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Bonus Blogpost: A Review of ATV Flash for Apple TV

April 15, 2010 Persuasion Technology 12

Hope you’re having a super day!  It’s time for a bonus post. Today’s topic, ATVFlash, from Fire Core.

What is ATV Flash?  According to the developer, it is the ultimate Apple TV enhancement.  Sounds like hyperbole, right?  Well, it’s not!

Here’s what they say you can do on their website:

Tired of having stacks of DVDs cluttering your media center? Do you wish your AppleTV could play more video formats? Want to surf the Web?

Take a look at aTV Flash. This user-friendly software package supercharges your AppleTV, unleashing a plethora of new functionality.

Play nearly any video format, add additional storage capacity, gain access to the Jaman independent movie library, and surf the web, all from the comfort of your couch.

I wasn’t actually looking to change anything about my Apple TV experience when I first stumbled in to the Fire Core website.  I’ve enjoyed and used my Apple TV primarily for music, radio, YouTube, plus slideshows of the Universe and of nature on the big screen TV in my office during client visits.  But after talking with a friend recently about how he uses his Apple TV, I was interested in streaming media from my Macbook Pro onto my 54″ television.

But then I started reading the list of benefits of their product, and found myself persuaded that this was an idea whose time had come.    I thought, “That’s exactly what I wish I could do with my Apple TV!”   So I sprang for the $49 product, plus 2 years of updates for an additional $10.  (I figure that 2 years from now, I’ll either have updated my Apple TV to something new, or I’ll be using some other kind of set-top box to access the internet via television.

Here’s what the product will do according to the Fire Core website.

Do more with your AppleTV. Get aTV Flash. It’s a quick software upgrade that will take your AppleTV to a whole new level. With aTV Flash on board your AppleTV’s true potential will be unleashed.

Don’t worry about the technical details – aTV Flash is simple to use and safe for your AppleTV. The software installs in a snap and doesn’t require any physical changes to the AppleTV. Best of all, aTV Flash will NOT void your warranty. In fact, you can easily remove it at any time, if you can ever bear to part with it.

Key Features:

  • Play More Video Formats – Go beyond iTunes and enable your AppleTV to play media formats such as DivX, Xvid, AVI, WMV, RMVB & many more.
  • Enjoy DVDs the Simple Way – Store all your DVDs on a single device for easy viewing. No more searching through stacks of discs. Includes support for menus, special features and full 5.1 surround sound.
  • Surf the Web – Visit your favorite sites, check email, and update Twitter all on your TV. Your couch is your new workspace.
  • Create Video Playlists – Keep tabs on your newly accessible media with playlists, which you can loop and shuffle as you please.
  • Expand Capacity with External USB Hard Drive Storage – Running low on storage space? Attach an external USB hard drive and gain access to more storage capacity.
  • Access Media Anywhere – Don’t depend on iTunes any longer. Drag and drop media onto your AppleTV, or even stream it directly from most NAS devices. This feature includes support for FTP, SMB and NFS protocols.
  • Add More Apps – Extend the functionality even further by adding applications such as Firefox, Hotspot Shield, Vine Server and Mobile Air Mouse.
  • Take Control – Use the Loop™ pointer from Hillcrest Labs to gain enhanced control of all AppleTV features. Learn more about the Loop here.
  • Stay in the Know with RSS News Feeds – Keep track of your favorite news feeds by viewing them on your AppleTV.
  • Manage Your Plugins – The installed options on your AppleTV can be easily adjusted as needed.
  • Control the Show – Use an iPhone or iPod Touch to control your AppleTV with Apple’s Remote app. Learn more about Remote here.
  • Unchanged Original Features – iTunes syncing, movie rentals, photo slideshows – you’ll still be able to do it all. The original AppleTV features won’t change a bit.
  • Included Tech Support – Sometimes you need help, and we’re here to get you back on track. Your purchase comes with e-mail tech support, access to support forums and an outstanding knowledge base at your disposal.
  • Satisfaction Guaranteed –  We know you’ll love aTV Flash, but if for some reason you’re not satisfied you can get all your money back. Just tell us about your problem within 15 days of purchase.

Now, I confess, that 15 days didn’t seem long enough for a guarantee. But the promised benefits beckoned, so I got moving.

I did the installation on Saturday (downloaded the software, made the patchstick on an old USB stick…installation once I plugged the patchstick into the AppleTV, was automatic and flawless), spoke with ATVFlash tech person Max via iChat on Sunday and ironed out the wrinkles (few hiccups mounting external drive, aspect ration on my media, etc). Now it’s done, and my Apple TV is everything I ever wanted it to be!

What’s changed from the standard Apple TV feature set? Well, for starters, I can now watch any recorded media kept on an external USB drive, from movies and video clips to tv shows and documentaries that I recorded with EyeTV years ago. All the DVDs that I converted to disk images for storage using the terrific app from The Little App Factory called RIPIT can now be played on the Apple TV as well, in all their menu-licious glory.  With all my Smallville and Sci Fi moves stored on a single 500 Gig USB powered drive, ATV Flash makes the Apple TV into a movie jukebox!   Everything looks fabulous on my 54″ screen, from movies to old shows and pictures!

