Over at Video Thing, Wiley is espousing the competition-winning Boxee – an open-source “social media player”, based on XBox Media Centre, and running on Linux, Mac, Windows, and in the VideoThing setup, AppleTV:

I’ve been using an AppleTV since it was released. A device with great potential (cheap, HD enabled, great integration with iTunes) crippled intentionally by Apple’s need to tie it directly to iTunes only… Every weird movie curator worth his salt that I know now has a couple of terabyte drives filled with DivX’s and subtitle files, and we are not anyone’s target user. AppleTV’s free online video solution is also centered around YouTube, while Hulu is hosting tons of high-quality free movies and TV shows.
A range of hacks have been available for the AppleTV to make it do everything from play exotic video formats off network drives to order pizza, but they have all been difficult to install (I’ve learned more unix hacking my AppleTV than when I worked tech support at Apple) hard to use and break frequently, on their own or whenever a small AppleTV update comes out…

Enter Boxee. A new improved application helps you build a usb patchstick, which you plug into the service port on the appleTV, installs boxee and the supporting Xbox Media Center software it’s based on. Previous hacks involved building a patchstick and then doing seperate Apple TV installs using SFTP and SSH, but that little difference isn’t what makes Boxee better. Once you have boxee installed (and activate your account on http://boxee.tv, you’ll need to apply for an alpha tester account first, sorry) the real difference is in the interface and thouroughness of the implementation. Boxee does everything the AppleTV always should have done.

There’s more to learn at Video Thing, or via this (slightly painfully) chipper intro video:


quick intro to boxee from boxee on Vimeo.

I can definitely add my recommendation for XBox Media Centre, as my living room media consumption has been delivered via XBMC for years. Despite shooting and producing in HD, I still haven’t upgraded this setup. Having my finger reasonably firmly on the pulse when it comes to things digital and video, I’ve been bemusedly watching my friends drop thousands of dollars on plasma and LCD-based boxes of depreciation, while 1080p capable monitors increase in size and drop in price.

I have been eyeing off the AppleTV though, for its sleek form factor, HDMI output, and as a possible device for multi-screen projections and installations. A box this small could be loaded with content software, strapped to (or near) a projector and controlled wirelessly. Eliminating problems with long cable runs and signal interference.

What are you, elucidated video pioneers, using for your video consumption? Is there any crossover between your performance and leisure setups?

  • http://wileywiggins.com Wiley

    The other cool thing about boxee is that it's open source and you can write applications for it. I would love to see someone add a frontend ROM picker for MAME, as I am about to start building a cocktail MAME cabinet/media jukebox and I'd love for boxee to be the front end.