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View Full Version : Interface and Operation: A Dog's Breakfast (Rant)



jimyyz
2007-09-01, 07:13
I've only had my SB3 for a couple of weeks and I love everything about it but the interface. i am actually quite tech savvy but, man, i haven't seen anything so complicated and convoluted since... well...

Even the most basic tasks like saving a radio station as a favorite is a complex ordeal. And then there is SlimServer, SqueezeNetwork and the remote which should all work seamlessly together but instead compete and cancel each other out.

It's very, very, very frustrating.

You think something would have been learned from the the wild popularity and success of ipods and itunes. In fact, iTunes should be the model for which the interface should be built. Its simple and it works beautifully.

Eric Seaberg
2007-09-01, 08:03
Have you 'personalized' any menus on the SB3? That's the first thing I did after spending time figuring out what I liked and didn't like! That saves a LOT of time moving around with the remote looking at the screen. The stuff I need to get to A LOT is real close to "NOW PLAYING", either up or down. After that, it's a logical order to what I really need to get to.

amcluesent
2007-09-01, 10:26
>You think something would have been learned <

Well, the V7 beta interface is different...

Ben Sandee
2007-09-01, 11:58
On 9/1/07, jimyyz <jimyyz.2w8jaz1188656101 (AT) no-mx (DOT) forums.slimdevices.com>
wrote:
>
>
> You think something would have been learned from the the wild
> popularity and success of ipods and itunes. In fact, iTunes should be
> the model for which the interface should be built. Its simple and it
> works beautifully.


iTunes is only good if it happens to do exactly what you want it to do.
There is no flexibility and no interoperability. BTW, SlimServer predates
iTunes by years.

Ben

JJZolx
2007-09-01, 12:25
>You think something would have been learned <

Well, the V7 beta interface is different...
That's just a new skin. It's the same interface.

Siduhe
2007-09-01, 12:27
Jimyyz, hi and welcome. First up - lots of people who come to Slimserver and the SB feel exactly the same way - if you have a look at the forums, there are quite a few threads on similar lines. You were more polite than some have been. Slim Devices (IMHO one of the most customer focused companies there is in terms of listening to what we want) are hopefully addressing this in v7 Slimserver and later versions.

However, it helps to understand a bit why Slimserver is the way it is. First off, it's written in Perl - which means it can be run on almost any platform. It's open source so you can amend it if you want, and develop your own plugins. Random Mix ? A plugin written by a customer, which was then rolled into the main program. See also Itunes Update, AlienBBC etc. It's also highly configurable - can pretty much just the way you want. It would be fair to say it probably suits advanced users a bit better the way it is now.

I've tried Itunes and hate it. It makes me organise my music the way it wants, not the way I want. It adds tags I don't want. It doesn't support some of the features I want. It does do playlists brilliantly though. However, I recognise why other people would like it and expect everything to follow that model.

The big challenge for Slim is how to suit these two very different approaches in one piece of software. I've said my 0.02 which is to branch the software - closed source, Itunes like, limited features for people who want simplicity, keep the current open source version for people who want to fiddle.

Not defending Slimserver - just trying to explain why it suits me more than you. The only thing I would say, is it may well grow on you...

johnny66
2007-09-01, 16:51
As a new user I'm afraid I would have to second jimyyz's rant.

I'm a network admin by profession so I'm no stranger to complexity or scanty documentation. I appreciate and applaud SlimDevices' striving for extensibility, open source development and cross platform deployment.

That said -- as things stand, this is a music platform for geeks and only for geeks. No one else would ever have the patience to wade through the learning curve that this music platform entails.

I was hoping to be able to give a Squeezebox or two for Xmas to non-technical users like my folks, but after living with it myself for a few weeks now, I don't think that would fly at all:\

If I owned Slim or Logitech and wanted to up my sales dramatically, I would look to Tivo as a model for the interface's "first level," then hide all the other complexity underneath.

Here's one of my pet peeves as an example:
I should be able to save an internet "radio station" to one, single favorites file -- no matter how it was accessed. Like, by pressing the stupid but effective "Thumbs Up" button on a Tivo. If it's from a subscription service or not, it shouldn't matter. Now, when I save a (subscription only) Live365 stream as a favorite, SlimServer is unable to save my subscription token along with the URL of the stream -- so when I attempt to play the favorite, I only get a Live365 recording that says, "Subscription required to listen to this station." The only way I can save the stream as a favorite is if I save it as a favorite _within Live365_. Grrr!

erland
2007-09-01, 22:07
The big challenge for Slim is how to suit these two very different approaches in one piece of software. I've said my 0.02 which is to branch the software - closed source, Itunes like, limited features for people who want simplicity, keep the current open source version for people who want to fiddle.


IMO the problem isn't the open source model, the problem is that there needs to be a single person/group that decides how all users wants it to work.

As you have already said, the current SlimServer tries to make everyone happy, the result is that it makes some advanced users happy by allowing a lot of different configuration options. The side effect of this is of course that the simple users get confused of all the options.

