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Written By: Gary on February 12, 2008 No Comment

So I just downloaded the AppleTV update called Take 2 (or is it Take2?). I wasn’t thrilled with the changes that I saw in the preview because I thought the interface was pretty great. But I’ll agree that some changes for the new interface was necessary.

Since you now can shop the whole iTunes store via the AppleTV something to surf around a larger library was necessary. They new sections fill up the cover art at a more than acceptable speed (my cable modem is 6000 down and 384 up) and it flowed pretty nicely. But a lot of the old interface is still around for the sub menus and it they really clash with each other. But I like the shopping on-line option, I’ll try it later just so I can see how well it works. I would have purchased last night’s Kyle XY episode but it wasn’t ready for download yet for some reason…

The amount of movies and music and TV is just a little overwhelming. There’s just so many options and you can scroll in so many directions! And all the album art just looks fantastic in large high quality images!!! They need a all you can watch or listen to with the music videos, pay a flat rate and go cRaZy for a few hours.

The podcasts are interesting, You can browse very nicely and you can view/stream but if the site is slow, you’re gonna wait a while for that hi-def video. You can select download and it’ll be there later for you. It’s strange that you can favorite a podcast, not to be confused with subscribing, but you can’t actually subscribe; this would be inconvenient if you don’t actually have a computer.

The new Flickr photo viewing works great, but I wish there was a way to view the descriptions or titles of the photos. And I wish there was a way to look at thumbnails; for example a person has 500 photos in a folder and there isn’t a way to jump around it just goes to slideshow mode. This never bothered me with my photos, but when looking at someone else’s it jumped right out at me….

Overall, it’s a great update in that it adds some great functionality. The new interface will grow on me (it’s not like I wouldn’t recommend it to someone). I just feel it’s missing some normal Apple consistency in the Human Interface Guidelines area…

I’m still missing a way to build a video playlist (or a video shuffle). I’ve got hours of video podcasts and I don’t have a way to string them together as my own private TV channel. I hadn’t heard about it or this release but it just seems like a natural outgrowth of the music playlist and/or shuffle.

The update took a while and had to reboot more than a few times installing all the features but seems like it worked just fine. I expect they’ll be a update soon to fix a few minor things, like the TV Genre of “Cops and Robberts”.

Written By: Gary on February 3, 2008 One Comment

This is great, it looks like Apple has semi-extended movie rental time limits. I say “semi” because once the 24 hour time limit passes you cannot go back to the beginning of the rental, but you can resume where you left off.

This makes me very happy because I’ve thought the 24 hour was just too short. My thought from a few weeks ago was “Maybe they can do something to cripple it, maybe after 24 hours any viewed portion is not viewable any more”. It seems (at least on an iPod) that you can’t leave and do something else and still have it resume when you come back (“delete” or “resume” are your choices) your iPod is “stuck” on that screen. Maybe they’ll do it a little different on AppleTV or iTunes…?

I think the new AppleTV software was supposed to roll out last week so it should be appearing soon.

Written By: Gary on January 26, 2008 One Comment

My Apple TV has been one of my favorite technology purchases and I never expected that I’d like it that much. Actually, I’d been interested in it but it took a visit to Best Buy, after happy hour, for me to finally commit to the 40 GB version. I took it back a few days later but only because I knew I needed the 160 GB version, bigger is better after all…

Apple TV is pretty much an ‘iPod for your television’ and iPods are pretty much the standard to beat for portable media players (at least the standard for handheld audio players) so these should be selling much better. I’ve always been impressed with my Apple TV and had been surprised they hadn’t really caught on more than they have. The Apple TV interface is excellent, it’s as good as the TiVo (except it doesn’t record), you can buy videos (and music) on your computer to load it up, but that is a little inconvenient for some people. You can convert videos for it, but that’s not for the average user. I knew it was close to what people want but it wasn’t exactly there yet.

