I Have Lightroom in my Living Room on the Big Screen

Lightroom Apple TV

Yesterday, Adobe released the Lightroom Apple TV App. With this App installed on your 4th generation Apple TV you can log in with your Adobe ID and access/view any of your sync’d collections/photos.

Why Lightroom Apple TV is a big deal

The more Adobe Photoshop Lightroom becomes the center of my photography, the more I will want “Lightroom EVERYWHERE!” I already have Lightroom on my computers, my iPhone, my iPad Pro and the web. The next logical frontier was the living room. I use Lightroom not only to organize my photos and do non-destructive edits on them, but I also use Lightroom to “show off” my photos. I can do that one-on-one with my various “portfolio collections” via my iPad or iPhone or I could share a link to a specific collection allowing anyone to view on the web.

Lightroom_Portfolio_Collections_Sync

With the Lightroom Apple TV App this means that I can also show off my photos on the big screen anywhere in my home. There’s no need to export my photos and load them onto another device. There’s no reason to tie up my iPhone/iPad via AirPlay. I can just fire up the Lightroom Apple TV App, choose a collection and hit the Play button on the remote.

See it in action from setup to delivery

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Apple TV 4th Generation Review

AppleTV-4G_Remote

 

I’ve been an Apple TV user since the first model and have owned each one. The 3rd generation (1080p) model definitely became one of my favorite gadgets of all time. I not only used it for iTunes movie rentals and TV shows, but also largely to stream my own content from my own movie library. Apple TV is also great to be able to stream just about anything from your iPhone or iPad. I mirror my iPhone often to watch things like Periscope broadcasts on the big screen. It has been rumored for a long time that Apple was coming out with a “TV” and I never put a lot of faith in those rumors because I simply didn’t see what Apple could bring to the table that would make consumers want to take their existing TV’s off the wall and put up an Apple TV. It’s much smarter to make a box that connects to the TV of your choice and get all that Apple has to offer that way. The 3rd generation Apple TV was getting long in the tooth, but via all the software updates along the way it has really become a nice little full-featured box. So what could Apple do with the 4th Generation Apple TV?

My initial setup didn’t go as smoothly as I thought it would

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Netflix vs. Hulu Plus: If you could only have one?

AppleTV-TV_movies

I’ve been a Netflix subscriber for years and I have also tried a trial subscription to Hulu Plus. The thing that turned me off of Hulu (and still does) is that you pay the monthly fee ($7.99) and yet they still play ads. Also not to mention that during my trial period all the ads were bought out by the presidential candidates of 2012. I just couldn’t take any more. Three years later I’m willing to try Hulu Plus again, but is it worth it? I’d gladly pay more per month to eliminate the ads. Many of you have Hulu, Netflix or both. Tell me why?

What if you could only have one. Which would it be Netflix or Hulu Plus? Also now that HBO Now is coming soon, would you pick HBO over Netflix or Hulu?

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Check out the new lower price on the Apple TV here.



Chromecast – Stream web content to your HDTV wirelessly

chromecast-dongle

If you’ve followed my reviews you probably already know that I’m a fan of TiVo and Apple TV. Between the two devices I pretty much have all my TV watching needs covered. TiVo is definitely the best DVR experience for recording and watching TV shows and Apple TV is great for streaming all my media content, watching Netflix, YouTube, HBO Go, iTunes rentals, podcasts, etc. With Apple TV I can even stream/mirror any content from my iOS devices OR my Macs. The latest Macs and Mac OS X has AirPlay built-in. Even with all these capabilities I was intrigued by Chromecast. The low $35 entry price was low enough to give it a shot.

What’s Chromecast?

Chromecast is a small “dongle” that attaches to your TV via HDMI. However, don’t let the picture deceive you as it did me. You not only connect it to your TV via HDMI, but you also need to supply power to it. You can either use the supplied power adapter and plug it into the wall or you can use the USB cable and plug into an available USB port on or near your TV for power. This freaked me out at first because my TV is on the wall and I didn’t want any wires hanging down. However, I was lucky to have a USB port on my TV right next to the HDMI ports in the back. I was able to plug in the Chromecast and power it right off the USB port on the TV as well. No visible wires!

chromecast-setup

Once it’s plugged in and you turn your TV on to that HDMI input you’ll be presented with a setup screen. Head over to your computer and download the setup app. You computer should see the Chromecast wirelessly. During the setup process you’ll give it access to your WiFi network and enter your WiFi password. Mine needed to download a firmware update then I was up and running. After the Chromecast install on the TV, you’ll need to download (Google Chrome if you don’t already use it) the Chromecast extension for Chrome. This extension lets you broadcast from any browser tab you have open in Google Chrome to your TV.

settingupchromecast

How is this better or worse than Apple TV?

