bout the tech company going bust or not supporting it anymore. When I said I didn't want to control my heating when I'm not at home she looked a little shocked. I told her I was quite happy to come home to a cooler house and wear my jacket until it warmed up. I said I'd consider one when it didn't require an internet connection or a monthly fee.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: This is why I'm missing out on a lot of stuff

        Rather a lot of energy companies have gone bust, it's a rather significant concern.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: This is why I'm missing out on a lot of stuff

          If you are referring to the recent ones going bust in the UK, I don't think any of them were actual energy companies. They were little more than marketing and bill collecting agencies. :-)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: This is why I'm missing out on a lot of stuff

            https://www.aquaswitch.co.uk/which-energy-suppliers-have-gone-bust/

            The customer numbers are quite variable across the table.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: This is why I'm missing out on a lot of stuff

              That's an interesting summary, thanks. It looks like they are all simply "middle-men" buying wholesale and selling retail, with a very few who may some some solar capacity of their own, but the biggest takeaway from that list is that almost all of the regulator-imposed customer transfers from bust retailers is to sellers who are actually in the energy generating business.

    4. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: This is why I'm missing out on a lot of stuff

      For me, subscription is well down on the list of reasons to tell Ring to fuck off, with at least corporate spying, police surveillance, and security risks well higher.

      But then I take a dim view of the entire Internet of Unnecessary.

  7. Alistair
    Windows

    Internet connected webcam monitors

    SWMBO worked for the Baby division of the (three B company) that was recently slaughtered on the altar of Wall Street Rate of Return to make 12 C suite folks very wealthy. So I've seen about 14 variations on this concept, all as basic and simple as could be. Essentially, webcam and local wifi connected receiver (whether smart phone app or physical unit) *both* connect to (vendor provided cloud instances) the other side of the planet, before being able to talk to one another. Most utilized the most basic encryption possible for all connections (in one case, when a neighbour had one the stream from Webcam to Endpoint was literally using a byte swap inside the avi format to scramble the image). These things made me rage. Still do, in fact, since I've yet to see one that implements proper security on the connection that streams the audio/video. Basically wide open, once you find the port that uPNP2 opens on the router.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Internet connected webcam monitors

      Basically wide open, once you find the port that uPNP2 opens on the router.

      Good luck with that with my network..

      (No UPNP at all. Router has all the features turned off except for the PPPOE stuff and a static route to my firewall. Firewall blocks UPnP.

      1. that one in the corner Silver badge

        Re: Internet connected webcam monitors

        > Good luck with that with my network.

        But you aren't exactly the target demographic for these things, are you?

        Now, if you boasted "good luck with that on any network in the following two post codes, where I've campaigned and helped reconfigure the routers for all the poor mugs who, through no fault of their own, fall into these sort of bad practices"...

      2. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

        Re: Internet connected webcam monitors

        > No UPNP at all.

        You, me and the rest of the less than 1% population disable UPNP on the router. The other over 99% don't know, don't care, and pay.

  8. aerogems Silver badge
    Pirate

    Sounds Like A Business Opportunity

    Sell people like a one-time setup of say a RPi acting as a VPN tunnel to let you connect to the device "from" the local network and then pipe the feed out to the Internet. Sell it for like $100 or whatever, which is mostly covering the cost of the RPi, then maybe coding up some kind of app that can switch on the VPN tunnel for the mobile device. A one-time, set-it-and-forget-it proposition. Still a kick in the teeth to the owners of the device, but $10/mo and you figure you'll probably have people needing to use the device for at least around 2-years, it's about a 50% discount. And the RPi tunnel could potentially be reused for other things after the little sprog has started learning to walk, unlike this $400 paperweight. And if you plan on having another little gas, poop, and spitup vending machine, it saves you more money. Not to mention the smug satisfaction of knowing you screwed the company out of their subscription fee.

    BTW, El Reg needs to bring back its occasional series of stories where animals attack humans. The tally never included a vulture attack, even including the royal family.

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Sounds Like A Business Opportunity

      Except even if you tunnel it to the outside world, you're still left with a fancy, overpriced webcam that could have been had for $50,-. People chose to spend $400 on this thing for all the other fancy features (such as breathing and activity monitoring) which have ALSO been locked. The entire "value added" proposition that theoretically made this thing worth the high price is entirely locked away. You VPN tunnel isn't going to solve that.

  9. Howard Sway Silver badge

    You've just spent $400 on a baby monitor

    You're a fool then - you can easily get a big HD widescreen monitor for less than half that price, no subscription required at all!

    1. Annihilator

      Re: You've just spent $400 on a baby monitor

      Ah yes, but not while you're "out and about" as the article says (!!!)

      Quite why this would be necessary is troublesome at best.

