Apple

800 days with Apple TV

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800 days with Apple TV

Apple TV is my new best friend (except for my wife, of course)

Gone are the days when you and your friends crowd around your laptop screen to watch the latest YouTube video, or see a slideshow from your trip to Milan. You can watch or listen to just about anything you want to on Apple TV. By default, it gives you access to all your movies, TV shows, music, and photos on your HDTV. With a few hacks, though, it has the ability to alter the entire television/computer experience. These are a handful of things I have done to customize my Apple TV and turn it into a powerful media center. So, here is how I actually use my Apple TV.

If you don’t know, all your synced Apple TV media lives in either iTunes or iPhoto, so let’s add some media to your Apple TV. Without media, though, it is less entertaining that a piece of driftwood. So, let’s get started.

Video


First step–get some video on your Apple TV. Download Handbrake for free, stick a dvd into your computer, and click the pre-set “Apple TV” button. Now that it’s on your computer, add that movie to your iTunes library, and sync it to iTunes.

You can also rent and buy HD movies through the iTunes store, which is also on Apple TV. Never again will you make a Blockbuster run.

You can’t use Netflix Instant Watch on Apple TV. Get a PS3 for that. (I did.)

I usually watch rented movies on tv. I also love watching concerts. Honestly, I don’t watch the movie I’ve Handbraked much. I’ll just throw in the dvd.

TV Shows

Read the video bit above. Same thing, except that it’s television.

I’m a fan of renting an entire tv season on tv if I need to make sure that I watch every single episode. It’s $3 per HD episode, but it looks so nice, and is so convenient. I’m watching Lost now, and I must admit, it looks fantastic, and there is zero hassle with downloading episodes.

Music

You music should already be in iTunes. Sync it to Apple TV, in the same way you sync an iPod.

I’m a big fan of listening to music videos on iTunes. I also just play a soundtrack in the background when I want some brain music (that makes me write better and work harder).

Photos

tv will sync whatever photos you want. You can sync albums, which is great for looking at your last trip to West Virginia. The real gem, however, is syncing Faces. iPhoto 09 uses facial recognition, and tv lets you sync people. This is huge. Last Thanksgiving, we all sat around the tv and watched a slideshow of my wife’s grandma. It was the highlight of Turkey Day for all the cousins. Stoked.

YouTube

You can watch YouTube videos on tv. Again, it’s great to watch on a big screen, and not crowd around a laptop. Enough said.

Hacks

There are two ways to make tv way cooler. From what you’ve read so far, nothing is too mind bottling. Hacking your tv gives you (imho) two huge advantages: the abilities to watch Hulu/Boxee/XMBC and use an external hard drive. There are two ways to do this: 1) free, geek-intensive hacks; 2)buy aTV Flash. I’m gonna convince to choose #2.

#1: If you want to hack it for free, google the directions. Basically, you create a patchstick, where some software is loaded onto a flash drive, plugged into the tv, and installs itself. I’ve done this before (two years ago). I consider myself knowledgeable about computers, but I spent most of a Saturday figuring this out. Eventually, I wanted to upgrade to Apple TV version 3, and just did the Apple software update, thus overwriting my efforts. Once you successfully install the patchstick, you need to connect via ssh if you want to install Boxee. Not fun. Free, but not fun.

#2: If you want to quickly make your tv awesome, spend the $50 and download aTV Flash. It does everything as described above automatically. All you need is a flash drive that’s 512mb-2gb. Details are found at the aTV Flash wiki.

There are several new menus (instantly accessible). Now, you can go to Boxee > videos > CBS > HIMYM. No more TiVo, no more cable. Well, I still have both, but I don’t use them much anymore.

You can also attach an external hard drive to the (otherwise useless) USB slot. Now, you can have 2 TB of movies. I haven’t done this (yet), but I think this step will do for dvds what iTunes did for cds. Soon, it will be silly to have a dvd (or bluray) rack in your family room. Eventually, I will do this, and put all my dvds in storage, so they can gather dust next to my cds. This truly is a game changer for dvds.

No Cable TV

If you’re the type of person to buy an AppleTV, you need to go get aTV Flash. There are many more features (like using your iPhone as a remote) that make this a crucial add-on. After installing aTV Flash, I use tv way more than before. In fact, I’m considering canceling my cable because of it.

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Attention: This post is only for Apple people. Sorry, PCs.

I love using the Work menu in Microsoft Word. It lets me quickly access files that I am working on (obviously).

How to Add to Work Menu:

Open your file. Go to Work > Add to Work Menu. Beyond easy.

How to Remove From Work Menu:

In Word, this is really hard. Use the applescript RemoveWork. Download it , and place it here: username/Documents/Microsoft User Data/Word Script Menu Items.

Now, open the applescript. It looks like this:
Click on what you want to delete. Click delete. Done!