Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Getting iOS 7: Step-by-Step

Apple's new iOS 7 was released today, bringing with it a slick, new interface for your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch.  Like to update?  Curious if your device is eligible?  Here's the step-by-step procedure with screen images.

1. In the Settings app, tap on General and then Software Update

2. If your iOS device is eligible for iOS 7 you'll see the above screen.  Tap Download and Install.

3. Legalese for you

4. You'll need to Agree to continue

5. It's a big update (900MB) so you might want to plug in

6. Downloading...takes a while.

7. Done!  Now some initial configuration screens (all in white -- you feel like you're in the clouds!)

8. Tap Continue to keep going
9. Tap Enable Location Services so some apps can detect your location

10. Enter your Apple ID password to complete setting up iCloud

11. Notifying you of your iMessage and FaceTime current settings

12. FYI about the new Find My iPad capabilities

13. You are done - welcome to iOS 7!

Finally...back Home at last!  With a new look!!!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Apple VGA Cable & Video Mirroring on an Older TV

If you have an older, legacy television, can you still stream your iPad or iPhone to your TV, watching movies on a larger screen? An earlier post showed streaming is possible using the Apple Composite AV Cable; however, my testing also showed this experience was a far cry from video mirroring (where your TV display mirrors what's on your iPad).

So is iOS video mirroring on your old TV doable at all?

I'm pleased to say video mirroring is possible on that old TV in many cases. Using a different combination of cables you can mirror your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch on your legacy TV, as this post will show.

What will video mirroring buy you? After all, the Composite AV Cable solution is simpler, requiring only one cable. However, the streaming only displays on your TV if it is supported by the video app you are using, and support is sporadic.  And anything that is not "streamed" definitely cannot show on the TV using the Composite Cable: games, the Internet, regular apps, etc. Video mirroring should allow everything to display on the TV, just as you see it on your iPad or iPhone.

However, this video mirroring solution requires a combination of cables, and so may test the patience of some. It's not difficult, but it's also not an easy, simple solution.

Older TV Video Mirroring - What You Need
TV with RCA connections
Here's the environment I tested with: I have an iPad 3 with a 30-pin connector. My television is a Sony Trinitron with RCA composite connections.  The two most important variables here are your iOS connection (30- pin or Lightning) and your video-in TV connection, which can vary the cables you need.

Video mirroring components:
Apple Dock Connector to VGA
Apple Lightning to VGA
1. Apple Dock Connector to VGA or Apple Lightning to VGA
This cable will convert your iPad's video signal into VGA, which is a more common industry video standard, supported by a variety of cables.  Use the cable that matches your iOS device.

Sample VGA to RCA converter
2a. Video: VGA to RCA converter (varies based on your TV video-in connection)
This device takes your newly-converted VGA video signal, converting it to a format compatible with your TV. If your TV has a RCA video-in connection (see picture above) this is what you will use. If your television is a little newer, and has the Red Green Blue (RGB) video-in connection, you may just need #2b.

RCA video cable

2b. Video cable to your TV
Connect a yellow RCA video cable to #2a, and the other end to your TV's yellow video-in connection. Relatively newer televisions, with RGB video connections may be able to use a VGA to Component RGB cable only, but you would have to test this.

RCA audio cable

3. Audio cable
#2 above handles video; you also need to account for your sound. A simple choice is to listen from your iPad. But a better option is to use a RCA audio cable (red/white cables) that connects to your iOS device. You'll want a Stereo 3.5mm to stereo RCA Y cable connector cable.  If you connect this cable from your iPad to your TV audio-in this will play your sound through the TV speakers. If you have a receiver, connect the cable to the audio-in of your receiver and your iPad's audio will sound great through your big speakers!

Testing Results
All in all, video mirroring worked quite well! I connected everything, powered on my iPad, and my start screen displayed immediately on the TV. The Internet with Safari, Games, and virtually all apps, including those streaming apps that did not work with the Composite AV Cable, display on the legacy TV. From this standpoint, it's a very satisfying solution.

What doesn't work? Amazon Instant Video, just as it does with the Component AV cable, does not display on the TV - the Amazon app blocks the signal. Also (and ironically), movies purchased through iTunes will not display on your TV either; the Apple app apparently does this to prevent piracy. iTunes movies are the one item that works okay using the Composite AV Cable, but not with the video mirroring setup.  Finally, the Netflix app streams fine to the TV, but doesn't video mirror on your iOS device.

