Mother of All Whistlers: Virgin Media superhub. Listen to recordings
Audio Virgin Media is resorting to sending its subscribers to Maplins and other electrical outlets to deal with its now long-standing whistling power supply problem that has blighted the company's troublesome* SuperHub modem/router combi kit.
Netgear, which supplies the equipment to the telco, has failed to comment on what has gone wrong with the PSUs despite repeatedly being asked by The Register. It's understood that a dodgy component is causing an annoying whining noise to emit once the SuperHub has been switched on.
Virgin Media told us in a statement:
Netgear has completed its investigation into this and identified the cause of the noise which a small number of customers have reported from a batch of power supplies.
While this is a standard power supply of which Netgear has shipped millions of units around the world without any identified noise issues, we are working with them to correct this.
Vulture Central has heard from many VM customers who have complained about having a whistling SuperHub, after we revealed the problem in October this year.
Since then, Virgin Media has been busily replacing the whistling PSUs only for many punters to complain that the problem continues.
The issue has got so bad that VM has advised at least one subscriber to go to Maplins and buy a replacement power unit for the SuperHub, who was then credited for the expense on their account by the ISP.
Sources have previously suggested to El Reg that the problems which have dogged the SuperHub since it was first deployed by Virgin Media in early 2011 are a hot topic of debate in management meetings at the company. It's understood that VM is desperate to replace the failing kit.
Officially, Virgin Media has said that the suggestion that the Netgear-supplied SuperHub was to be killed was mere "speculation" best ignored.
Meanwhile, for those VM customers not suffering earache from the whistling kit, we have a special treat for you courtesy of Reg reader Mark Rainey, who is on his FOURTH power supply for the equipment. He told us:
"The noise is killing me!"
Mark kindly - or perhaps sadistically - sent us some recordings of the SuperHub at its whining worst. So, without further ado...
Re: A better solution...
WIth ADSL, that's do-able. With cable, that's asking for trouble. Even though your communications are encrypted with the latest DOCSIS standards, you're still sharing a cable with neighbours at points, and still able to eavesdrop their traffic. Think of DOCSIS cable as using lots of ADSL modems on the same copper, but you all end up on different frequencies (that any of you could hear if you tuned in, but that you "avoid" each other to get the best signal). This is why, for example, I have a SuperHub, and set-top-box, and an external box that supplies the telephone line ALL just spliced crudely onto the same coax that goes out to the street - they all negotiate their own data paths over a common cable (think of it like several computers running on 10base2 networking - which *could* run over simple coax + BNC - and you'll get what I mean).
Restricting the modems that operate on the network means you can restrict what hardware people can use, and thus restrict what devices can be hacked to get access to your network (yes, since the early days of cable, hacked devices have been present on the network and getting "full" access on other subscriber's accounts). Something with open-source back-ends on the cable side would be a security and billing disaster, for instance. Currently, modern cable systems use the latest DOCSIS standards which include things like certificates in each device so you can authenticate the device on the network. There are other DOCSIS modems out there - dozens of them, just Google, but they aren't used for a reason.
And if you restrict the modem, then whatever else is feeding into it doesn't matter - you're effectively doing the same as "modem mode" on the SuperHub - letting some "approved" device connect to the cable network and converting the data to Ethernet standards, and supplying your own device from there on.
If you don't like this, don't use cable. ADSL goes over individual lines and doesn't even let you or your neighbours "eavesdrop" on each other - you all get a separate copper cable to talk over. Cable network's *don't*.
If modem mode didn't work, or if DOCSIS technology didn't share the cable between neighbours, then you might have a case. But, as it is, the SuperHub in modem mode does everything you want, without any problems. I know. I use it. And refused to upgrade from a "proper" cable-modem to the SuperHub until it did work. And in modem mode, I don't have to worry about the SuperHub's wireless security getting outdated or anything else.
What I don't get is why people have these boxes on show and thus hear the squeal that EVERY PSU makes (trust me - get a laptop, listen to the PSU closely when you run a powerful game). It's just a matter of volume / proximity. Sure, it might be annoying, but then I find the little red/blue light a thousand times more annoying - just tuck your equipment away. You don't need your modem on show (and certainly not the PSU) and wireless will carry through your house even from inside a cupboard (or, in my case, will carry over a cable to a enclosed WAP and a powerline-Ethernet device that carry the signal through the house).
They got a dodgy batch, they are replacing them and funding people to get their own replacements. Quite what the problem is here, I can't see. They appear to have gone further than a lot of ISP's when there's been trouble with their kit.
Re: Switched-mode power supplies are often like this
That whining you hear, is actually a built in indication that your efforts to reduce power supply cost have gone past the point where they affect the proper functioning of the unit. It's time to put just a wee bit more money into the parts and buy some inductors that are more tightly wound on cores that are bonded together with something more robust than hot glue.
Quality Chinese Engineering at its finest, I would suspect.
I don't think it is component related, just a really cheap piss poor design in the first place.
Many wall warts wouldn't pass EU tests if you tested them. Many of them are just smuggled in and labelled with bogus information.