I think there are two user categories in this regard:

1.
The users that want to be led in the right direction. They want the software to be in control and there should only be one way of doing a thing. The software should decide how you should structure your music library and which internet radio site you like to listen to. This is the iTunes way of doing things. It's a lot simpler to make a user friendly software in an environment like this where the software can decide how the user should use it.

2.
The users that know how they like to use the software and wants the software to adapt to their specific needs. The software should be able to handle any structure of their music libraries and combination of file formats and tags. It should be possible to integrate any new internet radio station in the software. The menu structure should be possible to configure so it fits the need of each specific user. This is the current SlimServer way or doing things.


I think you are correct in that combining both these user categories in the same software can be extremely hard, so branching a version to support category 1 might be a good idea. Or maybe even build something completely new to support this category. However, I don't think Logitech needs to go the closed source way to do this.
You are partly right though, because in open source development you often like to listen to the users and if a user wants a feature, you'll implement it. When implementing a solution for category 1 users, you'll need to have the strength to say NO to many feature requests from the end users.

Listener
2007-09-02, 00:07
IMO the problem isn't the open source model, the problem is that there needs to be a single person/group that decides how all users wants it to work.

As you have already said, the current SlimServer tries to make everyone happy, the result is that it makes some advanced users happy by allowing a lot of different configuration options. The side effect of this is of course that the simple users get confused of all the options.

I think there are two user categories in this regard:

1.
The users that want to be led in the right direction. ... It's a lot simpler to make a user friendly software in an environment like this where the software can decide how the user should use it.

2.
The users that know how they like to use the software and wants the software to adapt to their specific needs. The software should be able to handle any structure of their music libraries and combination of file formats and tags. ...



iTunes is one music player program that has a decent user interface. Its design decisions are not inevitable in a program with a good user interface design.

Bill

erland
2007-09-02, 01:30
iTunes is one music player program that has a decent user interface. Its design decisions are not inevitable in a program with a good user interface design.

Bill

I think we are talking about two different things:
1. A good user interface design and user friendly interface
2. A user interface with a lot of customization possibilities

I'm just saying that these two solutions might be hard to combine. It is not an impossible task to put a great user interface on top of SlimServer, but I feel that it would be a lot simpler to do if Logitech choosed to limit the customization possibilities compared to today.

iTunes has a huge advantage in making a user friendly user interface for a number of reasons:
- It only supports a limited number of platforms (Windows + MacOS)
- It is has a fat/rich client user interface, which is possible since it doesn't have to be able to run on for example a NAS box.
- It includes library management so music can be ripped and tagged and structured in the file system directly in iTunes. My personal feeling is that this is the major point why people feel that iTunes is easy to use and SlimServer hard to use.
- Apple has one of the best design departments on the market, the design is the first thing that stands out on any Apple product, this isn't just about hardware design but also user interface design.

Most of the above points is about limiting the number of options to the end user.

So I guess that what I'm saying is that I think Logitech also needs to look at limiting the number of options if they want to build a user interface that is intuitive to first time users. But my personal feeling is still that the biggest improvement would be if a library management application was included or bundled with SlimServer.

Now, I'm not saying that the SlimServer user interface is built on great user interface design, because this is definitely not the case. It could be improved a lot without limiting the number of options, but I think that if we want to reach the iTunes level of user friendliness, limiting options will make it a lot easier.

By the way, I just saw the first time startup wizard in SlimServer 7.0 beta a few days back, and the improvement compared to 6.5 is huge IMHO. But this is just the initial setup, there is still a lot left to do regarding the user interface after the initial configuration.

amcluesent
2007-09-02, 01:55
But Apple still have to make and publish on-line 'how-to' videos for itunes/ipod, so there must be noobs who don't find it easy.

Apple's 'we know best' attitude is why itunes automagically alters tags and moves files around. Not what I want!

But as I use customised CustomBrowse and MusicInfoScr plugins', I can't remember what the out-the-box UI for SB/TB looks like ;)

mherger
2007-09-02, 02:42
>> Well, the V7 beta interface is different...
> That's just a new skin. It's the same interface.

A new skin doesn't automatically meen the same interface.

Michael

Siduhe
2007-09-02, 03:25
I think you are correct in that combining both these user categories in the same software can be extremely hard, so branching a version to support category 1 might be a good idea. Or maybe even build something completely new to support this category. However, I don't think Logitech needs to go the closed source way to do this.
You are partly right though, because in open source development you often like to listen to the users and if a user wants a feature, you'll implement it. When implementing a solution for category 1 users, you'll need to have the strength to say NO to many feature requests from the end users.

Erland, you're right of course, closed source isn't a requirement - I think I was thinking in terms of something that is limited in terms of features and extensions - as you say, something where new features aren't added every week. In my mind, that's more compatible with a closed source environment, but I'm hardly an expert on the various options. ;-)

And lots of people do and have worked their way up the learning curve of the current software. I'm about as far from a "geek" as you can get - but I love the way it's helped me rediscover and manage my music and so for me, it's been more than worth it.

mherger
2007-09-02, 04:11
> Well, the V7 beta interface is different...

