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Boxee takes social networks, web video to Apple TV

post #1 of 32
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Having already earned a small reputation as a homebrew enthusiast's device, Apple TV received a large but unofficial makeover on Wednesday with Boxee, a complete project that aims to fill in the gaps in community, video formats and Internet streams left open by Apple.

The third-party software, currently in an invite-only alpha stage, relies on the same drive image creator and bootloaders as aTV Flash to create a plug-in modification of Apple TV's front end that sits primarily on a removable USB drive. For now, it requires an Intel-based Mac and at least a 512MB flash drive.

It runs on the same basic foundations as XBMC, a project originally designed to turn the Xbox into a media hub, but has been modernized both for later computer-borne versions as well as Apple's set-top box. At a minimum, users can play audio, photo and video formats that are normally off-limits in the officially sanctioned firmware, such as AVI and Matroska (MKV) files, Ogg Vorbis music and ISO images.

For Apple TV, Boxee has a new interface tailor-made just for its widescreen HDTV audience and puts a link to the app within the main Apple TV menu so that users can keep to the default interface if they prefer.

The developers are counting on Boxee's Internet component to be the real catalyst, however. Direct hooks are built-in to stream audio and video from several large free services, such as BBC and CNN for news, CNET, Revision3's podcasts and Last.fm music. Access to the Fox/NBC movie and TV website Hulu is also promised by the end of 2008.

Boxee's home screen with recommendations and friend activity.

Browsing movies on Boxee.

Owners also won't have to sit in isolation as they do with Apple's default hardware, the creators note: a friend system not only gives friends a quick look at content they've played but the ability to recommend that content to others. Exports are also available to send recent playback history to FriendFeed, Tumblr, or Twitter.

And while Apple has never actively discouraged users from modifying Apple TV code outside of usual warranty disclaimers -- the company itself describes Apple TV as a "hobby" -- Boxee is explicitly billed as an open-source project that allows anyone to roll in new format support or features where Apple's official software would be locked down.

The team for the community hack says it's eager to receive more testers and will try to approve as many AppleInsider readers as it can, "as quickly as possible;" those who successfully land an invitation are also encouraged to send invites to friends. A demonstration of Boxee in action is available below (click the image to play).

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post #2 of 32
What I want to know is, will it still allow you to use the rest of the AppleTV functions the same? Like renting movies from iTS?
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post #3 of 32
This is a great addition and the product seems interesting, but you guys are being seriously irresponsible in the way you are presenting it. Not everyone is a technician or computer geek.

Apart from the one word "unofficial" in the first statement, you have put nothing in this article to really give the average user a clear idea that this is an un-sanctioned hardware hack. I know to a person familiar with all the tech news this might not seem like a big deal, but seriously... by far the majority of your readers are NOT computer experts.

You should clearly state what things are. This is a hack. it probably violates the consumer warranty to use it. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but that's what it is and you should say so.
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post #4 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Virgil-TB2 View Post

This is a hack. it probably violates the consumer warranty to use it. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but that's what it is and you should say so.

Why don't you find out before going off on some tirade like a b*tch?

Do you really think people who come here don't know that this software isn't sanctioned by Apple?

"Seriously irresponsible"?

post #5 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Virgil-TB2 View Post

This is a great addition and the product seems interesting, but you guys are being seriously irresponsible in the way you are presenting it. Not everyone is a technician or computer geek.

Apart from the one word "unofficial" in the first statement, you have put nothing in this article to really give the average user a clear idea that this is an un-sanctioned hardware hack. I know to a person familiar with all the tech news this might not seem like a big deal, but seriously... by far the majority of your readers are NOT computer experts.

You should clearly state what things are. This is a hack. it probably violates the consumer warranty to use it. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but that's what it is and you should say so.

Did you even read Aidan's article? Or did you just glance at the title and come here to blow off steam?

K
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post #6 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

The team for the community hack says it's eager to receive more testers and will try to approve as many AppleInsider readers as it can, "as quickly as possible;" those who successfully land an invitation are also encouraged to send invites to friends.

How do I get on this AppleInsider list ? I signed up on the site after reading this article and it said 'you may have to wait several weeks to be approved'. I would install it tonight on my appletv.
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post #7 of 32
Sounds cool. Please can you expand on this section:

"For Apple TV, Boxee has a new interface tailor-made just for its widescreen HDTV audience and puts a link to the app within the main Apple TV menu so that users can keep to the default interface if they prefer."

