Not enough people watching HD content? Here’s one easy fix

So half of U.S. homes have an HDTV but the vast majority of what’s being watched on those screens is SD content. There could be a lot of reasons behind this but one I’ve seen many times could be easily solved by the cable companies.

HD programming packages from your local cable monopoly include both SD and HD versions of many channels. The problem is that the HD versions are located on different channel numbers. This is crazy. Most TV viewers have a set of channels that they bounce between. It becomes habit: muscle memory. Telling one of these people to use channel 107 instead of channel 7 is ridiculous. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to remind relatives to switch to the HD version to get a better picture, or to get the picture they’re paying for.

Cable companies need to re-map the HD channels to the original channel #s. There’s probably a complex, possibly even regulatory, reason they haven’t done this, but it needs to be done.

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iOS4: Notifications fixed!?

I haven’t seen this reported anywhere else… unlocked my iPhone 3Gs running iOS4 a few moments ago and was presented with a series of notification panels. As I cleared each one, a new one popped up. This is certainly a better solution than the previous model of listing the most recent 3 notifications on a single panel and ignoring the rest. At least I can now respond to each. It’s not as nice as the sliding panel in Android, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

Gmail and iOS 4: not yet perfect

Let’s get this out in the open: Apple’s Mail app for iOS has never been a great Gmail client. So much so, in fact, that I never use it on my iPad as I prefer Google’s web version of Gmail for the iPad. On the iPhone, though, the Gmail web interface is just as inadequate as Mail.

I was pleasantly surprised, then, to learn that Mail in iOS 4 would include both threading (a longtime staple of Gmail) and a ‘Swipe to Archive’ feature just for Gmail users to replace Mail’s standard ‘swipe to delete.’ These, plus the ability to use multiple Exchange ActiveSync accounts and the addition of notes syncing, had me all geared up for today’s iOS 4 launch.

The new Mail is better, for sure – but the Gmail features are flawed. Google provides real-time sync to Gmail, Google Calendar, and your address book via their own Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) system. It works great with iOS devices but suffers under some of the limits of previous versions of iOS (lack of threading and Archive, no notes sync). Google also provides IMAP and POP access to Gmail accounts. iPhone owners who use the Gmail button to configure their mail on the phone get an IMAP account configuration, which lacks real-time updates.

Under iOS 4, if you use the EAS method for syncing to your Google account, you will gain threading and keep real-time updates, but you do not gain notes sync or Swipe to Archive. Users who simply use the Gmail account type get the same old IMAP mail but now see calendar and notes sync – and get Swipe to Archive – but lose the contact sync that EAS uses get.

This odd mix of features is unfortunate. Why doesn’t the Gmail account button use EAS for mail? Why does it lack contact sync? Why does the EAS option lack notes sync and Swipe to Archive?

A computer so easy, even a 2-year-old can use it

As if to prove my earlier point, Todd Lappin of Telstar Logistics posted about his daughter using his iPad.

The mouse is dead. The touch interface is here to stay.

I was sitting in a restaurant today and noticed a middle-aged man and an elderly woman sit down behind us with a brand-new Toshiba laptop. He was helping her unbox and start it up for the first time and it was clear that she was not an experienced computer user. On first boot, Windows 7 immediately began asking basic account questions, just as Mac OS X and Linux do, but she was stymied by the input method. It took several minutes for her to figure out how to make the Toshiba’s trackpad work so she could move the cursor to the correct data fields to complete the forms.

Once the machine completed its setup, it began popping up a series of dialog boxes, the text of which she had trouble reading on the Toshiba’s high-resolution screen. And when she could read it, she needed her friend’s help deciphering it.

The entire exercise fascinated me. Any other day, I would have been making snide Windows remarks to myself, but today – after having spent some time yesterday with an iPad – I was struck by just how unintuitive and bad most computer interfaces really are.

Continue reading “The mouse is dead. The touch interface is here to stay.”