Thursday, November 21, 2013

Help for Apple TV Not Showing Full Screen Image

I was disappointed in my first tests with Apple TV.  Yeah, wireless streaming was cool, but the image was not.  The iPad's mirrored image was small on the screen, with black border "pillar boxing" covering a good part of the screen. Frankly, I was ready to return the device.  But after more testing, I found relief - the black borders may not be entirely removable, but a simple setting change can minimize the pain.

Part of the problem comes with different aspect ratios between your iPad and TV.  Typically, your iPad will have a 4:3 aspect ratio and your TV will be 16:9.  Making sure your iPad or iPhone is in landscape mode when you mirror can help with this issue, but may not totally eliminate it.

What helped most for me was turning off the Apple TV Overscan setting.  Many network signals deliberately "overscan", sending a slightly bigger image than will fit on your TV, ensuring your whole screen is filled, but also perhaps truncating a small portion of the image.  To counter this effect, Apple TV does the opposite, shrinking the image to avoid the top or bottom being cut off when you mirror to your TV.  The result: a small picture and lots of pillar boxing.

An Apple TV setting change lets you turn off this Overscan effect, as shown here.

1. In Apple TV, click on Settings, then Audio & Video

2. Find the Adjust for AirPlay Overscan setting (default is ON)

3. Turn OFF Adjust for AirPlay

A couple before/after picture comparisons of this setting change follow.  (TV: Sony Trinitron 27")

Before: Adjust for AirPlay Overscan setting ON (default setting). CBS App shown streaming with AirPlay; Mirroring ON. Note the heightened black border "pillar boxing". 

After: Adjust for AirPlay Overscan setting OFF. Black border "pillar boxing" reduced (but not eliminated).

Note the pillar boxing is app dependent.  For example, here is the streaming PBS app: a full screen image is displayed.  The Netflix app also shows a full screen image.

In summary, the Apple TV streaming image, when too small for taste, can be made somewhat larger with an adjustment to the AirPlay Overscan setting.  As annoying as this smaller image is, it is not across-the-board, but app-dependent.  Still, it is something to consider when evaluating Apple TV for your home.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Restoring a New iPad

Ironically, one of the most well-designed features of the iPad is one that you can only fully appreciate when you upgrade to a new iPad. Apple's iCloud Restoral process has made moving to a new iPad (or iPhone) easy as pie - as a veteran of numerous Painful PC Upgrades I was truly appreciative of their efforts. Moving to the new iPad Air required nothing more difficult than plugging in my new iPad and typing in a few passwords!

Of course, you must have an iCloud backup from your prior iPad to be able to do the restore! So the key to a simple set up occurs on the old device, not the new one - see the prior post on backing up to iCloud as you prepare your iPad for a transfer of ownership.

With a good iCloud backup your apps, data and settings all get restored to your new iPad.  Even your wallpaper and the positioning of your icons on your home screens are replicated to your new device!

The most important part comes right at the beginning after turning on your new iPad.  You will see this screen:

You must select the "Restore from iCloud Backup" option. If you're not alert, it's easy to choose the "Set up As New IPad", which sounds intuitive, but will result in a fresh start and won't restore your apps, data and settings from your old iPad. Just think: "Restore, Restore, Restore" amidst all the excitement of turning on your new device!

A quick first part of the restore process restores your settings and icons.  Next, you'll be prompted to plug-in your iPad as it moves to the heavy lifting of the restore process: your apps and data. This can take 30 minutes or more so it's a good idea.

The restore will then commence, and it's fun to watch as it proceeds. Apps/folders that haven't been restored yet will be a darkened color, and will return to their normal bright look once restored. As the restoral is in progress for a given app/folder, you'll see a circle icon and can watch the progress as it proceeds (note the Entertainment and Finance folders in progress on the screenshot).

You will in some cases be prompted for password, for example when restoring secured iTunes songs. This was the only part of the restoral process that was a bit confusing. At some point I was prompted to put in passwords for my sons' Apple IDs (which I couldn't do since I didn't know the passwords). In these cases I clicked Cancel and the restoral preceded.

