Welcome to Technology Week at Blogography, where I will be reviewing tech purchases I've made over the last month or so.
The remote that comes with AppleTV is total shit.
I'm not even kidding. It's absurdly small, easy to fall through the couch cushions and lose, difficult to tell up from down, has a crap "trackpad" for navigation, and is an overall loser for functionality and user experience.
As you might have guessed, I am not a fan.
Before I cut the cord, I had to use an assortment of remotes for my television, satellite box, and AppleTV. I mostly watched satellite TV. and that remote was just fine. But now that I've cut the cord and everything is streaming through apps on AppleTV, this shitty little remote is what I'm using 100% of the time. And I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.
"Surely I'm not the only one who hates this piece of shit! I wonder if there's a third-party remote for AppleTV that has actual buttons and is pleasant to use?"
Turns out there is. The majority of options are programmable remotes, however, and that's overkill for me because I just have the one device now. What I want is a simple remote for AppleTV only.
Enter the Function 101 Button Remote for AppleTV...
Exactly what I always wanted!
When the remote arrived, I immediately noticed a few great things...
Alas, it's not all a bed of roses. There are problems to be had.
First of all, there is no "Home" button. I believe this is a technical limitation of AppleTV, because I never had a "Home" button on my Harmony remotes either. Some of the functionality can be had by long-pressing the "Menu" button... but that doesn't work to turn off the AppleTV quickly. Bummer.
Second of all, the button layout is not like the original crappy Apple Remote. This is incredibly frustrating and makes zero sense. I am CONSTANTLY hitting the "Channel Up/Down" instead of volume, which immediately forwards you to the next episode in many apps. This is horrible. If I had been the one to design the remote, I would have laid it out exactly like the Apple remote so you can easily switch between them and have the buttons where you expect them to be...
Third of all, this is an IR-only remote. Which means you must have clear sight of the AppleTV and be pointing the remote directly at it in order for signal to be received.
And Lastly, It did not work with my AppleTV 4K right away. Every time I pressed a button I would get three rapid flashes on the AppleTV, but nothing would happen. It took days of back-and-forth with Function Tech Support (who were very responsive) and it still wouldn't work. Through a lot of Googling, I tried the following suggestions...
Ultimately it was a suggestion from a friend who's an Apple Store "Genius Bar" employee to Reset & Update AppleTV that got things working. This is a terrible last-ditch effort because you have to sign back into all your apps again. You'd think this would be a simple matter since Apple added a unified AppleTV subscription provider login, but none of the apps seem to use it properly. You tell the app to use your provider login, then still have to jump through hoops to get signed in. Incredibly frustrating.
Ultimately the Function 101 remote is a mixed bag. It's so much better than the crappy Apple remote in form, function, and feel... but the button arrangement is incredibly problematic because it's different from the Apple original which means you're pressing the wrong buttons all the time. This is a shame. If they were to fix this, it would be a seriously good buy at $29.95.
UPDATE: I revised this to reflect that I eventually got the remote working.
I've been catching up with preparing my home for winter this weekend, but I had to make time for blogging, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• Compare. I am putting this video here because I just can't believe it exists. Arun Maini (who has a great YouTube Channel) compared all the iPhones ever made for quality and features, plus showed and unboxing of each as well...
One of the most shocking parts of this video is the end where he compares the cameras. I maintain that the camera in the new iPhone 11 Pro may be the best camera I've ever owned. No, it can't really compare my Sony DSLR... but, in some ways, it actually eclipses it. First of all, it fits in my pocket and is with me at all times. Second of all, it has capabilities you could only get from a device with a massively powerful computer in it... like Night Mode and the forthcoming Deep Fusion. Aside from all that, it's just capable of taking amazing, amazing photos.
Of course the biggest shock is the benchmark escalation...
I mean... wow. As an aside here, I've owned the following: 2G (The Original), 3G, 4, 5, 6, 7, X, XS, and 11 Pro...
I kept all the boxes (except I can't find the box for 7). I think the only actual phone I kept was the 5 (it's in the shadows up there in the corner) because I loved the look of it so much (the 4 is a close second). I also have a 2G Original around here somewhere. The other phones I donated because the trade-in value is always worth less to me than helping somebody out... or, as of the iPhone X, I returned it to Apple as part of their iPhone Upgrade Program.
• Vieux Carré. They are building a Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans at the Northeastern corner of The French Quarter. I was staying just around the corner from the construction site, and walked by while I was there to check things out. Unfortunately I couldn't see much... and, even more unfortunately, there was a horrific accident which has left two workers dead and one still missing...
As the push to get things done ever cheaper and faster escalates, worker safety seems to be pushed aside. I sincerely hope that's not the case here.
• GROUCH. I do not care how many accolades that the Joker movie gets... I have zero interest in seeing it. The "real" Joker was a career criminal who was driven insane when he dropped in a vat of chemicals. The key takeaway being that he was always a criminal. In this new movie, Joker becomes a criminal due to mental illness, and I'm not here for it. The film is a completely unnecessary revision that simply doesn't interest me. Maybe one day when it's free on HBO or whatever, I'll give it a try out of boredom... but I'm not rushing to the theater to see it. Last night on SNL, there was a parody for Oscar the Grouch which brilliantly captures how I view Joker...