It's important to note that video output through an RCA connection is limited to 800x600 resolution.  I have watched hours and hours of video streaming in this manner, and for most uses this resolution is acceptable; still,you may be dissatisfied with the video quality. Certainly it's no match for the iPad's retina display.

I find the trade-off of a larger screen, big speaker sound, and an environment where the whole family can easily watch a video worth the sacrifice of the reduced resolution. Of course, a new HDTV would nicely solve the resolution problem! But if you have an older TV for now, this solution will let you video mirror with your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch.

Finally, for those willing to invest a little more, it is possible to use Apple TV with older, non-HDMI TVs.

Note: product links are examples only and not recommendations.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Older TV Streaming & the Apple Composite AV Cable

I am on a mission to find the best way to stream iPad content to my old TV.  The "old" part is the challenge: I currently own a 27" Sony Trinitron.  There are a lot of sexy new ways, such as Apple TV, to display content on new HD TVs.  But how to display iPad and other iOS content on an older TV, not blessed with HDMI connections?

Here I'll review Apple's Composite AV Cable, which seemed feasible, as I have the iPad 3 with the 30-pin connector, the connector used by the Composite AV Cable, and AV connections are fine for most old TVs.  

The type of connector used by your iOS device is in fact critical.  If you have a newer iOS device with the Lightning Connector (e.g. iPhone 5, iPad 4, iPod touch 5th-generation) you cannot use the Composite AV Cable. You might think you could get the  lightning-to-30-pin cable and connect that to the Composite AV Cable. But no.  My testing has shown the  lightning-to-30-pin cable does not support video, as Apple also states on its site.  (Later I'll discuss a possible option for newer iOS lightning devices.)

The Composite AV Cable has the standard set of three AV /RCA cables, colored yellow, red and white. For older TVs, this is often your only option for video and audio in (yellow = video; red/white = stereo audio).  The cable is conveniently long, about 6 feet, and in addition to the three AV cables includes a fourth USB cable, which can be used to power your iPad during use.

From prior experience connecting a laptop PC to my television with an RCA composite cable, I expected to plug the cables into the television, plug the 30 pin connector to my iPad, turn both on and have my iPad screen display on the TV. This is known as "video mirroring".   This is not, repeat not, what you get with the Composite AV Cable.

Instead, I plugged everything in, turned on the iPad 3 and the TV, and got...nothing. All I saw was a blank, grey screen, and I tried this on two TVs just to make sure. I was getting audio, but nothing else. I tried running some apps, Safari, etc. - nothing. It looked like I had a defective video cable.

Luckily, before returning the cable, I decided to try the Netflix app. Lo and behold, up came the familiar red Netflix starting screen, both on my iPad and on the TV! At least at that point I knew the video cable wasn't defective. However, confusingly, on my iPad the red start screen disappeared and went into the normal list of available shows on the app, but this isn't what was on the TV screen. The TV screen continued to only show the red Netflix start screen! What was going on here?

iPad display during Netflix streaming

So I selected a Netflix show in the app and started to play it. Immediately, the iPad screen reverted to the Netflix logo.  However, simultaneously, the video streaming began displaying on the TV, and only on the TV.  Not exactly what I was expecting, but hey, streaming was "working".

Well, not optimal, but at least I knew the score. All I needed to do would be to round up all the various streaming possibilities, Safari or in-app, and I should be good!

Ah, if only it was that easy. It seems whether an app or a website can stream to the TV (at least through the Composite AV Cable) is up to the whim of the developer. Some stream fine, some don't stream at all, and some stream in Safari but not in the app (or vice versa). The variability and unpredictability is frustrating - it's all so Android-like.

CBS iPad display during streaming 
Amazon Video App - no TV streaming

Aside from streaming, not much else will display on your TV. The Apple Photos app will display in slideshow mode, but I tried several prominent game apps without success.

I did not try everything, but below is a summary of my testing with the Apple Composite AV Cable. I expect consistency in the iOS world; it would behoove Apple, which has to sanction all apps, to insist on streaming apps to have TV-out capability.
Testing Results for the Apple Composite AV Cable and iPad 3

As promised, here is a possible solution for connecting the new iOS lightning connector devices to old TVs.  It's ugly (and expensive), but Apple forum user PatrickGaerlan suggests a possible solution for newer iOS Lightning devices:  Apple Lightning Digital AV Adapter + HDMI Cable + Mini HDMI2AV Converter + AV composite cables (any).

Also, I have discovered how to get Apple TV to work on older TVs without an HDMI connection.

Finally, you can check Apple's Composite AV Cable compatability list below if you have compatability questions about your specific device.

Composite AV Cable iOS Device Compatability (per Apple)