AirPlay for Apple TV is here!

 

Apple released iOS 4.2(1) this week for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad and one of the most touted features is here. It's called AirPlay. AirPlay is the evolution of AirTunes. You might remember that with AirTunes you could stream audio to a stereo or speakers connected to an AirPort Express or Apple TV. Now with the NEW 2010 Apple TV you can not only stream audio/video from your Mac/PC, but you can also stream audio or video from your iOS device. 

 

 

What can you do?

With an iOS device running 4.2.x and an updated 2010 Apple TV you can now stream music from the iPod app, Videos from the Video/iPod App or Pictures from the Photos App. You can also stream YouTube videos from the YouTube App. I imagine as developers update their Apps you'll see more Apps take advantage of AirPlay (content licensing permitting). 

 

What can't you do?)

You can't stream movies taken with your iPhone 4 directly from your iPhone 4. There seems to be a hardware limit in the iPhone 4 in terms of bitrate/compression that makes it impossible to stream HD videos captured with the iPhone 4 directly to your Apple TV. Also if you own the original Apple TV you're not invited to the AirPlay iOS video streaming party. There is no software update for the older models to allow this feature.

 

How well does it work?

I streamed a movie from my iPad without skipping a beat (over my 802.11n network)! No pauses, no glitches. It worked fine. I also streamed photos from the Photos app with no problem. Lastly I streamed a YouTube clip and surprisingly (because YouTube pauses all the time) it played without any problems/pauses as well. 

 

The Bottom Line

If you have an iPhone 3G or higher or an iPad/iPod touch as well as the NEW Apple TV, this is what you've been waiting for! While I think the technology is cool, I still wonder how often I'll actually use it? As I said from the start, it's rare that I would have something on my iOS Device that wouldn't already be on my computer/Apple TV. Granted I could have just taken some photos with the iPhone 4 camera and want to see them right away and there would be a good use case. It would have been nice to view a video shot with the iPhone 4 wirelessly on the big screen, but that's not possible without taking it to the computer first anyway. Time will tell! Nonetheless in my initial testing it all works as advertised.

You can get the NEW Apple TV here for $97.99.

My New Google TV: A Work In Progress

A little bit about my habit

I admit it. I'm a TV junkie. Yes, I'm one of those guys that actually enjoys TV. Now while you may be picturing this guy laying on a couch with empty potato chip bags all around, I'm not quite that bad. I use TV as a form of turning my brain off. I work long hours every day. I travel for a living and that in and of itself adds layers of stress on my life. I'm constantly on my computer working or reading up on the latest things in tech. When I've had enough! It's time to veg in front of the TV. This means that I'm not looking for inspiration. I'm not looking for a message on life. I'm not looking for controversial issues. I'm looking for simple entertainment. That's it. 

With that said, I've got all the latest TV gear in my home. HDTVs, a theater room, TiVo HD, Apple TV, Comcast HD Cable Service, Slingbox, Playstation 3, Nintindo Wii, Xbox 360 and a Netflix account. At one point I even had both DirecTV AND Comcast until DirecTV all but accused me of lying about a pay per view that I didn't order (as a result I'm no longer a DirecTV customer, their loss!). There is no shortage in ways to watch TV in my life. 

 

When do I find the time to watch?

I almost NEVER watch a live broadcast. I just don't have the time to sit in front of a TV on someone else's schedule. That's why TiVo HD is my favorite piece of gear out of all of the above boxes. I set up the Season Passes and one time recordings for the shows I want to watch and when I'm home and done with work for the day, I can usually get 3-4 shows in (fast forwarding through commercials) in one sitting. My second favorite box is my Slingbox. This allows me to stream my own TiVo recordings anywhere I happen to be traveling on my computer or my iOS devices. Lastly I also like to watch on those long flights. Therefore I either bring Netflix DVDs or rip the TiVo'd shows to my laptop or my iPad. That pretty much covers that ways that I watch content. I'm not a regular Hulu user and I rarely if ever watch shows on the network websites. The biggest reason for this is that I'm either watching at home and using TiVo or I'm in the air and don't have an internet connection to stream content. So streaming shows to my computer is the least interesting option for me.

 

The road to Google TV

I was intrigued by Google's initial teaser video on the upcoming Google TV and put it on my list of gadgets to check out. At the same time I was looking to replace the HDTV in my bedroom. The one I had was a Sony 32" 720p lower end Bravia. While this TV worked fine, I wanted a few more HDMI ports, Full 1080p resolution and the power saving aspects and clarity of the new LED sets. I was in no hurry and was just waiting for the right deal to come along. Also I had no particular brand in mind. I have no love or hate for Sony. I have several Sony products, but if a better set came along by another manufacturer I'd consider it.

