PDA

View Full Version : A user's perspective



Brian Abbott, ACA Systems
2005-01-07, 08:18
I think your post illustrates very well the dilemma faced in the longer
term.

Most people on this list (and maybe most SB owners?) appear to me to be
'tinkerers'. I don't use this word pejoratively (I tinker a lot myself!)
but to differentiate from the average 'person out there' who wants to 'plug
it in, switch it on and listen' and whose eyes glaze over if you use terms
like Perl, IP Address, MS-DOS, Linux, 802.11 (you get the idea ...)

The bottom line is that SB /SS is never going to make the breakthrough into
a mass market until/unless the average 'person out there' is catered for -
that is, with something that works 'out of the box' 99% of the time. But
then, maybe the people on this list aren't bothered about that anyway? (says
he being deliberately provocative <g>)

Cheers

Phil Thien wrote:
> Exactly. I couldn't agree more with this post. Initial reaction
> from new users is interesting, but so often they tell you how the
> product didn't meet their original expectations ("disappointed
> because no native Windows software with Windows interface," for
> example). It is only after they've used the product for several days
> to months that they really begin the underlying beauty of open-source
> cross-platform. I suppose some of them, due to the fact that they
> really only use Windows computers, will never see the beauty of
> cross-platform.
>
> I wonder how many programmers are created by projects like this. You
> know, someone identifies a change they'd like, can't find anyone else
> interested in implementing it, and therefore decides to learn to do
> it themselves.
> There have got to be a few.
>
> Keep it open-source cross-platform!
>
> I have used it (Slimp3) every day for at least two+ years and would
> never do without.
>
> -Phil

============
Brian Abbott
============

Jeff Allison
2005-01-07, 08:44
Brian Abbott, ACA Systems wrote:

> The bottom line is that SB /SS is never going to make the
> breakthrough into a mass market until/unless the average
> 'person out there' is catered for - that is, with something
> that works 'out of the box' 99% of the time. But then,
> maybe the people on this list aren't bothered about that
> anyway? (says he being deliberately provocative <g>)

That's probably true. But then I think it's true for all networked
media solutions at present. Until such time as wireless network
solutions are truly idiot-proof and can be handled by someone for whom
the computer is a tool rather than a career or a hobby, devices such as
Squeezebox will tend to be used by technophiles. Hopefully that's not a
problem, and hopefully the folks at Slim Devices are making a
comfortable living off of their cool technology.

On the topic of "idiot-proof", anyone see Bill Gates' performance at CES
the other day? The big keynote speech around Windows Media Center
featured a locked-up system that wouldn't respond to Gates' remote
("must be the wrong remote," said Bill) and a BSOD during a game
preview. I wonder if the mass market can get that stuff to work when
the drones at MS can't do it on the big stage.

- Jeff

Joe Craig
2005-01-07, 08:51
> That's probably true. But then I think it's true for all networked
> media solutions at present. Until such time as wireless network
> solutions are truly idiot-proof and can be handled by someone for whom
> the computer is a tool rather than a career or a hobby, devices such as
> Squeezebox will tend to be used by technophiles

I think that Tivo is about as close to "idiot proof" as anything that
I've ever seen.

--


Joe

Jules Taplin
2005-01-07, 12:12
Yeah. It's pretty close.

Although... A TiVo with a disk failure can be a pretty frustrating
beast. If it's in a data area, they skip, and pause, and generally
behave badly.

Not that they could have done much about the problem... But TiVo's hide
so much of their complexity that the only way you'll know that was the
problem is if you've hacked it to get a console to it ;)


-- Jules

Joe Craig wrote:

>>That's probably true. But then I think it's true for all networked
>>media solutions at present. Until such time as wireless network
>>solutions are truly idiot-proof and can be handled by someone for whom
>>the computer is a tool rather than a career or a hobby, devices such as
>>Squeezebox will tend to be used by technophiles
>>
>>
>
>I think that Tivo is about as close to "idiot proof" as anything that
>I've ever seen.
>
>
>

Graham Ridgway at home
2005-01-07, 12:17
I was trying not to get there, but that could well be the chosen
marketplace! After all it must be quite big - a lot of tinkerers (not in
the pejorative sense) out there!

Graham
----- Original Message -----
From: "Brian Abbott, ACA Systems" <brian (AT) abbott (DOT) plus.com>
To: "'Slim Devices Discussion'" <discuss (AT) lists (DOT) slimdevices.com>
Sent: Friday, January 07, 2005 3:18 PM
Subject: [slim] A user's perspective


>I think your post illustrates very well the dilemma faced in the longer
> term.
>
> Most people on this list (and maybe most SB owners?) appear to me to be
> 'tinkerers'. I don't use this word pejoratively (I tinker a lot myself!)
> but to differentiate from the average 'person out there' who wants to
> 'plug
> it in, switch it on and listen' and whose eyes glaze over if you use terms
> like Perl, IP Address, MS-DOS, Linux, 802.11 (you get the idea ...)
>
> The bottom line is that SB /SS is never going to make the breakthrough
> into
> a mass market until/unless the average 'person out there' is catered for -
> that is, with something that works 'out of the box' 99% of the time. But
> then, maybe the people on this list aren't bothered about that anyway?
> (says
> he being deliberately provocative <g>)
>
> Cheers
>
> Phil Thien wrote:
>> Exactly. I couldn't agree more with this post. Initial reaction
>> from new users is interesting, but so often they tell you how the
>> product didn't meet their original expectations ("disappointed
>> because no native Windows software with Windows interface," for
>> example). It is only after they've used the product for several days
>> to months that they really begin the underlying beauty of open-source
>> cross-platform. I suppose some of them, due to the fact that they
>> really only use Windows computers, will never see the beauty of
>> cross-platform.
>>
>> I wonder how many programmers are created by projects like this. You
>> know, someone identifies a change they'd like, can't find anyone else
>> interested in implementing it, and therefore decides to learn to do
>> it themselves.
>> There have got to be a few.
>>
>> Keep it open-source cross-platform!
>>
>> I have used it (Slimp3) every day for at least two+ years and would
>> never do without.
>>
>> -Phil
>
> ============
> Brian Abbott
> ============
>
>

