One Guy’s Experience with the New Apple TV
The new AppleTV device is about the best experience our family has yet had with any product like it. Is it perfect and actually the “future of television?” Nothing ever is, and this may-or-may-not ‘win’ the future, but in my view it’s about as close as anything has ever come to date.
For the last 15 years or more I’ve owned and dabbled with just about everything: satellite and cable boxes; TiVo; Boxee, Plex, Kodi (formerly XBMC) and other media center offerings; Roku; and finally AppleTVs (we own three of the ‘old’ ones). My frustration with most mainstream offerings delivering close to what I want—but also missing features I need like access to my own ripped movies, home videos, photos and music—that I ended up with multiple home theater devices connected up:
- Roku – Mainly to access Amazon Prime and AcornTV (my bride and I are addicted to British TV)
- AppleTV – for iTunes store, connection to our computers & media, as well as Airplay capability
- Plex media center to deliver everything else that is not in iTunes on my computer and/or NAS (network attached storage).
Headed to the Apple store on Friday, October 30th to buy the new AppleTV since the Best Buy close to my house did NOT have them in stock yet (even though all news accounts said they would be in stock). The Apple Store Southdale shelves were full so I bought it and headed home to hook it up.
Booting it up the first time the device asked me if I wanted to set it up manually or via an iOS device. Selecting the iOS option I was asked to hold my device close and it sucked off the Wifi settings. Impressive.
Immediately I was surprised to see how much more detailed, crisper and saturated the graphics were on it. That carried over to the videos and games too. That alone made the purchase worthwhile, but obviously isn’t enough.
Buying and setting up a new device is always somewhat of a pain-in-the-ass since, even though one usually uses a backup for a new computer, smartphone or tablet to accelerate the setup process, one still has to connect it up and set up all the accounts and the new AppleTV process is not user-friendly.
I had to use the new, very slippery remote (and replacements cost $79.95 so DON’T DROP AND BREAK IT!) to manually scroll an alphabet to laboriously put in my email address and password for ALL of the accounts. No remote app for iOS is yet available—that would have made this a painless process—and I found myself pissed off that I had to do it. A bluetooth keyboard connection or Remote App for iOS would instantly fix that issue.
Next I launched the TV App Store and added all the familiar apps: Netflix; Hulu; some games, and more. Since there isn’t yet a “Categories” feature in the App Store, the only way to see what apps are in the store is to use that damn alphabet to click “a” to see apps starting with an “a”; “b” for “b” apps; and so forth. What a drag.
Was stunned to find a glaring omission too: Where the hell is the podcast app? Especially since Apple was the first company to offer podcasts in iTunes; Google is now offering them so there is competition; and podcasts are accelerating in popularity.
Fortunately, once setup the AppleTV experience was phenomenal.
Publishing Fail: Inhabitat
This is a post about a site I’m not going to anymore and I’m writing this because I tried to connect with them on their contact form. But I was stunned to see that one has to have a username and password to use the form. Really? So they don’t care to hear from anyone else?
Inhabitat is a site I’ve read for several years because I’m interested in their focus: Inhabitat.com is a weblog devoted to the future of design, tracking the innovations in technology, practices and materials that are pushing architecture and home design towards a smarter and more sustainable future.
That should probably instead say: Inhabitat.com is a weblog devoted to making as much money as we possibly can off of you. We do that by packing in so many ad-trackers, audience identifiers, and advertisements, so only 30% of your screen real estate is actual content while the other 70% is either visual noise or ways for us to make you click on stuff so we make money.
Unfortunately they are making the #1 small publisher mistake which is driving me away: Instead of making the visit to their site a great experience, instead it is crystal clear it’s all about providing them with an opportunity to monetize.
Would you believe that, if you go to their site, they use 78 advertising-related services and 35 analytics and tracking ones? Holy shit…see for yourself. While many of them might not be active (you have to subscribe to BuiltWith to get deep analysis), the site has so much going on when you visit (and a WordPress mobile plugin I detest: OnSwipe) that it’s more bother than it’s worth. I have a 75mbps download speed on my broadband connection and it takes 30-45 seconds to completely load their homepage!
So publishers, or anyone who creates and delivers anything to customers, FIRST focus on your visitor and their experience and THEN on yourself. If you reverse that you will fail…just like Inhabitat has done.
Takei Tours YouTube Space LA
George Takei’s YouTube show, Takei’s Take, tours YouTube Space LA (there are also London, Tokyo and New York locations currently). If you haven’t yet heard about this space, and what they’re trying to accomplish, this is a perfect overview in 4 minutes (and always enjoyable due to George’s take on things and his delightfully positive attitude and outlook)!
New Zealand in 4K
This video, shot in 4k of New Zealand vistas, is visually spectacular (even though my own display is not in 4k resolution). Watch it in full screen mode and enjoy the quality AND see why visiting New Zealand should be on your bucket list:
Understand What ‘Resolution’ Means
As an amateur photographer, I often try to explain to people why my small Nikon D5000‘s 12.3 million pixels produces a better photo than their smartphone camera or even what could be produced by this new Lumia 930 with its 20 megapixel camera.
