Particle Debris (wk. ending 9/3) A Bundle of Critical Thinking

| Particle Debris

I have been a long-time reader of Phillip Swann’s website. I first discovered his site when I was doing research for my HDTV system back in 2006. Mr. Swann is well connected to the TV industry and thinks critically about events and products in the TV & entertainment business.

However, Mr. Swann has been a consistent critic of the Apple TV and predicted its demise in 2008. That’s because he’s plugged into the pulse of the American consumer as opposed to being an Apple fanboy. His criticisms of the Apple TV have been blunt and to the point even while Apple customers keep the product alive in their closed ecosphere. And yet, it’s worthwhile to see what he says about the Apple TV. In a broad sense, he’s right. On the other hand, there are plenty of Apple customers who appreciate the Apple TV - it makes most of them very happy. That’s the double-edged sword of this kind of analysis. For your own edification, take a look to see what he has to say, even though, like me, you won’t agree with him. That’s not the goal. The goal is to gain that broader perspective that executives in the TV industry have.

To see how this plays out in another context, PC Magazine’s Sascha Segan looks at the content issues of the Apple TV. As I mentioned this week, the movie and TV executives are bound and determined not to let Apple dominate the delivery of their content — as Apple achieved with music. As a result, Mr. Segan doesn’t think that the new Apple TV is enough different to make a big difference. Apple TV will remain a hobby until Apple figures out how to outsmart the rest of the industry. In that sense, the Apple TV is a Federation outpost, poised to defend or attack as the need arises.

Apple TV (back)

Diverting for a second to the new iPods, another well-known writer at PC Magazine, Lance Ulanoff, asks some interesting questions about the new Apple lineup. In the process, he explains why the iPhone 4 is square and sharp, but the new iPod touch retains its curvy shape.

Back to the Apple TV. Another of my favorite writers, Ryan Faas, took a look at the Apple TV as well. He points out what others have: the new Apple TV is so small and light that it’s all too easy for a stiff cable to pull it into an awkward position or outright drag it off the TV stand.

In addition, he included great quote from Steve Jobs during the September 1 event that I didn’t catch. Mr. Jobs was explaining why the new Apple TV doesn’t have mass storage: “People won’t want to manage storage. And they don’t want to sync to their computer…. It’s too complicated.” Actually, I think that’s an verbal sleight of hand. When I first bought my Apple TV, I had a heck of a time syncing between my Mac and the Apple TV, and I stopped trying. Ever since, I just stream from a Mac to the Apple TV, never using the ATV’s hard disk. Syncing just didn’t work reliably. Perhaps Apple decided that the way to solve the technical problem is to eliminate it and turn a vice into a marketing virtue. You gotta watch Mr. Jobs on stuff like that.

I have been critical of Apple in the past for the internal design and error handling of iTunes. If you’ve ever had broken links to music, you know what I mean. However, this article by Wade Roush goes much, much farther in a critical analysis of iTunes. If you’re an iTunes user, this is a must read. Basically, he says that iTunes has become too large and too crufty (the term is explained). Apple’s sales tool, that critical interface to 160 million customers with a credit card on file, is just too big and unwieldy to mess with in any significant fashion. Even so, it could be Apple’s undoing.

I recall a similar situation with the old AT&T’s wireless customer resource management (CRM) system that led to severe difficulties about 10 years ago and so outraged so many customers that they would get together and have parties during which they’d destroy their AT&T mobile phones. I’m pretty sure AT&T had to completely re-build their CRM.

If you’ve been following the Oracle lawsuit against Google re: Java and Android, here’s a well researched and literate article that goes into more detail. The author, Timothy Andrews, cites a Software Engineer, David Ehringer, who provides technical background regarding Oracle’s complaint. This a very good article, and the fact that my article on the affair is mentioned is irrelevant to that.

Finally, if you don’t like the way iTunes 10 rearranges the signal buttons on the top left, here’s a way to put them back where you’d like them. You will, however, have to go onto the command line.


Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

John, One of the good things about switching to the N1 from the iPhone for me has been ditching iTunes. Apple lulls you into a fear of what you would do without one app managing all your music. More technically, if you’re familiar with how iPods do things, it needs to be indexed into a database file so that it can be searched and accessed quickly, then sync’d to devices to preserve the database.

And what I’ve found is that just keeping the music files piled up in a big folder is good enough. Building those databases on the fly for the particular device that needs them is really freaking fast, surprisingly so. You can easily keep several thousand songs on an SD card or flash drive for playback on a generic device and performance doesn’t suffer.

Call it the Windows way. Keep all the files on your main computer. Organize them if you like and copy them to your portable devices as needed or use a light-weight shareware sync tool. It actually works just as well as iTunes gets corrupted much more rarely because there’s nothing complicated to corrupt. Strange be that.


Strange. I’ve had an AppleTv for 3 years and have not had syncing problems, ever. I like having my photos stored for the screen saver.

I bought the new model within 5 minutes of the announcement just to get Netflix.



Do you need a title bar if you already have a tool bar and the application is obvious?


I think iTunes has gotten huge and does many things not as well as it could do one or two things. But comparing it to a horrific AT&T CRM application is a little extreme, because I’ve SEEN and worked with bad CRMs like that, and iTunes is nothing like that.

One thing I have seen with iTunes 10 is that the constant beachballs, freezes, and other patience wasters when doing something like syncing an iPhone or just downloading files has disappeared for me. Now, FINALLY, iTunes is useable again for me. I can live with that.

John Martellaro

Actually, I didn’t compare or equate iTunes to AT&T’s CRM.  I just said I recalled a situation in which a monstrous, hard to fix CRM got another company in trouble.


I like my old ATV and I’ve got a Roku box, too, so I already get Netflix and Amazon. The new ATV could’ve been killer with Blue Ray, but I’ve already got that in my sound system. An upgrade to 1080 would be the only thing that’d get my attention.


Someone gave me an original ATV and I ended up using it a fair amount.  Mostly to stream TED talks via Boxee.  Occasional movies and TV shows.  It runs like a little toaster, so getting rid of the hard drive should solve the heat problem.  It was also ridiculously overpriced.  Note that there is no USB port on the new one either—which is how you installed Boxee.  I ordered a new one, but actually may use the old one for TEDs.  I’d have bought it just for Netflix, but my BR player has that.  They should have put Boxee in it!  That would make it a compelling purchase.  It’s amazing how often Apple’s arrogance gets in the way of common sense.


BTW, the new one at $99 is still overpriced.  They should sell them for cost or even a loss.  The profit should be from the content stream, not the box.  They should have realized that.
The Boxee hack for the original ATV makes a compelling device for watching TED talks—you might want to pick one up on ebay.

John Martellaro

jpcflyer: What you describe as arrogance is really Apple’s desire to keep things simple and understandable. Not many living room TV customers, the kind I described in this article:

have even heard of boxee.


Outside the USA the new Atv looks very underwhelming.

For example - Compare the UK Apple store
with the US one

It doesn’t look like the same device!

[I hope I have the URLs right grin ]

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