Network - Wireless & Wired Connections

Help & troubleshooting for network issues, including connecting your device to your home Wi-Fi network, connecting to public networks, troubleshooting wireless issues & ethernet connections, and optimizing streaming performance.
cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
tmcsys
Level 7

Hotel/Dorm mode design flaws in Express

While the Roku Express has been designed to provide excellent value in a streaming device, Hotel/Dorm mode on the Express is a perfect example of what can happen when a product is "dumbed down" as far as possible.

My initial set-up required logging on to an "open" Xfinity network.  In this case, the Roku attempts to connect to the selected network, and failing Xfinity authentication the Roku goes online as a wifi device, accepts a connection from a phone/tablet/laptop, and allows entry of the required login/password.

All of this worked as expected - until I apparently entered the Xfinity password incorrectly.   The Express then enters "Groundhog Day Mode" and you are "stuck". 

There is no way to re-enter the correct password for the network.  Each attempt to connect to that network will result in the Roku cautioning about entering passwords correctly, but providing no option for re-entering the Hotel/Dorm password correctly.   Apparently this error remediation step completely overlooks the possibility that it is a Hotel/Dorm password - not a Network password - that needs to be modified.  I was never again able to get the Roku to appear on the network as a wifi device so I could reenter the Xfinity password correctly.

This not being my first rodeo, the first solution that occurred was "factory reset".  I noticed the reset button on the device.  I scanned the Roku documentation for information on using the reset button - and there is none.  All the documented reset procedures involve initiating the reset from the "Settings" menu.  This is a problem.  Since the Express never gets out of Setup mode, there IS no Settings menu.  

I tried a "factory" reset using the reset button several times - including several times while on the phone with a Roku customer service supervisor - but just like Bill Murray was stuck in Punxsutawney, the Roku never got out of Setup mode.

A few comments about Roku support for the Express.   The only way I could find a telephone support number was by scanning the forums.  I could find no telephone number under "Contact Us" on the Web site.  When I did find the phone number, if you call and follow the prompts the auto-attendant makes it quite clear that Express "support" is "self serve".  The automated message directs you to the Web site and basically hangs up.  The only way I was able to reach a customer service representative was to select an "other than Express" option.

In Roku's favor, the support reps tried to help but were unable to resolve the problem.  They suggested one workaround that involved connecting the Roku to a phone hotspot, but this was not an option for me.  I see other workarounds on these forums that involve hacking MAC addresses, etc.  This is silly.  The correct solution is for Roku to fix the firmware.

I solved my problem with the initial Roku - which was effectively "bricked" for me - by returning it to Wal-Mart.  I will try again later today with another Express that I just purchased from Best Buy.  I figure I will have 15 days to try to get it working and if it goes "Groundhog" on me like the first one did I will return it as well.  I figure that as long as I can seek relief under Consumer Protection laws I can keep doing this until I manage to enter the password correctly and get one working.  

If user complaints aren't enough to get some response from Roku maybe high return rates from major retailers will get their attention.

I am sure Bill Murray would approve.
0 Kudos
7 Replies
Basil
Level 10

Re: Hotel/Dorm mode design flaws in Express

Hold the reset button for at least 30 seconds.
Basil
https://www.basilsblog.com/
Roku Ultra (4660)
Apple TV (5th gen), TiVo

Previous:
Roku boxes from every generation.
Apple TV (2nd, 3rd, 4th gen)
0 Kudos
tmcsys
Level 7

Re: Hotel/Dorm mode design flaws in Express

Thanks for your response.

I tried "holding the reset button down for 30 seconds" several times, with and without customer support on the phone.  

The initial customer support contact stated that "he was not authorized" to attempt a factory reset.  It was only after he escalated the call to a supervisor that we tried using the reset button, with no success.

Holding the reset button does appear to cause the Express to do some sort of reset, but the evidence is that it does not return the unit to the factory settings.  After the reset the Express will still not request a login/password after it attempts to connect to the (originally incorrectly configured) Hotel/Dorm network.

Not providing a complete factory reset in hardware is a design problem in my book.
0 Kudos
tmcsys
Level 7

Re: Hotel/Dorm mode design flaws in Express

Well here's the update: PROBLEM SOLVED.

I fired up a new Express and tried to connect to Xfinity, fully expecting to get a "there was a problem connecting" message along with the prompt asking if the connection was from Home or a Hotel/Dorm room.

Try to imagine my surprise when the Roku immediately failed the first "Connect to wireless network" step with a red 'X' - and did not offer the Home or Hotel/Dorm prompt!  

I knew this device was factory fresh, so the problem had to be something external to the Express - and due to something that happened the previous day with the other Express.  Hmmm.