Perfect. THIS IS PERFECT!
• Three. It came out a short while back that Kevin Smith had finally manages to get Jeff Anderson onboard for Clerks 3. He had written a script ages ago, but Jeff didn't want to do it. Apparently after some discussion, Smith decided to write an all new script inspired by his heart attack that Anderson could get onboard with. Needless to say, I'm ecstatic...
Kevin Smith has made some of the favorite films. He kinda lost me when he took a detour into Cop Out, Red State, Tusk, and Yoga Hosers... but the idea of getting another Jay & Silent Bob movie this month followed by another Clerks? Too good to be true.
• Vileness. You will be absolutely amazed what Portuguese street artist, Vile, can do with cans of spray paint...
Check out the story over at My Modern Met for more of his mind-blowing graffiti art.
• Apple and TV. I absolutely loathe the way Apple handles the video media they peddle. They charge more money than any other provider to sell you something you are forced to watch with their shitty, shitty apps. AppleTV is a grotesque mockery of interface design that barely works. The iPhone and iPad apps are missing so many critical features (LIKE SORTING YOUR HUNDREDS OF PURCHASES) that they're a heinous burden to use. And now there's the TV app for my Mac that came with their new Catalina MacOS. It is the very definition of crap. I never thought I'd be longing to go back to iTunes, but at least it was functional. The TV app is fucking garbage. They regularly send you to places that have no content... THEN DON'T GIVE YOU A FUCKING "BACK" BUTTON TO GO BACK TO WHERE YOU WERE!
And just try searching for stuff you want to buy. I dare you. I double dare you. I am so fucking embarrassed for Apple that I feel like vomiting. And if Steve Jobs were alive today he'd probably burn the company to the ground. After he strangles all the dumbasses who thought that "butterfly" keyboards in MacBooks was a good idea.
• Stellar. Christopher Nolan's Interstellar is a movie that I didn't like at first but, as time went on and I gave it another chance, I came to appreciate it as pretty good sci-fi. The high-concept science behind it is fascinating. Yes, the way that Nolan tried to inject "humanity" into it was a kludge, but it's still an entertaining story. And while I found everything pretty straightforward (despite some glaring plot holes), I found this cool (spoiler-filled) graphic which explains the time shifts in a great way...
Of course I ended up watching the movie again last night just to follow along. I like it even better the third time through.
See you next Sunday, buckaroos.
Snow may have arrived but the internets are toasty warm, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• THE END? Years ago I told myself I'd stop blogging after 5,000 posts. Earlier this week I thought to look and see how close I am to that. I've posted 6,124 posts. And so... I guess I'm stopping at 10,000 then. You're welcome!
• Spidey! So maybe Sony isn't filled with buckets of dumbass after all. It was announced earlier this week that Marvel and Sony have come to an agreement for another Spider-Man film to be set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Given how FREAKIN' AMAZING a job Marvel has done with the character, AT LAST!, I'm unapologetically enthusiastic...
Apparently the deal may include bringing more Spider-Man-based characters than just Spider-Man. A part of me wonders if that's a good thing. But if anybody can figure out how to make it work, that would be Marvel.
• Stumptown! And... just like that, I have a new favorite show. Cobie is absolutely 100% bad-ass in every frame of Stumptown and I love it. You can watch the first episode on the ABC app for free without an account. I suggest you do...
Based on the comic book of the same name, it's remarkably faithful while changing enough to make darn good television. And, as if that wasn't good enough, it features a cast with Jake Johnson! Michael Ealy! Tantoo Cardinal! Camryn Manheim! They pulled out all the stops in casting this show. Top shelf all around!
• Flerfer Dumbassery! "IF THE EARTH IS ROUND AND SPINNING AT 1000mph, THEN WHY DON'T I GO FLYING OFF WHEN I JUMP UP IN THE AIR?!? THE EARTH MUST BE FLAT IF WE CAN JUMP UP AND DOWN WITHOUT MOVING!!!" — GAAAAAAAHHHH!!! IT'S SCIENCE, BITCH!
Literally EVERY SINGLE THING that dumbass flat earthers come up with as a reason that globe-earth cannot exist can be refuted with science. Not that that's going to stop anything. Dumbassery is contagious.
• Assholes! NEWSFLASH: Every word Ajit Pai says about Net Neutrality is a lie, including "and" and "the." — Well no shit! Ajit Pai only cares about the Telco lobbyist dicks he has been sucking. He's never given a crap about American consumers. Not even a tiny pebble shit. It's assholes like this who should be strung up and shot for selling out the country. Just like the rest of President Trump's administration of assholes.
