Can You Upgrade An AppleTV Past 250GB?

Last year, I wrote about upgrading the AppleTV from 40GB to 160GB.  As I’ve starting converting my entire video library to MP4, I’ve quickly run out of space on the AppleTV again. The software on the AppleTV continues to be a generation ahead of the software included on Mac OS X (10.5), so I was thinking about how to upgrade the AppleTV.

You can now find 250GB, 320GB, and soon, 500GB SATA 2.5″ drives on the market.  Unfortunately, it seems that only Western Digital is making an ATA-6 drive above 160GB, and the biggest drive they are selling is 250GB.  Not going to cut it, as my iTunes movie library is now over 350GB and growing.

I was curious whether anyone out there knew whether or not ATA-6 was effectively dead for 2.5″ drives?  If so, why?

Assuming you can’t get the AppleTV hard drive above 250GB, then I’m going to be left with replacing the  AppleTV with a Mac Mini, my current solution for the family room.  Not perfect, of course, because the current version of FrontRow:

  • Can’t do iTunes Rentals (not sure I care about this at all)
  • Can’t organize movies by genre (big problem when you have 200+ movies)

I guess it stands to reason that Apple will upgrade the FrontRow software shortly to match the features of AppleTV 2.0.

I hate to see my AppleTV so limited by storage, though.  If you have any ideas, pointers, or tips on how to add more storage to an AppleTV, please let me know.   I’d love to be able to take it up to 320GB or more.

I’m really not sure why Apple’s streaming solution for the AppleTV isn’t working for me – I would think Apple would just cache the first 10 minutes of each movie on the AppleTV, and then stream in the rest of the movie when I select one.  160GB would be an extremely effective cache for my iTunes library, since it’s effectively 1/3 the size of the library.  Maybe I’ve configured something wrong here, but when I tell the AppleTV to synch “all” of my movies, a vast majority don’t show up on the AppleTV.

Update (4/27/08): OK, I’ve found a huge amount of info on great hacks for the AppleTV.  Here is an AppleTV archive on Hackszine.com.  Here is the site AppleTVHacks.net.  Well known hacks include ability to use external drives, SSH support, RSS, etc.  Lots of very cool stuff to check out.

Update (4/27/08): Last comment.  Here is a wiki at AwkwardTV.org that gives step by step instructions on how to install SSH on your AppleTV Take 2, and then add USB Hard Drive support.  It’s not trivial.

Correlation or Causality: Starbucks & Obama

This one was too good not to share.  See below for a graph mapping out the correlation between the number of Starbucks and the margin of victory/defeat for Obama vs. Clinton.  From the Urbanspoon:

Is there really a connection between sipping your double tall breve and voting for Obama? We’ll leave political analysis to the professionals, but this is the kind of food question we’re equipped to investigate. Unfortunately, we can’t directly measure how much latte everyone is drinking. But as an approximation, we looked at the number of Starbucks stores per capita on a state-by-state basis. Compare this to how states voted in the primary:

The blue line measures the percentage by which Obama beat (or lost to) Clinton. The green dots represent the number of Starbucks stores per million people for each state. The black line is the trend line of Starbucks stores, drawn to make it easier to see the relationship between voting and latte sipping.

Love it.  Thanks to Paul Kedrosky for the pointer.

Wow. American Idol Season 7 Suprise.

Quick post, but wow. Carly Smithson voted off.  Thought it was going to be Brooke for sure.

American Idol is a game of figuring out where the votes are coming from, and figuring out where votes from the last eliminated singer will go. Multi-party politics, except that individuals can have multiple votes, and most people DON’T vote.  So each round, you largely get either vote transference or abstention.

Still standing my original picks for the final three:

  • Syesha Mercado
  • David Archuleta
  • David Cook

Jason Castro & Brooke White pretty much have to be the next two off, but it could be complicated now.  Unclear where the “Carly” votes will now go.  David Cook?  Syesha?  Brooke?

I definitely thought Carly would outlast the other two.

See, American Idol is still fun… even if it is long in the tooth.  Feels like “the last season” for some reason.

Happy Birthday, eBay Express

Birthday Presents

eBay Express

I’ve continued to shy away from posts about eBay and eBay Express in the past year.  Somehow, it feels inappropriate to comment too deeply about my former company.  But tomorrow (April 24th) is a special day for eBay Express, and I thought it would be wrong not to acknowledge it.

