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Apple TV 4.4.2 Update May Cause Reset Upset

Unlike the relatively smooth iCloud introduction (smooth, that is, compared to the MobileMe roll-out fiasco — see “MobileMe Fails to Launch Well, But Finally Launches,” 12 July 2008), Apple’s version 4.4 update to the software for the second-generation Apple TV, intended to provide iCloud compatibility among other features, is one of the more star-crossed of Apple’s recent software offerings. To be clear, this whole situations affects only the Apple TV (2nd generation), not the original and now obsolete Apple TV.

Let’s recap: On 12 October 2011, Apple rolled out update 4.4 to its Apple TV software. This update provided, along with the usual security fixes, support for National Hockey League streaming for subscribers, Wall Street Journal news and analysis, several new slideshow themes, support for Netflix closed-captioning, support for iOS 5’s AirPlay Streaming feature, and access to iCloud Photo Streams.

A week later, on 18 October, Apple released update 4.4.1 to deal with problems that some users had with the 4.4 update that required them to connect their Apple TV units to iTunes in order to complete the update. However, some users found that the 4.4.1 update made their Apple TV units non-functional. Apple quickly pulled the update and re-released it the next day.

Then, on 24 October, Apple released update 4.4.2, stating in the release notes that “Apple TV devices with software version 4.4 and 4.4.1 have an issue with updating software to later versions.”

Problem solved? Well, yes — and no. For those who never bothered to install 4.4 or 4.4.1, installing update 4.4.2 is simply a matter of navigating to Settings -> General -> Update Software on the Apple TV and applying the update.

However, for those early adopters who had installed the earlier 4.4 updates, a few more steps are required: they have to navigate to Settings -> General -> Reset -> Reset All Settings before they update, and, only then, install the 4.4.2 update. And, if they don’t manually reset the Apple TV’s settings, the 4.4.2 updater will do that for them, after which they have to attempt the install again.

Although not the worst thing in the world, the forced reset does mean that Apple TV owners will have to enter their Wi-Fi information following the reset and before attempting the update if their Apple TV unit connects to the Internet via Wi-Fi. Furthermore, because the reset also wipes out any Home Sharing information stored in the Apple TV, they will have to enter that information using their Apple Remote devices to navigate the on-screen keyboard instead of using the more convenient keyboard provided by the Remote app on iOS devices: that’s because Home Sharing must be activated in order to connect the Apple TV with the Remote app.

The reset also means that a lot of other information will have to be re-entered as well, including any custom name given to the Apple TV, any time-zone settings, and all of the IDs and passwords for entertainment services like Netflix, sports services like Major League Baseball, Home Sharing, and iCloud.

For most Apple updates, “it just works” reasonably approximates the user experience. But with Apple TV update 4.4.2, “you just work” is a better description.

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