Monthly Archives: November 2010

Belkin Play N600 HD – just a toy router.

I saw the Belkin Play N600 HD router (F7D8301) at Costco a couple of days ago, for a very good price.

I’d been looking for a good price on an 802.11n router for some time – partly to increase coverage through my house, but also to ensure that I had a new router that would cope with improving technology as I buy it over the next few years.

Unsupported protocols

Sadly, this router isn’t it – there are several existing protocols that it just doesn’t support, which is rather odd for a new router.

Specifically, I note that the router does not state support in its interface for PPTP or IPsec passthrough – protocols 47, 50, 51. When I asked the Belkin tech support about this, they directed me to “try forwarding ports on the router”, apparently not aware that there is a difference between port and protocol forwarding. That’s an astonishing lapse in ability and knowledge for technical support on a router, and doesn’t give me much comfort that the router itself is developed with skill or knowledge.

Another protocol not supported by this router, which seems just crazy when we’re one hundred days away from X-day, is IPv6. That’s right, IPv6, the next-generation Internet Protocol, required for numerous features of modern Windows systems such as HomeGroups, DirectAccess, etc (I’m sure there are IPv6-only features for Mac and Linux, but those aren’t my specialisation), and it isn’t supported. You can connect to the router as a wireless client, but the IPv6 protocol, access to local DHCP servers, etc, isn’t supplied to your host computer. My Linksys WRT54GL has supported that for several years, and this new router from Belkin can’t handle it.

Also unsupported is “6in4” (aka v6tunnel), as used in IPv6 tunnel schemes such as http://tunnelbroker.net, which is how I make my network a part of the global IPv6 Internet until Comcast gets around to supporting native IPv6 service. Again, this wouldn’t require the router to understand anything about IPv6, just to forward IPv4 protocol 41 correctly.

Unreliable

In addition to missing such basic functionality, the Belkin Play N 600 HD also fails in the reliability stakes. Two days it’s been in our house, and both mornings, we’ve woken up to a complete lack of Internet service and wireless connectivity, although the light on the front of the router is solid green, indicating that it thinks everything is fine.

Pinging the router does nothing, restarting computers (in the vain hope that it might be a wireless card issue, or some network driver failure, though our network has been fine for many years) does nothing. The only action that has an effect is that of restarting the Belkin router. Clearly, the Belkin can’t make it through the night without locking up.

Not any better range

As if to pour salt onto the wound, this router isn’t even able to increase range in our house – the boy still can’t get a connection from his room on his iPod. Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing, but since we were hoping to increase range with the router’s ability to pick signals out with MIMO technology, it seems like there really isn’t much point to us keeping the router.

Thank goodness we bought it at Costco

Costco’s return policy is pretty reliable in cases like these – we take the failed device back, say that it wasn’t capable of reliable, basic use, and they refund us our purchase price. I’ll be giving it just a couple more days, in case Belkin has any hope to offer in terms of support of basic network router functionality, but I suspect I’ll just have to suck up the extra cost of using plain old reliable Linksys.

Is Microsoft killing the Zune HD?

It certainly looks that way.

Here are the clues:

  1. Update to the Zune software to allow the Windows Phone to work with it. Comes with several new apps, all of which are still free. Paid apps are now supported in the Zune software, but if there are none for the Zune HD, guess where all the development work will go? [Especially when it costs $100 to join the XNA Creators Club]
  2. A new version of the XNA Game SDK has been released, as part of the Windows Phone SDK – but this version doesn’t support developing apps for the Zune HD.
  3. The new “App Hub”, for submitting apps, and which replaces the XNA Creators Club, specifically lists that it is for apps developed for Windows Phone 7, and XBox 360. No mention of Zune HD.

I am sure that we’ll see Microsoft continuing to supply Music and Video for sale through the regular Zune software, but the app market is clearly about to be killed off… unless, that is, Microsoft is just spending a little extra time before releasing a version of the XNA Game SDK 4.0 that supports Zune HD.

I think that’s pretty much unlikely.

So, if you’re buying a Zune HD today, Microsoft’s message appears to be that you are not going to get any apps other than the ones that are already available.

That seems rather disappointing – the Zune HD has touch, accelerometer and a graphics chip capable of some great 3D (check out the racing game, Project Gotham Racing Ferrari Edition for an example), but the current XNA Game SDK for it provides no hardware 3D support.