Archive for May, 2008|Monthly archive page

Apple TV Experienced as Intended

I signed up for one of the Comcast low-cost-for-six-month deals, giving me a significantly faster Internet connection. I haven’t actually *switched* yet, as Comcast offers only about 1/10 the value as my current ISP, But…the speed is nice.

So, I thought I was see what it was like to use the Apple TV in a normal situation (for my family): we’re interested in watching a movie and don’t have one everyone can agree on in-hand. Since I was excited to try this out, I strongly suggested with give the Apple TV a try. My kids scrolled through the selection for a while and finally settled on Jimmy Neutron. We asked the kids to put on their PJ’s while daddy tried to figure out the Apple TV (to stall for time).

I went ahead and bought the movie (I could have rented, but it looked like it was the kind of movie we would watch more than once) and it said I could start watching it about 5 seconds later. Wow.

I didn’t actually start it for another 10 minutes or so and we were able to watch it without any problems. Since this was the first time I’ve purchased (or rented) anything non-HD, it transferred back to my Mac as well. Everything went as smoothly as possible.


Next experiment: HD!


AppleTV and iPhone

I’ve had both the AppleTV and iPhone for a while now and thought I would share a couple of my impressions.



I’ve had mine since 1.0 and have used it on a regular basis ever since. My kids like to be able to watch cartoons and some TV shows I downloaded for them. I find it much better than TV itself because it starts and stops (and pauses) exactly when we want. It’s also commercial-free, which is a big deal to me.


High Definition movies is HUGE for me. I have one of the early Mitusubishi 65″ widescreen TVs. It is fantastic and I’ve enjoyed it for years. But…and this is a biggie…it’s not hobbled with the HDCP copy-protection scheme. For all of you out there who are not earlier adopters, this means I can’t watch any high definition content, like BluRay.


The AppleTV, though, has component video outputs. I was really anxious to find out if they would pass high definition content and am thrilled to say Yes! they do. So, this is my one and only source for better-than-DVD content.


On the downside, the policies for this content are really harsh. When I first read about it, it didn’t seem too bad. But, in practice, the rental service doesn’t work for me at all. Let me explain.


When you download a movie, you get 30 days to watch it and once you start, you have 24 hours to finish. High Definition content can ONLY be downloaded from the Apple TV and cannot be transferred back to your Mac or to your iPhone. You also can’t buy it, only rent.


I have a pretty slow Internet connection, so to watch, I need to download the movie a full day ahead of time. No spur-of-the-moment rentals for me (Standard def? Sorry, not interested. I’ll drive to the video store to get the better picture from DVD). Then, I need to make sure I have time for the whole movie once I touch play.

So, I did this as soon as the service came out. I rented No Reservations and sat down with my wife and a friend to watch it right away. I was impressed. The quality was definialty better than DVD, the sound was Dolby Digital and sounded great. I later saw  BluRay and would classify this picture as about half-way between DVD and BluRay. In other words, really nice!


So, I rented a second movie. I can’t remember the title. 30 days later, it was gone. In 30 days, I never found a night where I was sure I could finish it. This sucks. I feel ripped off. For whatever reason, this $5 is very annoying, in the same class as ATM fees. I’ll do (almost) anything to avoid them.


So, until these policies get updated (and it doesn’t have to be a big change) or I get an Internet connection that is fast enough that I can rent and watch a high definiton movie in the same night, I’m afraid I really can’t use it.

The other feature of 2.0 that is really cool is the way it will show you your whole iTunes library and simply use the AppleTV as a display device. My home network is fast enough that this is seamless. Unfortunately, I can’t use this feature either, because the biggest user of my Apple TV are my kids, and the only way I can limit content is to make a special playlist and only sync that. 



Some surprising findings:


I watch a lot of video on my iPhone. I’ve never done this with a mobile device before.

WiFi isn’t very useful. I *thought* that because I have WiFi at home and at work and am usually at Starbucks when not in either of those places, that the slow speed of EDGE wouldn’t really be an issue for me. Well, it turns out that WiFi doesn’t work very well at all. Technically, it’s great. The iPhone remembers your favorite network, switches automatically and seamlessly and is much faster. But…most places are covered with WiFi now and they all require “click here to accept” or “it’s free, just watch this dumb ad” buttons. If I *happen* to be using my browser when this happens, I can deal with it. But, if I’m getting mail, looking at the weather, etc. it just doesn’t work. By the time I figure out what’s going on, get in there and turn off WiFi or whatever is appropriate, I’ve moved on. Oh well. EDGE isn’t really that bad.


I’m hoping with the SDK, somebody will write a little program to “auto-accept” all of these (un)welcome screens for me.


I have many more things to share, but this is long enough already!