Michael Scott
2005-01-07, 17:12
Quoting Jeff Allison <Jeff.Allison (AT) amate (DOT) us>:

> On the topic of "idiot-proof", anyone see Bill Gates' performance at CES
>
> the other day? The big keynote speech around Windows Media Center
> featured a locked-up system that wouldn't respond to Gates' remote
> ("must be the wrong remote," said Bill) and a BSOD during a game
> preview. I wonder if the mass market can get that stuff to work when
> the drones at MS can't do it on the big stage.

There's no such thing as "idiot proof", the best you can hope for is "idiot
resistant". But then they just build a better idiot! :-)

I read the article about Billy and they recounted the Win98 USB scanner fiasco
from several years back.

The sad thing is, to paraphrase (I think) Esther Dyson, Microsoft has done such
a good job of lowering users' expectations, people assume that lock-ups and
BSODs are a normal part of the computing experience.

----------------------
- Mike Scott
- mscott (AT) pyewacket (DOT) org

Graham Ridgway at home
2005-01-08, 14:32
Mike,

I agree with you. But the whole point I was making with the start of the
thread is that it is NOT a computing experience! It's a home appliance
primarily for listening to music. It's only the gallant open-source
developers that think it's a computing experience.

To a wider audience...
I was trying to avoid really stating my position, but here goes. I think
the whole opensource thing is fundamentally bad for the user. It is a self
serving vehicle that has changed the whole purpose of the slim devices.
From an entertainment system to a computing platform. If it's unreliable,
then it cannot be blamed on the team paid to do the job. It just happens.
If it works well, then that's the wonder of the opensource community! Has
anyone wondered why Linux is just so hard? It's opensource, it has to be so.
Why are there so many versions? Opensource! If anyone expects Linux to
overtake Msoft, forget it. Have I gone too far :-))

I think I better stop commenting now as I have got off my first point...that
was it is all about marketing. I think the slim devices boys have got that,
but I think that the opensource community hasn't!

Graham
Anyone care to guess my server platform?
----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Scott" <mscott (AT) pyewacket (DOT) org>
To: "Slim Devices Discussion" <discuss (AT) lists (DOT) slimdevices.com>
Sent: Saturday, January 08, 2005 12:12 AM
Subject: [slim] A user's perspective


> Quoting Jeff Allison <Jeff.Allison (AT) amate (DOT) us>:
>
>> On the topic of "idiot-proof", anyone see Bill Gates' performance at CES
>>
>> the other day? The big keynote speech around Windows Media Center
>> featured a locked-up system that wouldn't respond to Gates' remote
>> ("must be the wrong remote," said Bill) and a BSOD during a game
>> preview. I wonder if the mass market can get that stuff to work when
>> the drones at MS can't do it on the big stage.
>
> There's no such thing as "idiot proof", the best you can hope for is
> "idiot
> resistant". But then they just build a better idiot! :-)
>
> I read the article about Billy and they recounted the Win98 USB scanner
> fiasco
> from several years back.
>
> The sad thing is, to paraphrase (I think) Esther Dyson, Microsoft has done
> such
> a good job of lowering users' expectations, people assume that lock-ups
> and
> BSODs are a normal part of the computing experience.
>
> ----------------------
> - Mike Scott
> - mscott (AT) pyewacket (DOT) org
>

kdf
2005-01-08, 14:42
Quoting Graham Ridgway at home <graham (AT) ridgworld (DOT) com>:


> To a wider audience...
> I was trying to avoid really stating my position, but here goes. I think
> the whole opensource thing is fundamentally bad for the user.
>
> I think I better stop commenting now as I have got off my first point...that
> was it is all about marketing. I think the slim devices boys have got that,
> but I think that the opensource community hasn't!

wow
on the scale of 'not getting it', this would ring the bell. Not only have you
failed to take note of the level of belief that Slim Devices (right from the
CEO and founder) holds in the open source model, but you've managed to alienate
just about anyone who would be required to implement any future changes you
might like, or fix any bugs that make your experience a nightmare. I really
hope you dont think software is written by marketing..

on that note...this thread just went right off the deep end. outta here.

-kdf

Graham Ridgway at home
2005-01-08, 15:01
well, maybe the bridges are burnt kdf, but I hope that you and others are
happy a debate was carried on.

I really don't get it. If what I think you are saying is actually what is
happening then slim devices are certainly on a dangerous path.

The only way to make a product succeed is to create a vision of what that
product will do and who will buy it. That's marketing kdf. My point is
simply that a community in general cannot be pushed down that line of vision
for the product (aka marketing). So Sean must've found a way of doing that.
He and his team have the vision. He's either got the community striving for
it, or he has his own team creating the core and the communty carries on
around it.

