Apple TV: The Follow Up.

A while ago I did a post when we got our AppleTV.  I promised a followup after I had played around with it for a bit, but fell out of the habit of updating this blog.  Well I’ve certainly had plenty of time to play with the AppleTV and I thought now that I was trying to update this a little more frequently I’d follow up on some posts of the past, and this one seemed like a good one to start with.

After playing with the AppleTV for a little bit it was time to get down to the business of hacking it so that it could play a multitude of video formats as well as allow the attachment of an external storage device.  There are lots of instructions online for rolling your own hacks on to a USB key, but out of laziness, and the fact I’m willing to let better qualified people do the work for me, I went with the guys at aTV Flash.  They frequently update the software which is especially helpful as some of Apple’s updates to the units firmware can tend to break the things you so meticulously went about hacking.

The 160GB internal storage of the AppleTV wasn’t going to cut it once I started making digital copies of my DVD’s to transfer to the device.  We ended up hooking up a 1TB external USB drive to it, which was a snap.  I formatted it as HFS+ Journaled, plugged it in to the AppleTV, and it was immediately recognized.  I was able to FTP in to the unit and copy files over to the external HD.  After the finished copying the were accessible through the AppleTV’s menu – specifically in the “DVD” section of the expanded menu that appears after initially hacking the unit.  For ripping the video I find that Handbrake’s default settings work quite well – a great compromise between file size and quality of both picture and sound.

One of the other benefits that came from hacking the device is access to Hulu (along with other services)through Boxee.  I’ve watched some old episodes of ALF for nostalgic purposes as well as a few other gems (Airwolf and Knight Rider in particular).  It’s hit or miss with newer episodes of some shows through Hulu, but I use it more when I don’t know what I want to watch as opposed to stay current with series I follow.  More recent series I’ve slowly been acquiring from the Apple Store.  Following the series that I do as well as purchasing a couple I haven’t seen in awhile works out to the same, if not a little cheaper than the cable bill had been.  Boxee has also enabled me to have access to every episode of South Park that has been made thus far – something I take frequent advantage of.

The AppleTV has been working great as a replacement for live TV.  Yes, I do miss popping on the occasional football or hockey game, but I can always go to a friends house or one of the sports bars in town to see those.  I certainly haven’t felt any less transitioning to this digital centered, cable tv free lifestyles.