What scares people away from Linux.

Here’s the transcript of a supremely frustrating tech support chat I had this morning in regards to my new NAS:

[9:32:32 AM] acurrie: Anybody there?
[9:32:59 AM] QNAP_Support_(English or Chinese): hi can you tell me your question first
[9:33:37 AM] acurrie: yes, i need help with my new device
[9:33:50 AM] acurrie: a ts-410
[9:36:02 AM] QNAP_Support_(English or Chinese): and your issue is?
[9:36:13 AM] acurrie: i can’t access it via linux
[9:36:27 AM] acurrie: it’s hooked directly to my computer via ethernet
[9:36:52 AM] acurrie: and i’ve tried to administer it from http://169.254.100.100:8080/
[9:37:15 AM] acurrie: but i won’t connect. i don’t know what else to do.

[9:37:42 AM] QNAP_Support_(English or Chinese): did you set up your PC IP to 169.254.100.99
[9:37:54 AM] acurrie: how do i do that?
[9:47:06 AM] acurrie: are you still there?

[9:48:00 AM] QNAP_Support_(English or Chinese): can you install TeamViewer
[9:48:15 AM] QNAP_Support_(English or Chinese): then I can show you how to configure the IP address

[9:48:26 AM] acurrie: does teamviewer work with linux?
[9:50:16 AM] QNAP_Support_(English or Chinese): no
[9:50:52 AM] QNAP_Support_(English or Chinese): I think you need to find out how to change the PC IP address first
[9:50:59 AM] QNAP_Support_(English or Chinese): then you should be located the NAS

[9:51:26 AM] acurrie: and you can’t help with that?
[9:51:51 AM] QNAP_Support_(English or Chinese): if you can not connect to NAS,I can not do anything
[9:52:13 AM] acurrie: is there nobody in your office who knows more about linux?
[9:52:49 AM] QNAP_Support_(English or Chinese): currently most of the workers are offwork
[9:53:44 AM] acurrie: i’ve been waiting for someone to be online since last night
[9:54:03 AM] acurrie: it would help if your status in skype was set to show that you were available
[9:55:50 AM] acurrie: ok, so teamviewer does apparently work with linux
[9:56:00 AM] acurrie: but i’m assuming you can’t help me anyway

[9:56:33 AM] QNAP_Support_(English or Chinese): because now you are talking how to change IP address in your PC,not talking about our NAS
[9:56:47 AM] QNAP_Support_(English or Chinese): are you using ubuntu?

[9:56:56 AM] acurrie: yes
[9:57:26 AM] acurrie: i’m assuming if i were using windows or mac os i wouldn’t have to change my ip
[9:57:37 AM] acurrie: this doesn’t sound like full linux support to me

[9:59:15 AM] QNAP_Support_(English or Chinese): because now you are directly connect NAS to PC
[9:59:28 AM] QNAP_Support_(English or Chinese): thefore you need to setup PC iP to 169.254.100.99
[9:59:45 AM] QNAP_Support_(English or Chinese): if you conect it in a LAN environment by DHCP
[10:00:02 AM] QNAP_Support_(English or Chinese): you don’t need to set up anything ,if both in DHCP

[10:00:44 AM] acurrie: so i need to buy a router now
[10:03:04 AM] * QNAP_Support_(English or Chinese) “ubuntu.PNG”:

QNAP's Ubuntu Networking Grab

[10:03:24 AM] QNAP_Support_(English or Chinese): maybe you can refer to that
[10:05:05 AM] acurrie: so i add a new connection, but how am i supposed to know with the MAC address is for the NAS?
[10:05:14 AM] acurrie: is this screen grab from some how-to?
[10:05:25 AM] acurrie: a link to that would be very helpful

[10:06:13 AM] QNAP_Support_(English or Chinese): this is grap from my VM
[10:09:21 AM] acurrie: i’m sorry it’s not really helpful without explicit instructions
[10:11:13 AM] acurrie: and even if i’m able to administer this machine i still have to figure out a way to mount it on my computer, correct?

[10:12:23 AM] QNAP_Support_(English or Chinese): yes,you need to mount them through nfs
[10:13:45 AM] acurrie: and none of this would be necessary with mac or windows os?
[10:14:50 AM] QNAP_Support_(English or Chinese): or you can just access the NAS through web interface
[10:15:00 AM] QNAP_Support_(English or Chinese): then you don’t need to mount the data volume

[10:15:26 AM] acurrie: but I can’t
[10:17:09 AM] acurrie: i have to say i’m more than a little disappointed that there is no one available to help me with a product that is specifically advertised to be linux-compatible
[10:17:22 AM] acurrie: it looks like i’ll have to return it
[10:17:38 AM] acurrie: thanks for making this clear, anyway. sorry to trouble you.

For someone new to Linux this is pretty much a nightmare scenario, where a company selling a product I want makes all kinds of assumptions about the skill level of the user, while their own representatives aren’t trained to the same standard. And I realize there’s a language barrier here, but I think the lack of Linux knowledge came through loud and clear, on both ends.

