Single points of failure

Once upon I time I’d go down to the kitchen in the morning, turn on the radio, and listen to NHPR while making breakfast. Now I turn on a Logitech Squeezebox to do the same thing. But this morning it failed.

The list of things that could have gone wrong includes:

1. The box itself (hardware, firmware)

2. My Internet router

3. My cable modem

4. My ISP

5. The Internet fabric between my ISP and Logitech’s ISP

6. The Squeezebox service itself

I guess most people would just turn off the Squeezebox, wait a while, and turn it back on. Sometimes I wish I were one of those people. But being me I had to put on my detective hat and work through the checklist. After resetting the box to factory defaults, reconnecting to my local router, and verifying that my connections through the Internet fabric were otherwise OK, I was left with #6 and called Logitech support.

Sure enough, their servers are down. The ETA for a fix is 2-4 hours. It’s tempting to attribute this failure to the complexity of our modern systems. Like when guys bitch about how you used to be able to work on your own car, and now you can’t.

It’s true that the Squeezebox is more complex than the radio I used to have. And the Internet is more complex than the terrestrial radio I used to listen to. But that isn’t really the problem. Dependency on a single point of failure is the real culprit. And it’s worse than I thought:

Logitech leaves Squeezebox fans wondering what’s next

The Squeezebox platform is officially discontinued, but Logitech hasn’t told current owners what they should expect from now on.

In my review of the Logitech UE Smart Radio, there’s a single parenthetical line mentioning that the company is discontinuing the Squeezebox line of products. Incredibly, that’s more than Logitech has officially said on the matter, leaving the passionate fans of the Squeezebox platform wondering what’s going to happen to their network audio streamers.

CNET

The point of failure is not the box, or the Internet, but the Squeezebox service. And it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Squeezebox service is just a gateway to other services: Internet radio, Pandora. Those services are all up and running. The Squeezebox could have been built to be able to connect directly to them. But it wasn’t. So when the Squeezebox service is down the box is dead. And if Logitech discontinues the service, the box is not just mostly dead, it’s all dead.

I want my next Internet radio to work like my pre-Internet radio. If it really breaks then OK, that happens. But otherwise it keeps working. Some stations might not be reachable at some times. OK, that happens. But there’s no single point of failure in the fabric. That’s just lame.

9 thoughts on “Single points of failure

  1. Ted M. Young (@jitterted)

    This is why I won’t buy hardware that requires the company’s servers for most or all of its functionality: you never know when the company will go out of business, or decide to stop running those servers, or, in this case, goes down for some period of time.

    Reply
  2. fritzsonFritzson

    You can run your own squeezeboxserver; I do. (I think they call it a mediaserver now or something like that.) I don’t think I’ve relied on Logitech’s server since I bought my Squeezeboxes. I still really like them.

    Reply
  3. Peter Nõu

    i too run my own squeezebox server, and it is a really ‘easy’ install on a variety of platforms. i still run three different generations of squeezebox HW and never use the logitech server side stuff.

    Reply
  4. Tim M

    Ditto running the server locally (wasn’t that originally the only way to use a squeezebox, I think Logitech introduced the mysqueezebox.com service as a way to help those who didn’t want to run a server?) – I never used the public servers for the reason you outline.

    I run the server on a home NAS these days (a small QNAP in my case, others are available), and the software is open sourced so can be maintained when Logitech stop developing it (to their credit, they’re still putting some dev effort into it now).

    And with things like SqueezePlay and SqueezeLite as generic clients, SqueezePlayOS (http://birdslikewires.co.uk/articles/squeezeplay-os) and the “client and server on a Pi” bundles, then not only are we not dependent on the physical logitech servers, or on them for the software, but neither are we dependent on them for the hardware.

    Reply
  5. Jon Udell Post author

    My understanding is that server dishes out your local media, but doesn’t broker connections to Pandora, Net radio, etc, which are what I mainly care about. Am I wrong?

    Reply
  6. Tim M

    I think it may depend on the connection/plugin/mysqueezebox-app involved.

    For “squeezebox apps” you may well be right (which is why I don’t use those apps), but when I tune into a specific web radio station (http://83.170.84.48:3393/ is my local hospital radio in the UK) then I see that the client has connected directly to that address (ie it’s not even that the local server is proxying the connection).

    Whereas when I listen to the BBC iPlayer for instance, I’m not sure if the client or server makes the connection, but I’m pretty something local connects to iPlayer directly rather than proxying through Logitech servers (the BBC are obliged by their charter to block overseas users so lots of people set up VPN tunnels to try to appear as UK users and the BBC have to try and shut down such channels).

    And I know that the spotify plugin used to require that the local server was running on an x86 CPU, so I’m guessing the local server is involved in the chain and doing some authentication/decoding, but whether it connects to spotify directly or via mysqueezebox.com I can’t say.

    So my quick test with netstat suggests “it depends” .. sorry to be so vague…

    Reply
  7. Joan

    Enjoyed reading this, but it strikes me as very important that you left the NHPR out of the list. They’re working very hard to keep up as the tech changes, often with aging plant. Pledge drive time…. so they’ll still be there no matter the tech.

    Reply
    1. Jon Udell Post author

      That’s an excellent point. I indeed did not consider NHPR itself a possible failure point. And I hope my regular monthly donation helps to assure that!

      Reply

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