User Experience

Published on 16 April 2006 in , ,

Earlier in the week, I spent an evening trying to get my Hauppage PVR-150 to work under Linux. It’s no easy task, taking me a couple of hours, and even now it’s not exactly east. For starters, I’m only able to watch TV via Mplayer, whilst using a command line app to change channel.

That said, I haven’t quite worked out how to get the signal from the composite feed I’m using – only via the (lesser quality) RF input. Even worse, once I close Mplayer, if I try and restart it, the TV picture refuses to show. Most Linux (and many Windows) TV apps don’t even work with the PVR-150 so there’s no simple way round it. Indeed on Windows, the only app which has worked reliably for me, is the Windows Media Center programme.

It’s all been rather painful – has you crying out for a nice GUI and someone else to do all the hard work.

So why subject myself to all this? Why am I actually using Linux? It’s at times like this that I really wonder.

Is it the challenge? Is it the fact that I’d rather not give Microsoft the joy of my patronage? Is it because I just can? Is it the ideals and ideology behind something that’s open and collaborative? Or is it just that I’m a glutton for punishment?

I’m really not sure myself. I tread a fine line. I like the stability and flexibility of Linux, but the tradeoff is that sometimes it’s a lot of work. But then if you go to the flip side, how often is the Windows experience perfect?

Take for example my Wacom tablet at work – I use a pen and tablet because of RSI problems using a mouse. Crippling pain in my arm wasn’t hugely good for work. A few months ago, we had an update to our Windows install and my trusty five year old tablet ceased to work. The tablet was fine, but something was going on with Windows (or at least, our Windows setup) that meant that it wouldn’t work.

Our wonderful IT guys spent hours trying to get it sorted, before finally giving up and ordering me a new one. After a couple of weeks (and a return of the RSI) a brand new, swanky Wacom tablet arrives. It works. Hurrah!

But now I have another problem. At random points in the day, it “forgets” its settings, and starts working in what it calls “Mouse mode” instead of “Pen mode”. But the control panel still thinks its in pen mode and won’t change it. The only way round it is to crawl under my desk, unplug the USB cable and plug it back in. It does this several times a day for reasons which escape me, but only started doing it a couple of months after it arrived. Why, one can only wonder.

Mind you, no more crawling under the desk, and banging my head for me! I have found a new solution! On Thursday I moved the USB cable to plug in at the front of the PC instead of the back. One can only wonder why it took me four months, and several sore heads, to realise this was actually a much better idea.