|Official Gadgeteer Hands On
Review: Couch Fire TV Guide Software for the Newton
by Julie Strietelmeier
Last date revised: 03/23/99
Are you a couch potato? Love movies and TV? If so, welcome to the club! I am a big movie and TV fan and own a DSS satellite system. With all those channels, I sometimes miss shows that I didn't know were on. I don't really like paper TV guides because they aren't easy to search through. To solve this problem, I use a program called Couch Fire by Tempest Productions.
Couch Fire is one of the coolest software titles for any Newton device running OS 2.0 or greater. It lets you view your favorite channels in a grid view like the familiar paper TV guides. Every week (Saturday) you receive the programming info via email. It arrives in one package that you transfer to your Newton. The package contains all the programming info for one week -9days (Saturday morning of the first weekend through Sunday night of the second weekend).
|There are tons of channels to choose from. A total of 194 channels with
cable, satellite, and quite a few local network affiliates. Some of the stations
include: American Movie Classics, Bravo, Cinemax (West Coast & East Coast),
Cinemax 2 (West Coast & East Coast), Encore (West Coast, East Coast,
Westerns, Love Stories, Mystery, Wam!, Actioventure & True Stories), fXM: Movies from
Fox, HBO (West Coast & East Coast), HBO 2 (West Coast & East Coast), HBO
3 (West Coast & East Coast), HBO Family (West Coast & East Coast),
FLiX (West Coast & East Coast), Independent Film Channel, The Movie
Channel (West Coast & East Coast), Showtime (West Coast & East Coast),
Showtime 2 (West Coast & East Coast), Showtime 3, STARZ! (West Coast &
East Coast), STARZ! 2 (West Coast & East Coast), Turner Classic Movies, TBS, WGN,
and many more. It's easy to sign up and change the stations that you want at any time via
the Couch Fire WebPages.
The more channels you choose to download, the more space they take up on your Newton. As a rule of thumb, 8 channels take about 800k and each additional channel takes about 85k. I subscribe to 37 channels. Each Saturday I receive a compressed email that is about 1.2meg in size. Uncompressed this file is about 3.3meg. That's alot of space, but it's worth it!
Couch Fire has 3 different modes for viewing the programming information. Grid, Details and Overview views. In the Grid view you see the time at the top and channels down the side. The shows title and brief description are also displayed. You can easily switch to any day or time that you want to view by pressing the arrow buttons at the top of the display or using the day and time pull down menus. If you want to get more info on a certain show, you can double tap on it or just select it and press the 'details' button.
|The Details view displays the channel number, year the show was filmed,
genre (like drama, comedy etc.), actors in the show, full description, running time for
the show and special details like ratings.
In this view (and the grid view) you can also press the 'Remember' button which will let you schedule the show in the Dates application for that time and day. This very handy for reminding you that your favorite show is about to come on the TV.
The other view that is available is the Overview view. To switch to this view, you have to press the 'overview' button or what I like to call 'the-black-dot-thing-beside-the-up-and-down-arrows'.
|In this view, you are given a text based listing of shows that are on at
the current time. I like this view because it's easy to look at. You can see which
shows are just beginning and which ones have already been playing by the title. Shows that
have already started have a '...' in front of them. Tapping on a show once automatically
takes you to the detail view of that show. You can also easily scroll up and down
through the channels or sideways through time slots.
In all the views you can press the Find application button to search the Couch Fire programming data. You can use this function to search for a movie title, actors name or whatever. You will then be presented with a listing of all the shows that contained the searching criteria that you entered. You can then tap on a show in the listing to see the details. This is great for displaying all the times during the week that Buffy The Vampire Slayer airs, or every show this week that has Harrison Ford in it. The only bad thing about using find is that once you tap on a show to see the details, the find listing is gone. To get it back you have to do the search again which can take several seconds depending on how many channels you have. I really wish there was a way to save the searches. This would be a great way of keeping track of all your favorite shows easily during the week. If Tempest Productions could add this feature, this program would be almost perfect!
Note from Julie : I just found out that you can get the Find listing back by pressing the Overview button!
|Couch Fire doesn't have much available in the way of customization.
What you can do is change the order in which the channels are displayed, the channel label
and channel number. You can also define which view you want the program to always start up
This program is terrific. I really like using it. It's quick, and displays all the info you need in an easy to use format.
There are a couple of things that would make this program even better in my opinion though. One would be to allow the subscribers to either receive the weekly info via email or download from an ftp server or website. Another more important feature would be to beef up the search tools by having more control on what to search for. I would like to be able to create a search that would show me all the shows on HBO that are dramas and are on between 7pm - 11pm... and Couch Fire really needs the ability to save search results.
If you enjoy TV as much as I do and you have a Newton, you NEED this program. But don't just take my word for it, you can try a 30day trial of the program with programming information for free. Just visit the Tempest Production website for details.
For those of you out there that like what you see but aren't fortunate enough to have a Newton, there's hope! Tempest Productions is working on a version for another PDA. I can't give out specific details, but this PDA doesn't have a Windows logo :-). Release dates are not available yet so keep visiting the Tempest Production website. I for one can't wait!
Price: $39.00 for one year (52 weeks)
Easy to use
Interfaces with the Dates app
Programming data takes up lots of storage space
No way to save search results
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