Posted on January 19th, 2020
I'm still sick and dying, but the show must go on, because an all new Bullet Sunday starts... now...
• HDR. I've had a 4K AppleTV since the day it was released. The 4K part isn't a massive improvement over 1080 because my television isn't big enough (or rather I'm not sitting close enough) for it to make a big difference. When I get up close, fine details do look also nice... especially fine lines like strands of hair and the like. And so I just left the settings to the default of 4K because my TV can do that. Sometimes if it's a really beautiful movie that's being displayed in 4K I'll pull up a chair so I can see all the incredible detail up close. In discussing this, I was told that the default 4K is in Standard Dynamic Range and I should check to see if my television can display High Dynamic Range. A quick look at the specs and... my television CAN display HDR. I thought my AppleTV was already set to HDR, but I went into my AppleTV settings and, sure enough, it was set to SDR instead. So I made a quick comparison by switching back and forth while watching Captain Marvel. SUCH A HUGE DIFFERENCE!
The glow when Captain Marvel uses her powers alone is worth the switch. But where it really makes a difference is in the black levels. Any time people are in shadow you can see much more subtlety in their presence. Even more important, Agent Fury and Maria Rambeau's gorgeous skin tone is far better defined and doesn't get lost when they're in shadow. Just watch the scene where Fury and Carol are washing dishes and you'll see what a difference it makes... far more of a difference than going from 1080 to 4K. Another movie that just luxuriates in HDR? Blade Runner 2049. If you've got a television that can display HDR, then that's the most important setting you can make.
NOTE: The Marvel movies are not... I repeat NOT... in 4K or HDR if you purchase them on iTunes. You have to watch via a different app which has them in Ultra-High-Def HDR. If you purchased with MoviesAnywhere, you're good. The Disney+ app looks like it's HDR, but I haven't done a lot of testing.
NOTE: The "Movies" app on AppleTV stupidly does not seem to tell you when movies are encoded in HDR. You have to look them up on the shitty AppleTV desktop app on a computer to know that. So lame.
NOTE: Just to say... I've been running through the movie purchases I have which are in HDR and the picture quality is stunning. Even movies like Crazy Rich Asians which don't seem like they would be affected have a delicious richness to them. Seriously, wow.
NOTE: After watching a while, I am relatively confident that the AppleTV app for Disney+ is showing 4K HDR. Yay! So even if you only own the crappier iTunes versions, you can still watch in HDR with Disney+, I guess. Boy is Thor: Ragnarok disappointing. I thought once they got to Sakaar the color would be off the hook. Alas, not as often as you'd think, just in certain scenes. But the lightsaber fight in Star Wars: The Force Awakens nice.
• Reprisal. I suspended Netflix a couple weeks back, now I've also suspended Hulu so I can reactivate CBS All Access for ten weeks to watch Picard (unless CBS is a total dick and skip weeks like they've done with Discovery, the assholes). For the two days left I've got Hulu I've been watching it non-stop to get my money's worth. The last show I had on my list to watch was Reprisal...
A cross between all those revenge movies and Sons of Anarchy, this show is one of the most drawn-out, uneventful, dull, and overall boring series you'll ever see. Long stretches where absolutely nothing happens. Characters that have loads of screen time yet are somehow one-dimensional. There's also moments of real stupid which pad runtime just because there were ten episodes to fill. And yet... it was a fascinating, stylish, twisty, interesting ride that accelerated to the finish line. And had some great moments. I don't regret watching it. I do regret that I spent so much time watching it. So if you've got time to kill, here's a show to check out. You'll need to tough it out those first five episodes though.
• Kindness. It's not that difficult, really. If you can't be supportive of people living their best life at zero cost to you, you can at least be kind. So be kind. Offer kindness to those who are being treated unkindly. Stand against those who are treating others unkindly. As a fellow human, it’s the very least we can do.
