[thelist] Bothering with browsers?

Ray Hill lists at prydain.com
Mon Jan 29 23:45:31 CST 2001

Johannah wrote:
> I'm thinking about getting webtv, but then I found myself
> considering purchasing three different-sized TVs...

As Norman pointed out, there is a WebTV Viewer that simulates the look and feel of a page being viewed on WebTV.  But that viewer only shows you the visual aspects, and not even that reliably.

Some of the problems with web sites working well on WebTV have to do with the colors chosen, since high-contrast colors are difficult to read on a TV screen.  This sort of thing can't be recreated in an emulator.  Also, you have to keep in mind that the emulator is usually a few versions behind the browser version that people are actually using, so it's not always an accurate portrail.

More importantly, though, are issues where WebTV is not responding properly to cookies, SSL, complicated JavaScript, etc.  Since those problems are often bugs in the system, they won't usually show up in the emulator.

The good news, though, is that getting more than one size TV is unneccessary.  Since all televisions are going to give you a viewable area that 544 pixels wide, having a different size television only matters when it comes to how far back you can sit and still read the text.

That being said, there *is* some difference in the browser reaction between the different types of WebTVs that are on the market.  Brand is usually irrelevant (since they're all designed by WebTV and just outsourced for manufacturing), but the model can make a difference.

There are three-to-five models that are out there, depending on how you look at it.  The original model is the Classic, which does just web surfing, and no interactive TV stuff (there is an old and new version of this, with the new one being slightly more sophisticated).

The Plus model extends this functionality to include a bunch of interactive TV features, and uses a different browser (again, there's an old and new version available).

The Dishplayer is the newest of them, and is essentially a Plus box built into a Dish Network satellite reciever, which offers all the web and interactive features, plus the same digital video recording features you see advertised by TiVo (actually, it's a better product than TiVo, but TiVo's got better advertising, so nobody's ever heard of the Dishplayer - but that a whole other rant).

The browser used in the Dishplayer is very, very similar to the one used in the Plus, so you probably wouldn't want to bother getting both.  The biggest differences you'll find are between Plus and Classic.  Since the Classic is a more limited system (memory, etc), that's where you'll usually find the inconsistencies.  But really, they're pretty rarethese days.

So if you want to have the best chance of catching wacky one-off bugs, a Classic is your best bet (especially if it's the old version).  But if you actually want to get some use out of the thing, and take advantage of the interactive TV and/or digital video features, I'd suggest getting a Plus or Dishplayer (pausing live TV is addictivem though, so only get a Dishplayer if you don't mind fighting for the remote wiht your husband).

If you're going the Classic route, you can usually find people selling them on eBay, when they're upgrading to a newer model or a computer.  Dishplayer is less likely to be found there, but keep your ear to the ground with Dish Network, as they often have promotions that make the reciever itself really cheap (paid $50 for mine).


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