24 votes

GE's smart light bulb reset process is a masterpiece... of modern techno-insanity

21 comments

  1. [8]
    wakamex
    Link
    well that's quite frightening. the article also describes this bad design of a smart bulb as if having a smart bulb in the first place is completely commonplace. you know, the good smart bulb...

    well that's quite frightening. the article also describes this bad design of a smart bulb as if having a smart bulb in the first place is completely commonplace. you know, the good smart bulb design with a reset pin on it.

    why the hell would I want any kind of smart bulb, especially since it requires any kind of reset? I don't want to get up on a chair motherfucking manually resetting the software on any light bulbs! is it just accepted that everything in our home is eventually going to be smart, require resets, and firmware upgrades?? even more frightening.

    16 votes
    1. Greg
      Link Parent
      Regularly timed sunrise & sunset routines, and general adjustable colour temperatures, do wonders for my sleep pattern. The ability to set moods and scenes across multiple main and accent lights...

      Regularly timed sunrise & sunset routines, and general adjustable colour temperatures, do wonders for my sleep pattern. The ability to set moods and scenes across multiple main and accent lights is also a nice design feature, as is the ability to save a few common patterns into a three-button wall switch (and mount those switches without needing wiring), but those are ancillary to me; blue spectrum in the morning and orange in the evening is the function I'm paying for.

      But yeah, this design looks utterly stupid and I'd be very concerned about the rest of the product if they think this is acceptable. I'd also be frustrated if the firmware were unstable enough to need a reset - I've certainly never needed to in the few years I've had my system.

      16 votes
    2. [6]
      JXM
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I have smart bulbs and they're fantastic. I hit one button on my remote control, it turns on the TV, Apple TV, and receiver. Then it turns off all of the lights except the ones near the TV and...

      I have smart bulbs and they're fantastic. I hit one button on my remote control, it turns on the TV, Apple TV, and receiver. Then it turns off all of the lights except the ones near the TV and then turns on the backlight I have behind the TV.

      And as @Greg said, you can have lights turn on and off at different times of day.

      They let you do things that are possible without them, but add a level of convenience that isn't possible otherwise.

      I've had them for nearly 3 years and only had to reset one bulb. None of them have burned out or needed to be replaced. With the Hue lights, you just turn them on and off a few times and they reset. As for firmware upgrades, they just happen in the background and there's nothing you need to do.

      1 vote
      1. [3]
        j3n
        Link Parent
        It's very possible otherwise. Smart switches, not bulbs are the way of the future.

        They let you do things that are possible without them, but add a level of convenience that isn't possible otherwise.

        It's very possible otherwise. Smart switches, not bulbs are the way of the future.

        3 votes
        1. Cosmos
          Link Parent
          How would you change the color of the bulb from a switch?

          How would you change the color of the bulb from a switch?

          4 votes
        2. JXM
          Link Parent
          True. But not feasible for those who live in a place they don’t own. How do smart switches avoid any of the problems of smart lights though? They still have radios to communicate, firmware to...

          True. But not feasible for those who live in a place they don’t own.

          How do smart switches avoid any of the problems of smart lights though? They still have radios to communicate, firmware to update and all the other issues associated with smart lights.

      2. [2]
        Algernon_Asimov
        Link Parent
        Just FYI: you can tag users with @username or /u/username, but ~username doesn't work. The tilde symbol is reserved only for groups. https://tildes.net/~tildes/wiki/how_to_guide#notifying_users...

        And as ~Greg said,

        Just FYI: you can tag users with @username or /u/username, but ~username doesn't work. The tilde symbol is reserved only for groups.

        https://tildes.net/~tildes/wiki/how_to_guide#notifying_users

        (And whoever created the "user" and "username" accounts is going to get a lot of false positive tags in future!)

        3 votes
        1. JXM
          Link Parent
          Fixed. I appreciate the reminder.

          Fixed. I appreciate the reminder.