To give some more details about the changes: one target is to simplify the access to SlimServer by hiding the numerous, but rather seldom used items. The main menu should be much easierly accessible than before. If you're interested in how it's evolving see the following thread:

http://forums.slimdevices.com/showthread.php?t=37848

There are a few screenshots of the ongoing development version of SS7.

Michael

msherman
2007-09-02, 06:43
erland wrote:
>
> IMO the problem isn't the open source model, the problem is that there
> needs to be a single person/group that decides how all users wants it
> to work.
>
> As you have already said, the current SlimServer tries to make everyone
> happy, the result is that it makes some advanced users happy by allowing
> a lot of different configuration options. The side effect of this is of
> course that the simple users get confused of all the options.

That actually is a very common problem in open source projects; if
someone's writing code for free, it can be difficult to tell them "but
you have to do it this way, not that way," or even worse, "no, we don't
want that, because it doesn't fit with our project goals." It's a
difficult balance to strike.

As an advanced user who's currently happy, I just hope that the pendulum
doesn't swing too far in the other direction. :)

- Marc

erland
2007-09-02, 10:45
erland wrote:
>
> IMO the problem isn't the open source model, the problem is that there
> needs to be a single person/group that decides how all users wants it
> to work.
>
> As you have already said, the current SlimServer tries to make everyone
> happy, the result is that it makes some advanced users happy by allowing
> a lot of different configuration options. The side effect of this is of
> course that the simple users get confused of all the options.

That actually is a very common problem in open source projects; if
someone's writing code for free, it can be difficult to tell them "but
you have to do it this way, not that way," or even worse, "no, we don't
want that, because it doesn't fit with our project goals." It's a
difficult balance to strike.

Of course, an open source project doesn't necessary have to be developed by people that doesn't get paid for their work. SlimServer is an example of this as most of the SlimServer developement has been done by SlimDevices/Logitech employees.

But your point is still valid because this certainly is a problem in many open source projects, the result is that many open source applications often work better for advanced users compared to first time users.

Listener
2007-09-02, 13:32
I think we are talking about two different things:
1. A good user interface design and user friendly interface
2. A user interface with a lot of customization possibilities

I'm just saying that these two solutions might be hard to combine. It is not an impossible task to put a great user interface on top of SlimServer, but I feel that it would be a lot simpler to do if Logitech choosed to limit the customization possibilities compared to today.

...

But my personal feeling is still that the biggest improvement would be if a library management application was included or bundled with SlimServer.

Now, I'm not saying that the SlimServer user interface is built on great user interface design, because this is definitely not the case. It could be improved a lot without limiting the number of options, but I think that if we want to reach the iTunes level of user friendliness, limiting options will make it a lot easier.

By the way, I just saw the first time startup wizard in SlimServer 7.0 beta a few days back, and the improvement compared to 6.5 is huge IMHO. But this is just the initial setup, there is still a lot left to do regarding the user interface after the initial configuration.

No doubt about it, providing more functionality means more design work and more documentation. That isn't a reason to avoid those tasks.

However, I would not agree that SS provides a lot of functionality. It doesn't rip CDs, it doesn't edit tags and it doesn't provide a good interface for browsing your library. It doesn't allow you to specify what tags you want to use and it doesn't allow you to customize the UI to use those tags. (Your plugins provide additional valuable functionality but they should be integrated with SS and provided with a good UI for setting up menus.)

---
There may be things that you don't like about iTunes. However, there are things to be learned from it. Many programmers have looked at iTunes and incorporated good ideas into their player s/w.

---
I loaded V7 and tried it out a couple of days ago. I don't see any real change in the user interface. It still has the 1983-style menu and a highly modal interface. It doesn't show any of your files until you make a menu choice.

I specified as the music library folder a directory with about 2900 files. When I clicked on "Artist", I got a blank screen - no progress indicator saying that SS is still scanning. Just a blank artist list. I had no idea whether SS was dead or what. I waited a long time and nothing ever appeared. Then I went back to the beginning menu and clicked on "Albums". Then I got an actual list of albums. A good design would have provided some feedback that SS was still scanning and when the scanning was done, would have updated the screen.

Bill

kdf
2007-09-02, 13:44
On 2-Sep-07, at 1:32 PM, Listener wrote:

> A good
> design would have provided some feedback that SS was still scanning
> and
> when the scanning was done, would have updated the scree

A progress bar for scanning status does exist, but it is not part of
the new default skin just yet.
You'll see it in Classic, Fishbone and in any server settings page
(under the scan setting there is a link
to the last scan status, or current scan status where applicable)

-kdf

mherger
2007-09-02, 13:52
> A progress bar for scanning status does exist, but it is not part of
> the new default skin just yet.

Oh, thanks for the pointer! I'll add it to my todo list right now.

Michael

Wirrunna
2007-09-03, 23:09
I agree with erland and Siduhe. A separate branch supporting iTunes tags and "look & feel" of doing things would improve marketability of the SlimServer/Squeezebox system by leveraging off the huge installed base of iTunes libraries.
Down here in Australia, Squeezeboxes were only available from two Apple resellers until recently, emphasizing the iTunes link.
The only "extra" I would want is the MusicIP plugin.