• Dietary Sadness. Quaker rice cakes are a staple of my diet. I love them. They are high in carbs (7g to 11g ea.), but it's a far better option for dessert than say... three Chips Ahoy cookies (22g) or your average cupcake (40g). I have a Plain or White Cheddar or Popcorn cake with my lunch and a flavored cake with my dinner for dessert. My favorite for dessert, by a wide margin, is Caramel Chocolate Chip. Except you can't get them any more. You have to choose either Caramel or Chocolate. Caramel Chocolate Chip has been replaced by Tomato Basil.
I decided to try them and I can't make up mystery mind. The first bite and I'm like "Tastes like crackers in tomato soup!" The second and I'm like "Tastes like pizza sauce!" Then things start to go wrong. The flavor powder accumulates on your taste buds and suddenly it's awful for some reason. I am so very, very sad that my Caramel Chocolate Chip rice cakes are gone.
• Pantone. There is beauty to be found in diversity. And this is amazing.
• Help. And before I go... I read this week that there's now a hotline specifically for caregivers... "Depression. Exhaustion. Burnout. Stress. Those are just some of the words people are using to describe their experiences as caregivers. Helping care for a family member or loved one can be hard work. People don't often talk about the emotional toll it can take on the actual caregiver. Now the Caregiver Action Network is trying to provide help by launching a hotline specifically for caregivers." — Had this existed, there were days I would have totally called this number.
And now... probably time for a nap considering I'm about to pass out anyway.
Posted on June 7th, 2019
I've made no bones about the fact that I am profoundly disappointed with AppleTV. The interface is utter shit, it's horribly unreliable, and all too many times I can't get my purchases to stream on the device (despite the fact that I can stream from every other media content provider with no issues).
Coming very soon is tvOS which will (hopefully) change things for the better.
Or, at the very least, have a far better interface so you're not forced to scroll through hundreds of titles to find what you want.
One of the apps that was supposed to make the AppleTV experience better was AppleTV: The App which is a hub that keeps track of where you're at in all your in-progress series and acts as a gateway to all the other apps by allowing your progress in those to be managed as well. It was a great, idea, in theory. The execution was not so great, however.
Ahead of tvOS, Apple pushed an update to The App. Functionally similar, it has a new look...
You know what else it has?
I might as well get this out of the way... IT HAS SHITTY FUCKING AUTO-PLAY TRAILERS NOW... AND THERE'S NO SETTING TO TURN IT OFF! Just like Netflix. I swear, Apple is intentionally setting out to make people hate them. Who wants to try to find something to watch when you're constantly being inundated with videos playing THAT YOU DON'T FUCKING WANT TO SEE? Remember MySpace pages with their autoplay music that everybody HATED?!? Leave it to Apple to bring it back as video autoplay that NOBODY WANTS. Steve Jobs must be rolling in his grave over Apple's non-stop parade of stupid shit. Apple makes me regret EVER having purchased anything from iTunes. I hope that TV shows get an equivalent of MoviesAnywhere so I can watched my purchased shows ANYWHERE ELSE. Holy shit what a waste.
An example. Let me take a look at the movies I got going on...
When all of a sudden... BAM! A fucking trailer starts playing while I'm looking at what's available...
Absolutely fucking infuriating. ILET ME FUCKING CHOOSE IF I WANT TO WATCH THE FUCKING TRAILER, YOU ASSHOLES! This is rage-inducing bullshit, and I cannot believe this is what Apple has become.
But let's move on, shall we? All screenshots are taken with my iPhone, so forgive me that they're not so great-looking.
The first thing I notice is that Apple has added a "Free Episodes" section to the main screen. No clue where the episodes are coming from though. Banshee is courtesy of Cinemax. Does that mean that Cinemax is responsible for giving us free episodes? Or is Apple paying a license? What?
In the example of Banshee, above, I already own all four seasons, so if I want to watch the show, it's not "free," it's something I paid for. But maybe Apple knows I own them and that's where they are pulling the "free" from? Oh look... they are also available from Amazon Prime Video, which I also have. Again, I pay for it, so it's not really free, but okay? Maybe they are talking about getting a free trial of Cinemax then? Absolutely no clue...
