Breaking Up With Luma

Earlier this year I ordered a promising consumer mesh networking system called Luma. I waited patiently for the product to be released, and then an extra month while my number came up in the pre-order shipping queue.

When I finally received my order, my first impressions of Luma were largely favorable. The initial release was lacking many of the promised features, but this wasn’t unexpected. More troublesome were outages in the mesh network. For the first few weeks these were intermittent, but as firmware updates continued to be applied it seemed as though the network became increasingly unstable. Promised features, such as user-level pausing of Internet access, were added to the system — but at the expense of actual usability. As August flipped the page to September my family began to refer to Luma as “your stupid new internet.” This was not encouraging.

According to the folks at Luma, I had the misfortune of being part of a small portion of Luma users who were having similar difficulties as me. Luma’s support team was excellent as they attempted to address my problems. I was put on a special patch list, and developed a good report with their support team as we went through troubleshooting steps. Unfortunately, all their efforts to improve Luma’s reliability only ever led to temporary solutions.

My breaking point came after a major Luma firmware update which somehow managed to disable my network encryption — even though my security settings were still enabled in the configuration app. I managed to re-enable encryption by unplugging each of my Luma nodes and then plugging them in again 1, but this was unsettling. In fact, I only noticed this had happened after checking my network settings on my iPhone and noticed the “security recommendation” warning underneath my network name. Had I not taken a close look at my wifi icon I may have ended up running an unencrypted network for days without noticing. This glitch’s link to a firmware upgrade also highlighted one of the features of Luma with which I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. I lost control of my hardware.

On the surface, the idea I’d never have to worry about spending some upgrading the firmware on my networking devices was a dream come true. I spend a significant portion of my day managing other people’s computers 2, and having to do the same when I’m “off” is not something to which I particularly look forward. But not being able to control when firmware updates got applied to my devices became unnerving. I had to trust Luma would only apply updates which were thoroughly tested, and install them at a moment when I didn’t need to have my network usable 3. Additionally, without a way to manually download and install firmware for my Luma hardware, I could couldn’t step back a firmware release should an update go bad.

So I finally gave up. Last week I asked Luma to authorize the return of my 3-pack and they agreed. Tomorrow I’ll print out the return shipping label and send them back to the company for a refund.

In many ways, I’m bummed by this decision. When Luma worked it worked. I loved seeing my download speeds registering as 130mbps, it was a wonderful sight. Yet, Luma didn’t work enough and I couldn’t afford to deal with the inevitable glitches which come with a new and advanced system.

Luma’s support was excellent, and I bear them no ill-will, but at this point I’m not sure I can recommend the product as is currently stands. If you have a Luma system and it works there’s no reason not to keep it 4. But if you’re considering it as a purchase you may want to consider waiting for version two. I’m of the opinion many of my issues were partly due to problems with the hardware. Consumer mesh-networking is the future, but it’s still in it’s early stages.

  1. Yes, I turned them off and on again. 
  2. I have two callings on my life, pastor and technology. Technology is by far the more stressful of those two. 
  3. And the idea they actually would know this was even more unnerving. 
  4. Though you might want to check your security settings, just in case.