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Television Media Hardware

Development Of The TiVo Remote Charted 333

victor_the_cleaner writes "The New York Times (anonymous readers need not apply) has an article about the development of the TiVo remote control. The article reviews the user-centered design approach the designers took. According to the lead designer, they considered 'how it feels in the hand, for long periods of time.' How about you - do you have an emotional attachment to your TiVo remote? Or other well-designed objects?"
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Development Of The TiVo Remote Charted

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  • by momerath2003 ( 606823 ) * on Thursday February 19, 2004 @03:31AM (#8324247) Journal
    "...emotional attachment to ... other well-designed objects"

    Oh, no... why must they ask such a question on Slashdot?!? Why?!?
    • hey, it's not an Xbox controller, so I'm not sure what all the fuss is about!
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Heh, yeah, they should have used the X-box controller as the opposite example... The XL or the S XBox controllers must be the worst designed controllers in 10 years...

        Personally, I'd vote in The PS/2 duel-shock controllers as another item like the tivo remote.

        /me has neither :(

        • they should have used the X-box controller as the opposite example...

          Exactly.... That xbox controller is one of the worsts controllers in console history.

        • Personally, I'd vote in The PS/2 duel-shock controllers as another item like the tivo remote.

          I'll disagree. The Playstation dual-shock controllers are just a bit too small and angular for my hands, and end up in cramping after too long of a gaming session. The segmented digital pad leaves a lot to be desired as well, though to be fair most games prefer to use the analog sticks. The dual shoulder triggers are nice in that they give you another pair of buttons to work with, but it can be tricky trying

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 19, 2004 @03:43AM (#8324302)
      ...Yeah, like I've been programming in C++ for 6 years now, and like I've got a real emotional attachment to many of my well-designed objects...
    • ML? The Mach kernel? :D
  • In the hand (Score:5, Funny)

    by zalas ( 682627 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @03:33AM (#8324253) Homepage
    "how it feels in the hand, for long periods of time"... I don't know about you, but I don't get attached to things that feel good in my hand... except for certain bod- errr nevermind
    • Is it coincidence, or does the second picture down look like a bunch of dildos all lined up like in a sex shop? I bet ladies would say they feel real good in thier hand (not to mention elsewhere).

      BTW, I've never used the tivo remote for a long time, but it is quite easy to just pick up and use. But perhaps my favorite remote was the Sony egg thingy. It looked like an egg and was weighted to stand upright. It only had the essential buttons, and was just fun to use. I just wish my friends wouldn't mistake it
      • My good friend has the first Phillips Tivo (originally 14 hr). We've called the remote "the dildo" since the week he got it. It's a great remote, but very dildonic.

  • The pencil (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ObviousGuy ( 578567 ) <> on Thursday February 19, 2004 @03:34AM (#8324259) Homepage Journal
    It is obvious what it is designed for and easy to use.

    The TiVo folks really did a great job in the design of the remote, however I would have liked it a little smaller. It's kind of like the phasers in Star Trek TNG which went from being gun-like to being tamagotchi-like to the final TV remote shape. If TiVo could fit all that functionality into a tamagotchi sized remote, I would be the first one at the store to buy.
  • Best Remote Ever (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 19, 2004 @03:35AM (#8324263)
    Just my humble opinion... but the TiVo Peanut Remote is the best designed remote control ever made. It fits your hand perfectly, and all of the controls are easily reached with your thumb. The only problem is that it can't control your DVD player.
    • by Atario ( 673917 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @04:36AM (#8324513) Homepage
      The TiVo remote is indeed well-designed and more or less a joy to use. However, it seems to suffer a problem pandemic to all remotes: the eventual mysterious "buttons need ever-larger amounts of pressure to make electrical contact" problem. I tried taking it apart (which, of course, no remote is designed for), breaking the tiny points of the circuit board at the front. I washed the contacts anyway and put it back together, only to discover that the buttons now worked well, but the visible-light LED no longer worked. Sigh.

      So I ordered a replacement from the TiVo website. Oddly expensive -- $35. Plus, only the translucent blue was available. On top of that, when it came, I discovered it was slightly different from the old remote in form and function. The immediate upshot was that it's slightly longer, which, having gotten used to the good layout so intuitively before, required a period of adjustment to the new positions without having to look or feel for it.

      Anwyay. Anyone have a better method to cure (or prevent) that button-mashing problem?
      • I'd think that this old trick from Atari 5200s would work...

        Atari 5200s were notorious for this problem. If you find one today it's almost certain that the controller will be slow or dead. There were two popular permanent ways to fix this (if I remember correctly):

        1) take the controller apart and apply little bits of sticky-back foil to the backs of the buttons. The foil I speak of used to be available for fixing rear window de-foggers, but I haven't seen it lately. This worked really well. Maybe you
      • by plover ( 150551 ) * on Thursday February 19, 2004 @11:35AM (#8326622) Homepage Journal
        [ DISCLAIMER: The following instructions work for me, but I'm always very careful. They may or may not work for you. You may damage or destroy your remote if you try these suggestions. You are responsible for your own actions. By trying any of these suggestions, you agree that you will not hold me responsible for any damage you may cause to your own remote. Remember, this is Slashdot and not Chi1ton's Remote Control Repair Manual. Eat your vegetables. ]

        Take the remote completely apart, removing every component possible. When disassembling, take notice of where the battery wires and/or springs run so that you can return them to their original positions. Also, note the order in which you removed the parts.

