Sunday, February 01, 2009

t1000 and the motorola dvr

These items are completely unrelated.

I just watched the ending of T2: Judgment Day, and the more I’ve had to think about this the more incompetent the T1000 is.  It could have done so much more.

I think the problem stems from the fact that the the T1000 was an evolution of the terminator series of cyborgs that were designed to infiltrate the resistance by posing as humans.  The T1000 was great at that, but I think it could have been much more effective if the creators re-thought the Terminator’s MO.  The old terminators had to masquerade as people because that was the only way they could insert a killing machine into a mass of unsuspecting humans.  Something smaller and less intrusive wouldn’t have the firepower, and anything that was big enough wouldn’t be able to get into the bases without such a trick.  The T1000, on the other hand, had a host of other options if the machines had the same creative thinking abilities as humans.

The T1000’s liquid metal alloy may have been designed for better cloaking by giving the T1000 the ability to take the form of any person.  Great.  They also found that the T1000 could hide by becoming a floor of some other object, as seen in the metal facility where the lucky guard met the T1000 at the coffee machine (so lucky he got a full house).  Why couldn’t the T1000 do this as its primary attack?  My only explanation is that then it wouldn’t be a terminator in the classic sense.  The T1000 almost seemed obligated to return to its human form.  Because of this identity crisis, the T1000 constantly went around as a human, complete with all of the strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths are the ability to gather information from people.  This was key in finding John Connor.  Weaknesses are all the limitations when trying to kill John Conner, Sarah Connor, and the Terminator.  For some reason the T1000 stuck to it’s human form.  When trying to find its targets in the factory, it walked around as a cop.  Why not just melt into the floor and seek them out, then jump out of nowhere and stab all of them at once.  Easy!  But no.  The T1000 seems to think that the only way to get credit for the kill is to do it as a human and using as little of its advantage as possible.  I blame the machines for programming it this way.

Another thing is that the didn’t program some unique escape or pursuit tactics for the T1000.  It runs after cars.  It can’t escape from tight situations like being in a molten pit or a pool of liquid nitrogen.  All the T1000 needs to do is have the equivalent of “Go go gadget arms,” reach out, grab something, and then haul itself immediately away from danger.  Jokes.

OK.  On to the crappy Comcast DVR from Motorola.  For those at Comcast reading this, recall that there was this open source DVR product called Myth TV that was available years ago (and still is).  Thanks to Greg, I was using MythTV back before I went back to school.  It was great.  It did the same recording of programs as the Motorola DVD does, but it did it so much better.

First of all, Myth TV is responsive.  The Motorola/Comcast DVR is not.  Yes, the Comcast box with its latest software is better than what it was before, but it’s still a joke.  Remember back when we had slow computers and the designers took that into account?  It seems like people these days assume that the devices we use have ample power to respond instantaneously so they don’t worry about this.  The end result is that we press buttons and it takes the device seconds to respond.  This might be acceptable for web pages (although less so), but it is completely unacceptable for hardware and client software.  Sure, it’s OK to make us wait.  We did this happily for years as we dealt with modems, floppy drives, and slow CPUs.  That’s why we have progress bars a dialog boxes – to tell the user that the system has recognized your input and will get back to you.  The Motorola DVR and the iPhone fail to do this, and it pisses me off to no end.  As the Motorola guy or the iPhone guy, you may be thinking “gee, if we put in these things, it would make the experience hell.  Who would want a DVR/phone that gives them confirmation when they press a button?”  I ask you, who would want a phone or DVR where they can’t tell if they presses a button or not.  The iPhone was great at this at the beginning with the nice transitions between screens.  I loved that since that’s a great way of letting me know that the input is accepted and making me wait without making me wait.  Nowadays I need to wait a few seconds to get that animation.  To that I ask, “WTF?”

My second gripe is that the Motorola DVR doesn’t have great playback features.  I really miss the automatic skipping of commercials offered by Myth TV.  With that I can just sit back and watch a 1 hour show in 40 minutes (literally!).  With the other great MythTV feature of watching playback at an accelerated speed, I could watch that 40 minutes of TV in 35 minutes.  60 minutes of regular TV condensed into 35 minutes.  I may actually start watching more TV!

Lastly, the Motorola DVR just sucks at managing the recordings.  After getting the complete recordings of Seinfeld, I no longer needed to have all those episodes on the DVR.  Is there an easy (or at least easy to discover) way to delete an entire series of recording?  No.  (And as I like to say at work, if a feature isn’t discoverable, it doesn’t exist)  Instead, I need to manually delete them all.  This means:

  1. Press down to an episode for Seinfeld
  2. Press OK
  3. Right press to the delete button.
  4. Press OK
  5. Press OK to confirm
  6. Wait for a second wondering if it recognized my second OK
  7. If the confirmation box is still there, press OK again and go back to the previous step
  8. Go back to step one and repeat 50 times or so

Reading that list of steps probably takes as long as it does to delete one recording.  Imagine doing that 50 times.  If you don’t have an active imagination, just read the list 50 times.

My final gripe is more about my TV or HDMI, so Comcast, don’t take this personally.  To switch HDMI inputs on my TV it takes 5-10 seconds.  This gets annoying if I want to watch a DVD and then switch back to the news or something.

My plan is to just use this new PC.  I can watch movies from it.  I can stream all the shows I watch online (except for King 5 News).  I can listen to music on it.  I can type this blog entry on it. (-:  And I can do all of this without having to deal with poor responsiveness or switching inputs on my TV – plus I don’t have to pay for cable, although it seems that Comcast is perfectly willing to give me cable TV for free.  How about just give me cable for a lower price so I don’t start actively thinking about Clearwire or FiOS?


mbagladiator said...

A great post, and i love the t-1000 analysis.

Paul Ip said...

I also wonder: what if they had Doc Brown from Back to the Future trying to protect John Connor.

Unknown said...

What if Bill and Ted were sent back to party with John Connor?

Paul Ip said...

That would be one excellent adventure!

Greg said...

Maybe the T1000 should morph into a DVR and just annoy everyone to death.

Oh, and a cable-company provided DVR will never have commercial auto-skip... imagine the uproar from all the content providers when suddenly 75% of their audience never watches a single commercial. I think even Tivo is in bed with the content providers enough to not include this feature. ReplayTV had it, but I don't know if that company is even still around. MythTV is where it's at!