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Average Joe's Tips

How to use Apple’s AirPlay Feature

What is AirPlay?

AirPlay is a great way to stream your music through a set of speakers or through a home stereo, and in some cases, stream a video from your iOS device, Mac or PC. Apple currently sells two products that support this feature, the Apple TV & Airport Express. Apple does license the feature so that third-party developers may support products with it and I will briefly mention it, but today we are going to cover the apple products.

AirPort Express

The AirPort Express is known as a wireless router. It is nice and compact, perfect for apartments, dorms, or just extending part of a room in your home. It works seamlessly with the Airport Extreme and Time Capsule as an extension, but you should have no problems with other routers. Depending on your setup, you would probably not want to use this as your main router in your home. Reason being it has one Ethernet port. You will only be able to put a line in from you ISP and broadcast wirelessly, but if you are running a home network and have devices that you would want to plug in with Ethernet, tough luck. However, the express is equipped with 5.0 GHz wireless N that is capable up to 300 Mbps, although this will not work with your iPhone or iPad, if you only have wireless N devices in your home, it is an ideal solution. The last limitation to this is it only allows up to 10 devices to be connected to it. The AirPort express features a USB port that is not capable of sharing a USB drive rather a USB printer. If you have a Mac, adding the printer is a breeze. For Windows users, you will have to install the Bonjour software off the Apple website, or with the included CD (download the Latest off apple’s website). But, once Bonjour is installed, it’s a piece of cake.

How does this fit with AirPlay? The AirPort express uses a 3.5 mm aux jack to output audio into a receiver, or just a simple speaker. Once your device is plugged in, connected to your network, and setup properly, you are ready to begin streaming your music to your device. With the Apple AirPort Express, you can even turn your home into a wireless audio system. See our article on how AirPlay an AirPort Express to beat Sonos.

Apple TV

The Apple TV is a set top that must be set up with a TV. It features and aux port through the red and white analog ports, although if you are planning on using this system, you will probably want to use the HDMI out port. Another feature is the ability to beam a streaming video in some applications on your iOS device, directly to the Apple TV, and watch them on the big screen. For more details on the Apple TV, check out our full article about it covering it’s high’s and low’s.

Apple Remote

Apple does a great job with integrating their products together. From the App Store, download the Apple Remote app and you will be able to control your iTunes Library to blast the music to your speakers.

Third Party Products

Briefly, Apple currently only allows AirPlay audio streaming to companies to use for their products, such as DENON. Certain network receivers from Denon can be upgraded for $50 over the Ethernet port, to allow AirPlay to be enabled. This will allow you to stream directly to your receiver, without the need for any other products.

After the integration of the AirPlay API in the iOS SDK, developers from Pandora and Rdio are able to let users use their app and play music directly to Airport devices around the house.

Bowers & Wilkins and JBL are also creating products that are built for AirPlay. Soon for a pretty penny, you can purchase devices that will already have the built in functionality of receiving music.

If you are interested to stream with AirPlay, the AirPort Express is your best deal. For it’s price and functionality, it works more than a simple AirPlay streaming device, and is a worthy companion to any home network.

 

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News

iTunes to go to the cloud with Safari?

First of all, let’s talk about Safari. What is Safari? Safari is a web browser. It is designed to remove the majority of distractions by having a browser frame that is a single pixel wide. The scroll bar appears only when needed. Safari works on iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Mac, and PC. Safari Reader removes distractions such as ads and helps you focus on the online articles you want to read. Safari also has Private Browsing, which makes it so Safari does not remember information such as your history and cookies.

Now let’s talk about iTunes. What is iTunes? iTunes is a free application that runs on Mac and PC. It organized your music and movies into a library. iTunes can play your music, movies, videos, and TV shows on your Mac or PC. iTunes also has the iTunes Stores, a marketplace that sells music, videos, movies, and TV shows for you to download for a cheap price. iTunes also makes it easy to sync your music and videos onto your iPod, iPad, and iPhone. iTunes can also wirelessly sync your iTunes library to your Apple TV.

There have been rumors that iTunes is going to the Cloud with Safari. Apple may be preparing to merge Safari and iTunes. In December 2009, Apple bought the company Lala for $80 million. Using the technology from Lala, Apple will be able to incorporate iTunes into Safari and permanently make iTunes a web-only application that is exclusive to Safari. If this happens, Safari will most likely become a more popular web browser.

