Creepy TV

I remember as a kid reading how Nielsen Ratings were tabulated by people keeping a clipboard on top of their TVs. I thought that was nuts. Well, lack of TV data is no longer a problem. Engadget reports (found via Daring Fireball) that Vizio now makes nearly as much money selling user data as it does selling TVs. It’s ironic that the devices we buy to watch end up watching us back. What’s next? Is my toaster going to start collecting data on me?

While I am a fan of the new Apple TV remote, I’m even more a fan of the fact that Apple isn’t using the Apple TV to monetize my viewing habits.

The New Apple TV Remote

My new Apple TV Remote arrived this morning, and I spent half an hour futzing with it. Here are some initial thoughts.

  • Yes. This remote is better than the prior one in every conceivable way. I don’t hate the old one as much as John Gruber does, but picking it up in the dark sometimes felt more like defusing a bomb than pausing my movie.

  • Pairing the new one is easy. Long press the power button and hold it near your existing Apple TV. That’s all.

  • Speaking of the power button, this is an obvious addition. I had to train my family how to turn off the TV with the old remote. Now they just press power.

  • The same goes for the mute button.

  • There still is a trackpad on the remote, but it is fenced in with the throwback iPod scroll wheel should eliminate accidental presses.

  • The scroll wheel actually scrubs your movie. This is so much better (and more accurate) than swiping the trackpad on the old one.

  • Overall, just yes.

  • Now I need to order a second one for the bedroom TV. There is no way I can go back after just 30 minutes with this new one.

More Apple TV+


Today Apple announced some subscribers are getting an extension to their free AppleTV+ subscriptions through February 2021. I’m sure this is at least partly because the shows that we expected to be dropping another season right now are delayed due to … well … everything.

I got more enjoyment out of Apple TV+ in its first year than I expected. Winners for me were Then Morning Show, Dickenson, little america, Mythic Quest, For All Mankind, and Greyhound.

That was a lot of TV for me. My biggest disappointment was Amazing Stories. I enjoyed that show back in its first run many years ago, but it just didn’t land with me.

My biggest surprise this year was Ted Lasso. We’re all trying to get through this pandemic. (My wife is now officially a casualty of the Disney lay-offs.) Watching Ted Lasso with the family every week was indeed a highlight and a break from all of that. If you have Apple TV+ and haven’t watched that one yet, you are in for a treat.

Regardless, I think Apple did better at making content in their first year than I expected. As someone who thinks about Apple a lot, I didn’t watch the shows out of some loyalty to the Finder, but instead because they were good shows. I’d always forget I was even watching Apple’s produced shows until a Mac or an iPhone prominently appeared, which did occasionally happen.

Apple is smart to extend the trial a bit longer, given things. When we get to February, and they can release more content, the case for renewal will be easier.

Apple TV Remote Tricks

Following up on yesterday’s post about Siri commands, here’s another full of Apple Remote tricks:

Home Button

That button in the upper right corner is a home button. Once you accept that, things get easier.

App Switcher

Double clicking the home button opens the App Switcher. This works just like on iOS. Swipe between them to switch apps without hitting the home screen. Swipe up to force quit an app.

Sleep Apple TV

Hold down the home button for a few seconds.

Return to Music App

If you are playing music in the background and want to return to the Apple Music app, hold down the play/pause button.

Scrubbing Video

Swipe right or left on the trackpad. You can also move forward or backward in 10 second increments by clicking on the right or left side of the trackpad. Hold down on the right or left side of the trackpad to scrub forward.

If you accidentally scrub (which happens often with he trackpad), click the “Menu” button to return to your original location.

Video Settings

Swipe down while watching a video for audio and closed captioning options.

Move and Delete Apps

Click and hold in the home screen to move an application with the trackpad. Click and hold even longer to delete an app.

Siri Commands on Apple TV

We are about to release a new episode of Mac Power Users all about the new Apple TV. One thing I’ve noticed in my first week of usage is that I rarely use Siri. I’m just not used to talking to my TV. In order to fix this, I spent a few hours with the TV sorting out all the Siri commands. Here’s what I found:

To start out, remember to press and hold the Siri button when adding commands. If you just tap it, Siri isn’t listening.

Basic TV Commands

These are the ones everybody should know. After my experimentation, it is absolutely clear to me that you will get a movie started fast this way than drilling for it with the remote.

  • “Find Henry Thomas Movies.”

  • “Find a movie starring Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore”

  • “Play ET”

  • “Find the series finale for the Newhart Show.”

  • “Play the Episode of the New Girl with Prince”

  • “Play Alto’s Adventure”


Siri Search

If you’re in the mood for something, Siri can help you out.

  • “Show me Spy movies”
    After it shows you spy movies you can further narrow the list:
  • “Only Comedies”, “Only Dramas”, “Only from this year”.

You can also get more specific:

  • “Show me James Bond movies”
  • “Show me James Bond movies with Daniel Craig”


 Siri Scrubbing

  • “Move back two minutes” / “Jump back two minutes”

  • “Play from beginning”

  • “Fast Forward three minutes” / “Jump forward ten minutes”

  • “What did he say?”
    This one is much talked about and magical. It rewinds 15 seconds and turns on closed captioning for just that section and then turns it off.


Siri Movie Information

  • “Who Directed this?”

  • “Who Stars in this?”

  • “What is this movie Rated?”

  • “When was this movie released?” / “When did this movie come out?”

I tried a few more that didn’t work like “Who is that?” while a single actor was on the screen and “Who wrote the soundtrack for this?”. I’d love to see this expanded.


Siri Data

  • “What’s the weather?”

  • “Is it going to rain tomorrow?”

  • “What’s the weather in Orlando?”

  • “What’s the weather this week in Orlando?”

  • “What time is sunrise tomorrow?

  • “How’s Apple Stock doing?

I’d like to see data returns expanded. When I asked  “How many days until Christmas?”, it returned “one month”, which is sort of right. When I asked “How many days until January 7”, I got the same answer. It also doesn’t give me contact data. When I asked “What is Katie Floyd’s Phone Number?”, it displayed a movie called “Phone Booth”. It also doesn’t do math, “What’s 17 plus 32?”. It also doesn’t access my calendar. Siri couldn’t answer when I asked “What are my appointments tomorrow?”. That seems like a no-brainer.


Siri Utilities

  • “Turn on Closed Captioning.”

  • “Turn on subtitles” / “Turn off subtitles

  • “Reduce Loud Sounds”

  • “Go to Movies.”

  • “Go to Earthlapse”

  • “Open Settings”


Siri Sports

  • “Did the Saints win?

  • “Who do the lakers play tomorrow?”

  • “Who is the kicker for the Seahawks?”

My big take away is that using Siri with my TV is nearly always faster than using the remote. Put these to use. You won’t regret it.