Outback's responsiveness to User-Customer feedback

Website & Forum Discussions
Check here for our Welcome Message

Moderators: administrator, OutBack Moderator Team

Outback's responsiveness to User-Customer feedback

Postby bushman on Tue Dec 15, 2009 9:13 am

Hi Folks, apologies if there is a topic somewhere with this subject, do forward me there if so.

This is what I have to say:
Various UK distributor/sales sources have told me the following, and I would like to give Outback the opportunity to respond:

"Outback don't do PC connectivity well". (it is painful...)
I said "In that case, why don't you put pressure on them from the customer base giving feedback"
They said "There is NO POINT. Outback take absolutely NO NOTICE AT ALL. And developments take YEARS to come through".

I have had this kind of comment more than once in the last few years, and would have expected it to change by now...

Any response Outback?
bushman
OutBack Expert
 
Posts: 64
Joined: Thu Apr 21, 2005 6:06 am
Location: Exmoor UK
My RE system: 1800 Ah naval battery bank, consisting of 2 sets of 12 x 2V 900 Ah capacity lead acid unsealed cells for 24V inverter with 3kW output. Now added (June2008) 2nd inverter. Aim is to use and charge whole bank in half the time instead half the bank with one inverter. 7.5 kW diesel generator. AC side (being UK) is 240V (or 230).
LATEST UPDATE: Had a major lightning storm in July 09. Window and door handles glowing and sparking, generator was running (so charging batteries). 4 or 5 lightning bangs, then massive explosion from gen shed .... 12 out 24 900 Amp 2V cells with lids blown to kingdom come. Have now got 12 X 2V Rolls 5000 2-YS-31P cells. Wondering if Faraday cage would prevent this explosive problem in future... Will post to ask for ideas.

Re: Outback's responsiveness to User-Customer feedback

Postby tallgirl on Tue Dec 15, 2009 11:40 am

As I mentioned in my PM response to you, the PC connectivity approach with OutBack equipment is to use a computer, connected to the Mate, to capture the data and produce various reports.

I'm obviously biased towards my company's products, but there are three software products for monitoring systems that are actively supported and developed. The first is, obviously, mine. The second is WinVerter and the third is WattPlot. Those are all software products. My company also makes turnkey hardware products and is actively engaged in producing very low power monitoring devices -- there's a sub-watt device on the drawing board that I'm hoping to bring in at well under 200 milliamps at 12 volts. I've not measured the current prototype because I blew the 400 milliamp fuse on my meter the other day and the 10 amp range setting is too coarse to accurately measure the power. That's how low the power consumption is. But when I pick up a new fuse, I'll start having an idea how much (or rather, how little) power it consumes.

Based on what I've seen with other equipment manufacturers and their products, each manufacturer takes a different approach based on their target market. On-grid products that are considered to have good PC connectivity typically include some sort of web-accessible device or Ethernet interface. But those products are much more difficult to interface using third party products. With so many systems consisting of products from more than one vendor, this "closed system" approach taken by those other vendors is worse -- even though those products have really slick web interfaces and desktop monitors. Because OutBack is so heavily involved with off-grid systems, it seems reasonable that they wouldn't load their systems up with extra processing power and firmware and all the power drains that brings with it.
Julie in Texas

greenMonitor(tm) for OutBack Power Technologies systems from greenHouse Gas and Electric. Learn more now!
User avatar
tallgirl
OutBack Emperor
 
Posts: 4258
Joined: Wed Sep 26, 2007 9:59 am
Location: Austin, TX
My RE system: 16 Kyocera KC175GT (2,800 watts DC), MX-60, 2 OutBack GVFX3648, 24 GC2 batteries (6v @ 215AH), 14 Pantheon-based ACPV modules (3,200 watts DC), La Crosse Technologies WS2310 Weather Station, greenLogger Sensors environmental monitor, WattNode watt-hour meter, greenLogger Lite data logger.

Re: Outback's responsiveness to User-Customer feedback

Postby SteveHiggins on Tue Dec 15, 2009 11:53 am

bushman wrote:"Outback don't do PC connectivity well". (it is painful...)


I agree... There are some decent programs out there like, Winverter, Wattplot and Green Monitor. The perceived problem with these programs is sometimes depending on the customer they can be difficult, or confusing to use.


bushman wrote:I said "In that case, why don't you put pressure on them from the customer base giving feedback"
They said "There is NO POINT. Outback take absolutely NO NOTICE AT ALL. And developments take YEARS to come through".


I disagree, it may appear to the customer, or sometimes the dealer/distributor that we are ignoring them but frankly we are working on a solution but it has taken some time. As a matter of fact over the last year we have made great strides.

After hiring a "code guy" the first thing on the agenda was "cleaning" up the current mate code and releasing fixes for bugs as addressed in versions 4.1.2, 4.1.4 and 4.1.6. The "code guy" is now on a new project that if i told you too much about, "I'd have to hunt you down and kill you". Unfortunately Outback has received a bit of a "Vapor Ware" label over the last couple of years because, we talk about all the great improvements that we are working on but nothing ever becomes released.

