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Big Bang of Convergence 430

Posted by michael
from the whimper-whimper dept.
joNDoty writes "Businessweek is running a story predicting 'This is going to be the most disruptive period in the past 50 years." The period they are talking about is the digital age of convergence, where every software/hardware manufacturer is racing to link cell phones, tvs and computers into universal devices 'that can't be categorized as tech or consumer electronics.' 'The result is a Big Bang of convergence, and it's likely to produce the biggest explosion of innovation since the dawn of the Internet.' Overrated? Perhaps, but +1 insightful nonetheless." Sure, your fridge will tell you you need milk, but convergence is not necessarily a good thing.
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Big Bang of Convergence

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:22PM (#9433369)
    Same as any other boom. Huge leaps, then the typical stagnation. We are definitely at the outset of the bread and circuses phase for the wired empire. The shine will wear off the need for the newest of the new when the technology plateaus, and all you have are packaging updates. I can see this coming to a close in far fewer than 50 years. It's a shame that the boom wasn't in connecting people who have no connectivity to anything.
  • My thoughts. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cow007 (735705) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:22PM (#9433373) Journal
    I think often devices that try to do many things succed in doing many things less well than specialized devices. Not only are we going to see a lot of innovation but we are going to see a lot of failed products in the years to come.
  • by Nyder (754090) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:23PM (#9433374) Journal
    They been saying this, what, 3 years now? Sure it is.
  • bah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sulli (195030) * on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:23PM (#9433377) Journal
    Slow news week for BusinessWeek? "Convergence" has been the "most disruptive EVAR" wave of the future for decades now. It's not like anything has fundamentally changed and everyone wants one device to do everything now that they didn't want before. Who really needs a microwave that surfs the internet, or a television with Caller ID?!

    Maybe it's like the metric system, and soccer in America*. It's the wave of the future, and always will be.

    * maybe not. US Soccer is #8 in the world now, ahead of Germany!

  • by enrico_suave (179651) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:23PM (#9433387) Homepage
    just have to roll up my sleeves and do it myself, because otherwise my "converged" media will be a DRM'd crippled mess.

    e.
  • by the_rajah (749499) * on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:25PM (#9433414) Homepage
    If I want a phone, I just want a phone that is reliable and easy to use. Not loaded with so many gadgets that I have trouble using it for the intended main function.

    We just put a replacement radio in my wife's car, a '93, and instead of knobs and a few large buttons there are these tiny little buttons that I can't read the labels for without a magnifying glass. WTF is that? Certainly, it's far from user friendly. So instead of just reaching over to change the station, or even to turn the danged thing off, by simply turning a reasonable size knob, I have to keep punching tiny buttons until it does what I want. Yeah, I eventually am learning which is which, but that's not my point. And you think talking on a cell phone is distracting... HA!

    IMHO too much convergence is likely to be too much of a possible good thing.

    Make a product that does its intended main function and does it well.
    If I want the best knife or the best scissors, I don't get a Swiss Army knife.

    "Do the Right Thing. It will gratify some people and astound the rest." - Mark Twain
  • by SpaceCadetTrav (641261) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:25PM (#9433417) Homepage
    Sometimes you people need to unplug.
  • i believe it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by surreal-maitland (711954) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:25PM (#9433420) Journal
    everybody these days wants a cell phone - fax machine - dot matrix printer that will make them a frappachino (sp?). sure, there are people who recognize that having a single point of failure sucks. (oh, no, your battery died. no more frappachino or cell phone or dot matrix printing until you can plug the sucker back in.) but there are a lot more who don't want to carry the fax, the cell phone, and the frappachino-maker.

    this won't go corporate, because enough people at major companies will realize the whole single point of failure thing, and that they'll lose a lot of money waiting for workers' supermegagadget to come back from the shop, but i definitely think there's a market for small devices that do everything.