If iTunes goes to the cloud, there will be advantages and disadvantages. The advantage of iTunes going to the cloud is that you will be able to access your whole entire library from anywhere where you have access to the internet. The disadvantage of iTunes going to the cloud is that you won’t have access to your library from your computer alone. All the music, videos, movies, and other stuff that you purchased from the iTunes store would not be stored onto your computer if iTunes goes to the cloud. If iTunes were to shut down, all the money you put into buying the music and videos would go to waste.

What do you think? Is this a good idea or a bad idea?

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Uncategorized

When Will Everyone Have Apple TVs?

The strong competitors are finally joining the Internet set top box market and for such a new niche they’ve created some pretty impressive stuff with products like Boxee and Google TV. Their thorough (and sexy) aggregation of all that Internet content is their selling point, completely one-upping Apple TV’s feature set. This is one product where Apple has been surprisingly un-revolutionary. From its 2007 inception beside the iPhone there have been many, more reasonable alternatives with more features. Both the iPhone and Apple TV were App-less at that time, and three years later look at how much the App Store addition has affected the iPhone (while Apple TV turned iTV and got Netflix). Now that we’re all trained in the iOS ways it will take much less time to reach this point on the iTV – if it ever gets an App Store.

The iTV App Store would bring the amount of endless capability that has come to the iPhone and iPad to your TV, without the limitations of the small screen. Current App Store developers would develop for this interface and provide their Video, Music, Entertainment, Productivity, Game, and (maybe) even Cable content to the Apple TV because it gives them a huge audience and the power to be in control of the delivery of their content.

Adding a wireless keyboard and trackpad (or an iPad — basically the size of my macbook’s keyboard/trackpad) would give it the ability to replace the desktop — an OSX Lion App could simply handle all the tasks that the iOS Apps couldn’t. If Apple can stuff a bunch of memory and a fast processor into that tiny black box all you’d need is an external hard drive and you’re computer would not only fit in your pocket, but become one with your TV.

Sound good – or am I just fanaticizing about never having to see the Comcast On-Demand menu ever again?

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Reviews

Apple TV vs Google TV

Apple and Google have competed with each other year after year. When Apple comes out with a new iPhone, Google comes out with another Droid phone. The competition has been great for the markets and nobody has complained. I believe that the competition brings many great debates between these two major corporations. The newest debate is between Google TV and Apple TV.

We all saw this in the near future, Google trying to compete with Apple TV and it has come out with a bang. Google features 4 GB of RAM and a 1.2 GHz Intel Atom Z515 that is featured in many netbooks. Google TV has dual HDMI and dual USB ports. Google certainly has a faster processor than Apple and is not afraid to show it. The TV box itself is bigger and not the most attractive thing next to your TV. It definitely is not home friendly and I would definitely try to hide it so it is not an eye sore. Google has brought in almost every internet source to push into this little box. It boasts Netflix, Amazon Video on Demand, YouTube, NBA Game Time, Blip.TV, VEVO, Pandora, and Napster. Google runs their Android O.S. to power their TV. It is a proven O.S. that is built in the Android phones. The problem with the Andorid O.S. is that it has no regulations. Many users will soon come across bugs and will start to notice that Google TV will run slower. Google will be releasing an sdk for developers to start making their own apps. Apple TV does not have this feature, but an App Store may be coming soon. Google does support flash, something that Apple cannot say and probably never will on their devices. Google lets you “Fling” which allows you to start a show on your phone, pause or stop it, and pick it back up again on your TV. Many of these features are very handy when it comes down to the wire, but Google may be trying to push this feature just so that it looks better on paper.

Apple has certainly made a name for themselves in this department with the Apple TV. Apple TV has been around since the start of 2007. Apple has 256 MB of RAM and 1 GHz from the Apple A4 chip. The A4 chip is also in the iPad and iPhone and is extremely reliable and nobody can say that the A4 chip is not great. The A4 chip has impresses us all on the iPad. The iPad looks extremely and runs almost flawlessly.  Apple TV has an HDMI port, optical audio, and micro-USB. Apple TV is a looker, it is definitely prettier then the Google TV, but that is what Apple does best. They make great innovative designs that attract many buyers to the product. It is definitely something that you want to be shown right next to your TV. Apple TV has iTunes, Netflix, YouTube, and Flickr. Apple definitely has less video and non-video content but, that is something that Apple is not afraid of. Apple has iTunes which is extremely proven to hold many videos and music videos. Apple does have set backs because of what Google TV has brought to the table. Google has had more time to make the Google TV but Apple will not take any excuses. Apple is a lot easier to control, considering the fact that everyone is familiar with Apple’s devices. Apple TV features AirPlay which allows users to stream content from their iPad or iPhone to their TV. You can also start watching a movie on your device, then continue from where you left off.