• TV! I hate to say it, but here it goes... APPLE'S TV APP FOR MaCOS X IS A STEAMING PILE OF SHIT AND I AM FUCKING EMBARRASSED FOR THE ENTIRE COMPANY FOR RELEASING IT! It's comically inept, buggy, and stupid... and once again has me regretting that I ever bought into Apple's media ecosystem. First of all, it's a crappy experience. You never know what's clickable because the cursor never changes. And when something is clickable, you don't know if your click is registered because the button state doesn't change and there's no feedback whatsoever. This means that you end up clicking again and again and again because you don't know if anything is happening. And the app is so fucking slow that it takes forever to acknowledge when something does happen. Apple essentially developed the modern home computer interface. And they are destroying their legacy with this bullshit. And it just gets worse. Have tons of purchases in your library? Hope you like scrolling! There is NO FUCKING SHORTCUT to get to what you need to be! Want to watch those Magnum P.I.? episodes you purchased? Typing "M" to get there does NOTHING! Just scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll.
Second of all, it's hard to search for the stuff you want to buy. You type in the search box and often times get random shit for an explicit search term. Then, assuming you do all kinds of acrobatics and manage to navigate to what you want, actually buying something is a joke. It's all a bunch of clicking and clicking and clicking because you have no fucking idea if you actually bought it or not because there's no acknowledgement until an email receipt arrives. AND THEN once you finally manage to buy something, IT DOESN'T SHOW UP IN YOUR LIBRARY UNTIL YOU QUIT THE APP AND START IT UP AGAIN?!? Oh... and when you DO quit and restart? It doesn't remember where you were, so you have to navigate back there again.
This is insanity, and I cannot fucking believe that Apple actually let this shit go out of beta. Assuming they even bothered to beta test it at all. I never thought I'd be longing for the original iTunes to come back, but here we are. Fuck you, Apple.
See You Next Sunday!
AND LO DID TIM COOK DESCEND FROM ON HIGH TO DELIVER A NEW iPHONE TO THE APPLE FAITHFUL FROM THE SANCTITY OF THE APPLE SPACESHIP HEADQUARTERS!
He dropped some other Apple stuff too, but the only thing I really cared about was the iPhone. And the only reason I cared about a new iPhone was the possibility of an improved camera inside of it.
And here's all the crap Apple talked about, along with my notes...
I love video games. I've loved video games since video games were invented. Alas, I never have time to actually play them, which means my Nintendo Switch sits mostly unused and any game I buy for my iPhone is never finished. So when Apple announced "Apple Arcade" I was ready to take a big 'ol pass... but then you find out it's just $4.99 a month (a third less than I was expecting) and a part of me is like Hmmmmmm?!? $5 is (on average) what I pay for a single game. Now I can get hundreds of games for that same price? That's a pretty sweet deal. And every one of the games are exclusive to Apple. So who knows? Maybe a couple times a year I'll pay my $5 and play when I can for a month just to see what's up. Sure beats paying $5 for one game that will never be completed. There's a one-month free trial to check it out on September 19th...
I already pay far more for television every month than I am comfortable with (or can afford). But looking at the cool shows that Apple has lined up for their streaming service is certainly compelling. And, again, I'm more than a little blown away that Apple is only going to charge $4.99 a month given the money and quality of shows they are producing. This will be yet another case of paying for a month of service a couple times a year so I can binge all their content. And then Apple drops the other shoe... any purchase of a new iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV comes with a FREE year of Apple TV+, which is pretty mind-blowing. Apple developed a streaming service not as a monthly revenue model... BUT TO SELL MORE OF THEIR PRODUCTS! No idea if people like me who are a part of the iPhone Upgrade Program will get a free year every time they trade in their old phone for a new phone, but that would be pretty sweet...
I have a new-ish model of iPad which I purchased to paint with. And I love it for painting. The Apple Pencil is fast, intuitive, and there's all kinds of apps available to unleash your creativity. But what I need an iPad for is drawing, not painting. I want to be able to draw on the thing, and I have a really hard time with that. I just can't seem to get the precision needed for drawing down, and every time I try I end up reaching for a pencil and paper. What I need to do is just sit down for a week and force myself to learn. But I can never find the time so my iPad sits in a drawer. For that reason, iPad news is kind uninteresting to me... but I do tune in, because nothing would make me happier than to use an iPad for travel instead of lugging my laptop everywhere. And if things keep advancing like they have been, we are closer to that becoming a reality than ever before. Would I buy a new 7th Generation iPad if I could afford one in the first place? Probably not. But I still want one, and that's how Apple gets you. The latest model is sublimely fast, capable, and beautiful to look at and draw on. What's not to want?
The only way that I would ever buy one of these would be if they made it considerably thinner. Because while I would absolutely love to own one... I would likely never wear it. But, again, I want one anyway because Apple makes such a compelling case as to why I can't live without one. The health features alone are pretty spectacular. But now the display is ALWAYS ON which addresses my other major pet peeve about Apple Watch. The fact that they innovated a way to make this happen without sacrificing battery life is insanely great. All the other new stuff in Series 5... like a compass... is cute, but not compelling enough for me to shell out $500.
iPhone 11. This is the new entry model iPhone, which I'll just skip right over, since it doesn't have the cameras I am looking for. Faster, better Face ID, better cameras, blah blah blah... it's dope, we get it. The base model starts at $699.
iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max. Here we go...
