The Case Against Using Apple’s HomePod as a Home Theater Speaker

At its recent WWDC 2017 conference Apple unveiled its HomePod speaker but was intentionally vague regarding it’s final feature set. It was promoted as an high-end audio streamer for the Apple Music catalog but little else was detailed. In the months leading to its anticipated Dec 2017 release Apple is working hard to expand and perfect features such as Siri and HomeKit integration. This left analysts and consumers to speculate regarding additional use cases for the still mysterious device. A whole-home music system akin to Sonos is a given but what about using the HomePod as a Home Theater speaker system?

Using the AppleTV to stream Apple Music to the HomePod speaker is implied in the AirPlay 2 specifications. This could be a significant selling point for both of those devices. You could view the song’s artist, title and even lyrics on the TV screen during music playback. Karaoke anyone? But this would require Siri commands to originate from the AppleTV remote which needs a physical button press for activation. It seems more likely that you’d control music playback by talking directly to the HomePod which would in turn stream lyrics and other song info to the AppleTV for display on your TV screen. Your TV screen could also display the results of Siri queries to the HomePod microphone much like Amazon’s pending Echo Show device. Expect Apple TV and HomePod to integrate closely as they are both HomeKit hubs and must coordinate to avoid conflicts.

Using the HomePod as part of a home theatre sound system while technically possible would be far from ideal. Citing a “less than optimal user experience” I think Apple will downplay any home theatre scenarios.

Potential shortcomings include:
1. Most AppleTV in use today are already linked via HDMI to an AVR receiver with wired speakers. Adding a HomePod to this setup is superfluous. Even if your AppleTV audio is currently playing through crummy television speakers using the HomePod has other pitfalls…

2. It’s critical that the center channel originates from directly behind (or below) the TV screen. This is the channel that carries most of the vocal dialog. It’s very off-putting for a character’s voice to originate from the sides or rear. That’s why sound bars are designed to sit front and center. From that position they can project realistic dialog while digitally mimicking the surround and rear speakers. Even with the HomePod’s advanced signal processing it would best be positioned under the TV for the truest dialog rendering. But it’s cylindrical shape doesn’t really fit there. SonosBose and Vizio all have properly shaped speakers with specialized audio enhancements designed just for this purpose.

3. Deep bass sounds are omni-directional and reflect well off parallel surfaces. So placement near a wall often enhances their punch. With its rather small and upward firing subwoofer the HomePod would especially benefit from this phenomenon. Even with its room-mapping technology and automatic calibration the HomePod will fare better away from the TV screen – ideally near a corner of the room for the greatest bass boost.

4. True stereo sound (not simulated) would require 2 HomePod speakers. That’s $700 in speakers plus another $150 for the AppleTV. To most consumers this seems overpriced considering a well-reviewed soundbar with subwoofer can be had for $150.  And with a 4K Roku priced at just $70 Apple is best avoiding this comparison altogether.

5. If the first generation of HomePod is well-received Apple is free to futher expand the product line.  This could include a home theater model designed specifically for the living room. And a full screen model for the kitchen?A camera equipped model for FaceTime calls? A battery operated model for the back yard? Time will tell…


Alexa is Everywhere – That Escalated Quickly

Amazon continues to pump out Alexa-enabled devices about every 3 weeks. In the last month or so we’ve seen the Echo Look and Echo Show. Today it’s the Alexa Dash Wand complete with bar code scanner and fridge magnet. Ordering from Amazon is now easier than ever – and that’s the whole idea.

The video shows frictionless ordering and seemingly instant delivery. One step closer to having your “robot butler”.

Amazon’s Dash Wand with Built In Alexa Assistant (video)

And it’s free after $20 store credit upon registration. What will they think of next?

⓱Lifestyles – We All Get Old (deal with it)

I don’t know anything about the software that allowed these videos to be created but the result is hypnotizing. Familiar faces age fifty years in a matter of minutes. It is simultaneously uplifting and angst-inspiring. 

I’ve shown these to a few people and the emotions are visceral and nearly universal…

Watching the years race by we cannot help but ponder our own aging process. We are gripped by the urge to press pause at a certain image that is youthful or charismatic. And later we pine to rewind when it’s clear the best years have passed. But instead our minds fast forward to the inevitable conclusion we all must face. And when the present day is reached and the image freezes there is relief. And an appreciation of the time that remains. Existential crisis has been averted!

It sounds a bit dramatic but watch the links below and see if you don’t feel the same. Self-preservation and body image are the most basic of instincts. It’s the human condition. Our default programming is a constant state of denial. 

We don’t often ponder our own existence because it’s so uncomfortable. But I think it’s healthy to do so once in a while. We all get old – hopefully with the same grade and dignity as these familiar folks. 

How would you feel about a video like this with your own photos? Watch a few from the playlist before you decide. 

