New AppleTV & George Orwell

AppleTVShort version: Unless you are wanting to play a few games on your TV, or unless you want to cut the cable cord, the new 1st gen TV is a total pass. Version 1 of the tvOS is, as has become standard practice for Apple’s new products, a big step backwards. The foundation they have set in place has potential for the future, but right now, the TV has some significant, infuriating limitations the old version doesn’t have.

Feature Regression

Just as each of the iWork applications has taken a huge step backward in their last major release, this new version of the TV has lost some really important key features.

Do you have long, complex, different passwords for every online service (like Netflix, HBO, etc.) you use? I do. (In fact, here is an example password: 2veBoR7CEBErJ{KAEhmrxBms[dXhwd ) It’s simply standard, good practice for online security. On the old TV one could copy and paste from your password management application into the online service log in window using the iOS TV Remote application. Or, if you were feeling more adventurous, you could pair your wireless Apple Keyboard with your TV and type the password from the physical keyboard into the online service’s log in window

You can no longer do either of those things. Now, you must use the new TV handheld remote to slide across the onscreen list of characters/symbols and pick (by clicking) each character/symbol one by one. With today’s enormous TVs, getting from one end of the alphabet to the other take several large swipes. Going up or down a row seemed oddly clunky to me.

AppleTV On-screen "keyboard"
TV On-screen “keyboard” uses the above pictured remote

In its maddening tradition, each entry only shows on the screen for a couple of seconds before then being represented by a dot on the screen. So, you have no way of checking the password once you have entered it. (For god’s sake Apple, give us big boys the option to turn this nuisance “security feature” off!) But it wouldn’t much matter if you could see the whole password because the tvOS on screen “keyboard” doesn’t even have back or forward keys, only a delete key.

Good god. This is ill-conceived!

Had I known this, I would never have bought the new TV. I still do not have my Withings account activated on the TV. I’ve tried 6 times! The password is 30 characters/symbols long. Infuriating. TV support initially didn’t even know that the only way to enter anything on the TV is with the above “new” clunky remote and on-screen keyboard.

Siri Integration ???

Siri iconSiri integration on the new iPhone 6s+ is awesome. Siri integration on the new TV is currently so limited, it’s basically useless. For starters: it is only limited to that silly new handheld remote. You can not use “Hey, Siri…” on your iPhone to get the TV to do anything. So, once again, we have feature regression. I was using my iPhone to control everything in this house, including my old TV, without touching any remotes or devices. Now, I’m having to look for that damned remote control again.

And, I can’t use Siri to play my own iTunes music let alone search my own music library? I can’t use Siri to search my photos? (I haven’t even figured out how to get to my own photos on my computer though the iCloud photo stream from my iPhone is there.)

RAM, Angry Developers, and the Future

I’ve read posts by more than one angry tvOS developer. Apple is forcing people into the cloud whether you want to go there or not, even app developers.

They report that the amount of RAM the tvOS/device will allow them to use onboard the TV at any one time is so limited, they are being forced to rewrite their programs and offload programing code and data into the cloud until it is required by what the user is attempting to do with the developer’s app on the TV.

Now stop and think about that! Not all of an application may even be on your device at any given time. What happened to the good old days?!

This subject is actually worthy of an entire post because its longterm ramifications are way beyond huge; they are horrifying! Shortest version possible: Apple could be (probably is) forcing apps into the cloud, could be forcing computer processing into the cloud and off of devices.

Digital Prison
Digital Prison, Source: HackRead on Twitter

The common citizen might, at some point in the not-too-distant future, find that owning a microprocessor of their own, is illegal. Only corporations and governments might be able to compute with computers. Your device will be able to do nothing in and of itself as the microprocessor, the apps, and your data are all held in the cloud. Your device is only a digital interface, a leash, if you will, so you can be monitored and tracked: every word you say, everything you see and do, every place you go, every decision you make aggregated—even controlled without your awareness. Any misbehavior is rewarded by cutting off your access to your money, your phone connection, your ability to search any or all of the web, your ability to post to the web, the apps you can or can not use and their functionality, the TV you can see (or not)…

I know this sounds like dystopia, but I actually think it is here. Last week I was watching a program I had recorded on TiVo. An Amber Alert came on about some abducted child. I thought it was recorded by TiVo and attempted to fast forward through the 5-minute alert. The TiVo would not fast forward. The Amber Alert persisted.