I guess I’ve been really spoiled by Linux thus far — because everything else, from customizing my OS to emulating another one has been so ridiculously easy.

As for this $500 brick sitting here on the table beside me, I suppose I should solicit some advice about setting up a subnet and getting started with NFS — but at this point I can barely stand to look at it, and will probably make good on my word and send it back.

24 comments:

  1. FWIW, from the screen grab, you would click on the IPV4 tab and setup the ip address from there.

    That is, if you still want to fool with it anyway.

    But once you’re on the IPV4 tab, you’ll still need to know what IP address you want, the subnet mask, the default gateway and DNS servers. Although, since your device is plugged directly in to your machine, you won’t need the DNS servers.

    Maybe that will help. And yeah, tech support from overseas is a joke at best. They hardly ever helpful.

  2. I’m glad your not giving up on Linux.

    But I don’t think you are being very fair to QNAP. They make great devices. I understand your new to Linux but its not the product manufacturers job to teach you everything about your operating system. There seems to be a fundamental gap in your knowledge of networking (in general), this is not limited to being a linux problem.

    Let me see if I can clarify things for you.

    The QNAP device when booted likely trys to pull an ip address from DHCP. Since you have the device _directly_ connected to your computer it will not pull an address unless your computer is acting as a DHCP server. Since it couldnt pull an IP it assigned a default address. Or it might have just assigned that default address even if you have dhcp available, not clear from your description.

    A typical home setup would look something like this

    internet —-|
    |—modem—router—|
    |
    |——desktop pc
    |
    |
    |——-qnap

    In that config the router acts as a DHCP server and will assign a unique IP to both the qnap and the desktop.

    The agent was asking you if you had assigned 169.254.100.99 to your desktop. He was saying that because that ip would be on the same subnet and then you would be able to communicate with the qnap. You didnt give him enough information, and he is just a phone or chat tech. You cant expect him to be that knowledgable to fill in the gaps by himself. Have you ever tried calling someone like Dell? Unless your talking to business support those guys usually dont know anything more than what their script tells them to read (regardless of operating system).

    Its still not clear exactly how you have things connected but this should work …. at least to communicate with the qnap to configure it. Working out your other network issues you will need to do yourself.

    open a terminal and as root run

    /sbin/ifconfig eth0:1 169.254.100.99

    this will bring up a virtual interface attached to eth0 (likely your network interface unless you have multiple or are using a wireless interface) with the ip 169.254.100.99 which is on the same subnet as the qnaps default ip. Now open up that 169.254.100.100:8080 url in your browser. Good luck

  3. “open a terminal and as root & run /sbin/ifconfig eth0:1 169.254.100.99”

    This is what I needed the QNAP person to tell me. Thanks!

  4. Welcome to the side of Linux we like to call “pain”. Times like these are great I’d you’re in the mood to learn something, but sometimes you just want it to “work”. Where have I heard this before … ahhh yes … some Linux hater in Cupertino is smiling right now.

    I hope you get it figured out and this doesn’t mess up your experience with Linux.

  5. You just have to temporarily change your IP address to the one they’re telling you, in order to access the NAS configuration page!

    You’d have to do the same thing on MacOS or Windows.

    This is NOT what scares people away from Linux.

    You want to set up a NAS and don’t know how to change your machine’s IP address?? Why don’t you try to build a house not knowing (and refusing to learn) what a hammer is?

    Just google for “change IP address on Ubuntu” and you’ll be able to use that “brick” you have there (that is, if you can after that set up anything at all – RAID is not trivial to setup).

    Best regards.

  6. “You’d have to do the same thing on MacOS or Windows.”

    Incorrect.

    OS X and Windows-specific apps are included with the product, and nowhere in the documentation for those OSes is there any mention of changing any IP address.

    In fact in my 16 years of using Macs I don’t think I’ve had to change my IP address once.

  7. “OS X and Windows-specific apps are included with the product, and nowhere in the documentation for those OSes is there any mention of changing any IP address.”

    Fair enough.

    First, sorry for sounding so upset. On the chat exchange, you seemed more interested in complaining than in solving your problem.

    This was a fairly simple request on their side. Change your IP address. If you’d explore a little bit more those windows described on the screenshot, you’d easily find something like “IP Address”.

    Please tell if run into any other problems.

  8. “On the chat exchange, you seemed more interested in complaining than in solving your problem.”

    Really? I think it’s a reasonable expectation for someone selling a Linux-compatible product to know more than me about Linux…

  9. “This is what I needed the QNAP person to tell me. Thanks!”

    So you got to the configuration page?

    “You’d have to do the same thing on MacOS or Windows.” “Incorrect.”

    IIRC those programs just match the mac addresses to the range of macs that that the vendor uses. I had a ReadNas that had similar software. Ultimately its significantly easier to stay away from that software and deal with the device as it is directly on the network. The day will come when you need to reset something then you cant find the craptastic software.

  10. I did indeed get to the config page — although I used a slightly different command:

    sudo ifconfig eth0 169.254.100.99

    … as recommended in that Identi.ca thread linked to above.

