What are you doing Apple TV?

Those who regularly follow the blog will realise that my local cabinet will soon allow FTTC connections, only seven years after the local exchange was upgraded. When we moved house five years ago, we took our internet service provider with us and kept the legacy account. Five years ago we expected to be upgraded to FTTC with a year or two…

This legacy account actually has a bandwidth limit of 120Gb per month, which considering my average ADSL internet speed is 1Mb/s is (usually) more than plenty. Most months we are lucky to hit 60GB. As a result I have never upgraded the legacy ISP account.

As we finally approach the possibility of having a fibre connection, I was checking what kinds of fibre accounts were available, I took the opportunity to check my bandwidth usage and was surprised to see how much bandwidth we had been using. We were using 4-6GB per day (which if you do the math, you will realise would take us over the monthly limit, as especially it is a thirty one day month).

After checking a few things and doing an overnight test, it would appear that the Apple TV was the culprit.

Apple TV

Not sure what it was doing (as it was supposed to be on standby) but I am guessing it was attempting to update itself or downloading one of its (rather nice) screensaver.

Reflecting another culprit could be the Wii U. Well let’s see what happens with the Apple TV turned off. OF course once we have upgraded to FTTC we will have unlimited bandwidth, so I won’t need to worry. Which will be soon…. I hope.

Tech Stuff – Top Ten Blog Posts of 2015

Not too many posts on the tech blog this year,  surprised though that the post  Google Glass is Dead, or is it… didn’t make the top ten!

Looking at fonts especially those designed for comic strips was the tenth most popular posting in 2015. Written in 2010 it was about the excellent Comic Book Fonts available. Read the post Comic Book Fonts.

Thinking about the Apple TV back in 2012 was the ninth most popular post on the blog. Apple TV Thoughts was quite a long post on my reflection on the Apple device.

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The eighth post is from 2008 when Apple added free episodes to the iTunes Store. The high ranking for this post is probably down the blog post title: Free iTunes TV Shows (on UK iTunes Store).

A few years ago my HP printer died when I replaced the inks. The seventh most read post is about my dead printer. My printer is dead!.

HP PhotoSmart B110a

I haven’t done a podcast choice for a while now, but the sixth most popular post on the blog was the second in the series, Podcast Choice #02 – Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4. Quite a popular post as people seem to keep wanting to have my copies of the shows I have downloaded over the years through iTunes.

Comic Life is one of my favourite apps on the Mac, but once I lost my styles and that is at number five. Where are my Comic Life Styles?

Wifi makes an appearance at number four, with my experiences at a Haven Holiday Camp. Haven no wifi.

More Wifi this time with my experiences with BT Wifi networks resulted in the third most read post, called I don’t like BT FON.

In November 2014, we finally got free wifi on First Great Western trains, and my post about this, Finally, free FGW wifi on the train was the second most popular blog post in 2015.

Cadbury Twirl Bites QR Code

I use to post a lot of posts on QR Codes and the most popular post the year was this one from January 2015 about the ones you found on Cadbury chocolate bars. Cadbury QR Coding and Twirling.

Happy New Year and all the best for 2016.

“Hey Siri, give us a hint.”

Apple has sent out their invites for their “annual” iPhone release.

Hey Siri, Give Us a Hint

If you ask Siri on your iPhone, to give you a hint, you get some quite witty responses.

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As well as new iPhones, the rumours also say there may be a new Apple TV. That I wouldn’t mind to replace my old 720p model.

Apple TV Thoughts


Apple calls the Apple TV a hobby, the reason behind that is, that it will never have the sales figures that the iPad, the MacBook and the iPhone gets. The moniker “hobby” tells analysts that they shouldn’t expect the Apple TV to be a mainstream product that sells in the tens of millions! Apple do say that those who bought the Apple TV really like it.

I am one of those who did buy it, and yes I do like it. I use it a fair bit but there are a few things I would like it do better.

First what do I like about it?

I like the fact that I can stream content from my iMac (in the office) to the TV in the front room. As I have an Apple and iTunes infrastructure for content then this works really well. As well as showing photographs, I like that I can show movies and videos from iTunes on the TV. I like the ease by which I can stream rented videos too without needing to “move” them from one device to the other.

I like how I can use AirPlay to stream content from the iPad to the Apple TV and onto the TV. For example I can use ITVPlayer on the iPad and watch it on the TV without cables. This works much better than ITVPlayer does on the PS3, likewise with BBC iPlayer and 4OD from Channel 4.

