Front Row – Great In Theory

One of the first things I tried to do on my new iMac was, of course, play a DVD with Front Row and that nifty little Apple Remote. It’s a wonderful idea, being able to use the Mac as a media centre, and indeed was one of the main reasons I bought the iMac.

So I clicked the remote’s Menu button and the desktop was whisked away into the background while the Front Row interface whirled into view. It’s quite a cool effect.

You get options for Music, Photos, DVD and Videos. I selected the DVD option and it asked me to put in a DVD. I fed it a Lord of the Rings DVD and eventually the DVD menu appeared. This is where the trouble started. The arrow buttons on the remote couldn’t control the menu, although the up and down buttons did change the volume. It was as if Front Row didn’t recognise that it was in the DVD menu.

I tried it a few times, but no joy. So I backed out of Front Row and fired up the regular Apple DVD player software instead. That worked fine. I tried installing the couple of hundred MB of requested software updates (including a Front Row update), but the menu problem in Front Row remained. After hunting around on Google I managed to track down the Front Row 1.2.2 update. Downloaded – installed – problem fixed. :) Not sure why this wasn’t in the main software updates list though.

Other issues I’ve had with Front Row include:

  • trying to use it while ripping a CD in iTunes (forget it unless you like watching the display freeze for minutes on end!), and
  • an intermittent problem where it just won’t start, no matter how much I try to coax it into life with the Apple Remote. I think this might happen if you put a DVD in first so that the regular DVD player starts up, which then prevents Front Row from starting. Generally a reboot sorts it out.

Overall though, Front Row is a great addition to the Mac in my opinion, and the Apple Remote makes watching DVDs in bed that much easier! You can even send the Mac to sleep by holding down the play button on the remote, which is a nice touch. They just need to iron out a few bugs (and maybe make the music playback options a bit more flexible), and it’ll be perfect. Hell, it’s already better than having to muck about with hard drive and video card settings just to play DVDs on my Linux box!

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