Several versions of the Apple TV?

It is quite obvious that Apple at some point will provide several versions of the AppleTV. But they haven’t announced it. Still the apple store gives a clue.

Let’s take the AirPort Extreme as an example. It is a product sold in only one version and it is presented like this in the store:

200703302115

“Airport Extreme Base Station” at the top of the page. Simply “Add to cart” on the button. However, all the products that have several versions for sale are presented with another template:

200703302117-1

“Select your Mac mini” at the top of the page and “select” on the button. And how about the Apple TV?

Appletv

“Select your Apple TV” but “Add to cart” on the button. Let me see. Should I select the one with 40 GIG disk or the one with 40 GIG disk?

You can digg this story here.

Several versions of the Apple TV?

AppleTV in da house

AppleTV in the box

My AppleTV box arrived today. As a media center and HTPC freak it is pretty mandatory to give this box a try. I guess I’ll be back here with more info as I try it out. My first impression is very positive. The box is quite limited compared to other similar solutions, but the stuff that this box actually does is done very, very well. If you want music, movies, podcasts and images from your computer to your TV screen and the stereo in you living room this is the only box I have tried that I can recommend to non geeks.

At this point it’s not a complete home theatre solution. No traditional live TV support (recording and PVR functionallity) and no DVD, BlueRay or HD DVD player. Traditional live TV and media files on plastic disks are already pretty old school, but it’ll stick around for still a couple of years.

AppleTV in the box

AppleTV will be something that you have in addition to some sort of PVR. Of course, there are rumors of an upcoming TV tuner for the AppleTV, but nothing yet. The rumors build on the fact that a company called Miglia have done some strange moves lately and have had meetings with Apple. In addition to this hackers have found some scripts called “New Audio Capture” and “New Video Capture” in the files on the AppleTV…

Because I had ordered a box I have been following the AppleTV scene on the internet for the last week. Interesting stuff. It was opened and modified only hours after people started recieving them. In other words, hackers are hard at work adding stuff they miss. I have also found some detailed answers to the question about 5.1 surround sound from the AppleTV.

So far I can say that the box was extremely simple to set up, works well, looks good and is easy and intuitive to use. More on AppleTV later!

Apple TV connected

AppleTV in da house

LinuxMCE looks promising

LinuxMCE

LinuxMCE for Ubuntu looks promising, but ugly. I haven’t had the time to try it out yet. They have made a video comparing it to Windows MCE. If you ask me, they should have focused on showing the demo of LinuxMCE and dropped the so called comparison. At first glance it looks interesting but way too ugly and complicated for the average user. I’ll have to try it out to be able to give some qualified thoughts.

Now, if they could give me a complete distribution with Ubuntu + LinuxMCE + drivers on a DVD that I could pop into a MacMini and have it up and running in a matter of minutes…

Until then, you can have a look at their demo.

http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docId=-4422887272477313460&hl=en

Link to video. Link to project page.

LinuxMCE looks promising

Look – no fans!

Fanless PC

So I finally changed the last parts in my media center to make it completely silent. I have already installed two 300w Silverstone fanless power supplies. Why two? Because one power the mainboard, graphic card and boot disk. The other one power the extra disks and the DVD drive. Now I installed a Thermaltake Sonic Tower on the CPU and a Thermaltake Schooner fanless cooler on the graphic card.

The graphic card cooler needed some horrible and very manual hacks to fit on my old Geforce 6600GT AGP. Anyway, now my system has only one fan. A 120 mm that is running very slow to push some air over the CPU cooler. I tried without any fans as well. It gave 70 degrees celcius on the CPU during 100% load over several hours. That’s a bit high. Even for my old AMD Athlon XP 3200+

With the fan (that is practically noiseless) the CPU temperature is about 50 degrees during 100% load and 35 degrees during normal use. The graphic card stays at about 60 degrees. It can manage very high temperatures, so 60 is no problem.

The result is that the media center now is completely silent and 100% stable. It can run 24/7 in our living room without anyone noticing it.

If you want to know how to mount a Thermaltake Schooner CL-G0009 on an XFX GeForce 6600 GT AGP please drop me a line in a comment. It’s ugly, but it works. Have a look at the images and you understand.

