[mythtv] MythTV Usability Report

Steve Adeff adeffs at gmail.com
Mon Jan 9 03:41:44 UTC 2006

On Sunday 08 January 2006 22:03, Craig Tinson wrote:
> Jono Bacon wrote:
> >Hi all,
> >
> >Firstly, thanks for MythTV. It is an incredible piece of software our
> >house is a better place with our MythTV box. Keep up the great work.
> >
> >For a while now I have been noting down little quirks and oddities in
> >MythTV. Although MythTV is incredibly usable and works very well,
> >fixing these problems would make it more intuitive and easier to use.
> >This list is certainly not exhaustive and although I have been meaning
> >to do an exhaustive usability assessment, I have not had the time. As
> >such, these are major usability issues I have confronted.
> >
> >I would love to conduct a more in-depth usability test in the future
> >if that would be of interest. I write quite a bit about design,
> >usability and MythTV on my blog at www.jonobacon.org.
> >
> >I have put a code at the beginning of each issue for easily referring to
> > it.
> >
> >--> General
> >
> >* G1 - When watching a show, you should be able to hit the record
> >button to record the entire show if it has been watched from the
> >beginning and as such the live TV buffer contains the show.
> >* G2 - If you schedule a show to record, you can only watch the show
> >at the same time as recording it by first selecting Media
> >Library->Watch and then selecting a show. This is unintuitive - you
> >should just be able to watch TV like normal and be able to view the
> >channel while the show is recording.
> >* G3 - Switching between channels is far to slow - this slowness makes
> >skipping through channels rather laborious.
> >* G4 - The term 'Optical Disks' in the menu is not particularly clear
> >- I suspect most people know its a Disk, but not optical.
> >* G5 - In the Upcoming recordings screen, the use of dimmed and
> >non-dimmed entries in entirely unclear - what do they signify? It is
> >certainly unclear to me and my other half. The other problem is that
> >many of the entries listed in Upcoming will not actually be taped
> >because it says the recording will be taped at a later time. If it is
> >not going to be taped, why is it still in the list?
> >* G6 - Many of the screens in MythTV (such as Upcoming and Set
> >Priorities) have specific letters in each entry. These letters
> >obviously refer to something specific, but there is no legend
> >displayed on the screen to say what they mean.
> >* G7 - There seems to be no simple way of cancelling all recordings
> >for a show other than finding it in the EPG and changing the recording
> >option to not record the show. The ideal solution would be to have a
> >list of shows that are being recorded and then when you select a show,
> >there are options such as Cancel this recording, Cancel all recordings
> >etc.
> >
> >--> Electronic Programme Guide
> >
> >* EPG1 - When watching TV you will often want to view the EPG.
> >Currently you do this by pressing Menu and then selecting Program
> >Guide from the on-screen menu. This two step process needs to be
> >instead bound to a single key so that you can press one button and
> >access the EPG while watching TV.
> >* EPG2 - When you access the EPG from the main menu, there is no TV
> >feed on the top right-hand corner, whereas when you access the EPG
> >when watching TV by pressing Menu->Program Guide, there is a TV feed
> >in the EPG. This behaviour needs to be unified - I would suggest
> >always having a feed of the current TV channel.
> >* EPG3 - The EPG should not be inside the Manage menu, for a few
> >reasons. The first is that you don't really 'manage' your program
> >schedule, and secondly because you need to reference the EPG
> >regularly. Why take two steps to access the EPG when you likely want
> >to access it on the main menu?
> >
> >--> MythMusic
> >
> >* MM1 - When in the main playback screen, there are a number of
> >different artists in a long list, but there is no way of jumping from
> >artist to artist.
> >* MM2 - If you have not created a playlist, or you have just cleared
> >you active play queue, MythMusic by default has no songs loaded. This
> >is totally unintuitive. The default functionality should be that when
> >no no queue or playlist is available, *all* of your music should be
> >available to play. It seems crazy that All My Music needs to be
> >consciously ticked in the Edit Playlist area to actually hear some
> >music.
> >* MM3 - There is no way to create a playlist based on genre.
> >* MM4 - When playing back a song it lists encoding details (eg.
> >128kbps 44.1khz) - this information is of no interest to most users
> >and therefore should not be displayed.
> >* MM5 - There is copious room in the bottom third of the screen, and
> >this should really be used to display guidance notes about creating a
> >playlist. Creating playlists is not very intuitive and this space
> >could be usefully used for notes.
> >* MM6 - There is no obvious way to save a playlist that you have just
> >constructed. I still don't know how to do this.
> >* MM7 - When creating a playlist, the icons on the left (such as the
> >CD icon when you have inserted a CD and it appears below the All My
> >Music line) are not clear at all. This need to be much bigger or use
> >the space at the bottom of the screen to show a nice big icon. On my
> >28" TV, they just were not clear enough and look like bullet points.
> >* MM8 - When in the main music playback screen and at the top of the
> >list of songs, you can't press Up to go to the bottom of the list. I
> >assume the same problem happens at the bottom of the list - you should
> >be able to press Down to go to the top of the list.
> >
> >--> MythWeather
> >
> >* MW1 - When loading MythWeather and it says it is retrieving weather
> >data, it takes a long time to grab this information. It would be
> >better if it just went away and grabbed it periodically in the
> >background, this giving little or no delay.
> >* MW2 - Unlike other modules in MythTV, MythWeather does not display
> >information in the LCD panel on the front of my case.
> >
> >--> Ideas for features
> >
> >* Reminders - there should be a feature to allow you to set a reminder
> >to watch a particular show, even if you are not recording it. MythTV
> >would then pp up a box to say the show is on and allow you to change
> >the channel. It would also be useful to possibly pop up a small OSD
> >with a countdown to when the reminded show starts.
> >* A module to go and grab National Lottery numbers and display them.
> >
> >Cheers,
> >
> >  Jono
> well.. personally I think this is a good report.
> I've read through all the replies and to be frank I think they are
> completely out of order.
> I've been using mythtv for a while now and yeah - I know how it works..I
> know what all the menu options are for and I know how to move things
> around if I wanted. but that isn't the point..
> The responses so far have been of the frame of mind of "well if you
> don't like it - change it" or even worse "well if you don't like it -
> don't use it"
> This is an old (and tiring!) point of view and really doesn't help
> future the cause of OpenSource software in general. If this was still
> the frame of mind then linux wouldn't have ever got out of console mode
> (and yeah - we all know there are still some elitists that would love that)
> How is OpenSource software ever expected to get into the realm of public
> use without it being easier to use?? more software should undergo
> similar Usability Testing.
> Well.. just my two-penneth worth.
> Craig

