For reasons that are entirely OT, I don't think that fiance tests qualify.
You can cobble together a solution, or you can use ShowShifter which has a jukebox, DVD, TV and many more modules in it. My 55 year-old wife has never worked in an office, thus the need for PC skills passed her by.
I ran a bunch of different software past her, trying each one for a week. The big problem with all of the others was a dizzying number of tiny buttons that needed clicking and that's hard to do unless you are at a desktop.
I use the Hauppauge 401 card that comes with an FM radio and a remote receiver. She hates remotes (too many buttons again) and uses the Gyration Ultra Mouse/Keyboard combo pack. The nice big buttons in ShowShifter makes it easy for her to navigate. A right click does not mean RC | Squint | Choose from a long list; it means full screen -- simple.
I prefer a remote. This mouse/remote business has a side benefit of no more fighting over who gets control.
I still handle the recording (which is much easier now the we have TitanTV) not because she can't, but because this has been customary since the VCR days.
Right now ShowShifter does not support the newer cards that have MPEG2 chips on them such as the Hauppauge PVR cards or the HDTV cards, but may in the future. I don't like the idea of being locked into any one piece of software, so I have a Fusion 2 HDTV card and I am hoping that they will have drivers soon that other software.
For now, the analogue Hauppauge card is still working well.
My wife has no problem operating the HTPC at all. She looks at the pda running netremote the various other remotes on the coffee table and the ir keyboard and mouse and says "how do I turn it off" or "how do I turn it on" I look at her and cringe then I turn it on or off or what ever -- works for her every time.
My wife Cant live without it now and it's incredibly easy to use. The image quality is great and when you insert a dvd it auto notifys you that a DVD has been inserted would you like to play it now. Everything is in an incredibly easy to use GUI and all operates from a nice little remote. You can even buy the remotes pretty cheap from new egg if you have kids that are destructive like me . The GUI Is great because it's not just a front end that launches other programs. THE Program Guide can be downloaded for free and being that you need a hardware based card for recording and timeshifting you ensure there are no bog downs or massive problems.
For high quality DVD I tend to stick with theatertek for myself though My wife doesnt care if the image quality is superior or not so media center is gret for her.
I personally use media center edition every day for all my TV Viewing
I have two challenges to making my HTPC wife friendly:
1 - Most of the HTPC apps seem to be focused on delivering functionality rather than useability. Definately understandable with all the tinkerers here. Heck, isn't that the REAL reason we use HTPCs instead of purpose built components?
2 - Fricken remote controlled appliances insist upon toggles, cycles, etc... and, of course, IR - all very error prone. Components like my Samsung TV do have discrete On/Off codes, but the Input Selector is of the "cycle" variety. Same for the audio processing modes on my Denon Receiver. This obviously is a problem I can solve for the HTPC - I use a long range RF keyboard/mouse combo, but this doesn't solve the non-discrete and error-prone IR controls for my other components. I have my IR Pronto set up with very useful macros, but if the Pronto just happens to be aimed the wrong way, it's an arduous process of getting the state of all the components to agree with the state the IR Pronto assumes everything is. I'm hoping Wi-Fi + 1394 wins out here, but it sure is taking a long time.
yah its not skills... its patience.... But I am going to set it up on my main machine.. see if she likes it..... if not I will still build it but not for the main tv...and I can cheap out on some stuff
I've opted for the plain old Start menu with 4 items -- Am I correct that even the best MyHTPC configuration leaves you in the dust when you actually launch an app? You still have to get ZoomPlayer, or snapstream, or whatever configured well for easy play.
The key I've found is to limit the "modality" of your system. Discrete codes are a must for your receiver and set, and actually I've found the best way to make this reliable is to roll the functionality more toward the HTPC and away from settings in your set/receiver. Girder is perfectly setup this way since it only takes ONE IR code to set up everything.
So my receiver is just a dumb volume knob (which is key because my wife/kids like something they can turn). So I just always fire the same codes at the receiver that put it in that simple mode and let girder do the rest.
