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Mr. P

Pixcon16 recommendation

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I just want to throw this out there.

LOR, the Pixcon16 is a real PITA. Back in 2015 when the Pixcon was released it was LORs attempt to get a pixel controller out in the marketplace that could work on the LOR network. Fast forward three years and LOR has a variety of Pixie controllers that does the job very well.

I would highly recommend that the Pixcon be converted and used strictly for E1.31 and leave the Pixie's for the LOR network.

It's better to be great at one job then mediocre at two.

Just a suggestion.

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I agree that it appears the PixCon is a pain to configure.  I'm the one that needs to support the PixCon :), so I get ALL the tickets.

First, lets correct one thing:  The PixCon is GREAT at the functions it performs (ELOR or E1.31).  It is not mediocre AT ALL.  The experience of using one for some can be however.

The PixCon is a great controller.  It works great if you know just a little about how IP networking works.  If you don't, it is challenging.  For example, I can get one configured in about 3 minutes from scratch.  But then I know what a DHCP server is, how to set a static IP address, what subnets are, etc.  Most people do not and that is why they think it is a pain to configure.

Customers see the word 'Pro' or the higher price tag and think 'This is BETTER than a Pixie, I should buy it!'.  Better is always better, right?  Well, that is 100% true but in this case better comes with a price - you have to know how to properly set up a network.

The Pixcon is also positioned as the 'transition' device between a strictly LOR display to a future E1.31 or hybrid display.  You can purchase a PixCon this year, run it in ELOR, and then next year move to E1.31.  Problem here again is people don't consider their skillset when it comes to using LAN equipment.

So is it REALLY SO HARD to learn how to configure a PixCon16?  Nope, not at all.  We have the DMX and E1.31 for Pixel Control document that takes a two pronged approach.  Prong 1 is the 'I don't want to learn anything' configuration which is on Page 8.  New Router, normally configured Windows PC with all other networking turned off, Factory Reset PixCon16, 2 cat 5 cables.  Page 8 ALWAYS works.  

If you want to learn more about how to get things working, the other 30 or so pages attempt to teach you the basics about IP Networking.  All those pages really boil down to ONE concept:  The first 3 parts of the PixCon IP address MUST match the first 3 parts of the Computer address.   The problem there is that in order to get to that concept you need to learn a few others.

We don't know how many people are successful by just reading that document and/or following the checklist.  What we do know is that around 85-90% of the help desk tickets we get for the PixCon are because no one takes the time to read that document or to read and follow the instructions in the checklist, even after we tell them to

I said before that I am devious when it comes to documentation the end user will consume.  I include very easy checkpoints that tell me if you read the instructions and if you are actually following them.  When I send you the 19 point PixCon checklist, the instructions say start at #1 and work down.  Stop when something doesn't work. Step 19 says you now have a working board. So why is step 19 even there?  Because after receiving the checklist that 85-90% will reply "We did everything it says and it still doesn't work" - which can not be true since 19 says it IS working.  I caught them.

"We followed page 8 EXACTLY!" they will say.  I ask for a picture showing their Computer and PixCon connected to the router.  I get a picture showing the computer connected directly to the PixCon.  I get pictures of switches.  I get pictures of their existing router serving their house.  That is no where close to 'Exactly'. 

"Why not just tell them exactly what they need to do?" you may ask.  Equipment like the PixCon puts us in a bad situation - improperly configured network equipment can cause all kinds of headaches - more than just a customer not being able to configure a PixCon.  They may no longer be able to access the internet, may saturate their network with bad data causing things like their TVs to not work.  They may get their internet shut down by their ISP.  These things all have and do occur.  We would rather deal with 'My PixCon doesn't work, you stink!' than with 'Your suggestions killed my network and we can't watch Netflix!'. 

See, we can tell you what needs to be done, but we can't tell you exactly how to do it since everyone's LAN equipment is going to be different or configured different.

BUT as a VERY LAST resort, we do have one more thing we can send people.  It's called the PixCon Troubleshooting Guide.  It is very up-front.  It says that it will get the Pixcon to work, but it will also most likely break your computer so that it can no longer use it on your network.  It does NOT require any knowledge what so ever - it has pictures and tells you exactly what to change where.  No guesswork, no knowledge needed.  It too has my checkpoints.  If you fail to communicate with the board, the document points our where the failure is and says to contact us with that explicit information.  First person I sent it to replied: "I tried all of that and it does not work'.  No, you didn't since you didn't report the error like you were asked.