Then I got an email from Sony announcing "the world's first HDTV powered by Google TV". I thought "perfect timing"! I was in the market for a TV and I wanted to tryout Google TV and this would kill two birds with one stone. 

Continue reading “My New Google TV: A Work In Progress”

The New Apple TV: New Users Might Love It, Old Users Might Hate It

I've been a fan of Apple's "hobby" Apple TV since day one! I've got more than a couple of them around the house. 🙂 When Apple had their annual iPod event this past September it was rumored that we might see a smaller, more affordable Apple TV and the rumors were true. Apple introduced a much smaller and more more affordable Apple TV. This new box is sooooooo tiny. It's also less than half the price of the model it replaces. As we know, that's rare for Apple products. When the announcement happened I was traveling on business, so I had to rely on various web reports during my breaks to follow the news. The one thing I kept trying to figure out from the scattered reports was, "what did this new one offer that my existing one didn't?" After all we're used to new technology having more bells and whistles to make you want to upgrade. I kept seeing the reports on size, price and Apple's new TV show rental prices as well as Netflix and AirPlay streaming, but that was it. Yes, that was it! This new Apple TV seems to take away as many features much as it adds. Now don't get me wrong, I'm still a fan of Apple TV and I think they will sell more NEW Apple TVs than ever before at the new price point, it's just that I'm not compelled to run out and replace the rest of my existing ones. Let me tell you why…

 

What you get

Like I said, it's SMALL and it runs much cooler than the previous model. One of my Apple TV's is located in a cabinet (this is the one that the new one replaces for me) and I often wonder if the heat build up will fry it? So I'm pleased to see the new one take up less space and run cooler. You also get the new shinny silver aluminum remote. I didn't even take mine out of the box because my Harmony One Remote works just fine with this new model too. On the back you'll find an HDMI port, Optical Audio, Ethernet (there is also built-in 802.11n WiFi) and a USB service port. There is one LED indicator on the front and the power supply is built-in so there is just a power cord and that's it. Nice!

Once you have it setup this is where you'll find the biggest differences from the old to the new. 

 

Out with the OLD Apple TV

The original Apple TV with current interface above

 

The New Apple TV is all about Streaming!

There is no user accessible internal storage. Rumor has it that there is 8GB of flash memory, but I imagine that it's reserved for buffering streaming content. So unlike the previous models there is no way to store TV shows, movies, podcasts or music on the device itself. You'll either have to stream it live from the internet or a Mac/PC on your network (see AirPlay below).

 

In with the NEW Apple TV

The NEW 2010 Apple TV above

 

As a matter of fact Apple has made it clear that it's all about streaming in the new menu structure. YOUR content is now buried under "Computers" instead of being mixed in with the other media choices like TV shows, Movies, etc. Also since there is no storage, there is no requirement to "Sync" with a computer. Unlike the previous model, this new one relies on iTunes Home Sharing if you want to stream your content to the device from your computer. So as long as you are logged in with your Apple ID on your computer and your Apple TV, your content will appear under the Computers section. This is not the end of the world, it will just take some getting used to for previous Apple TV owners. New Apple TV users won't think twice about it.

It seems so un-Apple like to not see any imagery from your library on this screen above

Once you drill down into your computer you will then see your content stream by as usual.

 

 

Rent vs. Buy

Renting makes sense and that's what the 2010 Apple TV is all about. There is NO option to "Buy" content directly from your Apple TV. This will be another thing that existing users would have to adjust to. You can rent movies and TV shows (currently only from ABC, ABC Family, Fox, Disney Channel and BBC America). TV shows are only $0.99 to rent the HD versions as opposed to buying them for $1.99 for the Standard Def version or $2.99 for the HD version. I really really like this model because the only reason I ever bought TV shows in the past was because there was no option to rent them. I usually only watch them one time after buying them and only buy them because I forgot to TiVo them. As far as movies go, I also rent 99% of the time and this has not really changed on Apple TV. The only thing you can't do is BUY a movie (or any other content) on Apple TV. You can still buy iTunes content on your computer and stream it, but not directly from the Apple TV itself. While many would argue that if it's (a movie) good enough to buy, you probably want the Blu-ray version anyway. Nonetheless, I'm still surprised that Apple doesn't at least allow a "Buy" option of any media they sell and have that content download on your computer instead. Clearly this is possible via Home Sharing since both devices are tied to the same account. So why have to get up go over to the computer to buy something and then go back to the Apple TV just to watch it or listen to it? This would be especially useful for things like music and music videos. By the way, there is no option to access the iTunes store from a Music perspective at all on the new Apple TV. You can only access the music sitting on your computer. 