Interesting to note that they are trying to sell me Banshee when I already own it. What the heck is that about? Maybe when I click through it will refresh and show that I already bought it? Nope...
But surely when I click on a season, AppleTV will know that I bought it, right? Nope...
WTF?!? So I call up the series to verify that I do, in fact, own it. And I do. But AppleTV is fucking brain-dead and doesn't seem to understand that when I bought The Complete Collection of all four seasons, I own all four seasons. If I somehow forgot that I bought the collection, Apple was happy to take my money on individual seasons, thus charging me twice. Wow. So the Apple app which is supposed to keep track of everything for you can't even keep track of the shit you purchased direct from Apple. Sounds about right...
Anyway... back to the free stuff showing up which I have no idea where it's coming from...
Ooh! Look! Another Cinemax favorite... Strike Back! This Richard Armitage series is kinda famous for killing off Richard Armitage in the first episode of the second season. They then brought in a pair of new leads (Philip Winchester and Sullivan Stapleton) to take over the show. And that's them right there in the poster image... FOR SERIES ONE, EPISODE ONE?!??...
They didn't even exist in the first season! The first series was all about Richard Armitage! Maybe it was a mistake on the home screen? Surely they have it correct once you click through? Except... nope... they are calling Season One, Season Two, and completely forgetting that there was actually a season that existed before this one...
And that about sums up the latest revision of AppleTV: The App... everything it's SUPPOSED to be smart about... keeping track of what you're watching... knowing what you own and what services you subscribe to so it can give you the best option for watching what you want to watch... and knowing about the shows it manages so you can do amazing things LIKE START WITH THE FIRST EPISODE OF THE FIRST SEASON OF A SERIES... it fails at completely.
And so I guess I can just go on ignoring The App as I have been since it debuted then. Except... it still might be handy from time to time because finding the stuff I want to watch is inexplicably difficult using the dedicated "Movies" and "Television" apps. If only there was a way to turn off those fucking autoplay previews! Except... nope...
GOOD LORD APPLE IS SHIT AT JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING NOW-A-DAYS! I hope to God that the tvOS 13 update is better than the AppleTV: The App update. Though that's probably hoping for too much given what we've had to suffer through over the past eight years (R.I.P. Steve!).
Just so I don't have to end this on a sour note. Let me try to find something positive to say.
Something that appears new to me is that "Cast & Crew" links when you pop into details on the series. As an example, here's the awesome TV series Limitless...
Clicking on Jake McDorman's face shows me other stuff he's been in... without having to call up IMDB. Nice...
Of course God only knows whether or not clicking on any of those will encourage you to buy something you already own... so even my attempt at finding something nice to say is an attempt bound to end in failure.
I simply do not understand how Apple can continue to slide like this. Because surely they realize there's a problem, right? Surely they have people working there who takes a look at their crap during development to let them know when stuff is badly designed or not functioning correctly? RIGHT?!?
I'm beginning to seriously doubt it.
Or maybe they do and people like Jony Ivy and Tim Cook just don't fucking listen to them. That would explain a lot.
Until tvOS 13 then...
Posted on January 31st, 2019
This morning before heading off to work I decided to dust off my entertainment center. It's a futile endeavor with two cats, because everything will go back to being covered in hair within seconds. As I was dodging in and out of the many crevasses with my Swiffer duster, I made my way to the fancy Blu-Ray player I had bought and couldn't recall the last time I used it. Probably to watch one of those rare movies I love that never made its way to digital.
This is more than a little depressing because the thing was top-of-the-line back in the day and cost me a small fortune. At the time it seemed like a wise investment because it could play both 3D and 4K Blu-ray discs. Little did I know that 3D would be a stupid feature because the special glasses eat batteries like crazy... and all the discs are glitchy.* As for 4K? Apple started releasing most new movies in 4K digitally (no Blu-Ray required) within months of my hooking up the player.
And so the pricey but useless piece of tech just sits there collecting more dust and hair until I want to watch Undercover Blues or True Lies or The Abyss or Strange Days again. WHICH JUST HAPPEN TO BE FOUR OF MY FAVORITE MOVIES OF ALL TIME...
