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Good Bye Apple TV?

Posted on March 8th, 2018

Dave!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?

Apple Don't Give a Shit

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...

AppleTV Goes White

Of course, then the Apple TV gives me this...

AppleTV Goes Reset

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.

   

Apple TV 4K HDR

Posted on September 28th, 2017

Dave!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.

4K
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.

HDR
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-n-s-a-n-e. Do it Apple's way or no way at all.

Picture Quality
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?

Audio
Seems on-par with what I got from the Blu-Ray. Rich, full sound.

HomeKit
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.

And So...
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.

   

I Got a Heatwave Burning in My Heart

Posted on July 7th, 2017

Dave!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.

And then...

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.

By accident.

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...

Tiny Cupboard Treasures!

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...

Tiny Cupboard Treasures!

And... ready for new Game of Thrones on the 16th!

   

Apple WWDC 2017

Posted on June 5th, 2017

Dave!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.

Now?

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...

  • Amazon on Apple TV. It's about frickin' time. I mean, I know this was probably more an Amazon issue than an Apple issue, but the wait has just been silly. A pity that the Apple content delivery is so shitty. I still can't get reliable streaming of my Apple video purchases despite every other streaming service in existence working perfectly fine... even on my AppleTV.
  • watchOS 4 Some nifty features. It's interesting how Apple has cracked the nut here that so many companies have failed with. Problem is that the watches are still too thick and clunky to be comfortable on me.
  • MacOS High Sierra. As the self-proclaimed "Heart and Soul of Apple," the company sure doesn't seem to be putting the Mac on the same level as their phone/watch/tablet products. This update to the MacOS offers some interesting features... in particular the new file system that's been a long time coming... but most of it is fluff. Where is the groundbreaking innovation that's going to keep the Mac platform moving forward? Certainly not at this keynote.
  • VRkit. Mass adoption of Virtual Reality isn't going to happen until it's much cheaper... and a hell of a lot less cumbersome and uncomfortable. When Apple releases VR that's accessed with a pair of glasses instead of some janky headset, maybe I will get excited. But now? Interesting and entertaining for early adopters, but it's got a long, long way to go before it's an essential technology.
  • iMac Pro. Why the fuck can't Apple get it through their heads that all this "pro" equipment they are releasing is not what pros are wanting? Your "pro" Mac option is now a fucking iMac? An iMac? A $5000 computer you can't expand or self-service? Oh... but it comes in fucking "Space Gray," so that makes up for everything! Give me a fucking break. Yes, it's an awesome computer... a powerfully awesome computer that looks great... but it is NOT WHAT PROS ARE LOOKING FOR!
  • iOS 11. Messages syncing is great, Personal Apple Pay is wonderful. Upgraded Siri is awesome... especially the translation feature! Siri learning and persistence is cool. Photo upgrades are welcome. New Control Center is overdue. Do Not Disturb while driving is critical to help keep dumbasses from being dangerous on the road. ARkit augmented reality is sweet, but kind of gimmicky.
  • iPad Pro. Wishing this was my iPad. The upgraded display is phenomenal, and looks like it will make using Apple Pencil even more remarkable. But the best part is the new size. The move from 9.7" to 10.5" feels like the perfect move... just a little bit more room to be more productive, but not to the cumbersome degree of the 12.9" model. I don't know that these new iPads are the ideal answer to Microsoft's Surface, but it's definitely a step in the right direction. But at a price.
  • iOS for iPad. If Apple keeps bringing desktop features to iPad, pretty soon they won't need to sell desktops. Which is probably the ultimate goal here. File management is finally here and, while not as feature-rich as I had hoped, it's still very much a step in the right direction.
  • HomePod. I'll buy one. Absolutely. This is the perfect device for playing music in my bedroom... perhaps even in my living room. But when it comes to home automation, it's too little too late. WAY too little because it relies on Apple's shitty HomeKit technology that I've abandoned. WAY too late because Amazon's Alexa does so much more in every arena, and already controls my home automation perfectly. To me, this is competition to SONOS, not Alexa. Maybe one day that will change, but Apple is going to have to integrate with other systems like Amazon has done in order to make any headway.