          1 vote
  2. imperialismus
    Link
    I'm reminded of this ad about a dude trying to operate his voice-controlled smart house after a visit to the dentist's. I feel like almost all of these "smart" replacements for "dumb" household...

    I'm reminded of this ad about a dude trying to operate his voice-controlled smart house after a visit to the dentist's.

    I feel like almost all of these "smart" replacements for "dumb" household items offer minimal added value while introducing a lot of new, unexpected failure modes. I know how a normal light bulb works: installation is dead simple, it requires no maintenance for months or even years, and the only interface is a light switch. And that's perfectly fine by me.

    Maybe in a decade or two, they'll actually figure out ways to make the ratio of added value to added hassle and cost worthwhile.

    10 votes
  3. [9]
    mozz
    Link
    (from the article) I feel like the author didn't actually think this through. Where are you supposed to stick a pinhole on a lightbulb? Smart bulbs look just like their dumb ancestors, it's just a...

    (from the article)

    For some reason, GE decided not to install a physical reset button – you know, one of those tiny holes that you have to stick a pin or paperclip into

    I feel like the author didn't actually think this through. Where are you supposed to stick a pinhole on a lightbulb? Smart bulbs look just like their dumb ancestors, it's just a glass casing and a metal base that you screw in to the socket. Even if you did manage to fit a hole at the top of the base, you're going to ask people to jam a metal paperclip centimeters away from a live 120V AC socket?

    Smart lightbulbs are an impressive hack because they managed to get them to work in standard light sockets. It really felt like magic the first time I installed one. This comes with its downsides though, one of them being that the only physical interface is an on/off switch. If I was working on the microcontroller and designing a factory reset process, I probably would have came up with something similar to what GE's engineers landed on. Does anyone have a better idea?

    9 votes
    1. [2]
      Crespyl
      Link Parent
      One alternative would be a dedicated "reprogramming socket" you could screw the bulb into, and then either connect that to a PC or use some physical control on the socket. This is a bit messy and...

      One alternative would be a dedicated "reprogramming socket" you could screw the bulb into, and then either connect that to a PC or use some physical control on the socket. This is a bit messy and requires supporting another piece of hardware.

      A better idea would be a single physical switch or tiny screw on the bulb, flip the switch to put it in "reset mode", screw it in and let it boot up, wait however long the reset takes (indicated by some blink pattern), then unscrew the bulb and reset the switch to "normal" mode.

      The problem with both of these is that they require physically removing the bulb from its socket, which may be difficult/tedious in many cases (ceiling lights, etc).

      I think the basic idea of using the main light switch as the interface is probably fine, this is just an unnecessarily awful implementation.

      5 votes
      1. NaraVara
        Link Parent
        People are going to lose that socket about 20 minutes after installing the bulb. Additional superfluous parts aren’t usually great ways to do failure recovery. Garbage disposals have an Allen...

        People are going to lose that socket about 20 minutes after installing the bulb. Additional superfluous parts aren’t usually great ways to do failure recovery. Garbage disposals have an Allen wrench socket you turn to reset them mechanically. That’s way simpler and uses a thing people can buy for cheap at the hardware store in case they’ve never been to ikea in their lives.

        2 votes
    2. Gaywallet
      Link Parent
      A decent amount of them will have a tiny switch or hole near the base. They accomplish this by adding a few mm of extra material on-top of where it screws in and before the light actually begins.

      A decent amount of them will have a tiny switch or hole near the base. They accomplish this by adding a few mm of extra material on-top of where it screws in and before the light actually begins.

      4 votes
    3. yellow
      Link Parent
      You could make the whole bulb the button. Just press against on the bulb as input. I admit im not quite sure how hot LED bulbs get, but I'm pretty sure its not that hot. If you want to get a...

      Does anyone have a better idea?

