So, I updated to version 3.0 3.0.1 (Oh, hey, yeah…could you update one more time, please?) of the AppleTV software for their self-described hobby project/media center device. I do love the end to end, just barely skirting this side of an antitrust lawsuit, seamless integration that the Apple experience provides the end user. It just works, it really does. Before the 3.0 3.0.1 (No, seriously, you’re going to want to update now – we released over the weekend even) software was released however, the AppleTV seemed to lack the polish that the other Apple products had like iTunes, the iPod, etc. The menu system and layout on the AppleTV seemed like it was there as a placeholder, ready to be swapped out at any time for the final, finished product. Functional, but it sure wasn’t much to look at.
With 3.0 3.0.1 (I’m not kidding, it’s in your own best interest to re-update), that’s changed quite a bit. Somewhat. When you first start up the system with the new software, the main menu now has the start of the high polished, Apple-style experience. Fairly logical left to right menus with the items to select in each menu appearing below when you move from section to section. Above the menu is a context-sensitive display of unplayed movies, TV episodes, podcasts, etc. at the top left and along the top right are the most popular or new from each appropriate category from the iTunes store. All with a little Cover Flow love where applicable. All very nice, all very respectable. Until you select one of those menu items and drill down to choose some media to play. Then it all falls apart. After you do something like say get to a list of your TV shows to watch, it turns into the same old menu sorting like in the previous version of the software. The same thought and touches didn’t get to this level for the user to appreciate, and it’s not like the menu system in use is the end-all, be-all. They could have put in a similar cover flow selection style for the sub-menus, and they may indeed try something like this in a future release, but it would have been nice to see a fully-finished product in 3.0 3.0.1 (Oh, in the name of all that is holy PLEASE DO THIS NOW AND UPDATE BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!) and not a wonderful little tease of what it could be once the software is completely revamped. It’s moving in the right direction, I guess I just want it to move a little faster.
So I was looking at my traffic stats for the past couple weeks, and I should go to San Diego Comic Con every month it seems…were they to have San Diego Comic Con monthly…and if I were in Southern California to make it even semi-feasible. But there wasn’t a slight uptake in traffic to the site here, there was an exponential increase in traffic. People must have been looking for pictures from the show floor. I do hope that everyone enjoyed the pictures as provided. I also hope that nobody things I came away from the con this year with a negative impression of the show. There were lots of great things to do and see. In fact, there was an embarrassment of riches to be had at San Diego this year (and likely the past few years, and I expect going forward into the future). The issue I have is with the size of the venue as even with taking over the whole convention center, all 125,000 of us were packed in fairly tightly.
Tonight I watched my traditional birthday viewing of Star Trek II. This time, however, I rented a HD version of the movie from iTunes and watched via my AppleTV. So a brief report may be in order. It looked KINDA better than my DVD. But this is a movie from 1982, so while it is on film and theoretically could be scanned in for HD, there is only so much that you could expect from it. It’s also the theatrical print as well, not the extended version currently available on standard definition DVD. I may have to try again and rent a more recent movie in HD to see if there is a strong, noticeable difference in picture quality.
Speaking of Star Trek…the Las Vegas Star Trek convention unveiled another set of four posters with the rest of the recast Enterprise crew…
For those playing at home, clockwise from top left are the new Mr. Sulu, Scotty, Chekov, and Dr. McCoy. Of course, at San Diego, we had the first set of four posters made available to the public…
Top left clockwise are the villain of the movie, Nero, Uhura, Kirk and Spock. I’m back to running a little cold on this movie to just hoping that it doesn’t suck. My fingers are crossed…
I do tend to watch quite a bit of reality TV. Mainly because the majority of scripted fare doesn’t cut it for me. That’s not to say I’ll watch reality exclusively, nor do I think that anything with a writing staff is a waste of time effort. So, just to put it all out there – and while not necessarily logging every minute in front of the television – here’s a list, hopefully complete, of shows that I watch regularly, both reality and scripted. Not the ones that if I’m flipping channels and if I see it I’ll stop. These are the ones I make sure are set to record on the DVR, and this is current stuff, so nothing from the past.
Reality (in no particular order) -
Scripted (in no particular order) -
I also live in fear that if I really do start watching 30 Rock and The Office I’d get sucked into some sort of vortex that I’d never get out of again. It’s an irrational fear, but it’s MY irrational fear.
There has got to be more that I’m forgetting, but I do watch a measurable amount of video podcasts on the AppleTV. Like iFanboy and The Totally Rad Show for example. That’s probably the rest of my TV time.
But tonight starts a new cycle of Survivor, fans v. favorites. This time unless he again makes an ill-advised promise to someone who isn’t prone to keep them, we may get Yao Man to finally get a very well deserved win.
