Using the Apple TV in South Africa

The Apple TV is a great little device. It has a number of features I use weekly and has definitely changed the way I consume media in my house. No longer do I have to watch movies or series on my Macbook’s small screen or use messy cables to get my Macbook hooked up to my 42″ LCD TV to get the full experience.

*Update!* You can now purchase an Apple TV from Wildtwig in South Africa!

The Apple TV connects wirelessly to my home network and hooks up to my TV using a single HDMi cable. Once it’s hooked up to my home network this is where I get the most benefit from it. Using Airplay, whatever photos, movies, Youtube videos or music I would usually consume on my iPhone, iPad or on my Mac, I now tap the Airplay icon and it automatically shows up on my TV! I then use my iPhone or iPad as the remote to browse through the images, stop, start the video or select another song to play.

Apple TV menu

All your content has to be kept within iTunes in order to stream it to your Apple TV. Check out HandBrake for converting movies and series to MP4 which you can then easily import into iTunes.

Another killer feature is the ability to rent movies and series from the iTunes stores. You will need an US iTunes account to be able to rent movies and series. Movies cost $3.99 to rent (series episodes are $0.99) and you can keep a movie for 30 days. Once you click play though, you have 24 hours to complete watching it. In terms of speed, I have a 4MB ADSL line at home and most of the time I click download and can start watching a movie literally within a minute. Apple TV does check your line speed and only allows you to start watching when it knows you’ll be able to finish watching the movie without any buffering.

iTunes also has a massive amount of online radio stations which you can listen to via your Apple TV. Much better than DStv’s audio bouquet.

The biggest problem though is purchasing an Apple TV in South Africa. They are not officially available here and I highly doubt they ever will be. There are a few online stores that do import them. Check stock availability with the online shop before purchasing though.

You can buy the 2nd generation or 3rd generation Apple TV from Wildtwig!

Other than these stores, hopefully you have a friend in the UK or US that can purchase an Apple TV and send it to you as a gift. They retail for $99 in the US or £101 in the UK.

Apple TV hacks

I haven’t tried or see the need to jailbreak my Apple TV, but here is a simple guide to jailbreaking your Apple TV. Once jailbroken, you will be able to install XMBC which then turns your Apple TV into a media player without the need to be chained to iTunes.

Everyone consumes media differently in their house and the Apple TV isn’t for everyone. I however love the fact I can easily rent movies from my couch, download pictures from my camera to my iPad and with one tap can share the photos on my TV for everyone to see and when people are talking about those funny Youtube videos they saw at work, I quickly find them on my iPhone and use Airplay to stream the videos to my TV for everyone to laugh at.

Lastly, one of my most favourite past times is watching movie trailers on the Apple TV. iTunes has a lists most of the movies that are currently in cinemas and although you can’t rent them just yet, you can watch the trailers!

How to get Netflix working in South Africa

NetflixFirstly, what is Netflix? Netflix is a video streaming service in the US that for a monthly fee, allows you to watch unlimited movies and tv series. The service costs $7.99 which is around R60 a month. That’s 3 DVD’s from your local video store.

The problem we have with Netflix is you have to be located in the US to use the service. In order to get Netflix to work here in South Africa, we need to actually browse and use Netflix via a server that is physically located in the US. Sound complicated? Not really. Enter the VPN (Virtual Private Network).

One thing about all of this is both Netflix and the VPN you are going to use have trial accounts. Netflix offers a 1 month free trial and the VPN has a 7 day money back guarantee. So try it out and if it doesn’t work properly or you can’t see yourself using it, cancel it all without spending any money.

How to setup a Netflix account from South Africa

To set this up, you’ll need a valid US mailing address and a Credit Card. They run automatic checks on the address to make sure its a deliverable address. Use Fake Name Generator to grab a Zip Code and State, then find the exact address of a post office in the US using USPS. Post being delivered to a post office is definitely going to work. :)

Enter your Credit Card details and your Netflix account should be good to go! (There is a Paypal option, but you most probably have a South African Paypal account, which won’t work.)

Using a VPN to access Netflix from South Africa

You going to need to sign up for a StrongVPN account. They have a number of packages and payment plans, so choose the one that suits you best. (Choose the cheapest!) I signed up for the Lite PPTP 3 month account ($21). Once you have your account setup, read StrongVPN’s How-to guide to getting your different machines or devices setup. If you having problems with setting up the VPN connection, use their live chat feature. They available for support 24 hours a day!

Download the Netflix app (iTunes link) for your iPhone and iPad in order to browse and watch movies from these devices. To connect your iPhone or iPad to your TV to watch movies, either get yourself a set of AVI or HDMi cables to connect to your TV or if you plan on getting an Apple TV, Airplay will allow you to tap a button and start watching the movie on your TV!

