Archive for February, 2011

More on Keeping Software up to date

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

I’ve posted before about the problems of keeping software up-to-date.   Clearly the Mac App Store is not going to solve all of the challenges.  While I like the Mac App Store, not all of the applications that I use are available in the App Store (and may never be), and others are too expensive to consider repurchasing.  Having said that, I did upgrade Rapidweaver to version 5 as that was being sold in the App Store for the same price as the upgrade price directly on the web site.  Some of the introductory low pricing of apps is rather attractive.  I’ve thought about buying Pixelmator in the past, but not done so (I rather like Acorn and had already purchased and used that), but at the App Store introductory pricing it is a much easier decision to make.

However, most of my applications are downloaded directly from their developer’s websites.

I am now relying on CNET TechTracker as my main way of keeping applications up-to-date.  Previously, I’d found problems with running it on multiple machines, but that seems now to be resolved and so I am able to run it on both my iMac and MacBook.  I also tend to keep a copy of the most recent downloaded version of software on a shared drive and so I normally only download something once, even if used by both machines.  While I think it is good that applications include things like the Sparkle framework that automatically report and offer to upgrade themselves, I typically don’t want to do the update just then.  It would be nice if one could just press a button to maintain a running list of things to update and then do them all at once at a convenient time — and this is more or less what CNET TechTracker achieves for me.  I’m not sure that it picks up every single update (particularly preference panes) but the coverage seems good enough overall.

AppleTV 2

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Being the Apple fan boy that I have become, I gave way and purchased the Apple TV a few weeks ago.  In the UK, we don’t have Netflix, and so one of the very good reasons for getting an Apple TV in the US doesn’t exist.  If Apple provided a BBC iPlayer application within the AppleTV in the UK, then that would make the Apple TV a more attractive proposition.  I know there are ways of jail breaking the Apple TV to do more but I really do not want to do that.

To get benefit from an Apple TV one really must be fully bought in to the iTunes eco-system.  I have a small number of television programmes and films that are in iTunes, but I do subscribe to a number of video podcasts (some listed in the side bar of this site).  In the past I’ve usually watched video podcasts on my MacBook, but many of them are better watched on a larger screen of a television while sitting on the sofa.

The ability to play iTunes music on the Apple TV synchronised with music from speakers connected to an Airport Express is a nice touch to provide music all over the house.  Coupled with my MacMini which is always on and acts effectively as my media server, it works well.

Having had to fiddle with my older MacBook using a mini-DVI adaptor to HDMI cable and a separate audio cable to get video output to a modern television, the Apple TV is a relatively simple solution.  Now it really would be great if one could wirelessly stream anything from the MacBook (or the iPad) to the AppleTV.  Hopefully this will come as Airplay gets more integrated on both platforms and not limited to a couple of applications as it is currently.

The other neat application is to show photographs on the television.  It needs some setting up to identify the appropriate albums from iPhoto or Aperture, or using Airplay from an iPad, but it is not a good solution to sharing photographs on the TV.

I’m not a great YouTube watcher so that is not a killer feature for me, although being able to browse video podcasts from the Apple TV is simple and can lead to interesting discoveries of content.

Overall I’m happy with my Apple TV, but with the content available in the UK at the moment, it certainly isn’t a “must-have” product for most people.  However, I can see particular groups for which it would be an excellent solution.  One obvious group are families with children who are at the stage that they want to watch the same film time and time again.  There is a lot to be said for ripping the DVD (if only to protect it from sticky fingers) and storing it on iTunes on a suitable always-on machine and using the Apple TV to get it on the TV screen.

 

Weird behaviour of ADSL Router

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

I have a Netgear router and have it set up so that all of the devices that I expect to connect to the router are given a static IP address.  I do this using the management page on the router which allows me to identify devices by their MAC (Media Access Control) string and then associate that with a fixed IP address.

I was having some strange behaviour on my network and discovered that when I went to the router page that showed connected devices (and it never actually shows all of the devices — it seems only to include directly connected and one or two that are connected via my airport express), several were showing the same MAC address.  Rebooting the router appeared to have no affect, although it appears to be working OK now.   I’m not sure whether using my second Airport Express as a wireless to wired ethernet adapter is causing the problem.  More investigation is needed.