Getting Ready for the New Apple TV


My Apple TV should be here in 2 weeks.  In the mean time, I decided to upgrade my Mac Mini and test it with my 37″ Vizio 1080i TV.

I went to Fry’s and purchased a new Hitachi 2.5″ notebook drive, with 500GB of space spinning at 7200 RPM.  I figured this was plenty of room for all my music and movies.  Plus, it should spin quite well as it send out movies to the new Apple TV.  It was quite easy putting in the new drive.  Amazing that Apple can so much in to so little space.  This is a late 2007 model with a Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz processor and 2GB of RAM.  Taking it to 4GB of RAM will it a real screamer!

After putting the Mac Mini back together, I booted it and then inserted the Snow Leopard DVD right away.  It takes a bit to boot from the DVD.  Once booted, you can choose to restore the Mac Mini from a Time Machine backup.  And yes, I backed up the Mac Mini before I took the old hard drive out.  In maybe 45 minutes, my Mac Mini was back going, slightly faster and with LOADS of room (the old drive was only 120GB.)

I then took the Mac Mini to the TV.  I had a HDMI to DVI cable already attached.  I also already had a mini-jack optical to TOSLINK jack optical to connect the Mac Mini to my somewhat older Yamaha receiving (it does though support Dolby Digital.)  All worked, kind of.  It seems the Mac recognized the TV, but still, it didn’t fit on the screen exactly.  I couldn’t see the menu bar at the top of the screen.  I tried adjusting between 1080i and 720p.  Still video wasn’t as good as it should have been.  It was better coming from a DVD than from iTunes downloaded movies.

Here’s the part I really don’t like.  It seems that even if a soft movie is sending out a Dolby Digital (AC3) signal, iTunes/Quicktime can’t automatically send that signal out the digital interface to the stereo for decoding.  The Mac’s DVD player can.  Even worse, not all movies downloaded form iTunes have AC3 encoded.  Live Free or Die Hard doesn’t have it!  Star Trek (the latest) does.  I acutally obtained that movie by buying the BluRay disc which also included the DVD and digital versions using iTunes as the method for granting usage rights.  I could download a Quicktime plug in and then go to the OS X command line and force it to use the signal if it’s there.  YUK.

The new Apple TV specifications says it support Dolby Digital pass through.  I don’t know what that means.  I hope though that means I’ll be able to send the AC3 signalt to the Apple TV via WiFi and then to the Yamaha unit via optical cable.  I wonder if folks at Apple know their missing something.

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