And any changes in presets (for circle-sound for snapstream, say), I've got a keen girder setup that punches buttons on the revo control panel and sets up the audio based on *applications launching* and not IR codes. This way, no matter how the app gets launched, girder fires off its events. It is absolutely the way to go. So I use the IR just to start the apps (and shut down any others first) -- but not to set up the HTPC video/audio modes. That all happens with the TaskCreate events and you're off to the races.
Also I've been through multiple prontos, harmony and such and I've found the RadioShack Kameleon remote to be the most wife-friendly. It's slick without being hard to understand. And for mouse keyboard you must get the gyration RF/USB. My wife and kids even hover the mouse in the air now sometimes (so proud). Stay away from IR if possible with mouse/keyboard. I've seen gyration combo on sale for $80 at OfficeDepot or something so there's no excuse.
anyways... maybe something useful in there. I have my girder file for setting revo settings in the control panel in another thread if anyone's interested.
Get a good remote like the MX-500 which you can program macro keys and the like. As long as you have something on the PC which can interpret the remote keys there is no reason why it has to look like a PC at all. This is the key to seamless integrated control of the monitor, receiver STB and PC. As long as you are willing to spend some time getting it set up to look like a simpler system you have a chance.
Having said that wife acceptance is a difficult thing....much more difficult that fiance acceptance.
The HTPC itself has nothing to do with making your system wife friendly. It comes down to one thing (which can sometimes be divided into 2 things ) :the user interface (UI). Essentially, the UI is a remote control. The easiest type of remote control is intuitive and simple. For WAF, the remote should be customizable so if she doesn't understand something, you can change it for her to make it easier. This essentially throws out ALL hard button remote controls. Don't get me wrong, they're awesome, but have crappy WAF.
"My 3.5 year old has mastered XLobby for music and movie playback."
You could teach your 3.5 year old to hotwire a Stealth Bomber before you could teach your wife the MX-800 remote. Your child loves you and is eager to learn. Your wife doesn't want to learn. She wants instant gratification. She hates you and is bitter that she must come to you for help.
I use myHTPC, but it is only part of a full user interface. It is the frontend of the UI. You could use it to control your HTPC software by using it on a client touchscreen PC (ie ProGear), all linked together wirelesly and being served by a remote desktop program such as Win Server XP, ThinSoft Server or Ultra VNC, but this would not control your other devices, such as your stereo. Did I say stereo? I meant audio processor. So for full remote control I recommend MainLobby.
MainLobby is both a remote control software program (use it to DESIGN cool screens for a touchscreen tablet PC), and a frontend (with DVDLobby, MusicLobby, etc) You COULD just use the MainLobby program without the other modules (ie DVDLobby) as a frontend in addition to remote control, but I don't. In fact for my frontend, as previously mentioned, I use myHTPC like most people here.
The trick to designing your touchscreens is to keep the number of buttons on each screen down to a minimum, and having automatic links to other screens for additional buttons. This makes it less intimidating for your wife. As well, you can have different screens for you and your wife. That way your wife can use the easy/simple screen, and you and your 3.5 year olds can use the normal screen
I have an MX-500, an IR keyboard, and use ZoomPlayer, MyHD and Girder.
Using those components, a couple macros, and some planning I set it up so that my HTPC acts like a typical HT component. Press DVD power, ZoomPlayer launches or closes, press HDTV power MyHD launches or exits. Remote keys act like you would expect play, rewind, pause, channel +, channel -, etc. As far as my wife is concerned it's just a DVD player, VCR, and/or HD Tuner.
The remote has learned the IR keyboards signals and so for most things the keyboard is not needed.
Of course, there are features and functions that require picking up the keyboard and mouse, but those are things my wife doesn't ever think about doing (ripping a DVD to ISO, mounting an ISO to a drive letter, etc.)
Between keyboard shortcuts and Girder macros it's very achievable to make a wife friendly HTPC with a little planning...
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