Modern Televisions Problems
multiple peripherals, connectivity, DirecTV

I   
hurt my back the other day installing a VCR behind my Sony Hi-def 50" LCD rear projector. There isn't much room there and with a hundred miles of wires leading everywhere (my spaghetti) I decided to sit on the subwoofer which is good and sturdy. Unfortunately, when I bent over to look at connections I forgot that I'm too old to bend without thinking of my back and ... zip! $4!&%&!
It's not tooooo bad but ... I hate this crap ... trying to install something that should take seconds and require nothing on my part, wants an hour of screwing around ... all because some nameless crapheads in the TV industry can't get their shit together.

Obviously, what's needed is to look at the computer model and make a universal standard ... plug & play. Let's see how it would work out ... if ... the TV industry was as rational as your truly.

Obviously,

A computer is needed inside the TV

I don't mean a dual core AMD Athlon or Intel Pentium4 ... just a very simple thing that does a few absolutely necessary things and has some small memory you can write your customizations and settings to. A system equal to the computing power of, say, ten years ago should do it.

First off, every "peripheral unit" (VCR, Sound System, DVD player or recorder, Game console, Satellite tuner, etc.) ... anything at all that hooks up to your TV ... must do what all peripheral units now do to hook to a Windows computer. You plug them in and right away Windows knows what's hooked up and installs the right drivers (well, most of the time). Your new device is ready to use as soon as you turn on the TV. You don't even have to turn on the DVD ... the TV knows what's connected by its POST program. A TV, when turned on, should run such a program too ... to see if you've made any changes.

Second, very important, every input connector must be the same ... for anything at all. Just stick it in anywhere in the back of the TV and ... badda boom badda bing ... you're watchin' television.

Third, every peripheral has only one wire ... do you hear me out there over the Pacific? ... one stinkin' wire. This means that the power and info signal are all in one thing in your hand and that plugs into the back of the TV. So, your TV is the power strip ... one wire goes from your wall outlet to the TV where power is distributed from there ... as needed. You see, when the TV posts up, it notices what you've got and has that info from the manufacturer so it knows what kind of power is needed. There isn't any problem here about too much power from one outlet because you rarely need over a thousand watts from one outlet to run TV and peripherals. You might need 600 if your system is a real hog. Most people don't use but 12 watts of the 500 watt stereo anyway ... else you'd see news stories about apartment walls being blown out.

Fourth, no more power bricks. The internal computer should be able to route power of any type to any device within reasonable limits. If you need 100 watts and 1.5 volts there ... well, what's the problem? Can we not route power supply? Is this an engineering impossibility?

Last, every peripheral must be run off the TV remote. That's "Universal Remote" ... real universal ... expandable ... and you don't have to program it ... it's all done in the TV for you.

Some things are already done right

Most TV makers have now conceded that the customer will be hooking other things to their TVs and have graciously given us Input 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 and maybe some with even higher possibilities. This is great. I know how to change the input signal on my TV. It's easy. Just push the button till the correct one comes up and ... you see your DVD player output on the TV instead of the satellite dish output. It works. Let's expand on this.

If I want to watch DVD, TV and Sound system, I expect to push one button and have all turned on for me. They call this a "macro" ... unfortunately, they don't work at all well. Since the present universal remotes contact each peripheral individually ... and they are separated in space ... you turn on the TV but not the sound system or DVD. So, you hit the button again and the sound system comes on ... but the TV goes off. They just don't work unless your peripherals are real close together and you aim right ... and ... you battery in the remote is fresh.

Let's do some designing ...

Here's what I want in a plug.

Power-Info plug

The size is exaggerated. This is an A-BNQ-ZIF socket. Almost - But Not Quite - Zero Insertion Force socket. This means that you can put it in easy and the catch & click holds it and lets you know when it's in all the way "Click!" ... get it? The T shape is so that you can stick it in blindfolded ... by feel alone ... and have no ambiguous up or down or right or left possibilities.

If no power is required the plug needn't have the connectors there ... just blank holes to line up. There are only two info lines so if more are required for any given peripheral, the info would just have to be sent by differing frequencies. These are fat pipes like coax cables. There would be perhaps 10 input sockets in back of the TV ... pick one ... any one will do. You can stick 10 things of your TV. That should be enough.

Raised Marks

Also, above each insertion hole on the TV would be raised marks you could feel. One dot equals #1 input ... two dots = #2 input ... #3 = three dots ... four dots is #4 and ... #5 is a short line ... a line with a dot for #6 and so on to #10 which would be two lines. Easy and should be universal. Like brail. You can feel the number instead of trying to read black on black writing ... sheesh!

One last thing ... each connector should have some identifying mark on it (maybe from the manufacturer) showing that's it connected to a Sony VCR or Panasonic DVD or Directv Satellite Receiver, etc. That way when you disconnect everything to move you TV ... you can remember where each on went so you don't have to relearn where each input number goes. If you know that the VCR was INPUT #1 ... you stick that connector into one without having to follow the trail back to the VCR to see what that cord is connected to.

The Remote Control

We don't need thousands of buttons ... we need to see things on the TV screen to pick from ... just a few universal buttons for the remote.

On - Off for TV (or menu context)
Up Down Right Left and Select in the center
Volume up and down
Channel up and down
Record - Pause - Play
Previous Channel
The all important Menu button
And lastly ... at least four unassigned buttons that you can program to do whatever the hell suits you.

