I'm with Pluto. Hari pointed out all the negative comments recently about Fiire. Since Fiire is the main reseller of LinuxMCE hardware, and Fiire pays for the LinuxMCE servers, bandwidth, etc., and had full time developers working on LinuxMCE, and was the first online shop to take a gamble on LinuxMCE, it was obviously a real concern. First, it should be noted that Fiire is a Google checkout merchant (ID: 640928394967237), and according to Google, Fiire receives an average rating of 4 stars out of 5, which is well above average. So not all customers are disgruntled.
As far as I could tell Demus was the main person who was really upset and posted derogatory comments in the wiki. So I sent Demus an email asking him to explain what made him so mad and what he wanted Fiire to do about it. But I could never get Demus to reply to me. While there's no excuse for bad customer support, it's definitely in the best interests of the LinuxMCE community if the merchants that stick their neck out and sell LinuxMCE hardware succeed so that more merchants come on board. So while it's good to point out the problems, and inform consumers, I think the goal should be to fix the problem rather than put them out of business. If Fiire goes out of business that only means less support for LinuxMCE and it'll be harder to get new merchants to offer LinuxMCE solutions, and thus harder to fund LinuxMCE.
The truth is that Fiire has had a lot of problems the past few months. Basically, the Via drivers which we licensed from Via (I organized that deal) didn't work with MythTV, and were closed source and binary-only and locked in to a particular kernel. Via promised over and over and over again to fix them, but never did.
In the end, this presented a really difficult situation for Fiire because Fiire not only had to buy back many, many Fiire stations, which used up their cash, they also had to stop selling the hardware, which cut out their revenue, and they needed to invest money in developing new, custom hardware based on the nVidia graphics chip, rather than Via, after they already invested a lot of money on the Via platform. The reason for the custom solution was that there was no existing off-the-shelf solution that used an nVidia graphics chip and was thin enough to go behind the TV, which was the main thing Fiire was offering; we all searched and searched trying to find an existing solution so they wouldn't need to build custom hardware. There were some off-the-shelf solutions based on Intel chips, like the ones from Aopen, but we were never able to get any video drivers except nVidia's to do alpha blending over video. And it cost a lot and took a lot of work to get the new hardware off the ground.
So when they've got cash out to buy back the old Fiire stations, cash out to pay to develop the new hardware, and no cash in because they stopped selling the Via-based stuff.... Well you get the picture. They had to choose between keeping the customer support call center (yes, it was an outsourced overseas call center), or keeping the couple engineers they had who were working on the next gen hardware.... And then when they really need to get the new hardware on the market *fast*, and it all boils down to a couple high paid engineers working really long hours, they can't pull the engineers off to answer the phones. So that explains why there was a period of time when nobody could get through.
Anyway Fiire recently came out with the new products. Product fulfillment is also now handled by PC Design Lab instead of Polywell. And, from what I understand, all orders for the new products are in fact now being shipped within 1 week of receipt. I reviewed the invoices and the shipping notices, and it is true that the new products are shipping out on time, they seem work well, and the fulfillment/shipping is back to normal.
Fiire hasn't been able to startup the call center again, so it still can be hard to reach them for customer support. However, the shipping/fulfillment side appears to be fine now, and I haven't heard of any new complaints since they switched fulfillment houses to PC Design Lab; I've only heard good things about PC Design Lab. And at least as far as shipping/order/payment issues, PC Design Lab seems to be really responsive. Also, I'm not sure the overseas call center was all that necessary in the first place.
I'm sure it will take Fiire a while to fully recover from the Via debacle. And it hit Pluto really hard too because we organized the whole deal and had other customers besides Fiire that were going to license the software and sell LinuxMCE solutions, but all those deals fell apart all because we couldn't get stable video drivers.
The problem isn't apathy. Nobody's getting rich here. We're just a bunch of computer geeks working 14 hour days to make ends meet and trying to get this stuff off the ground.