      1. may_i

        Re: You've just spent $400 on a baby monitor

        To watch the babysitter?

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: You've just spent $400 on a baby monitor

          I suspect it is this use case that is being tapped into.

          A baby monitor only has limited use, typically new parents who are still learning.

          However, over the years ithey have come baby sitter and carer monitors, so something that many only used for a few months now becomes something that gets used over several years.

        2. that one in the corner Silver badge

          Re: You've just spent $400 on a baby monitor

          > To watch the babysitter?

          With a device whose USP (over a far cheaper teddycam) is to monitor breathing, room temperature and humidity?

          Teddycam alone could monitor the most obvious reason for heavy breathing, increased warmth and humidity, so they are worried about - something else? A sudden chill, babysitter's breath held in horror, blood dripping from the walls? Or babysitter crawling on the ceiling, breath coming in rasping gasps, water running from her suddenly ankle-length black hair?

          Does the Miku camera setup allow auto-dial alerts to Fathers Merrin, Carras and Dyer?[1]

          [1] why do I know think of the three of them living in a parochial house together?

  10. Fr. Ted Crilly Silver badge

    Yeah, Sat nav

    I Have a Sygic lifetime license they keep trying to encourage me onto a yearly sub and the 'offer' to do so 1 year at £11. Wow I mean with a deal like that who wouldn't. Here's me been using Sygic since the symbian Mcguider days...

  11. Detective Emil
    Coat

    Spelling correction?

    Today's tale concerns the Miku Baby Monitor …

    Shouldn't that be Milku?

    1. The Dogs Meevonks Silver badge

      Re: Spelling correction?

      Badum Tish!!!

  12. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    Baby Monitor

    There is a 'smart sock' baby monitor which can check your little darling's life signals while they are asleep.* Not sure if it needs a subscription, but there is always the fear that your lire one will be the one that dies because you didn't bother to buy, install, use and run it. They work on fear, and the proposal that you can be a wonderful parent without ever, it seems, actually meeting your child after birth.

    * https://owletbabycare.co.uk

    "While they rest easy, you will too. Find more joy in the parenting journey and extra peace of mind thanks to our award-winning technology."

    PS: I don't have children, so I have no idea what I'm talking about, but hey, that's never stopped most people sounding off has it?

    1. Alistair
      Windows

      Re: Baby Monitor

      Owlet was one of the products the 3 B store carried. No subscription on the initial purchase, but also 0 security on the connection. And since its "clowd connected" No guarantees it will run for more than x number of months, period. New model comes out? Sure, better, faster, prettier, Okay lets turn off the old models so we can sell the new ones.

      And indeed, you have the mantra down. "You have to do EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE, all the time!" Its all FUD. All of it. Every last thing.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Baby Monitor

      > I don't have children, so I have no idea what I'm talking about

      There is life before children and there is life with children, little in your life before children prepares you for your life with children.

      You may one day become a member of the target market - new parents with a bundle of joy with no instruction manual.

      So having a disposable income and probably few friends who have experience of babies you are likely to entertain your fears; the baby monitor is reassuring because you are awake to listen and watch, but does nothing for the hours you and your partner are sleeping…

      My neighbour was very good, having 2 children and being a hands on mum, so her experience and confidence was easily passed on to us, so we never had a monitor.

      Agree with your general point, these devices feed both parental fear and ‘me’ ego. Having children requires engagement and you never know, you might become a better person (and parent) (*)

      (*) I have two children the first we were on a voyage of discovery, the second allowed us to do some practice, we then became better “aunt and uncle” to friends children and also better team leaders at work.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Baby Monitor

        > also better team leaders at work.

        You can come off the naughty step when you promise to complete the cover sheets for your TPS reports.

  13. Annihilator

    Blink

    I bought a few Blink cameras for the house a few years ago as a quick and dirty solution to a security problem. That was nice too, with alerting, live viewing and local recording, as well as 30-days cloud storage of latest clips. About 6 months ago, Amazon decided to charge £8.99 for the same service.

    So basically, I've now got 3 useless cameras that I can't even repurpose or connect to a NAS. Landfill.

    1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

      Re: Blink

      But maybe the police can still access them to watch the neighborhood. And Amazon. So they are not useless per se, they are useless only for you.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Blink

      Hmm. Unfortunately I wasn't able to find any FOSS firmware for Blink cameras in a quick search. Doesn't appear that OpenIPC supports them.

      Still, rather than throwing them away, you might find a local Hackerspace or the like that would take them to tear down for components, or perhaps even create new firmware for.

      1. Annihilator

        Re: Blink

        Yeah I’ve explored the web before for that purpose, not much joy.

