iOS 7 Home Sharing is now fixed

ios7One of my favorite features in iTunes and my iOS devices is called Home Sharing . Home Sharing  allows you to view/listen to content on any iOS devices by streaming it from iTunes. For example, if I have a movie on my computer in iTunes, I can watch that movie on my Apple TV by using Home Sharing .

Home Sharing on the Apple TV has always worked great. The Apple TV will occasionally need to be reconnected to the computer it is streaming from, but streaming and viewing content in iTunes has always worked fine. Home Sharing on an iPad, iPod, or iPhone has been another story.

Those devices have always seen the content from iTunes, however the way the device has listed that content is another story. Album Art could be wrong even though it is right in iTunes (for example, the movie The Lion King might show album art for National Treasure). Another big problem was that TV shows and seasons where displayed incorrectly. One show might have the name of an episode displayed as the name of the show itself. It might even have the wrong show listed for every episode altogether.

I have tried finding a solution in Apple’s discussion forums and other websites, as well as emailing people I know who are knowledgable about this stuff. I have even tried software to fix the metadata of the files in iTunes. No luck.

One of the biggest annoyances had been that only a certain number of listings could be displayed. If I had a TV show that started with the letter “W” and I had a certain number of shows listed before that series, that series would not appear in the list. I found myself trying to combine and delete certain shows so I could see what I wanted.

However, I am happy to report this seems to have been fixed in iOS 7. Artwork is now displayed correctly and seasons and show names are listed properly. The biggest fix is that my entire library now shows up when Home Sharing is enabled. No longer will it cut off after a certain number of items.

I don’t know why Apple took so long to fix this issue. Of course, if your device is not iOS 7-compatible, this problem still exists. I have a fourth-generation iPod touch that my son uses regularly with Home Sharing, so I guess that will never be fixed. However, for those iOS devices that are compatible, this is just another reason to update to iOS 7.

Buy and rent videos on Apple TV? Use this tip to save a little cash

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The Apple TV is great; I am a big fan and a happy owner, but until recently, I used to just buy a show or movie on my computer and then watch it on my Apple TV. However, when you buy or rent content on the second or third generation Apple TV, the device automatically assumes you want your video in HD. Not only does it assume you want HD, it doesn’t give you the option to purchase the SD version, which is considerably cheaper.

When you purchase content on your computer, you get the choice of buying/renting either the HD or SD option. Personally, I could care less about HD and would rather buy the SD version to save some money. It might only be a few dollars difference, but it all adds up in the end.

I always thought the only way to get the SD version of a TV show or movie was to go through iTunes on my computer, but I recently discovered a setting on the Apple TV that allows you to purchase SD versions, and it’s quite a simple trick.

First, go into “Settings” on your Apple TV, and then go down to the “iTunes Store”:

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Within that menu is a setting for “Video Resolution”, with three options. If you choose the “Standard Definition” option, every video you purchase through the Apple TV will now be in SD and at SD pricing. If ever want something in HD, though, you can always go back and change the setting to “High Definition”, or buy the HD version through iTunes on your computer first.

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This not only saves you some extra cash, but it also saves you inconvenient trips to your computer everytime you want to purchase a TV show or movie from iTunes. Happy watching!

How to use a wireless Bluetooth keyboard with an Apple TV

The Apple TV

With the latest Apple TV software update, Apple added the capability to use a Bluetooth keyboard with the Apple TV. Why would you want to use a keyboard with the Apple TV? Well, it makes it a lot faster and easier to type in search fields when using the YouTube app and the few others that require typing when compared to stumbling through with the Apple Remote. You can also use the arrow keys on the keyboard to navigate through the Apple TV.

How to add a Bluetooth keyboard to your Apple TV

Setting up the keyboard is really easy to do.