Durability. They claim that the new iPhone Pro models are constructed with the toughest glass ever created for a mobile phone. Will this preclude giving up a protective case? That would be nice, but I'll have to wait until somebody tests that. Since I am on the iPhone Upgrade Program and have to return my iPhone in pristine condition if I don't want to pay a fine to get a new one, I'll probably end up with a case unless the glass is so tough that it's impossible to scratch. Not likely.
Display. Apparently "Super Retina" displays just aren't good enough now. Apple has leapt forward with Super Retina XDR. It's got better contrast, better color gamut, better brightness... all while being 15% more energy efficient.
A13 Bionic Chip. Apple's line of chips has been fine-tuned specifically for doing exactly what Apple wants their phones to do and nothing more or less. There's no wasted energy going anywhere because Apple designs them that way. This makes them crazy-powerful all while drawing less power from the battery. Nowhere is this more evident than with Apple's dedication to "machine learning" via their "Neural Engine." This is a special set of routines that can analyze massive amounts of data and provide tools to use that data in intelligent ways. Feed it a bunch of images of an object to define an object, for example, and you can ask it to look for the object in new images with very little coding. That's pretty basic scenario, and creative programmers are able to do much, much more. This is a case of Apple providing killer tools so developers can come up with killer apps.
Battery. I don't use my phone a lot, so the battery has barely drained when I charge it each night. Even when I travel and am using my phone constantly, it still lasts me all day. I rarely ever run out of battery (which used to happen all the time with earlier iPhone models). Even so... the new Pro has up to 4 hours more battery life... the new Pro Max has up to 5 hours more battery life. And they are including a more powerful charger, so you can charge your phone quicker as well (assuming you still want to use a cord... ugh!). It was expected that Apple would introduce "reverse wireless charging" so you can use your iPhone battery to charge another phone... or your Apple Watch... or your AirPods... or whatever. This was introduced in the previous version of the Samsung Galaxy phones, but didn't happen this time for the iPhone. Maybe next year.
Haptic Touch. As rumored, Apple has eliminated 3D Touch from its displays, which allowed a "deep touch" to perform different functions from a "touch." This is a real shame, because 3D Touch is a frickin' amazing feature (no wonder it wasn't even mentioned at the event!). So now instead of a display that's pressure-sensitive, we instead get "Haptic Touch" which relies on the length of a touch instead of the hardness of a touch to deliver different functions. This is most decidedly not the same thing, even though Apple is essentially selling it that way. I'm sure it will just be a learning adjustment. But it's weird that Apple would be removing features like this. I guess it makes for cheaper displays... but how is that a consolation in a phone that starts at $1000?!?
Lightning Again. The dream was that Apple finally move to USB C for the cable hookup. They didn't. It's still a Lightning connector, which means you have to continue to pack stupid Lightning cables with you everywhere. I rarely use a cable at home thanks to wireless charging, but I use it all the time when I travel, which is why this sucks.
Sound. Dolby Atmos on a phone is an absurd claim... probably more "Dolby-Atmos-like," but I don't doubt that the spatial sound abilities are much improved.
Camera. I use my iPhone as a camera more than anything else. By a ridiculous margin. To me, it's not a phone at all... it's a camera which happens to be able to use the internet and make phone calls. When I travel now-a-days, I rarely take my actual camera with me. My iPhone is enough. And with each new version that Apple unleashes, my "professional camera" is less necessary. I haven't needed to buy a new mobile phone in years. But I do so anyway because I want a better camera.
Night Mode. Apple has always had pretty good low light capabilities. But with the advent of mobile phones like the Google Pixel with its amazing "night sight," Apple's efforts are downright pitiful. But now they've addressed this shortcoming in a big way to add far better low light photography to the iPhone. This is a pretty big deal...
Lens Trio. Saying that the iPhone Pro has "three lenses" is actually wrong. It has three cameras, each with a different lens. A 12MP 26mm f/1.8 Wide Camera, a 12MP 52mm f/2.0 Telephoto Camera, and a 12MP 13mm f/2.4 Ultra-Wide Camera...
Note that we haven't gotten an increase from 12MP in a while now. This is probably smart given the massive storage space needed, but they really need to get to at least 16MP real soon for those who want it... maybe even giving just one of the lenses 24MP or something. Anyway... it's the ultra-wide that's important here...
Most any time I've taken scenic photos I end up having to take panoramas, which are great but problematic. Far better if I can take a wide photo in one shot, which is going to be much more likely now.
Deep Fusion. And here's where things get interesting! Deep Fusion is a technology which uses the iPhone's machine learning to to build fantastic detail out of multiple shots... automatically. Every time you initiate the shutter, iPhone takes nine photos (four of them happen before you even touch the shutter). It then analyzes every pixel of all the images and builds a finished image which combines the best pixels from each... in less than a second. The demo image is phenomenal, and has me totally sold...
Video. All three cameras can shoot in 4K. New editing tools allow for adjusting attributes like brightness. That's impressive. But it's Mickey Mouse stuff when you consider what it can actually do with these cameras. To demonstrate that, Apple had the CTO from FiLMiC show off the next version of their app which takes full advantage of the fact that the iPhone Pro can record from MULTIPLE CAMERAS AT THE SAME TIME!
