Apple kills AppleTV with own product

Well, it was, after all, just a hobby project.

So, why should I create such a blasphemous, over the top blog title? Because it is true.

Introducing the iPad2. It has been out now for a couple weeks, and I managed to get one this past Tuesday. Even, before I bought the iPad2, I bought the new AV cable that connects to any iPad and allows you to connect an HDMI cable to it.

Here lies my point.

With this new cable and the iPad2, everything you see on the iPad2 is now displayed on your HD TV. Yes, basically, everything. For example, the Netflix app shows the splash screen on the TV until you start playing a streaming video, but it is still fully functional.

So, if everything on the iPad2 shows up on the TV with this cable, and everything you can get from your AppleTV you can get on your iPad2 plus way more (Imagine Angry Birds on your 65″ LED HD TV), then why do you need an AppleTV if you already have an iPad2.

On Apple TV, you get iTunes TV and Movies, Netflix, Podcasts, and a few others, as well as your iTunes collection from any computer and also Airplay from your iPad, iPod, or iPhone. Can you think of any of these AppleTV apps that you can’t also get on your iPad2. But can the AppleTV get Angry Birds?

Airplay being wireless is nicer because you don’t have this cable from your iPad to your TV, but Airplay is still limited to what you can view from your devices to your TV, and many of the apps, that also play videos, haven’t supported it yet, so all you get on the TV is the audio.

And there you see my point. I get a lot more from the iPad2 connected to the TV than I get from AppleTV. Also, more than I get from GoogleTV, which I also have.

Try it out, you’ll see what I mean. The iPad2, connected with HDMI cable is what I thought Apple TV should have been in the first place with iOS and all these great apps, with the iPad or an iPhone as the remote/touch pad.

Mark

One month with AppleTV 2.0

Yes, I pre-ordered the new AppleTV and have been using it for the past two months.

I cancelled my Verizon FIOs TV Service two weeks ago.

I really like the new look of the AppleTV. That small little box looks really cool on my entertainment system furniture.

Setup was too easy, plug it in and plug the HDMI cable to my AVR. I think adding it to my Logitech One remote was more difficult. The UI for entering your username password for Netflix etc was not clean. The typical letters in keyboard layout but only move to the left or right with the remote makes for a slow process. But quicker than I found with my Samsung 3D Blu-ray player. (More about that in another post)

Once all the username/password has been entered you are good to go.

My wife, Franziska, was a little hesitant to cancel our TV service, but I assured her that while not every show is free, or every thing you can watch on TV is available, in the not to distant future that will change. Now she loves AppleTV, and had vowed to not pay for a single show, rental or not. Instead she says that she has way more than enough content to watch through Netflix and Podcasts. She is focused on Suze Orman show for now.

I really like the UI and watching shows too, but I am still waiting for the ability to load iOS apps. That is when AppleTV will really stick out.

I like GoogleTV too and think they have a bit more at this moment that makes it a better choice for now. That logitech keyboard is really cool. Wish they included a blu-ray player in it like Sony’s standalone player. A stand alone player is great for those that don’t want to buy a new Sony TV to get Google TV.

But for only $99 for AppleTV, it is a great deal, I might get both. I saved over $1000 a year on cancelling my cable, so there is some money left over to get both.

Finally picked Apple Airport Extreme for my router

Well, finally is a relative term. I have been using Apple’s Airport Extreme for my router for a number of months. This is a Wireless-N Dual Band Gigabit router.

From a previous entry, you will remember I tried the Netgear and DLink Routers, but had issue with my setup.

So, I went out and bought an Apple Airport Extreme and easily set up the router to work in my Verizon FIOs environment. I also hooked up two USB external hard drives which are now available to all my computers and other media devices. One of these hard drives I am using for Time Machine Backups.

The router is working almost perfectly for me. The backups have a problem. It worked for the first month, but since then my Time Machine on my Macbook can no longer find the hard drive. So, I have reverted back to attached that hard drive directly to my laptop when doing a backup. While a pain to unplug one cable and attach it with one cable(Yes, I am lazy), it runs much faster then when I went through the wireless network and router.

I can always remove the Verizon Router between the internet connect and the Airport Extreme, and use the Airport Extreme as the only router, which is a better solution.

Overall, I am happy I chose Apple Airport Extreme for my router, but I also did like the Belkin quick install.

