[mythtv-users] RANT: MythTV has a *horrible* end user experience.

Sarah Hayes sarah at sarahhayes.is-a-geek.net
Sun Feb 24 16:30:36 UTC 2008

> Okay, first of all, for all its faults, I love MythTV.  I use it 
> everyday.  I really want it to do well.  It's a totally open platform 
> in one of the most "closed up" worlds out there 
> (media/TV/movies/Holywood/**AA industries).
Same here, MythTV is pretty damn good.  Speaking as a tinkerer, geek, 
fiddler and general nosey parker, it letting me bend it beyond breaking 
point is nice.  Not good in as a "media consumer" though but can't have 
everything eh?
> That said, the user interface is the worst thing I've ever used.  It's 
> not user friendly, it's inconsistent, and it's downright irritating.  
> As the owner of the device, I can make it work...but good luck handing 
> the remote to anyone else.  This makes mythtv a non-starter in any 
> household occuppied by both technically-oriented and 
> non-technically-oriented people.
Agreed.  I've absolutely no problems using Myth, but when I had it to 
the in laws to use all hell breaks loose.   One problem is the machine 
doesn't give feedback so they aren't sure if it's accessing the media 
store, somethings broken or not received the input.  MythWelcome is 
nice, but I'd assume the vast majority of frontends are sat at the main 
menu, because that's what all the commonly used setup guides drop you 
off at.  The UI doesn't advertise what's happening; recording, new 
content (i.e. 138 pictures added, imdb of the newest film I've imported 
and such) whilst poking around in the MePo-wide theme I've seen how he 
does the animation and can lash up scripts to do this... it really 
should be something that just 'appears' on idle.
> In my opinion, the biggest flaw is in playing back recorded TV versus 
> playing back videos (AVIs, etc).  The problem here of course is that 
> MythTV has two different movie players with two completely different 
> sets of controls.  This just isn't going to work for the average 
> user.  Having to tweak my remote settings manually to get both sets of 
> controls semi-similar is painful.  And even then the 
> controls/interfaces of mplayer vs. the internal player are different 
> to the point of being obnoxious.  Any media played with MythTV needs 
> to run under ONE player.
That's one can of worms I'm not even going to nudge with your 10ft 
pole.  As I use mplayer for MythVideo.  I do however see where your 
coming from and do in general terms agree.  Internal, is, however, 
getting there by all accounts; it seems to be sluggish on my EPIA's 
though hence it being relegated.
> Any controls that require pushing number keys on the remote for 
> operations should not be allowed.  There's no reason all menus 
> shouldn't be operable with, "up", "down", "left", "right", "ok", and 
> "cancel" buttons.  Everything needs to be onscreen and easily 
> learned.  Optional shortcut keys are fine, of course.
The only time I've really needed to use the number keys is in video 
manager.  Having said that, most people do remember which channel their 
favorite program is on and are used to jumping straight to it via the 
numbers on... say... a STB remote.  Locking them out of being able to do 
this is bad IMHO.
> New video content needs to be automatically detected.  Having to go to 
> "video manager" to scan for new content is neither necessary from a 
> technical perspective nor user friendly.
Yes, it should be an automatic thing or at least an option.  Gnome and 
KDE can do it by plugging in to 'something' (dbus? hal?) MythTV should 
be able to pull off similar tricks.  Same with finding USB sticks and 
such and prompting what you'd like to do with it (import, view, wipe, 
etc.)  Of course, you could write a bash script that just trundles 
through the media store and queries the DB to see if it exists... if not 
it dumps the relevant stuff in to the DB... actually didn't I slap that 
feature in to the screenshoot.sh script??  But that's a kludge I admit.  
Not sure if such things are in 0.21 or 22 as I'm on 0.20.

Of course having Myth jump up and down about a new 'thing' whilst your 
watching content would be, I think, bad.  Unless it was intelligent 
enough to bring up the OSD for 10/15 seconds to announce it.
> The setup screens need to be completely rewritten.  Basic common 
> options need to be up front, advanced, seldom used options need to be 
> buried but accessible.  The setup needs to be far more hierarchal, 
> rather the "linear" screens that currently mix fundamental and 
> advanced options.  The setup screens in mythtv are far scarier than 
> any text-based Linux config file I've ever seen.
Agreed again.  First time I saw the config screens it was "jesus... run" 
it would be nice if it explained WTH that option did, possibly using the 
'universal help button' (i.e. mash F1 like your life depends on it), 
realistically I know it can't be this way but it'd be nice if it had 
well... DVB card + xmltv_uk_rt = default UK system; configure for PAL, 
autoset Freeview channels, scan the whole sodding spectrum that the 
card'll let you for channels and so on.  I'm pretty sure it could offer 
sensible defaults though based on what you've selected, or indeed just 
ask the country and go from there. 
> Most of the themes have issues.  For one, checkboxes I can barely see 
> and can't determine the selected state of at 1920x1080 from across the 
> room (even though the font next to it is in perfectly legible 
> inch-high letters).  And then there's the thin one-pixel-wide dotted 
> lines surrounding the active select field drop down control which are 
> completely invisible from the couch.
I'm not 100% convinced the checkbox thing is down to themes; as 
everything else scales up/down... it could be an issue with how qt draws 
things (fair assumption it's built to be used on a monitor/pda/whatever 
that's pretty close to your eye... not across the room). 

But yes, it's perhaps something that needs poking at with a stick, what 
was good enough for SD res and close in viewing (laptops, desktops, 
etc.) isn't necessarily so for HD and/or distance work.
> I apologize for being blunt, but you guys have all the technology in 
> this thing to achieve "world-domination", and the only thing holding 
> it back is the painful UI.  If MythTV had one media player and a 
> complete UI rewrite, it would have no competition.

Possibly.  But then, you know where the svn repo's are.  You can pull 
apart some of the non-official themes and figure out their tricks to 
make your own interface (i.e. MePo's animated character) and find 
alternate uses for it (content announcements) and break out your hammer 
and set to work.  MythTV's UI is actually quite good, but stock themes 
play it VERY safe and are tweaked for scalability over different systems.

Whilst Myth has some issues, I personally feel they aren't major.  Most 
of the time people come in to my home and say "I want that" hotly 
followed by "can you build me that?" so in reality I'm turning Myth in 
to an appliance and once setup they never need to fiddle... they just 
call me when they move from SD to HD or some such.

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