So the thread is about what a user (me) wants from the product, not what a
bunch of developers would like to develop.

Anyway, I said in my last post I would shut up and now I will.

Graham
----- Original Message -----
From: "kdf" <slim-mail (AT) deane-freeman (DOT) com>
To: "Slim Devices Discussion" <discuss (AT) lists (DOT) slimdevices.com>
Sent: Saturday, January 08, 2005 9:42 PM
Subject: [slim] A user's perspective


> Quoting Graham Ridgway at home <graham (AT) ridgworld (DOT) com>:
>
>
>> To a wider audience...
>> I was trying to avoid really stating my position, but here goes. I think
>> the whole opensource thing is fundamentally bad for the user.
>>
>> I think I better stop commenting now as I have got off my first
>> point...that
>> was it is all about marketing. I think the slim devices boys have got
>> that,
>> but I think that the opensource community hasn't!
>
> wow
> on the scale of 'not getting it', this would ring the bell. Not only have
> you
> failed to take note of the level of belief that Slim Devices (right from
> the
> CEO and founder) holds in the open source model, but you've managed to
> alienate
> just about anyone who would be required to implement any future changes
> you
> might like, or fix any bugs that make your experience a nightmare. I
> really
> hope you dont think software is written by marketing..
>
> on that note...this thread just went right off the deep end. outta here.
>
> -kdf
>

Daniel Cohen
2005-01-08, 15:05
On 8/1/05 at 9:32 pm +0000, Graham Ridgway at home wrote
>I was trying to avoid really stating my position, but here goes. I
>think the whole opensource thing is fundamentally bad for the user.
>It is a self serving vehicle that has changed the whole purpose of
>the slim devices.
>>From an entertainment system to a computing platform. If it's unreliable,
>then it cannot be blamed on the team paid to do the job. It just
>happens. If it works well, then that's the wonder of the opensource
>community!

There is a point here worth thinking about, but it's not quite what
you believe it is.

Possibly fewer plugins should be regarded as part of the basic
package. Perhaps there should be a much smaller standard download,
and a very easily available secondary download (that is, a package
available on Slimdevice site rather than things one has to search
for).

That way, one knows from the start that the additional bits are
expected to work but are not guaranteed to work.

There are some problems associated with the main SlimServer program,
it seems, though I have never encountered them.

The extras are extra, so if they work that's fine while if they don't
one doesn't have to use them. Personally, now I've got it working I'm
very glad to have AlienBBC (which is a third-party addition), it's
transformed my Squeezebox use. And the same would apply for other
people to the other Internet Radio plugins.

Anyway, as kdf has pointed out, opensource leads to a much faster
fixing of bugs.

My other purchase at the same time as the Squeezebox (about a year)
is the Pace Twin Freeview digital TV box. It's part of an
"entertainment system" in your terms. They've upgraded the software
several times. It's quite a nice device, but has too many bugs to be
considered reliable. And that's a closed source product by a much
bigger company. Most of the other fancier Freeview boxes also have a
fair number of bugs.
--
Daniel Cohen

Jack Coates
2005-01-08, 15:18
Graham Ridgway at home wrote:
> Mike,
>
> I agree with you. But the whole point I was making with the start of
> the thread is that it is NOT a computing experience! It's a home
> appliance primarily for listening to music. It's only the gallant
> open-source developers that think it's a computing experience.
>
> To a wider audience...
> I was trying to avoid really stating my position, but here goes. I
> think the whole opensource thing is fundamentally bad for the user. It
> is a self serving vehicle that has changed the whole purpose of the slim
> devices.
>
>> From an entertainment system to a computing platform. If it's
>> unreliable,
>
> then it cannot be blamed on the team paid to do the job. It just
> happens. If it works well, then that's the wonder of the opensource
> community! Has anyone wondered why Linux is just so hard? It's
> opensource, it has to be so. Why are there so many versions?
> Opensource! If anyone expects Linux to overtake Msoft, forget it. Have
> I gone too far :-))
>

Depends what you're trying to do -- start an unproductive flamewar or
get support for your viewpoints. This particular viewpoint shows an
unfortunate level of ignorance of computing, but that's to be expected
given your previous statements. Having heavily used Linux, Windows, and
MacOSX over the last ten years, I find Windows to be the most difficult
of them all (kludgy UI, mostly useless logging, archaic filesystem, two
name resolution protocols, two authentication systems, a hopeless
packaging system, and it still needs frequent rebooting and rebuilding).
Nothing wrong with not being into computers, though you probably
shouldn't bother prognosticating about computers if you're not into
computers.

I'm more concerned by your opinion that Slim Devices somehow began as a
entertainment appliance company and then changed into an open
source-oriented computing company, which is just flat out wrong. From my
outsider's perspective, I see an open-source computing company that
turned a cool hack into a product for other geeks, which then started
pulling in cross-over users from the world of non-geeks. For crying out
loud, they provide connectors and schematics that encourage users to
crack out the soldering iron.

http://www.eetimes.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=26806405
http://reviews.designtechnica.com/review835_main4173.html

You've said a few times that your original experience with the equipment
was better than it is now, which is obviously true for you, but there
are a number of possible reasons which have nothing to do with appliance
vs. open-source mentality. We've offered all the Slimserver-related
general issues, but there's still the OS to be thought about. XP, IIRC
-- have you defragged the filesystem? Run a spyware checker? Rebuilt lately?

> I think I better stop commenting now as I have got off my first
> point...that was it is all about marketing. I think the slim devices
> boys have got that, but I think that the opensource community hasn't!
>
> Graham
> Anyone care to guess my server platform?