If we could magically pour the knowledge into the customer's head, we would.  The next best thing is to offer to teach them - which we do.  What happens when end users don't want to take the time to read and learn? We take the blame because the customer experience is mediocre (or worse).  Some people simply do not want to take the time or energy to learn to use something, and the PixCon requires that you have a certain skill-set.  If you don't have that skill-set we can show you where to get the knowledge.  What we can't do is force someone to actually go through with the little bit of work they need to do.

I talk people out of the PixCon all the time for this reason alone.  

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DevMike, I can totally understand where you are coming from and I can agree that the Pixcon is an advanced user device. I have been helping users set up their Pixcon since the Fall of 2015 when they first came out. I have personally helped over 50 (not as many as you) with at least half of them over the phone.

My point is since the Pixie's are so much easier to set up and are so successful shouldn't LOR consider a E1.31 controller that would be much easier to configure then the Pixcon for an average user?

When anyone asks me about the Pixcon I very rarely ever recommend it do to the complexity of it having both sides of the network and most users getting lost no matter how simple we may try to explain it.

After using so many of the controllers on the market I still stand by what I said earlier, the Pixcon is okay at what it does but there are many more out there that are much better especially in the user friendly department.

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I pity you Mike.  Teaching networking to people who don't understand it can be hard.  I spent almost an hour trying to explain sub-netting to a friend last night.  He was OK with a /24 network (255.255.255.0), but he could not grasp a /23 (255.255.254.0) network...

 

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Sub-netting is a beast, even still for me.  I usually end up doing it in Binary then converting back to dec/hex.   

--------------

Let me ask:  Do you yourself own a PixCon, or are you only helping others that did purchase one?  I ask, because your perception may be clouded.  You have skills.  Those people can't get things going and you help them and it takes hours.  You own a whizbang2000 which you can configure with one hand tied behind your back.  Therefore the PixCon must not be any good.

The PixCon16 suffers from the same ills as any other E1.31 controller out there.  Unless you know a little about what you are doing, NONE of them are easy to configure PROPERLY

Our hands are also tied since we have to deal with people who have less experience and we have to ensure they don't shoot themselves in the foot.  When you remove those constraints the PixCon is every bit as user friendly as any other E1.31 board out there.  I'll prove it:

1 - Have a computer on an already working network 
2 - Connect a new or a factory reset PixCon to that same network
3 - Start Network Preferences 
4 - Press 'Find/Configure PixCon16'
5 - Click the board in the list.

I guarantee you'll be able to configure it and use it.  5 steps and NONE of them can be called anything BUT user friendly.  At what point can anyone make any of that easier?

Those steps (or at least a form of them) are what every other E1.31 controller requires.  Maybe for some of them, like the whizbang2000 it goes more like:

1 - Have a computer on an already working network 
2 - Connect a new or a factory reset WhizBang 2000 to that same network
3 - Start A Web Browser
4 - Goto WhizBang2000.com
5 - Click something to configure it.

.. but still, same kinds of skills.

I also guarantee that same set of 80%ers I described above are now going to have issues on their network with OTHER things.   Those people are going to complain LOUDLY.  As a company, you are going to take a hit.  Which is the smaller hit:  Customer complains board is too hard to use, or Customer complains the board took down their entire network (and/or got them shut down by their ISP)?

Yes, the PixIE is light years easier to configure and is probably the controller that those people should have purchased.  We agree.  The reason for Pixie being so much easier is that I control the ENTIRE system.  From software to USB adapter to controller to protocol in use.  ALL ME.  As soon as you get a device that has to co-exist with other devices that are not yours, on a network that is not yours, well...  The rules change.  

These customers didn't buy Pixie, they purchased PixCon.  We tell people "HEY!  The PixCon is COMPLICATED.  Are you really sure you want this board?"  They buy them anyway.   I just sell the Car.  The customer needs the basic skills to operate it. 

When I learned to fly, I soloed with 9 hours training.  It took another 31 hours of instruction, and almost 50 hours of solo for me to get my license.  Flying is easy.  Flying RIGHT is hard.

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9 minutes ago, DevMike said:

Sub-netting is a beast, even still for me.  I usually end up doing it in Binary then converting back to dec/hex.   

YES!  Much easier to understand in binary and then convert...  As long as you stay in binary, it's really pretty simple.

The rest of your question was for someone else...

 

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Well I guess we will just have to agree to disagree.

I don't know how involved you were/are in the developement, programming and writing but to you yes this would be easy. The five steps should work just like you describe in a perfect situation but they obviously don't by the amount of help that people request. I have been able to help 95% and the other 5% have been bad boards, bugs or firmware.

I know with the other controllers:

1) set your computer IP

2) power on the controller

3) open a browser and type in default IP address

The user can usually take it from there as the rest looks familiar.

