Apple TV Experiences (Includes Set-Up Help)

  • Posted: 26 March 2007 05:03 AM #31

    It’s arrived. Too soon for opinions, except, finally, I have something that just works. When Apple has the studios signed for (near-)HD, this product will be invincible. Live events will be the only thing left that needs old fashioned broadcast TV. A little problem was that the default video signal (720P 60Hz) was out of range for my plasma screen! I don’t know why. To try other resolutions, you press menu and plus for 6 seconds, and it will cycle through available resolutions until you stop it on one you can see. I had to read the manual! My plasma appears not to like 60Hz HD; 50Hz is fine.

         
  • Posted: 26 March 2007 05:27 AM #32

    I ran more extensive slideshows last night, for my parents. I’d digitized boxes of my father’s slides several years ago and they’d been sitting in folders in my hard drive; and I’d put some of them up on the web for people to see; but in hindsight, it’s obvious that looking at images over the web, even on small-to-medium sized LCDs, ISN’T the way that people want to look at photos.

    (Because at the time, there was some small comment on the web images, how nice, but that was the last I’d ever heard of it)

    Last night was different.

    I had the slides keyworded several ways, along with other photos, and I was able to run random slideshows several ways: the entire set; images that only contained my father; my mother; myself; my brothers; their pets; etc. This totally blew them away.

    My father couldn’t get over it, said that it was like watching his life flash before his eyes (hmmmm) and felt that the photo capability alone was worth the price of admission.

    I finally figured out (somehow I’d missed it) that photos in slideshows can be globally randomized with the “Shuffle” on/off for photos in the main Settings menu. So running these was great, thanks to Smart Albums in iPhoto. We were treated to images that spanned decades, and saw ages jump from 20’s to 60’s and back again. Try that with any slideshow projector!

    While this was running, I went to the other side of the house to add some more. iTunes politely tells you that it can’t sync more photos while AppleTV is busy; fair enough. It automatically does so when AppleTV is no longer busy. So back at the other side of the house, I stopped the slideshow, watched the Photos automatically start syncing again, and started things up a short time later.

    Technically, I could do this all from my living room; I use Timbuktu to control my main G5 from a MacBook Pro, so I could add more image, change parameters, etc. without ever leaving the couch. If iChat/Leopard does add this capability, it will get even easier.

    I wish there was a way to jump to the next piece of music while the slideshow was running. Maybe pressing the Up and Down control on the remote should do this, while Left and Right control which image in the sequence you’re looking at; this seems like it would be simple and natural enough. There are times when a music playlist running behind the photos gives you something you don’t like and you want to skip on to something else. Setting up better music playlists for slideshows would help, too, of course.

         
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    Posted: 26 March 2007 08:29 AM #33

    Having given up in disgust on the markets this morning, I spent some time playing with my new Apple TV and can only concur with dmiller that the photo viewing function is, on its own, good enough reason to buy the device. I simply can’t emphasise enough how much pleasure I got watching my albums on my TV, set to music, with fantastic transition effects between them. It makes the process of looking at photos directly in iPhoto while sat at your computer about as exciting in comparison as trying to have sex when you’re on your own, if you get my drift…
    Photos look stunning on a large-screen TV, even if they’re not either the best or at a high resolution. The experience of flicking through pictures in this way - many I hadn’t looked at in ages - was incredibly moving and has motivated me to start scanning in the thousands of old-fashioned prints I have stored away so that I can both enjoy them myself and show them in this way to other people.
    Anyone seeing this for the first time - especially if they can identify with the photos themselves (ie. friends and family) will find themselves yearning to be able to do this themselves. If I hadn’t bought an aTV, and I saw this at a friends house, I would have to buy one for the photo function alone. While it does have some limitations, I am sure they will be addressed in th future. In the meantime, I am just completely blown away and thrilled with this box of tricks and don’t regret buying it for a second.