Besides the obvious: the lens is bigger, it is that and the sensor in the camera that determines the resolution of the image. I know figuring out resolution, and why it matters, is a challenge so I encourage you to watch this very well presented short video that explains it better than anything I’ve seen yet:
Gadget Man – Why the World Needs InternetTV
In 2007 I became aware of a new show called The IT Crowd in the United Kingdom and a bunch of my geek buddies were highly recommending it. I found, ahem, alternative ways to obtain the show since it was not available in the United States at the time. My son and I started watching it and it became a much beloved show, and we had a really nice shared bonding experience over it (since he’s a geek too).
Fortunately, today the show is available on Netflix in its entirety if you care to watch it. I wish Netflix streaming had been around then since I hated having to use those alternative ways to view the show back then but it was the only way to see it.
We got quite a kick out of one of its main characters, Moss (played by Richard Ayoade). Looking for a video I’d mentioned to a client on YouTube, I stumbled across a show which I’d never seen before: Gadget Man, starring Ayoade. Turns out he’s just as funny and engaging as he was on The IT Crowd, and the British penchant for smart programming (vs. low-brow reality TV like so much of U.S. cable) makes this a very engaging show to view.
Howard Kurtz: A Turning Point in Media
You might have heard the brouhaha about CNN’s Howard Kurtz and his handling of the Jason Collins story, the supposed first major sports figure who came out publicly as gay. This is the seven minute segment where Kurtz sets up how he botched the story and gets grilled by two other journalists.
Why is this a turning point? Because in a day when any of us who blog, are on social media or are otherwise connected online we can comment and bring forth a shitstorm of opinion. By doing what Kurtz did this is the only way he could potentially save his career, maintain credibility at CNN itself, defuse the irony that he runs a show where he analyzes the American news media called “Reliable Sources,” and to do the right thing. Give it a watch:
The Minneapolis Star’s Demise
My dad died less than a month ago (here is our tribute site to dad) and my sisters and I have been going through the house and his belongings. Besides removing anything of value and cleaning the place out, we have a relative staying there who also has uncovered some cool stuff like this old newspaper in a crawl space which I saw and went through yesterday. Dated Friday, April 2, 1982, it was the last of the Minneapolis Star evening editions which was then merged in to the morning paper to make today’s Minneapolis StarTribune.
Paging through this yellowed rag brought back a lot of memories of the role this newspaper played in our lives and yet it was another reminder of how the old makes way for the new. People, and information delivery methods, all outlive our usefulness as direct economic contributors. The history of mass media shows how the first “high circulation” newspaper was the London Times in the early 1800s, so the major daily newspaper is but a blip in the timeline of humanity.
Thankfully, as evidenced by how wonderful it was for my dad to be around for twenty five years after he retired at 62 years of age, dad’s influence and ‘usefulness’ to everyone around him continued on.
But back to newspapers. A lot has been written about the demise of ‘traditional’ media like TV, radio, magazines and newspapers. Most of us are aware that things are downtrending, some magazines have gone to digital only, and clearly newspapers are struggling.
Is Your WiFi Weak? Get MOCA Boxes Now!
WiFi signal strength in my house has always frustrated me, especially now that we have our AppleTV upstairs, another in the family room, my daughter streams Netflix through her Playstation downstairs, my son online games with his XBox upstairs and I am the guy who gets the brunt of everyone screaming, “Dad! The internet is really slow!“
Since I was not about to go back to the Stone Age and wire my house with ethernet, I tried every solution I could think of: Two Apple Airport Express devices as network extenders (they stream music too) and a Belkin repeater in our home theatre area. I even tried three of these powerful WiFi routers at various times but my signal strength never did boost enough to make much of a difference. All of our WiFi connected devices worked, but doing anything on them was still slow in some areas of the house and our TV streaming quality was almost always crappy (especially if we were all online watching streaming TV and on our iPads, iPhones or computers).
Over dinner one night with our brides, I began whining to my brother-in-law about my wireless troubles (he owns Audio by Design in Minneapolis, a high-end installer). He chuckled and then said to me, “Why not install MOCA devices?” I had NO idea what he was talking about and, after he gleefully pointed out he finally had something about technology he could tell me, he told me all about why MOCA was so good, how it was so much better than ethernet over powerline, and that using WiFi repeaters like I had done in my house simply weren’t effective.
Turns out that there is so much available frequency capacity in the coax cable that runs throughout most homes that it’s trivial to piggyback on it with an ethernet protocol. The Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MOCA) was started to leverage that available coax and man-oh-man…it works really well! (Read more here at Wikipedia).
It took me less than 10 minutes to hook up one box between my cable modem and the wall and the second one downstairs between my daughter’s TV and the wall (an ethernet cable then went to her Playstation for Netflix streaming). The next night she came upstairs and exclaimed, “Wow! Streaming is perfect Dad!” We then bought two more and hooked up our home theatre and our upstairs AppleTV and now we experience zero stuttering, buffering, slow connections or anything else.
Take a peek at this MOCA video to learn more about what it can do (and there are a lot more MOCA videos here):
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is in full swing and The Verge is doing a live show (archives are here). Though I have limited time to watch, it still is nice to have a bit of an overview as I wait for my conference call today.
What strikes me about coverage like this is how many new media groups (e.g., TWiT) are streaming, covering events, incorporating live chat, and are ensuring those of us not attending can get a good overview of what is happening. The challenge is trying to get “the headlines” without investing an hour in watching something live.
That’s why I typically go to The Verge. Their coverage is complete, attractive and opinionated. Their “CES Hub” is a one-stop-shop to see what is happening at CES as it presents all of their posts, videos and more. Very well done.