Reasons to have an OpenBSD router at home, Amazon Wand Edition

Since the new Amazon Dash Wand is effectively free for Prime customers, and it gives you a home-automation controller, bar-code scanner, and a hand-held Alexa device that is not always listening, I ordered one.

When it arrived this morning, I followed the instructions, opened the Amazon app on my iPhone, and went through the setup process. Wifi Fail. Wifi Fail. Wifi Fail. “You should contact customer service”.

The first 20+-minute call went through a bunch of cookbook questions about who my Internet provider was, and how to change the channel on my router. I had a brief flashback to the Seventies, then realized their script assumed Comcast meant “all-in-one cable modem, router, and wireless access point”. I played along, knowing this would make no difference, and the call eventually ended in an RMA.

I was curious to see if it really was a wireless problem, so I logged into the OpenBSD router, checked the DHCP logs, and found an entry for a new Amazon MAC address. I fired up tcpdump and went through the setup again, and sure enough, the device got DHCP, connected to the Internet for DNS, connected to an Amazon server, and then started trying to talk to a public (non-Amazon) NTP server to set its date and time.

It failed every time. Annoyingly, it wasn’t even looking in DNS for its NTP server; the addresses were hardcoded in either the build or the config it had downloaded.

So, armed with the knowledge that the hardware was fine, I tried to get back through to customer service with this knowledge. An hour later, after two different people tried to debug phone app, wireless and bluetooth problems (including telling me to turn on GPS on my phone!), I finally got someone to twiddle the right bits so it could connect to servers that were up, and then cancel the RMA.

Now I have a Dash Wand. Ho, ho, ho.

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