    As usual, you can only appreciate the attention to detail in every process by actually using Apple’s latest toy rather than reading the technical specs and clueless analysts’ prognostications. Once you’ve got your own content on the device, it takes on a whole new meaning, and I can honestly say without exaggeration that in no small way it will change my life, simply from the pleasure I am getting from watching my photos transition and play back beautifully in my living room.

    A surprise: podcasts. Now I’m not big on subscribing to podcasts, but the availability of them on the aTV (mirroring what you have in your iTunes library of course) suddenly makes them appealing in a way I’d never experienced before. I deliberately set off to the Podcasts section of iTunes to see what there was, and to my surprise found myself subscribing to about 30 or so podcasts, ranging from news programming, finance, literature, technical geek stuff, mac info, film reviews, book reviews.. well I could go on and on. Many, many of these are video podcasts, but the majority are still audio. When you sit down in your living room to watch and listen to these, you realise the potential in podcasting. Seeing and selecting them on my aTV - including descriptions, artwork, and suchlike, ordered by title, and date, flicking through them with the remote while sat down with a coffee, was just a great experience. Watching and listening to them on my TV was simply fantastic, and the ability to automatically subscribe to them via iTunes so new episodes are downloaded to your library the moment they appear on-line, immediately viewable on your TV, makes podcasts a whole new world for me to explore with ease and simplicity. I can see myself using podacsts more and more; with the Apple TV, podcasts come alive.

    The Apple TV is truly the equivalent of the “last mile to the home,” to use an old cable analogy. Its the missing link to an incredible amount of really good content on the net. Content that should be viewed and watched from the comfort of your living room, not while sat at a keyboard and a computer.

    As an aside, its obvious why Apple have hitherto left out photo streaming (as opposed to syncing): speed and responsiveness.  Its one thing to stream audio and video, but with photos, you want to be able to pause, flick back and forth, without the slightest perceptible delay in response to your button pushes on the Apple Remote, and this it achieves without fault. One of the delights of using the aTV is the sheer responsiveness of every function and the almost complete lack of any lag or hesitation, no matter what you want to do - even if forward/rewinding streaming video over at 802.11g network.

    You have to go the “extra mile” yourself and take the time to ensure your iTunes and iPhoto library are well-organised and up-to-date, but once you do that, its an absolute dream to use and allows you to truly enjoy your photos, music, and movies in ways you had never imagined. And podcasting, as I said, is its secret weapon. I can see podcasting going mainstream in ways never before thought possible thanks to the aTV.

    More on this as I explore, but I can say quite categorically and unequivocally that this is a marvellous product, and an absolute steal at the price.

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  • Posted: 26 March 2007 08:50 AM #34

    [quote author=“Tommo_UK”]
    A surprise: podcasts. Now I’m not big on subscribing to podcasts, but the availability of them on the aTV (mirroring what you have in your iTunes library of course) suddenly makes them appealing in a way I’d never experienced before. I deliberately set off to the Podcasts section of iTunes to see what there was, and to my surprise found myself subscribing to about 30 or so podcasts, ranging from news programming, finance, literature, technical geek stuff, mac info, film reviews, book reviews.. well I could go on and on. Many, many of these are video podcasts, but the majority are still audio. When you sit down in your living room to watch and listen to these, you realise the potential in podcasting. Seeing and selecting them on my aTV - including descriptions, artwork, and suchlike, ordered by title, and date, flicking through them with the remote while sat down with a coffee, was just a great experience. Watching and listening to them on my TV was simply fantastic, and the ability to automatically subscribe to them via iTunes so new episodes are downloaded to your library the moment they appear on-line, immediately viewable on your TV, makes podcasts a whole new world for me to explore with ease and simplicity. I can see myself using podacsts more and more; with the Apple TV, podcasts come alive.