I like how Netflix works on the Apple TV, films in my opinion work better on the big screen than on the computer or the iPad.

I like how I can watch movie trailers quickly and easily.

So what do I think needs improving?

It would be nice to add UK-centric services to the Apple TV. Why can’t I add BBC iPlayer, ITVPlayer, etc to the Apple TV? Netflix got added “automatically” why can’t the other services? I suspect it might be a licensing issue, so I have to do it by AirPlay. Now though I like AirPlay it isn’t perfect and I have had a couple of issues with it, notably no audio and sometimes buffering of the video.

Renting movies does seem “expensive” to me, and I would be happy to rent the cheaper SD movies. At the moment I rent the movies on the iMac and then stream to the Apple TV, but would be nice to be able to do that from the Apple TV direct.

I like the idea of renting TV shows, but I suspect that there are so few TV shows that I want to rent that I haven’t done this very much. I either use iPlayer for more recent shows like Hustle, Elgato’s EyeTV to record a series such as Pan Am that I am going to watch later, or Netflix to watch older series, currently enjoying The 4400 as it happens.

There is a selection of internet video services on the Apple TV, but I don’t really use them. I think this is more me than the fault of Apple TV, I am not one to go through multiple amusing YouTube videos… but I am aware of people who do, so I suspect that this is more there cup of tea.

It would be nice to add music services to the Apple TV, but as Apple’s focus is iTunes I don’t see that happening anytime soon. If I was switched into the iCloud then I guess that would enable me to access some of my music, but I would also need iTunes Match so that I could listen to the mp3s I have downloaded from Amazon and my CDs. Though it has to be said there are a fair few radio stations I could listen to!

Now I know that I can “jailbreak” the Apple TV and install Plex on it, but that’s not really a mainstream option. Firecore’s aTV Flash is another option, but costs $29.95.

I guess my final thought on the Apple TV is that for many of the features you need a decent broadband connection, and not everyone has that. I am lucky in that my exchange now has fibre (FTTC) but before it was upgraded my ADSL connection was very slow and I had a fair few problems with it. FTTC does make the Apple TV much more useful and of course downloading from iTunes is much better too with FTTC.

Overall the benefits of the Apple TV certainly outweigh for me the small number of issues I have with it. I think for £99 as a set top box it really is value for money, but I say that with the caveat that you really do need to have an iTunes ecology for content.

Airsync Androidness

I have had a Google Nexus One for a while now, but though I have downloaded many different apps, they’ve all had one thing in common, they were free. I realised that I had never bought an Android App for the Nexus One. This is very unlike my iPhone experience where I have bought quite a few apps.

So when it came to buying my first Android App, I was a little apprehensive. To be honest the experience was not very positive and could have been better.

So what was the app?

Well it was doubleTwist AirSync.

As well as letting me sync the Nexus One with my Mac over wifi using doubleTwist, there were two other features that made me think that this was going to be a worthwhile purchase.

doubleTwist now supports AirPlay for users who have upgraded to AirSync. Stream to Apple TV (music, videos and photos) and DLNA devices (music and videos). Beta support for Sonos.

When a supported device such as the Apple TV is recognized on the same WiFi network as your Android device, you can start streaming to it from the doubleTwist playback controls if you are an AirSync user.

So what went wrong, why was the process not very positive?

Well… after finding the app in the Android Market Place (which was easy), I tentatively clicked the purchase link.

It took me to a purchase screen and as I had used Google Checkout before it remembered my details. I paid for the purchase, I fully expected the app to download and then I could start using it. Well that’s what I expected, but that’s not what happened.

It didn’t download, all I got was a message that I was awaiting for the purchase to be authorised.

Initially I thought it was broken or had failed. However an e-mail from Google said that my purchase had gone through and I was charged for the App. Still the phone was saying that it was waiting for the purchase to be authorised…

It did this for a few hours before finally the app installed, I could use it, pair it and sync it with doubleTwist. No idea if that delay is normal and certainly I had not warning that this would happen. If I knew it was going to take hours then fair enough, however there was no warning or explanation.

So what of the app? I do like it and the ability to stream video, audio and photos from the Nexus One to my Apple TV is a real plus. Most of the videos I tried worked fine, but then they were encoded for the iPhone and I would expect them to work through the Apple TV. I was disappointed though that native videos i recorded on my Nexus One didn’t work. Well one did, but the rest didn’t. The one that did was a recent video, older ones failed to stream.

So I am pleased with the app, however less happy with the purchasing experience. Hopefully next time (and yes there will be a next time) it will be a more positive experience.