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.

   

AppleTV4

Posted on November 5th, 2015

Dave!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 2015 Apple TV

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.

An Example:

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?

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.

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Pencil

Posted on September 9th, 2015

Dave!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.


Apple Watch

  • Until they make it thinner, I just don't give a crap. All the cool new features in the world don't mean a thing unless I actually want to wear it. Holy crap. You're Apple. Figure out a way of moving the battery to the strap or something.

iPhone 6S

  • I covet the new 12MP camera. That also shoots 4K video. Which is amazing (assuming you've got the memory for it).
  • DEEP. TRENCH. ISOLATION.
  • At first I thought that Live Photos was gimmicky... until I looked at the gallery. Photos that come to life like this are pretty cool. Kinda like Vines, I guess. Facebook support is great... hopefully Vine will be supported too.
  • 3D Touch (formerly Force Touch?) with Taptic Engine response and "Peek & Pop" looks wonderfully intuitive and useful. If developers start integrating it in their apps like the video showed, this alone might be worth the cost of an upgrade.
  • Faster-Better-Stronger Touch ID is a welcome upgrade.
  • The new "iPhone Upgrade Program" from Apple is interesting. A new iPhone every year so you've always got the latest. Unlocked for any carrier. AppleCare+ included. $36.58 a month for a 64GB 6S. That's $438.96 a year, which saves you around $200 from the cost of buying a new iPhone outright each year... $300 if you include a new AppleCare+ contract. Still, I don't know if this is something I'm willing to get into unless my mobile carrier will give me a discount on service since I won't be subsidizing a phone with them. I'm guessing that's not going to happen, and so... my 2-year contract with AT&T will undoubtedly be renewed. When is Apple going to create their own mobile network?
  • UPDATE: Shit. No optical image stabilization on the 6S. You still have to go with the "plus" model to get it, which sucks, because I still find the "non-plus" models to be too big.

Apple TV

  • Still no HomeKit. Holy shit is Apple fucking up on this.
  • The new model is not the breakthrough Apple seems to think it is. Others (including Google) had a lot of these new features ages ago.
  • Given how pathetic Apple's menu system is and how hard it is to do anything with the crappy Apple TV interface, slapping Siri on top of everything is appreciated... but doesn't do jack to solve the real problem.
  • The new swipe remote is great. If there is one area Apple excels, it's boiling down complicated remotes to something elegant and simple. Nice.
  • Siri's "What did they say?" feature which automatically jumps back 15 seconds AND temporarily turns on closed captioning is genius. The ability to access Siri info while watching AppleTV without interrupting what your watching is also very nice.
  • The Apps feature, assuming they get some good games, could really put a dent in Wii, Playstation, and Xbox sales. Apple TV certainly has the power to play good games.
  • Where my disappointment comes in is that I honestly thought Apple would be coming out with their own network content offerings, thus allowing everybody to build a cable package of only the channels they want to pay for. I am so sick and fucking tired of paying for an outrageously expensive cable package filled with tons of shit I don't want, but have to pay for. Oh well. It's coming one of these days. It pretty much has to, even if Apple isn't the one to do it.
  • Given how much money I've got invested in iTunes Store media AND the fact that my Apple TV is really old... I'll probably go ahead and spend the $149 come late October (since I won't be playing games (I have consoles for that), the $199 version would be overkill). Blergh.

iPad Pro

Okay. I'm just going to come right out and say it... I want one of these things so very, very bad.

Surprise!

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!

Android to iPhone Transfer App

   
As a Certified Apple Whore, I never feel more alive than when Apple releases something new that I want.

   

iTunes

Posted on November 29th, 2012

Dave!Before I rip into the brand new version of iTunes that Apple unleashed on the world today, I thought I'd say something nice.

I love the kind of instant fulfillment that iTunes provides.

