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.

Swap Escape and Caps Lock keys

When was the last time you used the Escape key on your keyboard? For a lot of you it quite probably was a fairly long time ago.

When was the last time you used the Caps Lock key? For all of you it should have been a long time ago!

I do my programming in Vim and to switch between Insert and Visual mode I have to press the Escape key. This wasn’t so much of a problem when I didn’t do so much coding, but now it’s my full-time job I find it to be quite a pain, literally. After a full week of programming in Vim my poor little finger is hurting from extending up to the Escape key.

Today I decided to solve this problem once and for all.

I mentioned the Caps Lock key earlier on. It’s on the “Home Row” of the keyboard. This means that it’s right beside where you should position your fingers when using a keyboard. Your left hand should sit on ASDF from little finger to index finger, and your right hand should sit on JKL; from index finger to little finger. You’ll notice that (on most keyboards) there is a little notch on the F and J keys. These are there to help you find the proper hand position without having to look at the keyboard. Of course, this all assumes you’re using the QWERTY keyboard layout and not Dvorak, or something entirely different.

Proper finger position

Proper finger position

In Linux there is a utility to change various keyboard and mouse settings called xmodmap. This gives you the ability to remap keys to different functionalities.

I’ve used xmodmap  to switch my Escape key fucntionality to the Caps Lock key and vice versa. This is going to take some getting used to, but the overall benefit to my fingers should be quite significant. It’ll also have the unintended side-effect of stopping me accidentally going into cPS MODE WHEN I MISS THE ‘A’ KEY. 😉 Of course, there will be some programs where pressing escape will cause the window to close, or the action to be cancelled. I guess I’ll just have to be more careful than I was before to avoid accidentally hitting the key to the left of ‘A’.

The way I set this up was using a file called .Xmodmap in my home directory. The contents of this file are loaded by xmodmap every time you log into the computer. The file contains the following:

! Swap Caps_Lock and Escape
remove Lock = Caps_Lock
remove Control = Escape
keysym Escape = Caps_Lock
keysym Caps_Lock = Escape
add Lock = Caps_Lock
add Control = Escape

Now to get back to writing code and start saving my left little finger.