Here's how I solved this problem using an Xfinity hotspot.  If you are trying to connect to a different Hotel/Dorm network your mileage may vary.

Sign into your Xfinity account and select "Manage devices for hotspot access".  The devices are listed in order of date of initial connection, the most recent on top.  Look for an entry with a device ID that begins with "NP-".  This will be your Roku Express.  The "Registered" date of the entry will be the time you first attempted to connect using your Roku and can be used for verification.  Delete this entry from the Xfinity device list by selecting "Remove".

That's all it took.  It seemed that as soon as I removed the entry from Xfinity the Roku immediately connected to the wireless network and presented the Home or Hotel or Dorm selection, appeared on the local network with a DIRECT-roku ID, accepted a username/login, connected to Xfinity and allowed me to complete the setup.

I can't explain exactly what happened, but it apparently had nothing to do with the router (as in the Roku mantra "restart the router") but had "something" to do with Xfinity authenticating the Roku. Apparently once correct user credentials are provided, the MAC address associated with the device is stored so that login/password credentials are not required from that MAC address on subsequent connections.   Deleting the MAC entry for the original Express somehow allowed the Roku to attempt another connection.

Bottom line: I am now a Roku user, and I guess this Express won't be going back to the retailer.


 
0 Kudos
Basil
Level 10

Re: Hotel/Dorm mode design flaws in Express

"tmcsys" wrote:
...
Not providing a complete factory reset in hardware is a design problem in my book.

The 30-second hold of the reset button is the hardware reset. While this may not be the case for you, the issue is often that users won't hold it the full 30 seconds. Many will hold it for "well it seemed like 30 seconds" or "the screen did such and such so I knew it was enough" or something that's less than a full 30 seconds. I've never encountered the 30-second hold not doing a full factory reset on first, second, or third-generation devices, so if there's something different about the Roku Express, I'll need to take that into consideration. I've passed the Express to a family member, replacing a second-generation device, so I don't have easy access to verify. But I appreciate that tidbit about the full 30 seconds not functioning as a hardware factory reset.

Oh, and I am assuming you did have it plugged in when holding the reset button.
Basil
https://www.basilsblog.com/
Roku Ultra (4660)
Apple TV (5th gen), TiVo

Previous:
Roku boxes from every generation.
Apple TV (2nd, 3rd, 4th gen)
0 Kudos
tmcsys
Level 7

Re: Hotel/Dorm mode design flaws in Express

The Express reset button may indeed perform a full factory reset.  I probably misinterpreted the resulting behavior based on my single experience.  See my 2/12/17 pm post above.
0 Kudos
shija03
Level 7

Re: Hotel/Dorm mode design flaws in Express

This is probably falling on deaf ears anyways - but there goes it.

The method of managing the devices registered only works if you own access to the services - in the case of a hotel where the DHCP server is managed by a third party - you have 0 options to clear the problem except for:

1- Wait 24-48 hours for the hotel to remove the registered device ( this is the IP lease and registered device grace period) - unacceptable solution.
2- get a laptop and spoof your own mac address to do the proper login once more - unacceptable solution (requiring a laptop to `hack` the solution just shows how poorly design the device is for this particular problem)
3- (this does not exist but would be the best approach for now) Have the Roku device allow to spoof a new mac address for a grace period of 48 hours (or user defined period) - this is, in my eyes, the best possible approach given the limitation the user has to interact with the source of the problem. Easy hack from the software perspective (Wouldn’t you say Roku? - if you happen to be reading this... highly doubt it)
0 Kudos
DBDukes
Level 9

Re: Hotel/Dorm mode design flaws in Express

"shija03" wrote:
This is probably falling on deaf ears anyways - but there goes it.

The method of managing the devices registered only works if you own access to the services - in the case of a hotel where the DHCP server is managed by a third party - you have 0 options to clear the problem except for:

   1- Wait 24-48 hours for the hotel to remove the registered device ( this is the IP lease and registered device grace period) - unacceptable solution.
    2- get a laptop and spoof your own mac address to do the proper login once more - unacceptable solution (requiring a laptop to `hack` the solution just shows how poorly design the device is for this particular problem)
    3- (this does not exist but would be the best approach for now)  Have the Roku device allow to spoof a new mac address for a grace period of 48 hours (or user  defined period) - this is, in my eyes,   the best possible approach given the limitation the user has to interact with the source of the problem.  Easy hack from the software perspective (Wouldn’t you say Roku? - if you happen to be reading this... highly doubt it)

So, do you want to describe the issue you had? Maybe someone can offer a solution that actually exists in the system as is.
DBDukes
http://www.dbdukes.com/
Roku Ultra (4660)
Roku Premiere+ (3921)
0 Kudos