Apple’s new (2010) Apple TV unit have shipped and some have been delivered. Reviews are starting to pop-up in various places. So far reviews seem positive.

iFixit has done a tear down of the new device revealing 256MB of ram, 8GB of storage and an A4 processor. These specs show that the Apple TV is basically the 8GB iPod touch sans screen. They also find that the board has a spot that is basically ready to accept the 30 pin dock connector. I’m sure it won’t be long before some daring soul manages to get one soldered to it.

One of the bigger complaints, that is if you want to listen to most commenters on Engadget, is the lack of 1080p playback. That the Apple TV is only 720p is a complete non-argument because there simply isn’t a source of real 1080p content other than blu-ray. Stolen stuff doesn’t count. If you record over the air HDTV you’re either going to get 1080i or 720p content and there is basically no reason not to deinterlace the 1080i content into 720p since the vast majority of HDTV sets around today are going to be flat panel based. Netflix and Amazon HD streams are both 720p. In fact, the only 1080p streaming source I’m aware of is Zune marketplace on the Xbox 360 and I’m not aware of any other set top box that is allowed to stream Zune marketplace material and only costs $99.

It seems that content creators don’t get this whole web thing yet. Jeff Zucker’s accusation that Boxee stole Hulu content is amazing because all Boxee did was use the available API at the time to list available Hulu content and then display the video off of Hulu, complete with all of Hulu’s branding and advertisements. Boxee made it simple to display Hulu on your computer or TV and Hulu/NBC didn’t like that. Boxee attempted to expand Hulu’s audience – for free – and Hulu shut it down! Rather than allow this to happen and show their advertisers how much their viewer base has grown and how much value there is in advertising on Hulu they yanked the carpet out from under Boxee. Not smart.

You can read about Jeff Zucker’s statements at betanews.com

I’ve been trying for a while now to find a reasonably priced way to play video files that live on my computers on our TV or projector with acceptable quality while still being easy to use. Finding a solution has proven more difficult than I initially thought. I could never really find anything that gave me everything I wanted without some major compromise and didn’t cost a lot in terms of price or time spent configuring. I simply want to be able to take a file from the computer and play it on my TV or projector on a device that feels integrated with the rest of my setup.

Enter Western Digital’s WD TV Live. The WD TV Live does exactly what I want and does it in a tiny and silent, remote controlled package. It is able to stream virtually every common video or audio format in use today from a network share or from a locally attached USB drive. As an added bonus, it can also access YouTube, Pandora, Flickr as well as a couple of other online services. You can read more about the WD TV Live at http://www.wdtvlive.com/products/wdtv_live#highlights.

There are some isues with the device right now that are supposed to be cleared up in a soon to be released firmware update. It will play DVDs ripped to .iso format but doesn’t support menus, or even chapters, at all. This makes it nearly impossible to watch a TV series on DVD. The other issue the player currently has is with h264 files but oddly enough it is all in the name. A file with the extension .m4v will most likely have audio sync issues. Renaming the file to .mp4 will resolve the audio sync issue but will do nothing with the stuttering playback for all but the most basic of h264 encoded files. Incredibly, taking the same h264 file and putting it into mkv format will fix all of the issues and the file will play perfectly.

Despite these very easily fixed issues, this is the best device I’ve come across for playing videos at this price point. Yes, there are probably more capable devices available and there is certainly more capable software available (XBMC for one) but for the money, it’s hard to beat the WD TV Live. My next few blog posts will focus on how I’ve integrated the WDTV into my home network including how I’m encoding files for it using HandBrake, Linux and Automator in OS X.

Although I’ve had the hardware and software for a little while the setup had never been put to too much of test until tonight. Tonight was the start of the new season of Heroes but it also overlapped with an episode of Sarah Conner Chronicles. I am quite pleased to report that EyeTV handled the whole process very well. It managed to record both shows and deal the overlapping shows (it is configured to record 2 minutes before and after the show) by swapping which tuner it was recording from.

Ever since we moved into our house the subwoofer output on my Sony receiver has been crappy. It would randomly cut out causing all low frequency sounds to go away. Left with nothing more than a small set of speakers the sound was extremely tinny. To get the sound back I would just wiggle the connection on the receiver or even unplug the cable from the subwoofer and plug it back in. This would some how rejuvenate the connection for just a little while longer. I’ve always thought I knew what the issue was but never took the time to properly fix it. Well this past weekend I said enough was enough.

I pulled my receiver out of the entertainment center, cut the power to it and removed the six screws holding the cover on. The subwoofer port sits on a secondary board in the receiver that is fortunately easily removed. With the RCA cables removed on the outside and a ribbon cable and another connector on the inside there is only the matter of removing four screws. With the screws removed the board comes away from the receiver and I am able to get my first look at the bottom of the board.

