Maccast 2007.02.03 – AppleTV

Written by: Adam Christianson

Categories: Mac Media Center, Podcast

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A podcast about all things Macintosh. For Mac geeks, by Mac geeks. Special coverage of AppleTV. This show features a discussion with special guest Ara Derderian from the HDTV Podcast. We talk about Apple’s soon to be released AppleTV product. The show goes into the features offered by the first generation product and we discuss it’s benefits and it’s shortcomings, plus offer some alternatives. The goal was to answer many of the questions we have all had since Steve Jobs previewed the device at WWDC. Hopefully we did a good job.

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There are 28 comments on Maccast 2007.02.03 – AppleTV:

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  1. fermat | Feb 03 2007 - 09:45

    You implied that your Mac (or PC) needs 802.11n to be able to stream HD to your AppleTV wirelessly. If you have an 802.11n router and an older non-N Mac (or PC) you could use a cable to connect your Mac (or PC) to the router then use 802.11n to connect to the AppleTV. This would work well for people who have a computer in the same room as the router and an AppleTV in another part of the house.

  2. tom | Feb 03 2007 - 10:56

    Why does AppleTV need a high-definition television to work if the video content from iTunes is not all in high-definition? For example, all the video podcasts in MPEG-4? I thought that the idea of AppleTV was “if it is in iTunes, it is on your TV”. And it would not make sense to require an expensive HD-TV if the content is not HD. Or is all the video content in iTunes already in HD?

  3. maccast | Feb 03 2007 - 11:12

    Yes that would be true, but I believe we said you couldn’t stream “wirelessly” without N. Obviously if you use a 100 BaseT or Gigabit “wired” connection you could stream the content.

    As we discussed in the episode, it is not so much that AppleTV requires a HDTV as much as it is that it requires your TV to be able to play “progressive” scan images. This means 480p or better, which is not HDTV. Today’s standard definition TV all display 480i, so won’t work with AppleTV. You are right it makes no sense for Apple to “require” this, but they apparently do.

  4. Mark | Feb 04 2007 - 04:11

    i don’t believe that apple tv only play HD Content because no VIDEO PODCAST is in HiDef and plays with AppleTV ….and so it plays all the things you can play with itunes

  5. Rene | Feb 04 2007 - 07:14

    That was an informative show. So the Apple TV seems to be more a proof of concept (read: version 1.0) than a piece of hardware a lot of people will find useful. I guess many people still use SD television, just like many people still watch VHS tapes instead of DVDs.

    Just a little piece of buying advice. If you’re looking for an enhanced-definition television, try to find a CRT model. Although they are bulky, they are very affordable, because they are low in demand. And best of all, the quality for watching SD television or DVDs is much better than with the best LCD, rear projection or plasma televisions. If they are there, you’ll often find them in some corner in the back of your tv store, because they want to sell you the (more expensive) new HD models.

  6. TonyG | Feb 04 2007 - 04:05

    Another Awesome show. Yours is one of two weekly shows I most look forward to, and just love listening to — I can’t really explain why – but this week’s was informative and fun to listen to.
    Tony G.

  7. Bruce | Feb 04 2007 - 09:24

    What an informative show! I haven’t found this level of comprehensive coverage for the Apple TV anywhere. Thank you so much!

    I have been trying to decide if Apple TV is something that I’d get a lot of use out of and from listening to your show I was able to make up my mind that I should wait for a bit. After all, I’ve already got a 5G iPod and can watch my iTunes videos on my TV through that.

    Once Apple starts selling HD content and opens up Appe TV to support other codecs, then I’ll be more likely to jump aboard.

    Thanks again Adam!

  8. Mike | Feb 05 2007 - 11:10

    Thanks for a great episode. I’ve going back and forth about the Apple TV vs using a Mac Mini.

    The problem I have is connecting the Mac Mini to the TV. As far as I know, the Mac Mini doesn’t have any video output other than the DVI port. I don’t recall hearing how your guest connected his Mac Mini.

    Any way to get around this?


  9. Ara Derderian | Feb 05 2007 - 11:07

    Hi Mike,

    I have it connected to my DLP via an DVI cable. You can also use a VGA connection if your TV supports it.


  10. Gregg Ball | Feb 05 2007 - 01:08

    Thanks Adam for a great small podcast about the Apple TV and Mac mini as a Media Center.

    Living in the UK, I thought the Mac mini was the best solution for me, as I don’t have a HD TV, so I purchased the following:

    1 Refub Mac Mini Intel Duo Core 1.66Ghz, 1Gb RAM, 60Gb Hard disk, CD Combo, Apple Remote and Bluetooth Keyboard & Mouse.
    2 iomega mini max 320Gb external hard & USB, firewire hub.
    3 Miglia TVmini
    4 and Apple PAL DVI to Video Adapter.