The big danger with remotes is putting too much stuff up. My model here is just a flexible idea. I'd like to do most context selecting on a touch screen ... less clutter ... and ... buttons tend to go bad (especially the "previous" button). But to have contexts on the remote, it would have to communicate with the TV computer to get the settings you have on the computer. Hmmmm ... connect with USB to upload into Remote's flash memory. That'll do it.

Remote Now, when the TV is off ... the TV knows it. That's the default for the "ON-OFF" button. If the TV is off, that button will turn it on ... and nothing else. After the TV is on ... if you press the "ON" button again, the request would be ambiguous ... so ... it puts up a menu instead (i.e. it assumes that you want to turn on something else). You get a list of options like "Watch DVD" or "Record a program to the DVR", etc. Scroll up or down and select one with the select button. When you've selected what it is that you want to do ... the TV computer will turn on everything that's needed and adjust all the settings, etc. ... because you've programmed it to do this when you set the freakin' thing up. So if you want to play a movie on your DVD, it will turn it on, and the sound system and turn the volume to where you set it for initial play ... get it? You're the boss of the hoss.

When you pick "Watch Satellite TV stations", it will turn that on and put up your selections there too. A screen you've designed so that you can do what you want the way you like to do it. Maybe it will have your favorite stations all laid out ... and a folder for your wife's favorites, etc. Whatever you want it to show.

Another important thing I forgot about ... you must be able to connect a keyboard to your TV for setup purposes. A USB connection on the front would be in order. That way you wouldn't have to hunt & peck for letters with that stupid Up Down Left Right button system ... what a hassle! Hell, let's put in two USB connectors and stick a temporary mouse on it so we can do Dragondrop ... Oh Hell ... make it three USB connectors so we can run a "special OS" on the TV to boot (pun). Three should be sufficient. So, put one more and make four to be sure. They're cheap.

Now we're cookin'. You should be able to program (simply) anything you can think of. And people will hack an easy program for you as well ... even with viruses so that you can only watch the Shopping Channel ... heh heh heh.

Note here:
I put the record button away so you don't have accidents. And ... when you push that button ... it will automatically record whatever you are presently watching ... to the TV internal DVR (its hard drive) ... no matter where it came from (except the DVR itself). That way you don't have to mess around choosing stuff while your recordable moment gets away.

It might be a good idea to give the remote a recharge stand with a USB connection to the TV computer so it can update itself. You could just turn on the remote by itself and scroll through what's on or going to be on for the next two weeks without even turning on the TV. Why wait for it to heat up when there's not a damn thing worth seeing anyway. A nice size touch screen on the remote would make this happen.

Implementation ...

The only way this is going to happen is if one major company puts out something like this with its own peripherals ... and ... leaves enough legacy connections so that the consumer won't be scared off. Gradually, other manufacturers would make "an adaptor" so that you could use those new connections. Then ... maybe an output plug. Certainly, no two companies will agree outright to cooperate on the new standards. The little TVOS would have to be open source ... Little Linux ... TVinux? And the patent owner of the plug style must "let it go" so that others can market products without having to pay any royalties. Perhaps some day, peripherals can be daisy chained too ... like USB peripherals.

I'm looking forward to it. In fact ... I've started holding my breath already.

DirecTV

I just got upgraded to their DVR (about 100 hours recording time). I like the recording possibilities of "Son of Tivo". But unfortunately, the present satellite format of DirecTV is horrendous. I wanted to set up some "favorite channels" like I had on my previous version ... from around five years ago. No way. You can't do that anymore. Everything's been made more difficult.

In order to segregate the channels I get with my package from the other channels I can get ... if ... I plunk down some cash ... I had to ... get this ...

Go Through 335 channels ...

one at a time ...

with a pad of paper and a pen ...

and write down each one when the channel came in ...

which takes about 2 seconds each because this is the digital era where every choice takes longer to implement ...
Then ... go to another area where you can check the box so that it shows in the lists or uncheck it so it doesn't ...
and I ended up with about 60 channels that come in.
Of these I dumped the religious crap and the shopping channels And this left me with about 40 channels I might reasonably want to watch some time. And these are divided into classes like News and Information and Movies, etc. that are not the least bit accurate and which I have no control over.
But I can at least find them ... now.

I sensed here the hand of the typical adolescent business executive (are there now any other type?) ... who sits in his office dreaming up ways he can fool the customers into buying something more ... so he can make more money ... without the trouble of making a better product. To the extent the the thing works well (in some things it's just great) ... I see the hand of the competent designer. But for the above crapola, I see that the designer was overruled in favor of the big shots sicko ideas.

The "idea" here is obvious. If you mix in all the pay per views with normal stuff that's in the paid for package, maybe the customer (or his wife or kids) will accidentally hit the order button and then the confirm button and ... bingo ... another big sale.

"We tricked him, heee heee heee!"

These are the same kind of execs who have given us those rock hard car seats designed to make your back hurt so that you will be "fooled" into upgrading to a higher class car (mo' money). They will tell you that they are ergonomic. And they will be telling the truth ... they are ergonomically designed to hurt you ... with conscious intent. Or they might just say that soft foam rubber is more expensive than hard foam rubber. If you buy that, I have bridges for sale on another page.

At any rate, I can't recommend DirecTV to anyone because of executive interference in the product's design. Maybe Dish is better ... I don't know. I wish I could have cable like I used to. Instant tuning ... to any room ... record whenever you want and watch something else at the same time (with the DVR I can do this finally - two tuners, don't ya know) ... no rain interference ... no airplane interference ... I hear it costs more though. But you've got a fat pipe to the internet too.

Well, I guess I can't have everything.

Dammit! I'm still gonna' hold my breath.



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