Bottom line, we are listening, we don't have unlimited resources, (like some of our competitors) but new stuff is coming....

Looks like tallgirl commented before I could so sorry for some of the duplicated info....
Steve Higgins
Technical Services Director- Surrette Battery Company

\
SteveHiggins
OutBack Czar
 
Posts: 562
Joined: Thu Mar 03, 2005 3:43 pm
Location: Seattle

Re: Outback's responsiveness to User-Customer feedback

Postby Matt J on Tue Dec 15, 2009 12:16 pm

Thanks Bushman.

Those are all very valid points and I have heard the same questions over and over. I hope that this post can help answer some of your questions.

I can tell you that in the last six months OutBack has reorganized much of it's internal structure to improve efficiency and speed-up the product development cycle. This has led to a much more focused effort within our product development team. I cannot speak to specifics of projects and time lines, but I can tell you that there is definitely a company wide effort to bring new, customer-focused products to market in the near future. We also recognize that system monitoring and communications are very important and can be much improved from it's current state. I know that many of our past product releases have been anything but timely. However, I will say that actions speak louder than words and I do expect OutBack to start delivering a lot less talk and a lot more action.

That is my politically correct response and I'm stickin to it. :grin:
Matt James
OutBack Power Technologies Inc.
Matt J
Site Admin
 
Posts: 63
Joined: Tue Jun 12, 2007 8:18 am
Location: OutBack HQ, Arlington, WA
My RE system: Home system: FW250. one GVFX3648, Flexnet DC, HUB4, Mate3, Sterling 140aH VRLA
Wood Shop: FW500, two VFX3648, Flexnet DC, HUB4, Mate3, FM60, 750W PV, 1,500ah FLA 2-volt locomotive batteries

Re: Outback's responsiveness to User-Customer feedback

Postby sparky on Tue Dec 15, 2009 1:17 pm

Thanks Matt/Steve

When you guy's do win me back, for my customers offgrid it will take alot less geaky and tweaky.
A CC should just about install itself like the old Trace C series but have the value of the MX/FM Keep it simple, your equipment is our grid!

Good Luck!
sparky
OutBack Emperor
 
Posts: 1207
Joined: Fri May 20, 2005 8:24 am
Location: Sierra Mountains near Mariposa Ca. Webpage on next line
My RE system: OFFGRID SOLAR "we go where power lines don't" Design, consulting, and installation on 45 Offgrid homes.

Re: Outback's responsiveness to User-Customer feedback

Postby stephendv on Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:00 am

Agree Outback is a bit behind the curve in this respect.

Other manufacturers provide free software to program their kit without the need for additional expensive hardware (you might need to buy a dongle). Brand S even provides an open source API for writing your own software.
stephendv
OutBack Guru
 
Posts: 110
Joined: Sun Apr 13, 2008 1:03 am
Location: Barbastro, Huesca, Spain
My RE system: 5kW Indian diesel generator. 900Ah PzS forklift battery. 5kW Sunny Island inverter.

Re: Outback's responsiveness to User-Customer feedback

Postby tallgirl on Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:06 am

stephendv wrote:Agree Outback is a bit behind the curve in this respect.

Other manufacturers provide free software to program their kit without the need for additional expensive hardware (you might need to buy a dongle). Brand S even provides an open source API for writing your own software.


With Brand S, the API is sort-of open source, but the code isn't. Unless there is something I don't know -- because I keep hearing about this "open source" and I keep not finding the source code. And that's what "open source" means -- gimme the source code.
Julie in Texas

greenMonitor(tm) for OutBack Power Technologies systems from greenHouse Gas and Electric. Learn more now!
User avatar
tallgirl
OutBack Emperor
 
Posts: 4258
Joined: Wed Sep 26, 2007 9:59 am
Location: Austin, TX
My RE system: 16 Kyocera KC175GT (2,800 watts DC), MX-60, 2 OutBack GVFX3648, 24 GC2 batteries (6v @ 215AH), 14 Pantheon-based ACPV modules (3,200 watts DC), La Crosse Technologies WS2310 Weather Station, greenLogger Sensors environmental monitor, WattNode watt-hour meter, greenLogger Lite data logger.

Re: Outback's responsiveness to User-Customer feedback

Postby blackswan555 on Wed Dec 16, 2009 1:16 pm

and I have heard the same questions over and over

So why have you not done anything about it ? after hearing it "over and over" ? and in the real word WHEN are you going to ?
Tim
My comments are based on my experience and research, They are not endorsed or checked by Outback.I am an independent British electrician living in Spain, So please take this into account when reading /acting on my post`s.
User avatar
blackswan555
OutBack Emperor
 
Posts: 1859
Joined: Sat Aug 30, 2008 5:50 am
Location: Ibiza Spain,
My RE system: Other peoples, VFX "E" versions, FLA`s, Generators.

