AT&T Digital Life – Digital Scam

DigitalLifeDigitalScam

I hate writing posts like this. I don’t like to use this site as a platform for consumer complaints but… This is important enough.

Back in 2014 we signed up for AT&T Digital Life, a security/home automation service offered by AT&T. From day one, we had issues with the system. The 7-8 hour installation was highlighted by my wife and I witnessing a supervisor relentlessly abuse his employee. After the install, none of the equipment worked properly. Even after several phone calls and technician visits, sensors would work for a bit, and then stop. It was bad enough that we asked to be let out of our contract and cancel the service but AT&T refused, citing our two year commitment and that we’d have to pay an ETF and some equipment cost if we canceled early. So we relented, and just kept the service, waiting for the two years to be up so we could cancel.

There were two occasions that, for no reason, the alarm system dispatched the sheriffs department. We were told by AT&T that a glitch caused the alarm system to notify the authorities and that they took corrective action. Part of that action was to put the system in “test mode” for 24 hours to insure that the system was operating correctly. While in test mode the system would function normally, with the exception that it would not be actively monitored, any alarms from the system would be ignored.

We continued to have issues (non-working sensors, etc.) but no more early morning calls or visits from the Sheriff. I had a suspicion that the system was never taken out of test mode, but never checked before this last month. Shame on us for not getting after AT&T to fix the system, but dealing with Digital Life support was a bit like going out to get flogged.

Last month (July) I actually set off the alarm twice to see if we’d get a response from AT&T. What you’d expect is that the alarm would go off, and we’d get a call from AT&T asking if everything was ok. We didn’t get any calls. This basically confirmed that the system was never taken out of test mode. Shame on AT&T.

A couple of days later my wife called to cancel the service. She brought up our concern about the system being in test mode to the representative. Shockingly, they confirmed that the system had been in test mode since March of 2015.

One person I talked to actually told me that it’s common practice for them to put problematic systems in test mode. Effectively, leaving them unmonitored.

My wife then said she’d like to talk to someone about getting some sort of refund since we were paying for a monitored system that wasn’t actually being monitored.

Nearly 20 hours of phone calls later and the best AT&T offered us was to reinstate our account and give us a month of service for free. I even talked to people in the “Office of the President” to no avail. No one we talked to seemed at all concerned with the fact that while we were paying for a service, they were actively not providing it.

So, this is a public service announcement. If you are an AT&T Digital Life Customer, check to make sure that your system is actually being monitored properly. If you are not an AT&T Digital Life Customer, I’d recommend staying away from them, based on our experience, as far as we’re concerned, it’s a scam service.

Acurite 3N1TXCA1 Weather Station Teardown

Teardown of a decommissioned Acurite 3N1TXCA1 weather station. What kind of sensors and build quality do these inexpensive weather stations have?

The only two components of note are the outdoor temperature/humidity sensor and the pressure sensor (for barometric pressure readings). The most surprising thing is the piss-poor build quality of the unit.

SHT21 datasheet

DMP015A-1 datasheet

Similar (currently available) weather station

Disassembly/Inspection Of A Failed Cree LED Light Bulb

Disassembly/Inspection Of A Failed Cree LED Light Bulb
Very modular design. You could perform a non-destructive disassembly.

Disassembly/Inspection Of A Failed Cree LED Light Bulb

Disassembly/Inspection Of A Failed Cree LED Light Bulb
Yikes! Is that right? Turns out, it is.
Disassembly/Inspection Of A Failed Cree LED Light Bulb
This LED fell off during disassembly. They are not hard to get off but I wonder if this one was loose and could have been the cause/contributing to the issue the bulb was having.

Disassembly/Inspection Of A Failed Cree LED Light Bulb

Disassembly/Inspection Of A Failed Cree LED Light Bulb

Disassembly/Inspection Of A Failed Cree LED Light Bulb
Interestingly, no heat sink compound was used between the heat sink and the LED substrate.
Disassembly/Inspection Of A Failed Cree LED Light Bulb
This part was in the center of the heat sink. The bottom contacts made contact w/the driver board and the top contacts w/the LEDs.

Disassembly/Inspection Of A Failed Cree LED Light Bulb

Disassembly/Inspection Of A Failed Cree LED Light Bulb
Could the discoloration on the silk screen labeling be a sign the board was getting to hot?
Disassembly/Inspection Of A Failed Cree LED Light Bulb
Good quality, high temp rated CAPs
Disassembly/Inspection Of A Failed Cree LED Light Bulb
There was a lot more of these white cruddy spots on this inductor before this picture was taken… Not sure if this is an indication of an issue.
Disassembly/Inspection Of A Failed Cree LED Light Bulb
Some crud around the right lead of the primary capacitor. May just be left over from manufacturing. The cap looks fine, no bulging or signs of leaking.

Automatic Faux/Fake Fireplace

Automatic Faux/Fake Fireplace

A few weeks ago, much to the Wife Units™ glee, Costco had a deal on their entertainment centers with a built-in faux fireplace (it also has an electric heater that is of less consequence). While it’s a nice entertainment center, and the faux fireplace is convincing enough for our enjoyment, after having the unit for a couple of days, I did find a problem.

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Refrigerator Controller-Thermostat

A bit back I opened my office mini fridge and found that it was warm. I checked all the obvious things: it was plugged in and getting power, and the thermostat was set correctly. Deeper diagnostics revealed that the thermostat was faulty. No matter the thermostat setting, it was not engaging to cool the fridge. If I bypassed the thermostat and manually (i.e. shorted the compressor leads) started the compressor the fridge cooled as it should.

I was unable to find an OEM replacement thermostat but figured I could make a replacement for less than a new fridge would cost.

Refrigerator Controller - Thermostat

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Automatic Server Room Exhaust

The Problem

I have a home “server room” that houses a couple of servers and other network hardware. In fact this site is being served to you from a VM running on a server sitting in that room.

If you’ve spent any time around servers (or any electronics for that matter) you know that they generate heat. I’ve recently consolidated a couple of physical servers by virtualizing them but the remaining physical servers, switch, cable modem, and UPS still generate about 2000 BTUs of heat. That’s about the same heat output as a small space heater.

The “server room” is a repurposed 30sq foot bathroom that is off of a main room (think of the typical master bedroom/bathroom setup). Managing the heat produced by the equipment has been an issue mostly solved by keeping the server room door open (to keep heat from building up) and running the existing bathroom exhaust fan.

My main issue with the current setup is having to keep the server room door open. This is especially an issue in the summer because the heat produced from the equipment is enough to overwhelm any cool air being pushed into the main room from the central AC. This makes both the server room and the main room perpetually hot. Also annoying is the noise from the equipment, and having to keep the door open prevents me from being able to doing anything to reduce dust incursion into the server room.

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