The Linear Canvas
This journal is about the wrongs and rights of the world, as I see them.

The Linear Canvas

Music Distribution for Apple TV’s; How To Operate a Full-Time iTunes Server

October 1st, 2011 . by Alexander Fisher

Apple-TV-remoteI bought an Apple TV network device a few months ago. There are many of these network appliances out there that act as an interface between your television, the internet, and your home computer. They will play music and video usually from any network source they are connected to. Looking at the other network devices available made me realize some of them had more content providers available on them than the Apple TV, and there is always that exclusive Apple country club tax involved when buying an Apple product. But still I knew I had to have the Apple device and the under $100 I paid for the latest version Apple TV seemed almost like a bargain.

Most new TV’s and nearly everything else anymore, contain some kind of web app for anything from Netflix to Pandora. My 2006 Hitachi plasma TV doesn’t include any internet connectivity. But you’ll never get me to replace my plasma for lack of network apps. There’s no need for that currently anyway, as my Apple TV adds that same connectivity, within the Apple world, which is both good and bad.

I purchased the Apple TV for a couple of reasons, but the reason I bought the Apple instead of another network device, was my reliance already on iTunes for my music. I bought a 20GB iPod in 2004 and have been using Apple music products when I could ever since. I also have an iPhone. But I still use a PC. I am too deeply invested in PC software to change to a Mac now. But I have a lot of reverence for any product with the Apple name on it. My next computer could be an Apple, now that they have some PC compatibility.

The Past

I had been using a Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) audio device on my network, so this wasn’t a stretch by any means to convert to the Apple TV. That Netgear MP101 device was actually able to read an iTunes folder on a computer to play my iTunes music only.

I use a program called GoodSync to duplicate my iTunes folder on the music server from my computer. I could manually update the files, but that would be too tedious. The Netgear device didn’t care that iTunes was not actually installed on the server, as long as the folders were arranged as when it is present. This way I didn’t have to have my personal computer on to play music. I could just use any old computer on the network to serve my iTunes folders to my stereo upstairs. That was easy enough.

This Netgear music player did a very good job of serving music around the S/PDIF digital audio network I have constructed around the house. I was converting the analog output of the Netgear into optical S/PDIF. Now I split and amplify the Apple TV‘s optical audio output to connect to my system. I then split and amplify the optical signals again to make four outputs, finally converting each optical S/PDIF to 75Ω coaxial S/PDIF. I feel comfortable running each RG6 digital audio cable around forty feet to any digital audio device that supports coaxial S/PDIF. Any further than that and the signal loss could be a problem.

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Digital TV Transition, February 17, 2009

December 17th, 2008 . by Alexander Fisher

On February 17, all full power broadcast TV stations will be shutting down their old style transmitters and turning on a new one. The new transmitter will be a digital (computer) signal that will not work on many older TV sets. Even some TV’s bought in the last five to ten years are not capable of receiving the new broadcasts. Some that are capable may just need reprogrammed.

There are two ways of upgrading your TV if it needs it. If you have a standard TV, you can use a Digital TV converter. If you have a monitor or a computer, you will need a digital TV tuner. Part of the cost of the digital converter is covered by a $40 coupon available from the government. The ones I have seen have had an antenna input, antenna output, and video/audio connectors. That means even the digital converter can work in many applications including computers and monitors. Just don’t expect high definition until you buy a new TV. To obtain the coupon for the converter, go to https://www.dtv2009.gov or call 1-888-388-2009.

The bottom line is that if you have an outside antenna or rabbit ears on your TV, you need to do something before February 17, unless you want to give up watching TV forever. If you have cable TV or a satellite dish, you should be alright. If you have cable and your picture goes off on your local channels after February 17, you need to call your cable company. They obviously dropped the ball.

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The TV

November 17th, 2008 . by Alexander Fisher

I have almost always been in a business related to TV since I was sixteen. I started working for Hobart Francis at Francis Radio and TV, an RCA dealer in London, Ohio then. I worked for him on and off for about eight years. Later I got into cable television. I have pretty much been a cable guy in one form or another ever since. I worked as a microwave television broadcast engineer for a number of years.

tv2I’ve always been interested in video hardware. I still enjoy hooking up video systems. The complexity of systems I have built ranges all the way to QAM digital. I am an expert at analog television and distribution networks. Currently I help construct modern bi-directional coaxial networks, but I would have to say most of what I know was originally inspired by one thing.
The TV.

I had a Zenith baseband video/audio system in the 1980’s that was built out of individual components, like a home stereo system. It was all standard audio component size too. I believe that is the niche Zenith was trying to fill with it. They wanted to replace mid-grade audio systems and begin to integrate audio components with video gear. Not a bad idea. Maybe a little too ahead of its time.

It was a line of  TV’s that Zenith made for a short period called VHT, for Video High Tech. It had a baseband  cable ready tuner, a baseband video/stereo audio /RF switching unit, and a separate 19" RGB monitor. The retail price of the Zenith components alone were about $1200, and that was about 1984.

It also had it’s own stereo amp and speakers. It had many standard audio amp features, but was only about 25 watts per channel. I used my higher powered stereo for the TV usually. Later I bought a surround decoder and used the Zenith amp with it. I probably had close to $3000 in the whole system in the end.

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Cell Phone and Wireless Safety

May 22nd, 2008 . by Alexander Fisher

Got a Flip Phone Tumor?EMR (Electromagnetic Radiation) is a dangerous by-product of our wireless age. I have been a Radio Frequency (RF) Engineer for over fifteen years and have been exposed to microwave (MW) EMR on a fairly regular basis during that time. The same precautions that RF professionals take are also advisable for people who are exposed to EMR from consumer products.

EMR safety is an often ignored issue because of the ease of use that wireless products allow. But EMR is a lethal component of products like cell phones, wireless phones, blue tooth accessories, WiFi network hotspots, and wireless television broadcasting. Long term usage studies are beginning to show a cause and effect relationship to serious illnesses related to EMR exposure. European Union countries currently advise parents to not allow cell phone use by children and young adults, based on the heat generated by MW radiation from the phone’s antenna.

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