I can ftp into the device, too, which allows for faster publishing of pictures and movies onto my TV than if I was going through iTunes. And it means I don’t have to fill up my laptop with media files stored in iTunes, as I can use as many external drives as I like. I also can now surf the web from my television, using the keyboard on my iPhone (and soon to have iPad) to enter URLs.

All the original features still work too. So I can download movies and TV shows directly from Apple onto the device, run slideshows and song playlists to my heart’s content. It’s been awhile since I hacked anything Mac (used to hack my Apple products all the time, then I, er, grew up and got busy) so it’s fun to do some hacking again, and I’m just delighted with this product and can’t recommend it highly enough. If you own an Apple TV, ATVFlash will take Apple’s bastard child (one of the ways the Mac faithful refer to this product, as it doesn’t get hardly any attention or love from the mothership) and make it fully functional. Two thumbs up!

By the way, I’d love to get your comments and feedback!

Rick

 

12 Responses

  1. victor says:

    I’m mostly interested in finding a way to access all my DVDs. After ripping all your DVDs how’s the UI to access all those DVDs? Is it easy to find and play these DVDs? Is it fast?
    I currently have a HW solution for this (Escient Fireball SE-D1 and a Sony 400 changer), but the Escient broke and I’m looking for a good sw way; especially since I already own an Apple TV.

    Thanks!

  2. If you use something like Ripit to timeshift your movies, you’ll have an Apple disk image with the suffix .dvdmedia attached. Simply delete that suffix, and your disk image turns into a folder containing a TS_Video folder. That’s all you need. ATVFlash contains a player that will launch the DVD folder, all menus included. It’s awesome!

  3. Eric says:

    Hi, looking for a good way to catalog, search, and watch my collections of home movies on a media server, but most of the software of this type is geared towards commercial video. Any ideas, and if perhaps the Atv solution would be good for this?

    Best regards

  4. ATVFlash (which, btw, has nothing to do that I can perceive with using Adobe Flash) is remarkably flexible with a variety of media files. So Eric, I don’t know what format your movies are in, but I’ve been able to watch mine on Apple TV.

    Best wishes
    Rick

  5. Charles Williamson says:

    I have installed ATVFlash hoping to use Boxee to view Hulu, NBC.com ect. only to find that I needed to install Adobe Flash on my ATV for this to work. The ATVFlash website has instructions for this, but after many hours in this convoluted process, I still do not have Hulu, NBC.com, etc. TV shows on my Apple TV. Anyone going to the ATVFlash forum will note very little support or encouragement for this project, and only spotty success for those who have tried. Just look at the dates on the postings.

    I’m happy to note in your blog that I have a 15 day return option. Since I have long since figured out how to make all sorts of files work with iTunes, I will likely be exercising it. Thanks for the review.

  6. Charles, thanks for the comment.
    I never got Hulu to work on my Apple TV, and to be honest, didn’t put much time into trying. I think ‘convoluted’ is exactly the word that came to mind when I looked at this. I suggest you send an email to support@atvflash.com for more information. I’ve found they are very responsive and helpful!!

  7. Alex says:

    Hi:

    This article is really what I needed, since I was struggling with the purchase of an apple TV because of it’s lack of resources.

    My usage will be for sure to read other video files but I’m afraid about this lack of support, can you tell me your experience with this, also, have you had any other post-installation problems?

  8. I’ve had no post-installation problems, and just did an update from within ATV Flash on my Apple TV, went flawlessly. I’m very happy with the product, and when i needed support I found it quickly by using ATV Flash’s Twitter account. The guy was fast and responsive, answered my few questions perfectly.

  9. I want to add that I think it’s important to remember that this type of product is, by its nature, a hack, and as such, it changes the way the Apple TV works, and deviates from it’s original (and very limited) design. That means it may work different on some systems, and that not everyone will get the same result. For me, it was well worth the risk. But you have to decide for yourself. The nice feature in this regard is that you can remove it and restore your Apple TV to factory condition any time you want. You’ll be out the money, but that’s the chance one takes when trying to improve on an already great Apple product.

  10. maki says:

    thanks for the review Rick! I wonder if they will be launching the ATV Flash for Apple TV in the Philippines and when? I’m starting my own blogpost http://evoire.com/members/shockware2/ but I have a long way to go, I still need to set it up 🙁

    • You’re welcome! You can write to ATV FLash and ask about the Phillipines, just look for the contact info on their website or follow on Twitter. I’ve got them on my iChat buddy list, and they are helpful and responsive in my experience.

  11. Dr Penya says:

    Really superb information. I recently stumbled on your web blog and wanted to say that I have really really liked browsing the content. Naturally I’ll be signing up to your feed.

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