So you can have coverage at the wide and telephoto levels in the same shot. And you can use the selfie cam as one of those cameras.... Which means you can record both sides of a talking heads conversations in one go...
Insanity. But in the best possible way.
5G. Ain't got it. Which is a bit of a dangerous game to play. As the 5G rollout gains momentum, having a phone with the option of connecting to it seems like something you want to have in a $1000 phone for future-proofing. But Apple, of course, doesn't want to future-proof. They want you to keep buying new phones to get those sweet new features.
Price. No increased retail on the Pro. Still $1000 for the "regular" sized one... which seems absurd, even when considering all it can do. I don't have $1000 to throw around, so I will be upgrading from my current iPhone with the iPhone Upgrade Program I bought into last year...
Artistry. Apple gave some of the new iPhone Pro phones to professional photographers and let them loose. Using the new tech, they created some amazing images...
And that's all she wrote.
My iPhone Upgrade Program renewal date isn't until the 20th, and I'm too cheap for an early buy-out, so I'm fine waiting until then (which, coincidentally, is the actual release date). Of course by that time the waiting list queue for backorders will likely have me getting my new iPhone 11 Pro in October, so I won't get to try out the awesome new camera(s) until then.
Think of all the cat photos I'll be missing out on.
Yesterday I talked about finally being able to dump Apple's home automation disaster, HomeKit. Today I'm contemplating dumping Apple TV for a number of reasons...
First of all, the streaming quality of shows purchased through Apple iTunes is awful... assuming you can get them to stream at all. Do you know how many times I've gone to watch a movie or TV Show I've purchased, only to have Apple TV go catatonic? Do you know how many times I've been watching something only to have Apple TV suddenly stop streaming and then not start again unless I reset everything? And when I complain? Apple blames my internet connection. Without fail. But here's the thing... ALL OTHER STREAMING SERVICES WORK FINE! Even on Apple TV! Episodes of The West Wing I've purchased from Apple won't stream. But episodes of The West Wing stream just fine through the Netflix app... ON MY APPLE TV!!! The problem clearly isn't my internet connection. The problem is that Apple has billions of dollars but can't build a content delivery system that's worth a shit.
Second of all... digital purchases from Apple iTunes are almost always more expensive than purchasing them elsewhere. Movies that are $19.99 at the iTunes Store can be purchased at Vudu or Amazon or wherever for $12.99. Now, the one thing Apple has that other don't (yet) is a no-charge upgrade to 4K and HDR content. But what good is it if you can't watch it?
But the worst offense of all with Apple TV? Apple is happy to take your money, but they absolutely, positively do not give a shit about making sure you get what you pay for.
As an example... I use the Sundance Now app on my Apple TV to watch a show called This Close. I purchased my subscription through my Apple TV and pay my $6.99 a month to Apple. But when Sundance Now is suddenly asking me for a login... but I don't have a login because I purchased through Apple TV... Apple says "Sorry, you have to contact Sundance Now because it's their app." Except... I'm not paying Sundance Now. I'm paying Apple. And the best that Apple can do is cancel my subscription. Problem is... I'm paid up through March 21st. If Apple cancels my subscription, I'm losing almost a month of subscription I've paid for. Their response?
That's right. They can't guarantee that they can refund me money THEY TOOK for something I CAN'T ACCESS because their only solution is to TERMINATE MY SUBSCRIPTION on THEIR PRODUCT using apps that THEY AUTHORIZE.
What a garbage company.
But here's my dilemma...
All my movie purchases through Apple are safe because Apple is a part of the "Movies Now" collective. I can watch any of my movie purchases on any other device which supports a vendor that is also a "Movies Anywhere" member.
But what about the hundreds of TV shows I've purchased?
I have no idea. I'd ask Apple to refund all my money for all the shows I've ever purchased... but we've already seen how they treat me over a $6.99 subscription fee, so that's probably out of the question.
I remember the days when Apple was an amazing company which stood behind its products. If I had a problem with something I purchased... they fixed it. Or they refunded my money. Or they made it right somehow. Now? I get the feeling they couldn't care less about their customers. Which wouldn't be such a big problem if anything they made was worth a crap now-a-days. But that's not really true, is it? Used to be you could trust Apple products to "just work." That hasn't been the case in years.
The Apple hasn't just fallen from the tree once Steve Jobs left us... it's rotted and turned to mush.
UPDATE: Just to give you an idea of how utterly shitty a product Apple TV is, I ended up purchasing a "smart plug" so I can cut the power and restart the unit when it goes catatonic. Yes, it happens often enough that spending $13 was a worthwhile investment. First the screen goes black. Then the screen goes white. Then it tries to load... something... then it fails and goes black again... lather, rinse, repeat. Over and over until I get up and unplug it, then plug it back in again. Hence... the smart plug so I don't have to climb behind my media center each time this happens...
Of course, then the Apple TV gives me this...
I regret ever having purchased Apple TV. Version 1. Version 2. Version 3. And Version 4. I absolutely regret having spent money buying media from Apple. You'd think I'd finally learn something here... maybe now I finally am.