        Clean the plastic housings and other case parts like the battery cover with dish soap, water and an old toothbrush. Clean the button side of the button membrane with the toothbrush, but do not get water on the contact pad side. The circuit board usually just needs a good dusting, I typically dry blow it off. (By dry-blow, I mean "don't use spit-or-humidity-laden breath".) And never directly contact any circuit board with the nozzle or brush of a vacuum cleaner, they generate tremendous amounts of static which can blow chips.

        If the circuit board is really filthy or sticky, (as in "beer spill",) you will need to clean it and the membrane pads with the soap and toothbrush, too. Make sure you completely and thoroughly dry the parts afterwards. I use a hair dryer. I have heard of people washing the circuit boards in the silverware tray in their dishwasher, but I have not personally tried this. I would also not put any plastic components through a heated dry cycle.

        Once the circuit board is clean and dry, take a pink pencil eraser and clean the contact pads. If they are bare copper, polish each one until it is bright and shiny. If they are carbon coated, lightly rub them with the eraser but do not deeply abrade them. You just want to break through any surface dirt, not reshape them. And be careful not to rub so hard as to lift the copper traces from the circuit board, or your remote is probably toast. Afterwards, carefully brush or dry-blow all residue from the polishing. Even the tiniest particles here will cause the buttons to fail.

        The buttons, however, are usually where the problem lies. For many years I've used a new U.S. dollar bill (or any new paper currency) as a mild abrasive on the black contacts. Depending on the design of the button and the membrane, you can either grip the individual buttons and rub them one at a time on the abrasive, or you can sometimes place the whole membrane assembly flat on the paper, move it with a circular motion and press the buttons to the paper. Be careful, some membranes are extremely thin and fragile. When rubbing the contacts on the abrasive, it is very important that you maintain the parallel planes between the button pads and the circuit board pads -- if you grind too much off one edge of a button pad, you'll typically just make your problem worse. You want to rub off just enough to break through dirt and/or damage. You may need to abrade more to repair badly rounded or misshapen contacts. When it's properly done, each pad should be flat (or imperceptibly convex) and parallel to the circuit board.

        Reassemble the remote, usually in the reverse order in which you took it apart. Carefully route the battery wires and/or springs back through their original positions. Finally, install out-of-the-package fresh batteries.

        • Sounds like it would be worth simply buying a new remote from TiVo rather then go through this time consuming process! Sorry but $35 is a small price compared to an hour or two of fiddling and polishing a remote's internals.

          Yeah, I'm a geek but I am not going through this process unless it would cost a $100 otherwise!
    • Re:Best Remote Ever (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Cato ( 8296 )
      I don't agree - its entertaining design means that it falls off the rounded arm of my armchair unless I twist it 90 degrees, making it inconvenient to use without picking it up. All my other flat remotes sit on the arm without any problems. Since I don't clutch the remote all the time, I don't see why fit in the hand is more important than being able to rest on the arm of an armchair...
      • I place the tivo remote face down on the arm of my armchair and haven't had any problems with it sliding off (or with buttons being accidentally pressed from being upside down).
  • by bravehamster ( 44836 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @03:37AM (#8324276) Homepage Journal
    My fiancee got me this awesome programmable remote control. You know, with the touch sensitive lcd, learning functions (works with Bose stereos even!). That cleaned up 5 remotes off of our coffee table. The only remote I refuse to program into it is the Tivo remote. That thing is perfect. Accept no substitute. Every button is well placed, and easy to locate without looking. She understands...
    • We have one of these. The only problem with it is exactly the issue this article is addressing --- when the remote consists only of a 5cm by 12cm LCD (or so), there is no tactile feedback. It is almost impossible to use by touch. (I am getting better, but I still hit the wrong button often)

    • by Anonymous Coward
      The Tivo remote is a fantastic design, but I've replaced it with a universal remote - truly universal; that has programable LCD buttons on the top 25% and REAL buttons with different shapes for the remaining.
      This new remote replaced no less than 2 other so called "universal remotes." No longer will you have to hunt for the original remote because your universal remote is missing 1 or 2 buttons, this thing controls them all, supports macros, is programmed over a PC interface, can learn commands, and comes w
  • by nil5 ( 538942 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @03:39AM (#8324286) Homepage
    This is a really cool project you might want to check out if you're interested in controlling the TiVo unit with a web browser rather than the standard remote control. i mean, sure the control is great and all, but i prefer a mouse :)

    see here [].
  • Attachment... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by machinecraig ( 657304 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @03:40AM (#8324287)
    I have a strong attachment to my WASD layout for FPS games.
    Often times at work I find my fingers relaxing into FPS stance.
  • Mouse... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Agent_Number_4 ( 697721 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @03:40AM (#8324289)
    I have the Logitech cordless mouseman optical, I even want to bring it to work with me sometimes. After 8 hours using some generic PS2 scroll mouse, the hand shape of the mouseman is just what I need.

    Always wonder if they make all of their models of mice for left handed people as well though?

    • Re:Mouse... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kfg ( 145172 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @04:21AM (#8324457)
      I'll go along with this one, I love my Logi mouse, with the caveat issue that you raise. I'm ambimousterous, but not fully ambidexterous. The Logi is a right hander period.