    Looking foreward, Podcasts will take on a dynamic new life. After my Atv was set up the photo slideshow blew me away. but it was the podcasts that really stole the show for me thinking of the future of this device. Video podcasts are going to be huge. The podcasts that I watched were not in the highest definition but as far as the categories that I wanted it was right there. Cable can never match this experience. The Vcasts are daily or weekly and auto update so The Cnet news, WSJ and IBD casts are timely. Some of these Vcasts have commercials in front lasting about 10 seconds. When the number of these Vcasts get to critical mass I think Apple will get a piece of the ad revenue.
    No matter what your interest is there is a podcast and most likely a Vcast to satiate your appetite. When the Windows people experience this incredible device they will absolutely think they have arrived on a new planet. As Tommo says you have to experience this to truly appreciate what a game changer it will be. As a stockholder I have never been happier. This company just keeps getting better just as the market thinks it hit it’s apex with the iPod. boy are the public and the investment community in for a shock!!!

         
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    Posted: 26 March 2007 09:00 AM #35

    [quote author=“SNIPUS”]Some of these Vcasts have commercials in front lasting about 10 seconds. When the number of these Vcasts get to critical mass I think Apple will get a piece of the ad revenue.

    Best of all, as these are replayed from files and not streamed live from the net, you can fast forward past the ads by a simple double-click on the fast-forward button on the Apple Remote, which skips 10 seconds at a time if you do that rather than just holding it down. Presto - no bothersome ads to watch! :D
    The Apple TV is going to grow the way the iPod grew. People will get these, and their friends/family will see it. They’ll want one too. Enthusiasm for the aTV is going to be infectious. Kids who see their friends with one are going to want one sooo badly, especially once they start to play with it some more. This IS a game-changer, and nobody really “gets” why yet, and they won’t until they’ve played with one themselves.
    Worth noting: playing with one in an Apple Store doesn’t do it justice. It isn’t your content on there. You’re not sat down on your sofa. You’re not flicking through your photos, and you’re not listening to your music. and you don’t have a coffee, oa beer, or a glass of wine to hand. Its a very bland experience compared to sitting down with one in your own home. I can see people initially dismissing it until they see one at a friend or family member’s house and really get into it. This one’s going to be a “grower.”

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    Posted: 26 March 2007 12:17 PM #36

    [quote author=“DawnTreader”]An iPod with a really big screen?  LOL

    That’s one way to look at it. How does it best integrate with home entertainment?

    Ask Tommo_UK, sleepygeek, dmiller, SNIPUS, and Gtrplyr.  :D

    We haven’t heard from Bosco, yet. He’s probably semiconscious after staying up all weekend watching his family’s photos. LOL

    [quote author=“sleepygeek”]My plasma appears not to like 60Hz HD; 50Hz is fine.

    That’s not surprising. The UK TV system (PAL) is based on 50 Hz, just like your power system.

         
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    Posted: 26 March 2007 01:38 PM #37

    Tommo,

    You just posted the best aTV review we will probably read. Makes me desperate while waiting to receive mine. And eager for loading much more AAPL.

         
  • Posted: 26 March 2007 02:10 PM #38

    Microsoft-MSFT increases board size to 10, adds Netflix’s CEO as board member Microsoft (MSFT) announced that its board of directors has increased the size of the board from nine to 10 members and elected Reed Hastings, 46, chairman and CEO of Netflix (NFLX), to the board. Hastings has also been appointed to the finance committee.

    This is getting serious! MSFT endorses Apple TV.

         
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    Posted: 27 March 2007 12:42 PM #39

    Apple just sent me an email confirming shipment of my aTV, arriving April 4th or earlier acconding to the note.  :D

         
  • Posted: 30 March 2007 11:22 PM #40

    Now that I have had a chance to use my aTV for a week ... I wanted to share my thoughts and experiences about this remarkable device.

    A couple points about my situation ... 1) all my media is organized in iTunes and 2) the aTV replaced an Intel Mac mini which previously occupied my living room.

    First of all, I think Apple has nailed two of the most fundamental issues concerning a device of this nature:

    1) dead simple setup
    2) flawless streaming performance

    Without those fundamentals taken care of ... aTV would have a harder time being adopted on a mass scale.