First off it’s not direct competition to Apple TV. Apple TV does way more and costs more. Chromecast only works with whatever you can display in Google Chrome or from a Chromecast compatible app on your computer or mobile device. So no streaming of other things on your computer unless they are Chomecast aware. However, that’s probably the one thing I like about it over Apple TV. While I can use AirPlay to stream ANYTHING from my MacBook Pro to my Apple TV, it’s a direct mirror. I cant’ say stream a slideshow in Lightroom and then go work on another photo in Photoshop. It’s a mirror of whatever I’m doing on the computer. (UPDATE – with Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks you can AirPlay to an Apple TV and use the Apple TV as a second display/extended desktop and NOT mirror.) However, with Chromecast I can stream content from one browser tab and go work on anything else while that browser content is streaming in the background. That’s what I like about it most and I think that’s what people that are trying to cut the cable/satellite bills out of their lives will like too. You can stream Netflix, HBO Go, YouTube or any other site to your TV while not tying up your whole computer. There are times that I watch my Slingbox via my web browser. Now I’ll be able to stream that content to my TV.

What about audio? This is the tricky part. If your content is either Flash based or coming from an App that is compatible with Chromecast then your audio will also stream to your TV. However, if the content is not Flash based then the audio will play through your computer.

The Bottom Line

If you want to stream content from the web to your TV, this is your easiest most cost effective way to do it wirelessly. The playback rate is “decent”, not great or perfect, but certainly watchable without dropping too many frames. The picture quality was very good. It’s a one time cost with no monthly fees. I’m tempted to get another one for travel/hotel room use.  You can get one here for $32.88. If you want to MORE, then I’d still recommend getting an Apple TV.

chromecast-nowshowing

Apple Adds HBO Go to Apple TV – Finally!

apple_TV_HBO_GO

Last night I saw the news that there was a software update to Apple TV that finally added HBO Go, as well as Watch ESPN, SkyNews, Quello, and Crunchieroll (anime). I stopped what I was doing and immediately did the update. As with all HBO Go devices and apps you will need to have an actual subscription to HBO through a compatible cable/satellite provider. I have Comcast Xfinity and it works.

Why on Apple TV?

If you have HBO already on your cable/satellite box then you might be wondering why you would want/need it on your Apple TV? That’s an easy one. At home I have Comcast/Xfinity and TiVo DVRs. Each TV has a box that can play HBO just like all the other channels. However, at my studio (a commercial building) Comcast doesn’t allow premium channels like HBO. I have Apple TVs at the studio and now I can have HBO on them. I’m a huge fan of Boardwalk Empire and often catch up on it while on the road or in studio. I have the HBO Go app on my iPad and now on my Apple TV. I can of course watch other HBO content, specials, concerts, etc. I also like the fact that they post episodes on HBO Go within about 10 minutes after they air live.

AppleTV_Main-Menu_Movies_US-ONLY_PRINT

While other set-top boxes like Xbox 360 had HBO Go I never figured out why it wasn’t available in Apple TV. My wait is finally over. Apple TV just keeps getting better with each update. Also the relatively low cost of entry makes it a no-brainer. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I think HBO is missing out! More and more people I talk to are cutting or have cut the cable. However, many of these folks would gladly pay a low monthly cost to get HBO Go. It’s a shame that it has to be tied to a home cable/satellite provider.

You can get an Apple TV here on sale.

Traveling with an Apple TV

AppleTV-2010

Im quite fond of the Apple TV for streaming content, watching movies and displaying my photos throughout my studio. This little box does a lot and with each software update Apple adds more capabilities to it. Recently I saw a deal on a refurbished one and I decided to snag it and use it as my “on the road” Apple TV. The idea is that since I travel so much and it seems that most hotels now have flat screen HDTVs in their rooms that I could potentially use an Apple TV to stream my own content during down time. However, the thing you have to keep in mind is that the Apple TV was never really designed to be taken on the road.

 

It needs a network connection

AirportExpress_2012

Unlike the 1st generation Apple TV, the newer models don’t have hard drives in them. So there really is no effective way to load it up with content before heading out. You have to either stream to it from a computer/iOS Device or you have to stream to it from the internet. The Apple TV has both WiFi and an Ethernet port. That helps a lot! Although it has WiFi it was not really designed to connect to random hotspots. There’s no web browser and therefore no way to really accept the terms and conditions even if the WiFi is free. I have been traveling with an AirPort Express Base Station for years. If my hotel room has an ethernet port I can just plug the AirPort in and provide WiFi to all my devices, including an Apple TV. Also the newer AirPort Express Base Station has an additional Ethernet jack so that you can even plug in a wired device to share the connection, such as an Apple TV. However, if there is no Ethernet port in the room and the WiFi network isn’t wide open you would be pretty much out of luck. You could use a MiFi or tethering to a smartphone/iOS device. You could also share the hotel WiFi connection from your laptop using Internet Sharing to the Ethernet port on your Apple TV. Before I’d do the latter I’d have to really really want to use my Apple TV. Otherwise I could just plug the computer into the TV and bypass the Apple TV altogether.