Investing in a new Apple TV when I have such blind hatred for the previous iteration is probably incredibly stupid... but I have a huge chunk of movies and music purchased from the Apple ecosystem, so it's kind of a necessity to keep up. Especially now that Apple is offering free upgrades to 4K HDR video for all your previous movie purchases (when available, of course).
And... I suppose I should just run through the fine points rather than re-hash the broad strokes, since those are mostly the same.
Apple TV Box
Looks identical to the previous one. I'm sure there's probably quite a few differences under the hood, but I ain't opening it up to check.
Shitty Fucking Apple Remote
Still unbelievably fucking shitty. The touch-input area is just as stuttery and unresponsive as ever, making simple tasks like navigation frustrating... and complex tasks like keyboard input unbearable. I fucking HATE this piece of shit. The only difference between the new one and the previous one is that the "menu" button has an elevated white circle drawn around it.
Shitty Fucking User Interface
Still unbelievably fucking shitty. If you've purchased anything more than a dozen movies or TV shows, you'll go absolutely bat-shit crazy trying to navigate through pages upon pages upon pages upon pages upon pages of crap. Especially when you're forced to use the unbelievably fucking shitty remote.
The 4K picture is totally great. Remarkably, I've not yet gotten any of the streaming errors or throughput problems which plagued the previous Apple TV. Considering that there's probably a lot more data coming through the pipe for a 4K picture, this is truly shocking. My guess is that there's new compression tech that makes this possible... but only time will tell as to whether or not Apple's unbelievably fucking shitty media delivery will rear its ugly head.
I have an HDR-capable TV. My stereo receiver is HDR-capable. When I plug Apple TV directly into my TV, the Apple test-program says that HDR will be used. When I plug into my stereo receiver, however, the Apple test-program says that my television isn't HDR capable, and it will downgrade to regular color fidelity. And, of course, since this is Apple we're talking about, there's no way to just force the fucking thing to deliver the HDR signal that my receiver and TV are capable of. This kind of shit drives me
I put in my copy of Kingsman on 4K HDR Blu-Ray then started up Kingsman 4K HDR from Apple TV. Then I switched between them. Not even close. The 4K Blu-Ray picture is superior in every possible way. The color is better. The clarity is better. The contrast is better. Black levels are better. There's literally nothing that's not better on 4K Blu-Ray. The Apple TV 4K image has crisp details in fine items like hair and text... but mooshy areas of softness any time the color values are similar, particularly in bright spots. This is undoubtedly a function of the high compression, but I have no idea what's responsible for the other issues. The bright, almost washed-out haze that permeates every scene is just bad compared to cable or Blu-Ray. I don't recall the older Apple TV having this problem?
Seems on-par with what I got from the Blu-Ray. Rich, full sound.
Apple's pathetic attempt at Home Automation... which they call "HomeKit"... is pretty awful. I'm guessing a big part of why it's awful has to do with it being run through Apple TV. Sure it beats having to purchase a dedicated hub, but maybe with a dedicated hub it would have been worth a crap. When I swapped out the old Apple TV for the new Apple TV, it took several attempts to get HomeKit commands working... but at least they ended up working without my having to do any crazy setup revision or anything.
If you're dying for the best possible picture on your 4K HDR television, you'll have to keep buying 4K HDR Blu-Ray discs. Apple isn't even in the same ballpark. That being said, the picture quality is a step up from non-4K non-HDR Apple TV. So... until HDR 4K Blu-Rays drop to the same price as Apple TV digital purchases, you may still gain benefit from the latest and greatest Apple TV. The fact that Apple doesn't charge a premium for the higher quality is a nice bonus for anybody investing in the 4K HDR... but don't be fooled into thinking it'll be the same quality as the equivalent Blu-Ray.
Temperatures finally breached 100° this week, so the air conditioner had to be turned on. Darnit. Odds are it's going to stay on because the forecast is up there for the next ten days. Probably longer.
So much for tiny electricity bills.
Even though I set the temperature between 74° and 76° and use ceiling fans, it's a goodly chunk of money to keep everything in the house from melting.
Including the cats.
Back in 2015 when Apple released the latest and greatest 4th generation Apple TV, I purchased one to replace my aging 2nd generation unit (which I moved to the guest room). Despite the remote being shit, I was happy with the upgrade. At first. Eventually I found out that the unit had horrible problems streaming video from Apple. Other sources... Netflix, HBO, Showtime, YouTube, Hulu, you-name-it, were all working fine on Apple TV, it was just my iTunes Store purchases that were stuttering and crapping out... or not loading at all.
So when I ended up winning a second Apple TV from an incentive give-away, I just tossed it in the closet. My bedroom TV has Netflix built-in, so I figured I'd just wait until somebody came up with a hack to turn the Apple TV into a web server or something. Since it had problems streaming my rather large collection of Apple media, it just wasn't worth messing with.
Until Game of Thrones Season 7 was announced to be arriving.
My bedroom TV doesn't have an HBO app, so I decided to dig out the extra Apple TV so I can watch Thrones in bed as God intended.
But first I had to find the thing, because I had no idea what happened to it during the move. I've been searching off and on for weeks to no avail. And then this morning I finally found it.