      You could make the whole bulb the button. Just press against on the bulb as input. I admit im not quite sure how hot LED bulbs get, but I'm pretty sure its not that hot. If you want to get a little fancier, have the bulb be spun when pressed to be able to select different options (all bulbs have room to spin alread).

      An even more complicated option would be to have an IR reciever in the bulb. That would most likely require a remote however (shame that IR blasters fell out of style in phones). An IR signal still works on bulbs out of reach, unlike a button.

      Lastly, you could have a short power input (off-on-off) cause the bulb to look for a confirmation color pattern. Just a color sensor is needed and it would look for a certain sequence of colors that could be shown by a mobile app. Not sure if anything has used something like that before, so it might not work.

      4 votes
    4. Rocket_Man
      Link Parent
      If we accept this as true then this solution could come about. But It's hard to believe no other small changes can be made to the bulb to allow it to reset. Instead of a pinhole have a recessed...

      This comes with its downsides though, one of them being that the only physical interface is an on/off switch.

      If we accept this as true then this solution could come about. But It's hard to believe no other small changes can be made to the bulb to allow it to reset. Instead of a pinhole have a recessed switch in the base. That way you have to unscrew the bulb, flip the switch, and put it back in where it'll reset.

      1 vote
    5. [3]
      paulfromatlanta
      Link Parent
      Presumably, you'd unscrew the bulb first...

      Even if you did manage to fit a hole at the top of the base, you're going to ask people to jam a metal paperclip centimeters away from a live 120V AC socket?

      Presumably, you'd unscrew the bulb first...

      1. [2]
        mozz
        Link Parent
        These things don't have batteries in them. If you unplug the power source, a button isn't going to do anything.

        These things don't have batteries in them. If you unplug the power source, a button isn't going to do anything.

        3 votes
  4. [2]
    Deimos
    (edited )
    Link
    This has been getting passed around a lot, but I honestly don't get it. If someone installs a bulb in a difficult-to-reach position, the only "interface" you can really be confident of is that...

    This has been getting passed around a lot, but I honestly don't get it. If someone installs a bulb in a difficult-to-reach position, the only "interface" you can really be confident of is that they'll have some way of turning it on and off. All this takes is flipping a switch and counting a few times, it's not a difficult process.

    It also needs to be a process that there's almost zero chance of someone doing accidentally in normal use, because factory-resetting your bulb accidentally would be really annoying. So it takes a few repeats to try to ensure you're doing it deliberately.

    It looks dumb to watch someone do it in a video, but it makes sense to me, and it's not something you'll need to do often (or ever) anyway. People have probably spent more time and effort now trying to mock it than the world would have collectively ever spent factory-resetting these bulbs.

    6 votes
    1. Crespyl
      Link Parent
      This is the bit that everything else hinges on. I agree that the light switch itself is the easiest direct interface to the bulb, but based on my mostly negative experiences with smart-bulbs so...

      it's not something you'll need to do often (or ever) anyway.

      This is the bit that everything else hinges on. I agree that the light switch itself is the easiest direct interface to the bulb, but based on my mostly negative experiences with smart-bulbs so far, I just don't really trust this generation of IoT manufacturers to make very reliable products. The article already mentions having two different firmware revisions with different reset procedures; how many times will I need to update the firmware in my lightbulbs over the next four years? How can I determine what version is currently installed? Will I need a different phone app or web login for each brand of lightbulb? (drifting off topic here...)

      The procedure itself (setting aside the other IoT issues) seems needlessly difficult and tedious, even allowing for an on-off timing based signal. Why sets of 8/2, when the same interface would theoretically allow you to use something like sets of "ON:3s, flick OFF(<=0.5s), ON:3s"? A shorter flicker code would let you get through it much faster before you find out that you did something wrong along the way (or had the wrong firmware version).

      4 votes
  5. joelthelion
    Link
    I think I'll wait for a few years before I buy any of these "smart" products :)

    I think I'll wait for a few years before I buy any of these "smart" products :)