For years I have been trying to create a Media Center to attach my TV. I’ve tried Windows Media Center years ago, Myth TV on Linux, and everything in between. Nothing was simple, cheap, and easy to setup. I have friends who have tried those off the shelf media boxes like the ones from Netgear and the likes, but those have their pitfalls too. I wanted something open source, truly hackable, and preferably something Unix/Linux based. Thats why I turned to the Apple TV.
For my use case, I did not care about disk storage. I am using my Apple TV’s as terminals or endpoints to play media from storage somewhere else on the network. This allowed me to buy the cheap version of the Apple TV with a 40 GB drive for about $220. Not only that, there is a Toslink (optical) out that I will be attaching to a DAC and set of vintage tubes for crisp beautiful sound. For that kinda money, its pretty hard to beat the Apple TV.
Once in my possession, I immediately hacked it to expand its functionality. Without it, the Apple TV is actually pretty restricted and an overall weak product; however, Boxee helps make it all better. Boxee allows you to watch all those formats that iTunes does not support, like DivX, etc. Not only that, it allows you watch Hulu as well as other online video services.
Hacking your Apple TV and Installing Boxee
There’s actually nothing to do really and I would barely consider it hacking. A few folks out there have made it quite easy. In a nutshell, all you need to do is create a ‘patchstick’ on your PC using a thumb drive you have laying around. You insert it into your Apple TV’s USB drive, restart it, and voila! It installs itself and you’re all set. You can get the USB Patch Stick creator from the Google code repository.