Archive for January, 2011

Versatile Airport Express

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

In the UK we have a “FreeSat” box which provides access to non-subscription satellite television.  This mostly duplicates the terrestrial digital television channels and adds quite a few others (most of which one probably has no interest in).  The main reason for using FreeSat in our case is that the cost of upgrading our terrestrial television aerial was going to be prohibitive, largely because of the shape of the roof making sensible access for an aerial installer difficult.

We also have in the UK the BBC iPlayer service which allows access to most of the BBC content, typically for a week or so after broadcast, as a “catch-up” service.   The internet service works fine on a computer (using Adobe Flash), but the BBC also provides access to a non-Flash feed that is used by Apple iOS devices.  Over the last year or so access to iPlayer has also become available to various internet connected games consoles and to some FreeSat boxes.

Our FreeSat box has an ethernet connection, and the ability to access BBC iPlayer.  However the advice for using the box for BBC iPlayer is to use a wired ethernet connection or alternatively the ethernet-over-mains adaptors (HomePlug, I think they are called in the UK).  The advice is explicitly against attempting to use wireless.

I use an Airport Express as the main wireless access point.  In addition, the Airport Express acts as a print server and is also connected to my amplifier and speakers to support AirTunes (or AirPlay as it is now called).  I have a spare Airport Express that I used to use when living away from the UK.  It was a trivial task taking just a few minutes to reconfigure the spare Airport Express using the Apple Airport Utility to set it up as a wireless to ethernet adapter.  I checked that it was working by turning off the wireless on my MacBook and connecting the MacBook via an ethernet cable to the Airport Express.  The laptop accessed the internet perfectly, and so I swapped the cable to the FreeSat box.

The interface for BBC iPlayer on the Bush FreeSat box is quite good and both the “standard” and “high quality” versions have streamed perfectly on the programmes that we have watched so far.  It might be interesting to see what happens if I were to turn on my iPodTouch (which is only 11g rather than 11n) and see whether everything still works — that may be more of a challenge.

Anyway that is a good use for my second Airport Express — although I’d also had some notion of perhaps using it to deliver AirTunes (sorry  Airplay sound) elsewhere in the house.

This certainly solves the problem of otherwise having to access iPlayer on the iMac or on the MacBook, or using the MacBook and having to plug in to the HDMI on the television via an adaptor cable and an HDMI cable and separately plug in the audio.

The downsides of the AppleTV in the UK are the lack of NetFlix and the lack of access to BBC iPlayer.  Now that I have the latter solved, the only argument against the AppleTV is the lack of content, but I do have an awful lot of video podcasts to catch up on ….

Mac App Store

Friday, January 21st, 2011

I got around to updating to OS 10.6.6 a couple of weeks ago which brought with it the Mac App Store.   On the whole, I am impressed and think it could make quite a disruptive change to the Mac application environment.  Apple has got us used to casually installing applications on our iOS devices — between my iPod Touch and iPad, I have 147 applications listed in iTunes.  Installation of apps via the Mac App Store is so easy and cute that it does present a very attractive way of buying applications.   Arguably it is too easy and attractive as I can see folks accidentally buying expensive applications.  Clearly Apple is making a move to encourage much larger sales of potentially cheaper applications.  The very fact that their own Aperture 3 application is so much cheaper (£44.99 in the App Store compared with £173 as a boxed version from the Apple Store) seems to suggest this.  I’ve notice a vast number of applications in the App Store that I have never seen before and some of those that I do know and use seem to have adopted an introductory pricing.  For example, RapidWeaver that I use for building Web sites has effectively set its price in the App Store to the price that it was charging for upgrades.  This has worked well for me as I hadn’t upgraded to the latest version and so chose to get the new version from the App Store.  This seems to be a pattern that other publishers are also using.

In the longer term,  Apple is going to have to offer some way for doing upgrade pricing as I can’t see Apple or any of the publishers of really expensive applications suddenly selling everything at upgrade prices.

I’ve been going through looking at my free applications and replacing them with versions from the App Store where available to make future updating easier.  As I’ve written before, keeping applications up-to-date is a chore, even for those of us who are experienced users.

I have purchased Aperture 3, and have it on both my older iMac (which only meets the minimal requirements for Aperture as it is just a Core Duo processor) and on my MacBook.  One of the tasks I was planning to do was to merge my various iPhoto libraries that I have on my MacBook and on the iMac.  I probably won’t do that now, and instead will progressively import everything into one or more Aperture Libraries.  I shall, no doubt, write about that in the future.  My initial experiences with playing with Aperture 3 have been favourable and my Topaz filters work much more smoothly from Aperture than with iPhoto.

UK Mobile data coverage

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

I’ve written about this before but thought I would add another post on the topic as I am on a cross country train journey in the UK. I had assumed that I would be able to use my iPad during the journey to catch up on the news stories and do some general web browsing. I use O2 and only ever use the ability to buy 24 hours of access as generally I am just using my wireless network at home.

Well, I’m disappointed. On the first 20 minutes of the journey I have been unable to connect to purchase data access despite the fact that the iPad has shown 3G coverage for at least part of this section of the journey.

I have failed to get on the Internet via the cellular network all day. Either the O2 network is completely broken or there is a problem with my iPad. I guess that I’ll have to do some searching on the Internet when I have some time over the next few days or perhaps try to visit the Genius Bar at an Apple Store although that might be difficult in less than a few weeks.