    And I’m all about leaving craptastic software behind. 😉

    The array is configuring itself now. I’ve set it up for Windows sharing and NFS. If it doesn’t mount on my desktop when it’s done I may well need a crash course in NFS. 🙁

  11. The linux support is likely the web interface you spoke of. At this point, the easiest thing to do is get a router with dhcp built in (most do) and hook both the NAS and the computer to it. Both will pull ip addresses. Then the only trick is finding out what the ip address of the NAS is.

    Typically, if you pull the address 192.168.0.100 the NAS will be somewhere right before or after that, like 192.168.0.101.

    You can check your ip address by opening a terminal and typing ifconfig eth0 .

  12. Okay, so the NAS is now configured — but I can no longer access it here:

    http://169.254.100.100:8080/

    I didn’t give it a static IP, at least not a new one.

    I’ve got the package ‘nfs-common’ installed on my computer, and have set up the NAS for NFS as well. I would love an easy (or at least specific) way to figure out where it’s gone and how I can get it to auto-mount when I boot up/log-in.

  13. Arg! Dealing with proprietary devices and IP addresses are where I start charging for service calls! It’s the type of issue that’s much easier for me to do in person than it is to try and explain it to someone else!

    And no, it’s not Linux’s fault. All of this IP crap comes from the early Seventies. Linux first appeared in 1991.

    Still, you’d think the device would have at least be configured with DHCP. A computer application could have easily found it on a local network once it was plugged into a router.

  14. Let the records show that this is about as close as I got to actually having a usable product:

    As close as I got...

    I managed to change the IP to a static one (192.168.10.10) but now I’m completely locked out.

    Good thing I saved the box…

  15. François Caron wrote:

    Still, you’d think the device would have at least be configured with DHCP. A computer application could have easily found it on a local network once it was plugged into a router.

    ~~~~

    I think that’s precisely the problem. On Mac or Windows, the vendor supplies a tiny program that essentially scans the local network for compatible QNAP devices and then opens the interface (even if that’s just a browser). They didn’t bother writing one for Linux, so the user has to know more about networking than the Win or Mac guy.

    Although I am typically of the “you should know computer & networking basics” camp, I agree with Andrew. If they are going to sell it as “Linux compatible” then not only should the operational bits be compatible, but the setup should, as well. Maybe the tech should not have to walk the customer through IP setup; that’s debatable. But the company should develop the same setup tools on Linux as they have done for other operating systems. If not, the label should read “getting this to work with Linux is on the customer, not us”.

    FWIW, all the tech had to do was ask Andrew to click on the IPv4 settings and change his IP address (after clicking the admin-mode button). That seems pretty simple.

  16. That’s assuming the tech knew how to navigate through Andrew’s specific Linux distro. Red Hat? Debian? Ubuntu? Mint? And which desktop environment? Gnome? KDE? Other?

    Despite Linux’s high level of freedom and accessibility, it’s still a huge mess out there.

  17. IMHO the fault is on both sides – you should know how to use your computer including network configuration (and with that comes the knowledge about TCP/IP, netmasks, subnets etc so you would know why you can’t access the device) regardless of what os you use (and I agree – IPv4 is crap), and the tech support should be able to help get you through it (give you at least that one liner to add a new address to your eth0). It was easy ;-).

    Other than that if you can’t do it yourself, you should hire someone to set this all up for you ;-).

  18. “I guess I’ve been really spoiled by Linux thus far — because everything else, from customizing my OS to emulating another one has been so ridiculously easy.”

    Just as an observation.

    In my view there’ll always bee a boarder somewhere, when you just need to dig deeper and learn some basic concepts of computing. A PC isn’t a locked device, only possible to use in some predetermined way, hence what’s “ridiculously easy” might not demand basic knowledge about computing beyond following the layout of a specific tool.

    NAS has fairly recently become a home device. That producers of these devices make software tools to hide the fact how these devices work makes it potentially easier to start, but I doubt it’s a good strategy in the long run. Sooner or later you hit a wall with no “magic-drill-through-it-tool” to access, and you’re forced to learn the basic concepts.

    The existence of a webb-interface is still very convenient and the most valuable part of the software for a home user. You still have, and I use at home, brand new up to date devices that first have to be configured from console by a serial port.

    NAS and similar devices follow standards that make them just as useful for Linux users.

  19. Both good points.

    And yes, at the end of the day there is, in fact, nothing wrong with my QNAP. I just needed someone to walk me through the basics of networking, as its been dumbed-down for me for so long by so many Apple products.

    Even my router has a name hard-wired to its IP address (http://fonera/) — I now know that it’s proper IP is 192.168.10.10. I know some other stuff too, all thanks to the comments here and a small army of helpful souls on Identi.ca

    And if the person from QNAP wants to know how to change an IP address in Linux I’d be happy to show them. 😉

  20. Wait, did you have a router, or did you just buy one?

    I honestly was baffled that you’d purchased a Network-Attached Storage device without… a network.

  21. No no, I always had a network — I just wanted to hard-wire the NAS to my computer for the time being to get speedier file transfers (over ethernet) and put it on my wireless network at a later date.

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