I had already posted about how I was a little surprised at the lack of streaming media integration and the inability to get the devices I have to do what I need with the Roku streaming box. I tweeted that is seemed media companies would not be happy until they DRM our eyeballs. A screen is a screen, if you can see it you can pirate it, either passively (pointing a camera at it) or actively by bypassing the DRM/electronics/cable blocks etc. It is all a bit of a waste of everyone’s time and money. Though the hardware providers are raking in the cash as I found with my apparently non standard Apple cable charger in my car that the Iphone after a recent update now delights in telling me that this is a non standard accessory that won’t work properly. Its a cable! a bit of wire 🙁
Anyway, this is a journey to try and get to legal content, using consumer facing devices. Not hacking, pirating etc. Though it seems it is much easier to pirate and hack than it is to get to stuff that your are entitled to view or actually own in the first place.
I thought I would try an Apple TV. We have lots of Apple devices, phones, pads and Macbook Pro’s after all. This was now not just for the early morning attempts to watch BBC breakfast which started this, but now to push live and on demand TV into my newly refurbished home office. Working at home all the time I need the background noise of radio or TV. Peace and quiet are not always conducive to getting things done (for me anyway).
We have Sky and a full subscription in the house and a recent order for multi room means we now have the online Sky Go extra with a whole 4 devices able to be registered to view the sky channels we pay for.
So Apple TV is definitely a lot slicker and less jacky than Roku seems to be. To be fair though I already have an Apple account so I didn’t have to do the extra account creation steps. However Roku won’t let you use it unless you register, Apple TV was happy to just startup.
I thought I would try and push iplayer from my older Macbook Pro that I use mainly for testing. After all you can, according to the blurb, just mirror the screen to Apple TV. Well you can… but not on an older Macbook Pro for no real reason I can see. I then tried on my newer MacBook Pro and sure enough it worked. The trouble is my main MBP is often doing other things like compiling code and running Unity3d development so thats a non starter.
I tried using iplayer on the iPhone and just hitting Airplay on the application. Sure enough it worked 🙂 So I wondered if I could do the same mirroring with my Android Samsung Galaxy Tablet. A bit of hunting around and it seems there are applications to beam existing content but nothing to just show the screen as is, and hence bypass any of the apparently inconsistent checks for what you can watch where. This was not overly successful. Certainly not something I bothered chasing up.
I looked around and found that there is a Mirror application that sends screen to Roku and Apple TV from PC or Mac. This is called AirParrot. I downloaded the trial and used it on the 2009 MBP and sure enough it found the AppleTV and sent the screen to the Apple TV connected to the normal HDMI TV. I had to install an extra driver to get it to send sound as well though. The application is only $9.99 so I also bought a license for my Windows 8 laptop.
The Windows laptop is a gaming spec one and only a few months old so I decided to move to use that rather than the older MBP. This was mainly when I tried to use Sky Go on the MBP. I logged in as a subscriber to Sky and then attempted to AirParrot to the Apple TV. However machine seemed to be suffering from having to download over the wifi/internet and then wifi send to the TV so it all got a bit choppy. On windows and a more powerful machine is seemed to be not too bad. This was despite the MBP being on the 5ghz network and the windows machine on 2.5ghz.
I changed the windows to extend to the extra TV and AirParrot does a perfectly acceptable job of pushing content. It is not perfect HD and I am still doing the sound directly on the PC but it works. I now have TVCatchup playing Channel 5 The Wright stuff as I write this.
I went back to Sky Go and downloaded Iron Man 3 onto the Sky Go application on Windows. The aim being to reduce the double network effect of streaming in and pushing back out again. This worked fine on an Airparrot mirror, again it had a lot of compression going on, AirParrot has a few quality settings to tinker with later though. it is good enough to have the films on in the background.
Then it dawned on me that I really should move the Xbox 360 to the office. The 360 has the Sky application on it and so I would not need to use the Apple TV and this extra hope. Unfortunately I can’t even try this until next month. Why? Well Sky Go claims “Watch TV from Sky however you like on your compatible mobile, tablet or laptop wherever you are in the UK & Ireland with an internet connection”. Which is does but… With our multi room subscription we are allowed 4 devices to be registered. As soon as you log into Sky on a laptop or phone and hit play that device is then takes up one of the four slots. Apparently you can only have 2 of those 4 logged on at any one time too. In all my experiments I had gone in to manage the list and I removed 1 device we don’t use. Leaving the original iPad and another windows laptop I experimented with over xmas. Using the windows box and the mac to test Sky Go and mirroring means I had refilled 2 slots. However, the ridiculous terms stop you editing your device list any more than 1 device a month. I can see they are worried we might all just keep chopping and changing but they should look at Apple’s device limits!
I am asking Sky nicely if they will reset my devices now I know the configuration, so I will see what happens there.
So what works after all that?
Live BBC 1 iplayer
Iphone/Ipad airPlay mirror screen to Apple TV
Web new macbook pro live BBC 1 mirror screen to Apple TV
Web old MBP + AirParrot Application to Apple TV
Web windows + AirParrot Application to Apple TV
What doesn’t work
Roku Iplayer application no live stream
Roku and Twonky beam won’t mirror BBC1 Live from Iphone/Android
Apple TV has no native iplayer app
With Roku and Apple Tv there are native applications to get at various services. The one I really cannot understand is why the Sky Now TV is not unified with the SkyGo service? Mind you with the ludicrous device limit and management setup this probably is not a surprise. I should be able to just log on to the Roku and register that device as one of my 4 Sky Go devices with a normal Sky Id?
***Update 16/1/14 Credit where credit is due to good customer service. Having emailed Sky and explained I had maxed out my 4 slots but would prefer to remove the machines I tested with they cleared the required slots and I now have the Xbox 360 connected back to Sky so I no longer need to beam sky go from one device to the Apple TV. Next up I am now trying XMBC and Play To on windows freeing up the Apple TV to replace the Roku and we will just use the iphones/ipads for iplayer. Not totally ideal but certainly getting close to the solution.
Each streaming device should really have Tvcatchup or equivalent for all the terrestrial channels. Excuses about rights management just do not hold water as the combination exist to see these things on a screen, and in particular on “mobile” devices like laptops and phones. However static devices attached to a large non mobile screen are very limited, unless you spend lots of money on doubling up subscriptions or download illegal DRM free copies of movies. It seems, as per usual DRM is just costing us all. Until they get to instal a restrictor chip in our brains to stop us receiving content that they own it is all pretty much a waste of time.