        However rest assured they’ll be going into my junk box to be resurrected in 5 years when someone has figured it out.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Blink

      You may be able to bypass Amazon with a homeassistant integration

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think people are missing the underlying issue here. Who the hell buys a baby monitor to use when you are not home? "Hey look, the baby is crying. We should head home and see if his diaper need changing."

    1. Alumoi Silver badge

      No, no, no, you use it when you are at home, in another room, watching TV/cat pictures and you can't be arsed to check on your baby. What's so hard to understand?

      1. Ideasource Bronze badge

        What silly people. Such over engineered complicated solutions to something much more easily solved.

        If you just sit and look at cat pictures in the same room as the baby instead of sending the baby to solitary confinement, it would be so much easier.

        I don't understand how such a person could j ustify their their wage or accomplish anything, if they cannot think of simple solutions like staying the same room as the baby and realize that babies are easily moved with a bit of care,

        What did they all just inherent their wealth or something?

        No shame casting here.

        I've hauled many a baby around all day.

        You get stronger as they grow and you continue to pick them up.

        Are they going to try to brush their eyeballs next?

        1. Alumoi Silver badge
          Joke

          Are you nuts? Accept responsability for something? Damn, you must be old.

          Don't you watch US movies? As soon as the baby is out of the hospital he's locked in his comfy room, fed nothing but formula milk (God forbit he's breastfed), surrounded by all kind of crap to keep him happy so that his parent can get on with their life.

          1. Ideasource Bronze badge

            Well that would not be a parent then.

            They failed to meet the qualifications for that role.

            They do however meet the qualification of provider.

    2. disgruntled yank

      Underlying issue

      @AC

      I suppose that people who do not trust the babysitter would like to use a monitor when out and about.

      1. Ideasource Bronze badge

        Re: Underlying issue

        That would seem to indicate that they use it as a prop to support their hypocrisy.

        By avoiding acknowledgment of the honest gamble it is to ever involve another with anything you're doing, they create a dream of an impossible degree of control.

        And so the baby monitors are used to perpetuate this mental dysfunction. Creating delusion that a gamble is a controlled situation and so skewing their own judgment resulting in greater and greater emotional dysfunction resulting in perceptions of insecurity alternating with false sense of comfort.

        Or to put it another way it's a tool that illusioned cowards use to stave off reality so to further the convenience of personal desires with an unfortunate side effect of cultivating mental instability and lack of healthy acceptance of natural risk.

        If you can't extend trust it's not healthy for you to live a lie acting oppositely.

        If you can't build your confidence from a perspective that the world is f***** but you've succeeded so far in that you are not yet dead, then you're always going to be scared and so be judgment compromised due to the inebriation of strong negative emotion. Fearful cowards tend to project their dysfunction on to others and berserk regularly creating large fields of collateral damage unto othersthat goes unmitigated

  15. Alan Brown Silver badge

    griftonomics

    I've just been watching a Youtbe video on the explosion of scams on the Internet. This kind of thing is a variation on the same theme

    (In this case, it's the imposition of rent-seeking behaviour on a captive market)

  16. The Dogs Meevonks Silver badge

    The IOT is ALWAYS a scam

    Everything you buy that's 'connected' to the internet as a way to make things so much more convenient for the sucker... sorry... consumer. Is always a scam. It's classic drug dealer level stuff... offer a taster and then yank the rug out from under them and demand more money once they're invested in it.

    You'd be surprised at how many people will pony up the subs for this, some people don't like to admit they've been scammed. They want to think they've made a good purchase, and what's another few dollars a month on top of the dozens of other few dollars for all of the other 'excellent' purchases you've made over the years.

    People keep getting conned into believing that everything they used to be able to do in a simple browser window, now requires it's own app, it's own walled garden and it's own subscription fee.

    There's a sucker born every minute... and they'll keep convincing themselves they're smart and make good choices and boasting about how 'convenient' their choice makes things... whilst not informing people of the true cost... because then they'd risk being laughed at by people with more than a handful of brain cells.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: The IOT is ALWAYS a scam

      "People keep getting conned into believing that everything they used to be able to do in a simple browser window, now requires it's own app, it's own walled garden and it's own subscription fee."

      Sure. The suckers bought into the Web, didn't they? Despite the fact that damn near everything delivered via http was already available via its own protocol, faster, and cheaper and had been for about two decades when the Web was launched. Why shouldn't the same suckers do it again? And again after that?

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: The IOT is ALWAYS a scam

      Everything you buy that's 'connected' to the internet as a way to make things so much more convenient for the sucker... sorry... consumer. Is always a scam.

      Never forget this, people.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I’ve bought the cameras

    So, when does the baby appear?

    Guys?

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: I’ve bought the cameras

      Guys?

      I think this might be your problem...