Happy Birthday, eBay Express!

On April 24th, 2006, eBay Express officially launched it’s beta site to the world.  In actually, the site had been running internally as of March 20th, but we officially made the DNS entry available outside of eBay for it’s beta debut.  (Actually, we originally thought it could take up to 48 hours for the DNS to propogate… it turned out to take 5 minutes, which led the site to actually go live during the launch party on Friday, April 21st.)

It may not be obvious from the outside, but eBay Express was exciting for a number of reasons:

  • Mission. eBay Express had a real mission – to build a best-of-class, retail buyer experience with the value & selection that buyers love about eBay, but with significant improvements in convenience & trust.  This high-level goal led the founding team to craft several principles which guided every decision and led to an incredible passion across the team and the company.   Principles like, “Always ask what’s best for the buyer.” and the concept of making the platform “backwards compatible” with existing seller business process, were kept consistent across the site.
  • Innovation.  Never before had eBay committed so broadly to investment in new technology & systems designed around a holistic end-to-end business & experience.  In each and every area, leveraging the principles of the site, we re-examined the best technology eBay & Paypal had to offer, and in many cases invested heavily to break through a number of long-standing roadblocks to platform innovation.
  • Entrepreneurship. eBay Express was an important experiment for eBay, which has a long history of acquiring new businesses, but less experience in building them.  eBay Express was a significant test for the organization and for the business.

It’s two years later now.  Much of the technology that we developed during eBay Express has informed new designs for technology for the core eBay business.  Many of the principles of eBay Express have now also been transferred to the entire eBay markeplace.  In fact, if you read through the transcript of Lorrie Norrington’s speech today, a vast majority of it echoes strongly with the original vision.  Of course, it differs in one important way: one of the basic tennants of eBay Express was that we were building a different site so that we didn’t have to change what buyers & sellers love about eBay.com.

One of the founding team’s greatest fears with eBay Express was the long term ability of eBay to invest in building a new business in a very tough market.  Amazon spent almost an entire decade interating on their model for third-party fixed-price sales on Amazon.com.  Of course, it is very successful now, but it’s easy to forget the amount of capital and the number of missteps that Amazon endured in the process.  I continue to be extremely proud of the incredible sales growth & volume that the team generated in just their first year (and even into their second!).

When I worked at Apple in the 1990s, one of the lessons I learned was that it is very hard for a large business to invest in new markets when it’s core business is suffering.  It seems like ancient history, but when Steve returned, Apple focused first on stemming the bleeding in its core Mac market with the Think Different campaign and the iMac years before it debuted the iPod & iTunes sensation.  To this day, Apple’s success is a pairing of its new businesses and its old.

eBay’s priority now has to be it’s core eBay marketplace business, and that’s why you see tell-tale signs of cutting back on investment in ancillary businesses.

There were plenty of lessons learned from eBay Express – things done right, things done wrong.  But that’s not really the purpose of this post.  The purpose of this post is to say “Happy Birthday” to the site while I still can, and give a brief shout out to the original founding team who got pulled off every other “top” priority at the time:

Special nod to MD, LR, AH, SM, RV, CF, RV & ES for their support, and to the entire Express team.  eBay Express will always be special to me.  And of course, there is the ever growing list of eBay Express alumni on LinkedIn.  🙂

P.S. Just in case she’s wondering, yes, Rebecca, 4/24 is first and foremost your birthday in my heart.  Happy Birthday, Rebecca!

Battlestar Galactica: Episode 4.3 “The Ties that Bind”

If you don’t like spoilers, stop reading now.  Seriously.  I don’t want any whiny complaints.  You are lucky I didn’t put more in my title.

There is a very good write-up on BuddyTV.  It’s worth reading.

Let’s summarize what was great about the third episode of this season:

