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appleTV - the battle begins

Posted by notKlaatu , 27 March 2009 · 118 views

A quick note. I have a friend with an appleTV who is constantly perplexed as to why her movie files won't work with it. I told her that the easy answer is that Apple doesn't want her to put her own movie files on the AppleTV; they want her to buy and rent movies from iTunes. That's the quick, easy answer. The other answer is that Apple has 1. made it incredibly restricted as to what the AppleTV will play (and don't tell me it's a hardware-imposed limitation; I know better) and 2. AppleTV has written a marvelously user-unfriendly interface for the appleTV.1. Playback limits.From their site, this is exactly what you can playback on an AppleTV:H.264 up to 5 Mbps, Progressive Main Profile. up to 1280 by 720 pixels at 24 fps, but only up to 960 by 540 pixels at 30 fpsMPEG-4: up to a mere 3 Mbps, Simple Profile. Up to 720 by 432 pixels at 30 fps.Sound can only be AAC with a max bitrate of 160kbps.All extensions must be .mp4 .mv4 or .movAnything purchased from iTunesIf I'm calculating this correctly, that means that the appleTV has two formats it can kind of play. Now, for a box that is sold as a video playback device, for some reason this sounds phenomenally bad. And look at the bitrate limitations -- the h.264 limit of being <5Mbps seems somewhat ok, except that it really isn't, but the mpeg4 limit of <3Mbps is just laughable to me. <3Mbps at 720x432 ?? That's not even DVD quality.And anyway, you're telling me this device can't play a 1280x720 movie at 25fps?And it can't play at least an Xvid or a Theora?? both formats have Quicktime components available, so could be played by the device if only the .component files were added...but Apple chooses not to ship with them (even as an unadvertised easter egg) and prohibits the user from adding the components for themselves. Wow, how horribly, inconceivably restricted. You couldn't GIVE me one of these devices. I'd rather just buy a cheap mini PC, slap Linux+XBMC on it, and be done with it.And in fact, that is what I am going to do, as soon as I get the chance. I'll be loading Linux onto the appleTV, by hook or by crook (and I have a feeling it will be by crook, load XBMC onto it, and then my friend will be able to throw all of her theora and xvid and even matroskas onto it without a second thought.A quick note on the other thing -- the horrible interface. I've written plenty about this before, so I'll only mention some of the newer things I've noticed. First of all, the appleTV fails to tell the user WHY it cannot sync a certain media file from their iTunes to the actual device, it just says that it can't because the file is not a movie file. And yet if the user double-clicks on the movie file in iTunes, it will play as expected. Clearly that is not a helpful error message. Also, there's an issue where a mysterious "error 3689" (google 'error 3689 apple tv), which tells the user that it cannot sync due to a port error. It's got something to do with Apple's firewall and has been appearing more nad more frequently. At first I thought this was a subnet issue, but even when I set up a barebones network environment and it still gives the error every so often.So ,yes......Linux on appleTV -- coming soon!




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