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Friday, March 23, 2007

Mike's first thoughts on his own AppleTV

NOTES ON APPLETV:

Executive summary type stuff first:

-a wired connection is waaaaaaaay faster. If you can sync over an Ethernet rather than Wifi connection, DO IT. 100BaseT as compared to 802.11g (not the faster/newer 802.11n) is about SIX TIMES FASTER. 802.11n is also slower than an Ethernet connection - the limiting factor is the write speed of the drive in the AppleTV.

-I'd been planning on upgrading my hard drive in the AppleTV since somebody said you couldn't fine tune manage your AppleTV content - incorrect - you can only sync by Playlist, NOT by individual song/movie. This makes it pretty manageable.

-Also, surfing via remote gets cumbersome when looking for something in particular - you miss that search field...

-the AppleTV is VERY careful about screen burn in issues - when playing a song, it flips the picture and text to opposite sides after a brief interval, then flips to screensaver mode if unattended. Then song info is overlaid in the corner - NICE attention to detail

-AppleTV can only "pay attention to" one network connection at a time - if syncing over Ethernet, I can't add another iTunes to stream from over wireless.

-so best setup suggestion - sync originally over Ethernet, then switch to wireless for streaming. I'll betcha getting long playlists up, fast forwarding, etc. is faster over wired connections though.

-what happens when you set up to sync to one machine wired, then switch AppleTV to wireless? Will it get confused or cause problems?

-I therefore plan to connect wired as much as possible.

-the physical unit itself - sucka runs HOT - stacking ill-advised

-even after pairing the remote with the AppleTV, it keeps accidentally triggering stuff on my laptop - can I pair my laptop remote with my laptop so they'll leave each other alone? DEFINITELY a concern!

AH - THE FIX:

1.) Hold remote for the Mac close to the little IR sensor on the Mac
2.) Hold down Menu and Next (right arrow) on remote for several seconds until the chain link looking icon appears

DONE!


-can't play back stuff in Movies or Music folder on your Mac - it HAS to go through the gatekeeper of iTunes

-as already noted, only H.264 is supported at this time officially - although hacking Xvid in there seems to be doable (I haven't...yet)

-Also seems that it can't utilize the wireless/wired bridging that my Apple brand (Airport Express) router does - while my wired & wireless machines can see each other over the network, AppleTV can't, and that's a damn shame I wish they'd fix in v1.1

-MAN this thing has depth. There are lots and lots of "Apple Luv" touches all over it - while there are still a bunch of rough edges, a LOT of your $300 worth of value is from the good UI in my book. Roku? F that - a high def iTunes interface with HD picture viewing and a killer UI - that alone, TO ME, is worht the $300. I'd love it if it had "real" HD playback, PVR, HD downloadable movies etc. - but that is all extras.

-up/down buttons do NOT adjust volume if connected via optical audio - this is kinda normal/expected, but annoying

-if you surf out of a category (like Music), it stops playing - so you can't keep listening to music while you look over Photos or something.

-high res artwork is worth having!!!

-Navigating large song libraries is tougher in AppleTV than in iTunes. It is about the same as with an iPod, but no click wheel (you just hold down the button to scroll fast through a list instead, which isn't as precise).

-between cover art and trying to surf through content by artist/genre/albums/etc., keeping your metadata complete and high quality (every song should have cover art, genre, artist, etc. all filled in) makes life MUCH better - it is sad when you don't have cover art for a song. I came across a link for an app to go find all your cover art and install it in iTunes for you for $18 - I'm reconsidering that now, considering how much content I have.

While setting up to configure my AppleTV, I decided to first sync to my laptop, to simulate a more normal/typical user setup rather than my own ridiculous excess.

Copying over some TV shows and movies, I first started by using the built-in 802.11g (NOT the latest fastest 802.11n, which requires the newest wireless tech in BOTH your computer and your router to take advantage of).

