Via Paul Thurrott, I bring you a fantastic web site, PleaseFixTheiPhone.com. If you don’t own an iPhone, you don’t realize how large of a dichotomy the user interface is. You can explore the entire Internet (except anything involving Flash and also many modern sites that have large scripts that will crash Safari); you can make and receive calls with the fantastic contacts screen (although many of your calls will drop due to the combination of the horrible AT&T network and the completely innacurate and useless signal strength meter); you can check your email (but don’t even think of copying any text to paste somewhere else); the list of plusses (and minuses) goes on and on.
So head over and vote for your most wanted fixes for the iPhone. Just remember, unless the mighty Steve Jobs thinks anything is “broken” (which he doesn’t, as he doesn’t let Apple release imperfect products), nothing about the iPhone is going to change.
I wanted to post real quickly to let you all know I’m on Twitter. You can follow me here (I have it set up so I have to approve you to follow me, so if I don’t personally know you this entire post might be a little useless).
This is my second attempt to use Twitter. The first time, I had heard about it from one of my countless tech podcasts and signed up immediately. Then I used it once, never gave it a second thought, and let my account go dormant for close to a year. Well now I’m back, and I hope to actually use it. If you’ve never used Twitter, I don’t blame you for not signing up and/or following me. It takes a while to wrap your head around the point of it (which I’m still not completely sure of), so no hard feelings.
As you may have heard, the 2.0 update for the AppleTV came out today, and I couldn’t get wait to get home and give it a test run. Chris Breen over at MacWorld has already written a great walkthrough, so I’ll spare the minute details and give you more of my opinion of things.
The update itself takes about 10 minutes. I didn’t bother to pay attention, as I’d read about this, so I watched some college basketball on ESPN while I waited for the blinking yellow light to turn back to white.
Once it was fully updated, I switched over to start playing. I love the new interface, as it is much easier to navigate and a hell of a lot faster. The update also ties in to the latest version of iTunes, giving it some new features. The first that I noticed (and also immediately turned on) was the ability for iTunes/AppleTV to auto-sync the device. No user input needed, and the most relevant items are synced to the AppleTV (I have to assume this means the newest and/or least played items). I have yet to test it without having iTunes open, so I can’t determine what is actually being synced (another new feature of AppleTV 2.0 is that all of your media from the synced library, whether synced or streamed, is in one list, so you don’t have to switch between the two options to play items).
As I looked at the new options in iTunes, I noticed that my computer was now seeing an AirTunes device. That’s right, this update also turns the AppleTV into an AirTunes, letting your $229 device do the same thing as a $129 device! I’ve been wanting this control ever since I first used my AppleTV, and it works as expected. I can control playback from iTunes on my computer, making it a much nicer experience when I’m working at my computer (as opposed to reading on my couch). You can’t skip songs using the remote (I have a PowerBook G4, so I’m referring to the remote connected to the AppleTV…not the remote that comes with those newfangeled Intel Macs), but you can still navigate through your AppleTV and look at all of the other categories. If you don’t mess with the AppleTV and just go about your business on the computer, the standard screensaver comes up with the music information in the lower left like before. The AirTunes mode is also instant, unlike the actual AirTunes. No waiting for a half second before seeing/hearing changes you’ve just made to your playback.
Another thing that’s nice is the ability to look at Flickr accounts on the AppleTV. It operates very similarly to the regular photography slideshows. You click to display a username’s account, and voila, you have access to everything. The one giant problem is the user input…the keyboard that pops up takes forever to enter in usernames (for instance, I Am Paul’s Typing Fingers took me about three minutes). They need to either make the keyboard speedier (the real problem is how long it takes to move between letters, even when holding down the forward button), or allow you to login to the URL’s (my URL is Belmore, which would have taken me a fraction of the time.
Okay, now to the bread and butter: HD rentals. I was really anxious to check this out, so I logged in and rented Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (as Paul Thurrott notes, the selection is very odd…the other Star Trek movies are only available in standard definition). I had read online (sorry, can’t find the source) that audio was a tad bit problematic on the HD movies if you tried to play the file before it was done downloading, so I allowed it to finish (which took over two hours) before I started. The AppleTV popped up a message after 3% was done that I could begin watching it, but I decided against that due to the aforementioned information. Also, I should mention that the HD rental was only $3.99, unlike what Chris Breen said. It appears that new releases are $4.99, but older movies are a buck cheaper (similarly, standard definition movies are $3.99 for new releases and $2.99 for older movies).
The good? The movie looks great. Even for a 25 year old film, the quality is pretty damn good. It’s not perfect, but for an old film scan you can’t complain about it. The encoding looks beautiful, I have not noticed any artifacts. There are some gradient problems, but nothing to complain about. Bit rates have to far exceed the capabilities of the AppleTV before known digital problems like gradients go away. Playback is also much improved. Even on this much higher bit rate file, it stops and starts without pause, unlike before where there was always a few second delay.
