Why Oh Why Do We Need The BT Home Hub?

Posted on Thursday 12th April 2007 at 00:00
In November 1998, Sega launched a new games console onto the market in order to replace the flopping Sega Saturn. This was the world's first glimpse at the Sega Dreamcast and initial interest in the new toy was encouraging. The console was clearly better than anything that had come before it and the wide range of games opened it up to a variety of gamers who collectively bought about 10 million of the things.

Ultimately though it wasn't very successful and a rapid decline in sales caused Sega to withdraw from the console market in March 2001. The reason for this was simple. It wasn't all that good. At least, it wasn't as good as the competition, which by this point was the Playstation 2. Love it or hate it, there's no denying that the PS2 was and still is a great console, whereas the Dreamcast was just a little bit crap.

The same can be said of the BT Homehub that I discovered in our study on a recent trip home from uni. IE, it is rubbish. I don't know if you've seen the things I mean, but if you are a BT broadband customer you probably have one, or are about to receive one. At the moment BT are pushing these things pretty hard, phoning up all their existing customers, trying to persuade them to switch over.

If you happen to receive a call from them on this subject, please tell them to get stuffed. You really do not want this piece of hardware, even if it is free, as I believe it now is. For a start, it is large and bulky, and the part where you plug the cables in is covered by a back panel, as if to suggest that once you've got it all plugged in, you'll never want to unplug it ever again, which is simply not true, as I have to yank the power cable out at least once a week to restart the bloody thing when it crashes.

That leads me on nicely to problems two and three. Problem two is that it is actually less reliable at maintaining a connection to the internet (or reconnecting once it has dropped the connection) than my old router was, and that in itself is quite impressive I feel.

Problem three is what happens when it all goes wrong; or rather, what doesn't happen. What should happen is that I cut the power, switch it back on again and by the time I've walked back up to my computer, everything is working the way I like. Sadly though, this is no longer the case, as the start up time for a BT Homehub is not the 30 seconds I'm used to, but a full 3 minutes so far as I can tell, during which time it just sits there and blinks at you repeatedly. Even once it is all working, you still have to manually connect your computer again, since the DHCP server is slower than a three toed sloth on a hot summer's afternoon.

At first I thought it was just me being anal about the sort of technology I use, as I normally am, but since getting the thing, I've heard several stories from friends about similar problems with their own BT products. In one case the signal was so bad that even after a BT engineer had set it up, not a single computer in the house could connect and sustain a connection.

And this is a shame really, because if it wasn't for a few little design flaws, this would be a pretty neat bit of kit. It looks stylish, modern and sleek. The set up is relatively easy, even if you don't know what you are doing, and when it works it works well. In our case, the line speed has more than doubled and the signal is stronger in more of the house than ever before. If BT sorted out the problems with it, it could be the best thing in their entire product portfolio.

So come on BT, show us a PS2, not a Dreamcast!

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