Practical Apple TV Tips

November 14, 2010

I couldn’t help myself.  It had been a while since I’ve bought a gadget and I found it harder and harder to resist the new $99 Apple TV. So, last weekend I made purchase while saying no to the retail priced HDMI cable.

Why Apple TV?  Do I want to rent TV shows for 99 cents or movies for up to five dollars?  No.  But I have been looking for an iTunes extender to connect to my stereo and HDTV.  And Apple TV appears to be the best game in town.  While I have been able to use my TiVo as a decent iTunes extender, Apple TV has the home field advantage.   Apple TV displays cover art as well as giving access to playlists and genius mixes.  I’ve also been looking for a better NetFlix interface than the Series3 TiVo offers (as in the ability to browse).

What’s in the box

There’s been a lot of reviews already written on Apple TV. Instead the Hub is going to focus on some practical tips to get the most out of the device.

Set up
Set up is quick and straightforward.  You will need a HDMI cable to connect to your TV and for older receivers, an optical cable.  Don’t let them rip you off at retail for these, click the links to purchase them for a reasonable price at Amazon.  Chose the language, wireless network, enter your iTunes userid/password and you are ready to go.  Renting shows and YouTube are ready to use.  To fully utilize Apple TV as iTunes extender there are some additional steps you need to take.  

Set Up On Your Mac:

  • Make sure you are running at least version 10.0.1 of iTunes.  Go to the menu bar and chose “iTunes”, then “About iTunes”.  If not, click “iTunes” then  ”Check for Updates”
  • Turn on Home Sharing in iTunes.  Click “Advanced” then “Turn on Home Sharing”.  Enter your iTunes userid and password
  • If you want to see your photos on Apple TV, in iTunes, go to “Advanced” then “Chose Photos to Share”.  Check “Share Photos from iPhoto” and also check “Include Videos”.  Why this isn’t turned on by default is interesting.  There must have been an embarrassing incident with risque photos being displayed on AppleTV’s screen saver! 
  • If you Mac automatically puts itself to sleep, Apple TV won’t be able to see your iTunes library!  You can have your cake and save your electric bill too!  Go into the Settings app  and chose “Energy Saver”.  Make sure “Wake for Network Access” is turned on.  When your Apple TV looks for your computer, it will wake up.

On the Apple TV:

  • Navigate to “Settings” and chose “Computers”.  Then select “Turn On Home Sharing”. Enter the same iTunes userid and password you entered on your Mac.
  • If you want your photos to appear in the screen saver, go to “Settings” and then chose the computer with the photos.  You can select a specific album to display.

Remote Control(s)

I like the sleek and simple remote that Apple included.  I have not tried setting up Apple TV as a device on the Harmony remote yet.  One powerful feature is that you can control your Apple TV from your iPod Touch or iPhone.  The power is that you don’t need to turn on your TV if you simply want to listen to some music. (assuming you’ve connected your Apple TV to your stereo via HDMI or an optical cable).   To set it up:

  • Download the free Apple remote app from the app store.
  • Start the app on your iPhone/iPod and turn on “Home Sharing”
  • In Apple TV, go to “Settings”->”General”->”Remotes”->”Remote App”.  Click the OK (Select) button
  • In the remote app, select your Apple TV.
  • Control away!
Tips for the included Apple remote:
  • You can pair it with the Apple TV to prevent other Apple remotes from working (like the one that came with your iMac). ”Settings”->”General”->”Remotes”->”Pair Apple Remote”
  • While listening to any iTunes song, you can create a Genius mix on the fly.  Simply hold down the select button (the center button) and it will generate the playlist.
  • To return to the main menu from any spot, hold down the “Menu” button
  • To reset Apple TV, press both the “Menu” and “Down” buttons until you see the LED on the front of Apple TV flash quickly.
There’s more to come on Apple TV. I have some ideas on how to have it be complimentary with TiVo.  
Apple TV MC572LL/A at Amazon

AmazonBasics High-Speed HDMI Cable (6.5 Feet/2.0 Meters)[Supports 3D + Audio Return Channel][OLD MODEL]AmazonBasics Toslink Digital Audio Optical Cable (6 Feet/1.8 Meters)

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Tags: Apple TV, iTunes, Netflix

2 Responses to Practical Apple TV Tips

  1. Jason Webb on November 18, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    What does Apple TV offer above and beyond using your MacBook Pro as a media center?

  2. The Hub on November 18, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    Most importantly, your Macbook Pro won't be tied up if you want to watch movies or listen to music on your stereo.

    As far as functionality, the only real difference is you can rent shows for 99 cents on the AppleTV whereas you need to buy them for between $2 and $3 through iTunes on the Mac.

    As far as everything else, you can do most of it through iTunes or FrontRow on the Mac.

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