User Interface Rant

I have one of these:

bttnm

You get it from these guys: https://bt.tn/

It is, in fact, the simplest internet user interface in the world. It’s just a big red button with WiFi. Without doing any programming you can set it up to send an email, a text, tweet, interface with IFTTT/Zapier, etc. And if you are a programmer it has a REST API and can do web hooks. So, basically, you can use this button for almost anything.

It’s simple. It’s pretty (it’s Scandinavian). It works. It’s awesome.

Except now we get to the rant. The configuration interface.

Like most devices of this nature, you configure it by surfing to the device, which brings up the chicken-and-egg problem of how you tell the device what WiFi network (and password) to use. Bttn uses a fairly common approach (Chromecast also does this) of having the device itself be an access point with a custom WiFi network “bttnconf” in this case.

So, to configure it, you power it up in configuration mode (hold button down while inserting batteries), set your computer onto the bttnconf WiFi network, and surf to the device which is always the “.1” IP address on the local network it establishes (in particular, it is 192.168.0.1).

Rant: and then you see this:

bttn2

which, besides being rather techie and obscure looking (in contrast to the beauty of the physical button), ISN’T THE CONFIGURATION INTERFACE YOU WANT/NEED.

Nope. The home page of the button is some internal configuration page (looks like you are configuring the bttnconf WiFi itself).

The page you need to surf instead is:

192.168.0.1/bttn

Why? Why?? Sure, when I read the instructions the first time (months ago) I “got it right”. But now I needed to redo the configuration, and I thought I remembered how to do it. Power up while holding down the button. Check. See bttnconf WiFi network. Check. Surf to the device.

Not check. Confusion.

In my case, because I was already having problems with the button, this caused me to file a trouble ticket with their support, who very politely reminded me that surfing to 192.168.0.1/ was wrong and that I needed to surf to 192.168.0.1/bttn

Doh!

and then I got the expected, graphically-oriented,interface for filling in my WiFi network name and password.

Shouldn’t the home page of the device be the nice interface, and the internal configuration page be at /config or something like that? Shouldn’t the config page also have a link “If you are trying to set up your button click HERE” or something like that?

Kind of disappointing given all the “design” (meaning appearance/UI) that went into the overall product.

2 thoughts on “User Interface Rant”

  1. Neil:

    Your location (like mine) makes it hard for a drive by to ‘sniff’ your WiFi, but…. Do you worry about security with this or any other IoT?

    I have a “Y” configuration on my main modem router. All the IoT stuff is on one side of the “Y” with traditional stuff of the other side. I do this for isolation of the IoT stuff from the rest of the network. But, should I really care? I still wonder about security of someone getting into the network from outside via IoT. Do you care enough to take any special precautions?

    whiskeytangohotel.com

  2. I haven’t been terribly concerned about that. Like you I also have multiple LANs inside my firewall boundary; I have one for a public WiFi network I make available (contractors/maintenance people use/love this) and some of my IoT things are on that network more out of convenience (no password) than true concern about isolating them from the “real” network. I’ve driven around trying to pick up my WiFi off property and as far as I have been able to find it doesn’t make it to the boundaries; however, I’m not entirely sure about whether it might be visible to the houses on the other side of the valley. But: I run fing sentinels and get reports when things appear on the public network and haven’t ever seen anything unexpected there. If the Russians want to hack my network they are welcome to it anyhow.

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