      When taking hand written notes I have to use my right hand to write and left hand for the mouse. The best symetrical mouse I've ever used is the orginal Microsoft optical wheel mouse. It's 98% of the Logi, in either hand, so I can pass it back and forth with ease.

      Speaking of writing, another favorite item of mine is my Parker matte black ballpoint pen. The traditional tapered shape (I can't stand the pencil straight barrel of a Cross), and a bit slender for long writing sessions, but something about its feel and finish hits me just right and I don't do long writing sessions anymore. That's why God invented typing.

      Oxo kitchen tools. This stuff is truly the bee's knees. They're simply perfect. I've gotten rid of all my "classy" expensive kitchen stuff in favor of these "cheap" plastic tools.

      With the exception of my traditional Japanese bamboo rice paddle. Sometimes the traditional tool is honed to perfection.

      Snap-On combination wrenches. The Craftsman stuff is just as good, until you have to spend all day every day turning them. The Snap-Ons are caressable. The Craftsmans will leave your hands mildly abraded and sore.

      Shimano bicycle brake levers. It took 100 years before someone got that one right. Go figure.

      A replica of a 100 year old Adirondack hiking staff pattern made by the Poestenkill Hiking Staff company. They don't seem to have a web presence and for all know have been out of business for a long time. Mine is 20 years old. Simply perfect. In this case 100 years ago they knew a lot better than we do now. Perfectly shaped. Perfectly balanced. Perfect resilience.

      • I just got some very nice kitchen stuff. The old room-mate was a chef, and he took all his nice tools when he left. I decided I wanted good gear, as I love to cook, so the wife and I went on a bit of a shopping spree.

        The DeLonghi toaster we got is fantastic. It's got a brushed aluminum finish and kind of looks like an old Airstream trailer. It has a cancel button, defrost button, and a bagel button, and the darkness knob is so smooth, it feels like it should be on high end stereo equipment.

        I picked ou
    • Re:Mouse... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by brakk ( 93385 )
      I also have a Logitech cordless mouseman optical, and love it, but only because it's cordless and optical. I don't understand why the shape is that big of a deal. I can use any mouse just as easily and can't tell much of a difference. Maybe I just have big hands, but I don't actually put my hand on the mouse. The only parts that touch the mouse are my fingertips. Thumb and pinky grab the mouse and move it, the other three push the buttons and scroll the wheel and my wrist sets on a wrist pad. In fact, if I
  • hnology/19REMOTE.b.jpg Yep, remote control is the first thing that comes to mind when viewing their prototypes.
  • by Capt'n Hector ( 650760 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @03:41AM (#8324295)
    What about badly designed objects? My comcast cable remote is horrible. To use the scroll buttons on the program guide (if it can be called such, half of it is ads) I need to contort my wrist. Why remote controls are still shaped like hotdog buns is beyond me. On some level, these designers must realize that an ideal situation would involve a more mouse-like remote. And please, lets start using RF instead of IR. I'm sick of pointing my remote. Yes I'm that lazy.
    • Yes, we all need more devices competing for airspace with our wireless networks. With RF remotes, when your neighbor powers up his home theater system and pops in the latest action explode-a-rama, you get knocked offline before you complete your blog entry dedicated to bitching about neoghbors with subwoofers. Wee haaaw!
      • by Anonymous Coward
        My ATI/X10 RF remote uses 433.92 MHz as its frequency (according to an FCC ID search [] for B4SUR84A), so it shouldn't compete with any networks.

        This remote has really spoiled me - it always works (as long as the batteries are good), regardless of where I aim it. The IR remote on my parents' digital tuner annoys me every time I use it now. If there's more than a 10 degree angle from the IR receiver, it won't receive the signal (possibly because of the glass window on the TV stand reflecting it).

        Whatever happ
    • " And please, lets start using RF instead of IR. I'm sick of pointing my remote. Yes I'm that lazy."

      I don't think that is lazy, but good design. Many times it takes quite a wrist contortion to point the remote correctly, and lord help anyone whose batteries are low or has something blocking the line of sight. I don't have near the trouble with a keyboard that I do with the remote, yet when one says something about the remote the response is generally "walk to the TV stupid" - yea big help there. Like occas
  • Google Link (Score:4, Informative)

    by aaron_ds ( 711489 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @03:41AM (#8324296)
    Google Link here []
    • Re:Google Link (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sieni ( 647691 )
      The funny thing is that the Slashdot parter link [] seems to work as well. The question now is: why don't the editors use it? :-)
      • Re:Google Link (Score:3, Insightful)

        by 1u3hr ( 530656 )
        The funny thing is that the Slashdot parter link seems to work as well. The question now is: why don't the editors use it? :-)

        The "editors" can't even be bothered to check spelling. Quite often links are completely broken. So expecting them to actually adjust a link is not realistic.

  • by Rex Code ( 712912 ) <> on Thursday February 19, 2004 @03:42AM (#8324299)
    I had a series one Philips TiVo and liked it a lot, so I replaced it with a Pioneer series two TiVo with DVD-R. The remote control is 99% similar, but the button in the lower left that was 'clear' on the Philips (used to kill the guide display and all kinds of other things) is now 'TV power'.

