Monthly Archives: December 2010

First thoughts on Apple TV

Santa brought me an Apple TV (ATV) in his bag this Christmas, and now that I’ve finished my holiday travels, I thought I’d hook it up and try it out. First, I’m truly amazed at how small it is! It comes with Apple’s elegant and minimalistic packaging, with the box, including its power cord, remote, startup manual, and iOS-based ATV unit itself measuring only 4.25 inches square and 2.5 inches thick. Its destination will be hooked to a TV at the beach, so today’s hookup was only temporary. However, Jan and I were soon talking about going to the Apple store to pick up another one. At $100, it’s a deal!

Setup was easy. I connected an HDMI cable, plugged in the power cord, and then it found my wifi and prompted for the password. I entered my Apple ID, and that’s the extent of the required setup. However, I also set up my Netflix account, my Mobile Me account, iTunes sharing (from my iMac) and checked other settings like the screensaver.

I played tunes from iTunes sharing, played video through iTunes sharing, played some smooth jazz streaming radio, tried Netflix (interface to Netflix is great, much better than the browser interface), pulled up some photos, and poked around. I used Airplay to stream Pandora from my iPad and that worked great! The ATV has a YouTube client of it’s own which I didn’t try, but I did use Airplay to send a YouTube video from my iPad, and that worked great.

All in all, I’d have to say I’m very pleased with the ATV. I’ve got a Mac Mini with some Bose Companion 5 speakers as my “media center” and I’ll keep that in place probably…though, it’s slow enough it can’t do HD video from Netflix, whereas the ATV has no problem with HD. If I had a more traditional audio/video receiver setup I think I’d switch, but it’s the cost of the receiver and home theater speakers that’s holding me back, not any issues with the ATV. It’s a helluva box, and I can see why Apple has sold a million of them!

White Christmas

Well, it’s the first white Christmas in the RTP area of NC since 1947, but it’s a mixed blessing. It’s fun to see the snow, but with family members trying to travel hither and yon, it’s added a bit of stress to the equation. We’ve had a day of watching the forecasts, snowfall accumulation potential, an intensifying coastal low pressure area, but have finally reached acceptable solutions. We’ll be sending parts of the extended clan west over the mountains and east to the coastal plain. Hoping for safe travels for all…but that snow on Christmas sure is exciting!

Firmware glitch on Apple Airport

I sat down tonight to do a quick, 5 minute update of the firmware on my Airport Extreme router to the latest revision, 7.5.2. I should have known better; never update a system that’s working perfectly well! I did the update of the Airport Extreme and the network-extending Airport Express, and both seemed to go well. However, I noticed that I had very sluggish connectivity. I have the Airport Extreme plugged in behind my ATT U-verse 2Wire router in DMZ configuration, so I tried a wired connection to the 2Wire to check on possible ATT problems. Working like a champ. Smokin’, in fact. Hmmmm….I googled on problems with this firmware update and came up with a number of hits and found a forum entry on the Apple site to be spot on. I hooked up a laptop with wireless active and a wired link to the 2Wire gateway, and downgraded the firmware back to 7.4.2. Worked like a champ. My speculation is that my Airport Extreme is an old first generation Extreme, and that’s the difficulty. I do know that I won’t be updating the firmware on this again, unless it specifically addresses this issue.

Network Neutrality

The FCC issued a new ruling today, affirming network neutrality. It was was not as complete a decision as preferred by proponents of neutrality, but it seems that it will be a very important ruling. It allows differentiation in wireless networks, stating that these are different entities that require different rules. Some on the panel think that this did not go far enough, that an Internet connection is an Internet connection (and I agree on that), but I agree that it is better to affirm neutrality on wired networks than to not resolve the issue for another two years, as Commissioner Michael Copps stated. The rules state that carriers cannot block legal traffic, and they cannot “unreasonably discriminate” against types of traffic. Those “weasel words” leave enough ambiguity to cause some problems, I’m sure, and will keep the lawyers busy, but the principle is important to codify.

Carriers and their supporters claim these rules will not allow for return on investment and will stifle innovation. I think though, that consumers should be able to pay for the bandwidth to their local networks based on the traffic needs, and not suffer discrimination based on what bits they send or receive. I would be more sympathetic to the carriers if I didn’t think that they were trying to protect a dying business model for delivery of subscription TV. The success of Netflix has the cable providers in particular looking for ways to sustain their historic revenue models. However, locking consumers into a limited set of choices is not it. If we each had many ISP’s that we could contract with for broadband access, I’d be more sympathetic to the statements of the free market advocates who state that the marketplace will take care of abuses. The problem is that most people only have one choice for wireline broadband, and that’s their cable company. In urban and suburban areas, you may have two or three, but that’s not broadly the case. I’m fortunate that I have access to both cable (Time Warner) and telco (U-verse). Eighteen months ago I moved from Time Warner to U-verse for higher bandwidth and have not looked back. Now, what I want is symmetric bandwidth, with higher upload speeds, though I am much happier with U-verse speed 18Mb down/1.5Mb up than the offerings from Time Warner.

The bottom line? Today is a big day, and I think that the Internet innovation machine will continue to churn and create new and exciting options, thanks to today’s FCC ruling.

Winter trout

The local chapter of TU does winter stocking of a pond about 8 miles from my house.  Trout don’t summer over here in the NC piedmont as the water gets too warm (but it was none too warm today!)  My friend Sam and I bought a couple of slots this year (it’s open weekends between November and March) and today was one.  It was cold overnight (in the 20’s) so Sam and I got there about 9:30, and enjoyed spurts of action throughout the day.  Not a lot of trout, but we caught several, and very nice size on some of them.  Did well on dropper flies below streamers, fished slow.  I caught all mine on a Prince nymph below a green/brown bugger. Nice day, good company as well as fish. Also nice for us central NC boys to catch trout 15 minutes from home ;-).  Pictures including a couple of videos here. When I uploaded, the pix ended up in reverse chronological order, sorry! The fish that broke off under the dock (one of the videos) was one we really wanted to see – watch the bend in Sam’s 6wt – but no luck on that.