The difference is you are looking at this from a developers standpoint and I am looking at it from a user standpoint.

 

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I have a Pixcon16 and a Pixie4 and they both work without any issues.

The Pixcon16 takes some work at first, but have used it for the last two years without an issue.

The Pixie series controllers are easier to configure and use, but you would expect that as they came out AFTER the Pixcon16.

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I am not a computer guru but I do know enough to be dangerous.
 
Let me break it down into terms that I can relate to.
 
I have an M16 assault rifle (any E1.31 controller) and I hand it off to any gun user and tell them to break it down into its basic components. Some gun users will have no idea how to do it but there are some who have an AR-15 and have the basic idea. After all they are different but they are the same.
 
Now I have a M2 .50 Caliber machine gun (Pixcon16), a bigger badder machine gun then the M16 but still performs the same job just on a bigger scale.
I hand it to any user and instruct them to beak it down with the following instructions:
 
1) remove the barrel from the receiver
2) remove the trigger housing from the receiver
3) remove the bolt carrier group
4) seperate the bolt into its four parts
5) remove the firing pin from the bolt
 
Some can do it but most can't but to me this is very simple and I could do it in under a minute blindfolded. However to the standard gun user most of them would look at me like I am crazy.
I could write a 20 step process explaining step by step the procedure to break it down but there will still be some who will run into problems and not be able to do it.
 
So in the end what do I do? 
I offer the M249 machine gun. Same caliber as the M16 just a little badder and little more user friendly then the M2 to the average gun user as they are more familiar with the parts.
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If all users knew how to do #1, and what they actually needed to change, the board is the same as any other TCP/IP device.  By definition since the PixCon16 and any other board MUST adhere to the standards of TCP/IP,  neither can be easier or harder.  They all must play by IDENTICAL rules.

Next time you deal with someone with a Pixcon16, follow your own steps with one slight change:

1 - Have them set their computer IP (192.168.0.51 works great for the PixCon)

2 - power on the controller

3 - instead of opening a web browser and going to the IP address of the board, open the Network Preferences program and press the 'Find/Configure PixCon16'

It will work.  In fact this is the exact procedure we have in the Troubleshooting guide.  We just break it down into smaller more-easily digestible steps with pictures.

Once in the config screen, the user can take it from there, since all of the options/etc are well documented by us and familiar if they have used or studied other E1.31 equipment.  If they want to use the device as an ELOR controller, those concepts will be familiar as well since they have used other LOR equipment.

You are however missing that one LAST step - getting them to put their computer back the way it was so they can use it again (or not making any destructive change in the first place).  We have to be responsible like that.  You do not - they don't pay you.

Again, I think it's your perception that is at issue.  If you had one, you too would know that setting up communications to it is just as easy as any other TCP/IP device.  But,  you are  mostly dealing with people who are brand new to pixel control, and who don't know how to properly configure their computer.  You spend a lot of time with them, they get frustrated, it rubs off on you and that clouds your judgement causing you to blame the board.  I deal with people like that all day long for ALL of our products.  If I did not have something to compare to I would think that all LOR products are bad.  So I ask again -- Do you actually have a Pixcon16, or is your opinion strictly based on those experiences you have with these neophyte users?

If you would like to speak about how the actual configuration screens are set up and how those can be made more user friendly and easier to use, I would like that very much.  Even with 30+ years experience designing user interfaces, and 20ish doing work flow management, I do get things wrong.  If there is some functionality that other boards configuration screens supply that we don't, I'd like to know which you would most like to see.  If we can add them, we will. 

I also take responsibility for ALL the documentation  that pertains in any way to the PixCon16.  I wrote it all.  That includes online help for the configuration screens (F1), the Pixcon16 Hardware Manual, the E1.31 and DMX for Pixel Control document, the PixCon16 checklist, and the PixCon16 Troubleshooting guide.  I have never claimed that I am a writer, so if you have suggestions for those I'd like them as well.

[Those last two points apply to anyone reading and for any thing LOR sells, mfgs, etc.  We do miss the mark sometimes.  Give us examples on what you don't like and we will always seriously consider them.  ]

But when discussing the initial computer configuration that needs to happen to be able to talk to the PixCon16:  With 100% certainty I can say It is equally as difficult as any other board, since it is the network that drives what needs to happen, NOT the board.  It's TCP/IP - ALL boards have to play by those same rules.  Anyone who has the skill set can configure our board as easily as the next.  Anyone that does NOT have the skill-set will not be able to configure or will struggle with ANY board until gaining those skills.  When properly configured, the PixCon16 will hold its own against any other E1.31 device.  It will perform 100% to specifications in either E1.31 or ELOR mode.  

 

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