To my shock I realized that this alert was Comcast taking over my live TV set in real time as I was watching a recorded program. I could do nothing. My remote control wouldn’t even turn off the TV! It was powerless. I was powerless to do anything but leave the room. I was being forced to have this on my TV.

On my iPhone I can (and have) disabled alerts. Domestic disputes (which is what almost all of these “child abduction”s are) are none of my business. I keep out of other people’s business, and I expect the government to keep out of my TV. At the very least, this is government outsourcing their job responsibilities onto the public.

Comcast puts an alert on my iPhone, my iPad, and my computer every month when our data usage is approaching or has exceeded or limit. I am angered that they can put anything they want to put on my screens. I am angered that, especially for what we pay per month, we even have data limits in Atlanta (a test market).

But I digress…

Something Good to Say: Cutting the Cord

Comcast xfinityThis family has had enough of Comcast. (You have no idea!) We are actively seeking to minimize the amount of money we send them every month. This corporation is, in our opinions, a despicable monopoly that charges a premium price and abuses their customer base. I loath them. As soon as Google Fiber is here, Comcast will never see another dime from us. (Not that Google is much better: Separate but evil.)

In the meantime, we are moving to Comcast’s business service for internet and eliminating all other Comcast services. Business class service currently is significantly less expensive and has no data limits. (We exceed our home data limit (300GB) every month unless we are traveling.)

So, when the service gets changed, we will purchase any individual TV channels we wish to watch from the TV App Store. (There are very few channels in which we have any interest! Comcast forces you to pay for hundreds of channels you never use because, well, they can.) And then we will stream data 24/7 whether we watch/listen to it or not! Screw Comcast!

When Will I Ever Learn?!

To have been such a huge Apple fanboy over the years, I’ve really soured on their product releases. I know I should never buy a gen 1 release of anything they do. (The new TV is a gen 1 tvOS product.) I know I should always wait until the 3rd generation is released. The first two are typically crap releases with bugs and a significant lack of features.

I actually heard an Apple sales associate tell a customer in the Apple Store yesterday to never upgrade the desktop OS until its 3rd release: 10.x.2. He actually said that out loud. He said the first release is always full of issues. The second (.1) release contains major bug fixes identified after the OS has been “out in the wild.” The third release (.2) will include refinements.

I actually did not purchase the Watch (a gen 1 product): way too much money for way too little actual needed or wanted functionality. (Apparently the watch isn’t flying off of the shelves either.) If it would accurately, automatically measure and database my blood glucose level, I’d buy it.

IBM LogoBut that brings me to another concern about the digital corporate leash. IBM announced this week they are providing all of their employees with a free or discounted Watch as part of their new health insurance plan. HELLO! Does anyone see what’s coming here?

Apple-WatchThe next thing on the horizon: If you don’t reach these personal health targets as automatically measured by the HealthKit app on your Watch, your copay goes up. If you continue your sedentary lifestyle as automatically measured by your Watch, your insurance will drop you. If you don’t send your Watch health data to the company doctor, your insurance will drop you. On and on, and on.

One final note about the TV: I would be remiss if I didn’t note that the future of this platform has some really huge positive possibilities, but why does Apple always release new products and then eek out their features as often-paid upgrades? Well, … we actually know why.


cord cutting cableIf you’re cutting the cord: consider the product but be prepared for the misery of entering passwords in the most arcane way possible. If you need to game on a big screen: consider the product. Otherwise, I would wait for tvOS 3 to be released before buying an TV.

And, as far as I’m concerned, start thinking about a strategy to digitally divest. The digital future just looks pretty dystopic to me. Without any idea of the digital technology that was to come, Orwell was a profit that only saw a small glimpse.