  1. Make sure the keyboard is turned on and in pairing mode
  2. Navigate to Settings on your Apple TV
  3. Choose “General”, then choose “Bluetooth”, then the Apple TV will automatically search for your keyboard
  4. Choose the keyboard and the Apple TV will give you a code to type into the keyboard
  5. Enter the code, then the keyboard will be paired with the Apple TV and you are ready to go

Any Bluetooth keyboard should work with your Apple TV. I discovered that a keyboard made for the iPad, like one that might come with an iPad keyboard case combination, is a great solution. These keyboards usually have extra keys for iPad functionality. One of these keys might be a Home button to exit apps on the iPad. Well, that same button will navigate you backwards through the Apple TV like the “Menu” button on the Apple TV remote. This is a very handy feature. These keyboards are also smaller and harder to type on, but it is not like you are typing a full thesis on the Apple TV (unless Apple decides to allow apps one day, but that is wishful thinking for now).

The only downside to using the keyboard with the Apple TV is that you have to make sure it is constantly charged. If your keyboard using regular batteries you’ll probably get more life out of it than a rechargeable model. You also need a place to keep the keyboard. On the plus side the keyboard is a lot easier to keep track of then that little “silver stick”, as we call the remote in my house.

Overall, a keyboard with the Apple TV is a great combination. It may not be something you want to run out and spend a bunch of money on, but if you have an extra Bluetooth keyboard or can find a cheap one someplace it might be worth your while to try it out.

The new Apple TV: compact, stylish, and riddled with issues

I really want to love my tiny, stylish new Apple TV box, but I’m finding it rather difficult.

For those that don’t know, the Apple TV is a streaming media device. It connects to your TV via an HDMI cable and allows you to buy and play content from Apples iTunes store and a few third-party providers. It also lets you play shared iTunes content held on other computers on your network, and use AirPlay to mirror your Mac, iPhone or iPad onto your TV.

Or at least that’s the theory.

First impressions were good. The Apple TV’s packaging is typically minimalist and stylish and the unit itself is surprisingly compact. The initial setup was straightforward, requiring me to connect HDMI, optical audio and power. Upon start-up, the unit requested my Wi-Fi details and my iTunes username and password.

The basic menu is attractive in high-definition, and looks like something between iOS and the iTunes store. From the initial switch-on, you can see all the latest movies available for rental and purchase, and obtaining something is a simple matter of a few clicks on the diminutive silver remote.

The Apple TV
The Apple TV

So far, so good. Or at least it was until we decided to rent an HD movie. After taking our money quickly and efficiently, our Apple TV told us we had to wait 50 minutes until our movie was ready to watch. The device advised us that we could reduce the waiting time by selecting a lower resolution – but doing this actually increased our waiting time.

Sadly, this delay has occurred on more than one occasion, and it only takes a quick Google search to find that the problem has affected hundreds of unhappy people. Before anyone blames our download speed: we have a perfectly fast home Internet connection, and one that buffers other HD content almost instantly. This is an Apple TV or iTunes problem. Sometimes it doesn’t occur at all – but when it does, it always seems to be when the popcorn is warm and a group of people is waiting – not good.

Unfortunately, our problems don’t end there. One of the main attractions of the Apple TV is AirPlay, which gives you the ability to echo your Mac screen straight to the television. While the screen echo usually works, the audio output transfers to the TV perhaps one in four times. Sometimes it works, other times we must restart the Apple TV or sometimes the Mac’s Web browser. There’s no consistent pattern (and believe me, I’ve read and worked through the forum suggestions).

The outcome of this is that often there’s more fiddling around involved in watching a streamed TV show via the Apple TV than there used to be when we dragged an HDMI cable across the room. So much for progress. Since I’ve had the Apple TV, my meal is often getting cold before my chosen TV show starts.

It’s all a terrible shame, because some of the time the Apple TV works exactly as it’s designed to – and when it does, it’s great. But it’s all not quite good enough.

Aside from Netflix (which is not available where I live), Apple TV ties you firmly into Apple’s media ecosystem. By purchasing one, you are committing to buy a significant quantity of media from the iTunes store, where it often costs more than it would elsewhere.

I was prepared to make this commitment, but the Apple TV simply doesn’t live up to the quality of the other Apple products that have won my heart. It’s not on my “things for eBay” pile just yet, but it’s on seriously thin ice.