Apple TV 3 and FireCore aTV Flash


So Apple’s March 7th announcements are complete and my iDevices have already told me that iOS 5.1 is available! The major announcement was of course the iPad 3 which whilst not offering staggering leaps forward will be enough for many existing owners of iPad 1s to part with their money even if we cannot take advantage of 4G capabilities here in the UK! But then I never bought the 3G version of the iPad 1 so that is not a big deal. With the prevalence of wireless hotspots I always thought that it was a bit of a waste of money. That said the new iPad has built in hotspot capability so for my cousins in the US, having a 4G hotspot in their bag will certainly be a novelty.

The thing that was more interesting for me and that has not seemed to get the press coverage it deserves is the latest version of AppleTV. Two things have stopped me buying an AppleTV in the past, even though I actually bought my Dad one for his birthday last year and was very impressed. 1080p output and the ability to stream media from something other than an iTunes library on a computer.

As I have blogged before I have a Microsoft Windows based Media Server with all of my son’s DVDs  and some Blu-ray’s on it, some in a native DVD format some in a H.264 format so that he could play them on an  android tablet when we  were travelling. I also have a home cinema setup on which I always insist watching only full 1080p movies on Blu-Ray with  DTS-HD or DolbyHD sound tracks. This  has involved a Subscription to LoveFilm which I generally did not get value for money from.

So what I want is a little Media server that I can stream movies to from a NAS device, rent or buy, download and play movies in the latest 1080p format ideally with HD sound tracks. So why not just go with a D-Link Boxee? Well, honestly, I am a blinded to Apple technology and I like the fact that I can make it interoperate with my other Apple devices.

So the latest release of AppleTV, which includes a new A5 processor and revamped interface, enables 1080p and the arrival of Netflix in the UK also gives me an alternative to iTunes for movie rental and downloads. But still Apple has chosen not to support streaming from a NAS device, a somewhat naive move in my view. However help will shortly be on hand from FireCore and their aTV Flash solution. This is not new and was available for previous AppleTV versions and in fact currently they do not have a product for the new AppleTV but it is coming. Amongst other things it allows you to stream and play formats not natively supported by AppleTV and access all of those burned DVDs.

For people such as myself the combination of this third version of Apple TV with 1080p playback and FireCore will enable a very cost effective Media Sever capability that integrates everything in the world of Apple (iPhone, iPad, Mac) together into one sleek interoperable package. Please hurry up FireCore and give me a new build for AppleTV 3!

Remote Control for Kids


Contrary to the title I am not looking to remote control my kids, although the idea has obvious appeal. Instead what I was looking for was a way to avoid having to actually do anything when my son shouts from the lounge, “Dad I don’t want to watch this”, “Dad, what’s on the other channel”, “Dad, I can’t hear it”.

He is five and whilst he can use the Harmony Remote control to switch the TV and accompanying boxes on he struggles to remember what number the Sky channels are that he can watch and when to stop turning the volume up! In fairness he is not alone and the Grandparents have similar issues when they come round to babysit; although in fairness this is mainly because they are deaf and are not used to having more than three channels on a TV!

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What do you do when your speaker stops working?

After several years of use, the YSP-500 sound bar that I was using in the bedroom has stopped working (intermittent power issues, that suddenly became permanent). So I was left with a dilemma today, do I replace the YSP-500 which was required because the ancient Hitachi PMA-400E Plasma had no speakers, or for an extra couple of hundred pounds do I update the whole lot with a screen with speakers.

Well you guessed it..

I opted to buy a new LED TV, who wouldn’t! :-) In this case I opted for the @HCCmag recommendation for best budget screen and went with the Samsung UE40D5520 as it is a “Superb budget set that is hard to fault”. In fact the only major thing that this screen does not have is 3D, which I don’t need in the bedroom anyway. Thanks to @pcworld for having one of cheapest prices and also having it in stock close by so that I could pick it up.

After 30 minutes, 10 of which were spent finding bolts that were the right size to swap the mount from the old plasma to the new TV, the new one is in place. Job done!

I still need to connect the network cable, so have not tested any of the “Smart” Internet features but my first impressions of this LED screen, including picture quality, are very good.