  18. Ball boy Silver badge

    The future is even more worrying

    Picture the scene: a boardroom of a company selling IoT devices like this. Last year they sold hardware & their cloud-backend and made 20% margin. If they swap to a subscription model, they can add some 25% in access fees per year (sub. in your own numbers, the logic still applies).

    However, these new profits quickly become normalised and the investors want the return to improve...so they start selling off advertising space. Hell, they already know the subscriber is willing to part with cash and they know a fair bit about what kinds of adverts will hit home. Win-win!

    The future, my friends, isn't looking particularly rosy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The future is even more worrying

      > ...so they start selling off advertising space.

      Already set up and ready to go, the Miku device (with subscription) provides two-way audio - via a remote server:

      "The following message is sponsored by Anadin: WAAAAAAAaaaaaaaagh"

      But, just like TV, the volume on the ads will be turned right up:

      "(happy gurgles)"

      "(Softly singing) Sleep, pretty baby, don't you cry"

      "AND ALL YOUR FAVOURITE BEATLES TRACKS, AVAILABLE NOW"

      "WAAAAAAaaaagh"

      "(Softly) Remember, Anadin"

  19. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge

    Subscriptions are taxes imposed by corps

    While nation states virtually never* can go bankrupt, since they can always increase taxation and thus increase their income; corps until recently didn't have this option.

    (Un-)Luckily, this is about to change with Everything as a Service, corps now also have a seemingly endless stream of revenue.

    * Yes, there are exemptions to this statement

  20. Blackjack Silver badge

    Stuff like this is why I avoid "Internet of things" devices like the plague.

  21. Snowy Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Confused

    <quote>Miku, you see, was acquired by Innovative Health Monitoring LLC last month. The new owner has wasted no time hitting customers who are used to getting the service for free with a subscription. The device will still work as a camera if you use it on the local network, but anything else is now behind a paywall.</quote>

    How can something have been free with a subscription, sounds like they where already paying for the service to me.

    The only thing they are losing is the ability to use it remotely. If you want to still remotely view it either pay or set up a device on your network that can forward the connection to a remote device.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Confused

      Structure the sentence to show where the clauses are:

      Miku, you see, was acquired by Innovative Health Monitoring LLC last month. The new owner has wasted no time hitting customers (who are used to getting the service for free) with a subscription. The device will still work as a camera if you use it on the local network, but anything else is now behind a paywall.

      Does this clear it up? Try removing the words in parentheses. Also, while I don't have one of these, other comments suggest that the other features were more than just access to video remotely. I don't know whether those monitoring functions were of use to anybody, but they were there and now cost extra.

      1. Snowy Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Confused

        Thank you for clearing that up for me rather than just down voting me, have an upvote.

  22. TeeCee Gold badge

    No shit, Sherlock.

    Those back-end services cost money to run. Not much, it's true, but there is a cost.

    Anyone not charging a subscription is basically a Ponzi scam[1]. They may not have gone bust yet, but they will. If you're really lucky, the smoking remains of the con will be bought by some sensible company, who will continue to support the devices services, now with a subscription.

    As has happened here.

    [1] Sell IoT devices. Run services to support same. As long as mugs keep chucking money at the up front purchase fast enough you're good.

  23. Binraider Silver badge

    Ahh, the age of denying ownership of anything continues.

    Question : where are consumer protection agencies on this front? I recall a case a few years ago when Sony removed the ability to install other OS from the PS3; a consumer successfully managed to get a refund for the device despite it's age because of the change in the device specification.

  24. Mr. V. Meldrew
    Alert

    Shameful Robbing Bast*rds!

    A sad yet true tale. I'm an older single guy living on my own in a flat in Manchester, with only my disability and cat to look after.

    A neighbour at the back of my home decided to single me out for her abusive and threatening language. The neighbour had previous for Arson, including setting fire to their own property.

    Naturally, this prayed on my mind, forewarned is forearmed I thought. I rang the local fire station, they were really helpful, fitted a special box behind the letter box. I'm on the ground floor with my own front door.

    The brigade also recommended a "Doorbell Camera" as evidence gathering if needed.

    I bought a "Ring" camera. Put it on my door. I felt more secure as I could replay the footage on my mobile if needed.

    So here is the crunch. 12 weeks later I tried to replay the footage, only to be told I had to pay £14.99 a month for the privelege as my "trial" had expired. What trial? I bought the camera, no trial mentioned.

    £14.99 is easy money for some, sadly not me.

    Please don't fall into the trap. Nearly new Ring doorbell for sale, Manchester UK. Collect only - subscription not included.

    PS. Crazy neighbour has a restraining order, exclusion order and is being cared for by healthcare proffesionals as I speak.

    PPS. Anybody interested in crowdfunding a similar camera that would only require a minimal cost covering storage fee?

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