I just finished watching an episode of my favorite television show, Top Gear, but I did it in a way that wouldn’t have been possible a year ago.
The show itself is a 700mb Quicktime mp4 file that lives on a 1-terabyte Western Digital external hard drive. That drive is connected via firewire to the iMac that sits on the desk in our office at home.
I created a reference to that Quicktime file in iTunes on the iMac by turning off the “Copy files to iTunes’ music folder” option in iTunes’ advanced preferences. That way, movie files are not added to the internal hard drive, saving space, but iTunes knows where they are and can play them when the external drive is connected. Normally, this “copy files” option is always on so that when I add music, iTunes organizes it nicely into the ~/iTunes/iTunes music folder.
But I don’t want to watch movies on my iMac at my desk, so out in the living room I’ve told my AppleTV to stream media from my iMac without syncing it to the AppleTV’s internal drive. So the episode of Top Gear that I watched took this path to get to my television:
Firewire hard drive > iTunes on the iMac > wifi network > AppleTV > TV via HDMI
Streaming playback over wifi from a hard drive daisy-chained to a computer in another room was painless, too. No skipping or stuttering, no dropped frames. The file might as well have been on the AppleTV’s internal 40gb hard drive.
But this isn’t necessarily anything new. People have been using computers and game consoles to stream media to their televisions for a couple years now. The part that wasn’t possible until just this year was that instead of using the little white Apple Remote that comes with the AppleTV, I used the Remote app on my iPhone, as seen here in a screenshot from the phone:
The black space in the middle normally shows the poster frame or album artwork, but since I didn’t create a poster frame for this Quicktime file, it shows a single frame from near the beginning of the file.
I love it when I’m able to use technology to do stuff like this easily without hours of frustration. There’s something to be said for a company that knows how to get all its products to work together so well, and it’s why I speak so highly of Apple’s products. When someone asks me why I prefer Apple to any other hardware maker, I use examples like this. By being in complete control of the hardware and the software that runs on it, Apple can guarantee that its products will work in harmony. I know it’s corny, but “it just works” is more than a commercial slogan.