So one can flip back and forth between current ATV interface AND Boxee ... right? It's the 'if they prefer' that puzzles me. What is the alternative if 'they don't prefer', to have only Boxee interface I assume?
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post #8 of 32
This is really cool and I want to do it. Digitialclips is right, if I can flop back and forth as I'd like (which I would do all the time) this could be really awesome. I'd use Boxee to play my avi's and mkvs and apple tv for everything else, all in one box, that would be so dope.

Virgil-TB2 you really do have no idea what is going on do you? The mentions the warranty issue and states It is a closed BETA. Joe Blo will not buy an appletv, come here to download it, brick his system and take it to apple all pissy. That doesn't even make sense.
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post #9 of 32
digitalclips, The alternative is to access limited content via the Apple TV interface.

Just like how you can access media with ATVFiles or NitoTV or the default interface.
post #10 of 32
if apple tv can play 1080p mkv files?
post #11 of 32
Null.
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post #12 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by retroneo View Post

digitalclips, The alternative is to access limited content via the Apple TV interface.

Just like how you can access media with ATVFiles or NitoTV or the default interface.

Ok thanks, so an option to hop to the full Boxee interface from the full Apple interface (and back) is the best of both Worlds. I assumed that but wanted to make sure.
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post #13 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kasper View Post

Did you even read Aidan's article? Or did you just glance at the title and come here to blow off steam?

K

Well the title of the article is ambiguous to begin with.

Also, has AI been taken over by pop-ups and flash mania? It can be very very difficult to get a page to even load correctly these days.
post #14 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by sandau View Post

How do I get on this AppleInsider list ? I signed up on the site after reading this article and it said 'you may have to wait several weeks to be approved'. I would install it tonight on my appletv.

I'm wondering the same. Where do I sign up?
post #15 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by sandau View Post

How do I get on this AppleInsider list ? I signed up on the site after reading this article and it said 'you may have to wait several weeks to be approved'. I would install it tonight on my appletv.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cory Bauer View Post

I'm wondering the same. Where do I sign up?

Just google Boxee and sign up on their site. You'll get an email telling you you'll get an invite on Monday.
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post #16 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Just google Boxee and sign up on their site. You'll get an email telling you you'll get an invite on Monday.

Hopefully, but it doesn't appear like any priority to me, it can be weeks:


thank you for signing up for the boxee alpha.

we are sending invites to new alpha testers every Monday.
there is quite a backlog, and we are trying to grow at a controlled pace, so you may have to wait a few weeks before you receive your invite.

thanks,
- team boxee
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post #17 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by sandau View Post

Hopefully, but it doesn't appear like any priority to me, it can be weeks:


thank you for signing up for the boxee alpha.

we are sending invites to new alpha testers every Monday.
there is quite a backlog, and we are trying to grow at a controlled pace, so you may have to wait a few weeks before you receive your invite.

thanks,
- team boxee

Right. It doesn't even let you specify which version you're looking to get (Apple TV, PC, Linux, Mac).
post #18 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cory Bauer View Post

Right. It doesn't even let you specify which version you're looking to get (Apple TV, PC, Linux, Mac).

It does let you choose which version you're looking for, right above the email entry box. Coming from AppleInsider, it appears to default to Apple ( don't remember whether there was a differentiator between OSX and ATV). But that would probably be addressed when you get your invite.
post #19 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by sundoggy View Post

It does let you choose which version you're looking for, right above the email entry box. Coming from AppleInsider, it appears to default to Apple ( don't remember whether there was a differentiator between OSX and ATV). But that would probably be addressed when you get your invite.

on the sign up page it has an "I am an xx user with Apple, LInux, and Windows", which I checked all 3 since I am a user and could install on all three... but specifically i am interested right now with Apple TV - but I didn't know that checking one or more could change your timeframe for alpha testing. its not clear from the site or request.
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post #20 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by sundoggy View Post

It does let you choose which version you're looking for, right above the email entry box. Coming from AppleInsider, it appears to default to Apple ( don't remember whether there was a differentiator between OSX and ATV). But that would probably be addressed when you get your invite.

