boxee Installed on Apple TV – the little box comes to life


Problem Description: Crappy interface for playing .avi files with .srt files for subtitles on Media Center PC.  This interface is what I predominantly use My Media Center PC for these days – simply to play movies sitting on my home network, with subtitles.  Since Windows Media Player itself can’t handle .srt files for subtitles, I am using a VLC Player plugin on Media Center to play these movies.

Proposed Solution: Install boxee on my Apple TV and have it discover my networked movies/music.

I got boxee Alpha installed on my Apple TV this morning and the little Apple TV has been reborn.  After getting onto the Alpha earlier this week I followed the instructions on the Google Code project for atvusb-creator and got a USB pen drive formatted and installed with the additional XMBC and boxee applications.  After watching “how-to video: boxee on Apple TV” I realized that the installation process wouldn’t be too tough, and put it on my list for the weekend. 

Sunday morning: I dug up an old 512Mb USB Flash drive and, after reading the Google Code project notes, got started on my Mac Book Pro.  The patchstick created I rebooted my Apple TV with the patchstick and watched the Linux boot kick up.  Then it hung.  After groaning I went to the bug list for the Google Code project and found out that SanDisk 512Mb USB Flash drives have been reported not to work.  Found another USB Flash drive (1Gb Verbatim one this time).  Went through the process again, and this time the patchstick loaded completely and installed boxee and XMBC.

First I needed to tune boxee to display correctly on my DLP television (which was painless and obvious with a great settings interface for manipulating the display properties) and then the full interface was accessible to me.  The interface is beautiful.  In no time I had it discover by shared movies on my local network and my shared music.  My .avi movie files with .srt subtitles played without a hitch, and the interface is perfect for watching movies.  Later I’ll walk my wife through it and see if it passes the wife test.

Solution Analysis: boxee is clearly in alpha, but I’m already hooked to it (crashes and all).  Hopefully once it becomes more stable I can officially retire my Media Center PC (which is on its last legs) and just use boxee for my movie / music playback.  Kudos to the boxee team and thanks for creating such a polished alpha.  I can’t wait to see what the team puts into this product next.

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