I spent a good deal of time yesterday playing around with the ATV Flash hack I installed on my Apple TV. Overall, the $50 dollar package is a good way to open up the functionality of an Apple TV. However, there are likely a few stumbling blocks along the way that many people could end up becoming frustrated with.
“What if,” I thought, “I can rip my DVD collection to a large hard drive and then simply share it across my home network with my Apple TV?” Great idea !! The stumbling block was which drive and the network mounting point.
I have an Airport Extreme router that I have a Western Digital MyBook 1 terabyte drive attached to via the AE USB port that makes the drive available as network attached storage or NAS. I also have an HP EX-495 Windows Home Server that it would be great to be able to stream to the Apple TV through to the Nito TV application that is installed as part of ATV Flash and can easily play back ripped DVD files in their entirety from a hard drive rip, including all DVD special features.
I looked online and a ton of people were having exactly the same problems. I kept messing around with it and the solution turned out to be fairly simple.
For the Mount Name, simply make up a short descriptive name for the drive folder you want to mount. In my case, I called it “Airport Extreme.”
For the Mount Type, make it SMB. The AFP mount type doesn’t seem to work, but SMB will work just fine every time regardless if it’s a Windows-formatted drive or an Apple-formatted drive.
For the Mount Address, I made it “Thomas-Wiless-Airport-Extreme.local” — your particular name will be something else, but the principle is the same. For mounting the HP Windows Server, the Mount Address is “HPSTORAGE.local” — for every SMB mount on my local network, it’s the computer name and then dot local. For my Mac Mini it’s MacMini.local — you get the picture.
Under Requires Authentication for the Airport Extreme share I said “yes.”
Under the User Name I put in my registered name when I set the Airport Extreme up “Thomas Wiles.” For the HP Server I put in “Administrator” for the user name.
Under the password section I put in my Airport Extreme password. For the HP Server I put in the server’s main password exactly as it is — remember these things are usually case-sensitive.
Under the Volume Path I put in “MyBook” because that’s the name of the drive. In the HP Server share, I put in the exact name of the folder that I wanted to mount to, in my case a folder called “Converted Videos.”
Next I scrolled down and saved the changes. Next, I clicked on “Mount.”
Here’s a sticking point that tripped me up multiple times and I suspect is likely tripping up a lot of other people. If the Mount is successful, you will be taken back out to the main menu. I thought this was a type of buggy behavior, but it isn’t. I finally looked in the “Files” menu of Nito TV, and there were my successful mounts right there. I likely had been making successful mounts for a while, but didn’t know it because there’s no message indicating you have made a successful drive or folder mount.
So the bottom line is I got this part of ATV Flash working quite well. I’m in the process of ripping my entire DVD collection to the MyBook drive attached to my Airport Extreme router.
One part I’m still working on is getting the latest version of Firefox fully working on the Apple TV. It works now, but it won’t play embedded Adobe Flash movies or MS Silverlight content. Other people have kept at this and got it working, so I know it can be done.
I also went to Office Depot and bought a $27 dollar “Gearhead” wireless keyboard and mouse. It has a USB dongle and functions at 2.4 gigahertz. It seems to work okay with the keyboard/mouse functionality that’s enabled through ATV Flash. The only issue I’ve ran into so far with the wireless keyboard/mouse is that after the Apple TV has been rebooted, the USB dongle must be unplugged and then plugged back in in order for the Apple TV to recognize it. Not that big of a deal, but it would be nicer obviously if I didn’t have to go through this extra step. This problem may be due to the specific wireless mouse/keyboard that I have, but I have no way of knowing that.
One downside of this is that without taking the Apple TV unit apart, there’s no method to back up it’s hard drive in case of failure. All of this effort would go out the window if and when the Apple TV hard drive fails.
All of this in the pursuit of the ideal set-top box. Is the ideal set-top box a full-fledged computer, either an Apple or a Windows Media Center PC, or is it some sort of set-top box with added computer functionality?
I haven’t decided that yet. I will continue to experiment.
I also have a Dish Network HD DVR, and I was thinking about how well it works. The only problem with it is that, like the Apple TV, it’s a very “walled garden” type of device. The Dish Network HD DVR really only wants to play in the land of Dish Network and strictly by Dish Network’s rules. I’d love it if the Dish Network HD DVR could also browse the Internet, store media from the Internet itself, as well as play back media from my own home network, including my ripped DVD collection, along with media streamed from web pages and web servers. The Dish Network HD DVR has a built-in over-the-air digital tuner, but the built-in guide doesn’t work, so I can’t use it as a DVR for local over-the-air channels. Want more? Add more channels to your satellite package. Rent more on-demand movies from us. We will sell you more content, at a price of course.
A standard Apple TV is pretty much limited to being an iTunes extender device. It does a great job of that, but apart from being able to stream YouTube videos and podcasts it’s functionality is deliberately limited. Want more? Buy our content from iTunes. We will sell it to you, at a price of course.
If I can get this all working the way I want it, I’m coming closer to simply dropping Dish Network and save myself about $98 dollars per month.