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Apple TV

Saturday, February 12, 2011
Today, as I'd been planning to do for a while, I went out and bought myself an Apple TV. I've been building a plan for a while in my head of the best way to stream Netflix (currently going over the Wii) and yet be able to stream media files from my computed, and I decided that the Apple TV would best match my desires and budget.

it's so delightfully tiny!


I was torn between buying a used first generation Apple TV and the second generation one. I liked the flexibility and hackability of the former, but I loved the power consumption and elegant simplicity of the latter. Whereas the first generation Apple TV was as stripped down an Intel Mac as they could build, the new one is basically made up of the inexpensive parts from an iPad.

In the end I opted for the less expensive, lower power-consumption 2nd generation Apple TV. It took just minutes to plug it in, get it configured to connect to my wireless and stream from my computers. It'll only display on my TV at 720p, but considered that I don't have anything that'll currently display at better than 480i, this is not really bothering me.

So how does it work? It's fantastic. It's simple and allows me to do the things I bought it for with remarkable ease. The diminutive size - easily fitting into the palm of my hand - belies the convenience and thought that went into the design.

But my favorite feature? Using it with my iPhone. Not only is the Remote app amazingly useful - it emulates the remote control from my phone, so I don't even need to grab the physical remote at all - but Airplay is pretty neat, too. I spent some time playing with it and it works as advertised: I can start playing video or music on my phone and (almost) instantly switch that over to the Apple TV.

So am I a happy customer? At this point, I would definitely say yes. $99 feels like a steal for what I got!

Free Computer Advice

Monday, February 07, 2011
As an IT professional, I'd like to share with the general public a few facts about computers and some advice that, if adhered to, will hopefully make everybody happier, more productive, and saner, all at the same time.

Fact 1: Computers have a lifespan
Old computers get slow. There are a variety of reasons for it, but the way I usually explain it is this: your computer, when new, was (hopefully) blindingly fast. Over time, the programs you use on it become more advanced and more demanding, and they start being written with newer hardware in mind. Over time, the programs then have to work harder on your old hardware to do what new hardware would do much faster. They're doing more just to do the same thing, and eventually they slow down. My experience has shown that an average desktop computer is great for 3-4 years, then it's going to feel slow. Be prepared to replace your computer after 4 years!

Fact 2: You get what you pay for
If, for instance, you go to Best Buy (and buy a $499 laptop because it's on sale, you're going to get a $499 laptop that's going to be great for a year. Maybe the second year it'll be pretty good. By the third year, though, you're going to be wanting something that can keep up with you. You shouldn't have to wait for your computer. If you'd spent a little more and spent it on the right computer, you'll get one that can last several years without you really having to wait for it to do anything. There's a sweet spot in the price/performance curve, where spending a little more can get you a lot more, and it'll last a lot longer. Using $499 as a mental expectation-builder will leave you disappointed in the long run. Be prepared to spend just a little more to get the right computer.

A slow computer, hosted by slow-computer-solutions.net

Fact 3: Time is money
I can think of very few compelling reasons that anybody should be using a computer that doesn't do what they need it to do. At home or at a business, it's almost always worth putting the money down to get the tool that will allow the human being using it to be as productive as possible, be it faster computers, multiple displays, whatever. Waiting on the computer wastes human time, and that's a commodity nobody gets back.

Now there are lots of counter-examples to what I've posted here. These are trends, though. A well taken care of computer will last longer. Macs, in my experience, last a little longer than PCs. What you're trying to do will determine what you need. It's possible to spend too little, and it's possible to spend too much.

Still, these are the things that have been taking up a lot of my time lately, so I thought I'd share the lessons for all to learn.

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