Kevin Cheng  

The Real Deal

January 11th, 2004 by Kevin Cheng :: see related comic

Iíve installed RealPlayer 10, primarily to see if the installation is as poor as the previous version and whether the posters in Slashdot were accurate. Hereís a step by step of what I went through and my own thoughts on it.On slashdot’s post about the release of RealPlayer 10, many people started out by criticising the website where the installation file would be downloaded so letís look at that first. Going to Real.com, you will see a lot of orange buttons that lead you to their pay version of RealPlayer. If youíre looking for the free one, however, the link resides inconspicuously in the top right corner as a simple text link. Itís not as obvious as the Winamp link but I found it only slightly irked me.

Real.com front page WinAmp.com front page

The next screen is another attempt to pitch their Plus product. The front page was already dedicated to pushing that product down my throat so why do it again? Iíve already made up my mind. I personally prefer Winampís way of showing how the two versions differ in a table.

Real.com second page Winamp.com second page

Beyond that little annoyance, getting the download was painless. Now came the real test: the installation. I ran the setup program and was greeted with two fairly typical screens: the terms of agreement followed by a screen to select my connection speed. One area that I thought was interesting in the connection speed dialogue was the checkbox for ďI do not have an internet connectionĒ. Why would that be a checkbox instead of one of the radio options? Can one have a DSL connection and not have an internet connection? Another minor point is their separation of dial up and broadband speeds into two columns, creating the illusion that there are two sets of selections to be made. I suppose this layout was done to fit the dialogue into the fixed install window size.

In any case, all of these issues are still quite minor and normally would not be worth mentioning. The next screen may bring back some bad memories for previous Real installers. Five check boxes, all checked by default, provide options to add RealPlayer to various parts of your desktop. Again, annoying but not unusual. If it wasnít RealPlayer to begin with, I would have easily overlooked this. I maintain that their focus should be getting the user to their objective as quickly as possible and offer these choices after they have accomplished their goal of viewing the media they need to view.

Bandwidth Input Dialog Adding Real to Desktop

Installation then proceeds. Files are copied, all is going well. Then Real finally starts to revert to their old ways. An offer, again selected by default, to install a toolbar to your browser. Thanks, but no thanks. Why didnít you ask me when you asked about the handful of other things you wanted to swamp me with?

Next, a quick check on what file formats you would like to Real to open by default. Overall, I didn’t find this as offensive as others seemed to. They didn’t seem to assume I would want to use Real to play every file format it was capable of playing and in fact, mostly kept the existing file associations. Going into the advanced screen, it even showed what each specific file format was associated with. My only gripe was that the advanced screen is actually a popup window over the original dialog but this wasn’t at all clear as the popup is identical in size to the original window. Because of this, I was thoroughly confused by … ahem … “OK” and “Cancel” rather than the “Cancel”, “Back”, “Next” that had been available.

Real Toolbar Advanced File Type Association

Finally, the folks at Real decided they needed the ultimate barrier to entry: A registration page.

The page seems like itís mandatory. If you donít have an e-mail registered with them, thereís a link to do so. Your other options are to cancel or go back. I tried signing in without any data but that failed so I tried cancelling. One would expect ďcancelĒ means cancelling from the installation process altogether but instead, we are greeted with this surprise Ö

Sign Up! Cancel?

So it IS possible to install without signing in but itís hidden in possibly the last place you would expect. I could go on and on about how bad these last two screens are but I think they speak so much better for themselves.

I havenít tried the player itself much. From what little I have, it mostly resembles the other players in functionality with one or two unorthodox architectural decisions (such as putting their media guide and video player window in the same pane). Ultimately, it doesnít matter that much to me. The experience was enough to turn me off them. There really isnít anything in Real, Windows Media Player or WinAmp that differentiate themselves enough for me to choose them based on features. At the moment, I choose WinAmp, but only because it minimizes to my system tray where WMP does not.

As for RealNetworks, theyíll have to walk the walk before I listen to any more of their talk.

10 Responses to “The Real Deal”
don kackman wrote:

Does their actual player still annoy you with unwanted pop-ups and messages and other UI garbage?

