Monday, 23 June 2008

Installing aTV Flash v3.0 on an Apple TV

I've recently installed Apple Core's aTV Flash v3.0 on my Apple TV and, seeing as it's something of a hack, I thought I'd blog about the experience in case others are considering doing likewise.

The aTV Flash v3.0 adds specific functionality to the Apple TV, namely the ability to drag and drop files onto the device from my main computer (any common format), and then have them play via the Apple TV menu. This saves the hassle of converting files into a format that iTunes likes. So this is mainly for video content downloaded via BitTorrent (generally DivX or .avi file extension). It does a bunch of other stuff too, such as adding a browser, but I'm not really interested in the other aTV Flash features.

It all worked pretty well, except for a few minor issues. Here are the details (which I've also just posted to this thread on Mac Rumors: Forums):

Using aTV Flash v3.0, and a 1gb USB thumb drive, I managed to install everything OK. This was with a brand new 160gb Apple TV device.

However I've noticed the performance is a bit patchy. I download most of my content via BitTorrent (so, mostly .avi / DivX files), and so far everything has worked, EXCEPT each time I open a file, it's all a bit strange....the Apple logo comes and goes, and / or it says "please wait" while I can hear the audio has started in the background before it either freezes or the picture comes in, and / or it throws me back to the main menu. When I persevere, it works eventually, often on the 2nd, 3rd or 4th try. This problem still persists. Weird.

Another odd thing...I watched a TV episode where the picture quality was poor (as though it had been badly encoded). But it improved during the show, and then when I watched it again, it was greatly improved, almost as though it had learned how to decode the program better! Obviously this is irregular, I'm just trying to describe the behaviour as it seemed at the time. This only happened the first time I used it.

I used Fugu to SFTP my files over to the Apple TV, and it worked like a charm.

Anyway, on the whole, I'm happy with the aTV Flash v3.0, although I'm hopeful that a future patch will clean up these issues. I gather from the above-linked thread that some users have found they can't get their Apple TV to work at all after installation...it might be just due to it being an earlier version of the software, and in any event it's worth checking for more recent forum threads to see what the latest situation is if you're considering a purchase.

All other main Apple TV functionality (such as music and photos) remains unaffected, and I haven't played around with the other aTV Flash functionality as yet - such as the browser - as I don't really have a need.

Hope this helps.

++UPDATE: 26 June 2008++

I've discovered that the above problems were caused by using the nitoTV plugin which appears on the main menu. To be fair, it's very new technology. But when I used the Sapphire plugin (also via the main menu), I experienced no problems whatsoever - the content loaded automatically every time, and even used the native UI for pausing, fast forwarding and rewinding content. Win!

++UPDATE: 7 July 2008++

Having used the box for a couple of weeks now, all seems to be well. The exception is that a couple of times the box has crashed when half way through a program, and it restarts automatically. When I restart the program using Sapphire, I can use the native Apple TV controls to fast forward to the right moment very quickly, back where I was about 60 seconds after the problem occured. I've got a feeling this is happening when a program is left as paused for too long before being resumed, and some resource is being used up while in this state.

Other than that, still very happy!

++UPDATE: 13 August 2008++

Have experienced a few minor issues over the past month, such as sudden crashes. Also for some reason, on Sapphire, shows which should have been shown as "viewed" simply dropped off the browser, so I couldn't watch something twice.

But I upgraded both the Apple TV firmware (v2.1) and the aTV Flash software (v3.2.2) at the weekend, and this seems to have resolved the problems. Sadly a full factory restore was needed. Have decided this time to just stream iTunes from my main Mac (rather than a full sync) and obviously this has saved me a large chunk of space - more room for TV and films. The performance seems to have improved slightly (no crashes yet). Oh, and in case you're wondering how to upgrade aTV Flash, you need to sign into the site to get at the link.

All in all, this formerly slightly flakey software is now, dare I say it, pretty much ready for primetime...
________________________
Apple TV version 2.0 (bought in the States, activated in the UK)
Connected to TV over HDMI
iMac G5 1.5gb RAM running Mac OS X 10.4.11
Connected to Apple TV over wireless
BT HomeHub

7 comments:

La Bete said...

you know Phil, this set-up really has me tempted. Are you still happy with it?

Phil Whitehouse said...

Wow, after my last recommendation went so badly I'm surprised you're interested in my advice! ;-)

Anyway, for what it's worth, I still think the product is worth the investment. One of my colleagues at work (t'other Phil) has also installed it, and seems happy.

I've added a specific update to the blog post itself, for the benefit of other visitors - this blog post seems to be getting a lot of traffic.

La Bete said...

I'm d/loading it at the moment, should be up and running in a while. I've got the time capsule up and running fine BTW - just got the printers to set up and I'm good to go.

Phil Whitehouse said...

Eek, bloody hell, hope it now works for you as well as it works for me!

kenth said...

Hi, a year later is it stilling going ok with aTV Flash? I have just purchased aTV so am interested in whether play around with this . Thanks Kent

Phil Whitehouse said...

Still very happy with aTV Flash, although I'm no longer using the latest version. I didn't renew my annual subscription to the latest version, because the old version is working just fine.

However one of my colleagues is using the new version and is broadly happy with it.

Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

I have removed this idea :)