Apple TV

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NFL Pic

Ryan Michael Downey

CBS announced that the 2014 AFC Playoffs will be available for streaming starting with the Wild Card games this weekend. Users will be able to stream to laptops, desktops, and tablets. This continues the trend of major sports broadcasts being available online and over the air.  An estimated 3 million people viewed the Superbowl online in 2013 up from about 2 million people in 2012. Online offerings for the Olympics will soon follow as streaming continues its march to the forefront of the broadcasting world.

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Ryan Michael Downey

The Apple TV is a very capable set top streaming device offering a majority of the most popular Apple TV Screenstreaming apps including PBS Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus HBO-GO and Watch ESPN. But owners of compatible IOS products have access to two features that other Apple TV owners do not. Those features are AirPlay and Mirroring. The two features are very similar. In fact AirPlay and Mirroring are constantly mixed up in reviews and product descriptions. This article will hash out the differences between the two features.

What is AirPlay?
AirPlay is a proprietary video and audio protocol that allows users to send audio and video from IOS devices to their apple TV’s. This feature can also be accessed from an iTunes client installed on a windows computer. AirPlay is only compatible with certain apps, though there are many. If an app or web based video is compatible with air play a small symbol will appear on the bottom of the said video content that can be touched or in the case of using an Apple laptop, clicked. Once the AirPlay icon has been clicked or pressed the video will pop on to the TV screen provided that the Apple TV HDMI video is option is selected. AirPlay will transfer any compatible video to the Apple TV with full screen HD quality video and audio. This protocol leads the industry. We know this because as other methods for transferring video from mobile devices have arrived on the seen they are described as “Like Airplay” or Possible ‘AirPlay” killers. Have you heard anybody say that Apple TV is a more app laden and expensive version of the Google Chromecast?

AirPlay also integrates with some of the games available through the IOS mobile app store. Compatible games take advantage of the screen of a mobile device by adding fun controller functions to the screen of the device which add to the experience on the screen. For instance a compatible jet fighter game may turn an iPad into the control panel of a jet cockpit while the TV screen displays the game action itself minus the control panel. Apple is yet to fully realize the potential of this feature.

What Is Mirroring?
Screen mirroring is the full projection of a devices screen on to a TV screen using the Apple TV as a receiver. When mirroring is activated the TV essentially appears to be a monitor for the device it is mirroring but will not disable the display on the IOS device itself. Both The TV Screen and the mobile device or computer will “mirror” the other. One of the best features of mirroring is that it allows users to see full internet pages on their televisions. Unlike mobile browsers embedded in to Blu-ray players and Android based systems using mirroring and a television for browsing means that your browser is just as easy to use on a TV as it is on your device and it comes with a keyboard. This means that compatible Apple laptop users can head to Hulu.com to access the computer only version of the service and watch the latest episodes of their favorite shows without using a monthly subscription. Mirroring will allow users to view any Internet content that can be viewed on their devices on their TV screens, so this means that its capabilities are only limited by the imagination of the users. Mirroring is also helpful for apps that are not AirPlay compatible.

Use Mirroring For Presentations
The App Store is filled with many wonderful presentation software programs that when paired with an Apple TV make it perfect for meetings, teaching aids and any given project that looks better on a big screen. This gives the presenter an easy to manipulate controller for the presentation and a smooth reliable operating system to work with. Just make sure that the Apple TV is on a given network before trying to use it.

Slide Shows
Another helpful function of mirroring is that it is an easy way to display pictures from devices. While certainly not an everyday need it is a good tool to have at the right time, anniversary parties, birthdays. Holidays etc.

Where the Lines Blur
Sometimes during a visit to a website using mirroring a video will have an option to view in full screen. And when the said video selected in full screen mode is compatible with AirPlay the protocol will essentially take over. This is common when YouTube Videos are embedded on a webpage for instance.  The difference between the two experiences is  that when an app is utilizing airplay it is not necessary to keep the said app open in order to view content, while on the other hand closing the webpage or app that is being mirrored will stop the video or other content that is being viewed and display whatever is currently the device.

