The New (and Improved?) Apple TV

apple-tv-remoteApple has finally released the first new AppleTV model in several years.  What was once considered a “hobby” by Steve Jobs has finally matured into an impressive multimedia device!

The 4th version of the AppleTV has a familiar shape and footprint but it’s at least twice the height (and heavier too).  The remote has undergone a major upgraded to include a touch screen and Siri integration as well as an internal, rechargeable, battery that is reported to last up to three months of regular use (charged by the now Apple-standard lightning cable).

I ordered the 64GB unit for $199 on the first day it was available for pre-order (Apple also offers a 32GB device for $50 less).  Being impatient I opted for the next day shipping option in the hopes of receiving a new toy in time for the weekend.

Well it didn’t happen.  My package was stuck on a loading dock in Tennessee and didn’t leave until sometime on Sunday.  Apple refunded my overnight shipping cost which was appreciated (I had to call them to get this done though).  I love the ability to get detailed tracking of packages but this had the reverse impact as the shipment didn’t get updated for days.

While reviewing the Apple forums full of other people waiting for their shipments I learned about a carrier in Europe that not only tells you the status of your package but you can see the progression on a real-time map.  If that wasn’t cool enough you also know the name of the delivery driver along with a 30-minute delivery window (also updated in real time).  Talk about stalking the delivery Guy!

AppleTV 4 Ports
Being an early adopter can be fun but it has its frustrations as well.  Physical setup of the new Apple TV was relatively smooth once I figured out a work around for the missing “optical audio-out” (S/PDIF) I was using with the last model.  The App Store, which is one of the big selling factors of this new model, was not very exciting the first couple of days.  Not a lot of “must have” apps and nothing was categorized so finding apps to download and try out was not as easy as it should have been.

Now that things have been up and running for a few weeks the store is getting better and more useful apps are starting to become available.  The Siri remote is the real star here.  With it you can basically ask for a particular movie, actor, or genre and a list of options magically show up on the screen complete with a list of where you can view the content and pricing (if any).  Right now this search is limited to Netflix, Hulu and the Apple Store but it’s supposed to be opening up to other services soon.  This is a similar feature that Roku has had for a while but dictating with your voice is the new (and better) input method.

App StoreI’ve written two posts about my Cord Cutting project and how it’s been going.  The new AppleTV has made the transition from Cable to Over The Air (OTA) content and streaming media a lot easier and the App Store keeps getting better every day.  I think as this platform matures there could be some interesting capabilities surface that will make the 4th generation AppleTV an integral part of the entertainment stack.

It’s time to start thinking about the next electronic purchase and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a TV upgrade. My 38″ Plasma has served me well for many years but 55-60″ of UHD (or 4k) video sounds very appealing.  And the prices keep coming down to the sub-thousand level which makes it a more attractive buy.

I’m wanting to get a bigger screen and possibly install it over the fireplace.  I’ve heard good and bad things about this mounting location but after seeing an articulating wall mount that allows you to pull the TV down in front of the (unlit) fireplace for a better viewing angle I think that’s the way I’m going to go.

I’d love to hear from any of you who have feedback on the over-the-fireplace mounting option.  Is it that bad?  I’m going to be 15+ feet away from the screen so that makes the viewing angle relatively flat (that was the main complaint from people who chose the higher mounting position).

Thoughts?  Please leave them in the comments section below.

Review – Minecraft

I’ve always liked video games and it all started for me with Pong.  Next came the Atari, Apple PC, Windows PC, Nintendo, Playstation, and X-Box.  First Person games have always been my favorite, whether it’s a shooter, driving simulator or sports game.  As long as it looks like I’m in the middle of the game I usually like it.

Enter Minecraft by Swedish creator Markus “Notch” Persson .  It’s a first person game with an unusual twist, you create the game within the game.  If you’re expecting cutting edge graphics you’re going to be in for a bug surprise.  Although “simple” the game actually takes a little computer horsepower to run smoothly.

Minecraft starts you off in a randomly generated world with nothing in your inventory.  Your first priority is to survive through the night:

Afterwards you start collecting materials to make more materials.  Stone, iron ore, coal, etc.  It’s a pretty addictive concept that is fun for any age level.  I will warn you that this game can be a time suck.  My son & I have spent hours on our respective computers building our own worlds.   There are mufti-player options as well but we have not gotten that far yet.

Minecraft has monsters that come out at night that you have to defend yourself from and animals and plants you can grow or harvest for food.  The more you get into the game the more you start to realize the unlimited potential the game has.

The process of mining is where the game gets interesting.  Once you build the right tools you can set out to find more building materials.  Sometimes you come across a cave which opens up into an underground world (complete with it’s own monsters and surprises).  Other times you can just start digging and see what you can find.

YouTube has thousands of videos online that show you what can be done.  There are people who have created full size replicas of the Starship Enterprise and others have created a Fleet of Battleships.

Minecraft can be played for free (older limited version) on the Official Website.  You can purchase the game for ~$30.  There was an IOS (Apple) version just released and an XBox edition is slated for release in Spring 2012.

As far as games go, I’m going to rate this one an 8 out of 10. It’s a new concept for me and it’s been a big hit with both myself and my son.

The Creekside Lodge – Crawfordsville, Indiana

Hidden among the trees on Lafayette Avenue the The Creekside Lodge (Restaurant & Lounge) is a great find in a town with only a few options for a decent lunch (more reviews on the good Crawfordsville spots in future blog posts). I’ve dined here before but I was not writing a Blog yet so I’m going to treat this as a “first visit” report.

Open for just under 2 years, the Creekside Lodge is housed in what was once the Clements Canoe Outdoor Center along Sugar Creek in Crawfordsville, Indiana. I arrived at 11:30 am to find only a few cars in the parking lot. This place can get busy around noon in the summer months (my last visit to this place).

I was seated immediately in a spacious booth overlooking the covered patio and ordered up an Iced tea ($1.75). After a quick glance at the Lunch Menu, I decided on a traditional BLT with chips ($4.95) A BLT was something I was planning on fixing myself this past weekend but never got around to it.

The Lunch Menu offers quite a variety. Some highlights:

  • Spinach Artichoke Dip appetizer ($6.95)
  • Various Pizzas ($6.75 to $10.50)
  • Pork Tenderloin (Traditional Indiana food!) ($5.95)
  • Olive Burger (Burger with Green Olive Sauce) ($7.49)
  • Several Salad choices ($2.00 to $7.50)

Once my BLT arrived I was pleased with the amount of B and T! The bread was toasted nicely and the lettuce was fresh (not always easy to find in November). The accompanying chips were the “Ridged” variety and nicely salted. I’m usually a big eater at lunch but I’ll have to say this amount of food was just about right today.

Total bill for this visit was $8.60 ($7.10 + $1.50 Tip).

The Creekside Lodge offers carry-out and the lounge is open until Midnight Monday-Saturday. Make sure you keep your eyes peeled when you go there for the first time. It’s an easy place to miss!

As I travel throughout Indiana on business I plan on writing about the lunch stops along my way. If you have a favorite lunch place, be sure to email me and I’ll see if I can add it to my itinerary.

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