Importing over network from remote drive directly into iTunes (which is set to copy & organize files) over 802.11g wireless with full signal strength and no other traffic on the network - about 1.5 MB/sec (yes, megaBYTES, not megaBITS).

Importing over network from remote drive directly into iTunes (which is set to copy & organize files) over 100BaseT network (from high speed RAID to laptop drive): about 10.5-11 MB/sec. So clearly, a wired connection is MUCH faster and more responsive if you can arrange it.

(note - these are G5 to MacBook transfer speeds, NOT transferring to AppleTV - I just wanted to show that wired connections are about 7 times faster!)

OK, so my goal was to see what the OOBE (Out Of Box Experience) was like with AppleTV. There's already dozens of nearly pornographic explorations online (see other posts below), so I thought I'd see how LONG it takes to get set up, by stopwatching and taking realtime notes and video.

Complete non-sequitor...I have no idea why "Gay Friendly Auto" ads are appearing on this page on my blog...does my just saying that mean that guarantees they'll continue? Just curious how the demographic/Google/AdSense algorithm decided this was a good page for those ads...if in the early 2000s it was a case of "My TiVO thinks I'm gay" as a meme, is the New Shiznit "AdSense thinks my blog is gay?" Just wonderin'...

--hooking it up - it is inherently 720p - even when connected to a 1080p or1080i set. Drat. That makes me think that 960x540 footage will be getting scaled to 1280x720 for playback. Nope - you can set resolutions on the set.

When actually syncing, I could check network througput with Activity Monitor and over 802.11g I was getting about 1.8-2 MB/sec - therefore, about 7 GB per hour - so it would take over FOUR HOURS to sync up and fill up. Bag that - I put it on a hard line (GigE) and tried again - copy transfer rate went up to

-I decided to try to capture the image via my analog inputs on my BlackMagic Multibridge Extreme. Unfortunately, I'd already returned the DeckLink HD Studio that had HDMI input - not that it would've worked anyway due to HDCP (High Datarate Copy Protection).

Is there Macrovision protection or something on the HD analog outs? Why can't I get it to show up? I tried the same presets by feeding from another uncompressed HD workstation - 720p59.94. I tried passing through the professional HD CRT and then into the Multibridge, I tried an AJA HD10A analog to HD-SDI converter, lots of things - nuthin'. In the end, I couldn't get the analog output to record to anything - protected, or am I just doing it wrong? I spent about an hour and decided, BAG IT.

Back to the little video camera.

-trailers are standard def but widescreen

-I'm futzing with some videos I took of the UI stuff, will past ASAP, but after spending an hour plus failed attempt to record the output (and doesn't THAT have ramifications for the future!), I'm kinda wiped after a long day as well (5 hours sleep on top of that)

But I'm listening to REM's "Talk About The Passion" that I haven't listened to in forever - and isn't THAT half the point of this device?

:D

-mikeyout

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Does the Audio output at the HDMI and optical out at the same time? Is there any delay compensation to sync audio and video?
Thanks

Mike Curtis said...

Anonymous - I'm running HDMI & toslink, and it appears to be fine but I haven't done any super critical testing of it - other than watching this week's Lost, and man, are they back on track (whilst Battlestar Galactica continues to jump the shark, unfortunately).

But it is designed to run HDMI & toslink, I can't imagine there'd be any problems with that.

-mike

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mike;
1 more question.I am reading that ATV only works with analog sets that have component ins. What if you run it through a surround receiver that will convert component ins to a composite out? Won't that solve the problem?

Mike Curtis said...

Anonymous above - perhaps, if it actually does that - many receivers merely pass through the signals and don't actually convert them - only the nicer ones do. And if you have a nice receiver and a TV that only has composite inputs and you have $300 sitting around for an AppleTV, then I'd say that your spending priorities are off - get a better TV! If you did get it working, your aspect ratio would be off. But you would have a monitor to see the interface for your iTunes box.

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