Either Way the Consumer Wins
The great thing about both AirPlay and Mirroring for Apple product owners is that the capabilities greatly expand the offerings available to Apple TV owners. While Apple TV has been feverishly adding apps over the past year there are many holes in its offerings.  For instance as mentioned earlier Amazon Instant Video is not included as an app on Apple TV, but the IOS app is AirPlay compatible so therefore available on Apple TV. In fact outside parties even bank on users accessing mirroring. Recent commercials for the newest sling box have been advertising “Watch with your Roku and Apple TV”. While there is a Sling box app for Roku none exists for Apple TV.  In short, any IOS mobile device owner as well as those with a shiny new mac laptop are missing out until they learn how to utilize AirPlay and Mirroring with their Apple TV. Happy Streaming!

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Could XBMC be added to Roku’s channel lineup in the near future? Richard Lawler, with the tech site Engadget, is reporting that older versions of the Roku can now be rooted in order to

Could XBMC be next on Roku after YouTube
Could XBMC be next on Roku after YouTube

allow third party programs to be added to the popular streamer. The models compatible with the current hack include the original Roku LT, 2 HD, 2 XD and 2 as well as the Streaming Stick. The hack does not stay in place on the Roku 3. Once rooted the streaming boxes will not affected by any automatic updates going forward.  At this date there is not a version of XBMC for Roku.  The implications for this are massive.

Will Roku Fix The Vulnerability?
Roku will most likely and quickly close the hole in its coding that allows the system to be rooted. Roku was not designed with this sort of functionality in mind. Apple TV swiftly closed off access to its Movie Trailers app when it was being used to access XBMC. While Roku has an open source approach to their products and allows developers to launch private channels it has yet to allow an official or private XBMC channel. In fact no main stream device including Apple TV, The Western Digital line of products or the Netgear line of products allowed XBMC as an official application on their products. If Roku has not allowed XBMC to be included in the past it is unlikely to allow the program to be added going forward even to older models.

What If Roku Does Not Block The Hack?
If Roku does not aggressively close the gap in their security to prevent the root process then then the appeal of the older devices will certainly rise amongst XBMC enthusiasts. The second generation Apple TV sells for as much as three times the price of the current one simply because the older model has proven to be able to be rooted in order to install XBMC. If the $45.00 Roku LT was suddenly able to host an XBMC app its value would skyrocket among XBMC fans causing its resale value to grow exponentially.

Is The Majority Of The Roku Audience Looking for XBMC?
Does the average Roku user care about XBMC at all? Roku has been painstakingly designed to be a simple device to use even going as far as producing models that feature buttons used for launching applications like Netflix and Pandora. Is that audience looking for a set of codes and commands to be used in order to disable the devices ability to be updated and improved? Does Roku want to be embraced by the XBMC community?  How the company reacts to this development will speak volumes on this issue.

XBMC Based Streaming Devices
In the absence of XBMC  availability on products from companies like Roku and Apple, other set

The G-Box is a popular alternative to Roku.
The G-Box is a popular alternative to Roku.

top devices have arrived on the market in order to fill the vacuum. Numerous set top devices like the linux based  Little Black Box and Android based G-Box Midnight MX2 have emerged. Various configurations of the MX2 currently occupy the top 3 spots on Amazon’s HD DVD player category . There are other suitors including a bevy of Android OS based dongles. The market for XBMC compatible devices even extends to the Android based gaming system the OUYA. There will certainly be other XBMC based set top box options going forward. Will the GTV hack make an XBMC channel for Roku be a reality? The Streaming Advisor will continue to monitor this story as it develops.