Continue reading “The New Apple TV: New Users Might Love It, Old Users Might Hate It”

What Do We Want From TV?

Google made a lot of noise recently with their announcement about Google TV. See their short concept video here:

 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diTpeYoqAhc

 

This got me thinking about how I watch TV now and how much of it is on the computer vs. on my HDTVs. I probably have more vested in TV than the average person. I have multiple HDTVs, multiple TiVo HDs, multiple Apple TVs and a couple of Slingboxes. Yep, I like to get my TV on! The conclusion that I came to after watching Google's video is that while I definitely watch my share of "internet" videos, I don't think that my viewing habits will change all that much with Google TV. Here's my reasoning: when I watch a clip on YouTube, it's primarily because I'm already on my computer and it's an in the moment kind of thing. Someone sent me a link or it was embedded in a website that I was already headed towards. It's also like to be a SHORT clip (YouTube limits the clips to 10 minutes max). Each of my TVs already has either an Apple TV or TiVo HD connected to them (if not both) and both of those devices can view YouTube clips. However, I almost NEVER watch YouTube via those devices. I don't sit down to look for stuff to watch on YouTube or the internet. This might also be due to the fact that unless I specifically hook up a keyboard or run some type of App on my iPhone/iPad that searching with these devices via the onscreen keyboard is a royal pain. So If I sit in front of a HDTV it's usually to watch a longer show and probably one that I've already TiVo'd ahead of time. 

Continue reading “What Do We Want From TV?”

Best of 2009: Terry’s Top 10 Gadget Picks

Happy New Year! It's that time once again to take a quick look at my favorite gadgets of last year. The gadgets I've chosen were the ones that I used the most and that had the most positive impact on my day-to-day life. These gadgets were either introduced in 2009 or had significant updates in 2009. These are the gadgets that I would recommend to a friend without hesitation. So let's get to it…

 

iPhone 3GS

iPhone 3GS

Anyone that knows me knows that the iPhone 3GS is my communications device of choice. The 3GS made my life easier this year with more memory, a faster processor, and graphics to run apps that I never dreamed of right from the palm of my hand. I use my iPhone quite a bit in my day to day routine. I actually get a ton of work/communications done with this device.  I get both work and personal email, SMS and MMS messaging, productivity and business apps, and yes even the ability to make calls. This is the one gadget that I now couldn't imagine being without. See my original iPhone 3GS review here. Learn more about the iPhone 3GS here.

See my Must Have iPhone Apps here.

See my favorite iPhone and iPod touch accessories here.

 

Logitech Harmony One Universal Remote

When I am at home and not producing content, I enjoy my home entertainment systems and home theater. The one remote that has worked for me better than any other remote I've tried is the Logitech Harmony One. This remote is configured from your computer to do exactly what you want. Anyone with more than a couple of entertainment components should do themselves a favor and check out the Harmony One. See my original review here. Get the Harmony One Remote here.

Continue reading “Best of 2009: Terry’s Top 10 Gadget Picks”

iTunes Extras work like a DVD

DVD Extras have never really excited me. I can't think of a single DVD movie that I bought because it had great extras. Director's commentaries, deleted scenes, alternate endings, interviews and trailers are all cool, but I almost never look at them. So needless to say when Apple announced iTunes Extras in iTunes 9, I wasn't even remotely interested. Then something happened…

itunesextra-startrek

 

I saw that I can have visual chapters now?

I loved the NEW Star Trek movie so much that I bought it on iTunes immediately and later on Blu-ray (yes, I know the Blu-ray comes with a Digital Copy. I was excited OK?). I hadn't had a chance to watch it again until recently. I decided to watch it on my Apple TV. I was pleasantly surprised by the menu that came up. Sure I knew about the possibility of Extras, but what I wasn't expecting was a more "DVD like experience" in the form of a menu and more importantly CHAPTER perspective. 

