Member Discussion

Anyone Else Having Linear E3 Panel & Reader Problems?

Readers have been replaced/swapped and doors still behave the same way.

Full notes:

  • I started in the security field in 1985. I have installed dozens of access control systems in that time, most of them Linear systems or their IEI predecessors. I have never had this issue come up before.
  • I installed a Linear E3 Elite panel for a good customer in June 2016. We installed 3 access controlled doors to the system, 2 with Linear P300 readers and 1 with a take out/used Honeywell OmniProx reader. All were programmed and tested fine- cards read good, reader LEDs change from red to green properly, all works well as far as we can see.
  • After a few weeks the customer told us that they had to present their prox fobs twice to be granted access sometimes. I investigated, verified the complaint and discovered that if the reader stays idle (no reads) for about 6.5 minutes, the first presentation of the fob beeps the reader but its LED stays red and access is not granted. If you present your fob again within about a 6 minute window the reader LED turns green and access is granted. The effect is like the reader falls asleep after about 6.5 minutes. 
  • After about 6 months the customer wants to change the readers to Keypad/Reader combo units on 2 office doors. We install the P640 combination keypad/prox readers on those doors. A week or so goes by and the customer tells us that the same effect of the readers falling asleep is noticed. I changed those 2 P640 to new P640s. Nothing changed. I changed the reader/keypads again to a different manufacture,  HID, I believe. Nothing changed. I replaced those readers with some from AWID. Nothing changed.
  • During this whole time, the Honeywell reader on the back door has logged no complaints at all. I test it every time I go to the site and never find a problem with it, the back door unlocks on the first prox read after periods of extended inactivity. The 2 front doors continue to act like they fall asleep.
  • We add a 4th reader for enrollment of cards at the receptionist desk. This reader logs no complaints at all, ever.
  • We call Linear tech support many times in an attempt to solve the problem. They want us the wire readers right to the panel, ask about wire type and length (Wire is composite access control cable with a shielded, twisted pair cable used for reader power. LED control and data, length of wire run is about 75 feet direct from the controller to each controlled door. There are no splices in the cable, only at termination using irreversible crimp connectors filled with dielectric grease). We connected readers directly to the panel in an attempt to troubleshoot but since at the time this was done we hadn't determined how long it was before they fell asleep, troubleshooting is difficult because you have to read a card and wait an indeterminate amount of time and try a card read. If it works, this resets the sleep clock and the troubleshooting timing cycle begins all over again. It takes several hours to determine that the readers will unlock the door on the first try if a card is read every 6.5 minutes. If you wait 7 minutes, you have to try twice before the door unlocks.
  • During this time, we install 2 Linear expansion clients in 2 separate buildings connected by network. The keypad/readers and readers in these locations work perfectly with no issues. We actually used the original P300 readers we took out of the office when they wanted keypads instead and reinstalled them in one of these sites- they have been flawless. The problem at the office continues, but only with the 2 front doors- doors 3 and 4 work perfectly.
  • We get an RMA for a replacement controller board. We go to the site, backup the database, use the SD card from the old system in the new board, power up the new board and restore the database. The software version of the controller and the clients match, the new controller software version is the same as the old board. Everything works fine except the sleep issue with the same 2 readers persists. We power down the system, take out the old SD card and install the new one that came with the new board. Power back up and reconnect to it, restore the database again and all works well, except, you guessed it, the readers still go to sleep.

I'm out of ideas, any suggestions?

Summary:

Linear E3 Elite Panels seem to be hibernating the readers, forcing two card scans before unlocking certain doors.  Other doors connected to the same system do not have this issue.


Great notes!  I summarized the issue up top to help with scanning the issue.

Are the readers on the E3 using Wiegand/ D0 and D1, or something else?

Is the E3 panel using a 'two man rule' to open those doors?  I'm not sure Linear does this feature, but if checked it may look for two valid scans before opening the door.  The timeout may just be the valid time period between scans expiring.

Thanks Brian- please note that the panel is an E3 not an L3.

The readers are Weigand. The issue affects all users- prox card presentation or PIN entry gives the same result. The thought about needing 2 valid scans is a good one- this feature is not available on this platform as far as I know but I will check into that.

It seems to me that there is a software issue/bug, since all of the hardware has been changed and the issue continues. The common denominator is the site-specific programing that was backed up and restored to the new controller. I am going to try to get Linear to have an engineer or someone beyond a phone support agent get involved. I've contacted the regional sales rep for some assistance so we'll see where that goes.

I would have swapped reader positions and reprogrammed the doors to match to eliminate issues with wiring and such. 