6 Weeks of Trainings

I must apologize for the lack of posts for a long time. I teach software development classes, and have been booked 6 weeks in a row, to 6 different states. So I have been spending the weekend time I have at home with my wife, and not being able to try out some more media server stuff. I have been eyeing the other two Dual Band Gigabit routers out there, the Belkin Max Play and the LinkSys E3000, and will buy them the week after next. I will post a review right after testing them for a few days.

Network Routers beginnings

One of the things to take into consideration is a Router. There are many types of routers for the network for wired and wireless networks.

The basics that you need to know

Wired Networks

10/100/1000 based wired networks. The most common 10/100/1000 are meant as megabits per second over the wire. the 1000 is a gigabit. So if you see a router say it is a gigabit network router it supports up to 1000 megabits.

Wireless Networks

b/g/n There are the different wireless standards. The most recent and “fastest” being an “N” Wireless router.

Then there is dual band. This can have the N wireless using both 2.6 to 5 mhz. Without dual band and your router can use both streams, then you would have to choose one over the other.

The first question is do you need Wireless N or gigabit speed.

STREAMING: If your internet connection is not faster than 56Megabits per second, regardless of G or N, it will still be the speed of your internet connection. So here it doesn’t really matter

CONTENT FROM HARD DRIVE ON NETWORK: If you want to play full BluRay ISOs with lossless data, then a Gigabit router and Wireless N makes sense. The speed needed over wireless for clean streaming of BR is 11 mbps.

Other types of media over the wire or wireless has lessor requirements and would not require dual band, wireless N or a gigabit wired network speed.

So today the top of the line Router will be a

Wireless N dual band Gigabit router, giving you the fasted wireless and wired network speeds

Do you need the top of the line?

If you want the best, then get the best. There are three products out that support N dual band gigabit and attaching USB Hard Drives to the router. (Using a NAS Server/Drives versus USB External Hard Drive is for another topic.)

One from Netgear the WNDR3700

One from D-link the DIR-825

One from Linksys the WRT-610N

Recently I have tested the Netgear and the D-Link.

My first opinion is skip the D-Link, the sharing the USB Hard Drive requires you to run a special program on your computer to be able to access the hard drive from that machine. Also, only one device can access the Hard Drive at a time, so if one computer is using it, another computer cannot. Also, it is supposed to support uPnP or Universal Plug and Play, so that you can access it from devices like a Tivo, PS3, or other Media Server. From my usage, I never could get that to work.

The Netgear is a better product, and you can map your attached hard drive to a drive letter on your computer. You can have multiple computers access the same hard drive at the same time, where the D-Link could not. From reading comments online, some people have found that the dual band connection would lose connectivity. CNet, in their review found some speed issues with accessing files on the Hard Drive.

I also have noticed that the D-Link and the Linksys get the same average reviews of 2-3 star out of 5, whereas the Netgear gets higher average reviews.

Sezmi

Sezmi at Best Buy – in store review

I just visited Best Buy and they had a Sezmi all setup that you can see a demo and even try it out.

I was impressed by this service/device.

However, please note that as of right now, they are just testing things out. The service is only available in certain cities.

Check if Sezmi is available in your area

Here is what you get

  1. TV Service. There are two packages and both are extremely cheap. For $4.95 a month you can get your standard network channels like ABC, NBC, etc. For $19.95 they include some cool cable channels, like my favorite SyFy. Pricing PackagesI have heard that they are also working on a sports package. Because we need those live sporting events which are difficult to find streaming live over the internet.
  2. DVR You can record all that you watch through their services. However, you cannot take these programs off of the device. I would assume this is because of the TV service. Just like a cable companies DVR where you can’t remove the programs you record because of the law. Whereas, Tivo, since they don’t provide the content they can have programs transferred to your computer or mobile device.
  3. On Demand Movies and TV shows. You can rent movies and TV shows from .99 cents to 4.99. You can also purchase movies for around $14.95. But remember if you purchase them, they stay on the internal HD (see below) and you cannot take them off the device.
  4. 1TB Internal Hard Drive. For you to store hours of SD and HD content.
  5. USB port to add an external Hard Drive
  6. Network connectivity So you can access your media from a server, NAS drive or computer connected to your network
  7. Internet streaming. You can watch YouTube, Podcasts, Crackle. That is all for right now. If you have a Tivo, it is the same stuff you can get from YouTube and Internet On Demand stuff. As long as I can get my DiggNation, I am a happy camper.
  8. Built in UI. The UI was pretty easy to navigate, but for each selection you might wait a couple of seconds for it to show you results.
    • A Big plus is the ability to continue to watch whatever is currently playing while you search for other media.
    • You can have multiple users, meaning you can hide some of your media from your kids. (You know which media I mean)
    • A decent search, for the times you know exactly what you want to watch, but don’t want to waddle through the menus and take time for each to load.

