Apple TV 2

We bought our first Apple TV 2 about a year ago and I’m really loving this little box. In fact we ended up buying a 2nd one a couple months ago. The box retails for $99, but there are a decent amount of used/refurbished ones out there to help bring that price down. Now that doesn’t quite make it the cheapest compared to Roku and some of the other set top boxes, but there are some great features about it if you already own another idevice.

The first and foremost advantage with pairing it with an iPhone or iPad is Airplay. Basically you can take any piece of media on those devices and with the tap of a button, send it on over to your T.V. This works with the latest pictures/video you’ve taken on your device, music, videos, youtube, etc. This feature alone is certainly a great reason to get an Apple T.V.
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iTunes Match is Live

Today, roughly two weeks behind schedule, iTunes Match Launched. From what I’ve seen online and from questions I’ve been asked, I can see some confusion with a lot of people as to what the service actually does, so I thought I’d try to explain and how you’d use it.

First off, the service is pretty much only for those who have a lot of ripped music or have downloaded from other sources besides iTunes. If you already buy the majority of your music from iTunes then the service really isn’t for you.

So what is the service and what does it do? The basic idea behind iTunes match is that it puts all of your music library in the cloud. Then you can access it from any iDevice or computer with iTunes. You pay $24.99 for the service, it scans your entire iTunes Library, matches the songs with the ones available in iTunes, and uploads the rest of those that it can’t match.

After that process is finished, you can now enable iTunes Match on say your iPhone and it will make all of your library available to download right from the phone. This is handy if you go for one of the lower capacity iPhones like the 16gb model. You can download the albums you want locally, when your finished delete them, but then still have access to them anytime you want to listen to them again. You’ll get a little cloud icon next to the album/song indicating that it isn’t on your device locally, but you can start playing just as if it was there.

The same thing can be done on a computer. So for example, my iTunes library is on my computer at home. In the past I would have had to bring all my files into work if I wanted them on my work computer. Now I just turn on iTunes match on my work computer and my entire library is there ready to listen to.

The benefit of this service compared to say Google or Amazon’s is that you don’t have to upload your entire library. The matched songs just link to the actual iTunes versions, so you only actually have to upload the ones it can’t match. I have roughly 2000 songs in my library. Some of them include now out of print Soundtrack or for whatever reasons aren’t in iTunes. So of that 2000 I still have 600 songs that it had to upload. Even 600 still takes some time to upload, but it sure beats having to do all 2000.

One last benefit of the service is that the matched versions of the Songs are 256kbps versions. You get those files even if you originally ripped at 128bps or other rates. This would have saved me a ton of time last year when I decided to re-rip all my music from 128kbps to 256kbps versions. I would have paid the price for this service alone for saving me all that time.

I’m still familiarizing myself with some of the service, but overall I’d say if you have a low capacity iPhone/iPod and a lot of music from other sources than iTunes, then the service is definitely worth it.

Lion Server

Not sure if anyone still reads here or not, but just thought I’d apologize for some downtime Tuesday night and yesterday. I decided it was finally time to try out Lion Server and see if it was really as bad as the online community made it out to be.

I knew the chance of having to do a clean server install was there, but I opted to try the upgrade first. The upgraded did keep my settings pretty much all intact, but I did have to do some tweaking to get everything working again. One semi major change, is that mysql is not included anymore with the server package. If you do an upgrade over Snow Leopard server, it does keep the old mysql functioning, but it means no future update directly from Apple for it. After backing up my databases, I removed that version and installed the current version directly from mysql.com. It installed fine, but I kept getting a socket error after the install when trying to load it. I simply renamed my my.cnf file and then it worked. Something in my settings from the old one must have been causing a problem. Also, rather than using the bundled version of PHP, I upgraded my version using the package from http://php-osx.liip.ch which includes most of the commonly used extensions.

Other than those issues with the web stuff, the upgrade was fairly smooth. I have read some people having issues with upgrading open directory and mail. I don’t really use those other than mail for forwarding system message to my email address. Those settings upgraded fine and I didn’t have to touch it.

Overall, Lion Server is fine for my needs and for the $50 price compared to $1000 for Leopard Server and $500 for Snow Leopard Server, you can’t really complain. It does require a little more tinkering for more advanced setups than previous versions, but with my Linux experience it doesn’t bother me so much. Out of the box though I would say it is aimed more at the home/small business user now rather than enterprise and I’m not sure that I want to upgrade my work servers just yet.

MSN Messenger in iChat Finally

On the Mac, I’ve always preferred Apple’s iChat application, but my main problem with it that I had was it didn’t connect to MSN Messenger, which is the IM that most of the people I know still use. Out of the box though it connects with AIM and Jabber services like google talk, so those have never been a problem. One of the new features of OS X Lion that wasn’t really touted is that iChat now allows

“Service plug-ins from third-party developers let you add new chat services to iChat. And plug-ins run in a separate process to help ensure that they won’t damage your system.”

A few days ago I decided to try a google search and see if anyone had made an MSN plugin, and sure enough one now exists. It is still in beta, but works great with text chats. It is however in beta, so I certainly suggest using it with caution. Unfortunately, some of the great iChat features like screen sharing, video chats, etc do not work right now with it if ever, but I finally have that all in one messenger that I’ve wanted.

Here’s their website to grab the plugin. After installing, it does require you to log out and back in on your mac, so be sure and close anything your working on first.

Mac OS X Lion Review

Today marks the release day of OS X Lion for the Mac and I’ve had the opportunity to try it out over the last few weeks. Gizmodo published a very early negative review, calling it “If it weren’t for the fast, rock-solid Unix, graphics and networking cores, Lion would be Apple’s very own Vista.” Which I personally think their review, wasn’t well thought out and they didn’t do their research on a few things. Having been a mac user for almost a decade now (has it really been that long), I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts about the main features and a few of the not so obvious ones.

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