  • by 192939495969798999 (58312) <.info. .at. .devinmoore.com.> on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:25PM (#9433427) Homepage Journal
    I imagine that this "big bang" will conclude with the controlling company(ies) charging money for practically every type of content, since they'll have a service and device for everything.
  • by lukewarmfusion (726141) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:27PM (#9433452) Homepage Journal
    There are a lot of products intended to deal with your abundance of remotes. Of course, many of them are more difficult to use than it's worth, and some of them cost hundreds of dollars.

    Which leads me to my main point - convergence of devices that I use on a regular basis will be a bad idea.

    I want a small phone (I keep it with me everywhere). I want a big computer screen and a keyboard that's big enough to type fast on. I want a PDA that can integrate with my other computers, but allows me to use the stylus. I want a digital camera that I can take decent photos with for prints or posting on the web.

    Am I asking too much? Look at all the products out there designed to address exactly what I listed above, and not only are they way more expensive than I would ever pay.... but they fail to do any of the things I described, at least to the extent that I want them there.

    Simplicity = usability
  • by ThousandStars (556222) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:27PM (#9433457) Homepage
    I've been reading about "convergence" for as long as I've been cognizant of computers, and I don't buy it. Promises of mythical devices to link all aspects of digital life end up empty. Aside from the technological problems of making these devices work together, I think there is a bigger problem in that specialized devices for specific applications generally work better than a generalized device.

    For example, I prefer using a desktop for real work like long sessions of typing or video editing. The larger screen real estate, better price and more power mean that I'm better off with a desktop; and I think most people feel that way. Likewise, I don't want to use that monitor as a TV because it's too small; the hard drive in that computer is too small to store uncompressed DVDs, which are better left on desk to be played in the large-screen TV upstairs. I want a portable device to play music, and the key factor for that device is size, followed closely by battery life and ease-of-use -- and such a device, so useful for music, would be worthless for movies.

    My point is that convergence isn't here today, and I doubt it will be in the near future. The hurdles may eventually be overcome, but I suspect convergence might be like flying cars or cheap, easy nuclear power: perpetually five or ten years down the line.

  • Yes, but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by shogarth (668598) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:31PM (#9433512)
    ...most users still can't program a digital clock without help and most techs can't develop an interface that my grandmother can use. Until these two factors converge, high tech toys are going to remain the Playthings of Geekdom.
  • by Flashpot (773365) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:31PM (#9433513)
    It seems to me this "convergence" thing is about making every *smart* piece of equipment a playback machine for some *drm controlled* content.

    Thanks but no thanks.

  • Re:My thoughts. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moofie (22272) <lee.ringofsaturn@com> on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:31PM (#9433517) Homepage
    Of course, you're typing your missive on the ultimate counterpoint to your argument.

    Hard to imagine a more general purpose tool than a PC.
  • by kfg (145172) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:32PM (#9433523)
    Having one home sound reproduction device makes sense.

    It saves complication and cost. It's just good engineering to simplify the system by reducing redundency to the optimum (not necessarily the minimum).

    Having your toaster call up a website to find out how far up it should turn the rheostat, phone your mom to let her know you're actually eating a good breakfast, tell you the next chess move in that game with your buddy and then starting your car does not reduce complication and cost.

    It is a poor solution.

    There's nothing wrong with convergence, so long as the convergence makes inherent sense.

    KFG
  • by Moofie (22272) <lee.ringofsaturn@com> on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:33PM (#9433549) Homepage
    Make a product that does its intended main function and does it well.

    If I want the best knife or the best scissors, I don't get a Swiss Army knife.
    When I want a good enough knife or a good enough pair of scissors or a decent screwdriver or a not bad pair of pliers and I'm far from my toolbox, I pull out my Leatherman Wave.

    There are well designed multi-function devices and poorly designed multi-function devices. That doesn't mean the entire concept is silly. (Or smart.)
  • Apple (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BortQ (468164) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:34PM (#9433560) Homepage Journal
    Apple really did a great job with their new Airport Express. It isn't what you would normally think of as 'convergence', but it accomplishes exactly what users want. Existing computer and stereo working together without a big hassle.
  • Re:My thoughts. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gunnk (463227) <[ude.cnu.gpf.liam] [ta] [knnug]> on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:34PM (#9433565) Homepage
    That's true, but I'll often trade "the best" for "gets the job done" if it means I can carry around fewer gadgets. I used to have a watch. I don't bother -- the time is on my cellphone. Okay, I have to pull it out of my pocket, so it doesn't tell time as well as a watch in that regard. Then again, my cell phone time is always correct since it gets the time from my carrier.