It turned out I was right all long, a simple solder joint break.

The fix here is very simple. I got out my trusty soldering iron and heated up the joint and added a slight amount of solder. I don’t have a finished pic but you can look at any of the other solder joints above, that is how it ended up.

I then reversed the above procedure. With the joint soldered correctly the subwoofer doesn’t cut out anymore and in fact, the subwoofer seems sound better than I ever remember it sounding while in the house.

A while back I posted about having ordered EyeTV and the HD Homerun. I promised a post once it all arrived and here it is.

If you didn’t visit any of the links I provided before then here is a quick over view of what I ordered. The HD Homerun is a network based dual ATSC/QAM tuner. ATSC is the new digital broadcast standard and QAM is the how many channels are distributed on the cable system. Chances are the cable TV provider in your area provides at least some QAM channels. The HD Homerun has two hook ups meaning I can record two shows at once or watch and record a show or even watch two shows at the same time. The HD Homerun will also allow you to use one of the ports for ATSC and the other for QAM if you so choose. The HD Homerun’s ethernet port runs at 100Mbit and easily supports watching a pair of channels. Based on some entirely unscientific google searching, I found that the highest bitrate available using ATSC is about 19Mb/s while QAM is around 56Mb/s. Like a wireless network, neither actually hit those rates often so the HD Homerun is quite capable of streaming two channels at the same time.

I went with the HD Homerun over any of the other tuner options because it doesn’t lock me into a tuner that works only on the Mac platform. As much as I love Mac and all I just didn’t want to drop cash on a solution that would tie me indefinitely to the Mac platform for watching and recording TV.

EyeTV is software for the Mac that can talk to the HD Homerun to watch a show or record (or both). It provides a some what confusing interface that lacks any sort of intuitive flow. This is really unlike most Mac apps. For example, when using the program guide you can click on a show to view details about the show such as a full description. Once on this screen, there is no clear indication of how to return to the program guide again. There is no back button of any sort and clicking on the Program guide button again doesn’t bring you back where you were. Instead, you are supposed just click anywhere on the detail screen to go back where you were.

Despite the interface EyeTV works rather well. One of my favorite things about EyeTV is how it works with the Mac to wake it when it is time to do a recording and the EyeTV helper app will launch EyeTV. While I have heard rumors of Windows Media Center being able to do this I’m not entirely sure that it can and can do it reliably.

Another thing EyeTV can do is re-encode and then share via HTTP any recordings that have via the network. The encoding is small enough to work with a 802.11g network yet of good quality. Best of all you’re not tied to just viewing the files on another Mac, Windows is welcome too.

If you looking for a way to watch and/or record TV the HD Homerun plus any DVR software package is a good bet. EyeTV for the Mac is definitely the way to go despite some interface shortcomings if you are a Mac user. If you like MythTV on Linux or Media Portal or Media Center on Windows the HD Homerun is a great choice.

In getting ready for the coming TV season I wanted to get my recording capabilities up to snuff. I’ve grown tired of trying to get MythTV working and decided to bite the bullet and buy a solution. I decided on a HD Homerun with some EyeTV software for mac.

The great thing about the HD Homerun is that I’m not tied to the Mac for watching or recording TV, I can use just about anything I want including MythTV (despite giving up on it for now), Windows Media Center and even just VLC. I post some more about it as soon as it gets here.

By now you have probably heard about the digital tv switchover deadline in February of 2009. In case you haven’t, head on over to http://www.dtv.gov/ to get the long story. The short story is that analog TV signals will be turned off as of February 17, 2009. If you get your TV using an antenna, then there is something you need to do to get ready. You can either buy a new TV with an ATSC tuner in it already or you can purchase a government subsidized digital to analog converter box. To get your $40 coupon head over to https://www.dtv2009.gov/.

Last friday I received my coupon in the mail. The coupon comes in the form of a prepaid credit card and you can use it at any store that sells approved converter boxes. I took mine over to Best Buy and picked up their Insignia branded converter box. This box is fairly basic providing one digital input, one RF output and a composite video output but the box is proving to be quite up to the task. The composite output allows you to get stereo sound (surround sound in fact) from the device and an improved picture over the RF connection. It also offers just the current program and the next program on it’s very simple program guide.

Now you might be thinking there is nothing wrong with the current system and that just couldn’t be further from the truth. Even though your old analog TV isn’t digital, the picture will be virtually perfect and in some cases better than you’d get if you had dish or cable. Audio too will be improved and if you have a surround sound system then any show that uses surround sound will be available to you in surround sound as well.

While the analog to digital switch over is a bit of a hassle the quality improvement is very much worth it. If you have any old TVs that are still in good shape and you don’t want to buy a new one then I strongly recommend going the converter route.