Even when the gift does something that the recipient wants, the proliferation of functions often makes a perfectly fine product turn into a nightmare. I bought a digital picture frame for my wife. All I wanted was something of moderate resolution to replay her costume jewelry photos endlessly. I did some research read some review, bought a unit. Dropping photos on it was easy. The horror started while trying to program it for start and end times... it has what is possibly the worst gui that the world has ever seen. Terrible, terrible terrible. But there's more: it has an audio function, which likes to come on at 6 AM. I can find no way to disable the audio function but one of these two: cut the speaker wires, or remove all traces of music from the device memory. If I hadn't already programmmed it, and delivered it as a gift, it would surely have gone back.
True, but that's why these devices are so often viewed as "gadgets." They fill a specific function, but they fall short in many other ways.
So, there has to be a way of packaging less "gadgety" devices in a way that the average joe can master. Otherwise, the future will consist of nothing but mediocrity.
Yunko: "The example you gave us above a good one. Unless you are an EE, or really patient, and more importantly, you are really driven to install this fantastic home entertainment system at home, you probably donít want to waste your time sorting all these things out. Simply put, itís a nightmarish gift for most people.
"I am not quite sure how CE vendors can help sort out such a conundrum."
The problem with (supposedly) overcomplicated CE equipment interconnections is that these interfaces have been accumulating, bit by bit, over many decades. And worse, some of the systems involved, like satellite and cable, intentionally resist efforts to have their receiver functions built into the TV displays. The excuse they give is that allowing CE vendoirs to build in their functions would make future upgrades more difficult. There might be some truth to that. But I think the main reason they resist is, they prefer to have subscribers give them that monthly revenue to rent out what should be unnecessary outboard boxes.
But there is a way out. Something like USB. Check out the NAD Electronics product line, for example. They offer a phono preamp (i.e. that little amp with RIAA equalization, that is used between an old tech record player cartridge and, usually, any "line level" input to your audio system), but this one has a USB output. Not line level analog.
Now, imagine if ALL your audio and video boxes could be simply connected to USB ports, either individually or daisy chained. No need for the assortment of different cables for each function.
I tend to be more of a straight stick guy, so I usually opt for the technically simplest interfaces. However there's no reason why these interfaces can't be hugely simplified. The vendors have to agree that it's a good idea, and get on with it.
I recently purchase a USB video capture device so that I can turn all of my old family VHS tapes into digital files. As instructed, I installed the software, then plugged it in. Everything seemed to work except that I couldn't get the audio to work. It took a bit of googling, but I found that certain USB audio devices don't work in Windows 7. They're supposed to use the built-in USB audio driver, but it just doesn't see them.
I installed VMware and the XP disk that I had from before the upgrade. The sound worked, but even on my six core 12GB machine, VMware / XP couldn't keep up and dropped too many frames. I ended up building an XP box out of leftover parts and that works fine.
I set up a WiFi printer/scanner/fax not long before that and went through a similar set of exasperating adventures to get the thing running. I've been doing this stuff for decades and have trouble with way too much of it. I have no idea how non-tech savvy folks get much of this to work or work fully.
I'd guess that a lot of the no-problem-found units are like the video capture; working fine, but not compatible with my system or like the printer; poorly laid out controls and very non-intuative setup and operation.
The third case is quite often an obscure problem that the repair technicians can't identify or don't look for. I had a noise problem in and original equipment car stereo once. My guess was that it was a grounding issue with the speakers: noise at low volume that didn't change in volume as the radio got louder. Three trips to the dealer all resulted in no-problem-found diagnoses. A couple of months after the last visit, I received a recall notice from the manufacturer about a grounding problem with the speakers.
Recently a dish tv was added to a television set in my mothers house.Already this TV is connectted to a DVD through AV connction and a cable connection through its RF input.The inputs are full. So i bought a switch unit to switch the av connction between dvd and dish. The switch was not functioning properly. I returned the same and bought another make and the system started working.But the difficulty was in teaching my mother how to switch between remotes and the switch box.This needs lot of patience.And for few more days till she become practiseed with it, i was requied to give support. This is a simple job when compared with the gadgets now avilable. Sure with so many gadget gifts you will have lot of fun and pleasure.
The example you gave us above a good one. Unless you are an EE, or really patient, and more importantly, you are really driven to install this fantastic home entertainment system at home, you probably donít want to waste your time sorting all these things out. Simply put, itís a nightmarish gift for most people.
I am not quite sure how CE vendors can help sort out such a conundrum.
Set up that requires simple, intuitive, easy steps. What do we think we need here?