    It's been 3 months and I still kill the TV power about every 20 minutes...
  • I don't like it. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by philipsblows ( 180703 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @03:49AM (#8324331) Homepage

    I've had my TiVo for about 4 years or so now, and I use the remote as little as possible. I feed my DirecTV box into it and use the remote for that to change the channels, view the DTV guide, etc. Aside from the fact that the remote sucks, I never liked the fact that changing the TiVo channel erases the 30 minute buffer (I don't keep up on TiVo hacks, so maybe there's a way around that one by now). The curvy design is annoying, and it's fallen on the ground so much because of the odd shape that it now makes the old broken-plastic-pieces-inside rattle noise.

    My dad has a TiVo (a gift for my mom...) and he actually made a cradle for his so it rests flat on the table next to the couch. He likes to be able to press buttons while it's still on the table, which is all but impossible given the curviness.

    For what it's worth, I think the Nokia 6190 [] (or the non-gsm variants) is one of my all-time favorite designs in this category. I almost wish I could turn that thing into a remote control, as the buttons, display, feel in the hand, weight, and size were just about perfect. IMHO.

    • My dad has a TiVo (a gift for my mom...)

      Thats why being a dad is great - you can buy things for your spouse to 'show her how much you love her - think of all the cooking shows you can watch now'.

      My dad once bought my mum a new AMP for valentines. Nothing to do with the fact his own amp had dies a week earlier of course. And hey - it had a red ribbon on it! Who says romance is dead
  • We all know a whole bunch of smartass posters are going to post innuendo about well shaped objects and their relation to dildos.

    Welcome to the next Wired article, "Geeks like dildos more than they like TiVo remotes".
  • Good news, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by faust2097 ( 137829 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @03:52AM (#8324344)
    As an interface designer I'm happy on both a professional and personal level to see user-centric design getting press lately. On the other hand I'm afraid that a lot of MBA-types will read articles like this and figure that they can just throw a designer at a problem and expect them to fix everything that's wrong with their product.

    Real UI design will not fix fundamental flaws in a product. In fact a good designer will probably uncover problems that no one had noticed before. The reason that Tivo's interface is good is because the entire product was designed from the beginning around being easy to use. I'm willing to bet that there were designers involved in the product from the very beginning.

    I recommend that people interested in this sort of thing read Alan Cooper's The Inmates Are Running the Asylum. It's a bit harsh on engineers and I don't buy Cooper's zealousness regarding his techniques but it has a lot of good insight into what can go wrong and how to avoid it.

    I also really wish that the press could find a better poster child for our indutry than Nielsen, whose core competency is attention whoring and getting people to pay him thousands of dollars for speaking gigs [something he excels at]. He's got some pretty smart [] coworkers [] who have actually designed products that changed the way we interact with computers. Nielsen's crown jewel is a kooky Sun skunkworks project.
    • thay will. be sure to charge a lot.
    • by opti6600 ( 582782 )
      Alrighty, time for me to chime in with discussions on well designed objects!

      I have a real passion for good design as well as functionality and durability in anything I own or purchase, and usually what's in this cubicle (and the cubicle itself), as well as my office, reflect that rule.

      As much as people might rant and/or rave that the Segway HT is a completely useless or fattening device even though I commute with one, heh, the fact is that it has to be one of the simplest and yet most attractive products
    • by ianscot ( 591483 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @10:24AM (#8325798)
      I recommend that people interested in this sort of thing read Alan Cooper's The Inmates Are Running the Asylum.

      One of the best examples from that Alan Cooper book is alarm clocks.

      That's also a perfect example of dysfunctional relationships between user design and the engineer. There are alarm clocks that project the time on the wall or ceiling, alarm clocks that (supposedly) lull me to sleep with white noise or "nature sounds," and alarm clocks that wake me with my favorite CD -- but every blinking last one of them has horrible user design, especially for the intended audience: sleepy, disoriented people who don't have their contacts in. It's pretty amazing to consider just how awkward the things are.

      The guts of a better alarm clock: Bigger buttons that are clearly differentiated, even without my glasses on. Decent control over my snooze-ing -- limits on number of times, variable length, etc. would be nice. Readable displays that show different information -- ta dum! -- differently. ("Alarm" is not the same as "PM" and should not be an identical dot on the display.) And so on.

      Everyone has one of these, but the business hasn't produced a really good alarm clock at the commodity level for Target to carry. Designers with swooshy plastic cases aren't going to fix the problem by themselves.

  • by warrior ( 15708 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @04:01AM (#8324389) Homepage
    ...TiVo remote? Or other well-designed objects?

    Yes, my second generation iPod :)

  • my favourite remote (Score:5, Informative)

    by boarder ( 41071 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @04:01AM (#8324390) Homepage
    I have used the TiVo remote, and it is pretty good... I prefer the remote I have, though.