My cats have been acting crazy, so I decided to start putting my iPhone charging cable in the tiny empty cupboard above my range hood and microwave where they couldn't get to it... and... voilà...
My "empty" cupboard contained an old phone book, a Hershey chocolate candle, and... my missing Apple TV. In all honesty, I do not remember putting it in there. I don't remember putting any of it there. I can't even think of why I'd have done it.
Probably so I wouldn't lose it?
Jenny helped me set it up...
And... ready for new Game of Thrones on the 16th!
And so it's time once again to tune into the Apple World Wide Developer Conference keynote to find out what everybody's favorite fruit-based tech company has up their sleeves for second quarter 2017.
I have to admit, I no longer get ramped up for these Apple things like I used to. In the past, I would take a frickin' vacation day when the WWDC keynote was unspooling just so I could unpack all the Apple goodness that had been unleashed. I'd pour over every minute and blog epic breakdowns of everything that was announced.
Well, I'm still excited over Apple's stuff... they're an exciting company. But the way they keep screwing up has me less enthused than I once was. I bought into their HomeKit home automation tech, only to find out that it is a total load of crap. They keep making "pro" equipment that isn't for "pros." The reliability of their products is in the toilet, and the way they address their lack in quality is bullshit. Meanwhile Microsoft is killing it with their Surface line, easily picking up the pro design market that Apple is abandoning.
But I digress.
Rather than have to watch hours of keynote like I did, here's a 19 minute recap that tells you everything you need to know (assuming you haven't seen it already)...
And here are my reactions...
All in all... some nice upgrades in the OS and software departments, but more of the same bullshit for pro design users. A market Apple used to own, but is throwing away with gleeful abandon. Leaving me to wonder if my next computer will be running Windows. My license for Adobe's Creative Cloud Suite works for Mac or Windows, and they function the same on both systems. Food for thought.
As a Certified Apple Whore, I was pretty much obligated to purchase the new version of Apple TV. Could not be helped, really. Is it worth the money for the upgrade? Let's find out...
The original Apple TV was a hot mess of a product. Dubbed "iTV" it had a hard drive for local storage, but I don't know that it ever used it because the unit required you to stream video from a computer. Eventually it was upgraded with additional functionality (namely, you could buy media from the iTunes Store) but it was such a klutzy product that I never really used it.
Then came the second generation. This Apple TV was a fraction of the size of iTV, jet-black in color, and much more capable. With no local hard drive, your only option was to stream content, which is pretty much what it was meant to do all along. This implementation was a huge improvement, but still pretty crappy. The menu GUI is awful. It always seemed under-powered, and dropouts or full-on crashes were common. Apple upgraded bits and pieces for the third generation model which, I'm guessing, helped with more reliable streaming... but I never bothered because it was pretty much the same damn thing.
And here we are at Generation Four...
The new unit looks much the same as the previous version, but is noticeably taller. Everything else about it, however, is a very different animal.
First of all, I had the crap shocked out of me when I plugged in the new unit to my television and had the television automatically turn on and change the input to Apple TV. This is thanks to HDMI-CEC which is an extension to the HDMI cable standard that allows you to control HDMI devices in a smarter way.
If you have a television, a cable box, and a stereo receiver, you end up juggling three remote controls just to watch the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory. Yes, many remotes now-a-days can be programmed to control multiple devices, but that'e exactly how it happens... you are controlling three different devices separately. With HDMI-CEC, however, you don't. Assuming all your components are CEC capable, they talk to each other and control each other. Turn the volume up on your TV and it will pass the info to your stereo receiver. Change channels on your TV and it will pass the info to your cable box. And so on. The system isn't without its hiccups, but it's a fantastic technology in theory (and mostly in practice).
The upshot of all this? Your CEC-capable TV automatically switches inputs when you turn on your Apple TV and you can control television volume with the Apple TV remote. Nice.
Setting up Apple TV couldn't be easier if you have a modern iOS device. You just wave your iPhone (or whatever) over your Apple TV when it asks and your Apple ID and iTunes account info is transferred automatically over Bluetooth. Pretty spiffy, right?
Unless your WiFi router is set up to restrict access via specific MAC addresses like mine. Usually, this is an easy fix... you just look at a sticker on the peripheral you want to grant access to your wireless network, type it into your router's "allowed" table, and you're golden. Except Apple doesn't put this information on their precious Apple TV. Which would be fine because you can get the MAC address from the Apple TV's system menu. EXCEPT YOU CAN'T ACCESS THIS MENU UNTIL THE APPLE TV IS SET UP. BUT YOU CAN'T SET UP THE APPLE TV UNTIL YOU HAVE INTERNET ACCESS! This is categorically stupid. I had to disable access control on my router to set up Apple TV so I could get the MAC address to set up access control. HELPFUL HINT TO APPLE: put the fucking MAC address on the damn Apple TV next time... like you used to do.
It's during this setup that you get exposed to Apple's new remote control. It's plastic and metal, not awesome solid aluminum tooling like previous generations, but it has a nifty "swipe pad" at the top. This allows you to swipe to select menu items and, more importantly, swipe to enter keyboard data like user id and password. While definitely a better option than having to click click click to pick letters off an on-screen keyboard, it's not perfect. I had no problem swiping left to right, for example, but rarely am I able to swipe up and down and get it to register the first time. Annoying. But only half as annoying as the fact that I couldn't get the iPhone Apple Remote App to work with the latest Apple TV.