Commodore 64 :)

--
Jack at Monkeynoodle dot Org: It's a Scientific Venture...
Riding the Emergency Third Rail Power Trip since 1996!

kdf
2005-01-08, 15:20
Quoting Graham Ridgway at home <graham (AT) ridgworld (DOT) com>:

> well, maybe the bridges are burnt kdf, but I hope that you and others are
> happy a debate was carried on.

I was enjoying this trhead, but then you had to make an utterly stupid
statement. I was on side with your original post, but now...well, its just sad.
if you want closed source, go buy the airport devices and see how that works
for you.

> I really don't get it. If what I think you are saying is actually what is
> happening then slim devices are certainly on a dangerous path.

only because you believe, as you have stated, that open source is 'dangerous'
(??).

Blame the developers all you want, if that makes you feel better.

-kdf

Mike Scott
2005-01-08, 15:37
On Sat, 2005-01-08 at 15:32, Stef Murkey wrote :-)
> If it works well, then that's the wonder of the opensource community! Has
> anyone wondered why Linux is just so hard? It's opensource, it has to be so.
> Why are there so many versions? Opensource! If anyone expects Linux to
> overtake Msoft, forget it. Have I gone too far :-))

I think you misunderstand the way open source works (maybe reading too
many MSFT "truth" web sites :-)

It's not design by a random bunch of geeks throwing code into a pot and
seeing what comes out. You have a central entity, in this case Slim
Devices, releasing code in a format that can be reviewed by thousands,
or millions, of programmers. I venture to guess that Microsoft has a
slightly smaller staff. Everyone can make changes to his or her own
system to suit their needs, but unelss SD gives a green light, none of
this gets into production code. The same with Linux.

Also, the reason Linux is "so hard" is, a lot of it (especially device
drivers) have to be reverse-engineered. Big manufacturers release
drivers for Bill's OS, and maybe, if they feel generous, throw out a
Linux driver. A lot of the drivers are (or were in the early days) some
geek sitting down with a logic analyzer and looking at how the 'doze box
is talking to a device. At least now the manufacturers are starting to
realize (not due to any Marketing types, I'll wager, but probably from
Linux geeks on staff) that they should not exclude potential customers
simply because they don't make up 90% of the desktop community.

I, for one, based my initial purchase decision of a Squeezebox on the
fact that I could run the server on whatever OS I have (and YES it IS
Linux, but it could just as easily been an Amiga [OK not EASILY]). I
don't want to have to run a Windows server just to use one product.
And, to be honest, if it wasn't open source I couldn't have done that.
I had to rewrite the startup script to work on SuSE because the install
was geared for RedHat. But had the source not been available, I would
have had to change my OS to suit an application. This is faulty logic.
The choice of OS is based on it's merits and performance, not "gee if I
want to run app Y I have to use OS Z.

This is my final comment on this thread. I assume the pro side will
stay pro and the anti side anti. It's like changing a red state to blue
(uh-oh, I may have just started another flame war :-)

--
- Mike Scott
- mscott (AT) pyewacket (DOT) org

Graham Ridgway at home
2005-01-08, 15:48
I was gonna stop, but just can't...:-))

"I see an open-source computing company..."

Just for fun, I looked at the web site and it opens with..."The best digital
music player for your stereo." Dunno where the computing is, dunno where
the "product for geeks is". Good visions if you ask me!

Anyway it's Slackware, not 'doze at all!

Graham
----- Original Message -----
From: "Jack Coates" <jack (AT) monkeynoodle (DOT) org>
To: "Slim Devices Discussion" <discuss (AT) lists (DOT) slimdevices.com>
Sent: Saturday, January 08, 2005 10:18 PM
Subject: [slim] A user's perspective


> Graham Ridgway at home wrote:
>> Mike,
>>
>> I agree with you. But the whole point I was making with the start of the
>> thread is that it is NOT a computing experience! It's a home appliance
>> primarily for listening to music. It's only the gallant open-source
>> developers that think it's a computing experience.
>>
>> To a wider audience...
>> I was trying to avoid really stating my position, but here goes. I think
>> the whole opensource thing is fundamentally bad for the user. It is a
>> self serving vehicle that has changed the whole purpose of the slim
>> devices.
>>
>>> From an entertainment system to a computing platform. If it's
>>> unreliable,
>>
>> then it cannot be blamed on the team paid to do the job. It just happens.
>> If it works well, then that's the wonder of the opensource community!
>> Has anyone wondered why Linux is just so hard? It's opensource, it has to
>> be so. Why are there so many versions? Opensource! If anyone expects
>> Linux to overtake Msoft, forget it. Have I gone too far :-))
>>
>
> Depends what you're trying to do -- start an unproductive flamewar or get
> support for your viewpoints. This particular viewpoint shows an
> unfortunate level of ignorance of computing, but that's to be expected
> given your previous statements. Having heavily used Linux, Windows, and
> MacOSX over the last ten years, I find Windows to be the most difficult of
> them all (kludgy UI, mostly useless logging, archaic filesystem, two name
> resolution protocols, two authentication systems, a hopeless packaging
> system, and it still needs frequent rebooting and rebuilding). Nothing
> wrong with not being into computers, though you probably shouldn't bother
> prognosticating about computers if you're not into computers.
>
> I'm more concerned by your opinion that Slim Devices somehow began as a
> entertainment appliance company and then changed into an open
> source-oriented computing company, which is just flat out wrong. From my
> outsider's perspective, I see an open-source computing company that turned
> a cool hack into a product for other geeks, which then started pulling in
> cross-over users from the world of non-geeks. For crying out loud, they
> provide connectors and schematics that encourage users to crack out the
> soldering iron.
>
> http://www.eetimes.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=26806405
> http://reviews.designtechnica.com/review835_main4173.html
>
> You've said a few times that your original experience with the equipment
> was better than it is now, which is obviously true for you, but there are
> a number of possible reasons which have nothing to do with appliance vs.
> open-source mentality. We've offered all the Slimserver-related general
> issues, but there's still the OS to be thought about. XP, IIRC -- have you
> defragged the filesystem? Run a spyware checker? Rebuilt lately?
>
>> I think I better stop commenting now as I have got off my first
>> point...that was it is all about marketing. I think the slim devices
>> boys have got that, but I think that the opensource community hasn't!
>>
>> Graham
>> Anyone care to guess my server platform?
>
> Commodore 64 :)
>
> --
> Jack at Monkeynoodle dot Org: It's a Scientific Venture...
> Riding the Emergency Third Rail Power Trip since 1996!
>