Total Cost is $299 for all the components, plus your monthly fees.

It looks like I could only find it at Best Buy. Here is a link to Best Buy to order it online*.

*This is not an affiliate link at this point.

Some first ideas of options

OK, After looking at some nice threads on AVSForum and Google Searches here are some of the possible solutions.

Network Routers – Wired and Wireless

1) If you are going to do any streaming via the internet, get a Wireless-N Gigabit router.

The best solution will have you connect the router to your AV room via wires. That is right, if you want the full monty. That is streaming BluRay ISOs, then the best throughput will be via that Gigabit network wired connection. Cat 5e or Cat 6 cable. Otherwise, you will not get choppy video and not so perfect audio.

If you don’t need to stream BluRay ISOs, then the Wireless N is still a must to get the best speed, and reduce the chances of any “freezes” in your video playback. The speed is definitely more important for video streaming. And I mean either video streaming off the internet or from your Hard Drive.

Some of the higher end Wireless-N Gigabit routers even include USB connections to your external hard drive.

NAS Drives/External Storage

2) You should have a NAS drive or some way to get a HD accessible from your set top box.

The best solution is a NAS drive system, where you can hook up multiple eSATA Hard Drives in a RAID. RAID for “backup” purposes. And put them in a good hiding place to not clutter up your room. Also to keep any extra noise away from your AV room.

The second best is connecting your HD via Firewire or USB to a device that can then have that data accessible from your living room/TV. This could be the Wireless-N Router, one of the set top boxes like AppleTV, etc.

Cheapest route is to always have your computer turned on that your external USB hard drive is attached to. But cheapest is relative to the electric bill you have for your computer always on.

As, I said in the first section, some routers allow the connection of an External Hard Drive via USB 2.0. Products like Apple’s Airport Extreme and all the normal Router companies like LinkSys, NetGear and blah have equivalent products in the $120-$180 range. Although I did see a Belkin router that does all this for $70 at Target this weekend.

Media Server

3)  You should have a Media Server that will be connected to your AV room. This is the one where there are so many Media Server boxes and options out there that you can go crazy. As if I wasn’t already.

The highest end Media Server that I saw seems to be the Dune Media Server, it also seems to be one of the only ones that truly support BluRay ISO playback with complete loss-less Audio. It has some great reviews and if you live in the USA you can get yours at DunePlayer.com

The AVSForum appreciation thread on the Dune Player is here

Arthur from DunePlayer posts in this thread and is extremely helpful, from what everyone says. I haven’t called them yet to help me out. ;)

The one downside, I see, with the DunePlayer is the UI. There are a couple of applications that are nice like Torrents and Internet Radio, there isn’t an application for say viewing YouTube content. Now if FLV is supported you can manually enter in a URL for streaming video off the internet, but who knows all the URLs of the videos you want to watch. Also, how do you watch DiggNation from Revision3? But maybe, you can buy two media servers. The DunePlayer to get all your media on your Hard Drives including BluRay stuff, and then use another Media Server for the other cool apps.

So, do you need loss-less Audio? If not, then many of the other Media Servers will work for you. Although a little bit more pricier than other Media Servers, I like the AppleTV after it is hacked. With it being hacked you can install so much more stuff, like Boxee. However, the AppleTV’s CPU is not the top of the line and if you are streaming any HD content from your HD, the AppleTV will not do the trick. So if you want to stay with Apple here, then the next step up will be the Mac Mini.

Because, I really like the Boxee UI, I am really looking forward to the LinkSys’s Boxee box.

Other options just lying around the house.

If you already have an XBox360, PS3 or Tivo HD, you can also use them as a Media Servers, and automatically configure them to connect to your NAS drive, and watch/listen to the content on them. However, from what I have seen, the UIs for them aren’t the best, and you might be doing a lot of hunt and pecking to find the exact media file you want to watch.

I have a Tivo HD and my wife hates that you can’t still watch what you were watching when you go through the Tivo UI. And I totally agree, it is annoying, but it doesn’t bother me as much as her

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.