I'm almost certain they are not dead. I contacted them last month about a broken part and all was taken care of in few days.
Try emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
. The few times I've had a problem she's taken care of me. They might just be busy with the new hopper and World Cup this week. Keep at it though, they are the best when it comes to taking care of people.
I don't know about weak shells, My original Pinokio is almost 5 years old and still running strong with original everything. Make sure you let them know about it and I'm sure something will come of it.