kdf
2005-01-08, 15:49
Quoting Mike Scott <mscott (AT) pyewacket (DOT) org>:

> This is my final comment on this thread. I assume the pro side will
> stay pro and the anti side anti. It's like changing a red state to blue
> (uh-oh, I may have just started another flame war :-)

just keep a can of purple spray paint handy.

Maik Musall
2005-01-08, 15:59
On Sat, Jan 08, 2005 at 04:37:50PM -0600, Mike Scott wrote:
> I, for one, based my initial purchase decision of a Squeezebox on the
> fact that I could run the server on whatever OS I have (and YES it IS
> Linux, but it could just as easily been an Amiga [OK not EASILY]). I
> don't want to have to run a Windows server just to use one product.
> And, to be honest, if it wasn't open source I couldn't have done that.

I'd like to add that I *did* first buy another product, the cd3o, since
it's a 100 Euros cheaper. There were messages in the forum that said
that there was a linux server version, so I bought it - and failed. The
linux version didn't work in my installation and was poorly documented,
and the author did not release the source because he was ashamed of the
code quality. The box lacked other significant features, e.g. the
ability to configure a default router in the network configuration, and
there was no chance to fix anything of that.

So I dropped it and bought a squeezebox. And what I see is the typical
open and flexible thing that you get with open source software. It just
implements the stuff people want to have, not what some short-sighted
marketing staff thinks people would need to accept the product.

Regards
--
Maik Musall <maik (AT) musall (DOT) de>

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----
Version: GnuPG v1.2.6 (GNU/Linux)

iD8DBQFB4GW+i3OLyYVoYesRAuMCAJ48PooOLeB3otHCj4nkxb PAMUy2fwCghAqx
MC9LeNGeSG9s6YP1eQxcvIU=
=qlze
-----END PGP SIGNATURE-----

Nicholas Gianniotis
2005-01-09, 19:03
kdf writes:

> I was enjoying this trhead, but then you had to make an utterly stupid
> statement. I was on side with your original post, but now...well, its just sad.
> if you want closed source, go buy the airport devices and see how that works
> for you.

While I am a "hacker", been a sw professional for almost 20 years, and
truly appreciate the route Slime Devices has taken, I understand where
Graham is coming from.

A basic problem here is with expectations and the composition of the
market Slim Devices are selling into. Hi-Fi components have
traditionally been sold as self-contained stand-alone units that rely
on a minimum of interfacing to other components to work. In fact, I
believe the notion of computer "appliances" was probably based on
these kinds of components. They turn on or off instantly. They play
music or tune an FM station at the touch of a button. If they have a
CPU and an OS inside them, the user is oblivious to the details. And
let's face it, they work faultlessly 99.99999999% of the time! Most
users will never encounter a "bug" with their component CD player,
tuner, preamp, amp, etc. But most important to realize - users of
traditional Hi-Fi gear have not been required to be computer literate
in order to buy, install or operate these components.

So what are the problems with component Hi-Fi? In essence, I think it
is a strictly limited functionality and flexibility. You get what you
pay for, the end. You don't even get "upgrades". But in return for
simplicity and rigidity in function and user interface, we get
reliability.

Now we enter the world of modern computer-system-based appliances.
They offer unrivaled power in flexibility, configuration and
functionality. Even the user interfaces are changeable! But all this
power comes at a real cost. Complexity leads to unreliability. But the
truth is, only computer-savvy people understand this. I'd hazard a
guess that most non-technical people would not appreciate the
inherently different experience they are going to get with a
traditional single-purpose component (eg a CD player) vs a "CD playing
software package" that is intended to be installed on their PC (enter
the realm of compatibility for OS, CPU, sound card hardware, device
drivers, etc. etc!) I think some audio-domain people are buying
Squeezeboxes and expecting them to work like their other Hi-Fi
components.

The two strands of Slim Devices business model - open vs. closed
source, and cross-platform vs. single black box, have huge
implications for the prospective market of their products. IMHO, the
choice of open source + cross-platform - while *perfectly ideal* for
me - are going to ultimately *limit* the penetration into the
non-computer-savvy audio market.

