Thursday, September 10, 2015

Why I am Buying the New Apple TV


I have been using Apple TV since the company released the first version many years ago.  The main decision to throw down with Apple was because I already owned an iPad and iPhone, and all of the television, movies and music I purchased on these mobile devices was easily accessible.  The Airplay feature is another compelling reason, because I could watch Twitch videos or mirror games from my tablet to my television. The new version of Apple TV, due out in late October has me salivating with anticipation.

The 4th generation Apple TV is running “tvOS,” with a revamped iOS 9-style interface. Design wise, it looks similar to the existing set-top box, but it’s thicker and ships with a much more advanced touch-based remote that Apple’s calling the “Siri Remote.” The top of the remote includes a glass touch surface for swiping through content as you would on an iPhone, and there’s a built-in button for calling up Siri.

The vocal interactions was heavily borrowed from the Amazon Fire TV media box, which allows you to navigate around with simple voice commands. Apple though, has really stepped up their game with a litany of interactive features. Siri can answer questions about who’s starring in a movie, bring up extraneous information like the weather outside, and ask Siri to replay parts of a movie that were missed or fast forward through content. For example, asking Siri “What did she say?” will rewind a movie 15 seconds and temporarily bring up subtitles.

The most compelling aspect about the new Apple TV for me, is the app store. No longer will I have to rely on mirroring my tablet or iPhone, instead I can simply download apps from the marketplace. Likely, there won’t be a ton of content at launch, but as long as I can get Twitch, Crunchyroll, WWE Network or Funimation I will be super happy.

Some people will be playing games on their Apple TV, but I will likely avoid it. I have a really great gaming PC and a Playstation 4, playing casual games on my TV isn’t something that I will engage in. I think the whole purpose of Apple games, is that they are casual. You play them on your phone while waiting for the BUS or waiting for a food order to come. I think what excites me the most is how companies like Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Kobo will offer new ways to read content on your television. I could possibly get behind reading interactive magazines or listening to audiobooks.


In the end, the 4th generation Apple TV has really beefy specs, compared to previous iterations. It features a 64-bit A8 chip and comes with 32GB or 64GB of storage, which will be used for downloading apps, and it includes Bluetooth 4.0, 801.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO and an IR receiver. The remote works over Bluetooth 4.0, so line of sight is not required, and its battery will last for up to three months on a single charge. Recharging the remote is done through a built-in Lightning connector.

Apple iPad Mini 4 vs the iPad Mini 3


The iPad Mini 4 was announced and many people are obviously wondering what the primary differences are between the 3rd and 4th generation models. Basically, there is a bit of a faster processor, its thinner and it has a better rear facing camera.

iPad Mini 4 iPad Mini 3
Price $399 and up (WiFi), $529 and up (cellular) $399 and up (WiFi), $529 and up (cellular)
Thickness 6.1mm (0.24 inch) 7.5mm (0.29 inch)
Weight 298 or 304g (0.65 or 0.67 pounds) 331g or 341g (0.73 or 0.75 pounds)
OS iOS 9 iOS 8
Display 7.9-inch IPS LCD Retina display 7.9-inch IPS LCD Retina display
Resolution 2,048 x 1,536 (326 ppi) 2,048 x 1,536 (326 ppi)
Processor Apple A8 Apple A7
Memory 2 GB 1GB
Storage 16 / 64 / 128GB 16 / 64 / 128GB
Ports Lightning Lightning
Front camera 1.2MP FaceTime 1.2MP FaceTime, 720p
Rear camera 8MP iSight, f/2.4, 1080p 5MP iSight, f/2.4, 1080p
Cellular radio Optional GSM/EDGE
Optional GSM/EDGE
WiFi Dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth v4.2 v4.0
Accelerometer Yes Yes
Gyroscope Yes Yes
Battery 10 hours 10 hours

Don’t try this at home: how not to hack the Raspberry Pi display

You may have noticed that the touch display came out a couple of days ago and while the response has been fantastic it's still a bit early for display-based projects to blog about. But if there's one thing I've learned in three and a half years of blogging for Raspberry Pi it's this: don't try and compete with a new product launch. So in the absence of projects using the new display I thought I'd share what not to do with it.

When a new thing comes in to Pi Towers it must prove its worth by a trip to the Maker Grotto (aka my garage, but Maker Grotto feels so much more mysterious and just a little bit Christmassy). Sometimes this is a one-way trip for the new thing. It's serious stuff. So off we went, all serious like.

The Grotto, specially cleaned for the photo shoot

The Grotto, specially cleaned for the photo shoot

I had a couple of external 3.5" hard drive cases lying about that looked about the right size for a display enclosure. One—a lovely chunky bit of anodised aluminium by Freecom— was crying out for a window to be cut in the front, but it was getting a bit late to break out the power tools. The other was a cheap third party case and after a few minutes of subtle ultraviolence with the tinsnips the front was off. The display fitted perfectly vertically and pretty well horizontally, with a small overlap at one end. Which didn't bother me one bit. Not at all. No siree bob.

The main problem was that the case wasn't deep enough if you mounted the Raspberry Pi on the display control board in the obvious way.


Flipping it over made me happy, it was a perfect fit. The header leads that powered the display from the Pi GPIO needed tweaking: remove the plastic ends, heat shrink and bend to 90 degrees. Otherwise very snug and comfy and it brought the overall height down to under 20mm, including sticky-out bits on the back of the Pi. You lose access to the GPIO pins but a ribbon cable would fix that. The DSI connector cable was secure with no stress and a pleasing Mobius strip quality that allows free access to the SD card.


I've since been told by Gordon, our Director of Software, that it was designed to do this from the start. But I like to think of myself as a trailblazer of the Inverted Mount. [/me shakes fist like a Beano caretaker]

main shot display back

What really, really bugged me was the small overlap at one end. It was taunting me and it needed teaching a lesson. Glass cutter. Straight line. Snap. Sadly the cutter was rather blunt and snap it went indeed—the cut was OK but it introduced edge weaknesses that became a crack under stress. Oops. On the plus side it still works fine and the Pitinerant (and if you think that's bad the alternative was PeriPitetic) now lives in in my bag—connect it to a portable power bank and a keyboard you have a fully capable Pi.

Forget duct tape, self-amalgamating is where it's at.

Forget duct tape, self-amalgamating is where it’s at.

Since then I've seen a few enquiries via Twitter as to whether the glass could be "resized", particularly to make it compatible with the European DIN standard for car audio head units. (We expect to see a lot of car media centres using the display.) The official answer is, "No, you will break it and void your warranty." And I'll leave it at that :)

Now there are probably a few people sitting there thinking, "I've not even got mine yet and that bugger is smashing his up!" But such is the crazy world of R&D! For what it's worth I've already ordered another out of my own pocket and will buy others—it's such a great device and it just screams projects. My first scheme is to replace my Pi-based media centre by embedding the display into a bookcase—no more monitor and keyboard cluttering the kitchen.

So the message here is: don't try this at home. Or, you know, do. And if you make anything cool using the display please share it with us. We're expecting good things :)

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