"...to eliminate issues with wiring and such."

 

-If someone can explain to me what wiring malfunction results in the observed system behavior then I'm all ears. I don't know how to calculate the odds of 2 separate wire runs connected to 2 separate reader inputs that have been connected to a sum total of 8 different readers malfunctioning in exactly the same way but that has got to be a very large number! Readers have been swapped out, programing has been altered. We didn't have any concept that this process would devolve into a grand experiment so unfortunately we didn't keep a detailed diary. But I can say that every reasonable troubleshooting step has been taken in an effort to resolve. It is my belief that at this point the manufacturer should step up and get involved.

If you swapped the wiring and reprogrammed Door 1 (Good) for Door 2 (bad) and Door 2 starts working it’s a piece of information you don’t have.

The likelihood of cabling is pretty small, especially on two doors.   The idea that you swapped a motherboard for another motherboard, swapped readers for new readers, would lead to a piece of programming.  If you copied the old information into a new board, it could be copying the defective programming.

I can tell you that manufacturers have options in products that are “masked” and you may have inadvertently set an option that isn’t visible to you.

The option I didn’t see was defaulting the board and reprogramming from scratch.   Maybe you did that and I missed it. 

No we didn't default and reprogram because the system is running 3 buildings-the problem is on the "server" which runs 2 "clients". One of the clients is an apartment building with several hundred users. These tenants don't have keys so they rely entirely on the access control system to enter the building. I will be sending Linear a copy of the database so they can attempt to replicate.

I'm actually running into a similar issue with one of our clients. Was Linear able to replicate and/or resolve this for you?

Hi Chris,

The Linear rep traveled to the site where I was able to easily replicate the issue for him. From the way his eyes widened upon seeing the problem, I could tell he thought he would smoke a few cigarettes, drink a few coffees and tell the rookie (me) how to fix his simple mistake. He suggested there wasn't enough power at the affected readers so I humored him and put the readers on their own power supply- no change.

The "fix" was to install a new "client" board (the E3, as you probably know, is designed to stack a client board on top of the controller board), move the affected doors/resources to the new client board and abandon the 2 affected door reader inputs  and associated inputs/outputs on the controller board.

There is no question in my mind that there is something in the programming that can't be seen at the installer programming level causing this behavior. I didn't like the solution because it's not clean, and I like clean answers. The customer still sees 2 doors named "defective" show up on their interface. Linear's solution works, but it's a patch. When I asked the Linear factor rep if he was going to run this issue by the software engineers for a resolution, his answer was a glorified "no".

Linear is another victim of the buy every company in sight before our competition does frenzy that is epidemic across the security industry. Nortek has a lot of marketing dollars but their tech support has suffered and their product mix/website is a tangled mess that I can't make sense of. Trying to find needed tech documents is tough and getting anything but scripted answers from tech support is virtually impossible.

 

 

Hi David-

Read your post thru twice.  Well documented.

Wonder if this specific site is not experiencing a power supply problem?  Clue here is that you mention that other identical installs are functioning flawlessly.

Seen that before where a power supply simply can't provide the power needed by a system, and as a result components mysteriously go off-line.

Recommendation here is switching out the complete power supply.

We're using a separate Altronix access control power supply with plenty of reserve. As I mentioned, 2 doors out of 4 at the site and out of 6 more or so at remote/client sites are experiencing this issue (were). Power supply issues result in randomized issues. If you read through again you will see that the readers "fall asleep" after a specific time- including when wired directly to the controller and including when wired to the Altronix power supply that is essentially idle all the time except when a door strike is triggered. It is clearly a software bug that Linear/Nortek is not interested in fixing.

FYI- discovered the hard way on this same ACS platform that when you turn on the feature that re-locks the door when the ACS sees the door close via the door position switch (a strike time of, say, 10 seconds, will relock upon the ACS seeing the door close again), the reader LEDs don't work properly- the LED colors are all messed up. Shut the feature off for that door, reader LED colors work fine. After much head scratching, called Linear who told me it's a know issue. That was 2 years ago and I'm still waiting for a fix...fixing software bugs is not their strong suite.

Hi David,

Are you still using Linear for AC or did you decide to go with another brand for your other projects?

Still using them. The customer GUI is nice, familiarity with the product has a lot to do with it, upgrades for existing customers with existing Linear systems make that choice for us. We've looked at other systems but haven't made a decision to settle on one just yet. The cloud based systems are making headway but find that the customer interface is designed by people in the software business that decided to get into access control rather than access control people that designed better software.

Give up on Linear. We have had on-going issues for 3 years. The only support we have been given and their standard response is "default the board"