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Amazon Firetube Streaming Box listed with related Products 
XBMC Box The Little Black Box Reviewed

 

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Ryan Michael Downey

Apple has added four new apps to its Apple TV lineup as it continues to ramp up its offerings but The four new apps are Crackle, Bloomberg, Watch ABC and Kor TV. Apple TV has been adding services regularly by building new partnerships and converting IOS apps to meet the specs of the Smart TV format used in the Apple TV platform. The company has added more then 10 apps in 2013.

Apple has added many new apps the the Apple TV lineup recently.
Apple has added many new apps the the Apple TV lineup recently.

Kor TV
Kor TV is a South Korean based app that features Live TV 17 South Korean broadcast Channels, a majority of them Korean language stations along with on demand movies and television shows.

Crackle
Crackle is free a Sony Pictures based app that has a large selection of both well known recent releases along with lesser known features from the past decade and more. The channel also features a vast library of its original shows. Crackle has been a popular app for years on both IOS devices and the Roku line of products.

Bloomberg
Bloomberg features live feeds from its Internet based station and free along with free on demand programming featuring movers and shakers in the business world along with other choices including the Charlie Rose show which features interviews from  a variety of news makers.

Watch ABC
Watch ABC is a Hulu like service featuring recent episodes of all of its top shows as well as live feed from ABC. The service is only available to those who can authenticate with participating TV providers including AT&T U-Verse, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Optimum and Verizon Fios.  Those without a pay TV service on the list are out of luck.

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Amazon is out to match the Black Friday sales at the physical retail stores. If you missed out on the door buster savings or just decided to sleep off a day of fun you can pick up the Apple TV on sale at Amazon.com for 84.99. There are also used models for 77.00 if you want more savings.

Apple TV can add a lot of value to existing Apple devices
Apple TV can add a lot of value to existing Apple devices

with free shipping for Amazon customers. Apple TV for this price is a really great deal. While it does not have as many overall apps as the Roku line of products offers it is a great item as an add-on to a home that has other Apple. This is because of Airplay and mirroring. AirPlay is a video protocol that allows users with compatible iPads, iPods and iPhones and Apple computers to beam video and audio content from their devices straight to the Apple TV. In the case of games AirPlay can even allow the device to become an interactive controller. Any video content that can be played on an iPad from websites, apps and locally stored media can be played on your TV through Apple TV. Its powerful processor and smooth interface launches apps quickly in 1080p. For more details on Apple TV see our review. Best Buy and many other retailers are offering door buster sale prices online also. This is great way to avoid crowds, parking nightmares and general frustration.

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Ryan Michael Downey

Hulu Plus has added full episodes of Sesame Street to its kids content lineup. Hulu Plus which costs 7.99 per month has been adding more children’s programming as numbers show that kids content leads to higher viewership.

Hulu Plus has been adding more kids shows recently.
Hulu Plus has added more kids shows recently.

Customers without Hulu Plus can still access numerous clips from over the years through the free web based service. This addition continues a trend that started with Netflix and its popular Just For Kids section.  Amazon’s pilot experiment this year also showed the power of children’s programming when it gave a nod to three kids shows “(Annebots,” “Creative Galaxy” and “Tumbleaf) this May. Those shows were three of the five selections out of a group of 14 series hopefuls. Netflix is continuing to develop original children’s and will debut a show based on Turbo the racing snail in the upcoming future. Viewers can access Hulu Plus via Hulu’s website via a computer, via a tablet or smart phone and watch on their televisions via a set top streaming device such as a Roku or the Apple TV. The service also has apps available for game consoles including the Playstation 3-4, the Nentindo Wii and Wii U  as well as the X-Box 360 and the X-Box 1.

Downon Abbey fans now have a new home
The PBS app will add a lot of popular free content.

In the continuing punching match between Apple TV and Roku, Apple TV has added PBS and Yahoo screen to their growing list of apps available on their industry-leading set top box. The PBS a

pp provides next day viewing of the major titles such as Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife and Sherlock. The series are not available on the site permanently but fans of PBS series will have ample time to watch any given episode.   In addition the app gives Apple TV users access to archives of some of PBS’s most beloved programs like the Joy of Painting with Bob Ross. Before launching the app users can also register their Apple TV’s in order to link their account with their local PBS station which will also provide access to more regional based programming. The app is built in the same fashion as the popular PBS channel for Roku.

