First post from the iMac

Cheryl and I went to Stratford this morning to go and buy an iMac. Cheryl has been saying she wants one for quite a while now, and I think that some sort of desktop computer would be preferable for writing code on because I need screen real estate.

We decided to go and buy the 27-inch one with 8GB of RAM, a 1TB SATAII hard drive, and a bunch of other cool bits. Luckily Cheryl’s student card still passed the inspection by the staff in the Apple store, so we got 12% off.

We did ask the guy to give us the keyboard with the numpad section, and he said yes, but when we got home we found he hadn’t swapped it at all. Oh well, not a huge problem.

Getting the thing home was a massive effort. I had to carry it through the Westfield shopping centre as it was getting busier and busier. Then I had to carry it down escalators and through the tube gates and then find a place to stand with it on the tube. It was quite awkward at times, but luckily the trains leaving Stratford were considerably less busy than the ones arriving there.

At the moment it’s been set up on the dining table. It’ll probably be here for a while because there’s nowhere else suitable for it. When we get rid of the Christmas tree we’ll hopefully put some sort of big desk thing in its place and the iMac can live there. Then I’ll get a nice computer chair and everything will be nice.

Since we got it back here I’ve been configuring it to work more like a Linux installation. I’ve got my terminal set up, installed git, ports, Chrome, Spotify, Xcode, and all the other crap you need to make a computer feel personalised. It’s starting to feel pretty nice. It’s basically the most well-designed Linux distribution out there.

So yeah, I now have Linux, Windows, and Mac OSX running at the same time, as well as an Xbox 360, a PS3, and a Wii. I guess I just don’t believe in brand loyalty.

Problems with LOVEFiLM on PS3

I recently subscribed to LOVEFiLM again because I saw that I could stream movies to my PS3. I was mostly pleased with how the application worked initially, but now I’ve been using it for a while there are a few things that bother me about it.

A-Z should mean A-Z
When you view a genre of movies you can view the most popular ones, the highest rated ones (usually pretty much the same list), or you can choose to view the entire genre A-Z. I decided I wanted to view all of the comedy movies on there to look for something a bit less popular. I scrolled down until I reached somewhere in the B section of the list and then it stopped scrolling. The problem is that the application only lets you view 100 movies in a list. No more get added to the list when you near the bottom, and there’s no pagination at all. This means you have to search for a film specifically if its title comes after the beginning 2 letters of the alphabet and it’s not in the popular/highest rated lists. That brings me neatly to my next gripe.

Searching is clunky
Rather than use the PS3 system keyboard there is a very limited keyboard in the application. Every time you press any key the list of matching movies is fetched again. When the list of movies is being fetched the keyboard no longer responds properly. If I have filtered the results by clicking on the “Watch Now” tab then it flicks back to all movies before showing me the results. On most sites with an auto-complete field on the web there is a delay of half a second or so before the search begins. This helps to prevent extraneous searches, and improve the experience for the user. A delay of a second or so without the focus moving or a button being pressed on the keyboard before a search is sent would help greatly. I could type in a more specific search and find what I’m looking for much more quickly. If I’ve previously chosen the “Watch Now” tab then this should be the default tab that I’m shown when the results are returned.

I can understand that the keyboard isn’t the default system keyboard for the PS3 because LOVEFiLM’s keyboard allows a narrowing down of results in something like real-time, whereas the PS3 keyboard takes over the whole screen and only fills in the text field after you’ve finished typing. So perhaps there’s some work that could be done by Sony there to have a keyboard as a popup when in a text field or something. Perhaps LOVEFiLM could allow me to use the system keyboard if I want to. It would certainly make the search section easier to use for now.

Default PS3 controls are replaced
I use my Playstation to play a lot of media. Whether I am watching a DVD, Blu Ray, or downloaded video I know I can fast forward by holding down R2, rewind using L2, and pause by pressing Start, which is pretty much universal in the console world. In the LOVEFiLM application fast forward is the right-direction on the d-pad, rewind is left, and pause is the X button. This was quite confusing at first and I always pressed the wrong button the first time. Why is there a disagreement? Don’t Sony have guidelines similar to Apple/Google when it comes to apps for their systems? Things should behave in a similar way across a platform. To do otherwise just adds problems for the user.

No personal recommendations
When it comes to picking movies to watch you’ve either got to know what you want and search for it, or find it in the Most Popular section, the Highest Rated Section, or the collections. LOVEFiLM have a bunch of ratings from films I’ve rented from them. They suggest films that I might like to watch when I visit their website. Why not pass that information over to the PS3 application? In fact, why not just return a section called “Films on your Rental List” that are available to Watch Now? The information is available with a simple call to their API.

I’m sure the whole thing will get better with updated versions of the software, and it is usable for now, but it could be so much better.