    Likewise, I used to carry a PDA. Kept me organized. Phone numbers? Now those are in my cell phone. Schedule? In my phone. Alarm clock while traveling? Yep, phone.

    It isn't as convenient a timepiece as a watch, doesn't store addresses as well as my PDA, has much more limited calendar functions, and isn't as good as a bedside alarm, but I only have to carry ONE item to replace all those others... so I do.
  • by Ra5pu7in (603513) <ra5pu7in&gmail,com> on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:38PM (#9433621) Journal
    The biggest problem to come of convergence is the inability to get just what you need and want. I may only want a cell phone that can make phone calls - not a mini PDA / game machine. With the current rush, some manufacturers and developers are forgetting to leave the basic product available.

    Another problem is that a converged product may make you sacrifice performance in one area for performance in another. For example (made up, of course) a monitor/television/CD/DVD player combination might have the best visual clarity, but be so-so at reading DVDs and skip a lot -- while a competing product might play DVDs flawlessly, but max out at 800x680 resolution. The more converged products become, the less choice we consumers have to maximize the quality and/or minimize our cost.
  • Re:Too 'low-tech' (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rewt66 (738525) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:38PM (#9433626)
    Right. The real problem is thinking up things for these "converging" devices to do that customers actually care about in the real world.

    And that's hard. It's a lot harder than creating a new buzzword. It's even harder than building a product that connects to other products.

  • Convergence? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:41PM (#9433662)
    How about converging the warm air coming from the back of the fridge into something useful, like keeping the coffee pot warm? Or how about converging some sunlight into hot water?

    How converging something useful?
    I don't need a pinhole camera that makes crappy sounding phone calls and plays mp3's.
  • by jdavidb (449077) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:41PM (#9433664) Homepage Journal

    ... then shouldn't it be a "Big Crunch" [wikipedia.org] instead of a "Big Bang"?

    I'm about as enthusiastic about merging my cellphone and refrigerator with my PDA and electric blanket as I am about living through the Big Crunch, so maybe it's an appropriate name, too...

  • by bay43270 (267213) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:44PM (#9433705) Homepage
    I don't know about this "convergence" thing. I have 5 remote controls for 5 different products, and I'll be damned if I can find a way to successfully use just for all!

    That's a good example of how the hype over convergence is jumping the gun. We can't even solve the remote control problem. Everyone has a solution, but each solution brings with it more problems.

    Over the next few years, companies will brag about convergence for stockholder support. But under the covers they will just be cramming two unrelated products into the same plastic shell, or allowing two very specific devices to talk to each other about very specific things. It really isn't any different than the over-hyped race to release the PDA, digital audio, the tablet PC, or any other new technology. We have years (if not decades) of hype to wade through before this one pans out.
  • by mdrejhon (203654) * on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:46PM (#9433734) Homepage
    Actually, convergence is happening all over the place. Just that we don't really know where we're converging to.
    Videogame consoles are nowadays video and music players too, with the XBox and PlayStation2.

    (1980's guy: How the hell do I insert Betamax tapes into my Atari!?)

    Cellphones now double as PDA and cameras too.
    (1980's guy: PDA? Public Displays of Affection and voyeurism with a cellphone? You're crazy.)

    Some printers are now copiers, scanners and faxes too.
    (1980's guy: Wow, my own Xerox! Where can I get one of these for the price of my Commodore dot matrix?)

    Most DVD video players are now CD/VCD/MP3 players too.
    (1980's guy: DVD? MP3? Oh, a disc format? Is that like the 12 inch LaserDisc?)

    Our cable TV is also an Internet conection (and even phone line too).
    (1980's guy: What's an Internet? And tell me, how the hell is phone over cable possible?)