Tonight I was watching television when I saw Victoria's Secret's "Sexiest Gifts" ad. It had a really cool song playing that I liked. So I Google the lyrics... find the song title (All Eyes on You by the band St. Lucia)... and BLAM! I go to iTunes and the song is mine.

Then I see a commercial for Men In Black 3 and BLAM! I go to iTunes and the movie is mine.

While at the iTunes Store, I see that seasons 1-3 of Community are on sale for $15(!) each... BLAM! Mine!

No more having to drive to the store or order online and have to wait for it to show up. You want something... BLAM! it's yours.

And now a few comments on iTunes 11...

ITunes 11 icon
A classier, more elegant update to the ugly-ass iTunes 10 icon.

   
The new iTunes 11 interface is big and pretty. It's also a heck of a lot simpler. Everything that can be condensed and collapsed has been condensed and collapsed. That's both a good thing and a bad thing. Good because all the basic functionality is easier to use and out of the way. Bad because some extraneous functionality is not as easily accessible and you have to dig for it. And let's not forget the ugly... "iTunes DJ" is gone for some reason (so is Ping, but that's probably a good thing).

Anyway...

The most important update feature (for me, anyways) is that iCloud is now completely integrated into iTunes. The upshot being that now you can stream your movies, videos, and television shows to watch on your Mac without having to download them first, just like Apple TV. Cool! Now the only time I have to waste space on my hard drive for my iTunes purchases is when I want to have access to them while offline. A bonus feature is that iCloud stores your position, so you can start watching a show on your Mac, then pick up right where you left off on your iPad.

It's not all peaches and cream with iCloud integration, however. Even though you can stream video from the cloud, your Mac will still force you to fucking download all your fucking video purchases even though you don't fucking want them on your fucking Mac. At least from what I can fucking figure out. This is fucking bullshit...

ITunes forced Downloads

Yeah, delete that shit off your downloads list as many times as you want... they'll be back in your "Available Downloads" before you can fucking blink. Sure I can tell iTunes not to automatically download purchases, but they never go away. And sometimes at random, iTunes starts to download them anyway.

Since iCloud was basically added as a hack on iTunes 10, this idiotic bug upset me, but didn't piss me off. But now that iTunes 11 is "iCloud Functional"... it sends me into a thermonuclear rage that the only way to keep iTunes from wanting to download videos IS TO DOWNLOAD THE VIDEOS. NOTE TO APPLE: THIS IS FUCKING STUPID!

And speaking of FUCKING STUPID, does anybody have any idea why this dialog box keeps randomly popping up when I try to play a video?

ITunes Can't Play Display

It's not consistent. If I click to play the same video that gave me the above error, odds are it will play properly the second time. This is an amateur hour bug, and I cannot fathom how Apple lets this crap slip through. I'm using a brand new MacBook Pro. I've been using iTunes 11 for ONLY TWO HOURS and found this problem... surely they beta test for longer than two hours?

I was excited when I saw that Apple had integrated the iTunes Store into my library. How handy is that? No more being bounced out to the store every time I want to buy a new episode of a show or find similar series to purchase! Or not. Half the time when I press the "In The Store" button, I just get a list of recommendations. The other half of the time, I get NOTHING...

ITunes Store Integration

A smart e-retailer would pop up a list of more Cougar Town episodes for me to buy while looking at my past Cougar Town purchases. But Apple? They make me leave my library, go to the store, click on television shows, then perform a Cougar Town search. What a hassle. No impulse buys for me. I guess that despite Apple's massive success, they are still a little brain-dead when it comes to selling. Something tells me this will be fixed real soon. There's entirely too much profit to be made.

And it's not just taking my money where Apple makes things ridiculously inconvenient. Just finding my music in iTunes 11 is a hassle too. Let's say I want to play the Pet Shop Boys new album Elysium, so I search my library and up it comes...

ITunes finds Elysium

I just click on the album, and I'm off and running, right? Of course not...

