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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.

Physical

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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iPhone mini-rant

October 9, 2007

Before I get started, don’t get me wrong — the iPhone is still the best phone I’ve ever used, at least for the purposes for which I use a phone.

Doesn’t mean it still doesn’t have a few problems.

Also, I’m not talking about unlocking, jailbreaking, installing third party apps or using my own ringtones. Not that I’m not interested in all of the above, it’s just that until the firmware quits being a moving target (which obviously won’t be until Leopard is out, at the very least), it’s a game for those who are in it for the chase — anyone who’s looking for a stable solution to this at the moment is deluding themselves.

No, my not-so-big but increasingly annoying problem is in using the thing just as Cap’n Jobso intended.

Every so often, I’ll put the phone in the sync/charge cradle (which I do almost any time I’m at my desk), and iTunes will suddenly pop up an error along the lines of “The iPhone “YourNameHere” cannot be synced because there is not enough free space to hold all of the items in the selected playlists (X.XX GB required, YYY.Y MB available).”

Looking at the phone, all of my contact, appointments, mail and photos are available, but there’s no audio or video in the iPod section. iTunes claims that the entire phone is occupied by “X.XX” GB (6.33 GB, at the moment), of “other” data.

The only fix is to “Restore” the phone. This works fine, except:

A) It takes nearly an hour to add my 7ish GB of crap back to the phone.
B) I have to re-pair bluetooth to my car’s hands-free unit and my headset.
C) It’s happening way too often.

This happened again on Sunday (not quite 48 hours ago). Now it’s Tuesday morning. A couple of hours ago I was listening to music on the thing while going through my morning routine, and suddenly it’s back to no media and can’t sync.

This is the reason I’m not chasing any of the third party apps and ringtone stuff, btw — outside of the re-pairing, the fix process is all pretty much hands-off. If I were coloring outside the lines, I’d have to redo that each time, too.

This isn’t a major big deal, and I’m not the only person suffering from it, but every time it happens it pisses me off to think that Apple is spending so much time putting out updates designed to foil those blackhearted rogues that are trying to extend the phone’s functionality, instead of fixing it to work the way it’s supposed to work out of the box.

Grrr.

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]

Notes on Apple TV

April 3, 2007

Apple TVOne week in, more-or-less, and I’ve had time to form a few initial impressions.

It pretty much “just works” — the only problem I’ve had (and still have) is using the Harmony through the Xantech remote extender. Annoying, but livable until someone comes out with alternatives.

The interface is still very nice, yet slightly crippled (in Apple’s traditional fashion) by having an interface device that’s short a button. There needs to be some way to do things like “adjust aspect ratio” and “view metadata”, but even if such was built (or hacked) in, there’s not a button on the remote to support it. Video playback could also benefit from “skip forward” and “skip backward” buttons (preferably with configurable durations).

Having access to my music library with a nice interface, plus the ability to conveniently watch video podcasts that I’ve always avoided before (my attention span for watching video on a computer is rather short) is almost worth the price of admission by itself.

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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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5 Ways to copy music OFF your iPod (Windows / Mac OS X)

March 9, 2007

Apple iPod VideoSo, you’ve got music on your iPod that you don’t have on your computer?

It doesn’t matter how you got in this predicament — maybe you’ve lost a hard drive (or an entire computer), or you’ve accidently deleted just a little too much, and for one reason or another, you don’t have the original source of the music.

If any of that sounds familiar, the time to fix it is now — before you lose your iPod (and your music), or iTunes manages to get set to automatically sync your entire library (its default state, if you have to re-install it) and starts deleting all of the songs it doesn’t know about.

Unfortunately, the standard tool for transferring music between your iPod and your computer (iTunes) is one-way — it’ll put music (or videos, etc.) onto your iPod, but it won’t retrieve it back. Why? Uncle Steve wants it that way, I suppose.

The good news is that there are several ways around this, for both Mac and Windows users, ranging from free to cheap ($30 or so).

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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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It was only a matter of time

February 3, 2007

Some folks have been telling us for years that Microsoft would eventually come out with an iPod killer.

I don’t think any of us expected it’d be Windows Vista, however…

iTunes for Treo (sorta)

October 31, 2005

Tea Vui Huang’s Mass Storage Synchronizer will let you synchronize an iTunes playlist with your Treo, where you can play your music with your favorite Treo MP3 player.

The page is written towards use with the Sony Ericsson Walkman phones, but he also includes a Treo version of the program, which appears to be a recent development.
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