Apple TV

Last modified on March 2nd, 2008

Last night I went over to John Biehler’s house to sit around, drink diet pepsi max, and to watch a movie. We ended up renting Michael Clayton, which is a really good movie if you are looking for something to watch. John gave me a pretty exhaustive tour of the Apple TV (which they recently updated to version 2.0 of the firmware), and I have to say, had London Drugs still been open when I left his place, I would have rushed over to pick one up on my way home last night.

Apple TV

No matter. After bouncing between Best Buy, Future Shop, and London Drugs today I am now the proud owner of an Apple TV. For those of you who don’t know what it is, it’s basically a mini computer that plugs into your TV and allows you to rent movies via iTunes, view Flickr photos, play YouTube videos, and even now supports high definition content. The one catch is that movie rentals are technically not supported in Canada yet. To get around this, you basically need a US iTunes account which you can pair to the Apple TV unit. Since I don’t have a US credit card, I took the gift card approach — I called my friend Jason in San Francisco and got him to purchase a gift card online via iTunes and send me the redemption code. From there I activated a brand new account and paired it to my Apple TV. The key is that the gift card has to be from the United States (either purchased physically from a store there, or purchased by someone who has a valid US iTunes account with associated US Credit Card).

I’ve been messing with it pretty much non-stop since I got it, and it’s a cool little product. It’s definitely a pain in the ass having to use the US iTunes store to rent movies, but it works well enough for now, so I’m happy. Unfortunately, the movie selection is a bit weak right now, but rumor has it they are in the process of adding a whack of new movies. John and I rented a HD movie last night, and although it looked pretty good for the most part, there was definitely some bad compression artifacts (called solarization) in really low light scenes.

Apple TV Solarization ExampleSolarization Example, Photo by John Biehler

So far I’m totally happy I got it. I’ll write more about it in a few days when I have some more time to mess around with it. But, if you’re looking for a cool new gadget for your house, then definitely check it out.

7 responses to “Apple TV”

  1. Kevin says:

    Duane – I’ve been thinking about picking up a new Apple TV myself and I think this post of yours is enough to push me to pull the trigger. My only question would be around the iTunes account and gift card to get yourself a US account. What happens once the gift card is depleted – can you fill it back up easily? Since I was considering purchasing this thing even without the ability to rent movies, it wouldn’t be a deal breaker for me if it was too big of a PITA to set up and maintain a US iTunes account, but if any extra info you’ve got around this would be appreciated.

    P.S. I like the new black theme…

  2. John Biehler says:

    @Kevin Unfortunately, your only option to top up the iTunes account is with another gift card. It’s a bit of a pain since you can’t use your Canadian credit card to do it.

  3. Kevin says:

    Thanks John. What about GEO-IP blocking – it sounds like that’s not a problem???

  4. Duane Storey says:

    Geo-blocking doesn’t seem to be a problem. It’s a hard thing to do anyways, since they often rely on IP->City databases that aren’t always accurate. Nothing worse than denying a valid customer due to a false positive.

  5. John Biehler says:

    I think they don’t IP block either because what’s to stop you from traveling with your iPhone or Touch and buying stuff on the go…unless they limited your account when activated via the AppleTV, it would be a nightmare for users.

    Microsoft on the otherhand does block usage from within Canada on the Xbox Live service if you setup a US account…they also have a better selection of movie download options only for US residents.

  6. […] what I managed to accomplish tonight while scooping a photo of Duane from his Flickr, and reading one of his blog posts […]

  7. I am considering purchasing an apple tv, however, I just won $500 of mail-order dvd rentals from the awesome Videomatica. I gather the apple tv does not have a slot for dvd’s?

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