The problem ultimately comes to the tough fact that the minute you
start to base your product on a collection of external components to
work (especially when one of these components is an
already-way-over-complicated PC system), you are at the extreme mercy
of *all* the components to be configured and work properly before
*your* product can work properly, something that as a company, you
have very little control over at all - apart from offering exceptional
technical support. The problems might be due to user error in setup or
operation, or even that these external components are not fit for use,
but the end result is the same: the consumer who purchased a
Squeezebox ends up with a bad experience, return the Squeezebox, will
not buy more Squeezeboxes, will not recommend Squeezeboxes to friends,
etc.

Compare this to, say, an "open-source + single black box" approach.
The advantage of the black box is that the company has already
integrated and embedded as much of the relevant technology as possible
in the box - thus significantly reducing the myriads of problems users
might encounter when trying to provide that technology through
external components. For example, look at the recent slimserver SQL
back-end code. A new dependency is introduced: SQL::Lite. It's just
another opportunity for end-users to shoot themselves in the foot.
Most perl-savvy computer people will install SQL::Lite in the blink of
an eye, but stop for a minute and think of the user who - until their
Squeezebox arrived - had never used their PC for anything except
surfing the web and thought "perl" was a spelling error!

Again, this all comes back to the issue of what the market is for Slim
Devices players. As it stands today, I regard the Slim Devices
products in the "computer / audio hobbyist" category. As such I am
wildly overjoyed that Slim Devices exists and I've bought 2 units.
While not 100% happy with the way they work "out of the box", I am
happy to tweak code because at heart, I am a computer / audio
hobbyist, and this is what I like to spend my time fooling with. And
as a hobbyist I especially appreciate the open source code.

However, I can't regard the Squeezebox system in the same class as a
true audio component - at this stage in it's life the maturity is just
not there! Compared to my "traditional" Hi-Fi component system, there
are too many glitches.

I think we can all see that similar issues have arisen in other market
segments. For example, the emergent dominance of game-playing consoles
like Xbox and PlayStation etc. vs playing computer games on a user's
PC. There is a good reason why the "user PC" market dried up and all
the focus is on self-contained game consoles today. I think a very
similar lesson applies to Slim Devices.

In the 80's I worked for a digital sampler / post-production audio
workstation company that made self-contained products that sold for
$250k+. They ultimately went out of business because they couldn't
compete with studios buying a $50k Mac or a PC and doing most of what
they could do with a Fairlight on these. But don't think there wasn't
a downside... Users of these computer-based systems were forever
complaining of integration problems, impossible to track glitches,
incompatibilities between co-resident software, system crashes, etc.
that they never had with the self-contained Fairlight system. The fact
was that by buying a Fairlight you could focus on being productive in
the application domain - ie post production or composition or
whatever. With a PC/Mac-based system you spent a lot of time
rebooting, installing drivers, backing out drivers, all the usual
rigmarole that was not productive at all. That's why Fairlight
survived as long as it did and people paid a huge premium to use them.
Finally, however, the PC/Mac hardware and software matured to the
point where it was just "usable enough" to get work done, and people
could no longer justify the huge cost of Fairlight.

I hope the length of this post has been worth it and in closing I have
my thoughts to share on where Slim Devices could go next. I think that
*in addition* to the current product offerings, Slim should design and
build a stand-alone server box (like a Shuttle) which will have all
the components pre-installed. Everything from the OS to the wifi NICs
to the disk arrays etc. will have been integrated and tested by Slim
Devices to ensure faultless operation. It would be similar to a TiVo
box or other such embedded computer appliances. A server and a
Squeezebox could be bundled and sold into the non-computer-savvy audio
market and I believe it would be extremely well received. In the
meantime all the computer / audio hobbyists can continue to play with
the separate components as we do today.

Nico

seanadams
2005-01-09, 22:15
Nicholas,

You're hitting on some really fundamental points here.

OSS strategy aside, consider this: a few companies have built "fixed
function" machines which can rip, store, and play music. They cost over
$1K, and they are very simple machines which will leave you
disappointed because they don't work the way you'd like. These machines
are easy to make because you don't have to deal with networking, wifi,
OS compatibility, multiple file formats, internet radio, et cetera.

Our approach has always been to leverage the PC's storage and CPU power
(hence "Slim Devices"). This is how we get so much functionality out of
a $199 piece of hardware.

Yes, standalone systems are much easier, but they're not cost-effective
for this. Indeed, we're taking a challenging approach here, but it
seems to be working out fine so far because we're delivering a lot of
functionality per $.

Sean



On Jan 9, 2005, at 6:03 PM, Nicholas Gianniotis wrote:

