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

Rich West Rich.West at wesmo.com
Sun Feb 24 18:28:32 UTC 2008

Matt MacDonald wrote:
> On Sun, Feb 24, 2008 at 5:21 AM, endo verendo <endoverendo at gmail.com> wrote:
>> 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.
> I have to disagree with this statement.  My wife, who is somewhat
> technical figured the UI out without any trouble and when my
> grandmother (who's VCR is still flashing 12:00) came by to visit, she
> picked up the remote and just started to use it.

I have to agree with your disagreement here.. :)  My kids picked up on 
the system in no time.  Even my 3 1/2 yr old knows how to locate, 
select, pause/play shows (including the occasional panic followed by 
"Holy crap! How did THAT get turned on?!").

However, I do have to admit that I had the same reaction the first time 
I started down the MythTV road.  The UI is a little out of the ordinary, 
but once you understand the layout, it all does come together.

>> 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.
> Ever since I switched to the Internal player for videos, I'm happy.
> Same controls, same bookmarking capabilities.

"The problem with standards is that there are so many to choose from." 
:)  Who's to say what is the 'right' player.  Some players are better at 
one thing while weaker at others.  I use the internal player exclusively 
only for the sake of the consistency of the controls.  I admit that the 
deficiencies in the player with regard to playing HD content or playing 
DVD Video content (no caching) are a bit of an annoyance, but I see 
things as improving.  Having the option for utilizing other players is a 
good thing.. you're not forced to do it, though.

>> 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.
> I'm not quite sure which control that requires number keys.

Certainly depends upon the remote and how you have it configured.  
MythTV is certainly no "out of the box" system.. well, not yet.  Getting 
it just the way you want it still takes a bit of effort (I'm at 15 
months and still tweaking it), and since the remote control is the 
primary interface to the application, it should get most of the 
attention when configuring the system.

We all have the initial feeling of trying to do this whole "mythtv" 
thing on the inexpensive side.. to get something better than what the 
big cable/sat companies are offering us and to do it for less money.  
Don't skimp on the remote; resist the temptation to try to reuse that 
POS (or maybe even fancy) 'universal' remote that came with your 
expensive set.  Your end user experience depends on just how usable the 
remote is.  By neglecting that, the entire experience suffers.

>> 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.
> This might be a nice option but I would disable it.  I don't want
> another cron job checking the directory every X minutes in case I add
> a movie when it only takes a few clicks to get them discovered.

I don't think he means a cron job.. I think he means it effectively 
re-scanning the entire storage system for new media.  Basically, moving 
the functionality out of the Utilities/Setup->Video Manager where it 
scans for new video content and inserting it in at Media Library->Videos 
before it brings up the list of playable videos.

I think I might like something like that.. although I agree the real 
question is cost: I wonder how expensive that operation would be *every* 

>> 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.
> I personally hate hidden options in a setup, but then again I'm a
> tweaker.  Maybe a setup with windows like "basic" and "advanced"
> options.  I do think that there should be some indication in the setup
> that leaving most settings to the default is good.

I believe a fair amount of effort was put in to place to try to put all 
of the options in categories.  As a result, you get a great organized 
set of features and options, but  you get a mix of basic and advanced 
options on every page.  There probably is no solution here that would 
please everyone, but what seems to be popular is to have all of the more 
advanced (and less likely changed) options moved out of the initial 
setup screens and moved off to an advanced configuration set of menus.


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