Installing Boxee on Apple TV

I’ve had an Apple TV for a long time. I bought the 160 GB version when it came out. It’s been a pretty decent media machine, but it’s built with pretty strict rules for getting video into it. If you’ve got it in iTunes, for the most part, then you can watch it. But I wanted more out of it. The only thing stopping it from really being the media machine it could be was software.

If you’ve got an Apple TV,  you’ll be interested in Boxee. What’s Boxee? I’ll give you the explanation directly from their site,

on a laptop or connected to an HDTV, boxee gives you a true entertainment experience to enjoy your movies, TV shows, music and photos, as well as streaming content from websites like Hulu, Netflix, CBS, Comedy Central,, and flickr

That means you can basically watch or listen to just about anything with your Apple TV. First, a warning is called for. Boxee is still in the Alpha stage. That means all bets are off. This is not final software and it comes with no guarantees. Cool with that? Comes on, live a little!

If you don’t have an invite, you’ll have to get one. I’ve got a few invites to give out, so get in touch with me if you want one. First come, first serve.

The Unofficial Apple Weblog (aka TUAW) has an excellent set of instructions on how to install the software, so I will simply point you to them for those instructions. The post is called Boxee is updated for Apple TV 2.3. Just click on that link to visit the page. You’ll need a blank USB stick drive and the USB stick installer software from atvusb-creator project at Google Code.

One important word of warning on the instructions from the TUAW page, which they mention but I want to reiterate is in step #3. Be absolutely certain you are targeting your USB thumb drive when asking it to install the software! This point is so important I’ll say it again louder. BE ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN YOU ARE TARGETING YOUR USB THUMBDRIVE WHEN ASKING IT TO INSTALL THE SOFTWARE! When I was building my installation USB drive, it did not automatically select the USB thumb drive as the destination for the installation. If I were to have selected the wrong drive, it would have completely erased that drive. Please triple check that you’ve selected the USB thumb drive as your destination.

Linux running on Apple TV

If you follow the instructions, you’ll have a USB drive that you simple stick into the USB port of your Apple TV. You then pull the plug and then replug it in. You should now see a screen like the one above if things have gone right.

Now remove the USB thumb drive, unplug it and the video below will show you what happened from there.

Since software installation isn’t terribly exciting, I’ve added the song Mansard Roof by Vampire Weekend to the audio track. I’m not trying to send any message about the software installation process by picking that song. I just like it. If you like it too, please buy for a copy of your very own at Amazon MP3. It’s 89¢ and I recommend the whole album. Excellent stuff.

Below you’ll see what looks like a failed installation, but it isn’t.

Be sure you update your software installation for Boxee (and XBMC, if you want) and then try to launch them. Now that’s an Apple TV to be proud of.


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