[mythtv-users] 3-D UI for Myth, PNP installation, new LinuxMCE

Paul Huber paul2004x at gmail.com
Sun Aug 12 06:18:48 UTC 2007

I didn't develop the UI; it was inherited from Pluto.  So I can comment as a
user and without the passion of the 'owner'...

Putting aside aesthetics for a moment to look at the function...    Do an
analysis of the bottom line in terms of how much effort goes into doing the
basic tasks you do all the time.  In the demo video when I wanted to find
the movie 'Antz', amongst about 50 movies, and find the night club scene,
which is somewhere in the middle, it took around 4 seconds.  I've used
normal media center UI's a lot longer than LinuxMCE's, and I can honestly
say that it would probably take around 60 seconds to do it with a normal
UI.  Also, when browsing the guide, the time it takes to scan through your
channels, find any given channel or program is way more than 10x faster in
LinuxMCE.  Basic math (which I borrowed from pluto, but it's accurate), is
that an EPG from a cable company, like my Comcast, has around 500 channels.
There's 2 weeks of programming, about 150,000 hours worth.  On all the
normal EPG's, you see 5 channels x 2 hours = 10 hours.  So you see only 10
hours out of 150,000 and there are 15,000 pages, and you'd have to hit the
buttons page down/left/right/down, etc. at least 15,000 times to see what's
on the next couple of weeks.  Waving a remote up and down is so much easier
and faster.  The same thing with scanning through thousands of mp3's.  The
'normal' UI with drill down 10' menus and x/y grids you page through has
been around forever, and it's second nature.  But I think back then we
didn't have nearly the media selection we do now, and it's now pretty
cumbersome.  Also on the main menu, if there are 6 sub-menus, it would take
18 button presses and around 60 seconds to see what all your menu choices
are with a normal 10' UI.  With LinuxMCE you wave your hand right and see
them all in about 2 seconds with no button presses.  It's like this with
everything in life...  If you're used to doing something a certain way, any
change is foreign and cumbersome at first.  But once you get used to doing
something in a couple seconds that used to take a minute longer, then it's
hard to go back.  Now when I use my Comcast remote and look at that little
5x2 grid it is really frustrating since I just want the thing to fly by on
the screen and see all my channels at once.

I don't think LinuxMCE's UI is perfect, and consider it kind of an
exploration in new UI paradigms rather than the end-all solution.  Since the
nature of media UI's has changed so much over the years and the volume of
data the UI has to show has probably increased 20 fold over the past 10
years, I think it's a good idea to explore different UI concepts rather than
stick to the same traditional UI.  It would be more helpful I think to
either throw out totally new UI concepts that go in other directions, or
point out what specifically is wrong with the UI, or other suggestions for
making it better.  It's hard to apply the criticism to make it better if
it's not specific.

So to be specific, since I use the UI daily, I think that where LinuxMCE's
UI could be improved is:
1) Find a way to get the same benefit without buying an expensive remote.
Something like a scroll wheel that could be added to existing remotes for
less than $1 may have more traction than an expensive gadget like a gyro.
2) The aesthetics and general polished feel of LinuxMCE's UI could be
significantly improved, and it could use a good theme artist.
3) For small granular tasks, like just turn the volume up 1 notch or step
back 1 frame, it's easier to have a fixed button than use a gestural
movement.  This was my biggest complaint with the air mouse.  That new
remote addresses that by having both a gyro and normal buttons, but it's a
niche product and very expensive.  I got mine for free :).
4) The text is smaller, particularly on the main menu since you're allowing
room for all 6 submenus rather than just 1 at a time.
5) The heavy use of alpha blending is, I think pleasant looking because it
makes the media be the prime focus and the UI is more subtle and doesn't
take away from the media so much.  But, when the media has text too, such as
when the credits are scrolling by at the end of a movie, the alpha blended
menus are hard to read.
6) To use LinuxMCE's UI with a gyro control of some sort there's a learning
curve and it takes hand-eye coordination.  Nobody gets it right away, and I
don't think older people will have an easy time with it.

On 8/11/07, Justin Hornsby <justin.hornsby at gmail.com> wrote:
> LinuxMCE has singularly THE worst UI of any OSS project I've seen in a
> long, long time.
> The credo of the '10 foot interface' seems to have fallen completely
> by the wayside.
> I do not want to have to navigate submenu after submenu and have them
> all onscreen at the same time.
> In all honesty, to see that people *want* the linuxmce UI concerns me.
> Sure MythTV's UI could do with some extra 'bling' but this is going
> too far.  In fact, there's nothing about the linuxmce UI I find
> appealing in the slightest, either aesthetically or functionally.
> MythTV is easy to navigate (arguably not so much if you want to find a
> 'buried' setup feature). How linuxmce is improving WAF I just can't
> see.  The plethora of menu items onscreen looks *bewildering* at first
> glance, and it is that impression you'll find hard to shift.
> I'm positive that with a gyroscopically controlled remote, linuxmce
> makes navigation very much faster, but what about those folks who
> aren't prepared to shell out $$$ on a new remote?
> I'm trying hard to see something positive about linuxmce I really am,
> but so far I'm far from convinced it'd be a step in the right
> direction from the point of view of UI design.
> --
> Justin Hornsby
> Creator of ProjectGrayhem, blootube and neon-wide themes for MythTV
> email: justin(dot)hornsby(at)gmail.com
> web: http://www.juski.co.uk
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