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ATPM 14.03
March 2008




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by Mark Tennent,

The “Can Do, Just Works” Principle

We were at my mother-in-law’s recently and needed to look up a map to the hospital I was taking her to for an appointment. We grabbed her Vista laptop (as recommended by my Windows-centric brother-in-law), connected it to the outside world via modem, and tried to dial into Google Maps.

Fifteen frustrating minutes later, after trying to get it to connect and stay online, then its painfully slow progress, we gave up. Instead, we bunged on an ancient G3 iBook we had been given that day, running an equally old operating system. In moments, we had setup a connection to an ISP through a modem we had never used before, whistled into Google Maps, and taken a screen shot for me to use.

Although I am not too familiar with Vista, one Web browser works pretty much like another. That brief experience of Vista was enough to persuade us to stay with Mac OS X or maybe Linux or Solaris, XP or 2000, but to avoid Vista as a dread disease. My mother-in-law is not stupid, nor are we, but we all decided that anyone who willingly uses Vista needs to be reformatted.

Excel All the Way

Apple excels at looking at something that is hard to do or at markets that are under-performing, then coming up with simple solutions that “just work.” They did it with the iMac, making it a computer you’d be happy to have in the living room. Then again with iTunes to establish the best digital music experience. It’s the same with the iPhone to make a smart phone that’s easy to use and live with, and it looks as if Apple will do it with film rentals next.

Alongside this is the world’s first easy-to-use Unix, as well as the little things such as software applications like iMovie and GarageBand. At one point, Apple even had the best Web site creator in Claris Home Page, still a great package for simple HTML-based sites—which are often the fastest and easiest to use.

Guessing Game

Below is a selection of remote controllers. They all do pretty much the same jobs: change channels, adjust volume and picture, control a video or audio recording.


Guess which one Apple designed.

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Reader Comments (5)

Gregory Tetrault · March 4, 2008 - 14:37 EST #1
Since you usually don't have to lug remote controls around, I prefer the big Panasonic to the too-tiny Apple. First, the Panasonic's buttons are labeled. Second, they are big. Third, the controls are positioned logically. Fourth, the power and mode change buttons are color coded. Apple's white-on-white, unlabeled design would be great for dealing with a clock radio or clock stereo at night: when working by feel, having just one tactile control area makes the remote easy to use. But, for controlling a complicated TV, surround sound, and video input set-up, a more powerful remote is needed.
Mark Tennent · March 5, 2008 - 03:45 EST #2
It all depends on the interface the Apple controller is using. Elgato's EyeTV is a classic case of a good interface, or, as is more usual, the Apple controller is using the interface built into the application running on the Mac.

In the case of the Panasonic, the controls are far from logical. Why, for example is the information button at the bottom of the number pad, when the control of the now/next menus is at the top of the controller?
Brad MacDonald · March 5, 2008 - 10:41 EST #3
The problem with the Apple remote is that it is too simple. It is fine for use with a Mac, but when packaged with my AppleTV I need it to do a bit more. There is no volume control, so I need 2 remotes. I cannot change the TV input source from the cable to AppleTV. I cannot turn on the TV.
I would love to see a more advanced Harmony style remote that is set up via USB.
Mark Tennent · March 5, 2008 - 11:49 EST #4
It really does depend on the application running. Quicktime player and EyeTV, the mian reason I use the Apple remote controller, have volume control, fast forward/back, change channel and so on.

I wouldn't expect the Apple remote to control the more sophisticated functions of the TV but then, once set they don't usually need tweaking again. It is a disappointment that Apple TV hasn't got more for the little Apple remote to control. There are some excellent USB, programmable remotes which might work.

I've not played with Apple TV because I find an Elgato tuner with EyeTV 3 (or an earlier version with CyTV) is both cheaper and far more flexible than Apple's device and will stream live TV or recordings wirelessly without the need to prepare them especially for Apple TV.
Jacques Daviault · March 20, 2008 - 11:00 EST #5
I didn't know you were still writing here Mark....

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