The Yahoo Screen app builds off of the already established Yahoo Screen app available for Apple’s mobile IOS products. A portal to pop culture, Yahoo Screen has a multitude of categorized clips from  sources ranging from Comedy Central and the Onion to ABC News. Yahoo screen at the moment is not available on any other set top device including the Roku line of products.

Both Apple and Roku have been stepping up their games as the holiday shopping season and the all-important “Black Friday” sales loom.

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The device features many of the most popular web content apps.
Apple TV has an easy to Navigate Home Screen.


Ryan Michael Downey                                                

This review is going to offer a profile of Apple TV. When I refer to Apple TV I’m talking about the product that exist today the small streaming box or DMR that utilizes multiple apps as well as it’s iTunes Store to provide streaming entertainment to 13 million customers, not the constantly rumored yet still unseen Apple television set.                     

What is Apple TV
Apple TV is a $99 DMR that connects to high-definition televisions via an HDMI hookup. Once connected the Apple TV delivers HD content from the web to your TV including many of the leading content apps available. The product’s GUI is sharp, attractive and stable. It loads video and music content quickly and smoothly as long as the operator has a strong Internet connection. The device can be connected to the Internet via a wireless connection or as we always recommend via a wired Ethernet connection.

What TV and Movie apps are available?
The television and movie streaming services offered include Netflix and Hulu Plus as well as HBO Go which is available to customers who have HBO as a paid cable service. Apple TV also offers apps for multiple Disney networks as well as niche programming like Crunchy Roll which offers Japanese animation movies and TV shows as well as full access to the iTunes store where customers can purchase music, movies and television shows.

Can I watch sports with Apple TV?
Yes its sports apps allow those with paid subscriptions to MLB TV, NBA Game Time and NHL Center Ice and Major League Soccer to watch action streamed online on their TV in full HD. Apple TV also boasts a full Watch ESPN app, which like HBO Go requires cable authentication.  Authentication is the act of providing a current cable log in name and password in order to access programming from providers otherwise only available via cable networks. The authentication does not require the user to have a cable box in the home in order to access the services. So this means that you can access ESPN’s full slate of programming on any TV where you have an internet connection as long as you can access the current cable log in password. Authentication is also required in order to access the new Disney apps as well.

The Ultimate Accessory
Apple TV is a tremendous value as an addition to a household that has already invested in Apple technology. This is because Apple TV utilizes a feature called AirPlay which allows compatible Apple products to beam content directly to the Apple TV including web based videos, pictures and movies saved on their devices as well as their iTunes videos and music. Compatible products include the iPad  2 and all models afterwards, iPhone 4 and above, iPod touch 4 and above along with any Apple laptop with the Mountain Lion OS or later installed. This means for instance that a PowerBook owner or even an Apple desktop owner can send the free version of Hulu directly to their TV and therefor bypass the Hulu Plus pay service. This can greatly expand the offerings included with the product. Apple has also released games that employ AirPlay and make use of IOS handheld devices as interactive controllers. For content that cannot utilize AirPlay, the Apple TV can also mirror the content on Apple devices. This means that users will see the same content on their hand held screen or computer screen as they see on the TV screen. This includes both audio and video apps.

Social Video Services 
Besides the robust sports and movie and TV options Apple TV also offers video sites such as Vimeo, an HD video upload service full of wonderfully produced content, Vevo, a music video service reminiscent of MTV when MTV stood for music television and the granddaddy of all internet video services a full YouTube app complete with user profiles so that you can access all of your subscriptions, favorites, playlists and saved later content. Apple also recently added an app that allows users to view video produced through Apple iMovie app.

itunes Podcasts
An often overlooked feature of Apple TV is its library of podcasts. There are video and audio podcasts broken up in to categories for topical searching. Many are podcasts of informational TV programing from the previous day. There are podcasts from any number of sources from cooking to comedy, National and world news to sports and tech reviews. Overall a great entertainment option.

