I got my first Apple TV about a month ago, something I thought I would never buy when the Apple TV was first announced. The first Apple TV looked like a Mac Mini/Airport Express back when it first came out and it only allowed you to view iTunes content. It gave you a hard drive to store purchased content from iTunes and the ability to stream the rest. At the time, a lot of people weren’t impressed with the Apple TV. Even Apple wasn’t committed to it that much, calling it a “hobby”. The next release was a smaller, black puck design that did not have a hard drive, this generation only allowed for streaming over the internet from your iTunes library or buying/renting iTunes movies and TV shows directly from the device. The current version works and looks the same way but has a few more features. The 2 most important being that it now streams in 1080p and if you have a current Mac or iOS device, you can AirPlay your iOS or Mac screen to your TV.
The 2 main features of the current Apple TV is what made it desirable for me. I watch a lot of online content, like daily podcasts and online news shows, and I always wanted a quick way to watch those shows on my TV. Sure, I could have just brought a HDMI-to-lightning dongle and connect an HDMI cable to that from the TV, but Airplay is a lot more elegant and of course, wireless. I am a fan of anything wireless. I’m also starting to download more movies and TV shows on iTunes since I’m a bit of an HD junkie and it annoys me when my favorite movies or TV shows are only available on physical disc in the DVD format. It’s also cool to see my MacBook Pro’s screen on my 40” HDTV. I also love movies and it’s nice that I can easily see movie trailers and showtimes for the local theater. The interface is really nice and it makes me despise my FiOS DVR interface. One look at the remote and the interface and we can imagine what the future of TV might look like. There’s no need for a remote with 50 buttons when the OS is smart enough and is designed in a way that can be accessed with a remote that only has 4 buttons.
Of course, it isn’t all great. My biggest issue probably has nothing to do with my Apple TV but with the cheap Amazon HDMI cord I purchased. Every so often, they’ll be a burst of static, which lasts half of a second and doesn’t really bother me too much. What does bother me is those lovely HDCP errors. Due to DRM, Apple has to make sure you are watching HD content in a secure way, for some reason, they get this wrong and you get a HDCP error telling you that you are not watching the content on a display that is HDCP authorized. I fix this issue quickly by simply restarting my Apple TV and it takes care of that issue but it’s still annoying that it happens at all.
We are all waiting for the Apple television that may or may not be coming this year. If the Apple TV is any indication on what it is going to be like, well, it’s going to be a revolutionary television. The Apple TV interface is the best interface that was ever displayed on my TV. I can easily find what I want within a number of clicks, which is very different than trying to find a show on my FiOS DVR, which takes about 2 minutes and a lot of my own memory to remember what button on the remote takes me where. It’s very easy to imagine an a la carte cable package in the Apple TV interface, where every channel is simply a little square button on the home screen. I guess we’ll have to see what Apple does.
The Apple TV is not for everyone but if you are looking for an easy way to view your Mac or iOS screen on a TV and play your HD iTunes content, the Apple TV might be exactly what you need.
I’m sure you heard someone mention “the cloud” before. If you are wondering what “the cloud” is: The cloud is a term used when something is stored in a server instead of the physical machine you are working on. For example, email is stored in the cloud. When you get an email, it goes to the server of your email provider and it gets pushed to your email client via the internet. It is never stored on your computer.
The good thing about cloud based services is that no matter where you are, you will have the same experience on any device with the same data on all the devices you use. Your email is the same at home, on your phone, on a friend’s computer or at the computer lab in school. Netflix and all video streaming sites (YouTube included) is cloud based meaning that you are not downloading anything and you do not need physical media such as a CD or DVD to use it. The advantage of this is that you can watch your Netflix Queue on any device that is Netflix compatible and you can start watching a movie on your cell phone and continue watching it on your TV in the same place you left off on your phone since the server keeps track of where you stopped watching. One of the cloud based services that I use is Evernote. Evernote is a free (or paid, depending on how much data you want) service for typing notes, saving web clips, images, PDFs, and handwritten notes. The notes that I have in Evernote are never stored on my computer but instead in Evernote’s servers which means I can access these notes from any computer, any phone (with a Evernote app) and even my iPad. Cloud based services are always convenient since they are, in a way, always with you and always the same no matter where you are accessing them.
More and more people are using cloud based services while I’m trying to use it less. It’s fine for notes and simple things but a lot of people are trusting it with their important data such as documents, music, movies, pictures and all sorts of personal data.
I am a movie fan and a tech geek. You would assume that I am a Netflix user. I’m not. You would assume that I use Google Docs to write papers for school. I don’t. Being an Apple fan, you would think that I am praying for the day that iTunes goes into the cloud. Actually, I’m very fearful for that day.
The internet is not 100% reliable. Servers go down, websites go down, companies go out of business. Imagine a world where everything you do is not stored in your home. Your movies, TV shows, music, books, documents, pictures, and magazines are all in the cloud and one day, for some reason, your internet goes out or the servers that provides you with all this content goes down or the company that provides you this content goes under: You are now screwed. Nothing you can do about it since all of your content is in someone else’s hands. You put all your eggs in one basket and that basket is now crushed. Remember a few years ago when Sidekick users lost ALL of the content on their phones? Messages, contacts, music, pictures. All gone because the server crapped out and lost all of the data for these users. A few weeks ago, a Flickr user lost 4 thousand pictures because Flickr lost them. Flickr ended up finding them but lets say they didn’t. This guy would have lost thousands of memories and hard work.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s great having things not stored in your home. Backups of your data are one of those things that should be in the cloud so if you have some sort of accident at home (fire or a flood) , you can always get your data back. I’m not saying to never use cloud based services, I’m saying to think before you decide to have all of your content located in a server hundreds of miles from your home because one day that content might be gone forever.