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Apple Tries to Bridge Computer Desk, Living Room

In my case, the Apple TV's default settings left no room for my pictures. After the device had copied all my music, videos, TV shows and podcasts, my pictures wouldn't fit. To clear out enough room for them, I had to leave off some of my music. (Note that the Apple TV randomly chooses songs as a soundtrack for your photos; you'll want to change this option after it picks "Love Stinks" to accompany a wedding album.)

Apple's Web site says, "If it's on iTunes, it's on your widescreen TV," but that isn't true for Web radio stations you listen to in iTunes. This box streams Internet music or video only from Apple: movie trailers and previews of iTunes' top-selling songs, music videos, TV shows and movies.

The Apple TV's software looks like a particularly slick version of Front Row, the media-playback software on Macs, but it adds elegant 3-D effects. As you move from one song to the next, for instance, album cover images whoosh in and out of view.

Its remote control is a characteristically simple item, with just six buttons.

Most things work as they do in iTunes, Front Row or an iPod, but Apple forgot to keep some things consistent. For instance, you can't assemble a new play list, rate a song from one to five stars or use iTunes' Party Shuffle option.

Scrolling operates differently, too. When you let go of the remote's up or down button, the interface scrolls on for a moment longer, as if the Apple TV couldn't stomp on the brakes fast enough. This cutesy quirk can only puzzle users who thought they knew how to use a computer already.

Even sillier: There's no volume control on the remote. You're supposed to grab your stereo's or TV's remote instead.

Compared with most of Apple's new products, the Apple TV feels distinctly unpolished. If your iTunes library isn't too large, you can be happy with it now. But most people will do better to wait for a revision of this promising, but occasionally frustrating, device.

Living with technology, or trying to? E-mail Rob Pegoraro

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