NTL Digital TV Upgrades (6th September 2006)
In the small hours of this morning I noticed the channels had been rearranged. It’s been a long time since the Digital TV service received an update of any kind, so I decided to poke around to see what had changed. It seems like the changes have included some upgrades to the client-side interface code:
- Mini Guide automatically updates its display when the time changes. Before it would continue to list programmes which had expired until you closed and reopened it a few times.
- Navigating to adjescent channels is faster than before, although I’ve had some ten-second lag when doing rapidly navigating past many channels.
- Dialogue windows initially render faster and user control is regained faster after closing or confirming them. It used to take a second or so for these to appear or dissapear.
- The spatial navigation on complex pages is more responsive. Before you could actually watch the focus rectangle being unloaded and then it being reassembled at the new location. It was like watching a yellow box go through a transport on Star Trek, but less interesting.
- Moving up and down long lists is very much more responsive. You can see an almost imperceivable flicker as they are refreshed incrementally, which hints at a major and sophisticated rebuild of the rendering architecture. There used to be a noticable wait even when moving by one item.
- Lists are populated faster; it’s not as instant as a desktop application but it’s about as fast as watching a local HTML page render on an old PC. Before you could have seconds of unresponsive, blank interface in front of you but now it’s like watching a web page.
These changes have gotten me wondering why wasn’t it like this in the first place? When NTL’s interface used pink and white, it was all pretty rapid and functional (if a bit garish). But when they tried to mimmick Sky’s blue and white interface it’s been a real chore to do anything with it. They also got rid of the versioning information page, so I can’t tell if they’ve been releasing minor builds during that time.
IIRC, the last change was about two years ago. I’ve been paying my bill all that time for a service which is slower than it evidently could have been!
Although the old response times were between one and ten seconds, the majority now seem to be under one second. It’s like a whole new experience. All the usability studies that say you need response times below 0.1 seconds for users to feel connected with the interface must be true! Let’s hope NTL continue to improve their service and don’t let it stagnate again.