Why testing software ensures successful user experience

Article By : Brian Dipert

A bogus controller-not-present message and the downloads it precluded from proceeding may frustrate an average user.

As I've mentioned before, my current PVR set-up consists of a "headless" Windows 7 Media Center Server PC mated to a series of Xbox 360s throughout the house, each of them acting (among other things) as a Media Center Extender.

The arrangement generally works well, albeit not glitch-free (a topic in which I'll delve into more detail in a coming-soon dedicated post). But Windows 7 was the last Windows operating system with native Media Center capabilities. In Windows 8 and 8.1, Media Center came as optional (and no longer sold) add-on packs, and it's not included in now-current Windows 10 (and hacks to shoehorn it back in reportedly no longer work).

Sooner or later, therefore, I'm going to need to transition to some other system. SiliconDust's HDHomeRun DVR (again as I've mentioned before) is the most likely candidate, since it works (currently absent support for protected content, alas) with the CableCARD-based network tuner I already own, and can optionally run on that same "headless" Windows PC (along with Linux and Mac-based computers, and NASs from several different manufacturers). Unfortunately, though, the Xbox 360 is not a supported playback device (were these Xbox Ones, I wouldn't have this issue, thanks to their Universal Windows Platform support). So, in anticipation, I stocked up on successor Android TV-based hardware; a bunch of closeout (therefore heavily discounted) Nexus Players (along with wired Ethernet adapters) and the 16GB variant of Nvidia's Shield, complete with its optional wireless remote control.

The Shield has been in my possession for about a year now, but since Windows 7 remains supported and Media Center remains (generally) functional, the Shield (and Nexus Players, for that matter) lingered in long-term storage. Recently, however, I was prompted to crack open the Shield's box by a bunch of temporarily heavily discounted Google Play games. Generally speaking, the Shield set-up and usage experience was positive; it found and connected to all of my various wireless network SSID options with ease, auto-updated to the latest firmware, its user interface looks gorgeous on the LCD TV I connected to it, and my limited experience with the apps I installed has also been great.

"The apps I installed," however, is at the crux of my solitary but notable so-far issue with the unit. Google Play allows you to purchase (or for freebies, "purchase") an app directly from your computer's Web browser and then tell the service to directly download that app to one of the devices (smartphone, tablet, Android TV peripheral, etc.) associated with your Google account, which is pretty cool. I noticed, however, that this action was only successful with a subset of the discounted apps I'd bought after activating the Nvidia Shield. Perusing the user interface, I ended up at a screen that informed me that the apps had been purchased but weren't yet downloaded to the device. And why, you might ask? A picture paints a thousand words:

[Nvidia shield gamepad required (cr)]
__Figure 1:__ *Nvidia Shield.*

No Android-compatible gamepad found, huh? That's odd, because the NVIDIA-bundled controller is present and connected; here it is, in fact:

[Nvidia controller (cr)]
__Figure 2:__ *Nvidia controller.*

Once I insisted that the download and installation proceed anyway, and then launched the app, it worked just fine.

This kind of stuff drives me completely nuts, as long-time readers already know. Courtesy of this bogus controller-not-present message and the downloads that it precluded from proceeding, the average user would get frustrated and, at minimum, initiate an expensive and completely unnecessary customer support session to resolve the issue. More likely, he or she would insist on a return-and-refund of the entire hardware package; Nvidia and the retailer might be able to resell the unit, but only at a refurbished discount. Regardless, Nvidia's brand image is now damaged. And to reiterate, this situation is completely unnecessary … the hardware is working just fine; the issue involves misbehaving software (whether from Google, Nvidia, the application developer, or some combination thereof).

Software developers, please test. And test again. And then test some more. Not only by yourselves, but get a public beta (or 10 iterations of it) out there. A bit more time and expense up front can save you a whole lot of cost (not to mention reputation lost) down the road.

This article first appeared on EDN.

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