Aside from their horrible installer, what I couldn’t stand was the app itself. It had a sys-tray icon, an annoying IM like pop-up message window plus many other annoyances that I have long supressed.

I always got the feeling that the designers at real believed that viewing a streaming media file was the single most important thing that their users would ever do. So they felt justified in taking over aspects of the user’s experience that a relavtively unimportant application, like a media player, had no business touching.

Tom Chi wrote:

That little pop-up thing for Real ads is triggered by the executable ‘realevent.exe’.

On this page
http://www.computing.net/security/wwwboard/forum/7211.html

it says that you can nuke the pop-ups by renaming the file to ‘realevent.ex-’

KC, can you check to see if RealPlayer 10 has the “spyware” files: REALEVENT.EXE, RNATHCHK.EXE and REALSCHED.EXE?

Tom Chi wrote:

Ok… I just answered my own question: RealPlayer 10 still has Realsched.exe and Realsched.pf (a pre-fetch file). They can be removed without harm to RealPlayer by simply deleting them.

John wrote:

Kevin, if you’re running Windows XP, you can get WMP9 to minimize to the taskbar, too. This video shows how:

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/knowledgecenter/videolaunch.aspx?id=6

KC wrote:

Hi John,

Thanks for the link. I’ve tried that feature out and unfortunately it doesn’t match my needs.

What I’m looking for is a minimize to the -system tray- which is the area with the system clock. My taskbar is a fairly crowded space and real estate there is valuable so all I want to do is have an icon to represent WMP (a feature that winamp and real both have).

Incidentally, the fact they need a video to illustrate how to activate this feature is pretty hilarious.

Bob Salmon wrote:

I’ve just installed Real Player 10 (early adopter, eh? I still have the kudos of it being the beta version - bleeding edge). I didn’t mind the installation process as much as the product itself (KC’s comments on installation are valid though).

My gripes about the product are:

1. It DEAFENED me. I normally have volume set to about 8% as I value my hearing. The first time RP played anything it whacked the volume to about 66%! I immediately pulled it down. At the start of the next track it went back up to 66%. I limped through one album like this then gave up.

It happened again this morning, so I tried quitting RP, setting the volume in Windows and starting RP. Same problem.

I have finally found the solution: Control-Down in RP reduces the volume.

I think this is the worst bit of usability I’ve ever encountered in a PC program - it nearly injured me. My earlier comment about bleeding edge wasn’t meant to be literal.

2. Screen junk. I go for the tiniest skin I can find (Puny2). When you launch the Media Browser there appears much more junk on the screen compared to RP 9. There’s now a tab bar as well as a menu bar. When viewing e.g. an autoplaylist there’s also a View box and a Tasks box on the left hand side.

I can’t turn any of these things off, so when you shrink the window to the smallest it can be to display the play list without needing a vertical scroll bar (why need it be any bigger?) the proportion of the screen displaying useful stuff (the play list) is too low.

Tom Chi wrote:

As if having a wack player was not enough:
http://news.com.com/2100-7349_3-5154193.html?part=rss&tag=feed&subj=news

nick wrote:

http://boingboing.net/2004_02_01_archive.html#107565322512239056
boingboing mentioned a spy-ware free, bbc exclusive version a few days ago. i installed this (first since realplayer 8) , and iirc differed from your experience in having no registration demands, and no toolbar demands.
it crashes less than real8, and doesnt offer/demand upgrades ever, but i still had to turn a lot of “phone home” options off before i even vaguely trusted it.

Tom Chi wrote:

Wired runs the same article as OKC… 2 months later:
http://www.wired.com/news/digiwood/0,1412,62617,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_1

Lizz wrote:

I am getting the pop up Multimidia Istallation Quicktime at sign on I cnnot sign on until I ans yes or no.I hate it.Please advise how I get it off I’v tried many things including calling tthem NO HELP at all. Can you help me?


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OK/Cancel is a comic strip collaboration co-written and co-illustrated by Kevin Cheng and Tom Chi. Our subject matter focuses on interfaces, good and bad and the people behind the industry of building interfaces - usability specialists, interaction designers, human-computer interaction (HCI) experts, industrial designers, etc. (Who Links Here) ?