Continue reading “Traveling with an Apple TV”

Hulu Plus vs Netflix on Apple TV

Now that Apple has quietly added Hulu Plus to Apple TV (just reboot your Apple TV and it will be there). You have a choice in streaming TV/Movie Content Providers. I have been a Netflix customer for many years. I became loyal to Netflix on the day I saw the first ad that stated “no late fees!” I was so tired of Blockbuster and Hollywood video constantly charging me if my DVD wasn’t turned in on time.  Yes being late is my responsibility, but watching movies by a certain day of the week didn’t always work for me. The Netflix model was much better. Keep it as long as you want. Those days are behind me. I don’t get DVDs/Blu-rays anymore in the mail. I do however stream Netflix content to my Apple TV and my iPad. Granted, it isn’t the quality of Blu-ray and you don’t have the latest movies to stream right away, but I can usually always find something to watch when I have time to watch. I don’t have to wait for a disc in the mail and I don’t have to return anything either. Yep, I’m a streaming kinda guy now.

Hulu Plus or Netflix

I wasn’t interested in Hulu Plus at all! I didn’t see any advantage over Netflix, but I decided that since it was now built-in to my Apple TV I’d give it a shot. Let’s go through a comparison now.

Hulu Plus on Apple TV
Netflix on Apple TV

 

Price – Hulu Plus is $7.99/month for unlimited watching and Netflix is $9.99/month for unlimited watching. The different is Hulu Plus still has commercials that you are forced to play before the program starts and usually in the middle of your show. There is no way to skip these ads. Right off the bat I have a problem paying for streaming AND seeing ads too! Netflix also offers plans that will include DVD/Blu-rays too. So for $17.98/month you get unlimited streaming AND 1 Blu-ray at a time (keep as long as you want with no late fees). This is the best of both worlds because you can still get a current movie on Blu-ray and stream everything else. I would have to give the price advantage to Netflix even though it’s $2 more, it doesn’t have ads.

Content – both Netflix and Hulu Plus have thousands of shows and movies, but the Netflix has more! More doesn’t necessarily mean better, but more is more. When you are looking for something to watch, chances are you’re more likely to find something on Netflix. Again Netflix has the advantage here especially if you’re more into movies. I would say that if you are more into TV shows you might like the Hulu Plus experience and content list a little better.

On Apple TV – As far as Apple TV is concerned the experience is about the same between the two services. You can search for shows by name, browse categories and see your recently watched shows.

Going mobile – both Netflix and Hulu Plus have mobile Apps that let you stream content to your iPad or iPhone/iPod touch. I’d call this one a tie.

Take them both for a test spin

Ultimately you will have to compare for yourself. I have no idea what shows or movies that you will be most interested in. For me the winner is Netflix if for no other reason I can’t stand the commercials on Hulu Plus. Luckily both services have trials. Again even when it comes to trails Netflix has the advantage. You can try Netflix for 30 days. You can try Hulu Plus for 1 week!

 

Review: iTunes Match Finally Delivers What I’ve Been Wanting

I've been an iTunes user since day one (and even SoundJam before that). I've been an iPod user since day one too. I have a decent sized *music collection (6,649 songs) with a mix of tunes ripped from my CDs, purchased from the iTunes store and purchased/downloaded from other sources such as Amazon.com. While Apple has always done a good job in allowing me to sync my music/playlists to any number of iDevices, for some reason the company never saw fit to allow automatic syncing of music between multiple computers. I've complained about this on my blog in the past as well as going with 3rd party work arounds. 

 

The NEW iTunes Match Solves My Problems

In addition to iOS 5, iCloud and iTunes 10.5, Apple rolled out a new service called iTunes Match. iTunes Match is a paid service ($24.99/Year) and the idea behind it is that once you sign up (via iTunes 5) your music collection will be analyzed and "matched" with the music currently available on the iTunes store, whether you originally bought the music from the store or not. Tracks that are matched are then available to up to 10 of your devices (Macs, PCs, iDevices running iOS 5, or Apple TVs) via the cloud.