The Amazing Evolution of Mic Jagger (most changed)

The Majesty of Jimmy Page (aged most gracefully)

Carrie Fisher Through the Years (most beautiful over 5 decades)

David Bowie is a Unique Chameleon (mesmerizing 3-D effect)

⓱Cord Cutting – DirecTV NOW Channel Line-Up Announced 

AT&T will go live with their internet TV streaming service on November 30th. DirecTV NOW will have 4 generous packages as well as add-on options for individual premium channels. The basic package costs only $35 monthly and has over 60 channels. Major broadcast networks are included and the local networks in select markets [CBS is a separate app and payment for now].

It will stream over Apple, Android and Amazon devices in addition to your personal computer. AT&T mobile users will have unlimited allowances for DirecTV content via cellular data.

I’m ditching Comcast this month and getting the free Apple TV promo at sign up. Cord-cutters rejoice!

Apple’s Newest USB-C Dongles — All 24 of them

Apple’s latest MacBook Pro has ditched the USB, SD, DisplayPort, ethernet and HDMI ports in favor of the newer USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 variety. Now none of your current USB devices will connect without an adapter. 

Fortunately the Apple Store has a full array of USB-C dongles for every possible circumstance.
There are two essential adapters:

  1. To convert USB-C ports to accept your older USB devices you will want  several of these adapters
  2. To connect your iPhone to your MacBook you will want one of these

And here are all the rest: 

USB-C to Lightning Cable (1m)

USB-C to Lightning Cable (2m)

USB-C to USB Adapter

Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter

USB-C Charge Cable (2m)

USB-C Power Adapter 29W

USB-C Power Adapter 61W

USB-C Power Adapter 87W

USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter

USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter

USB-C SD Card Reader

USB-C Porsche Design Hard Drive 1TB

USB-C Porsche Design Hard Drive 2TB

USB-C Porsche Design Hard Drive 4TB

USB-C Porsche Design Hard Drive 5TB

USB-C to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter

USB-C Flash Drive 64GB

USB-C to VGA Adapater

USB-A to USB-C Cable 2.0

USB-A to USB-C Cable 3.1

USB-C to USB-C Cable 3.1

USB-C to Mini-B Charge Cable 2.0

USB-C to Micro-B Charge Cable 2.0

USB-C to Micro-B Charge Cable 3.1




Re-Enabling the Startup Chime on the 2016 MacBook Pro

Every Mac since 1993 has awaked with a signature startup chime. Its presence signals a succesful passage of the initial hardware and firmware checks. Its absence, however, could aid introubleshooting a failed boot attempt. The tone became so associated with Apple that they trademarked the F-sharp major chord. This traditional sound (along with the glowing Apple logo) will end with the release of the Late-2016 Macbook Pro.

There was always a way to silence the chime with a few command lines in Terminal. Thankfully, lovers of the chime can reactivate it with a single line of code. Just open Spotlight and search for Terminal. Once it has opened a command line simply type sudo nvram BootAudio=%01 and the chime will return on your next reboot.

There was always something comforting about hearing that chord and then seeing your desktop spring to life. Personally, I’m looking forward to hearing it again. 

⓱Apple – Where Have All the ‘iPhone-Killers’ Gone?

Mudslinging is easy – and it’s all the rage right now. Just tune in to a presidential debate if there’s any doubt. Yet with Apple’s rivals falling by the wayside there has been no gloating and no self-congratulatory proclamations. In the last few months we’ve seen whole product lines from Windows Phone, Nokia, Blackberry and the Samsung Galaxy Note go extinct. And still not a hint of Schadenfreude from Apple.

What a contrast to Microsoft’s mock funeral for the iPhone in 2010. At the time Windows Phone 7 had yet to ship and the iPhone was on the brink of becoming a cultural phenomenon. Somehow the Microsoft’s mobile OS team felt compelled to celebrate a premature victory. The results are truly cringeworthy.

There’s so much to love about this video: the dated format, the garish costumes, the cheesy choreography and most of all the sweet, sweet irony.

Apple is keeping it classy and that speaks volumes to their corporate culture. Steve Jobs had famously stated that in order for Apple to win it’s not necessary for its rivals to lose.

At the time that sounded counter-intuitive or even naive. But this week’s events show just how prescient those words were.


⓱mobile – AT&T Waives Data Limits and Late Payment Fees in Areas Impacted by Hurricane Matthew

AT&T recognizes the value of cell service during the chaos and confusion following a natural disaster. As a result they will not upcharge costumers who exceed their data limits or miss payment deadlines in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. 

I am a resident of central Florida who was displaced from my home due to a mandatory evacuation. Despite the power outages and wind damage we had no loss of cellular service. 

Mobile phones are proven life savers and therefore indispensable in the aftermath of a natural disaster. I commend AT&T for supporting their customers in this time of hardship.