The rumor mill has been going on for years that James Cameron is working on bringing True Lies and The Abyss to Blu-Ray and (hopefully) digital. I have no idea what the holdup is with Kathryn Bigelow & James Cameron releasing Strange Days (which is oddly more relevant now than it was when it was released 20 years ago). And then there's Undercover Blues. This movie is 100% awesome, and it seems impossible that nobody has released it digitally since it actually has a Blu-Ray release (albeit not a great one).
So many television shows and movies that have been lost to time. It seems... weird... somehow, that everything released within the past 25 years isn't out there for digital purchase. Though I should count myself lucky. At least these movies have DVD releases. Entirely too many of my favorite television shows (like Jeremy Piven's Cupid and Alan Ball's Oh Grow Up!) do not.
Which has me wondering how long it will be before they won't be making DVD/Blu-Ray players any more. These things always seem to happen sooner than you think.
*Seriously, I have yet to find a 3D Blu-Ray which will play properly all the way through. Their quality is for shit.
Posted on October 19th, 2017
I am so sick of Apple's stupid shit I could just vomit.
NONE of my movie purchases will play through iTunes right now. NONE of them. I pay Apple a shit-ton of money to be able to watch movies I bought, and I can't stream them... can't even download them. And this is far from the first time. AppleTV is even worse than iTunes. And while I'm sure that Apple will blame me like they always do when something goes wrong now-a-days, I can say that I am having zero problems watching media from Amazon, CBS, Netflix, NBC, ABC, HGTV, HBO, Showtime, Starz, and even YouTube. Nope... as usual... it's just Apple.
The company has BILLIONS of dollars. Why in the hell can't they fix their media server shit so it works most of the time?
Spending it all on their new giant donut headquarters I guess.
I cannot decide if Apple's fall from grace is more sad or pathetic. And, to be honest, I don't give a shit. Just let me watch the movies I've paid for.
Posted on September 13th, 2017
Apple started off their September Event video with sweeping views of the brand new Apple Campus, otherwise known as "The Donut" or "The Spaceship" or "The Mothership." It is, of course, a structure of sublime beauty. Then, as The Beatles' All You Need is Love plays, we fly over to the equally sublime Steve Jobs Theater as attendees file in.
Then, in a moment that tore at my heart, the voice of my personal hero fills the theater that bears his name. And, just far a moment, it feels like he never left us. Then Tim Cook walks out with tribute to Jobs and the moment is gone. The Keynote begins.
I could have watched an entire keynote devoted to Apple's new headquarters but, alas, all we get is a fleeting look. Happily, Tim announced that there will be a visitor's center! I will, of course, be paying a visit one of these days. An Apple Whore's life isn't complete until you've made a pilgrimage to The Mother Ship...
Aerial drone footage by Matthew Roberts
Oh gag me. Apple doesn't call their major stores "stores" any more... they are "town squares." I mean, yeah... they are beautiful spaces where people can gather but, come on. These are monuments to retail, not the cities they reside in.
There is no doubt that Apple "town squares" are beautiful inside and out... architectural marvels that capture my imagination like no other stores can. And the plans they announced for Paris and Milan are borderline destination-worthy, which is remarkable. These are STORES!
APPLE WATCH 3
Apple finally cracked the smart-watch after a stream of other companies tried and failed. And their efforts paid off... they now have the #1 watch in the world. What's interesting is how Apple has changed this space. Their smartwatch is more of a lifestyle piece than a tech toy, and they continue to push into fitness and health in a way that makes their wares a compelling purchase.
The big announcement from this segment is that the new Apple Watch 3 now has a cellular radio, so it doesn't require a phone to access the internet. Dick Tracy has just become real, y'all. You can make/answer calls... send texts... even stream Apple Music... all without a phone. On my AT&T plan, this functionality costs an additional $10 a month. I guess that's a fair price... though I don't picture using $10 worth of data every month, as my iPhone will still get the lion's share of my usage.
