Roon at a tipping point?

(Chris Groobey) #1

I am at a tipping point in my relationship with Roon . . . and I find myself wondering if Roon itself is not at a tipping point too.

I have been a yearly subscriber to Roon for years, and have generally enjoyed the experience while understanding Roon is a young company with a great vision and a good product that is still under development.

And I would venture to say that I am a pretty good example of the type of customer Roon needs in the long run to succeed – no offense to anyone else but I have pretty basic listening requirements on a very simple, non-esoteric system with perfectly normal hardware in the house. In other words, I should be a plug-and-play customer, because I am example of the masses and not of a more demanding customer who needs a customized solution. All I want to do is listen to my music, dammit.

And yet here I am with a non-working product stuck in a multiple-day email conversation with well-meaning (and I am sure skilled) Roon techs who are still slow to respond and frankly not very helpful. The message boards are filled with people having similar problems to mine following the latest update and yet Roon is talking about it being “networking problems” rather than actually addressing the problem.

My point is this: Roon is going to fail if it does not figure out how to make a product resilient and flexible enough to deal with people who have perfectly normal setups and requirements. People like me won’t accept the “networking problems” excuse when literally all of the rest of our house, including much more demanding applications like 4k TV, runs perfectly fine, thank you, and the only thing that has recently changed is that Roon updated its software.

Please, Roon, we are all pulling for you, but you have to uphold your end of the bargain. And right now you are failing at it.

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(Ged) #2

Reading your support thread I wouldn’t have classed your set up as simple compared to a user with an isp supplied router and a pc.
Having read loads of support threads over time you do seem to have a roon related network issue as it worked fine when tested all in one on the Mac
Roon does seem to actively dislike some network conditions and seemingly be contrary in otherwise working installs. To me support’s suggestions seem pretty normal in IT diagnosis, isolate, simplify test then add and test etc.

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(Chris Groobey) #3

Thanks, Ged. I appreciate your comments and experience and setting me straight. And I completely get that Roon techs are just doing their job, and well. But I would also say that when the labels on my equipment are Apple, Google, Small Green Computer and Meridian (as opposed to more esoteric stuff), and I’m in a very simple, straight-line audio environment (single zone, no customization, mostly ethernet connections, etc.), and when both my Roon setup and everything else in my house has worked great for years, then it’s a problem when either the Roon software is buggy or it can’t handle what must be normal/common networking imperfections on my end. People like me don’t understand why we can watch our Apple TV 4k wirelessly on the same network without any problems, but then the much simpler and less demanding Roon system suddenly doesn’t work after an update. I suppose you are right that I am not as simple as I could be, but I’m also not banging the corner either, and the product has to work in the real world, not just in the lab, for it to succeed. Thanks again, seriously, for your comments, I am trying to be constructive on this end as well even in spite of my frustration.

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(Ged) #4

Oh I’m not saying you are an outlier! :slightly_smiling_face:
It’s just that your symptoms scream network issue despite other software and hardware working fine. This is a common theme, everything works apart from roon and the only way to find out what is wrong in your particular instance is a bit of trial and error.

Unfortunately, with the plethora of equipment and settings that are out there, in a user base of a hundred thousand users even a tiny percentage of problems is a lot of users with issues!

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(ipeverywhere) #5

Basic networking is a Roon issue because this is a product that, at its Core, is expected to utilize the network as the backplane of various supported devices. Guides and tweaks for specific issues and vendors need to be published on a continuous basis. But, notice something, I said “basic”. That’s really key.

I read the support thread and, honestly, I think Roon did complete the basic troubleshooting here. There is an issue with Google Wifi mesh and your set-up related to the way Roon/Remote does discovery and streaming. But, this is well beyond “basic”. Now, it would be nice if Roon saw this to completion so they could publish a doc to prevent others from tripping over the same issue. However, maybe they don’t think the combination of SonicTransporter across Google Wifi mesh has enough of a user base to devote the resources to getting to that point. Additionally, they may just not be all that interested in diving deep into mesh wireless.

What you really need is someone who can troubleshoot your network against a specific application. That industry doesn’t exactly exist sadly but I continue to see a growing need. I recently worked with a Hifi/HT shop that is starting to do this kind of work but they are seeing mixed results and success as they would rather just replace the network with known good hardware that works well with the software they are installing (it’s often cheaper for the customer as well compared to paying per hour for troubleshooting). You can find people on gig sites (like Fiverr) who will work with you remotely to troubleshoot as well. I’m not sure how you find a qualified person in this situation but the list of people claiming to know Wifi grows every day.