    £583 = $640

    Works a treat, media center, video recorder, DVD Player, Web client.

    Works a treat, the OS X interface needs zooming with the mouse to view properly, but Front Row and VLC works fine.

    Thanks for the tip about HD TV and Leads that should cost no more than $20.

    Great podcast.


  11. rick | Feb 05 2007 - 02:58

    If you know of a good (and not too expensive) downconverter, to convert from 480p (480 progressive) to 480i (480 interlaced) so that I can connect the Apple TV to my regular (480i) television, could you please post it here? Thanks.

  12. Rene | Feb 05 2007 - 05:56

    @Rick: I think the cheapest solution is still to buy an enhanced definition TV (480p) as a glass tube (CRT) model, perhaps second-hand, or in a bargain hunt.

  13. Tom | Feb 05 2007 - 05:50

    FYI – there are a lot of discussions on this topic in the apple support forum for apple tv (pre-release). More than 300 topics and more than 2300 messages right now. I suspect Apple is going to come up with a nice adapter for regular TVs shortly after start shipping the Apple TV.

  14. Mark | Feb 06 2007 - 05:26

    On the subject of PVR functionality, wouldn’t it be possible for Apple to license the Elagato eyeTV software, and without too much trouble port it to work in the Apple TV.

    Then you could simply plug your USB eyeTV compatible hardware into the Apple TV’s USB port, and volla…

    If you compare the Apple TV, to an iPod, the iPod has a Dock Connector, which allows the iPod functonality to be expanded. Why cant this be the case for the Apple TV?

  15. Sam | Feb 06 2007 - 06:52

    Which elgato hardward, either thirdparty or from elgato directly…would work best for a Digital Cable HD DVR in combination with a mac mini + external FW hard drive?

    I’m a bit confused on HD over the air vs. HD over digital cable.

    P.S. Great show…the only pod cast I listen to regulary!!

  16. Rene | Feb 06 2007 - 06:21

    @Mark: fear of piracy by the content creators, and unwillingness of Apple to let you get your content from any other source than the iTunes Store. Apple wants to milk that store as much as they can. Allowing PVR would counteract that strategy.

    Unless you believe that Apple can do no evil, of course, Apple is just a company who want to make profit and maximize that profit if they can. They owe that to their shareholders.

  17. Todd | Feb 06 2007 - 09:17

    There is a less expensive way to do a Mac Based Home Theater… However as it was stated to get everything in one box the Mini is the way to go. When I was researching my homw system we used a PM G4 800 (Single cpu) and running as an iTunes and Movie system with only 32mb ram was good for Standard def. G4 Mini’s in the same realm.

    Using Handbrake we were able to rip our DVD’s down to 700mb files which are easier to handle for the system and while you loose some quality you gain in affordability. A g4 500 was tested as well with a 32mb vid card and 1.5gb of ram. It performed quite well with these files. You don’t get Front row but there are 3 applications to take care of that in opensource, most require a 1.0ghz with 1gb of ram however.

    We ended up choosing an Intel 1.5 solo mini with 1gb of ram and found it played HD content on our BenQ projector just fine (28-32fps). We wanted the simplicity of the remote and front row.

    Also of note, since your using a computer buy a computer projector, don’t bother with HT projectors. Quality was no better. We let the mini do the video performace and use the manual zoom on the projector when watching a widescreen formatted movie to fill the wall.

    Add in a wireless keyboard and mouse and your affordable solution is good to go.

    All said and done were at $1150 including a 160gb external FW drive for movie storage.

    We have an iMac g3 500 running as an iTunes server in the kitchen that can also pump music throughout the house (fm transmitter connected to speaker output) as well as the pool/deck and patio in the backyard. Using Synergy I’m able to take control of either system through the wifi from my Linux based laptop and make selections and changes.

    One more note, exterior light gray primer for wood siding seems to be the experts choice for painting the wall your casting onto… But the small hill in the backyard or the front of our house works well during the holidays too :>)

  18. Todd | Feb 06 2007 - 09:30

    Sorry that G4 800 had 1.5gb of ram, 32mb video card…

  19. rick | Feb 06 2007 - 10:29

    Todd, thanks your your posting, very informative! Sorry to go off the main subject a little bit, but what wireless keyboard and mouse did you buy? And the FM transmitter? thanks.

  20. Loren | Feb 07 2007 - 10:33

    How does Eye TV change the channel on the digital cable box? I don’t think it can do that. Without that, how can this be an effective DVR system since most people have a digital cable box. Thanks

  21. Ara Derderian | Feb 08 2007 - 07:47

    Hi Loren,

    There are multiple EyeTV products. The one I was talking about with Adam was for recording over the air HD TV signals. So it is a bit limited as a DVR. In my situation the vast majority of my viewing is network HD.