> kdf writes:
>
>> I was enjoying this trhead, but then you had to make an utterly stupid
>> statement. I was on side with your original post, but now...well, its
>> just sad.
>> if you want closed source, go buy the airport devices and see how
>> that works
>> for you.
>
> While I am a "hacker", been a sw professional for almost 20 years, and
> truly appreciate the route Slime Devices has taken, I understand where
> Graham is coming from.
>
> A basic problem here is with expectations and the composition of the
> market Slim Devices are selling into. Hi-Fi components have
> traditionally been sold as self-contained stand-alone units that rely
> on a minimum of interfacing to other components to work. In fact, I
> believe the notion of computer "appliances" was probably based on
> these kinds of components. They turn on or off instantly. They play
> music or tune an FM station at the touch of a button. If they have a
> CPU and an OS inside them, the user is oblivious to the details. And
> let's face it, they work faultlessly 99.99999999% of the time! Most
> users will never encounter a "bug" with their component CD player,
> tuner, preamp, amp, etc. But most important to realize - users of
> traditional Hi-Fi gear have not been required to be computer literate
> in order to buy, install or operate these components.
>
> So what are the problems with component Hi-Fi? In essence, I think it
> is a strictly limited functionality and flexibility. You get what you
> pay for, the end. You don't even get "upgrades". But in return for
> simplicity and rigidity in function and user interface, we get
> reliability.
>
> Now we enter the world of modern computer-system-based appliances.
> They offer unrivaled power in flexibility, configuration and
> functionality. Even the user interfaces are changeable! But all this
> power comes at a real cost. Complexity leads to unreliability. But the
> truth is, only computer-savvy people understand this. I'd hazard a
> guess that most non-technical people would not appreciate the
> inherently different experience they are going to get with a
> traditional single-purpose component (eg a CD player) vs a "CD playing
> software package" that is intended to be installed on their PC (enter
> the realm of compatibility for OS, CPU, sound card hardware, device
> drivers, etc. etc!) I think some audio-domain people are buying
> Squeezeboxes and expecting them to work like their other Hi-Fi
> components.
>
> The two strands of Slim Devices business model - open vs. closed
> source, and cross-platform vs. single black box, have huge
> implications for the prospective market of their products. IMHO, the
> choice of open source + cross-platform - while *perfectly ideal* for
> me - are going to ultimately *limit* the penetration into the
> non-computer-savvy audio market.
>
> The problem ultimately comes to the tough fact that the minute you
> start to base your product on a collection of external components to
> work (especially when one of these components is an
> already-way-over-complicated PC system), you are at the extreme mercy
> of *all* the components to be configured and work properly before
> *your* product can work properly, something that as a company, you
> have very little control over at all - apart from offering exceptional
> technical support. The problems might be due to user error in setup or
> operation, or even that these external components are not fit for use,
> but the end result is the same: the consumer who purchased a
> Squeezebox ends up with a bad experience, return the Squeezebox, will
> not buy more Squeezeboxes, will not recommend Squeezeboxes to friends,
> etc.
>
> Compare this to, say, an "open-source + single black box" approach.
> The advantage of the black box is that the company has already
> integrated and embedded as much of the relevant technology as possible
> in the box - thus significantly reducing the myriads of problems users
> might encounter when trying to provide that technology through
> external components. For example, look at the recent slimserver SQL
> back-end code. A new dependency is introduced: SQL::Lite. It's just
> another opportunity for end-users to shoot themselves in the foot.
> Most perl-savvy computer people will install SQL::Lite in the blink of
> an eye, but stop for a minute and think of the user who - until their
> Squeezebox arrived - had never used their PC for anything except
> surfing the web and thought "perl" was a spelling error!
>
> Again, this all comes back to the issue of what the market is for Slim
> Devices players. As it stands today, I regard the Slim Devices
> products in the "computer / audio hobbyist" category. As such I am
> wildly overjoyed that Slim Devices exists and I've bought 2 units.
> While not 100% happy with the way they work "out of the box", I am
> happy to tweak code because at heart, I am a computer / audio
> hobbyist, and this is what I like to spend my time fooling with. And
> as a hobbyist I especially appreciate the open source code.
>
> However, I can't regard the Squeezebox system in the same class as a
> true audio component - at this stage in it's life the maturity is just
> not there! Compared to my "traditional" Hi-Fi component system, there
> are too many glitches.
>
> I think we can all see that similar issues have arisen in other market
> segments. For example, the emergent dominance of game-playing consoles
> like Xbox and PlayStation etc. vs playing computer games on a user's
> PC. There is a good reason why the "user PC" market dried up and all
> the focus is on self-contained game consoles today. I think a very
> similar lesson applies to Slim Devices.
>
> In the 80's I worked for a digital sampler / post-production audio
> workstation company that made self-contained products that sold for
> $250k+. They ultimately went out of business because they couldn't
> compete with studios buying a $50k Mac or a PC and doing most of what
> they could do with a Fairlight on these. But don't think there wasn't
> a downside... Users of these computer-based systems were forever
> complaining of integration problems, impossible to track glitches,
> incompatibilities between co-resident software, system crashes, etc.
> that they never had with the self-contained Fairlight system. The fact
> was that by buying a Fairlight you could focus on being productive in
> the application domain - ie post production or composition or
> whatever. With a PC/Mac-based system you spent a lot of time
> rebooting, installing drivers, backing out drivers, all the usual
> rigmarole that was not productive at all. That's why Fairlight
> survived as long as it did and people paid a huge premium to use them.
> Finally, however, the PC/Mac hardware and software matured to the
> point where it was just "usable enough" to get work done, and people
> could no longer justify the huge cost of Fairlight.
>
> I hope the length of this post has been worth it and in closing I have
> my thoughts to share on where Slim Devices could go next. I think that
> *in addition* to the current product offerings, Slim should design and
> build a stand-alone server box (like a Shuttle) which will have all
> the components pre-installed. Everything from the OS to the wifi NICs
> to the disk arrays etc. will have been integrated and tested by Slim
> Devices to ensure faultless operation. It would be similar to a TiVo
> box or other such embedded computer appliances. A server and a
> Squeezebox could be bundled and sold into the non-computer-savvy audio
> market and I believe it would be extremely well received. In the
> meantime all the computer / audio hobbyists can continue to play with
> the separate components as we do today.
>
> Nico
>