  1. Cylon civil war heats up. This could be going in a couple directions.  Pretty obvious issue with giving the Centurion’s access to higher-level thinking.  Hello?  Rebellion against the humanoid cylons.  Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  Like the rebellion 40 years ago against the human colonists?  Also having the Cylons self-destruct helps lead us towards some sort of human victory – there has to be some form of Cylon destruction – right now, the Cylons are too powerful and eventually they will crush the humans unless they either (1) find help or (2) self-destruct.  Not sure which it will be yet, but the current thread opens up (2) as an options.  Last note: are we going to see the emergence of true individual behavior in the Cylons, as a virus?  Happened with Baltar’s 6, now the Boomer 8.  Not good for the robots.  Not good at all.
  2. Some of the “final four” are definitely acting Cylon.  Tory is starting to act like the new Number 6, before she went soft.   Sex with Baltar, flirt with Tyrol, kill Callie?  Not bad for three episodes.
  3. Cally dies. Nice to see that Battlestar hasn’t lost its guts yet.  Of course, they could wuss out and make Callie the final cylon…  of course, they’d have to explain the Tyrol-Callie baby at that point, since it would be Cylon/Cylon.  Let’s hope they don’t.  Let’s hope they had the guts to kill an empathetic character, cruelly, and without remorse.   Battlestar has to stay dark to stay true to its roots.

Other cool stuff, of course, but had to comment.   Add yours below.  I’ve really been enjoying the comment stream on the previous fifth cylon posts here and here.  Check them out, I’m getting two or three new comments there every day.

Can’t wait until Friday…

The Problem With Raising the Capital Gains Tax Now

OK, normally I stay away from posts that could be perceived as political.  But it’s hard to comment on economic issues in the heat of this intense primary season without venturing into those dangerous waters.

I’m going to try to be careful here not be too specific about any candidate or their plans.  I felt, however, that this topic was non-obvious enough that it was worth commenting on, despite the danger.  I can only hope that these comments might reach the ears of all three of the currently viable candidates…

Please don’t raise capital gains taxes in this environment

Or at least, please don’t raise them without also indexing gains to inflation.  It’s not a serious problem when inflation is extremely low for long periods of time, but it could be very very bad if we are, in fact, heading into an environment with a weak dollar and higher prices.

Why?  Because the capital gains tax today is based on nominal gains, not real gains.

Not clear on why this is a problem?  Here is an example:

Let’s say you bought a stock in 2009.  It’s a good stock, but not a great one, and it returns roughly 10% per year for the next 7 years.  In fact, by 2016 the stock has doubled, exactly, from $10 per share to $20 per share.  Since you bought 1000 shares, you’ve just turned $10,000 into $20,000, for a $10,000 gain.

That sounds good, and you might be thinking, “Well, with a $10,000, why should I begrudge the government $2,000 or even $2,800 of that gain?  After all, it’s this great country that has made that type of gain possible.”

Here’s the problem.  Let’s say inflation over the next 7 years is higher than it has been.  5% instead of 3%.  Well, then actually $10,000 in 2016 doesn’t buy what it did in 2009.  In fact, it takes over $14,000 2016 dollars to buy the same car that $10,000 did in 2009.

But the tax man doesn’t care.  The IRS still calculates your gain as $10,000, not $6,000.  So $2,800 might be 28% of your nominal gain, but it’s 47% of your real return, after inflation.

Ouch.

It gets worse.  If inflation manages to soar to around 8%, which it did in the 1970s, then actually that $2,800 tax becomes more than your entire real return.  At 8.1%, in fact, your real return becomes negative – you end up paying a real tax of over 100% of your inflation-adjusted gains.

Double-Ouch.

That’s pretty much what happened to people in the 1970s.  And it really did have a drastically negative effect on capital investment and tax collection, because rich people basically decided to either avoid capital investments, or they decided to postpone taking gains.  (Little known fact, but capital gain tax revenue has increased since we lowered the rate to 15%… a combination of better market performance and likely some acceleration of people taking gains.)

Now, in the 1980s and 1990s, this wasn’t such a big deal, because we both lowered capital gains tax rates and we killed inflation.  Or, at least, we wounded it.  When inflation is low, and the holding periods are relatively short (under 10 years), you could argue that the inflation “tax” automatically adjusts the 15% up to something higher, but manageable.

So, I think that leaves us in a policy bind, since it’s very likely we’re headed for higher inflation in the next 10 years.  In fact, you could argue that cutting the capital gains tax commensurate with the increase in inflation and the average holding period might make sense, if the goal was economic neutrality.

One solution would be to index capital gains for inflation.  It’s a sticky problem, because it means that taxpayers would have to have a table of “multipliers” to apply to any investment, based on the year of investment.  You would also likely have to exclude shorter holding periods to avoid trading scams, and have some sort of wash-sale like rule.  But this is all doable.

If you see another path around this problem, I’d love to hear it.  Right now, it feels like inflation is going to take a serious whack at capital investment if we’re not careful.