Pet Shop Boys iTunes

Even though I specifically clicked on the album I wanted to listen to, iTunes takes me to ALL of their albums. I have to scroll down to find it. Now, I know that I'm in "Artist" view, and if I were in "Album" view it would have worked properly... but why can't it work properly in "Artist" view too? It doesn't make any sense.

But, then again, more than a few things in the new interface don't make much sense to me. Just like in previous versions of iTunes, there's a "List View" where you can uncheck little boxes next to songs you don't want to have played. But what happens when you go to non-list views where there are no boxes to uncheck? Why, you still uncheck them! Metaphorically, I'm sure...

ITunes UnCheck

In lieu of checkboxes, "unchecked" songs are greyed out when you're not in "List View." Well, whatever. This just seems sloppy and lazy and un-Apple to me. "Well, there aren't any checkboxes in this view, but we can't think of a better way to handle things, so fuck it! We'll just pretend there are checkboxes!"

Meanwhile, back at the iTunes Store... things are equally screwed up.

Let's say that I'm shopping for television shows. I see an ad for the third season of The Glades, so I click through. Now, normally, if I wanted to see more seasons of The Glades I would just use the navigation trail at the top of the page...

ITunes Navigation Store

But you know what? I clicked on that damn link a half-dozen times. And each time iTunes just reloaded the exact same page. Nope. In order to see what other seasons are available, it's back to the search box. And some wacky results..

ITunes Store Search

This is about the most unhelpful shopping search results you could possibly get. The first results are just a bunch of random episodes. They don't even tell you which number each episode is. Hell, they don't even fucking tell you what order they're being displayed! I'm assuming they're sorted by popularity, but who the hell knows? And of course there's no option to change the sort... whatever it is. Want them sorted by date added so you can buy the latest? Tough shit! Can't do it. Even if you navigate to "All Episodes" they are still force-displayed in a seemingly random order. And when you click the back-arrow to go back to your search? Oh, sorry... refinements to a search aren't navigable, so you skip right past it. Useless. At the very least, Apple could put the "TV Seasons" at the top of your search results, because clicking on those will give you actually useful information... like episode numbers and air dates!

Blerg. With all this stupid crap Apple got very, very wrong... did they get anything right? Certainly! They have a new feature called "Up Next" which packs a lot of cool stuff in a small space...

ITunes Up Next

My library is playing through on "Shuffle" and the "Up Next" dialog shows what's coming. I can quickly eliminate songs I don't want to hear... move a song up the queue... add a song to a playlist... jump to the album the song is from... jump to the song in the iTunes Store... give a star rating... and more. Kind of nifty.

Another nice improvement is the mini player...

ITunes Mini Player

It's smaller, but does more. Amazingly, you can even search your library from it...

Mini Player Search

Sadly, you cannot access mini player when iTunes is in full-screen mode. I guess Apple felt it would be way too handy to be able to drag mini player to another virtual screen in "Spaces" while leaving the main player at full screen. I disagree. (UPDATE: or perhaps you can?)

One of the best things about iTunes is not a new feature... it's the speed. iTunes 11 is blazingly fast. Scrolling, even in album view, is a quantum leap above previous versions. Given how much time people spend scrolling through their libraries, this is a really big deal.

And that's about all that jumped out at me.

I haven't spent but a couple hours using the update but, despite my problems above, I have to say that I like it overall. For most of the stuff you'll use iTunes for, the interface is a big improvement. Hopefully the details that are less than perfect will be fixed in time.

And in the case of removing stuff from your downloads list... it had fucking better be sooner than fucking later.

   
UPDATE: It used to be that the iTunes Store would let you know if you've already purchased an item. Now, it doesn't. I don't know if this will lead people to accidentally re-purchase stuff they already bought, but it's pretty lame.

   
UPDATE: And... iTunes 11 video streaming is complete shit. Movies, shows, and videos will buffer for playback... but never actually play back. Hitting the play/pause button does nothing, yet I can "scrub" through the buffer no problem. This is fucking insane. How in the hell did this pile of shit ever get released? Even if Apple isn't beta-testing their software any more, they could at least have somebody play with it for 15 minutes to catch these bugs before they ship! I never wanted to be one of these people who said "Apple hasn't been the same since Steve Jobs died"... but, yeah, if this is the direction Apple is headed, we're all fucked.

