Whipping the Apple TV into shape

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by Macworld's Editors

Top Deals On Great Products

Picked by Techconnect's Editors

Those who follow this space and the words that fill it know that I have a love/hate relationship with my Apple TV. I love it because it’s just such a clever and convenient way to deliver iTunes Store purchases and media I’ve obtained in other ways to my TV and AV system. I hate it because it’s far-too-prone to doing nothing in an impudent sort of way as I impotently mash the Apple Remote’s controls over and over again.

The latter was happening often enough that I’ve spent more time with my DVD library of late rather than tussling with the Apple TV. But what a waste of cool technology!

So with that in mind, I decided that it was time to give it another go by setting up as Apple TV-friendly a system as I could in the hope that we could let bygones be bygones and rekindle our past love. And so I did this:

HDMI out, component in Until this morning my Apple TV was connected to my TV via an HDMI cable. While researching the Apple TV’s quirks in Apple’s Discussion Forums I’ve found several posts that suggest that the Apple TV and HDMI don’t always see eye-to-eye, to the point where the Apple TV can lock up—a symptom I’ve certainly seen.

Fine. HDMI is now gone and instead, I’ve tethered the Apple TV to my TV with a component cable.

Dedicated Apple TV server My upstairs Apple TV is connected to my downstairs network via an Ethernet cable. It syncs and streams from my main work machine, a Mac Pro. That Mac Pro’s iTunes library contains 27,835 audio tracks, 117 movies, 449 TV episodes, 560 podcasts, and 35 audiobooks. When I’m streaming media from that Mac Pro it’s engaged in other tasks as well—email, Twitter, web browsing, iCal, yada, and yada. Perhaps all that media and all those other tasks are keeping with the Apple TV from properly doing its job.

Fine again. I grabbed an external drive and dragged to it just the media I wanted to stream to the Apple TV—and that would be movies and TV shows, as I have plenty of other ways to listen to music. I attached that external drive to a Mac mini that sits next to the Apple TV. I instructed the mini’s copy of iTunes to seek out the media on that external drive for its iTunes library. I then configured the Apple TV so that it would forget all about the Mac Pro downstairs and devote its streaming attention solely to the mini and its attached hard drive.

And then I gave the Apple TV another go.

My, what a change.

Granted, I haven’t spent buckets of time with it, but so far, the Apple TV is working beautifully. It zips through the interface, starts streaming within a minute (or less), stops streaming almost instantly when I tell it to, and talks to the Apple Store as easy as you please.

In short: It works the way it’s supposed to.

I still maintain that the Apple TV should work the way I originally configured it—with lots of media and with any computer I care to relate it to. After all, not everyone has a spare computer they can dedicate to this kind of thing. My hope is that an Apple TV software update will move things along in that direction.

The icing on that hope is that Apple will finally open up the USB port on the back of the Apple TV so I can connect my external drive directly to it. That way, should streaming become a problem, I can still make a load of media available to the Apple TV, which, because it’s physically connected to the device, should be able to play without problem.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon