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Bad Livebox, Good Livebox

Something went wrong with the Livebox 2 today. I don't know what. The symptoms are that when it was asked to download anything of side with a weak WiFi signal, the internet access subsystem would die. By die, I mean the WiFi light would still be on, but all the computers would cease to recognise that a WiFi connection existed. In addition to this, jacking into the wired ethernet also did not work. On the other hand, the VoIP phone did work so some of the connectivity was still functioning.

It took me four tries to download the newspaper - the final one only working because I stood next to the box. It dropped out at other times too, so it seemed to be "downloading pretty much anything" could make it sulk.

It's hot, I'm hot, we're all bothered. I tried dropping to WiFi b/g (the extra speed of 'n' doesn't make much difference with a 2mbit incoming), but WiFi b/g is able to step down to a mere 1mbit in case of degraded signal, while n only goes down to 6.5mbit. If the signal is bad triggers this, it makes sense to let it step back to something it can work better with.

Made no difference.

In the end, I poked the hidden RESET button. Unlike the previous reset buttons that rebooted, this one needs a match or something because it throws away all the internal information.

I was really bothered now. I didn't fancy reconfiguring and associating every damn thing again. I wanted my spinach and ricotta pasta.

The Livebox powered up with a dead simple loading screen. It didn't ask me to log in, it asked me to confirm the internet access details. Which, oddly enough, were correct. There was no management stuff. Nothing, except this front page. The hidden document to return the ADSL status 404'd me.
Then the blue light started to blink.

Then it dawned on me.

What I was looking at was some sort of recovery mechanism. It was enough to get information from the user to allow it to sign in, and then pull the firmware to flash it into itself. This was actually spectacularly clever. If there is something up with the box (is it a live mounted filesystem?) or maybe even a failed firmware update, then this might be a get-yourself-going package.

But it gets better.

All of my settings were preserved. The WiFi connected right in, everything was associated. Nothing needed to be tweaked. Marvellous.

And it now works for downloads, not a hiccup.


Now, I often malign Orange for their Android apps which are clunky, sometimes buggy, slow, need loads of weird permissions, and are resource hogs. However this, the Livebox recovery process, was painless, quick, and it worked flawlessly. I don't know what went wrong in the first place, but the provision of a recovery mechanism was good. I'm pleased!

And the pasta, with a pesto sauce, was damn fine, to misquote a certain Agent Cooper.


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Rick, 13th July 2013, 12:37
Spoke too soon. The recovery stuff is indeed impressive, but it has not solved the problem, which is looking increasingly like some sort of bizarre fault with the WiFi hardware. How do I explain THAT to Customer Service?!
Zerosquare, 14th July 2013, 05:14
Just tell them that your Internet connection dies sometimes and that resetting the box fixes it for a while. Don't get too technical with them, as the customer service people don't know much (like most other ISPs). If you can, visit the nearest Orange store and try to get them to replace your Livebox.  
Orange's hardware and firmware are known to be pretty unreliable; you're not the first one to experience mysterious issues with it. Oh, and don't think that being the former phone company means that they'll give you better service if your ADSL fault is phone-line related; they'll just shift the blame within their own company. Basically, they're no better than other expensive ISPs in France and more expensive than most; I wouldn't recommend them unless no other ISP services your area.
Rick, 17th July 2013, 00:07
A semi-official guy on the "entraide" forum has stepped in to arrange a replacement Livebox. I know customer service knows sod-all, I was gearing up for a plethora of "have you switched it off and on again?" type questions, so I'm thankful this person has stepped in. 
The boxes might have mysterious issues, but the question is will any part of Orange admit to such? Sort of like Apple's "you're holding it wrong" until that little caper blew up in their faces. 
I don't expect BETTER service with them being the phone company. What I expect, seeing as I am dégroupée [for others: this means I have no analogue phone or contract, the wires supply only internet] is to have the people who OWN the wires be the same as who provide me with the internet service. There are other, cheaper, offers around; however if my line (any part of ~4.7km!) is brought down by a storm or crazed zombie farmers - do you see Orange being in any hurry to do something about it if I'm paying somebody ELSE for my service? To be honest, once you get beyond the firewall known as Customer Service, Orange have not been *that* bad [*]. I'm currently running at 1.8mbit (it dropped a little in the heat) but given my original contract said it wasn't possible to get more than one with my remote location. 
Still, I hope for a replacement Sagem Livebox. I will probably get a ZTE which is... let's say my (limited) experience with ZTE mobile phones would place them in the same category as Sky Digiboxes. Engineered to provide the basic specificed service and not damn thing extra (...I mean, would it have killed most Digiboxen to have an s-video output?). Given this, I wonder how responsive it will be to a long line where it will need to listen carefully and shout at the same time... We'll see, huh? 
* - just try to avoid their Android apps. Way too many irrelevant permissions, often slow, tend to be crashy on a good day, incessant need to start up with a GSM signal to check you are who you say you are (as if non-Orange customers would get any use out of most of the Orange-specific stuff, duh!).

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