    It is the Radio Shack universal 15-2116 (previously 14-1994, which I also still own). I hacked together a little parallel cable to connect it to my computer and program every single button exactly how I want (called the JP1 hack). You can map any button any way you want, clear out the memory of unused buttons, etc. I have that thing programmed for 6 different things (from the replayTV to the original Apex hacked dvd player to an offbrand tv/vcr combo) and have the buttons so intuitively mapped that I don't ever need to look at it. It also has this weird textured plastic that feels like hardened suede. IR learning and everything else, all for $30.
    • I helped build the little parallel cable that runs his remote, since Aeronautical engineers aren't much with soldering irons. I was going to build one for myself, until I actually tried using his. I guess you get used to it, but I decided I prefer a remote where you can tell what the buttons do just by looking at it, rather than having to be the one that programmed it. He says "intuitive," but that's because it's his setup. I couldn't figure out how to control his replayTV with it. That's the big drawb
      • intuition (Score:3, Funny)

        by boarder ( 41071 )
        The only way he "helped" was by letting me borrow his soldering iron. And the remote setup he used was on my 14-1994... I had that setup to have the exact layout of the original remote mimicked, so buttons were "mislabeled" but they were where I remembered them being on the original remote. The new 15-2116 has most of my codes in it natively, so it is setup with correctly labeled buttons. I had to relearn some positions, but now all my dorky friends can look at it and know what they do.

        There is somethin
        • by raygundan ( 16760 )
          He's lying, and I have pictures. He soldered nothing. Mostly, he was cutting apart the IDE cable (which I was admittedly pretty lousy at.)

          He does have an excellent point, though-- my trusty tivo remote covers about 80% of my viewing, but anything else requires that I use a pile o' remotes to change inputs and play dvds, etc...
  • Scary (Score:3, Funny)

    by cubic6 ( 650758 ) <tom.losthalo@org> on Thursday February 19, 2004 @04:02AM (#8324391) Homepage
    From the article:
    One TiVo aficionado, Pat Hughes, a software engineer in San Jose, Calif., dressed up his two-month-old daughter as the remote for Halloween in 2002. The costume, which took a week to make, was a painstakingly exact replica, complete with battery compartment in the back. "That's where she went in," he said.
    Does anybody else think that this man has some issues? Liking your remote is one thing, but this seems above and beyond.
  • by dcmeserve ( 615081 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @04:02AM (#8324392) Homepage Journal
    I have the Sony remote []...

    ...You insensitive clods!

    By the way, one complaint I've heard (and can see) in the Phillips remote design is the fact that it's too symmetrical front-to-back -- when watching tv in the dark, it's hard to know if you're holding it the right way. Guess they didn't think of turning out the lights when they were doing their ergonomic tests. Whoops!


    • it's too symmetrical front-to-back

      Absolutely true. I like the feel of the remote in general, and the button layout is excellent, but I don't know how many times I've picked it up backwards. I either end up rewinding instead of fast-forwarding, or hitting "slow" instead of "play".

      It's still the best remote I've ever used.
  • It's ok. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) <> on Thursday February 19, 2004 @04:13AM (#8324420) Journal
    I still have to be a circus contortionist to punch in numbers with one hand. I still get play and pause mixed up; couldn't that be one button?

    My biggest issues with my rather new Direct TV tivo are as follows:

    The guide is sloooooowwwww. Way slower than the old RCA vanilla reciever.

    I can't filter out the channels I don't get, and have no interest in nearly as easily as the old reciever did. The RCA would automatically go through the list; any channels I didn't subscribe to would be removed from the list. I could also scroll through and *see* the channel (Bye bye, Home Shopping networks!) that I was deleting - no trying to decipher the 3 letter acronyms. I was done in 3 minutes with the RCA; with the Tivo, I'd better set an evening aside.

    The tivo is recording shows I might like to watch on channels I don't get! Great movie, Tivo! I love the way you mock my poverty by recording two hours of black screen!

    No use for the USB ports on the back. I was all excited thinking I could dump some shows right to my Powerbook and burn some DVDs. Nope. Sure I can record to VCR, but why? It's sooo 1995.

    No Home Media Option as of yet for Direct TV PVRs. Not that I can't do this with the old PB, but I feel like I'm being shorted. (See previous point)

    The remote is far and away the best one I have, but I still need other crappy ones to control stupid features on my TV, Sterio, and VCR.

    The first company to devise a 'middleman' remote that waits for a 3 digit code from my tivo remote, then shunts further remote functions to my chosen equip is going to get my money. It could be programmed with the 'left out' functions of all my other remotes (PiP on my 97 Magnavox TV, for instance), then I could put them in a drawer somewhere and forget about them 'till garage sale time.

    No reason I can't learn key combos - you have to in order to play any video game these days. Perhaps when I select the VCR it can scream "FATALLITY!" at me.

    • Re:It's ok. (Score:3, Informative)

      Removing channels you dont want to watch can be done -- but it would be really nice if there was a way to do it from the guide.

      If you aren't afraid of voiding your warranty, you can install software like MFSFTP, Tyserver, Tystudio, etc and be able to do digital video extraction for archiving onto your file server or DVD.
  • by James_G ( 71902 ) <<gro.procagemlabolg> <ta> <semaj>> on Thursday February 19, 2004 @04:13AM (#8324421)
    I have two Tivos (Series 1). A Sony model and a Philips model. I can't stand the Philips remote. [] but the Sony remote [] completely rules. All the commonly used stuff is grouped together. You rarely need to stray beyond the central buttons.

    Another problem with the Philips remote is that it feels the same upside down, making it hard to tell which way you're holding it in the dark. With the Sony remote, I can do everything without even glancing at the thing.