Okay... so you've set up your Apple TV. Now what? Well, the first thing you'll notice is that Apple has a minimal number of "stations" showing... whereas the previous generation had a shitload of them... whether you wanted them or not. Don't use Hulu? TOUGH SHIT! HERE IT IS! But the latest Apple TV nicely avoids the unnecessary clutter by turning all the "stations" into apps. Want to look at YouTube videos? Grab the app. Want to view NetFlix content? Grab the app. But that's not all... apps are for more than just "stations"... you can download full-blown actual apps, like games, and run them right on your television. This is a pretty powerful upgrade, and I wonder how many people will drop gaming consoles if the content for Apple TV really takes off.
And speaking of upgrades... Heeeeere's Siri!
Using voice commands with Apple TV is pretty great. Click the "listen" button and tell the thing what you want. "Show me John Goodman movies" works exactly as expected. Better than expected, actually, because Siri searches not just the iTunes Store, but your apps as well! And here's where Apple TV really shines... it gives precedence to cheaper options first. If the movie you want to watch is available on your Netflix subscription AND on the iTunes Store... the Netflix option is first up because you've already paid for it. That's a pretty bold move for Apple, since most companies would put their own product ahead of everybody else.
Siri is most welcome to Apple TV because the interface, while less cluttered, is still pretty shitty to navigate... even with Apple's new swipe remote. The problem is that there's no API for Siri, so most apps can't use that feature. YouTube, for example, would benefit greatly from Siri interaction... except it can't. Not yet anyway. Another problem with Siri is that Apple TV Siri is limited to only Apple TV functionality. Unlike iPhone Siri, which can answer questions or do internet searches, for example. HomeKit functionality, surprise surprise, is missing.
AirPlay is, not surprisingly, fully supported. which means you can stream content from your iPhone or computer (assuming they have that capability).
All Apple TVs comes with a spacious 2 GB of memory, but there are two models when it comes to the amount of storage (via flash memory)... 32GB or 64GB. I have no plans for downloading a ton of apps, so 32GB was the choice for me.
When it comes to hardware features, the fourth generation Apple TV comes up short compared to older versions. First of all, it's HDMI only... including for sound, because Apple TV no longer has an optical audio out jack. In addition, the only service port is the USB-C port. Luckily, a USB-C to USB cable is included in case you don't have one. There's an ethernet jack, which is nice if your WiFi isn't reliable, but kind of a waste otherwise.
Performance is much improved in the latest iteration of the product thanks to the Apple A8 chip upgrade. Menus are smoother (and prettier)... streaming feels more reliable... and response time is better.
Overall, I'm quite pleased with my new Apple TV. Well worth the price of admission... especially if you have a lot of content purchased from the iTunes Store. I wish that it was smarter about voice interaction though. Having to press the button on the remote to activate Siri seems old-fashioned when you've got devices like Amazon's Alexa that's always listening. Furthermore, Siri should be a hell of a lot smarter. Right now it's a drastically dumb-downed version from what I'm used to on my iPhone, which makes no sense. I mean, come on... at least give Siri access to my music library! Also lacking in the "no sense" department? No support for 4K video(!) and no iPhone remote support.
Maybe next time.
Which I'm guessing will be 2017. A little late to the party.
Another September, another Apple Event.
This time there were few surprises, as Apple rumor sites have had the skinny on what's coming for months. Actually, with the exception of the Apple Pencil, I don't think there were any surprises. But we'll get to that in a bit.
Okay. I'm just going to come right out and say it... I want one of these things so very, very bad.
I've been jonesing for a graphics tablet with display for the longest time. Problem is they are incredibly expensive, and the stylus lag coupled with the thick glass above the display on more affordable models is a total boner-killer for me. But here comes Apple with a new "Apple Pencil" that apparently eliminates lag and is coupled with Apple's laminated display which minimizes the amount of glass between you and what you're drawing...
And, oh yeah... it's still an iPad, so it can do everything an iPad can already do on top of being a kick-ass graphics tablet display. Giving you a much bigger bang for your buck than purchasing a graphics tablet display alone.
And about that price...
$799 for a 32GB model (pretty useless if you're doing serious work)
$949 for a 128GB model (more realistic, but I was hoping for at least 256GB)
Add a $99 Apple Pencil and you're over $1000 for the model you want. Which hurts. But that's roughly what a Wacom Cintiq 13" HD Touch runs, and it can only do one thing (though, admittedly, it does it very well). So, assuming iPad Pro and Apple Pencil end up being as good as they look, APPLE! TAKE MY MONEY!
Guess we'll find out come November.
All things considered, a worthy Apple Event.
My favorite part of the show was closing it out with a great live performance by OneRepublic. My second-favorite was the news that Apple now has an Android app for transitioning from an Android phone to an iPhone. Classic!
As a Certified Apple Whore, I never feel more alive than when Apple releases something new that I want.