American Idol’s audition phase petered out last night with what amounted to a clip show before Hollywood week starts next Tuesday. Lots of repeat clips of people I really didn’t care to see ever again, and people who couldn’t make the final edit of the broadcast episode for the city the show visited. That’s not quite compelling television. But the brutality of the cuts in Hollywood always raise the stakes and they separate the maybe could be professionals from the not a chance in acting or being professional, or the just plain unlucky.
The Celebrity Apprentice has also been apparently renewed. Why? This version is as dull as rope with the pseudo-celebs they’ve got now. Trump also has his hands tied as far as the rather unusual, or just plain irrational and at his whim decisions he makes in the boardroom when firing people. Meh. Bring back the wannabes and the fame seekers and let’s see a return to the seemingly arbitrary actions of New York’s favorite real estate developer
However…the Macworld keynote recap
That Macbook Air is also pretty sweet. The sealed battery is cause for hue and cry among those who love to mindlessly hue and cry and are generally irrational Apple haters anyway. Of course they deny it and try to pretend to be rational and call everyone else who disagrees mindless fanboys for not climbing on the “Look, Apple is successful, it is only right that they be hated” bandwagon.
Still, do comment on the sealed battery – do you need another one immediately? Do you not understand that to get the system engineered to be the size and design that it is that it kinda had to be sealed? Do you care in the slightest that the replacement cost doesn’t seem that out of line with other laptop batteries, at the very least other Macbook batteries? Or that the cost of labor to replace the batteries is included in that? Or are you too busy frothing over little things to also ignore nice stuff like the recyclables in the product that they were touting. No, no…feel the hate…it’s post Macworld keynote and the crazies come out like everyone’s favorite Mr. Always Wrong, John C. Dvorak.
Another unexpected surprise, the Time Capsule – I know someone right now who needs one and I hope gets one. A convenient and clever combination of 802.11n router and hard drive to perform automated Time Machine backups. I’ve got an external drive for Time Machine right now, but I may go for one of these, just for the convenience of it all.
Movie rentals – I’d almost side with the haters on this, but the 24 hour viewing restrictions weren’t Apple’s idea – they were apparently put in to placate cable and satellite companies. These same companies (and let’s face it, television networks), who are probably starting the process of wetting themselves as they see the future unfold before them. Television shows and movies on demand for rental/purchase. It’s got some hamstrings in there on the rentals thanks to those cable and satellite companies, and only being able to rent HD on the AppleTV is annoying for those without said devices. However, I can see studios freaking out at the thought of an HD movie even touching a hard drive of a computer where all sorts of nasty haxoring can be done to it – because we all know the AppleTV is a deadlock sealed box that nobody can get into…
YOU SERIOUSLY EXPECT ME TO HAND OVER $20 TO GET THE REST OF THE RELEVANT APPLICATIONS FROM THE IPHONE FOR MY IPOD TOUCH? WITH A SMILE ON MY FACE? SCREW YOU, JOBS! SCREW! YOU!
Ahem… I may yet do that – but I assure you, as I hand over the credit card numbers, not a hit of a smile will dare cross my face. I would hope that some reconsideration of explanation will be forthcoming. A clear explanation of accounting rules would actually go far to placate me.
Creature Features tomorrow – American Idol notwithstanding…
The AppleTV is really fun and I like playing around with it, and now I’m done converting over .avi files to H.264 format (again, with no real quality loss that I can see) for it to play, added appropriate tag information and it’s all in iTunes and synced over.
Time for a break from that and time to get some real work done. I’ve been slacking on my efforts to update Mike’s page for some time now. I know what I have in mind, it’s just getting the implementation all done. Of course, what’s stopped me was a burning desire to do it in all CSS, and was barking mad enough to want to do it in what I realize now is the least efficient way possible. Now I have my plan and it’s simple, and I can do it, and I can hopefully say goodbye to HTML Frames forever. If I’m lucky. On the main page there will be one static image, with embedded links and then the rotating image stacked on top via CSS. This will work – I will make it work. Then the rest of mainly massaging the existing CSS to make it look nice and uniform and I’ll take the time to implement some long-overdue features such as Mike’s blog to he can post what he’s currently working on and the genuine Ask Dr. Flem page. You’ll all see – and you’ll all be sorry. Or something.
For those who have seen, the gallery will remain relatively untouched other than the CSS for the text. It works, and it’s not broken. But I would like to make some changes down the road once this iteration of the site is complete. I view it almost as an entity of its own with a life of its own and new covers that need to be added in as well because I am months behind on that. Hopefully I can get caught up once the main work is completed. If I’m lucky and have little in the way of interruptions, I can get it done over the weekend.
As always, I expect at least some interruption…that’s the way of things…
Yesterday Apple released iTunes 7.3.1 and Quicktime 7.2 fixing various issues and returning after a long absence the ability for QuickTime to play movies in fullscreen without shelling out for a QuickTime Pro key. It’s about time, really since there are lots of other players out there on lots of other platforms, including the Macintosh that allow for this. What Chairman Steve takes away (in QuickTime 3.0) he gives back.