I would love an Apple Watch 3. It's a magnificent piece of tech and, given my elevated heart rate, would probably be a benefit to my health. And yet... I have small wrists. Even the small Apple Watch is a massive clunker on me. What I want... what I really really want... is an thinner Apple Watch. I'd sacrifice some features (like the cellular radio) just to have something I can actually wear comfortably.
The price of admission for Series 3 with cellular is $399. Given that the watch is "darn close to magic," this seems like a bargain. Available September 22.
APPLE TV 4K HDR
I have many frustrations with Apple. One of the biggest is Apple TV. The remote is shit. The user interface is shit. Streaming my Apple purchases (when I can even get it to work) has quality that is shit. And if my Apple TV struggles to stream HD content now, what hope is there that a massive 4K stream is going to get through? What's so frustrating is that the Apple TV apps FOR EVERY OTHER STREAMING SERVICE is fantastic. I never have a problem with Netflix, ABC, NBC, CBS, YouTube, Showtime, HBO, Starz... ANY of them. Just my Apple iTunes purchases. How messed up is that?
Assuming I could actually get the Apple TV 4K HDR to stream shit (I have a 4K HDR television), it seems like a great device. Mainly because Apple will automatically upgrade your HD purchases to 4K HDR at no charge. If only they would come up with a better remote.
My every day phone is an iPhone 6. It's a little slow to initiate with the newer OS and apps, but it works perfectly fine, and I didn't feel the need to upgrade to an iPhone 7. Yeah... 3D touch is cool and the nicer camera (especially on the 7+) would be great... but it wasn't worth the cost. Even once my battery started cutting out at 10%.
But it's time to upgrade, and the iPhone 8 looks like a great choice. FINALLY stereo speakers (in both orientations!). The A11 Bionic chip would be a quantum leap from the A8 chip in my current phone. The camera looks incredible, but I'm disappointed that the dual-lens model with "portrait mode" is only available in the giant iPhone again. I don't want to lug around a giant phone. And while I'm not a big "augmented reality" fan yet, I have to say, the AR star map app they showed off is right up my alley. Needless to say, wireless charging is a much-coveted feature. No more plugging/unplugging a power cord... just slap it on a charging mat. Kind of odd that Apple took so long to get here when other companies have had wireless charging for a while. Available September 22.
Let me just start by saying ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS?!?? Boy, that's a lot of money for a phone. But is it worth it?
The bullet points...
I am not going to buy a new phone until I get back from Antarctica. Heaven only knows how I'd end up destroying the thing while on that trip. No, my new iPhone won't be coming until tax refund time next year. Whether I will end up spending $300 more for the iPhone X over the iPhone 8 is anybody's guess. I mean... ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR A PHONE?!? But, then again, I've paid $300 for a pocket camera that's not as good as the camera in iPhone X, so that's something to take under consideration. In the end, I compare my iPhone to a mattress. With a mattress, it makes sense to buy the best one you can afford since a huge portion of your life is going to be spent sleeping on it. The iPhone is no different. It's easily the most-used piece technology I own. It's also the most valuable considering what I can do with it while not in front of a computer. Especially when traveling. Ideally, I'd like to spend no more than $400 on a phone. That seems a good price point to me, and what I'm comfortable forking over. But, given how important the iPhone has become in my life, I think I can get comfortable being uncomfortable.
As to how uncomfortable? Probably iPhone X uncomfortable. I mean, that camera...
Posted on October 25th, 2011
I'm kind of late to the AppleTV game. Unlike just about every other Apple product, I didn't jump in with AppleTV 1.0 because it was something I simply had to own. For one thing, there just wasn't much content available. For another, it was basically just a big hard drive with video output. Not very compelling considering hard drive space eventually fills up. Or, worst case scenario, the hard drive fails and you lose everything.
But then AppleTV 2.0 came along. It most decidedly wasn't a "hard drive with video output" because it didn't even have a hard drive. It streams everything from the internet, including any television shows you've purchased from the iTunes Store, streaming video from Netflix, Vimeo, and YouTube, streaming photos from Flickr, Podcasts, and even iTunes movie rentals. As if that weren't enough, you can use Apple's "AirPlay" technology to stream video, photos, and music from your computer, iPad, or iPhone.