Jack Coates
2005-01-09, 22:17
Sean Adams wrote:
>
> Nicholas,
>
> You're hitting on some really fundamental points here.
>
> OSS strategy aside, consider this: a few companies have built "fixed
> function" machines which can rip, store, and play music. They cost over
> $1K, and they are very simple machines which will leave you disappointed
> because they don't work the way you'd like. These machines are easy to
> make because you don't have to deal with networking, wifi, OS
> compatibility, multiple file formats, internet radio, et cetera.
>
> Our approach has always been to leverage the PC's storage and CPU power
> (hence "Slim Devices"). This is how we get so much functionality out of
> a $199 piece of hardware.
>
> Yes, standalone systems are much easier, but they're not cost-effective
> for this. Indeed, we're taking a challenging approach here, but it seems
> to be working out fine so far because we're delivering a lot of
> functionality per $.
>
> Sean

I think what impresses me most is that Sean's still reading this thread :)

--
Jack at Monkeynoodle dot Org: It's a Scientific Venture...
Riding the Emergency Third Rail Power Trip since 1996!

Steve Baumgarten
2005-01-10, 07:40
Sean Adams wrote:

> Yes, standalone systems are much easier, but they're not cost-effective
> for this. Indeed, we're taking a challenging approach here, but it
> seems to be working out fine so far because we're delivering a lot of
> functionality per $.

I see Slim's competition as Apple's Airport Express more than a
standalone box of some kind. Apple has shown that people are happy to
have their Macs/PCs be their "one stop shopping" point for music (and
literally so if they're buying tracks from the iTunes store). And
they'll sell you a simple gizmo to let you stream that music to a single
stereo system in your house. But that's all you can do.

What you get: you use the familiar iTunes interface to control it. No
fuss setup.

What you lose: no remote display; no remote control (must use iTunes on
the Mac/PC where all your music is stored); no control via web browser
on a laptop not running iTunes; no multi-player sync.

It's a tradeoff. Simplicity means fewer "moving parts"; Apple doesn't
have the "why does the display change to the next track 2 seconds before
the music starts to play" type of problems that Slim may have, simply
because the functionality isn't there in the first place. Why don't all
my Airport Expresses sync up correctly? No problem there, since they
can't sync in the first place. FLAC files not playing right on your
Airport Express? Ogg files? APE files? No problems there, since they
can't in the first place.

Buy a Squeezebox, plug your stereo into it. Stream compressed music
only. Don't look at the display or use the remote -- only control it via
the browser running on the same PC as the Slimserver. That's more or
less what you get with Airport Express. If you do just that, you'll have
a simple music experience, and things will likely work just fine for
you. (Subject to wireless glitches -- all of which can potentially
plague the Airport Express as well.)

I like that the Squeezebox lets me do more, and as long as it works "out
of the box" for most people in a relatively simple and standard mode
(similar to Airport Express), I think Slim Devices will be fine.

SBB




Visit our website at http://www.ubs.com

This message contains confidential information and is intended only
for the individual named. If you are not the named addressee you
should not disseminate, distribute or copy this e-mail. Please
notify the sender immediately by e-mail if you have received this
e-mail by mistake and delete this e-mail from your system.

E-mail transmission cannot be guaranteed to be secure or error-free
as information could be intercepted, corrupted, lost, destroyed,
arrive late or incomplete, or contain viruses. The sender therefore
does not accept liability for any errors or omissions in the contents
of this message which arise as a result of e-mail transmission. If
verification is required please request a hard-copy version. This
message is provided for informational purposes and should not be
construed as a solicitation or offer to buy or sell any securities or
related financial instruments.

Daniel Cohen
2005-01-12, 08:38
I just thought I would mention that th PC Advisor Brand Awareness
Survey listed Slim Devices among the brands of mp3 players. Not
precisely accurate, but nice anyway, I think.

Also, the latest MacUser had a review of the Roku. It mentioned,
among other and more positive comments, a difficulty using the iTunes
folder which was solved by discussion with Roku people and the fact
that one brand of wireless access point wouldn't work with the Roku.
I thought this was relevant in view of comments made about Slim's
multi-platform approach, as it shows that some of the problems are
inherent in products that use wifi connections.
--
Daniel Cohen

Tim Morley
2005-01-12, 10:20
I hope you flagged up every time slim devices was mentioned in the survey, I
did ;)
Would be nice if they showed up at the end of the survey!

----- Original Message -----
From: "Daniel Cohen" <danco (AT) f2s (DOT) com>
To: "Slim Devices Discussion" <discuss (AT) lists (DOT) slimdevices.com>
Sent: Wednesday, January 12, 2005 3:38 PM
Subject: [slim] A user's perspective


> I just thought I would mention that th PC Advisor Brand Awareness
> Survey listed Slim Devices among the brands of mp3 players. Not
> precisely accurate, but nice anyway, I think.
>
> Also, the latest MacUser had a review of the Roku. It mentioned,
> among other and more positive comments, a difficulty using the iTunes
> folder which was solved by discussion with Roku people and the fact
> that one brand of wireless access point wouldn't work with the Roku.
> I thought this was relevant in view of comments made about Slim's
> multi-platform approach, as it shows that some of the problems are
> inherent in products that use wifi connections.
> --
> Daniel Cohen
>

Daniel Cohen
2005-01-12, 11:05
On 12/1/05 at 5:20 pm +0000, Tim Morley wrote
>I hope you flagged up every time slim devices was mentioned in the survey, I
>did ;)


Of course!

>Would be nice if they showed up at the end of the survey!

Yup.
--
Daniel Cohen