It takes a while to learn to use any device. The issue with MythTV is that 
there is no one common interface (like say the Tivo, which has one remote, 
you have to use it, you have to learn to use it in their manner), so each 
user will try and customize it for their best use using their preferred 
interface. Some folks use wireless keyboard, some use MCE remotes, some use 
universal remotes, you can't expect to make MythTV work perfect for all these 
users, but what you can do is make it such that the person setting up the 
device can customize it for their preferred use.

When the TiVo came out my friends and I jumped all over it, it still took the 
girlfriends a few months to figure it out, and people that came over couldn't 
use it their first time, but after a while you get to the point where its 
common knowledge. I'm still learning my way around many of Myth's options, 
only because I don't need their ability, I know how to do what I want, and it 
hasn't taken me any longer to learn than it did to learn my old TiVo, or my 
iPod for that matter! (I still forget where the damn alarm clock 
is....grr...). Let alone try and figure out how to pring envelope labels in 
MS Word! God is that torture, but hey, I paid $500 for MS Office, so thats 

What you have to be able to do though is allow for the varying levels of 
control, which I think Myth does quite well so far. The only area I could 
nitpick is in the visual UI (menu's and such), which I assume are going to be 
reworked with the new MFD design that will be coming shortly, so I'll wait.

and... If I hear the OSS won't become common use until it does this or that 
arguement one more time I may begin removing limbs. Your arguement makes no 
sense, its not like Windows or any of its software is all that easy to use, 
common people complain about how much they hate using computers all the time, 
yet for some reason its ok, because you've paid for the software, if its 
free, it has to be perfect? please, get a new arguement, one that makes 

Another comment, on how some modules don't work well within the Myth control 
scheme can be easily remedied by someone changing its controls to map to 
similar common Myth controls, something that, again, will most likely change 
with the MFD. What will help this is the ability to map each function to a 
key with a generic default, or a couple different ones, and allow the user to 
change them easily to meet their needs. I've been able to map things out so 
the most common features are all accessible by the users thumb on my remote 
in a logical way, with only 2 buttons off that area. Considering the amount 
of things I can do this way, by taking advantage the OSD menus, etc.

I think the devs should hold off on mass UI changes and work on the underlying 
technologies and continue to work on the MFD. From my understanding this will 
allow for pretty much completely custom UI, someone that wants to only use 
the basic features can choose a basic UI with a basic remote mapping 
requirement, someone that is more of a power user can enable more features, 
and you can have a different one at each frontend in your house.


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