Logitech Harmony Is Anything But

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Blend some illogical technology with disharmonious technology-versus-user relations plus disharmonious user-versus-tech support relations topped with disharmonious tech support-versus-product relations and what do you get? Why, Logitech’s Harmony home theatre remote that’s supposed to control all home theatre components, regardless of make. And it does that – provided you’re smarter than your average tech-savvy user and smarter even than Logitech’s level one tech support. And even that might not do it.

To put this whole episode into perspective, at least one of the humungo consumer electronics retailers is starting to push back at consumer electronics manufacturers – telling these tech companies to start listening to consumers and delivering what they want, rather than dcelivering what tech manufacturers want to make the way they want to make it. But in Logitech’s case, a “push back” wouldn’t do it. Logitech needs a crushing, cross-body block that breaks every bone in the company, giving it the opportunity to reassemble itself as a consumer-knowledgeable and consumer-focused organiazation.

Why am I so emphatic? Just hear me out about what happened when yours truly tried to program one of these “Harmony” remotes and use it. And keep Kleenex around ’cause you might laugh so hard you cry. Even I may laugh about it – in a year or three.

When I brought this thing home, I unpacked it – only to discover the only instructions provided pertained to how to hook up the remote to a computer with the supplied cable in order to input component settings, something any yo-yo can do. But as far as actually inputting the settings, nada. You’re supposed to follow the tutorial on the postage stamp LCD display on the remote, which supposedly appears when you push “OK.” But it didn’t appear. In fact, I pushed all the buttons I could find and it didn’t appear. So I took a rolling pin and pulled it across the unit to make sure I hit every button, and one of them worked. Damned if I know which one. But I brought up the tutorial, and it was crap.

So then I loaded the CD-software provided onto my laptop, believing I’d find coherent instructions there. But instead, what I got was a log-in denial. So I tried uninstalling and reinstalling the software. Samo, samo. At which point I e-mailed a service request to tech support, which supposedly would get a response within 24 hours. But while waiting to hear back, I discovered that I could download updated software from the website. So filled with optimism, I did. And I was finally able to log on. But when I started inputting the settings for our system components, I received a “fatal flow” error message saying the software couldn’t find one of its own files. So I deleted, downloaded and re-installed the software again. Samo, samo. Then I had to put it down to do real work.

About three days later, I received an e-mail apologizing for the lack of a response to my e-mail request and giving me a phone number to call for support. So I called. And got a woman, apparantly from the U.S. lordy-be. But my joy quickly turned to irritation when it took her five times or so to get my e-mail address straight, and then she insisted that she had to find my file from the e-mail request before proceeding, which she couldn’t. So she went to get help from her supervisor, and fifteen minutes later I got the tell-tale ring, followed by “If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and dial again.”

Having no more time to waste on this, I waited until the weekend to call again. This time I got someone helpful and more knowledgeable – up to a point.He knew enough to recommend that we didn’t need the software at all. We could load the settings over the web – and hopefully bypass the fatal error. Made me wonder, why the hell are they messing with downloading software or shipping CDs when users can work over the web? Anyway, we managed to get all the values entered except for the Bose receiver, where the fixed drop-down menu omitted the specific setting required. Moreover, selecting “Not shown” leads you to a dead end. So he tried an elaborate workaround – in the middle of which, along came the fatal error again – on the web instance! He didn’t have a clue what it was about, so he entered copious notes into Logitech’s support app, and then informed me that he was escalating the incident to level two support, which I should call the next day. All this took about two hours on the phone.

When I called the next morning, a machine answered and asked for my case number. I entered it. Then the machine infiormed me I wasn’t entitled to level two service and to call back on the level one service number. So I called back on the level one line and after a brief verbal skirmish persuaded some bloke to manually transfer me to level two. I can be very persuasive when I’m that pissed. So I finally spoke to a level two tech. But when this guy tried to bring up my file using my case number, he learned that Logitech’s tech service server had crashed, which meant I had to call back later that day. I wonder what the hell he’d been doing before I called, with no system. But oh well.

I waited a couple of hours and then called back. At which point I waited yet another hour in the phone queue. Made me think there’s lot’s of disharmony going around. When the level two tech answered and asked me to repeat the case number, he found the file – but not the service incident from the day prior with all those copious notes, including the error message. Which meant we had to start from scratch. After hearing about the Bose problem, he went offline, figured out what was wrong, and entered the proper settings himself, including creating a new menu item for the desired input setting. We even finished before the fata flaw reappeared. The problem with the Bose input menu? Logitech’s software doesn’t distinguish between two different versions of the Bose 3.2.1 mini-system, and defaults to the Release I’s input options. We, of course, have Release II. Although Rellease II is not new on the market, Logitech still hasn’t updated its Harmony software to provide the right settings. Hey, what’s the rush?

So now it works. But do you think I’ll ever buy another Logitech product again? Talk about the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. And support technology that’s totally hosed. And a technology-centric rather than consumer-centric product. Yup. Time to “break all their bones” so they can start over again. Hopefull they’ll get it right next time. If there is a next time.

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