   
UPDATE: For reasons unknown, I can no longer stream my video purchases. I have to download them before viewing, which is some stupid fucking bullshit. Amazon and Google videos will happily stream to your Mac or iOS devices. Apple, on the other hand, is living in the past, and forces you to download you purchases... wasting storage space and wasting your time. As you might guess, this laughably antiquated idiocy has me fucking furious. Guess I won't be buying video from Apple until they can stream your shit like everybody else.

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Bullet Sunday 248

Posted on September 4th, 2011

Dave!This morning I woke up, decided life wasn't worth it, then went back to bed. But after I realized I didn't have any bread to make toast, I had to get up so I could go to the store. Without toast, life isn't worth living.

   
• Star Redux. I've been in a real renaissance with the original Star Wars films lately. I've been re-watching the real movies on LaserDisc... taking another look at the amazing "Making of" books... re-reading the novelizations... going through the comic book adaptations... that kind of thing. This is probably in anticipation of the movies coming out on Blu-Ray later this month. And even though there's a lot of controversy raging over George Lucas once again crapping all over the films, I still can't wait to see them in high-def. I especially can't wait to have all the deleted scenes with one of the more interesting characters in the entire franchise... Biggs Darklighter...

Biggs Darklighter

Now, if you've only ever seen the original movie, you might remember Biggs being mentioned in passing when Luke is whining to Uncle Owen... and again when the Rebels are off to attack the Death Star... and then again at the end where he gets blown up by Darth Vader. But, in the original Star Wars script, there is more to the character than that. Unfortunately, those scenes got cut (though some snuck through to the novelization). And while these cuts were probably a smart move story-wise, they're disappointing fan-wise... especially for fans who have read Biggs' back-story in the "Expanded Universe" books and comics. These rumored "never-before-seen scenes" will help add yet another dimension to an important character we only thought we knew (or didn't know).

   
• Dance Redux. On a list of things that I couldn't possibly give a crap about, Dancing with the Stars would be near the top of the list. As far as entertainment goes, it's right up there with Pauly Shore movies and diarrhea. But once I heard the controversy over the casting of this season's contestants, I decided to investigate who would be on the show. After taking a look, I admit that I am very upset. I simply cannot fathom how such a popular program would intentionally decide to attack this country's sense of decency and our respect for the Natural Order. I am disgusted at the thought of children tuning in and being exposed to a total freak show and abomination towards God. I am mortified that this "person" will be given even more media exposure so they can further destroy all that is good on this earth with their reprehensible behavior. I am, of course, talking about Nancy Grace...

Disgusting Evil Nancy Grace

This vile, disgusting, evil, pathetic excuse for a human being has absolutely no business being on television. And it only goes to show that the people behind Dancing with the Stars only care about one thing: stirring up controversy to get ratings. Just like Nancy Grace, they obviously don't give a fuck how many people they hurt in their effort to attract viewers. For once I agree with the lamestream conservative media... this is absolutely disgusting, and just one more reason I won't be tuning in for this stupid shit.

UPDATE: Oh. Some readers have pointed out that all the controversy isn't about Nancy Grace after all (as one would expect)... it's instead over Chaz Bono?!? I don't get this at all. So he used to be a woman. Big deal. I'd argue Chaz Bono is more of a man and less sexually confused than Marcus Bachmann or "Doctor" Keith Ablow, yet you don't see anybody complaining about them being on television...

Chaz Bono Marcus Bachmann Keith Ablow

What a crock of bullshit. I have to wonder if all the people in an uproar over this are just confused about their sexual identity, and are taking it out on Chaz Bono because he has the balls to get it all sorted out. Or they are sexually attracted to Chaz Bono and don't know what to do with their self-loathing. Or they really, really hated being subjected to Cher's auto-tune travesty, Believe, being constantly blasted on the radio in the late 1990's (if that's the case, I guess I see their point... Cher's not on television much anymore, so I suppose torturing her offspring is the next best thing?). Whatever the case, I find it fascinating that people are still freaking out over this kind of stuff in the year 2011.