This also includes your playlists! Tracks that were not matched (in other words songs you have that aren't on the iTunes store) are then UPLOADED from your library to the iTunes cloud (iCloud). This means that ALL of your music is now available in the cloud no matter where you obtained it originally. 

 

Problems this solves for me

Once it did the initial "match" on my dedicated iTunes media server (a dedicated iMac running iTunes 24/7). I then went to my MacBook Pro and deleted all the music from that library. Once I deleted all the songs and playlists, I turned on iTunes Match on that computer as well. After a few moments ALL of my Playlists appeared on the MacBook Pro that are on the iMac. Any song/playlist that I want to listen to can now be streamed via the cloud. Also any music/playlists that I actually want to be physically on the drive say for offline listening can be downloaded with a single click. As long as my MacBook Pro has an internet connection I have access to ALL of my music at all times. Those times that I don't have access to the internet I can still enjoy the music that I've downloaded. 

On my iPhone, iPod touch and iPad – we know that these devices have limited storage. Therefore carrying around a large music collection means giving up something else. Once I turned on iTunes Match on these devices the music that was stored on them was immediately wiped and just like on my MacBook Pro, after a few moments I had access to ALL of my Playlists and All of my songs. The difference here is that any song you play is not only streamed initially but also stored so that it won't have to stream a second time. And yes you can proactively download any song(s) playlists that you know you'll want to be stored on the device for offline listening.

 

The Bottom Line

The benefits of iTunes Match are clear! I have access to ALL of my Music on any of my devices at all times (with an internet connection). I now use less space on my iDevices because I don't have them loaded up with music that "I may want to listen to someday". The other advantage is QUALITY! Some of my original CD Rips were at a lower bitrate. With iTunes Match you get everything at Unprotected AAC, 256Kbps (iTunes Plus) Quality. The other slick feature is that now it doesn't matter where I make organizational changes or new purchases. If I change a playlist on my MacBook Pro it's updated everywhere. If I buy a new song and add it to a playlist on my iPad, it's updated and available everywhere. This is one of those services that's worth every penny to me!

You couple iTunes Match with the new iTunes WiFi Sync for iOS (iPod touch in the car) and I'm completely in music heaven! I pull into my garage and it connects to the WiFi in my home and syncs the iPod with the latest changes. 

Now let's get iTunes Match for video/movies!

*Note: If you have more than 25,000 songs in your library that you did NOT get from the iTunes store then you exceed the limit of iTunes Match. iTunes Match only works for songs, not audiobooks, videos, ringtones, podcasts, etc.

Apple TV Update Sneaks in a New Photo Wall Screen Saver

I use Apple TV's and HDTV's throughout my studio to display my photography. When I did my last update to Apple TV for some reason it forced a factory reset and while it was no big deal to set it up again, I discovered that there were a couple new choices in the Slideshow/Screensaver area. One of them is called Photo Wall.  I love this one because not only does it frame your images in a variety of nice frames that float by, it adds nice touches like mattes and a 3D spin when it hits the corner of the virtual room. It's like you're walking along a wall of photos and you get to the corner and turn to walk down the next wall. Nicely done!

You can get an Apple TV 2nd Gen here for $99.

Keep it Sexy with a tvTray

One of the things I've always envisioned doing in my photography studio is using flat panel LCD/LEDs to display my photography in addition to prints on the walls. Now that I've moved to bigger digs I've installed a few flat panels and they are driven by Apple TVs. I contemplated whether or not if I would mount the flat panels on the walls or use stands. My interior designer said "mounting on the wall is more sexy." How could I argue with that? He was right! Of course mounting a flat panel HDTV on the wall these  days isn't really that hard. What makes this more challenging is figuring out what to do with any equipment that you plan to connect to it. Certainly one option would be to run long enough cables and store the equipment in a closet. However, in my setup this wasn't feasible. Since I only planed to connect an Apple TV to each panel at this point, I needed a solution to either mount it or hide it. Since the Apple TV 2 is so small you could actually hide it behind the flat panel. The only problem with this is potentially losing a great deal of range with the IR based Apple TV remote control.

H-Squared comes through again!

 

These guys are awesome. They have a variety of different products to mount your Apple gear on the wall/ceiling. I started using their products years ago to mount my AirPort Extreme base stations and Mac mini. I remembered seeing one of their new products, the tvTray while attending Macworld Expo this past winter. I visited their website for a second look and within about 2 seconds I knew that this was exactly what I was looking for.

Mounting an HDTV on the wall is sexy. Seeing the cables is not! I wanted a solution that would also make the cables disappear. I decided to mount the tvTray right underneath the HDTV so that the cables would run up behind the TV and out of sight. It worked beautifully!

Check out the tvTray here at H-Squared.