Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Android + Squeezebox, revisited

(this is a followup to earlier posts)

Now that there are quite a few decent Squeezebox remotes on Android Market (pick one yourself), it is clear that this option is not quite what it cracked up to be.

Primary reason: latency.

A remote must be immediately available. None of those applications are, and the failure is not theirs. Here goes the breakdown.

WiFi connection establishment

I bet that most people keep the WiFi connection off to extend battery life (the fact that UMA is non-existing on Android devices is not helping). This takes awfully long time, sometimes up to a minute and beyond. Sometimes this step fails completely - even if I am within a line of sight to the WiFi access point. I know that this is the fault of either Android or G1 implementation, but it's not helping.

Time to start the application

Unlock the screen, tap the shortcut, wait for the application to start, wait for the application to connect to the server. Good thirty seconds.


By this time, the need to pause the track (if that was the case) is long gone. Most useful application today is to look up the track name, provided you can get it from the playlist if you're too lazy getting up and walking, 'cause by the time you get to it, it's most probably over.

Oh noes! I'ts gone black!

And yes, the screen lock timeout kicks in annoyingly fast. Either that, or the battery goes dead pretty soon. The only viable option (if you really want to use the application, for example, to control the Softsqueeze running on HTPC) is to plug it in, but then, what's the point...

Buttons, where's my buttons?

There is one more serious pet peeve: application developers' minds are stuck in terms of classical UI design. Big pictures, small buttons impossible to touch, unusable scroll.

People, give me a break, I don't even need to look at the remote in order to control it. My fingers know where the buttons are, and if they don't, they can feel the layout to find them. Sure it is not available for touchscreen, but did you forget about gestures? What can be simpler than slide left or right to flip the item displayed, up or down to skip back or forth, tap the screen to pause and hold it and slide it to navigate within the current track? Be creative, for Pete's sake.
And for those shouting "Oh yeah? You smart? Go ahead and make your own better than mine!" - sorry dude, I have my own sandbox to play in, can't spare time. You're welcome to jump in, though.
Having said all that, I would like to extend my gratitude to the authors of freely available Android Squeezebox control applications. Yes, Android users are not the most grateful bunch, and they're hopeless as the revenue source (compare download stats on free and paid applications), but still, they came forward - and it seems that the quality of their products is still better than the quality of paid. Cheers.

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