A few weeks ago at MacWorld they announced movie rentals for the Apple TV. $2.99 for old movies, $3.99 for new ones and $1 more for HD quality. Plus, you can buy music (and music videos) on-line and view/subscribe to podcasts (for free). They changed the interface, I personally think it’s a little more complicated, but since you need to be able to browse an infinite number of music and movies I can understand it (and maybe I’ll like it too). This new interface is free to original Apple TV owners and should show up in a few weeks (I keep checking).

I heard all this when they announced it and I’ve been mulling it around in my head, but I finally just watched that part of the keynote from MacWorld (on my Apple TV, of course) and now I really think this is getting even closer to being the media box for your TV.

  • If I can start watching a movie in about 30 seconds, why am I going to rent something from the store? (there is a 30 day wait after a DVD release)
  • Why am I going to subscribe to Netflix? (all the movie extras and plus for TV shows you I get multiple episodes on one DVD)
  • If I can purchase a song the instant I need it, why am I going to run out and buy the album? (at least I think I can purchase a song, I saw Steve purchase a music video).One of the biggest shortcomings of this (and all digital video rental systems out there) is that you only have 24 hours from start to finish. It’s just not long enough, if I start it at 8 tonight, I need the ability to finish it tomorrow at 8 or 9 in the evening. Because of that, I think 30 hours is the minimum I need to seriously consider this as a way to watch movies (at least for me). As you increase the time to 36, 48 or even 72 hours it makes this a much better option, especially for the impulse buy. I know “they” don’t want bunches of other people to borrow it and view it so they longer the time, the higher the chance of this. Maybe they can do something to cripple it, maybe after 24 hours any viewed portion is not viewable any more, that’s slightly complicated but it makes it a little more fair and might make the movie companies a little happier, IMHO…

    But TiVo has had these features for a while now: music and photo streaming from your computer for years now, podcasts (very limited menu selection) for a few years too and recently they’ve added movie / TV rentals from Amazon Unbox (but you wait hours for it to download). I wonder if there are more TiVos than Apple TVs out there??

    I’m confused about a few things:

  • Can you buy a movie from the Apple TV interface?
  • Can you push HD movie rentals down to your computer or iPod? (I don’t think they said that specifically for HD).

    Things I’m not confused about, but I’m wondering:

  • How long until I can access media from my Time Capsule?
  • How long until I can rent TV shows?
  • How long until I subscribe to TV shows at a reasonable rate?
  • How long until I can dump my cable package?
  • How long until the cable internet and DSL providers complain about the bandwidth that is being used up? FYI, where the Apple TV requirements list a “broadband connection” it also says “(fees may apply)”.
  • Is the hardware in the new Apple TV exactly the same? I know the software is going to be the same, but I don’t think they said it was exactly the same either.
  • How long until the 30 day wait before renting (after new releases) is removed and I can rent as soon as it’s out? (they don’t have a delay before music purchases).

    Complaints about the Apple TV:

  • I need a video playlist option. I want to have a way to link these video podcasts and music videos into my own personal non-stop “channel”.
  • I need a way to find this tiny remote when I misplace it. It’s so small and light.
  • It needs a regular video-out and S-video out for people who don’t yet have TVs with component video or HDMI.
  • They still don’t have a use for the included USB port.
  • I think I’m gonna need a bigger hard drive!

    Also, they announced a price drop of $70 for the Apple TV.

  • Written By: Gary on July 23, 2007 One Comment

    So the future of television is certainly changing. The networks haven’t completely caught on yet, but they will. In a day when users can download higher quality video than they currently receive, get shows from parts of the world that aren’t available and have the advantage of having no ads and are free (please note this means stolen). We can also buy many of these videos from the iTunes store or Amazon UnBox for $1.99 an episode (iTunes has some at 99 cents for an episode and sometimes get that cheap if you subscribe for season). I know “legal” is not what people think when they hear the word BitTorrent, but BitTorrent.com even sells shows legally these days.

    If I could subscribe to a lot of the shows I enjoy for 99 cents an episode and have them automatically download to my AppleTV, TiVo, iPod or other device I’d never have anything more than basic cable. I’m sure this goes for a lot of people. Everything needed (except the mentality) to do this currently exists. The networks and producers of these shows need to somehow start embracing this model before it gets even easier for people to get (steal) these shows for free.