Continue reading “iTunes Extras work like a DVD”

Blockbuster, it’s the internet stupid

bb-express-digital

When I saw this story come across my RSS reader, I almost spit out my drink. It seems that Blockbuster (in an attempt to remain relevant) is trying all kinds of new things. Let's face it! Netflix kicked your butt and you're in a fight for your survival. I get it. However, you have to realize that while you were hell bent on charging me obscene(more than the movie cost) late fees back in the day that someone (Netflix) figured out a way to eat your lunch by letting customers keep their movies as long as they wanted for one flat rate. Netflix continued to grow their business by moving BEYOND THE DISC (MEDIA) MODEL and partnered with every company they could on delivering (TiVo, Sony, Microsoft, etc.) streaming movies.

The fact that one of your newest ideas involves customers walking up to a kiosk and downloading a rental or getting a rental on a memory card shows me that you still don't get it. The "drive to my local movie rental store to pick up media" model has a very short life ahead of it. Maybe it's just me, but I think you should be investing more towards getting movies into the hands of your customers via the Internet and on mobile devices. You made a great first step by hooking up with TiVo. Although I'm happy with Netflix and iTunes I did cheer for you. You should really continue in this direction!

 

iTunes isn't going away!

The fact I can rent a movie right on my Apple TV in my living room should make you guys really nervous. Partner, Partner, Partner. This will be the key to your survival. Look at the boxes people are buying and hooking up to their HDTVs and do whatever it takes to get on those boxes at a reasonable price to your customers. Competition is great! Compete!

What I want in a digital picture frame

My buddy Dave Moser asked me the other day for a recommendation on a digital picture frame. Luckily it was over email and text messages and therefore he couldn't see the blank look on my face. I have a few digital picture frames in my house, but sadly none of them really stand out or come to mind as something I'm so excited about that I would joyfully recommend. The problem is that I haven't seen a digital picture frame yet that is GREAT! I haven't even seen any yet that are really good. The current selection of frames out there that I've seen are just "OK".

 

What I want in a digital picture frame

The problem is that when it comes to a digital picture frame it not only has to have great technology in it for loading images and seeing them, but it also has to be aesthetically pleasing because this is something that is going in your home on display. And therein lies the problem, I haven't seen one yet that's a good enough blend between art and science. So I thought I would build "my" perfect digital picture frame here. Hopefully it already exists and one of you will point me to it and if not, someone will read this and build it some day. So here goes:

Continue reading “What I want in a digital picture frame”

New iPods today!

iPodEvent9909

Today is Apple’s annual iPod event

 

It’s highly likely that we’ll see a complete new line of iPods introduced today and possibly a new version of iTunes too. An Apple TV update would be sweet too.

 

I don’t like to deal in rumors, but here is the running list of rumors about what’s on tap for today:

  • New iPod nano with camera
  • New iPod touch (16GB, 32GB & 64GB) with camera, microphone and maybe video recording
  • New iTunes 9 with social networking features
  • Either a New iPod Classic with a camera/wi-fi or the iPod classic will be discontinued completely
  • New shuffle??? Maybe?
  • Beatles catalog coming to iTunes
  • Beatles Special Edition iPod that includes the entire collection
  • iPhone OS 3.1 Update (non-destructive video editing, 3GS voice control over bluetooth, bug fixes)
  • New Apple TV update (the 40GB model seems to be out of stock at the Apple Store online)

I’ll give you my run down of the event and my thoughts after the introductions are made. Check back here later today.

 

 

My DVD to MP4 Media Conversion Project is Done!

emptydvdracks 

You might remember my post from May when I was in the middle of converting my Movie DVDs over to a hard drive. I have successfully converted my DVD movie connection to .MP4 H.264 format! This means that I can now enjoy any movie I own on any HDTV in my house via Apple TV or I can take the movies with me on my laptop or iPhone. I actually finished the conversion a couple of months ago, which was much earlier than I anticipated.

appletv

How did I do it?

I have over 380 standard def Hollywood DVDs. Painstakingly one-by-one I converted each one over to an .MP4 file using Handbrake. All 440 movies total (some were already digital or home movies) were imported into iTunes and reside on a Drobo connected to an intel iMac. This iMac serves as my iTunes server. It’s the one that all of my Apple TV’s are sync’d to and it’s the one that I use to sync my iPhone to for media ( you can sync an iPhone to more than one computer for data and media separately). I also use this iMac to sync my iPods too. So it has it all, music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, best of the best photos, etc. 

Continue reading “My DVD to MP4 Media Conversion Project is Done!”