    Cable and satellite TV boxes that also double as 100 hour tapeless recorders (PVR's).
    (1980's guy: A VCR that can record 100 hours with no videotape? You're kidding.)
    You name it, various kinds of convergence is happening today, all over the place. Who knows what's gonna happen next.
  • by swordboy (472941) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:49PM (#9433779) Journal
    Sorry- I've only got one- SONY's RM-VL900 learns with the best of 'em.

    This is not the whole story.

    I, too, have this remote control and, while it does an adequate job of controlling everything, it does not provide for a "wife proof" interface. To be fair, I should replace "wife proof" with "non-techie proof" or something like that - but I won't.

    For example, if I want to watch a DVD, then I have to press:

    - TV, power (TV powers on)
    - DVD, power (DVD powers on)
    - AMP, 8 (which flips the receiver to the DVD input)

    But WAIT! The instructions are different if the TV is already on. The complexity is MIND boggling. I will give ALL OF MY MONEY to someone who can fix the problem. And before everyone suggests CURRENT PRODUCTS, don't - because I've tried them all.
  • by spitefulcrow (713858) <sam@dividezero.net> on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:50PM (#9433785) Journal
    Human interface. I know I don't want to watch movies on a 2" cell phone screen, nor do I want to write email on a touch-tone keypad (I don't care HOW smart your prediction software is). What the industry needs before this so-called "convergence" can occur is a new method of getting information to and from the humans using it. I've seen a lot of things that look like they could be promising, but they're all still being researched or are much too expensive to mass-produce. Until someone solves the issue of deciding between making users cramp their fingers by typing on tiny keypads or making them cart around massive pieces of equipment, convergence is going nowhere. $0.02
  • Re:Deja Vu? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:54PM (#9433831)
    I am also getting the feeling of Deja Vu, but for a different reason. I seem to remember going to some trade shows about 7-8 years ago and hearing a lot about these dishwashers and refridgerators that will connect to the internet, computers built into your wristwatch that will talk to the computer in your cellphone, and some new technology from Sun called Jini that will become the killer platform for this.

    Talking about all this great up-and-coming technology that was supposedly going to be in every home by 2002 is actually making me kind of nostalgic. Somehow I think that the nostalgia would be stronger if we were at the point of remembering the technology, rather then dreaming of it.

    Cest la vie.
  • by SatanicPuppy (611928) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .yppupcinataS.> on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:54PM (#9433833) Journal
    Thats pretty much the point--It sucks that we have to have 100 different devices whose functionality overlaps. Think we'd all like to see that number pared down.

    What they don't mention is that some kind of serious standards are going to have to be put in place for this convergence to get off the ground. I'm tired of seeing multiple Cell Towers next to each other because the damn companies can't agree on a standard.
  • Re:Yes, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tsg (262138) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:55PM (#9433846)
    ...most users still can't program a digital clock without help and most techs can't develop an interface that my grandmother can use.

    Not to be insensitive, but your grandmother is going to die. Meanwhile the children being born today are growing up with the technology and will have no trouble using it. At two years old (he's four now), my son could put the tape in the VCR (even looks to make sure there's not one in already and ejects it if there is), switch the TV to Video, press play, and fast forward through the previews with no help from me. He's already proficient on a PC, even understands the difference between single and double-click and knows to wait when the hourglass comes up. Again, no offense, but my son could probably kick your grandmother's ass on a computer. Your grandmother is not the market for these devices. My son is.
  • by windside (112784) <pmjboyle@ g m a il.com> on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:55PM (#9433848)

    The result is a Big Bang of convergence...

    Does anyone else find this statement just a wee bit contradictory? Isn't the "Big Bang" metaphor traditionally reserved for describing phenomena of divergence? Maybe it would be more appropriate to call it a "Big Crunch [wikipedia.org] of convergence".

    Just a thought...