Both of these products are extremely good. Apple hasn’t disappointed us again with their simple and easy interface that makes it very user friendly. Google has definitely surprised me with all of their features that makes Apple TV look slower and smaller. Google boasts more content and video and non-video content. Apple of course has their own remarkable operating system, but the android O.S. isn’t to bad itself. Many people will have trouble choosing between these two products because they are just that good. The competition has been brought forth from Google and they definitely have no disappointed. People that are die hard apple fans, or like the user friendly and sleek design. On the other hand, if you are willing to try something new, Google TV will certainly match every expectation you have for the device. Google has certainly not disappointed us and has made a strong statement that better things will come in the future for Google.

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Uncategorized

iHacked – The Backbone of the Apple Universe

It has been my impression that the predominant feeling surrounding the release of Apple’s highly anticipated iPad was one of confusion and frustration. The communal expectation for the new iPad was for a hyper mobile laptop with all the bells whistles for which Apple is famous. Despite Apple aficionados’ predictions of powerful Intel processors and a Snow Lepard OS core, Jobs presented to an under whelmed crowd an oversized iPod Touch. Major drawbacks that it shares with this device includes lacking Flash, inability to multitask, and no USB port. As added slaps in the face, the iPad has no iSight camera (nor the ability to add this on) and, of course, the bane of the Apple mobile business: a continued contract with AT&T. Then there’s the price! Casual, but techy, users like myself have to stop and wonder whether I’m willing to fork over upwards of $500 for a device. Especially one I am not sure I’ll need.

The iPad may very well go the way of the iPod Touch or Apple TV come March and April. I fear that sales, though initially good at the hands of Apple geeks (who would as happily buy Jobs’ tissues as they would any other product bearing the fruit’s silhouette), will ultimately level out because of public disinterest.

However, the more obvious outcome will be that, as the iPad flies off the proverbial shelves, intelligent free thinking individuals will hack the iPad (since at heart it runs the iPhone OS) and make the iPad everything that Apple forgot to make it — they will make the iPad what they need it to be, not what Apple wants it to be for them.

Both the methods of hacking, or more vernacularly called “jailbreaking” for iPhones or iPod touches, and using Apple devices in ways in which they were not intended has become the backbone of the Apple universe. As an example, I wanted to finally put a TV into my room and, being the Mac junky I’ve become, my fist inclination was to find something from the Apple Store to use with it. I first looked to the Apple TV, but, to be honest, I hated it! Its OS is eerily similar to Front Row, an app on my Mac that’s way too sluggish and buggy to be considered useful. I had to ask myself, what would I be gaining with the Apple TV? An HDMI output for my HD movies and TV shows? Certainly not for $200!

And that’s when I noticed the Apple Mac Mini — conveniently located adjacent to the Apple TV in my local Apple store. It was just as petite, it’s DVI output could easily be converted to HDMI with similar clarity (after all, you don’t need proper HD until screen sizes of 42” and up), and it seamlessly transfers media from my MacbookPro over my wireless network thanks to the new Home Sharing function. That means I can share movies, TV shows, and music that I’ve already bought. And that’s just how it matches the Apple TV! I can multitask, use any software I please, have a camera perched on top of my TV screen for Cisco-esque conferencing, iChat, or Skype and I’m not limited to media I can find in the iTunes Store. That means I can do things like play Flash games and stream Pandora or Last.FM. All of this, starting at only $350 more over the Apple TV.

I liken my experience in choosing the Mac Mini over the Apple TV to the current technological speed bump that is the iPad.

If it weren’t for alternatives like the Mac Mini, Apple TV might have higher sales, instead of Jobs having to brand it an “experiment” or a “hobby” just to save face. As I found an alternative to simply accepting a deficient device, the iPad’s saving grace will be hackers that create something better than it once was.

No one often says this openly, but the Real Mac Geniuses can: Apple depends upon the innovation of its Research & Development teams just as much as it depends upon the ingenuity of the hackers at large — dragging Apple, kicking and screaming, to become a better technology company.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!