Apple TV – A Year in the Life

March 4, 2008

Apple TV

Being the unreconstructed Apple fanboy that I am, this month makes it officially one year that I’ve lived with an Apple TV — and it’s been an interesting year.

Unlike some folks, I liked the Apple TV straight out of the box. The form factor (basically a half-height Mac Mini) was nice, it took five minutes to hook up to my home media system, and another five minutes to set up.
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Kindle First Impressions

February 1, 2008

My Kindle arrived last night, and I’ve had just enough time with it to form some early impressions.


Yes, the thing is butt ugly. It badly needs a pass through Apple’s industrial design group. Or even Dell’s. But that’s okay, it’s early days, and you buy it to read ebooks, not look cool. That’s why you have the iPhone.

I’m a little more concerned about the build quality — the buttons, particularly the Previous/Next/Back paddle buttons, feel a little fragile. I’m not sure if they are, but I’m a little nervous about how many times I’m going to click them before they stop responding.

Worse, you can’t avoid the things. Between the big navigation buttons, and the keyboard, there is very little room to grab or hold the unit without hitting a button.

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Unleaded DRM

April 3, 2007

No DRMI’m already tired of hearing people bitch about the new iTunes Store / EMI deal to offer DRM-free music. The typical whine is about paying $0.30 more for them not to put DRM on the music.

Get a grip, folks — for your $0.30, you also get a reasonable sampling rate (256Kb/s AAC – double the old rate — is awfully close to CD quality), and if you don’t want to buy ala carte, the whole album (without DRM, at 256Kb/s) is the same price as the old DRM’d up one.

Besides, it’s not like they don’t know you’ll go for it — how much extra money did you pay the oil companies to not put lead in your gasoline? And they didn’t even include a feature that was two times better than an old one.

[tags]iTMS, DRM, Big Oil, Apple, EMI[/tags]

Apple TV Initial Impressions

March 27, 2007

Apple TVSomething bad happened yesterday — I wore out yet another keyboard. Worse, while I was at the crack store Fry’s picking up a new one, I walked past a stack of Apple TVs, and one of them followed me home.

Outside of being in the store anyway for the keyboard thing (the “colon” key failed — how the hell can a “colon” key fail? Semicolon works. Shift+anything else works. Try writing HTML or CSS without a colon key), I probably wouldn’t have been as tempted to get one right now if it hadn’t been for the high rate of very interesting hacks emerging for the Apple TV over the past few days — I’m guessing Apple has hit another one out of the park.

The unit comes boxed more or less like an iPod — fold-open box in a slip case, “Made by Apple in California”, etc.

Not a cable in sight, other than the power cord (boo).

At least the power cord doesn’t have a huge transformer brick on it (yea!).

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iTunes, Fairplay & The Long Game of Steve Jobs

February 9, 2007

In the wake of Steve Jobs’ Thoughts on Music, there has been a lot of speculation as to what it means that Jobs — who fathered the most extensively used Digital Rights Management system in the world (Fairplay) – is calling for the end of DRM.

Wired’s Cult of Mac sums up some of more intriguing thoughts here, speculating that just as the iTunes Music Store “One contract fits all” approach managed to build the world’s largest digital music store, with DRM on all music (whether requested by the owners or not), the same leverage could now be applied to force all of the participants to leave DRM behind, or lose access to their only growth market.

Is it really possible that this has been Jobs’ “Long Game” all this time? That Apple embraced DRM only to get it to hold still long enough to drive a stake through its heart?
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Apple’s Livingroom Strategy

October 14, 2005

Apple has released the first piece of their “10 foot experience” — the Apple Media Center, and Eirik Solheim is pondering what is missing

What I miss in the Apple Front Row Experience as far as I can judge from the Apple web site at this point are:
– PVR functionallity with an electronic program guide
– A system for including broadband services
(Like Microsoft Online Spotlight or Beyond Media SnapStream Spotlight)
– Extenders (I guess it’s just a question of time before Apple integrates video streaming in their Airport)
– Support for HD content

To me, this whole thing is like watching a massive storm developing… It’s moving slowly, but it’s going to be enormous.
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How-To save iTunes music videos

September 26, 2005

Have you ever wanted to download one of the one of the iTunes Music Store videos and save it on your local machine? Now you can!

UNEASYsilence has a little script that will turn the iTMS link into a downloadable Quicktime video file that you can save locally.

You can find the script and instructions here.

iTunes 4.9 with podcasts (sorta)

June 28, 2005

Apple has released iTunes 4.9.

Unless you’ve been in a hype-proof cave somewhere for the past two weeks, you probably won’t be suprised to learn that it does indeed come with podcast support.

Well, half-assed podcast support, anyway.

Apple offers a list of 3000 or so “blessed” podcasts via the iTunes Music Store, or you can add a podcast manually, if you can figure out the interface.

There is no support for doing some of the handy things a decent podcast client (like iPodderX) can do, like choose a playlist to automatically add a program to, convert it to AAC, or make it bookmarkable (the latter being exceedingly useful for spoken word podcasts.)

Even the stuff that is supported appears to be a bit wonky; it took me 3 times of shutting down and restarting iTunes 4.9 before clicking on the “Podcast Directory” button under Podcasts actually took me to the Podcast Directory, instead of the front page of iTMS.

Once I picked a Podcast and set it to download, it failed due to network issues — perhaps they weren’t ready for initial demand?

I assume they’ll get it all sorted out by and by, but in the meantime, I won’t be deleting my copy of iPodderX anytime soon.

Removing iTunes DRM with JHymn

May 17, 2005

Assuming you don’t live somewhere with laws like the DMCA, you might wish to drop by The Unofficial Apple Weblog, where they have posted a three-step process for using JHymn remove the FairPlay protection from your iTunes Music Store purchases.

Just in order for you to exercise your fair-use rights without constraint, of course.

As always, don’t do anything that may be illegal in your country, and don’t steal music…

Using iMovie to Crack iTMS Encryption?

August 4, 2004

Somebody’s gonna have some ‘splaining to do in Cupertino if this is true…

Mac Network News is reporting on claims that a German tech site ( is claiming that Apple’s own iMovie can be used to remove FairPlay DRM encryption on songs purchased via the iTunes Music Store.

So far, this is sounding like one of those “friend of a friend of a friend” stories, but I’m sure it won’t be long before somebody has this translated and tested.

Given Apple’s hissy fit over Hymn (formerly “PlayFair”) and the ongoing fight with Real over FairPlay on the iPod, this would be more than a skosh embarassing if it turned out to be the real deal.

Update: This apparently is just using iMusic to transcode the protected selection; in other words, it’s just a more complicated way of doing what burning a CD and re-ripping it does (with the same loss of quality.)

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