Using Apple TV

Because of difficulty setting up our Squeezebox Receiver, which frequently needed to be reset using a Perl script, we retired it as our streaming music interface on our Great Wall of Stuff and installed a Generation 3 Apple TV instead. The Apple TV also replaces the PS3 as our go-to video streaming box, allowing us to watch movies without the PS3 fan noise intrusion. The PS3 remains our game server.

Apple TV is wired to our home network. HomeSharing must be turned on in both Apple TV and the iTunes host computer before streaming can occur. Apple supplies the mobile app called Remote. Remote has standard functions for source material selection, pause/play control, and settings adjustments. Remote is useful when streaming music through Apple TV, since we do not power-on the display during music sessions. (Unlike our Squeezebox iPeng remote app, the Apple Remote app provides no album art, but only an uninteresting text screen.)

Remote’s initial screen offers a choice of two connection modes. Remote can connect wirelessly to either the Apple TV or to the iTunes host computer. When connecting to Apple TV, Remote permits selecting either Apple TV built-in content, or selecting video, photo, and music content to ‘pull’ from the iTunes host computer. When connecting to the computer, Remote can directly control the iTunes operation on the host computer itself to ‘push’ the selected computer-hosted stream remotely through Apple TV. We use the push mode, since a computer connection allows us to control audio volume at the source. Apple TV has no volume control, so in the pull mode, the main system remote would be needed as well as the mobile device to completely control the audio stream. As a usable interface, that is a non-starter.

Built-in AirPlay is the send-receive software that streams media from Computer to Apple TV. When an Apple TV is recognized on the network, iTunes displays an AirPlay symbol in its header that allows one to select which ‘speakers’ to use for iTunes output, Computer or AirPlay. Selecting AirPlay enables the push mode of operation, the Apple TV becoming the remote receiver. The Remote app also displays the AirPlay symbol, so when connected to the host computer, one can choose the push mode remotely.

A wired Apple TV allows us to push a Red Book quality audio bit stream across our wired ethernet network from the computer to our Great Wall of Stuff with no issues of bandwidth. But we were informed by Internet experts that unless IPv6 is disabled on the wired network, there will be problems getting AirPlay to connect to the wired Apple TV. The offered solution on OS X 10.7 or greater is to enter a terminal command networksetup -setv6off ethernet. I did this without further confirmation of a problem, to avoid potential ‘defugalties’.

To switch from playback of computer-hosted media to playback of Apple TV media, we pause the computer streaming with the Remote app, then using the main system remote (Logitech Harmony One), switch from its StreamMusicPhotos setting to its StreamTV setting, which switches back on the big screen, enabling selection from Apple TV menus.

Our mobile devices also can now use AirPlay to stream music through Apple TV. Even IOS 6 supports AirPlay, so I can play music from my iPhone 3GS. (Unfortunately, IOS 3 is not AirPlay savvy, so my original iPod Touch cannot stream to Apple TV.) The Apple Music app and the Pandora app each display an AirPlay symbol that enables selecting Apple TV as the destination of the output.

In addition to using iTunes to send output to Apple TV, any sound output from the Mac can be routed to AirPlay and hence to Apple TV. Simply Option-click on the speaker icon in the system menu bar. If there is an active Apple TV accessible from the Mac’s network, it will appear in the list of output options.

When watching video, we frequently use “CC” captions to help us catch all the soft dialog and heavily accented English that our aging ears would likely miss. The Apple TV needs to be told to use CCs. It is under Setup:Audio & Video:Subtitle Language. We select English and our captions automagically appear.

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