    I am hoping Apple comes out with a true HT Mini that has a built in ATSC tuner and a cable card slot so that you can record digital cable. Throw in a higher quality movie download from the iTMS with Dolby Digital audio and you have a killer box. One last thing that would knock the cover off the ball. Have a built in ipod dock that would allow you to record directly to it. Then you can watch on the go or take it to a friend’s house and watch your content there.

    MacCast listeners are great! Many of you have checked out my show. My co-host (Braden) and I really appreciate it!


  22. tonylimo | Feb 08 2007 - 08:08

    Hi Guys and thanks for the info on the Apple TV. I know now not to get it until i upgrade my TV to HD. Thanks for explaining what 1080p and the I stands for , i didn’t know and sometimes those guys in BEST BUY don’t even

    keep up the good work,

    been a subscriber for over a year now.


  23. Loren | Feb 08 2007 - 10:22

    Thanks for the response. Value the info you provide and am learning much from you and Adam.

    Looks like I need to stay with windows media center for now as a DVR since it can switch the channels on the cable box. And because of that I have to keep a media center extender I have.

    If anyone knows how to transition this equivalent capability to the Mac platform please let me know. I would certainly prefer to go all Mac and it seems a shame, even odd, that there is a showstopper with being able to use IR to change the channel of the cable box. Certainly there is some enterprising people out there who have seen this need and filled it.


  24. Arthur | Feb 16 2007 - 09:22

    I have the composite connections on my tv and I was wondering if I will be able to use the Apple TV?

  25. Rick | Mar 11 2007 - 09:06

    I would like to digitize about 200 laser disks. I know I will ahve to play them and capture them to imovie. My question: I would love to store them on a hard drive and then play them on tv with my apple remote. What is the best way to do this? Will I have to convert them to H264 or MP4 files and play them through itunes? Do i leave them a quicktime files on my mac mini?

  26. maccast | Mar 15 2007 - 04:19

    If your TV is an EDTV or HDTV then yes. If it is a standard definition TV with component inputs, like my 23″ Sony WEGA, then no.

    If you want to have the movies in iTunes and sync or stream them to an AppleTV, then yes. You need to convert the videos to a format supported by iTunes. If you use the Mac Mini solution proposed by Ara, then you have other options. These are covered in detail in this episode.

  27. David | Mar 16 2007 - 10:56

    I am not sure that Apple has the right formula for video downloads for the mass market. Why purchase only. Unlike songs most people I know mostly rent movies. Also Apple TV is not setup to record cable channels so it is not a comprehensive solution for a DVR.

    I am a MacPro/TIVO DVR owner and heavy investor in both Apple and TIVO stock. So which way do I go–Apple TV or TIVO with Amazon Unbox downloads. Since TIVO is the first to come out with a direct to DVR/TV service via a joint agreement with Amazon’s Unbox Video, I decided to try it out.

    I have downloaded five Amazon Unbox movies/tv episodes with great success direct to two DVR’s in my rec room and library. My downloading equipment is two Series3 TIVO DVRs, TIVO Wireless Adapters 802.11(g)–47to 60% signal strength, and the new AppleAirport Extreme basestation which has worked flawlessly with transfer rates on Comcast averaging 7.4 Mbps (premium residential service). The first 100 minutes of Dr. Zhivago transfered in 40 minutes based on the barline (% download) status up on my Amazon page on Safari.

    TIVO has a great ease of use remote controller interface, agreements with Comcast and Cox–TIVO service will soon be a premium option on their cable services– and great support from the advertising comunity looking to invest in new forms of advertising on the TIVO platform. Amazon Unbox licensing is good and the quality is TIVO’s best recordable–near HD. Unbox purchases can be downloaded to two DVRs, deleted and redownloaded from one’s personal Amazon Media Library (playlists) as often as wanted Rentals can be held on the TIVO box for 30 days (but are deleted in exactly 24 hours after intiating the first play) and a second rental copy can be directed to a second DVR from the Amazon UnBox window. Eventually Tivo will have Amazon Unbox browser interface using its remote controller.

    Apple admittedly has more popular hype, a great iTunes store and its own investor bucks to play with. But as a 23 year Mac user, I think TIVO has the more comprehensive and imaginative solution. But, one that Mac owners with a new Aiport Extreme (n) are ideally suited to use.

  28. mark | Jun 28 2009 - 11:51

    Why does AppleTV need a high-definition television to work , is all the video content in iTunes HD?