Modified GPU cooler Modified GPU cooler

And, to fit the Thermaltake Sonic Tower CL-P0071 on the CPU I had to modify the north bridge cooler on my ABIT-AN7 mainboard as well…

CPU Cooler Thermaltake Sonic CPU Cooler Thermaltake Sonic

Now I think I’ll let that box alone for a while. The next upgrade will be some kind of digital decoder to replace the Hauppauge PVR-500 card and maybe some testing of SageTV

Look – no fans!

TV from your media center to your mobile

I haven’t tried it yet, but this looks like an interesting plugin for Windows Media Center: Mobile TV Center 1.0

Watch TV on more than 500 mobile phones, Pocket PCs, iPod, PSP and portable media players. Take your TV programs on-the-go. All the shows that your record with your Windows Media Center are automatically converted in the background and transferred to your mobile phone, iPod, Pocket PC, Palm. Simply record TV-shows for your portable device by selecting a tv-show in the EPG (on-screen program guide).

I’ll be back with more info when I have tested it.

Other products with similar functionallity: TMPG VideoSync and SlySoft CloneDVD Mobile.

(Thanks, Oyvind and Ståle)

TV from your media center to your mobile

When will this media center thing catch on?

Friday bonus video. Bill Gates from CES 2005 on YouTube.

Okay, so everybody and your grand mother still have no media center at home. Where are they? By now, all of us should own such a magic box. With music, images, movies, broadband and TV in a nice simple interface where everything is available at the touch of a button.

True media centers are still something for the people that are way above average when it comes to interests and knowledge about computers. I have already published my recipe for when gadgets break through. Let’s have a reality check on media centers:

Engineers – is it possible?
-Yes. There are nice boxes out there that offers fantastic capabilities of handling media.

Marketers – have you done your job?
– Partly yes. Microsoft have launched Media Center Edition and done quite a bit of marketing. However, I find most of the marketing pretty lousy. Too much focus on features. They should have focused on the story. What will happen in your home? And, the most important people of them all, the sales people in the shops have no clue. Absolutely no clue.

Economists – is it cheap enough?
– No. Not at all. We need a proper, noiseless, nice looking media center for under $500,- Right now a proper media center is at least $1000,-

Usability – is it easy to use?
Yes. And a huge NO! When it works it is easy to use. As long as it is running I can give the remote of our media center to whomever visiting our living room. No problem. They find music, videos, images, recorded shows, the electronic program guide, the broadband services and the TV channels. It is in fact much easier to use than a traditional setup with separate boxes for DVD, CD, TV and radio. When I have people visiting and they have a look at the media center in our living room just about everyone instantly asks for price and availability.

Trouble is that there are still two major problems with media centers (in addition to price):
1. Setting it up
2. Keeping it running

A couple of weeks ago I attended a conference where we put up a digital living room to show people some of the possibilities. We had the most modern and state of the art components you could imagine. A new media center, an HD capable LCD screen and a multi channel amplifier with 6 speakers.

Getting image and sound from the media center was pretty easy. Setting up the TV channels and program guide was as usual a pain. But, getting the image completely right with 1:1 pixel mapping and the audio in six channels was nearly impossible. With my degree in engineering, huge amounts of experience with media centers and several very clever people around me we did not manage to get proper multichannel sound and a perfect HD image out of the media center.

No offense when it comes to your grand mother, but she’ll have to wait a second before this is possible to use for normal people.

I know that a media center is more complex than a regular DVD player, but the vendors need to work on this. Media centers will not be something for the masses before you can buy it (for under $500,-), take it home and connect audio to your amplifier and video to your screen, turn it on, do some simple setup stuff and then use it happily ever after.

And eventually that will happen. “I want one of these, where can I get it?” is the mantra at home when I show people our digital home. No doubt about it, people want the functionality. When you get used to it it is very difficult to imagine a living room full of several different boxes, different remotes and shelves full of plastic containing digital media. Digital media deserves to live a life on hard drives and in the network.

…and by the way, you find more about Bill Gates and stuff going wrong during presentations over at “Nobody’s perect (redux)” on Presentation Zen.

When will this media center thing catch on?

Sage TV looking for Mac beta testers

SageTV is a very interesting media center software for Windows and Linux. Now they’re looking for beta testers for a Mac version as well.

Sage is turning into a true cross platform media center software. My early experiments with Sage was very promising and now it seems like it’s time to give it another go.

The SageTV placeshifter and SageTV media extender is very interesting. Now, if you can start combining boxes and operating systems you have a very nice media server that can stream your media around the house to thin clients, windows, linux and mac boxes.

(Via PVRWire)

Sage TV looking for Mac beta testers