TV remote works from 1,000 miles

New use for Nokia N800: TV remote control. Really remote – like anywhere on the Internet. Browse TV listings, select shows to be recorded on DVR, check recording schedule, check previous recordings and delete ones I don’t want any more. Actually, all the Nokia provides for this function is the web browser. We decided to give AT&T U-verse a try, in part because our old cable service kept having bandwidth shortages and outages for video on demand, especiallly on weekends. Also I read that AT&T used Sun servers for video delivery, so I thought they’d be able to deliver the necessary bandwidth. So far that seems to be the case, and with greatly improved latency, so it’s hard to tell whether I’m viewing content from the remote servers or from the local DVR hard disk. You can record and/or watch four shows simultaneously.

AT&T salesmen seem to have a problem with over promising some features of U-verse, but I’ve found some cool features that they are definitely under selling. Being able to control your DVR from a web browser is nice, both because you can do it from anywhere, and because a keyboard and mouse (or pen in the case of the Nokia) provides a more usable interface than a TV remote.

U-verse also lets you browse information about a TV show or movie, with links to the actors and director. E.g. click on the director to see more of his movies which are coming up in the "broadcast" schedule or available in video on demand, then click on the one you want to schedule it for recording. I used to do this looking up the information in but the integration of movie information with the schedule and DVR makes it much more convenient. Too bad they currently only deliver these TV hyperlinks over the TV, not on the web. And they don’t have a facility where you can register a "wish list" of movies, favorite directors, and favorite actors, to be alerted when something you might like is coming up. But that’s all just a "simple matter of programming" so maybe later…

One caveat for the Nokia: the standard browser won’t work with the AT&T Yahoo web site for program listings and TV control. The web site complains that you must use a current version of Internet Explorer or Firefox, locking out the Nokia’s Opera based browser. Typical web designer tunnel vision to ignore Opera, which I’d bet would work just fine if I made it mis-identify itself as Explorer. Fortunately the Mozilla web engine for Nokia is allowed into the web site and works fine.


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