Thursday, November 6, 2014

Months of frustration

Have finally ended.
It all started during the last ops session we had here. (no I'm not blaming my crews.) The comment was made that since we're keeping the actual speeds of the trains slow, the digital sounds should be tweaked to at least make the units sound like they are working. A request that actually made a lot of sense to me.
Some conversations and consulting left me with the conclusion that the simplest solution would be to amend to speed curves and/or the Max Volt the motors would see. Things that can be very finely controlled with DCC decoders.
Now the problem comes in that all of the F7s have factory installed QSI decoders and the SW-8s have QSI decoders that I've installed. QSI uses a unique "extended addresses" for amending CVs. Not easily done without a Quantum programmer. Now I didn't need the programmer for the basic programming tweaks I wanted to do, but I certainly did for the some of the finer refinements I wanted to make.
So I went shopping. Much to my surprise, a Quantum Programmer wasn't that easy to find, at the time I was shopping around. But I did find one.
You get this little pc peripheral device, a USB cord, a software disc and a wall transformer for power. I installed the software as directed, plugged in the device and that's where the trouble started.
Turns out I had purchased an older unit, the USB drivers didn't much like Windows 7. I called QSI for some customer support. took 2 weeks of constant calling to finally speak to a human being. Josh, the owner, tried very hard to talk me through the various upgrade downloads required. But we kept running into the same problem. The SiLabs USB Driver software would not upgrade from 3.1 to 3.2. Josh told me that he'd have to talk to his software guru and he'd get back to me.
2 weeks go by and I had not yet heard from Josh. I called him. Took another 3 days of persistence but I got him. He coached me through a "fix".
Full denial.
Josh, very frustrated, told me he'd get back to me in a couple of days. I've yet to hear from back from him.
After waiting a few more weeks, I took the bull by the horns. I called my "Nerds on Site" guy, who has performed major pc surgery for me over the years and has an interest in model trains as well. He came over and looked at the problem. Had it fixed in 5 minutes. Turns out that he had to manually point the software upgrade to the right place to go.
So now I'm reprogramming DCC sound decoders after almost 3 months of frustration. I have to say that the QSI documentation is like reading old DOS manuals. Very poorly done. But fortunately the sound quality makes up for the shortcomings in the paperwork.
I've now tweaked half of my F7 fleet. They sound delightful. At typical layout speeds they growl away just like you'd expect when pulling a Red Ball freight down the main. Now I want to explore the auto brake squeal option, but I suspect newer chipsets might be in order.
I will tell this, if it wasn;t for the fact that I had 23 QSI decoders already in place, I would have happily replaced them all with Tsumani decoders.
The customer support from QSI was poor to say the least. But I do want to thank, Nick Kulp and Bob Menzies, 2 gentlemen from the QSI Yahoo Group who contacted me directly and helped me through some steep learning curve aspects of dealing with QSI products. Too bad they don't answer the phones for QSI.


Anonymous said...

QSI probably doesn't have to answer the phones because they're to busy making sales to the greater marketplace. I have 3 steam decoders that I can't figure out how to make work. Contrast that to the two SHS F3's that I put Tsnunami's in which took all of half an hour. Progamming with DeCoder Pro was a snap and everything is great! Good luck with QSI. I am still trying to figure them out.

Anonymous said...

In the hope that the folks at QSI read this and take notice, your post and this comment mean I will avoid buying any of their products.

Anonymous said...

That Nerds On Site guy must be pretty sharp to get it fixed so quick ;)

Pierre Oliver said...

Not to take anything away from him, but for a pro it was an obvious and easy fix.
I was and remain appalled that the manufacturer couldn't fix his own stuff.