3 years ago I bought the clever Roku Soundbridge gadget, that let us play any digital music stored on either the laptop or the home server, or found on internet radio. Apart from not understanding modern secure WiFi (forcing me to switch to ethernet-over-mains to connect it up), it was OK but not that special. Martha never used it, so I decided it should go.But rather than just sell it and forget the idea, I pondered for a long while about replacing it with a decent media player for the TV. This is, after all, the age of YouTube, iPlayer and streaming movies on demand. More important for us than movies right now is playing music and showing pictures -- and something that's easy enough for us both to use often. Asking around the answer was either Apple TV or a MacMini. I went the cheaper route, and decided to buy a second-hand Apple TV on eBay, and have just finished upgrading its disk from the rather laughable 40GB up to a more sensible 250GB.


As you'd hope from Apple, it is dead simple to setup, and does the job well and rather stylishly. (The functionality is a little lacking, and clever people have found out how to add richer media centre software like Boxee or XMBC to it. I've not decided which of those to use yet ... but when I do, the ATV USB Patchstick creator is the way to do it.) Recommended. (Though if you want lots of streaming video, without being tied to iTunes supported formats, then the advice was strongly for getting a Popcorn Hour Media Centre.)

If you have an inner geek, you might want to read on ...

I followed Engadget's instructions on how to do this, though they are 10.4-specific. But as MT pointed out to me, before you try to recreate the media partition, just delete the old one and bung it back in the apple tv (no need to reassemble it - it works fine open), do a factory reset and it should rebuild the missing partition at the new size. But it won't if you don't clear out the Spotlight files, which always get written when you mount the drive.To enable the low-level bitcopy from the original ATV HDD to my external backup HDD, I was at first getting 'Resource Busy' errors. Reading this hint helped me round that: unmount but not eject the backup HDD's partition. BTW, this dd command unhelpfully doesn't give any progress as it works. (For info it took 194 mins for the full 40GB data (about 3.5MBps). Doing this before you put data on the system could be up to 30x quicker.)One of the options is showing photo slideshows from Flickr; but unless you have a lot of photos, this isn't very useful. However, someone has put together a special account that just shows photos voted as being 'interesting' that are also available under Creative Commons. Ask it show from 'dailypool' and see what emerges ...

AuthorJonathan Clark