Thursday, September 3, 2009

Wii internet channel - some comments

I made a post the other day about the Wii's internet channel now being free to download. I thought I'd blog some comments for the interweb to hear, read, and either agree with or refute.

I mentioned in my previous Wii post that I thought the Wii's internet browser was 'largely a gimmick,' so I thought I'd see if I could come up with a genuine use for it.

I also mentioned that I use my Wii and my copy of Wii Fit to help my chart my progress with an ongoing weight loss plan. Another part of that plan is my exercise bike (bear with me; this is going to come back to Wii internet). I'm not hard working enough to just get on the thing and pedal. I need something to do while I'm on the bike, so I set it up in front of the tellybox and watch DVDs or play on the Wii*. But I get bored with limited choices after a while.On my new bike I can balance my laptop on handlebars that seem almost custom-built (as I'm doing now) and check my email, Facebook and google reader, and occasionally write blog entries.

Unfortunately though, even with my bike's (possibly) tailor made handlebars, this still isn't that comfortable- it's a small, fairly dim screen (I'm power conscious) that jiggles around (because it's sat on an in-use exercise bike). The thought occurred to me that I could use my Wii to do most of this instead- a much larger, brighter and considerably more stable screen, and a controller that's wireless, single-handed and doesn't require a certain uncomfortable seating position to use. So I tried it out.

  • The Wii Internet channel has a fairly decent and intuitive 'favourites' page, which works well when you consider that this isn't a machine that's built for internet browsing, and you only have about four buttons on the controller.
  • Writing blog posts in this situation isn't great, and I didn't think it would be- my constant movement (I'm cycling, remember) reduces my accuracy with the Wiimote somewhat, so typing lengthy passages is difficult, time consuming and, after a short while, incredibly boring. It beats the point of sitting on the bike to do it.
  • Checking my email is easy enough. I use gmail, and the text, whilst not as clear as on a PC or laptop monitor, is readable. Replying to emails is difficult, however, for the same reasons as writing blog posts, and I find that I have to stop peddling if I want my aim to be steady enough to click on a link, which degrades the efficiency of my exercise routine. So great for checking; give it a miss if you want to reply at the same time.
  • As for Facebook, well, mwergh. I have mixed feelings about this one. Stuff happens how you want it to happen, but it's so slow. Slow to load, slow to scroll, slow to react when you attempt to click on anything.
  • Google Reader was the one I was really rooting for; it seems to me to be the most fit application for the task as it involves looking at the screen and reading, for the most part. Unfortunately, however, it doesn't work. All that loads on the Wii is the menu bar, and a thin sliver below it that shows only two or three lines of any post. As is only sensible, I had a bit of a search to see if anyone else had experienced the same problem and, more importantly, if they'd solved it. Apparently in May 2007 google released a version of google reader that was actually optimised for the Wii browser. What a shame that it no longer works.
So, in conclusion, my quest to find a use for the Wii's internet channel has found nothing. For now, it must remain a just gimmick until I get another idea.

I was just about to hit 'publish post' and had an idea. Hang on a sec...

... it worked!

If you point your Wii internet browser at , you can load the mobile version of google reader. It's not perfect, but I think it just about lifts the Wii internet channel out of the 'gimmick' box. Hooray! I couldn't be bothered checking now, but the same tactic may well make Facebook etc more usable in this situation.

If anyone else has found any genuinely useful uses for the Wii internet channel, comment!

* MarioKart is surprisingly easy to play whilst riding a bike