Anyway, I’ll get to my point. You posted this in the “Roon Labs LLC” group so I’m defending Roon as a company and where I would expect them to put forward resources (people) to troubleshoot Wifi issues. I’d expect this level of support would be minimal. This is not a Roon software issue. They have implemented their discovery and streaming in a way that puts a very heavy tax on the network (probably the highest I’ve seen in a “consumer” product) and that requires a whole different level of “good” when it comes to how well your network is performing. It also means that just because your other devices work fine you should not expect Roon to work just as fine. What you really need is an investment in a consultant who can work on your specific set-up who both understands Google Wifi Mesh and Roon to identify why issues are popping up. I wouldn’t expect that consultant to be Roon (although they could use the pay by hour support method here as a new revenue stream). That consultant might be Google as your software works when eliminating the Mesh. Or, and probably, it’s going to be a third party in an industry that is just starting to identify itself. Enterprises already have these people on staff. Geek Squad and the others are certainly not at this level of knowledge yet. If you have a local hifi store you may ask them if they’ve got into the networking business yet. I also know this is becoming big business for the home automation industry.

If I was to troubleshoot this… just based on my background…
I would start with network packet captures at strategic locations within your set-up. Just based on your description it appears that data from Core to endpoints is fine but data from devices back to Core is being “modeled” and then choked down to nothing. During playback there is a lot of data being passed around the network, in both directions, and it sounds to me that either the Mesh network cannot handle it and effectively crashes or the Mesh network is literally just dropping packets in an attempt to get the Wifi devices to back off (there are a bunch of ways to do this within the standards). A packet capture at multiple places would show this. The unanswered question of this theory is if there is a setting in the Mesh network that can cure this or it is simply that the Mesh backhaul is running out of steam and causing things to collapse. Obviously two very different solutions based upon the root issue. I use this summary of how I’d troubleshoot this to illustrate the fact that the next steps in your troubleshooting are no longer “basic”. Roon narrowed the issue down to an issue with the Mesh network but identifying a solution to that feels very out of scope for Roon; at least to me.

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(Chris Groobey) #6

IP, thanks very much for your note, I appreciate the time you put into it and learned alot, at least as much as I can as a layman.

Your post, and specifically your calling out of Google Wifi as a potential weak point, gave me an idea on how to test the system. I’ll detail this more fully on the support thread, but in brief I went entirely back to my FIOS-provided router and used all-ethernet connections (so completely removed Google Wifi from the scenario) and I still have the same problem . . . so it’s not the Google Wifi that’s the problem. Google Wifi and my Roon had happily co-existed from October 2018 until a few days ago, so now I’m even more convinced it’s not my network that’s the problem.

And, respectfully, if in fact any part of the home automation movement, Roon or otherwise, ends up requiring the consultant skills that you describe, that’s just not a sustainable business plan for anything that aspires to be a mass-market service, or even just a product for people who buy higher-end audio equipment. When I use a Roon-approved device for my core, it should work right of the box. And when I’ve used the Core successfully for years, and then Roon updates its software, it should still work. That’s just not too much to ask.

Thanks again, seriously.

(Timothy Good) #7

When I first acquired Roon, I tried running it on a Mac Mini that was dedicated to AV uses. I had a lot of trouble. It would work and then it wouldn’t work. It was very frustrating and I was embarrassed a few times when I had company over.

Then I bought Nucleus. Problems solved! The Nucleus has been extremely stable. I now am able to use Roon on a daily basis. As a result, I am beginning to learn more about the program and all of its power.

I ready about folks on this site who are running Roon on a computer and marvel at either their skill or their luck. For a guy like me who just wants to listen to music, the Nucleus was money very well spent.

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(Chris Groobey) #8

Thanks, Tim, much appreciated. I admit that, as of a few hours ago, I was ready to go down your path and just buy a Nucleus. I was frustrated with the Roon folks pointing everywhere except their own product as the source for my problem, and I also figured that if I had a Nucleus then Roon would have no excuses for any future issues I might have. That said, I gagged on the price.

This afternoon, in desperation, I emailed Andrew Gillis, the CEO of Small Green Computer (the manufacturer of my core) and asked for help. He responded immediately, set up a time (well outside of normal business hours) when he could remotely connect to my computer and, when he connected, he diagnosed and fixed my problem in less than 10 minutes, simply by deleting and reinstalling the Roon server software. I could not be more impressed with his product and service.

You definitely made a good call in going with a Nucleus, and I too am amazed at the custom solutions people come up with, they are well beyond my capabilities, but I would add the SGC products to the list of Roon ingredients that make your life easy and, more importantly, come with great service and support.

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#9

Yes…Andrew has helped me more times than I’d like to admit either with emails or remote view.

