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Apple’s new goodies  7

You or may not know that yesterday Apple announced some new gadgets for geeks like me to lust over and fritter all our cash on. Probably the biggest news was Apple’s foray into the mobile phone market: the iPhone.

“What’s so special about a mobile phone?” you may ask. Well, nothing really, except Apple fans and many more people besides have been expecting, hoping, wishing and praying that Apple would make a mobile phone for a long, long time. Rumours and speculation of such a product have been going around for a good few years and, now it’s finally here, a lot of people seem to be very satisfied.

I’ll spare you the details as they’ve been reported many, many times around the internet and the best place to read about the iPhone is on its official site. Although I agree it’s a really nice piece of kit, I’m still a “one gadget, one job, as small as possible” guy for anything mobile. (Please note: opinions are subject to change as and when funds allow!)

Another piece of hardware that was announced-soon-to-be-released was the TV (or [Apple Logo]TV if that symbol doesn’t display correctly … and I’ll call it ‘AppleTV’ from now on). This, put simply, is a box that sits under your television and can stream your videos, music and photos from your computer for display or listening through your TV. Sound good? It certainly does to me and it’s something I’ve wanted ever since they released the AirPort Express which lets you listen to any music you have stored on your computer through your hi-fi without the need for wires. The AppleTV goes several steps further than the AirPort Express, not least of all because it can handle video as well as audio, but also because it has it’s own remote control, a built-in hard drive (so content can be stored within the unit itself rather than streaming over a network) and handles the actually playing of content itself — with the AirPort Express, the Mac or PC is used to select and process/decode the music (i.e. play it) and the result is sent to the AirPort Express for output; the AppleTV reads the content itself either from its own hard drive or over the network and does the processing/decoding instead of the computer.

In the US it’s possible to buy movies and TV shows from the iTunes Store so technically they have a more valid reason for buying the AppleTV but, as I’ve mentioned, it will also play music and there are plenty of people whose TV set-up includes extra audio output (i.e. more than just the TV’s speakers) in the form of stereo or surround-sound amplifier and speakers. And there are also people, like myself, who have encoded their DVDs onto their Macs or PCs which, provided they used suitable codecs, can be viewed via the AppleTV. Anyway, I shall be buying one, hopefully sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Another release (which Apple were quiet about) was the new AirPort Extreme base station — this is the daddy to the AirPort Express. While the Express will let you connect an ADSL modem, a USB printer and a hi-fi for wireless sharing of your internet connection, printer and playing your music, the Extreme lacks the music-streaming ability but will let you connect the modem, three computers or “network devices” directly (i.e. wired) and a USB printer or (brilliantly) hard drive … or both if you use a USB hub.

That last bit is the best piece of news for me: being able to plug a USB hard drive into the base station that can then be shared between all the computers in the house. This would be great for backups or for centralising your data (documents, music, videos etc.). If the AppleTV can access movies and music from a shared hard drive this way then it would negate the need to leave your computer turned on while you’re watching or listening in the living room — this goes along greatly with my dream of how I’d like my set-up at home … if I had the cash!

I think that’s enough geeking for one day — I’d better stop now before I dig out my credit card and do something I may regret later. Saying that, did I mention that I ordered myself a MacBook a week and a half ago? No? Well, more on that when it arrives …


Thanks Tim, much clearer now - Grix

so now you can power your ( from the airport base station..?? - tugger

Yes, very good. Next time you pretend to be me, tugger, remember that your IP address gives you away and that I can edit your comments. :^P - Timmargh

I really wanna go 802.11n and buy the new base station but my macs have a max of 802.11g so the new base station will basically be a waste of money (especially since my MIMO netgear router does a really good job as it is). I do love the idea of plugging in an external hard drive - especially since I’ll be buying a nice big one in the next couple of weeks since my current external device has died on me, leaving me with nowhere for backups!). If you put your movies on a hard drive plugged into an airport base station and streamed it to the appleTV will it have to go via the mac or straight from harddrive to appleTV? Hmmm…. - Andyk

I’m guessing it’ll go straight to the AppleTV. I’m hoping the AppleTV will have a “search for media” type option for something like that - after all, Apple do have a tendency of making everything work well with everything else and the idea of having all your media in one place that’s always accessible by every device would make a lot of sense (and is the goal I’m personally aiming for!). - Timmargh

Speaking of the new airport base stations, check this out: = 5 x faster = 5 x faster = 2.5 x faster = 2.5 x faster WTF? Why is 802.11n faster in the US and France than it is in the UK and Germany? It’s the same standard world wide isn’t it? If not, I’m going to be ordering my base station from the USA! :D - Andyk

It may be a frequency licensing issue. - Timmargh