All in a tiny, tiny little box...
Thanks to Apple's new "iCloud" technology with "iTunes Match," AppleTV is becoming even more useful. Soon you'll be able to stream all your music not from your computer or iOS device, but from the internet. I am hopeful that eventually digital movies you purchase will also be able to be streamed.
What Steve Jobs once described as "just a hobby" is quickly becoming a core Apple device as it matures.
And, apparently, the game isn't over yet.
The internet is abuzz with juicy details coming from the Steve Jobs biography about his plans for an actual Apple Television. As told to biographer Walter Isaacson, Jobs said "I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use. It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it."
Just one look at Job's philosophy for remote design should explain exactly why this is such a tantilizing prospect...
My Logitech "Harmony One" remote on the left, AppleTV remote on the right.
I, for one, welcome our new television overlords.
First of all, I'm excited about the idea of just paying for what I want to watch. Right now, if you have cable or satellite television, that's not an option. You purchase "bundles" of channels that includes crap you may never want to watch. For example, I have an "Expanded Basic" package bundle so I can watch Food TV, USA Network, and some other channels I enjoy from time to time. But that same package also includes stupid shit that I would NEVER want to watch (like FOX "News") but I pay for it anyway because I don't have an option to remove it from my bundle. The cable company controls where the money goes, not the consumer. If Apple's plans for television change this, I would be thrilled not having my hard-earned dollars going to support crap I hate.
Second of all, I really like the idea of not having to pay for shows when there's nothing new being produced. In other words, I don't want to pay to watch reruns. Now when you purchase a show via the iTunes Store, you can re-watch it as often as you want on any of your Apple devices at no charge. You've already paid for it, and you don't have to pay again.
Thirdly, I am really, really freaking out over a the business model which could arise from all this. Rather than advertisers paying networks to pay studios to pay for television content, you'd just pay the studios directly. Voilà, no more having your TV shows interrupted by annoying ads.
But the biggest bonus of all? Apple could take down the whole television network system.
Think about that for a second.
Let the ramifications of that really settle into your brain.
No longer will networks control what shows make it to air... which shows are renewed... which shows are canceled. Consumer purchases decide! Sure Apple is going to get a cut of the money that studios take in, but you're purchasing from the studios directly, so the majority of the purchase price goes to the people producing the content. All of a sudden, the fate of amazing shows like Veronica Mars aren't being sabotaged by network execs who require a massive profit margin so they can get paid to sit on their stupid asses and ruin television. The studio either gets enough money to produce the show and continue doing so... or they don't get enough money and the show is canceled. And I'd like to thank that it would be more profitable for them with only one middle-man in the mix (Apple) instead of the dozens of greedy assholes with their finger in the pie now. Suddenly, smaller shows and smaller studios actually have a chance at survival. Instead of competing against stupid reality show juggernauts and network money-makers for ad revenue, they instead compete for viewers directly.
This will require a radical shift in how television is produced, but I think it will be worth it. Perhaps television networks can reinvent themselves as television investors or something... I don't know. All I do know is that putting the consumer in control of the shows they want to watch and giving control of the content back to content producers is a very good thing.
Though there are many problems to address. How does a new show get noticed? Maybe by giving the first episode away for free? Perhaps Apple's "Genius" technology can be used to recommend shows you might like based on what you watch. And how are advertisers going sell their shit? Well, maybe through sponsorships. Choose to watch an ad, and maybe you get the television show for free for your trouble. Consumers get to decide how to spend their time and money. And when they do decide to watch an ad, they can get ads tailored to them so advertisers are getting the most for their money too. Win-Win.
Not that there won't be losers, but there are always losers.
So long as I win in the end, I'm okay with that. Ask consumers, and they'll probably agree.
But a part of me thinks there will be a lot of other winners if this plays out the way it should. Technology can not only be used to deliver a better experience for television viewers, but for advertisers and content providers as well.
I want my Apple Television! It's long overdue.