Meanwhile, experimentation with the AppleTV, iSquint and Lostify took place last night. Converted episodes of Doctor Who over to the H.264 format supported by the AppleTV with iSquint, used Lostify to mark it as a TV Show and add broadcast date, broadcaster, season number, episode number and synopsis to the file and then moved it into iTunes which then proceeded to sync it to the AppleTV. Picture quality on the AppleTV is perfectly OK and comparable to the original file format used. Therefore, mass conversions of the rest of the season and the previous two seasons will commence…Doctor Who on demand…
The missing luggage showed up yesterday, finally. This officially brings my travels to a close for now. It only took British Airways a week to get it to me, a bit of a far cry from the 48 hours I was originally quoted from the representative. Still, only two items got crushed in the ensuing time between Chennai and Eugene, and of those two items, one actually might be recoverable, the other item, sadly crushed beyond hope of repair. At least by me. So I’ll be handing off both items and their representative pieces for my archeologist sister to reassemble as best as possible. Hopefully something can be done with these rather nice marble items. I was surprised that the raw cashews given to me as a gift actually made it through customs without being impounded as being technically seeds. Still, now I can look up some recipes on roasting them for a very nice snack. A big shoutout to Horizon Air for staying on top of the missing luggage and getting to me as quickly as they were able to once it was handed over from BA.
I was going to get some pictures up this weekend from the trip now that everything is calmed down. But yesterday I took some extra cash stashed away and finally got my Apple TV. This little box is dang cool, especially for someone like me, and I don’t mean being an Apple fanboy. A long time ago I grew tired of looking at tall stacks of CDs in the living room and as a result, imported all my discs into iTunes and packed the originals away in my closet for storage. This is good because it freed up some room downstairs, this is bad because now I could only listen to music while I was at the computer upstairs or on the iPod. Now all my music is available on demand when I am downstairs futzing around. Same with photos for impromptu slide shows for people who might want to see pictures from my latest trip or anything else out of iPhoto for that matter.
I’ve watched some video on it of course as well. Free shows mainly from the iTunes store and the video quality, while not outstanding, is certainly acceptable. Especially for free. If I were paying for shows there could be a bit of a grumble, but if it was something I really cared about, I’m still the sort of person to get the DVD box set anyway. With the introduction of the higher capacity Apple TV (160 gig vs. the original 40 gig model), I suspect that there could be higher definition content on its way, and I’d be stunned if there wasn’t some sort of Netflix/Blockbuster Online killer in the pipeline where you can rent movies from the iTunes store. People don’t want to rent their music, but even in the era of relatively cheap DVDs, people are still all about the movie renting and have been since the dawn of the VHS era. With the iTunes store they could in theory have a set number of movies “out” for rental and when they’re done with one, remove it and start the download of another movie in their queue to watch when it’s ready to go.
Certainly however, having lots of storage available locally for your media wouldn’t hurt.
But here’s what people aren’t paying any attention to, at least that I can tell, it’s the Podcasts menu item. Podcasts of course started out as the radio shows of the 21st century, and still are of course, and are fantastic since they can speak to a very specific audience who will seek out and subscribe to the show to listen to. But there are also VIDEO podcasts, and let me tell you, TikiBar TV was looking pretty sharp on the big screen for a video podcast. This, like the regular audio podcasts, could also trigger a revolution for anyone with a computer, a video camera or two, and some basic editing software to create their own television shows and distribute them online for free, or donations/fee of course if they so desire. Can’t stand According to Jim? Think Battlestar Galactica is inaccessible (and it isn’t-but stay with me here)? Make your own show and let fans subscribe directly, download and sync to the Apple TV and they’re not just limited to being huddled around a computer monitor watching, but now can sit around a reasonably sized television with a reasonable sound system watching YOUR show. All you need to do is provide the bandwidth for downloads, and you can link your show to the iTunes store for people to search for and subscribe to, or use Feedburner, etc. and get the word out.
The latest update adding YouTube integration is also welcome. You can log into your YouTube account, view the latest and most viewed videos, or search on specific videos to watch of varying quality of course. The searching feature isn’t the best, but since you’re stuck for now with just the Apple Remote to highlight letters to perform your search, there isn’t much more that can be done. However, if you do happen across a video you do like, you can add it to a favorites to watch again without having to do a new search. With that I can watch Chad Vader pretty much on demand. Which is the whole point of the product – audio and video pretty much on demand upon availability.
So I’m still playing with this little thing still and so far I’m impressed – it does what it sets out to do, simply and being an Apple product, fairly elegantly. This very well could get me to subscribe to even more podcasts to listen to and now watch when regular TV lets me down yet again.