Later however, when I would turn on my iPad, again it would still prompt for these passwords. Going into Settings, my iPad had "not completed" the restoral (in its mind) with this "to do" still open. The problem: the new iPad would not do further iCloud backups until the restoral was "done". So at that point my new iPad was vulnerable if something happened. After I was able to track my sons down and get them to enter their passwords I was good, and  backups began to commence as normal.

Selling /Gifting Your iPad?  How to Prepare

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Selling / Gifting iPad? - What to Do

If you are among the many buying a new iPad these days, you may have plans to sell or gift your current Apple tablet. However, before you do, there are a couple important preparation steps to carry out on your current iPad. This post will cover the step-by-step to prepare your iPad for a transfer of ownership.
To sell or get your iPad, you need to first:
  1. Backup your current settings and data
  2. Erase your iPad

1. Backup your current settings and data 
This is the most critical step, as it would be most unfortunate to perform the next step, erasing your iPad, and losing all your data and settings! Having a current backup will make moving to a new iPad quite easy, as you can restore all of your apps, data and settings onto your new device.

1a. To begin your iPad Backup process, tap on Settings=>iCloud=>Storage & Backup.  

Ensure the iCloud Backup setting is ON (green).  This will allow your iPad to be backed up to iCloud.

1b. Resist the urge to do an immediate backup. Instead, staying in iCloud / Storage & Backup, tap on Manage Storage.  Here you'll see each of your IOS devices listed if you have more than one (e.g. an iPhone and an iPad). Select the device you plan to do a backup for, which we will assume is your iPad. You then should see something like the screen above. 

From here you can see when your latest backup was, and the size of the backup. Scroll down to the Backup Options section, and turn to green all apps that you will want to migrate to your new iPad.  Setting the app to green will include it in your iCloud backup.  Don't stop with this initial screen, also tap Show All Apps, to see and turn on your complete list of apps.

Once you have selected all the apps for your backup, a final check would be to see how big this next backup will be by checking the Backup Size (at the top of the Manage Storage screen). Hopefully it's nicely under the 5 GB maximum iCloud free space.  (If not, learn more about reducing your Backup size.)

1c. You should now be ready for your iPad Backup. To do your Backup, go to Settings=>iCloud=> Storage & Backup. At the bottom you'll see the Back Up Now option.  
Tap Back Up Now and your backup will start. You may be prompted to first plug in your iPad while the Backup commences, as it may take a little while.

2. Erase your iPad
Once your iPad's data, apps and settings have been safely backed up (and ideally restored and working on your new iPad) it's time to wipe this iPad clean and prepare it for its new owner.  The only reason not to do this is if you are giving the iPad to someone in your family that will have permission to use your same Apple account (e.g. your spouse).  

2a. Go to Settings=>General.  Scroll to the bottom of the screen and find the Reset option.  Tap Reset to begin the erase process.  (Note: for iOS 7 or later you will have to turn off Find My iPad/iPhone.)

2b. Here is the Reset screen. A number of options are here. Choose the Erase All Content and Settings option if you are selling or giving away your iPad.  (More information on Reset screen options.)

2c. These next two warnings when you do make sure sure sure this is what you want to do!  Tap Erase to proceed.

The erasure usually goes fairly quickly. Finally, you'll see the Apple logo and the iPad will be ready for its new owner!

You can learn more about the erase process and what to do before selling with these Apple articles.


Friday, November 1, 2013

iPad Air: "Best Tablet I've Ever Reviewed"

Walt Mossberg, the Technology Columnist of the Wall Street Journal, has high praise for the new iPad Air in his recent review.  The improvements are significant, and make a fine product even better in his opinion.

He cites these upgrades to the iPad:
  • Thinner: Apple has reduced the thickness of the iPad by 20%
  • Smaller: the new iPad is 9% narrower, while maintaining the 9.7" screen size
  • Lighter: now weighing 1 lb., 28% lighter
  • Faster: a new 64 bit A7 Chip, up to 100% faster than some earlier models
  • Battery: all while maintaining the 10 hour battery life
In his words: "the battery performance of the iPad Air simply blew me away...clocking a battery life of 12 hours and 13 minutes, which exceeded Apple's claims by more than 20%."

He concludes: "If you can afford it, the new iPad Air is the tablet I recommend, hands down."

Read the full review. Also, learn more about the new iPad Air.