Music
Apple TV owners have three main music listening options natively on the Apple TV itself. The choices include the Apples iTunes music store which can be linked to an existing iTunes account giving users access to any previously purchased music as well as the chance to download anything else for .99 per song or purchase entire albums digitally. Music fans also have the option of using the original radio app. Not to be confused with iTunes radio. This is the program that has been available for years through iTunes. It offers live streaming of radio stations from all over the country much the same way a satellite radio station works. There are stations based on genre from across the spectrum from classical music to standup comedy. Apples recent entry iTunes Radio is also available on Apple TV. This is Apples new service entry meant to compete with Pandora. It works based on the choices listeners ask for to make custom streaming music stations based purely on the tastes and choices of the listener. For those with AirPlay enabled devices any other music app from a compatible device can be streamed to the Apple TV and listened to through their TV or home theater speakers.

Weather and News?
To stay current on News and weather conditions Apple TV has the Sky News App which can pull in live news feeds as well as the Washington Post app which has prerecorded news segments about the days latest headlines along with video segments from their expert staff. The Weather Channel app which provides current and upcoming weather conditions as well as a selection of specials and original shows.

Great Value
As a standalone product Apple TV has a lot to offer a consumer whether they are currently subscribing to a pay TV service or if they are a cord cutter looking to expand their choices past what they can receive via an antenna. For instance no matter what sort of cable or satellite package one carries there is not a TV channel for ESPN 3, which is exclusive to the web. An avid sports fan can add an amazing amount of basketball, college football content to their TV viewing that would be otherwise unavailable without it unless viewed on a much smaller screen. The apps for Disney and HBO give customers on demand viewing options so that they can watch Game of Thrones on their own time without having to pay up for a DVR service. Along with current shows HBO Go provides access to huge libraries of HBO original content as well as a large selection of regularly rotating feature movies often mirroring what it is broadcasting month to month.Overall Apple has put together a strong product that is a great addition to any home with an HD TV and an open HDMI port.  

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Ryan Michael Downey

Apple has added an iMovie Theater app to its lineup of choices for its industry leading Apple TV. The app makes it easier than ever to share personally recorded movies produced with the iMovie app with friends and families via the cloud. Once a file has been uploaded it is just a few short swipes away from being viewed in full HD glory. The video portal marks the latest addition in the set top box that has recently added HBO Go, Watch ESPN, The Disney Channel and Vevo in recent months. It might be noted that the iMovie Theater is the second app in a row that is based on an existing IOS app, the last being iTunes Radio.

Apple appears to be expanding the scope of its set top product by both forging new ground with new content partners as well as optimizing the experience of their mobile apps in to a home television environment. Expect more additions as the company continues to aggressively pursue partnerships that may benefit the viewing experience of their customers.

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Understanding The Similarities And Differences Between Two Popular Media Mirroring Methods

Ryan Michael Downey

Two popular devices for streaming media to a television are the industry leading Apple TV and the Google Chromecast. Head to head comparisons are very popular when looking at two devices in the same category but in the case of these two there is very little they have in common. While the Apple TV is a set top box that runs 25 or so official apps via a wireless or an Ethernet connection. The Chromecast is a small dongle, which is a tech term for an inch long or less device that can be added to a piece of hardware to add functionality. There are dongles for everything from streaming media to a simple keyboard. Chromecast has no preloaded apps and must access every service that it uses through either a computer using the Chrome browser or a mobile device like a smart phone or tablet. Chromecast is more of a receiver for content “cast’ from a computer or mobile device while Apple TV is both a receiver for Airplay and a small single use computer with storage capabilities programs and operating system and so on. Where Apple TV and the Chromecast are similar is that they both share the ability to mirror devices to a TV. Both have strengths and weaknesses.