    On the whole, the Sony remote is among the best remotes I've ever used for anything. No extraneous buttons (you use basically everything), but the frequently used stuff is intelligently placed.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday February 19, 2004 @04:31AM (#8324498) Homepage Journal
      if you have two tivos, and hook them together, then do a live pause on one while the other one is recording, will you rip apart the fabric of time?

      This could be espcially bad if you have picture in picture.

    • I'll agree, the Sony remote is way better than the TiVo branded unit. Ergonomics are way better, and it looks better. I'll never give up my Sony TiVo, just because of the remote.
    • Agreed. The original Philips remote is terrible, for two reasons: one is that it's shaped like a peanut, so it's very difficult to tell which way is 'up' without looking at it; and the other is that it has no 'off' button for the TiVo to put it into standby mode so that the TiVo knows it can change channels on its own to autorecord suggestions. Without a standby button, the Philips TiVo has no way of knowing that you're not actually sitting there watching a live broadcast, so it's never going to leave, sa
    • I also have a Sony series 1 recorder. Although I've never used the peanut remote, I must say I really have come to love the Sony remote control. It is incredibly well balanced and fits in your hand very easily.
      The most frequently used keys - the playback controls - are directly beneath your thumb at all time, with the pause, ffwd and rewind keys slightly recessed to make it easy to feel where they are without looking.
      The next most useful keys, volume control and channel number, as well as the TiVo menu ke
  • At least that's the way it went in my house. I suspect a number of slashdot users - certainly myself - have so many remote controls they replace them with an all-in-one remote. My current cheapy all in one controls my CD player, my TV, sky box, vcr and DVD. And nice as any individual device's remote control may be, I'd rather stick it in a drawer and use the all-for-one instead of having to fumble for more than one remote.
  • I've always loved the way my GameCube controller sits perfectly in my hands, and the deep contour of the shoulder buttons. The Control Stick is very precise and sensitive, and isn't too loose. The face button configuration is likewise very intuitive and easy to use without looking at the controller.

    Sure, it took a little getting used to for some games. But there were a few games (mostly ports) who did a bad job with controller mappings in the beginning. Any native GameCube game controls beautifully. I
    • by Rallion ( 711805 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @04:51AM (#8324554) Journal
      Plus I never needed to look down at the controller the first time I played a GameCube game. Er...square? What's the intuitive location for a square, and how does that differ from circle?

      GameCube has A. First. Primary. Big. Then B. Like A, but less important. Then X, to the right, and Y, up. Or, for the letter-impaired, big circle, small circle, bean one, bean two. All of them EEL different, you know where your fingers are. And you always know that no matter what game you play, A means confirm, B means cancel.

      Beats the hell out of faintly printed symbols on small, identical buttons.

      Of course, that's in addition to what you said about the fantastic comfort level of the thing. Nine out of ten people who say that beautiful thing is awkward to use haven't given it a chance. Though I loved it right out of the box.

      Don't take mine though. Take my little sister's MicroCon(?) version. Now THAT controller is too small.
      • Yes, not to mention that ever PS2 game I play seems to have a random function for each face button. I'm used to X is action and triangle or circle is cancel. But who knows? It's different each game.

        It's been A = confirm, B = cancel since the NES, and although the early games have different shoot/jump features, it's been B = attack and A = jump for most games for years and years.

        I like that the GCN virtually forces A is the primary action and B is secondary. It's also easier as far as menus go. A = Co
  • by steppin_razor_LA ( 236684 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @04:28AM (#8324483) Journal
    I think that Tivo is a triumph in usability. Not only is the remote very comfortable to hold (it is by far my favorite remote), but the GUI on the application itself is extremely well thought out.

    I can't count how many times when using Xbox Media Center to watch a movie that I've been frustrated by the many ways that that XBMP falls short of the Tivo experience.

    The fast forward / rewind interface is beautiful. Not only is the predictive fast forwarding extremely convenient, but it also shows you where you are in the movie in an equivalent of a scroll bar.

    It's a shame that it isn't easier to convert MPEGs into TMFs that can be inserted w/ MFSFTP. If it was, I'd be watching my archived movies on my Tivo instead of in XBMP in a heart beat.

    My only complaint (actually My GF's complaint) is that it sometimes is difficult for her in the dark to figure out which side is up and which is down.
  • by hey hey hey ( 659173 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @04:33AM (#8324500)
    While the remote is OK, it suffers the same problem as most other device remotes, it only operates one thing. As soon as you have a VCR, DVD, stereo,... it becomes just another in the clutter. I replaced it with a programmable universal remote (MX-500) a long time ago.

    The remote was also annoying as there was no way to extend it, even for something simple you HAVE to do. My idiot TV always resets itself to channel 3 when turned off. So the first thing I want to do is change the channel back to "AV" input (where the nice S-video attached to my Tivo is). There is no way to have the Tivo remote change a channel.

  • nice remote (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jamie Zawinski ( 775 ) <> on Thursday February 19, 2004 @04:42AM (#8324532) Homepage
    The Tivo remote is definitely one of the nicest remotes I've ever used -- my only complaint about it is that it's too symmetrical. I always end up picking it up pointed the wrong way and rewinding when I meant to fast-forward.