Sorry, you're right. I meant to say it doesn't let you specify Apple TV.
post #21 of 32
What the article does not mention is that the patchstick is already posted and publicly available. Go to the Boxee blog:

http://blog.boxee.tv/

It provides a link to the place where you can download and install the code. Also, this will not void your AppleTV warranty, it will just make your AppleTV unsupported after you install it. If you decide that you need Apple support again, all you have to do is revert to factory settings in the AppleTV interface and Boxee will be wiped off the AppleTV.

Get the code for the patchstick, called ATVUSB-Creator, here:

http://code.google.com/p/atvusb-creator/

Can't wait to try this when I get home!
post #22 of 32
Awesome! But what is a "bootable" Usb drive? The installation directions call for one.
post #23 of 32
...just a regular USB stick drive, at least 1GB, they're really inexpensive but not all of them will work... don't ask me why, I created the Patchstick last night but it wouldn't boot on the ATV... gonna try again tonight using a different USB stick. I also tried to get Boxee account and got the email that it can take weeks....Good luck all!
post #24 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

Sounds cool. Please can you expand on this section:

"For Apple TV, Boxee has a new interface tailor-made just for its widescreen HDTV audience and puts a link to the app within the main Apple TV menu so that users can keep to the default interface if they prefer."

So one can flip back and forth between current ATV interface AND Boxee ... right? It's the 'if they prefer' that puzzles me. What is the alternative if 'they don't prefer', to have only Boxee interface I assume?

you can ALWAYS use your Apple TV interface, boxee is added as another app you could launch
post #25 of 32
when you receive an invite to boxee it enables you to use boxee on all different platforms OS X, Ubuntu and Apple TV.

if you want to shorten the waiting process just email me at avner [at] boxee d0t tv
i'll send you a personal invite
post #26 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by avneron View Post

you can ALWAYS use your Apple TV interface, boxee is added as another app you could launch

Yes that was answered in the thread after I asked it a while back thanks, but thanks for your time
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post #27 of 32
i received mine on monday as advertised! working on it.
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post #28 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by sandau View Post

i received mine on monday as advertised! working on it.

Mine should be here today or tomorow, cant wait

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post #29 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by sandau View Post

i received mine on monday as advertised! working on it.

(quoting myself)... easiest install I've ever done. the only glitch I came across was somehow I missed that the patchstick flash stick needed to be formatted HFS. Once I had that it was about 35 seconds to patch, then a couple of menu options to download and uncompress. Very slick.

The boxee UI is somewhat odd after using the Apple TV, but its nice. Great job.
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post #30 of 32
Ever since I got my AppleTV I have had it hacked in this way.
Being able to stream HD content from a file share meant that I could watch downloaded TV - without having to use iTunes.

The hack required installing SMB and the ATVFiles player. It turned the device into something that I actually used. And the addition of 5.1 audio made it even better.

The Boxee and XBMC applications are a welcome addition.

I have not used Boxee, but I have been trying out XBMC over the last week.

The XBMC application is a new way of offering the same sort of functionality. Without any additional software it will let you play media from an SMB share.

Better than that, it scans your library of files, identifies shows, and presents this content in a cool way, with synopses, cover-art and other metadata. It's almost like a DVD menu experience.
And in some ways preferable to the built-in AppleTV menus.

There are downsides...

It stubbornly refuses to identify some shows using its "scraper".

The most disapointing aspect is that HDTV content plays back less smoothly than with the native Quicktime player which ATVFiles uses. That might be addressed in a later build.

C.
post #31 of 32
after a few uses, boxee/xbmc don't do a lot for me. the interface is confusing, kind of slow, and not even close to as user friendly as the standard Apple TV.

That said, I am quite thankful that Boxee is working on the Apple TV, I hope the team keeps working on it, its a cool product, just needs some refinements.
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post #32 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by sandau View Post

after a few uses, boxee/xbmc don't do a lot for me. the interface is confusing, kind of slow, and not even close to as user friendly as the standard Apple TV.

That said, I am quite thankful that Boxee is working on the Apple TV, I hope the team keeps working on it, its a cool product, just needs some refinements.

To me the one killer feature is the fact that it identifies and plays content on a shared drive.
I have now persuaded XBMC to recognize my whole media collection. So I have cover-art and synopses for just about everything.

The interface is a bit clunky, (especially how it deals with the menu button).
There is a new beta and the interface is a bit faster.

My only gripe is that HD content is handled a little less well than with Quicktime. Daylit scenes (particularly) seem to cause it to lag a bit. Although the picture/audio lag corrects itself.


C.
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