Google Chrome Cast: Works with: Computers running the Google Chrome Brower
How: Computer owners download a Chrome Extension called Google Cast. Once the app is installed then users utilizing the Google Chrome  browser can send the entire image from their computer screens to their television.

Apple TV Airplay: Works With: Current Apple computers with at least a dual core processor. This covers models released from 2011 and everything since. The list of mobile devices includes the iPad 2 and the subsequent models, the iPhone starting with the 4 and the iPod touch starting with generation 5.

Limitations
Apple TV: Airplay on a mobile device is capable of rendering any video source that does not require Flash. While all IOS apps are of course set up to work with Apple’s standard web video can be more problematic depending on the site. This is not an issue when using airplay on an Apple laptop or desktop computer because they are fully capable of running Flash. Another issue is that mobile devices are often shuttled to mobile versions of websites and some content providers do not allow mobile devices access to all of their content. One example is CBS.com. While CBS lists full episodes as a viewing option from their site choosing that option on an iPad will only play a brief preview for the show. Some popular though questionable websites such as project free TV are not accesable on an Apple mobile device.

Chromecast: Chromecast does not cast from mobile devices outside of its featured partners Netflix, YouTube, Google Play and Hulu Plus. You must have these apps on your mobile device in order to access the features. Apple products are not able to access the Google Play Store. When using these services simply press the cast icon on your mobile device and the content will play on your TV screen.
When using a computer the Chromecast can access anything that is capable of playing on a computer screen via a Google Chrome tab though there are limitations. The major limitation with the Chromecast is that some websites have their video content formatted so that it pops out in another box for viewing. If a video pops out as a separate box then you will not be able to cast it. A notable website where this occurs is the popular Watch ESPN website.  While the Chromecast can mirror the basic website its video feed appears in a pop out box that can be seen on a computer but cannot be seen on the television.  The lack of the ability to mirror from a mobile device is a major drawback for the Chromecast. With so many households replacing laptops and desktop computers in favor or sleek tablet with blue tooth keyboards this cuts off its market for the feature. 

Strengths
Chrome Cast: Mirroring with the Chromecast is wrapped in its ability to mirror Google Chrome tabs on a computer. This opens up a universe of viewing opportunities. A major coup for the dongle is that it can access the free version of Hulu and play it on a TV screen. It mirrors the screen as you see it online. If you choose to select full screen viewing on the website the screen will mirror in full HD aspect ratio. The Video and audio quality is strong but its overall performance is tied to the computer it is casting from. There have been reports of syncing problems between the audio and video signals but I did not experience this in my tests. Another notable strength is that CBS television shows can be cast from its website to the TV. Like Hulu if you chose to view the video in full screen on the computer screen the video will play in full screen on the television. Because the Chromecast must mirror using a computer and not a mobile device there is no limitation for Flash based videos. Chromecast will also allow the user to explore the internet using a TV screen as a monitor though there is a second or so delay. Possibly the greatest strength of the Chromecast is that it is not wedded to any format. Any computer can access its casting features as opposed to the Apple TV which acts as an Airplay receiver in concert Apple devices. Google is slowly expanding its supported device with support for the Samsung Chromebook “coming soon”.

Apple TV: Apple TV allows full screen mirroring of Apple computers and mobile devices. All apps and programs can be mirrored which lends itself to being both an entertainment device and a presentation device. When viewing online video. Any video that can be accessed on an Apple mobile or computer device can be viewed on a TV screen. While there are some exceptions a majority of internet video can be viewed on an Apple mobile device and all Internet based video can be viewed on a compatible apple laptop or desktop.  Because it can mirror any of the apps on any mobile device the Apple TV becomes the center of a versatile ecosystem. Though it is not part of an open streaming ecosystem the Apple TV can work as an amazing addition to any household with compatible Apple products.

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