    I used to have a Philips Pronto remote (with the LCD screen that looks like a bloated Palm) and it was very flexible, but impossible to use in the dark: you had to look at it to see where the buttons were, since it was just a touch-screen. (Then I dropped a cup on it and the screen cracked, so that was the end of that.)

  • of course Apple hardware goes without saying...

    Biggest aesthetic triumph i can think of otherwise are the wavebird controllers for nintendo gamecube. the buttons are easy to identify by feel/shape, the layout in general just makes sense (heavily based on playstation, i know...) -- and most importantly, they don't make your hands uncomfortable even if you play for hours on end [and there's plenty of us who do.]
  • The wretched four-way button at the top is awful. When it's used so much for navigation, they should really have made sure that it always goes the way you want it to go (and the right number of times).

    Maybe I'm just unlucky, but the number of times it's registered one of up/down as left/right (or vice versa) or double hit (a problem with some of the other buttons too) is no joke - and I've only had it for a couple of weeks!

    This is a UK model, so it may have a different build quality from the US models.

  • It would be my first choice for controlling anything if they would only make the damn thing a learning remote.

    I find it incredibly frustrating to look at a 'TV Input' button that doesn't control the input on MY TV.

    Sony models can learn on volume and mute buttons, and I think tv power, but even that isn't enough.

    I switched to the Harmony remote that sort of looks like the Tivo one. It has it's own issues, but I never have to pull out an original remote to do something ordinary.

  • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @05:11AM (#8324609)
    It would be nice if it didn't look like a little black dildo on my bed when its flipped-over. Seriously.
  • by fahrvergnugen ( 228539 ) <> on Thursday February 19, 2004 @05:24AM (#8324634) Homepage
    You know, the first thing my girlfriend said when we unpacked the TiVO from its box and placed the remote face-down on the table was, "Why did you buy me a dildo to go with your new toy?"

    I mean, great remote, but it really DOES look like a sex toy. Also it's too easy to hold it upside down if you're not looking. A couple of weights in the bottom of the unit would have taken care of that (I mean more weight than the batteries).
  • by pretentiousPPC ( 618549 ) <> on Thursday February 19, 2004 @05:26AM (#8324639)
    When I tryed out a Tivo for the first time it took me forever to figure out that the funky emblem was a button.
    Great design my ass.
  • Sky digital (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Andy Smith ( 55346 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @05:39AM (#8324671)
    The remote control for Sky digital TV beats every other remote I've ever used. The button layout is designed perfectly and the weight and balance make the remote want to stay in your hand without effort. Looks good too.

    Colours are a bit off in this picture but... if []

    The remote for Sky+ (a PVR) has a few extra buttons on it for record and playback. Has more of a silver finish to it and looks even nicer.
    • Only problem with the Sky+ remote is the record button is too small, tucked away underneath the PVR forward/backwards buttons.
  • by m3djack ( 613125 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @05:42AM (#8324676) Homepage
    While I don't have many major qualms over the TiVo remote, one issue I always have with remotes are their physical properties. I own a few pieces of Bang & Olufsen kit, and they built their remote out of Zinc. So not only is the remote cool to the touch when you go to grab it, but it is heavier than a plastic remote as well. I even have it set up now to where I don't have to use my TiVo remote, I can use my Beo4 remote from Bang & Olufsen instead.
  • by Ilan Volow ( 539597 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @05:49AM (#8324696) Homepage
    The original Palm PDA had similar origins. The creator of the Palm, Jeff Hawkins, carved a block of wood into a size that would comfortably fit into his shirt pocket, and using a "stylus" made from a whittled-down chopstick walked around Palm inc. for a month or two entering dates and phone numbers and taking the thing with him to meetings.

    In my opinion, this is the way you should design any technology product; user experience first, technical stuff, code, and engineering later.
  • it is just the right size for a pocket, a hand, a shirt pocket, ...

    other than that my sony remote feels well, too.
  • by ratsnapple tea ( 686697 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @06:27AM (#8324832)

    "They were designed by - and I hate to say it because I am one of them - engineers," Mr. Newby said.

    Mr. Nielsen said: "... They're overloaded with features you don't really need except once a year or once a lifetime."

    Honestly, folks. He might as well be talking about Linux distros, or open source software generally. In my experience, open source UIs are just plain terrible from a user perspective (though perhaps not from an engineer's).

    How is free/open source software ever going to replace anything on the desktop if the people who are attracted to these projects are almost exclusively engineers and programmers? The art of UI design is very different from the art of programming, and I think the open source "community," such as it is, needs to be more aware of the need for skilled UI designers.

    How to get UI people to join open source projects, however, is a mystery to me. Any ideas?


  • Microsoft mouse... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sameyeam ( 587571 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @06:33AM (#8324847) Homepage
    I'm probably going to get slaughtered for saying something positive about Microsoft, but I love the Microsoft mouse. IMO They know how to build quality hardware, shame they can't apply that skill to other areas.
  • I think the RCA remote, which came with my: RCA TV,
    RCA/Proscan DVD player, and RCA DirecTV box is a better than the TiVo remote. But perhaps I'm just used to it. Infact RCA's universal remote is identical to these remotes (each one has a slight variation, usually some extra buttons for PiP controls or something near the bottom or maybe just a different color case).