  • by foniksonik (573572) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:56PM (#9433871) Homepage Journal
    Sounds like the radio thing is your own fault for buying a device which doesn't meet you're ergonomic needs. It's not like the stereo is an essential part of the car that you need to rush out and replace with the first thing you see. Shop around and find one that is in your budget and has the interface you're looking for... they all have the same features now, go for style and functionality.
  • by ElForesto (763160) <elforestoNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:57PM (#9433880) Homepage
    I don't want convergence on that scale. I look at what happens when you build too many things together into one device, and you generally will get something that does it all, but is mediocre at best. Take a look at combo VCR/DVD players. They don't do either task exceedingly well, and the only real benefit is saving a miniscule amount of space. I'll believe in convergence when their predecessors stop sucking so bad.
  • by mdrejhon (203654) * on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:57PM (#9433884) Homepage
    And least to those people who say cellphones did not exist in 1980's...
    1980's guy: Yeah, I have heard of them cell phones. Those amazingly small wireless radios that act as telephones just arrived at RadioShack last year. It is a little larger than my Walkman. Don't think I'll ever afford a cell phone in my lifetime, it costs half as much as my Datsun Rabbit car.

    And you say your cellphone can double as a PDA (Public Displays of Affection) and a camera AND a videogame system? It must be as large as my toaster and more boring than my Football LED game. You're crazy.
  • by BaltoAaron (242546) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @04:03PM (#9433958) Homepage
    How I solved the component switching problem:
    (I use my AV receiver to do all my audio and video switching. It sounds like you do the same.)
    Set up the little #1 button on the top as my 'power all components on' button. Then I learn my AV receiver's 'switch to DVD' buttons to the VL900's 'display' button on the DVD component. (repeat this step for each component, Cable, VCR, CD, etc.) When the wife wants to watch the DVD, just hit the big DVD button on the top and then click 'display' to make it 'come on the TV'. Want to switch back to the Cable, click the 'TV/Sat' button then click the 'display' button again and your back on cable.

    It's not perfect and it requires all the components to be on, but it works for me.
  • Re:bah (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dustmite (667870) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @04:25PM (#9434233)

    Even when we don't care about something (like soccer) we're still pretty damn good at it.

    That has a lot to do with firstly sheer size (300,000,000 people, about the third most populous country in the world, with more than three times the population of e.g. Germany) and secondly, plenty of resources (e.g. widespread access to equipment and facilities - virtually anyone interested in a sport will with a little effort be able to find somewhere to play, equipment to play with, people to practice against, and often even sponsors to pay for the time). Also due to the US's general high average wealth and low unemployment (yes the US has very low unemployment compared to most countries), many people often do not need to be economically active to have their basic needs taken care of, e.g. often a spouse can take care of that while they stay home - so you have more free time on your hands, on average, which gives you time to pursue endeavours like sport. In fact, just by resources and size of population, you should really be number 1 at soccer too (but I guess if you don't count the obese people, who won't be good at sport, you're probably back at around the same population as Germany!). BTW I'm not aware that anyone elsewhere in the world is "pissed off" that the US is good at things like soccer.

  • by lenski (96498) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @04:28PM (#9434263)
    Convergence is OK, it's cool and all. But so far as I've been able to tell, convergence has resulted mostly in limits on the availability of drivers for my preferred operating environment. Between the RIAA-controlled audio monopoly, the MPAA-controlled moving visual arts monopoly and Microsoft's desire to control computing has resulted only in proposed (or real) restrictions on how I get to setup and use my workstation.

    Now a computer is a "media theft acceleration device", primarily useful (as far as the big boys are concerned) to "steal" "their" "product". I do not want what they have, so I am not stealing it. Their claim to it hangs on a slim thread of a business process so it's not really "theirs", and most of it isn't much of a product.

  • by Dynedain (141758) <slashdot2&anthonymclin,com> on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @04:35PM (#9434350) Homepage
    I may only want a cell phone that can make phone calls - not a mini PDA / game machine. With the current rush, some manufacturers and developers are forgetting to leave the basic product available

    Oh no they haven't forgotten. But if they give you one device that works perfectly well for the one need you have, they can't sell you another one a year from now.
  • by Prototerm (762512) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @04:39PM (#9434388)
    Much of the convergence we have today is certainly disruptive -- disruptive to the user, that is! Many cell phones have cameras on them, which means you aren't allowed to take them everywhere (e.g., some business ban them from the premesis). And, like I really want to surf the net, read email, or play games on that microscopic display screen! And don't get me started on Instant Messaging (and the inevitable SPIM). It's nothing more than a Profit Margin looking for a customer. It might be different if they weren't such lousy phones.

    My next cell phone will be a phone, period, not some toy that's everything but a Veg-O-Matic. You can keep the rest of that...convergence.

  • by rbird76 (688731) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @04:42PM (#9434430)
    Businesses seem to be trying to bind their customers by coercion rather than to trust customers to choose their products willingly. Music, movie, and software businesses seem to rely more on dictating customer desires than on fulfilling them.

    Convergence could be a buzzword for businesses coordinating with each other on products; the coordination allows them to get what they want from their customers (money, information) while at the same time using the power that their cooperation gives them to ignore what their customers want (as often as possible). Convergence is a way for vendors to ignore price and flexibility and instead go for a comprehensive and interrelated set of products. It might negate the need for businesses to compete on price because they don't have competition anymore (the web of interconnections between products would make price choices difficult, and flexibility irrelevant) and because by linking items together, choices between competing products become more difficult because the constraints (their effects on other purchases) become overwhelming.

    For the most part, convergence may not be about products much more convenient; it seems to be less about improving the lives of customers and more about making them irrelevant. By making choices difficult (if not impossible), convergence might allow businesses to even more blatantly ignore their customers while guaranteeing themselves their business. In this scenario, customers' wills would be an obstacle to businesses getting money from them. Ideally, your possessions would spend your money as their manufacturers see fit, and would not have to worry about that pesky free will...
  • by homer_ca (144738) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @04:42PM (#9434437)
    "Videogame consoles are nowadays video and music players too, with the XBox and PlayStation2."

    Yes, they both play DVDs and CDs, but I hardly know anybody who use them that way because the value just isn't there, at least in this generation. The DVD playback kits for Xbox and PS2 cost $30. You get a remote control, infrared dongle, and the DVD decoder. Back when DVD players cost $200-300 it may have been worth it, but now you can get a cheap DVD player for $40, maybe even $30. Price points as much as features and convenience will determine which converged devices catch on or not.
  • by fikx (704101) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @04:43PM (#9434442) Journal
    I'd rather all the different devices work together instead of building all my devices into one. Let me put my phone call into my car speakers....let me take the picture on my PC and put it up on my TV....let me share a photo from my camera on the screen of the the guy next to me with a laptop...

    I know you can do all these things now, but not without a bunch of proprietary, unpredictable fiddling even if the right devices are involved. I want the ability to be common, not a rare combination. If converagnce means all my gadgets have the computing power to speak the same language, then Let's do it!
  • Re:Yes, but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cro Magnon (467622) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @04:53PM (#9434542) Homepage Journal
    So what? VCR's are already obsolete. And by the time Junior grows up, the interface on a PC will have changed at least 5 times. Soon, your kid will be in the same boat as the other poster's granny!
  • by Pieroxy (222434) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @04:55PM (#9434563) Homepage
    According to the manual, you can set the DVD button to run that entire sequence
    His problem is that the sequence changes if you were listening to music because your amp was already on, for example.

    Maybe now you started realizing that you didn't answer the problem. If you re-read the post you replied to, that is.
  • Re:My thoughts. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Moofie (22272) <lee.ringofsaturn@com> on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @05:11PM (#9434795) Homepage
    Why don't we have a network of devices, all independent, that can share data and control? Kind of like, oh I dunno, an Internet?

    So you don't want to fix the problem. Nobody's going to take away your rheostats and coil springs...what are you worried about?

    Me, I think it would be convenient to have a database of the contents of my fridge and pantry that I can match against my recipe database, and build my grocery list according to what's missing.

    That might not be convenient to you. I encourage you to not buy one.
  • by Pieroxy (222434) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @05:17PM (#9434864) Homepage
    You do realize that within a typical household, there are 5 appliances: TV, VCR, DVD, Cable, Amp. There could even be a CD player/charger, but let's limit ourselves to 5.