This brings us to the bad. Why am I starting and stopping it? Well, this may just be a bad encode (although I highly doubt it), but the audio becomes unsynced after about 10 minutes. Stopping and starting the movie fixes the problem, but this is a problem we should not be having in the 21st century. I’m going to avoid stopping and starting for the rest of the movie (I have over an hour left) and see if it gets progressively better, or if it’s just a small delay due to the hardware (for those that don’t know, the AppleTV was hacked as soon as it came out and was found to have a 1 GHz generic Intel processor with 256 MB of RAM and an NVIDIA GeForce Go 7300 with 64 MB of VRAM, so it’s amazing it can do HD video at all). I’ll keep you posted if I can find out for sure. UPDATE: It appears to have either been a temporary problem, or just a problem related to the dated quality of the movie. I never noticed the movie getting progressively less synced the longer I left it on without pausing it, and it never seemed to be more than 1/10th of a second off. I’ll chalk it up to my eyes and ears playing tricks on me and leave it at that.
Long story short (and I mean damn, that was a long “opinion”!), the AppleTV 2.0 upgrade makes the AppleTV do what it should have been able to do the first time around. Rent movies from your couch. Use it as an AirTunes. And be much more dynamic with web-based applications. Not to mention the things that don’t appeal to me, such as buying music from the iTunes store with your remote (which it can also now do). And with the recent price drop, this is a great addition to your home entertainment center. If you have an HDTV and are fed up with your cable company (as I am), go the AppleTV route. Heck, if you have more than a few GBs of video in your iTunes library, you’re crazy for not having this easy method of watching them on your TV.
MacBreak has been proliferating my iTunes with podcast after podcast from MacWorld, but so far the one I have found most interesting delved into the topic of solar power on the go. Dr. Kiki Sanford hosts this episode (clocking in at just over five minutes), and talks to the Solio guys about powering all of your portable electronics simply by way of the sun.
Alright, faithful readers (all 5 of you), I’ve decided to narrow down the scope of this blog and have each day represent a specific topic to talk about. I’m open to any and all suggestions (although, keep them broad; as in “Books” rather than “The Collected Works of Charles Dickens”). This is to not only make it easier to blog (as I’ll have a more defined path for each day), it will also make it more interesting for the reader (so you know that at least once a week I’m blogging about Topic X that you are a fan of). So here are the few ideas I’ve thought of; please leave any others you may have in the comments!
- Movies/Television (this could be two separate days as well)
- Tech Topics
- Books (this might be more of a monthly topic, as I don’t read as much as my high school English teacher probably wishes I did)
While I don’t agree with every single one of his points, I think overall Paul Thurrott hits the nail on the head about the MacBook Air:
It’s too expensive. No surprise there: Apple technology is generally quite expensive at launch. The SSD version of the MacBook Air, however, is particularly expensive: It starts at over $3000. Yikes.
There’s no Ethernet. The MacBook Air comes with no built-in Ethernet port, which is just astonishing given how unsafe even secure wireless networks are today. While you can purchase a USB-based Ethernet adapter for $29, that adapter will then occupying the one and only USB port on the device.
It’s thin to no good end. While there are already a number of ultra-portable machines in the MacBook Air’s weight class (3 pounds), most of them exceed Apple’s device in ways that are meaningful. They have Ethernet ports, for example. More than one USB port. A docking station for a hardware “slice” that adds more battery and an optical drive. And so on. With the MacBook Air, less really is less, and in this case at least, Apple’s (Jobs’) penchant for tiny, elegant hardware is getting in the way of functionality in a way that makes the product inherently less useful to users. This device swings way too far into “form over function” territory.
These are the big reasons (in addition to no FireWire) keeping me from even considering purchasing it. You may remember that I dropped my PowerBook 12″ a few months ago (and as of Monday, the DVD drive finally died), so I’m looking for a replacement. Well, the MacBook Air will not be it.
(I must add that that the one problem I don’t have with the MacBook Air is the lack of a user-replacable battery. Sure, this will cause an annoyance to some, but iPods and iPhones don’t have them either. Plus, like those, the MacBook Air can be taken in to any Apple Store and have a replacement battery installed for a flat fee – equal to what an extra battery would cost.)
Sorry, Apple. Better luck next time.
This post is going to be for the minority of you out there who own both a Playstation 2 and an HDTV (Colin? I’m talking to you). Did you know that they made component cables for the PS2 so that you could hook it up to a high definition TV set? Well, they did! And you can find them right here! They aren’t made anymore, so Amazon.com and eBay are the best places to find them (and I can only vouch for the actual Sony cables, not Monster or any other company’s versions).
Why is this so amazing? Well, first of all, if you have one of the later model PS2’s, they have the capability to upscale DVDs to 480p, making the need for a nice DVD player moot. Plus, they give your games the capability of taking full advantage of having the 16:9 screen on your HDTV. Some games (such as every game in the Grand Theft Auto series, Gran Turismo 3, and NCAA Football ’08) are prepared for this, and look great. Others won’t necesarily upscale or use the full screen (I’m not positive on that, as I don’t have a large enough collection of games to have any that don’t do 16:9), but they still will look much better than through normal RCA connectors.
One thing to note is that you have to first go in to your system settings on the PS2 while you are still hooked up with RCA and change all the settings. Otherwise you’ll be hooked up by component inputs and the PS2 won’t be sending anything over those cables and you’ll be left with a blank screen.
Well, in relation to my last post, I give you the before and after pictures of fixing the dent. Luckily, not much real damage happened. Just some bent aluminum and a louder DVD drive (but it still works!). I was worried that I’d have to replace the whole chassis, battery, and/or DVD drive, but luckily none of that will need to be done.
It’s my own fault. It has a large dent in the corner of the base where the battery is. The battery doesn’t really fit anymore. More pictures and information to come.
And yes, it still works just fine. But it’s a bit less pretty.