    I hate the universal remote that came with my Mitsubishi 55" rear projection TV. You'd think for such a nice TV they would have build a better r
  • do you have an emotional attachment to your TiVo remote? Or other well-designed objects?

    You shouldn't have such an attachment. Good design shoud fade below your consciousness. Like a good pair of shoes; you shouldn't need to remember you are wearing them, they just work. You don't get an emotional attachement to light switches: they just work. When you get onew which doesn't, you curse it. If you do get such an emotional attachment, it means that there is a lot of bad design out there that you are reacti
  • I must be one of the rare ones but I've found that the TiVo remote isn't the panacea led to believe by the article.

    The numeric keys are to me in a very odd position and require me to either set the remote down or use two hands - one to hold and the other to push the buttons - to type in the direct channel number.

    Everything else is in a good spot though I wish it had a 'live TV button' like the sony versions did instead of having to hit the TiVo button twice - because sometimes it gets a little behind and
  • by word munger ( 550251 ) <> on Thursday February 19, 2004 @08:57AM (#8325230) Homepage Journal
    ... There's no OFF button! To turn the damn thing off, I have to navigate down six lines of a menu to "standby." Sure I've programmed my universal remote to do it for me, but if it's not quite pointed directly at the unit, or if the batteries are running low... grrrrr!
    • You're not supposed to turn the TiVo off. Even "standby" isn't "off". The only way to really turn it off is to unplug it, which eliminates the whole point of having a TiVo.

      Just turn the TV off and leave the TiVo alone.

      On standalone TiVos, Standby turns off the audio/video outputs and front-panel LEDs and routes the RF in to RF out. On DirecTV TiVos it also stops recording the live buffer(s).
  • by DdJ ( 10790 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @09:26AM (#8325359) Homepage Journal
    Yes, it's nice while it's in your hand, but mine spends a lot more time on a table than in my hand. And this device sucks when it's on a table. It's got these two little flat bits on the bottom near the two ends, but other than those, it's all curved. You've got to get those two contact points onto the same flat surface for the remote to be stable. If you don't, the thing falls over constantly. So, whenever I want to start watching my TiVo, because of their remote design, the first step is a hunt for the remote. None of my other remotes have this problem.
  • TiVo remote is a POS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jagasian ( 129329 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @02:43PM (#8329268)
    I recently purchased a TiVo and I must say that its remote is a POS. It doesn't properly work with my APEX TV, let alone support my other settop devices. Instead I bought the inexpensive ($18) URC 6131 universal remote [], which supports my TV, VCR, TiVO, and Xbox! I highly recommend it to anyone that has too many damn remote controls and just wants one to control everything.
  • by SatanLilHlpr ( 17629 ) on Thursday February 19, 2004 @03:34PM (#8330246)
    It's round. On first impression, one might naively get the idea that it's designed with the hand in mind. Wonderful... except that is only ONE environment in which it must function!

    Coffee table operation

    Have you ever tried to push the volume or channel up/down buttons while the remote is on the coffee table? Imagine dozing on the couch, and reaching out to the coffee table to flip the channel, only to have the STUPID ROUND remote roll over when you press the button which is so BRILLIANTLY placed to the side of the STUPID ROUND remote's axis of rotation? That's right, the result of this operation is not the channel being changed, the result is the STUPID ROUND remote flipping over on it's back.

    Armchair placement

    Have you ever tried to put the remote down next to you, on a surface that was not perfectly horizontal? Remember the remote is a STUPID ROUND remote... This means that the contact area underneath the remote would approach a point, were it not for the small, inadequate flat spot under there. The small, inadequate flat spots which do nothing to keep the STUPID ROUND remote from sliding off of any fabric covered surface you might place it on. A fabric covered surface, which might not always be perfectly horizontal... hmm... let me think of an example. Ah. Maybe a COUCH or SOFA perhaps? Pretty rare environment for a TV remote, so I can understand how this slipped by during testing...

    Seat cushion placement

    Okay, I think you can see where I'm going with this STUPID ROUND idea. Imagine you place the remote next to you on your prize sofa, an exotic artifact which you imported at great expense just for the novelty of it. (Imagine that... actually owning a SOFA!) Next, imagine a friend who comes to sit down near you on the sofa, and the cushion the STUPID ROUND remote is sitting on is compressed on one side (please, try to imagine this even though it might seem alien and unfamiliar). Now, the surface of the cushion is no longer horizontal. Promptly, the STUPID ROUND remote, as round objects are want to do, rolls on the surface of the cushion. Which way does it roll? Yes, that right, DOWN. Down between the cushions. Out of sight. Inaccessable.


    *Some* aspects of the Tivo remote reflect really good design. It would be a good design, if the only thing I ever used my hand for was to hold the remote! This design is arrogant. It may not have been their intention, but underlying assumption that I'm never going to remove from my hand this 'oh-so-important and marvelously designed' object d'art just drips from its very essense.

    How many times I've had that thing flip out from underneath my fingers when trying to flip channels when an obnoxious commercial roused me from my slumber... Oh, how I long for the chance, just once, to get up off the couch, and KICK THAT DESIGNER SQUARE IN THE NUTS AS HARD AS I CAN!!!


    And people, stop gushing over this piece of crap plastic...

COMPASS [for the CDC-6000 series] is the sort of assembler one expects from a corporation whose president codes in octal. -- J.N. Gray