    You do realize that there are 32 combinations for these appliances to be on or off. Granted not all of them make sense, let's say just 5. Now you are saying that your solution is to program the transition from every combination to every other combination. That is 25 pre-programmed buttons to just start up or shut down everything.

    It'll take longer to figure out which one you want to use than to do it manually.

    The real problem is that the command to shut down is the same as the command to power up. If they were separate, there would be no problem at all. Or less.
  • by ultranova (717540) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @05:21PM (#9434901)
    But WAIT! The instructions are different if the TV is already on. The complexity is MIND boggling.

    The mistake most people do when they try to learn about computers is that they try to learn all of it in sitting as a one huge packet. They don't take time to learn about the theory behind what they do, and thus they can't tell the various subsystems from each other, leading to seeing the computer as a chaotic mess.

    So no, the system is not complex, you're just going about teaching you're wife about it the wrong way. You're trying route memorization of keypress sequences, which can't work in any sensibly designed device (because a sensibly designed device would not need a fixed sequence of button presses, but just one "macro" button).

    What you need to do is tell your wife how the system is put together, what the possible modes of operation on various devices can be, and how to switch between those modes. Then it will become obvious that you need to switch the TV to "receive from DVD" mode before watching DVD.

    The other solution is to buy a computer, connect it to each device, and program it to switch each device to a correct mode when the computer receives the "watch DVD" or "watch TV" signal. As this is an extremely simple (computing power wise) operation, any PC ever produced shouldn't have any problem with it, and thus you will survive with very little spending.

    Except, of course, that you need infrared receivers/transmitters to communicate with the devices. But those shouldn't be too costly...

    Thought I have to wonder how mind-boglingly complex is it to learn to press six buttons in a sequence, even if the sequence has horrendously ambigious conditional steps such as "if TV is already on, skip TV ON phase" ?

  • by a1englishman (209505) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @05:27PM (#9434970) Journal
    Sad news my friend: When you have a houseand a little extra money, you won't have time to attempt this. You'll be mowing the lawn, hanging drapes, throwing away junk in the garage, entertaining your kids, and hanging out with the wife. I tend to believe the guy who built that system was making it all up. Sounds good, but pure fantasy.
  • by rho (6063) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @05:46PM (#9435292) Homepage Journal

    ...and which utterly fails the test of "usability", under any sense of the word. Your idea of a piece of paper is particularly funny. He can simply do that now, with the individual remotes. Unless your argument is that your plan involves a shorter crib-sheet.

    The problem is that there is no way for a remote to determine the state of the device it controls, and there is no way for another device to determine the state of another device. That is the problem. Every remote in the world tries to solve the problem, and none of them have, because the fundamental problem lies with the device, not the remote. It is simply not a solvable problem with the current tech.

    (It is slightly less intractable if you purchase an "all-in-one" setup from Sony or the like. My statement only applies to disparate components from multiple manufacturers. Neither are you to mention the remote with the LCD that tries to remember your settings. When somebody comes through and turns things on and off without the remote and screws up everything, that remote then goes into 20-Questions. I do not find that amusing in my devices of convenience.)

    Indeed, I solved the problem of how-to-do-this-or-that with the entertainment center by showing people how to do what they want to do AT the entertainment center. The remotes only serve as Volume +/- and Channel +/- buttons. And, since we don't have cable, we hardly ever use the Channel buttons anyway. Our lives are significantly simpler, since all we do is watch the occasional movie from Netflix, but even so, it's only a matter of pushing a few well-labled buttons on the reciever to set things the way you want, then you sit down to watch. I find that to be easier to explain than non-, poorly-, or misleadingly-labled, miniscule buttons with no tactile feedback on modern remotes.

    BTW, spending >$30 on a remote should be grounds for automatic promotion into the 95% "Too much money, not enough sense" tax bracket, and automatic nutsack-ectomy. (Yes, everybody who buys a schmancy remote is a guy--guaranteed.)

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