Re: Outback's responsiveness to User-Customer feedback

Postby stephendv on Thu Dec 17, 2009 1:20 am

tallgirl wrote:
stephendv wrote:With Brand S, the API is sort-of open source, but the code isn't. Unless there is something I don't know -- because I keep hearing about this "open source" and I keep not finding the source code. And that's what "open source" means -- gimme the source code.


The source code is right there on their website (the english language version of the german site). It's released under the terms of the GPL open source license, you can choose to download a win32 compiled version or the C source.
stephendv
OutBack Guru
 
Posts: 110
Joined: Sun Apr 13, 2008 1:03 am
Location: Barbastro, Huesca, Spain
My RE system: 5kW Indian diesel generator. 900Ah PzS forklift battery. 5kW Sunny Island inverter.

Re: Outback's responsiveness to User-Customer feedback

Postby tallgirl on Thu Dec 17, 2009 8:49 am

stephendv wrote:
tallgirl wrote:
stephendv wrote:With Brand S, the API is sort-of open source, but the code isn't. Unless there is something I don't know -- because I keep hearing about this "open source" and I keep not finding the source code. And that's what "open source" means -- gimme the source code.


The source code is right there on their website (the english language version of the german site). It's released under the terms of the GPL open source license, you can choose to download a win32 compiled version or the C source.


Thanks! I'd never found that code. I only found Java language bindings, and they weren't the most useful thing I'd ever run into. I have a client with a Brand S inverter who will greatly appreciate it!
Julie in Texas

greenMonitor(tm) for OutBack Power Technologies systems from greenHouse Gas and Electric. Learn more now!
User avatar
tallgirl
OutBack Emperor
 
Posts: 4258
Joined: Wed Sep 26, 2007 9:59 am
Location: Austin, TX
My RE system: 16 Kyocera KC175GT (2,800 watts DC), MX-60, 2 OutBack GVFX3648, 24 GC2 batteries (6v @ 215AH), 14 Pantheon-based ACPV modules (3,200 watts DC), La Crosse Technologies WS2310 Weather Station, greenLogger Sensors environmental monitor, WattNode watt-hour meter, greenLogger Lite data logger.

Re: Outback's responsiveness to User-Customer feedback

Postby bushman on Thu Jan 14, 2010 6:07 am

Thanks for this Matt, and all you other people replies. For some reason I never got notified of these.
As one of you said - "WHEN can we expect to see the complete end-user product?"

Do you think you could notify me when it is available -please?

Running a farm, off-grid, leaves little time for browsing for new products, especially when such a long lag yields so little benefit to such browsing...
Obviously, batteries - as I've often been told even by "experts" - are a bit of a black art. Monitoring and logging by hand and eye is INCREDIBLY time consuming, hence even less time for checking (again...) whether a product has come out yet... AND: to set up and balance your system useage involves family life being modified ("CAN I DO A CLOTHES WASH YET, PLEASE!!"... ETC).
It is incredibly important to the usefulness of your system to make the logging EASY, AND USEABLE, AND USEFUL. This may mean providing all the data to spreadsheet format where people can tailor what they want to know and see.
I look forward to
A) hearing a date to look out for
B) seeing a product that DOES THE JOB!
Even suppliers of the Flexnet, (which is something that has been badly needed for years now, yet seems an obvious requirement from the beginning), say that "it doesn't do interfacing to logging well". Hurry up please, it is killing us out here!

Matt J wrote:Thanks Bushman.

Those are all very valid points and I have heard the same questions over and over. I hope that this post can help answer some of your questions.

I can tell you that in the last six months OutBack has reorganized much of it's internal structure to improve efficiency and speed-up the product development cycle. This has led to a much more focused effort within our product development team. I cannot speak to specifics of projects and time lines, but I can tell you that there is definitely a company wide effort to bring new, customer-focused products to market in the near future. We also recognize that system monitoring and communications are very important and can be much improved from it's current state. I know that many of our past product releases have been anything but timely. However, I will say that actions speak louder than words and I do expect OutBack to start delivering a lot less talk and a lot more action.

That is my politically correct response and I'm stickin to it. :grin:
bushman
OutBack Expert
 
Posts: 64
Joined: Thu Apr 21, 2005 6:06 am
Location: Exmoor UK
My RE system: 1800 Ah naval battery bank, consisting of 2 sets of 12 x 2V 900 Ah capacity lead acid unsealed cells for 24V inverter with 3kW output. Now added (June2008) 2nd inverter. Aim is to use and charge whole bank in half the time instead half the bank with one inverter. 7.5 kW diesel generator. AC side (being UK) is 240V (or 230).
LATEST UPDATE: Had a major lightning storm in July 09. Window and door handles glowing and sparking, generator was running (so charging batteries). 4 or 5 lightning bangs, then massive explosion from gen shed .... 12 out 24 900 Amp 2V cells with lids blown to kingdom come. Have now got 12 X 2V Rolls 5000 2-YS-31P cells. Wondering if Faraday cage would prevent this explosive problem in future... Will post to ask for ideas.


Return to Website & Forum

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest