Monday, February 07, 2005

User interfaces

for the past few months my DVD player has been having problems. It stuttered and got lost in various DVD's; cleaning helped a bit but not enough. So it was time for a new one. Any player that can't play this movie[^] is doomed.

I'd been happy with almost everything about the old DVD player except for one minor detail. The new DVD player, whilst not perfect, doesn't have the defect of the detail.

Most DVD players are overloaded with features one seldom uses. Indeed, with features seldom implemented. Pan and scan - an excellent idea for those without wide screen TV sets, if the DVD includes the necessary encoding to cause pan and scan to occur (and also if the person doing the pan and scan encoding agrees with me that in this scene that's the most important thing to see). I have a wide screen TV so I'd never use that button even if it worked. Likewise for zoom, angle, A-B (whatever that does) and so on. I've never yet seen a DVD that needed the 0-9 buttons! The end result of all these options is that the average DVD remote control seems to have about 40 buttons, 10 of which I'd ever use. So it was with the remote control for my old DVD player. So it is with the remote control for my new DVD player.

However, the new remote control doesn't try to make the same button perform dual service in skipping backward a chapter, or merely in fast reverse. You know the kind of thing I mean. You hear a line of dialogue and are not quite sure what was said; so you grab the remote and skip backward a few seconds so you can hear it again. The old remote used the same button both for backward skip and for going back an entire chapter. The theory was good; hit the button once, release it and we're back to the start of the chapter; hit the button and hold it down and we're doing the fast reverse scan.

It seemed, no matter how careful I was, that about half the time the DVD player would interpret what I'd done with the back button as a single press, even if I held the bugger down with the kind of pressure you might expect to find at the bottom of the Marianus Trench! The new player doesn't overload the same button for both duties and it's a pleasure to have the player do what I want it to do. Of course, there are other problems related to a changed layout but they won't take long to adapt to. I'm already used to finding my way up 3 buttons from the play button, 1 button from the left, to turn subtitles on or off.

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