    Or charge me significantly less and let me trade the produces some statistical information about myself and let them insert in advertising relevant to me. Give me geeky ads, movie and TV show previews that I like, music that I like. Advertise events and concerts that are taking place where I live. I don’t need diaper ads, tampons, bad credit information, refinancing, ads for cars that cost $50,000+, ways to give up smoking. With the right information instead of advertising a new bed which I may have just purchased, they can advertise new pillows or new sheets (and mark in their files to start giving me new bed advertisements in another 5 years) that I might actually purchase.

    Even better, let me give “them” lots of information about me, which I’ll update a few times a month with information about what I’ve purchased or I’m shopping for (who in my life has a birthday coming up) or where I’m traveling to. And they can actually pay me to watch television! I’m not looking for a lot of money but just something to make it worth giving them info (besides, think of how much you’d save on cable if it was free!). Maybe some hotel discount coupons when I mention a vacation, or a coupon for Best Buy when they know I’m looking for a new video camera.

    Written By: Gary on July 22, 2007 2 Comments

    My AppleTV is awesome! An “iPod for your TV” is a accurate description. I ran the software update (painless!) and it gave me YouTube videos and fixed “enhanced podcasts”.

    It mirrors one of your computer’s iTunes just like an iPod does (and allows you exceptions) and will stream from any other computers running iTunes (platform independent) and I don’t think there is a limit. I can’t believe how fast it pulls hi-res movie previews from Apple down to the unit, it’s very very fast. It’s actually much faster than pulling down YouTube videos (many which are low-res).

    It really streams full-scren video from other computers really efficiently. Very rarely does it need a moment to catch up. It has no problem with steaming audio. It almost makes no sense to download podcasts, I bet you could stream them live if you had a way to just get the RSS feeds onto the AppleTV.

    With “enhanced podcasts” it now properly advances the embedded images to follow along with the audio. The problem is that it just shows them to the side like the album artwork, some images are much larger so it really cheats you by scaling them down. Since you don’t use the up/down keys on the remote during this process “up” would be a great way to enlarge the images.

    I have the same image size concern when viewing slideshows with the “Ken Burns effect”, sometimes I want to view the whole image. Once again this would be another great use for the up button. The down button could be used for viewing filenames, date, time and other info about the images. Actually, this would be a good use for the down button while viewing videos or audio.

    A few more features (like on the TiVo) like weather, movie listings and maybe Flickr photo viewing and it’d be even better…What I don’t like is that it only lets you sync with one computer. I’d like to sync music with one, videos with another and podcasts with another (not so sure if I care about the latter).

    What I need:
    1) A way to automatically convert videos and stick them into iTunes for me (so when I drop/download a file to a folder, it starts processing for me). I could probably do this via Mac or Windows….

    2) A way to play other file formats on the AppleTV, such as AVI and DiVX files. I think I can hack it to do that but I’m not sure if I want to take it apart yet.

    Written By: Gary on July 21, 2007 One Comment

    So I’ve been very interested in the AppleTV and never got around to trying it. But I was feeling pretty happy after happy hour yeast and Best Buy has a good return policy so I’m now the proud owner of an AppleTV (40GB). It’s very cool. Very easy to install. Very easy to configure. Pure yummy Apple perfection. And there is no way I’m going to return it!

    Two user-interface suggestions:
    1) They need a better distinction between the computer you sync with and the computers you stream from. This needs to be better in the AppleTV and in iTunes.
    2) The top menu item says AppleTV and it looks like it’s a title and not a menu item (it actually takes you back to the main menu) and it’s confusing. I’ve read about this but I forgot about it…
    3) Put in a DVD player and a video/s-video port. (This doesn’t count since it’s not an interface issue).
    3b) Safari would be cool too! This would just be for .Mac members so it would interface with your bookmarks!

    If you think you’d like one of these, then run and go get one, it’s way cool.

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