Playstation Portable as Thin Wi-Fi Web Client

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Notes on The Playstation Portable Firmware Update 2.0
Featuring HTML/Java based Web Browswer.

[NOTE:  It is unlikely that I will have time to write a
full review, so these "preliminary notes" are probably
the last I will post.]

When the PSP came out, with Wi-Fi, but without an HTML browser, I felt
that its competitors had been given a reprieve, though I had wondered
for how long. Now we know. The 2.0 software upgrade features, among
other things, the PSP's first HTML (and Java) based Web Browser.
Other upgrades flesh out various capabilities, including better Wi-Fi
connectivity (for example, by extending encryption support). Clearly,
version 2.0 was intended to bring the device up to a minimum level of
general internet client capability.

The short summary I can give, even this early, is that the result is
still a bit too be relied on for people who really need Web
connectivity. The Web browser needs to be "written to". That is to
say, if one intends to specifically support PSP user, then one can
write pages and test pages that will work well on the PSP. However,
random use of the browser will result in finding a number of pages
which will not display well, or in some cases will not display at all
on the PSP.

These preliminary notes are based on about a day's worth of work using
the PSP, and comparing it to a couple of alternative devices. I will
comment on some other alternatives.  These are not based on thorough
testing. Unfortunately, I do not even know if I will get around to
finishing the testing. That is why I am posting the current material.

General Usage

The use of the browser showed the problem of developing such software
for a device without an established, thoroughly developed operating
system environment. There is little support for scrolling controls in
the firmware. I emphasize that it is the software that is the problem.
There are sufficient buttons and physical controls to for a programmer
to use for scrolling. On the other hand, the hardware is at the heart
of the other problem for the PSP's browser. There is no keyboard or
handwriting recognition capability to aid text entry.  Browsing the
Web with point and click really has not been enough since pretty much
the first days of Web, and there is no sign that it will be in the
future. Text entry is still too important for the Web experience in
general for this to be a really acceptable. Even the cell phone
companies are finding this out. However, it is a fairly easily
addressed problem.  There are keyboards available for Palm and Pocket
PC devices that should be easily adapted to the PSP, and a custom
designed device is certain to become available.

The Web browser is implimented as mainly a two mode environment using
the triangle button (the right side top button on the 4-button pad)
which brings up the main menu options along the bottom and the status
bar across the top of the browser. This is essentially a "control
mode." Touch the button and the upper and lower bars disappear and one
controls either a cursor, or one can scroll the whole screen by
pressing the "square" button on the right side pad (the "left" button
on the right side pad) and using the left side pad buttons to give
direction. The cursor is controlled in two ways. If one uses the left
side pad buttons, then the cursor jumps around the screen to links and
objects. If this is used, then the screen will scroll to the next link
off the screen, or if there is no object or link nearby, then the
screen scrolls about a 1/2 screen height. The other method of
controlling the cursor is by using the the joystick button on the
left. When this is used, when the cursor reaches the edge of the
screen it just stops there and the screen does not scroll.

Since the only really predictable way of scrolling the screen is the
"full page" method, this is what I have been using. This is the major
fault of the software, which severely diminishes its usefulness. If
you are reading a complex thought in a long paragraph, you cannot
really scroll it up and down to read it naturally in context. It would
be similarly difficult to see a location on a map in the context of
its surroundings. Any other large graphic would have this problem.
This is why the PSP with its current capabilities is best used with
Web pages designed specifically for its browser.

I have not found any ability to store off a current HTML page but
there is an ability to store a bitmapped image file (which I tested
and succeeded in downloading a JPG image), and the ability to download
a link target file (which I have not tested yet). The browser can also
download files to a MemoryStick card (tested by downloading an MPEG4
video file).

I tested the PSP with a few of my own personal favorite websites. I
found that "" (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation website)
worked fairly well. This is good because at bare minimum, it gives me
good local weather reports. Similarly "" (CFTR News radio)
worked fairly well, though the formatting was a bit worse. Since the
PSP is marketed as an "entertainment" device, I thought that the
nature Website for it to be associated with was TV Guide.
Unfortunately, not only did "" not work (it reported
being out of memory when I tried to open a page to access "listings"),
but after trying TV Guide, it failed to open other Web pages until I
"warm-booted" it by removing the battery and power supply. This might
have been a problem with the Java implimentation, but I am not sure.

By comparison, I opened the TV Guide website with my Palm Tungsten C
without any apparent problems from the browser. The only problem I had
with the Tungsten C was that it tends to have problems connecting to
my Wi-Fi server.

Overall, I have to say that I hope the Pepper Pad makes it to market.
The more I think about it, the better it looks.

Re: Playstation Portable as Thin Wi-Fi Web Client

On Tue, 06 Sep 2005 14:18:21 -0400, wrote:

Quoted text here. Click to load it

.. . .

Later today I will be posting an update to the note that I posted
a couple of days ago.  Unless you are really considering buying
a PSP specifically for use as a Web browser, I would advise you
not to bother reading it.  My conclusions are still pretty much
that same (ie, nice first attempt at the software, but it needs
work, and even still, it will not be worth using unless Sony brings
out a keyboard option or some other reasonably usable text entry

The Moving Target:  mobile information technology /

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