    In the past week, I have been using my aTV much more compared to the Mac mini which used to occupy it’s place.  Why?  Simply because the aTV acts as an appliance ... I don’t have to worry about pulling out a keyboard/mouse in case the Software Update screen pops up or the system is searching for the wireless mouse.  Another improvement is that the interface is much snappier compared to Front Row.

    The great part of this is that I can more fully use the TV and home theatre system I have in the living room ... I won’t have to spend as much time viewing /listening at the computer in my office.

    As many have already noted, displaying photos is a killer feature that not many realize at first ... I gave a colleague a demo yesterday and he was sold after seeing the photos being displayed for about 30 seconds.

    While I agree that more and better content is needed in iTunes ... I don’t think that should be a criticism of Apple TV itself ... after all, you can’t blame your new HDTV that non HD channels don’t look so hot.  I don’t think Apple expects users to upgrade their aTV’s as often as an iPod ... the only feature I can see being added in the next rev is a larger hard drive and 1080p support.  Beyond that, the improvements will come in the form of better content becoming available.  In my opinion, how things will look on aTV all depends on how well they are recorded and encoded ... no different than a CD or DVD transfer ... GIGO (garbage in garbage out) ... aTV is just the pipeline.

    There has been some discussion about adding DVD ripping to iTunes ... while I think this would be a welcome feature ... I don’t think it matters with respect to aTV ... I see DVD ripping as being beneficial in these cases:

    1) keeping DVD’s safe from young children’s prying hands
    2) portability ... you can watch a movie on your computer, iPod or iPhone

    In a home setting, I think it makes more sense to use a DVD player ... most households have them ... and they are dirt cheap if you don’t.

    I also don’t see Apple ever adding DVR functionality ... why? ... because it makes you dependent on the cable/satellite provider ... which brings me to the eventual goal of aTV ... to free one from that monthly cable/satellite bill (or at least being able to cut out the higher end packages).

    I see aTV as eventually being an aggregator of internet based content ... it won’t happen overnight ... but it will certainly be fun to watch the developments over the next few years.

    The only aspect of aTV that I am unsure of is surround sound ... it has digital output ... however, it appears that things are not as simple as adding AC3 or DTS to existing iTunes movies since these codecs were created for DVD ... the more advanced surround sound codec is AAC 5.1 ... however, there are no hardware receivers which decode this format.  As a home theatre enthusiast, high quality surround is definitely part of the movie experience IMHO ... I just don’t know how this is going to be handled within aTV in the future.

         
  • Posted: 31 March 2007 08:10 AM #41

    Well it’s very nice, but I do have some problems, possibly not Apple’s fault. I use an HDMI switch (Apple TV, Mac mini, Satellite box), and sometimes Apple TV seems to forget what resolution should be selected (I think it thinks I’ve changed screens). Hnadbrake encoded DVD’s are too dark and anamorphic doesn’t work. I expect I’ll resolve these.

         
  • Posted: 01 April 2007 11:26 AM #42

    A little tip ... if you hold down the Play/Pause button for about 4-5 seconds ... the ATV goes into sleep/standby mode.

         
  • Posted: 01 April 2007 11:49 AM #43

    [quote author=“Derrick”]A little tip ... if you hold down the Play/Pause button for about 4-5 seconds ... the ATV goes into sleep/standby mode.

    As does a Mac smile

         
  • Posted: 02 April 2007 02:52 AM #44

    [quote author=“Derrick”]A little tip ... if you hold down the Play/Pause button for about 4-5 seconds ... the ATV goes into sleep/standby mode.

    Another tip (I found myself and not documented from what I know):

    If you click once on the right it’s fast forward.
    If you click twice it’s twice as fast.
    If you click a third time it’s automatic and faster (don’t need your finger anymore)!

         
  • Posted: 02 April 2007 04:51 PM #45

    Elgato is introducing a USB based H.264 encoder:

    http://www.tuaw.com/2007/04/02/elgato-announces-turbo-264-usb-stick-h-264-encoder/

    Could have great implications for ATV.