You can also watch movies via your web browser that has Microsoft Silverlight support. (For Mac, only Firefox and Safari has Silverlight support. Windows has support for Internet Explorer, Firefox and Google Chrome.)

Some tips and observations

1: I’ve managed to watch movies via my Macbook and iPhone. With iOS 4.3 coming out, Airplay will be available to 3rd party apps. What this means is with an Apple TV (mine is on its way from the UK) I’ll be able to just tap a button on the Netflix iPhone app (if they implement the new feature) and stream movies on my TV!

2: Apple TV and my XBox 360 have Netflix integrated into them, the problem is you cannot setup a VPN connection directly on these devices. So other than hacking your router to use the VPN directly, I can’t see any other way to get the native Netflix app on the Apple TV or XBox 360 to work here in SA. But with an iPhone, you’ll be able to use Airplay to view movies on your Apple TV via Netflix!

3: When you are connected via the VPN, your browsing experience is slower (Speeds seem to vary though). You literally only need the VPN to bypass the location checking of Netflix, so once a movie gets past connecting to the Netflix server and is checking your connection speed, turn off the VPN. You’ll be watching movies in the same time as it takes Youtube to load on your connection. I also found that I only had to do this once and every subsequent movie I tried, I never had to be on the VPN to get it to work.

4: I’m still learning all the tricks of how to get all my devices working. Initially I couldn’t get any movie playing on my iPad (it would just say loading and never play), but I tried it again this morning and it’s working!

5: You can’t really start watching a movie on your iPad and then turn off the VPN. The app doesn’t have proper multi-tasking, so it cuts out and starts the movie from the beginning and does their location checks again. I did however find that once I started watching a movie on my iPhone, turned off the VPN and then started browsing other movies, the movies just worked!

6: I also managed to get Netflix to work using the Boxee app you can download for your Mac or PC. I’m not sure if it will work if you have the actual Boxee device, as it will need the ability to setup a VPN connection.

Find your iPhone or iPad

With the latest iOS update (4.2), Apple have released the Find your iPhone service that used to be part of a Mobile Me, for free!

What is Find your iPhone all about?

Find your iPhoneFind your iPhone is an app that you install on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, that allows you to do 4 things. Find your device on a map, send a message to the device, remote lock the device or remote wipe all sensitive data off the device.

So if your phone is ever misplaced or stolen, you’ll be able to remote lock the phone with a pin and leave a message on the phone for the person to contact you to give it back!

Find your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch

How to activate Find your iPhone

The app that you can download to your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch is only useful if you have multiple devices. You can however login to Mobile Me with your free account and monitor all your devices from the web.

To activate Find your iPhone, go to settings > Mail, Contacts, Calenders and Add Account. Then add a Mobile Me account and login with your Apple ID. It’s the same username and password that you login to iTunes with. You can also create a brand new Apple ID if you do not have one yet. Once that has been done, just enable Find your iPhone and you good to go!

Login to to test to see all is working and send your device a message!

Cape Town Safari iPhone app

Cape Town SafariJust in time for all those international visitors coming to the World Cup AND us locals that want to find some of the local gems hiding in Cape Town, Cape Realty have launched an iPhone app called Cape Town Safari.

The app has a number of different categories – eating out, entertainment, shopping, things to do and accommodation just to name a few. You won’t find a list of every single restaurant in Cape Town in the app, but what you will find is some of Cape Town’s favourite places. Almost like the best of the best!

Each listing has all the contact details, a decent review as well as a link to where its located that will open up Google maps. So no getting lost for you my international friends.

Cape Town Safari is free and is available now in the App store.

Disclaimer: Cape Realty is a client of World Wide Creative, who I’m associated with.

iPhone 2.0 with 3G and GPS coming to SA in July!

I just finished “watching” Apple’s WWDC via Macrumors and Gizmodo. You almost feel like you drinking the Apple Koolaid watching Steve Job’s keynote presentation.

The new iPhone 2.0 with 3G and GPS

white and black iPhone 2.0 with 3G and GPS

So, the big announcement was that Apple have released the iPhone 2.0. It now has 3G and GPS, it’s thinner with a black plastic back, solid metal buttons, same gorgeous display, camera, flush headphone jack, and dramatically improved audio. There will also be a white version!

It is also a lot more affordable. When it first launched, the 8GB iPhone cost $599 (R4700). It now will retail worldwide for $199 (R1500). So I’m guessing when it launches in South Africa on the 20th of July, you’ll be able to pick one up on some of the more affordable Vodacom contract packages!

Read more about the iPhone over at Gizmodo.