(Scott G) #10

This isn’t meant as a criticism, but I don’t think this statement is correct. Streaming to one device is moving a ton of data, but it is mostly just that. Roon needs to download the data and stream it to your endpoint, and in that way it is simpler. But is also updating its database and updating your remote (and there is a lot more). AND, the RAAT protocol needs to be robust enough to do all of this to a lot of different devices all at the same time. So in some respects it is a lot more complex.
That should not be a concern of yours when you have a problem, but it probably does add to the complexity of solving the problem. Frankly, I can’t think of any other device I own that is anywhere near as complex as Roon. Fortunately, SGC is a first class organization and they could see something that made a difference.
I’m not an Apple fan boy, but their systems do really work well. A lot of it is great engineering, but they also benefit from a pretty tight and protected ecosystem that users often embrace. Roon’s approach is more divergent, which can lead to these issues.

(Mark) #11

'Twas ever thus, I suspect.

Even if you look at what is probably considered to be the benchmark for plug and play streaming, Sonos, their support forums are full of people having problems that boil down to some kind of networking issue.

I don’t think it’s ever going to go away. That’s not to excuse the experience you’ve had with Roon, but just to point out the realities of products which touch so many parts of their customers’ networks/storage setups and not have direct control of them.

(Daniel Beyer) #12

Roon has been suggesting specific brands of Routers and Switches as well as warning off others. What if they could take that a step farther? Hmm.

(Mark) #13

This is really my point though. Sonos is virtually a walled garden, and still…

#14

Many people have replied to you, both in support of you and in support of Roon’s techs.

My offering is that literally tens of thousands of people, Roon subscriptions recently cracked 100,000 souls, use Roon without any problem. The level of user/system sophistication probably runs the full gamut.

Those complaints you find on the message boards are not representative of the Roon experience, as in general, only the dissatisfied post complaints (obviously).

As far as the number of problems on this forum, this is a support forum.

Yes, this doesn’t help you with your particular problems, but to paint Roon as failed software is not accurate.

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(Kevin Roxby) #15

My mother-in-law complained loudly about her camera: all her photos had this pink blur at the upper edge of her prints. It was her finger partially covering the lens. I ask then, why is it a problem with Roon? Surely there would be thousands, perhaps tens of thousands complaining if the fault was with Roon. Could the fault be with any number of other elements within your system? I have SGC i5 streaming to KEF LS50W. About as simple as it gets. Apart from the occasional drop-out [wifi] or slow-loading album [wifi], I am problem free. My question then is, where is your finger?

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(Chris Groobey) #16

Wow, that post sure makes a lot of assumptions. All incorrect, as usual when dealing with nasty people on boards such as this. If you had bothered to read this thread and elsewhere, you would know the answers to your questions, including the resolution to my issue, my gratitude to all involved, and most importantly the civility with which everyone has communicated about this issue. Except you, who decided to make this personal and insulting. Where’s my finger? Sorry, but answering that question truthfully would bring me down to your level, as satisfying as it would be.

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(Fernando Pereira) #17

I agree with you that the “finger” metaphor is not helpful. But I’ll note that the Roon Core upgrade failure that AG diagnosed and fixed is unlikely to be a Roon problem, but rather an operating system or Linux system utility failure during the upgrade, or even the result of an intermittent hardware or network failure during the upgrade. That is, blaming Roon in this case might not be fair either.

The core problem with complex software (like Roon) is that its interactions with its hardware and software environment are complex too. Many things can go wrong around Roon that make Roon malfunction but that are not debuggable or fixable by Roon support. Actually, Roon support go many times out of their way to help with problems that are not theirs (networking problems in particular). But when they do not control most of the environment, it’s hard or impossible for them to resolve such problems.

One might argue that Roon is just too dependent on a varied environment for a consumer product. Arguably, that’s why companies like Apple, Sonos, etc make their products closed, so that all the possible failures are under their control. Roon is trying something more open, which I support, but comes with some reputational risk as witnessed here.

(Andrew Cox) #18

The funny thing about this thread is that everyone is right. Roon’s current architecture does result in it “owning” the network for Support purposes and the Support staff assist people with network issues every day. Users should, and usually can, expect Roon to help, even with unusual products or configurations.

In this case Andrew Gillies excellent troubleshooting resulted in reinstallation fixing the identification issues, and I’d be confident @support have noted that for future reference. Why reinstallation solved the problem may never be determined. Software sometimes just gets into a bad state where turning it off and on again works wonders. A reinstallation fix sounds like a similar issue and could just be down to an errant cosmic ray.

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#19

And sometimes turning things off/on at the wrong time makes things so much worse.:wink:

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(Dan Brown) #20

Hi Chris. When I read this I thought… “I’m amazed the Roon tech didn’t suggest this when you said the problem had started after a Roon Server update.”

Then I read the thread where you first reported the problem… and Dylan suggested you try the MacBook Pro temporarily as a core. You said it exhibited the same problems.

This is the problem with diagnosing any problem remotely… by you saying the Mac also had similar problems, you pulled Dylan away from pointing the finger at faulty Roon software on your SGC core. (Because, since the Mac also exhibited problems, it would be a little unusual that it also had corrupt software.)

Now I’m wondering why your Mac had similar issues when running as a core…