   
• TV Redux. I have more than a couple friends who are "periphery Apple fans." Meaning that they're not Mac users, but they do like their iPods, iPhones, iPads, and whatnot. This morning I got a call from one of these friends with an Apple TV. He knew I had one, and was wondering why I haven't blogged about it...

Apple TV

I explained that my older television didn't seem to support it because the picture was all fuzzy and jumpy. And since I'm unable to use it, the thing has been collecting dust in my closet for over a year. That's when he drops the bomb and tells me that the Apple TV firmware had been updated a while back which fixed the video display problems for a lot of people. So I dig it out, plug it in, and apply the latest software. Now it works perfectly. And it is awesome.

I love being able to use "AirPlay" to stream stuff from my MacBook, iPhone, and iPad. I really love how much easier it is to use Netflix Streaming (compared to using my Xbox like I do now). And iCloud makes it dead-simple to stream all the television shows I've purchased right to my TV without having to download them to my Mac first. It's an amazing little device and, now that I can use it, worth every penny of the $99 price tag. If you've got an HD television with HDMI, it's worth a look.

   
• Mercury Redux. In anticipation of his new novel Mercury Rises being released next month, Thrice Fiction contributor Rob Kroese has unleashed a FREE Kindle eBook short story... Mercury Swings...

Mercury Swings Cover

You can get your copy at Amazon and have it sent to your Kindle or any device with Kindle Reader installed (like Macs, PCs, iPhones, and the like). It's funny and it's free, so what are you waiting for? Go and get Mercury Swings today!

   
And that's all she wrote for this edition of Bullet Sunday. Tune in next week when all my bullets will be double-jacketed.

   

Events

Posted on September 1st, 2010

Dave!Annnnd... Apple had another one of their "Special Events" today.

As usual, it was filled with cool stuff and left me wanting to have Steve Jobs' baby. Again.

The "big news" of the day was the revamp of the iPod line. The tiny iPod Shuffle (my favorite of all the iPods) took a disastrous turn during the last revision when they took away the navigation button. This time, they wisely brought the buttons back, but kept the sweet "VoiceOver" technology which uses a robot voice to compensate for the lack of display...

iPod Shuffle v3

I'd buy one, but I already have the original iPod Shuffle. Still, the new colors are nice...

iPod Shuffle V3 Colors

And, in even cooler news, Apple revised the iPod nano. My first-generation iPod nano powers my car stereo... I ditched it when I got my first iPod Shuffle because the size was better. Except the new fifth-generation nano is only a little bigger than my existing Shuffle. It's tiny! But, despite the size, Apple managed to fit a multi-touch screen interface, which is damn cool...

iPod Nano V

I must have one. And have one I shall. I'll just slip my iPod Shuffle into my next AnySoldier.com care package so it doesn't go to waste.

Apple also revised the iPod Touch, but I have an iPhone so I didn't pay attention. I did perk up again when they introduced the new Apple TV though...

Apple TV

They took out the hard drive, which makes the unit absolutely perfect. I never bought the original Apple TV precisely because of the hard drive... no matter how big of one they put in the thing, it will never be big enough. As your media collection grows, the hard drive eventually fills up. My media belongs on an expandable network drive system, not locked away inside a television box. So now I'm actually going to consider buying Apple TV. It's the simplest possible way to stream all my videos, photos, and music to my television (including NetFlix streams!) and the $99 price feels right.

His Holiness Steve Jobs also teased us with a sneak peek at new stuff coming up for the iPad, including PRINTING, which is a much-needed feature for the device. It's also getting all the sweet new iOS 4 iPhone goodies like multitasking and a unified in-box for Mail.

BUT, the thing that fascinated me most to come from the "Special Event" was the revisions to Apple's venerable iTunes. That I'll save for tomorrow...

   

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