I just discovered Apple TV; There is so much going on these days that it's easy to miss something like this...
I feel like a fool (but where are we going to find one at this time of the day? :-) For a while now I have been hearing the term "Apple TV" bandied around, but for some reason I made the assumption that this referred to a Digital TV that was in some way "Apple-compliant" or "Apple-friendly".
To be a little more specific, I assumed that if you had one of these (non-existent, as I now discover) TVs, then you would be able to wirelessly connect to it and use it to display information from some other Apple device, such as an iPhone, iPod, iPad, or Notebook computer.
As you probably know (I can tell you do by the supercilious smirk on your face), I was "barking up the wrong tree" as they say. It's easy for you to laugh, but there is so much going on these days that it's even easier to miss something like this (it will happen you one day, and when it does, the ghostly chuckling you hear in the back of your head will be me).
So, as I have now discovered, the term Apple TV actually refers to a dinky-dinky little box around 4" square and 1" deep that sits next to your regular Digital TV and connects to it via an HDMI cable. The Apple TV also connects to your wireless router, thereby allowing you to stream content from the Internet and/or from your iPad or whatever.
Like all of today’s products from Apple, this little rapscallion has been designed to be so simple to use that even an idiot like me should have no trouble (which just goes to show that they may have underestimated my native stupidity… but more about that in a moment). As part of this, the controller is simplicity incarnate as illustrated below:
Obviously, if you already have one of these little scamps then you already know all about this, in which case this column will be of little interest. However, if you blinked at the wrong time (like me) and this development passed you by, then you may wish to keep reading…
So, how did I end up stumbling across my newfound knowledge? Well, my wife (Gina The Gorgeous) and I are currently half-way through a two-week sojourn in a hotel located a couple of miles from our home. This is because we recently had a water leak in our house (see my column I just missed becoming rich and famous… again…
) and we’ve had to vacate the premises while the wooden floors are being replaced and refinished.
Anyway, this weekend I was sitting in our hotel room watching Season 2 of The Big Bang Theory
on my iPad while Gina was out at work (she’s a realtor and has to work on Saturdays and Sundays). When you are playing a video on the iPad and you tap the screen, a simple control panel appears. Normally this contains only Pause/Play
and Fast Forward/Reverse
icons, but this time an extra icon had appeared as if from nowhere.
How could I resist? I taped the icon and was presented with a popup menu that informed me that I could select between watching the video on my iPad (which was the current default) or on my “Henry”
(whatever that was).
To be honest, my first reaction was that my iPad had been hacked in some manner, but after a little probing around I discovered that “Henry” was the name some other guest in the hotel had bestowed on his Apple TV. Furthermore, I discovered what an Apple TV actually was. What a brilliant idea!
I couldn’t restrain myself, of course. I immediately ran out of the hotel, jumped in my car, and raced down the road to the nearest Apple Store, which is conveniently located just a couple of miles away. Then I sprinted back to the hotel and connected everything together and started to wend my way through the “Quick Setup” when I stumbled across a little problem…
The Apply TV is totally geared up to detecting local WiFi networks and to letting you select one and – if necessary – entering the security code. What it’s not set up for is being in a hotel where you have to launch a web browser and enter some silly guest password. (But what about “Henry” you ask? We will return to that little rascal in a moment.)
Furthermore, as I meandered my way through the Apple TV’s menu, I was prompted for all sorts of things like the Apple ID associated with my iTunes “Home Share” (whatever that is) and my iCloud (I haven’t set one up) and … all sorts of “stuff”.“Oh dear,”
I thought to myself (or words to that effect). All I want to do is to take TV programs that I have already downloaded onto my iPad and to stream them to the HD TV in my hotel room. Do I really have to jump through hoops to set up all this other stuff? Fortunately, the answer is no…
After banging my head against the wall (metaphorically speaking) for a while, I bundled everything (iPad, Apple TV, notepad computer…) into my backpack and returned to the Apple Store. I have to say that they were incredibly helpful. First, they connected my Apple TV to their HD TV and to their in-store wireless network and downloaded the latest version of the software onto it.
Next, we powered-up my iPad and connected it to the in-store wireless network. Once both your iPad an Apple TV are connected to the same wireless network, the Apple TV appears as one of your display options when you are playing videos without your having to enter your Apple ID or anything. (You can also “mirror” things so that whatever appears on your iPad screen also appears on the TV).
This is just what I was looking for. When we return home in a week’s time, I, Gina, and our son Joseph will all be able to take it in turns to display whatever we want from our iPads onto the main TV (assuming I show them how to do it [grin]).
But wait, there’s more, because you don’t actually need to have an iPhone or an iPod or an iPad per se. If you happen to have an iTunes account on your MAC or PC, you can set up a "Home Share" thingy and use your Apple TV to display movies and TV programs and music that you purchase from the iTunes Store. Also, if you’ve set up your iCloud, then you can stream any content that you’ve previously purchased and downloaded onto any of your Apple Devices.
Similarly, if you have a Netflix account (which is just $7.99 a month for unlimited downloads), you can use your Apple TV to stream any of the hundreds of thousands of films and TV programs to your TV, without needing to go through an iPad or a Wii or an Xbox or whatever. And you can stream YouTube videos, and… the list goes on…
Returning to the iPad scenario, one other thing that’s worth noting is that there’s a free app called Remote
, which is described as “A fun and easy-to-use app that turns your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch into a remote control. So wherever you are in your house, you can control your computer’s iTunes library and your Apple TV with a tap or flick of a finger.”
My only remaining problem is that I still haven’t worked out how to connect my Apple TV to the hotel’s wireless network. This has to be possible, because – as I mentioned earlier – someone had their Apple TV called “Henry”
up and running (which is how all of this got kicked off in the first place). So I went down to reception and asked if there was a guest with a first or last name of “Henry”
located within one or two rooms from me on my floor or on the floors above or below me.
I’ve only been staying at this hotel for a week, but the folks at reception have already become used to me, so they didn’t even ask “Why?”
Since it was the weekend, there weren’t too many people staying in the hotel, and they quickly found the only Henry
in the building. They wouldn’t give me his room number, of course, but they did connect me to his room via the phone on the reception desk. Sad to relate, no one answered, but I did leave a message explaining the situation, so now I await Henry’s response in dread anticipation…
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