ATVFlash – playing fair?

by editor @ AppleTVHacks.net on May 28, 2008


By now, you probably have seen quite a bit of coverage of ATVFlash, a patchstick sold by Apple Core LLC to help ease the installation of plugins like Couch Surfer, Media Cloud, nitoTV and many others.  The patchstick is sold for $59.95.

I am all for entrepreneurship.  People are entitled to charge whatever they want for their work.  However, I learned that the developers whose software were included on the patchstick did not grant Apple Core LLC permission to include their software on the patchstick; let alone, charge for it.  I don’t think it was ever the developers’ intention to charge money for their work.

Also, I do not agree with including Apple’s copyrighted files on the patchstick to be sold. It is true that, in creating a patchstick for personal use, these copyrighted files have to be copied to the patchstick in order for it to be useful; one does not break any law by copying these files from one place to another for personal use.  However, redistributing these files to others, whether it is for profit or not, is a definite violation of the copyright law.

What’s your take?

  • Dylan

    If the license(s) of the software used allows commercial redistribution, it’s fair play. For some people, $60 might be a small price if it means not having to dig into SSH and stuff like that, they just want drag & drop DivX support. After all, if this is succesfull and it can easily be done better or cheaper, someoen else will come along.

    If the license(s) of the software do not allow commercial redistribution, it’s illegal and it should not be allowed.

  • james

    I believe these guys are not only in violation of Apple’s license but are also in violation of the GPL – at least I’m unaware of them making a freely downloadable version of the source available.

  • http://techy.brindy.org.uk Chris Brind

    “Also, it will NOT void your warranty.”

    err, actually, it will – i got confirmation from one of the “genius” guys in apple store in glasgow, uk just before buying appletv.

  • Oliver D

    It is rather sketchy but I’ve ordered one anyway.

  • bd

    Don’t forget atv4windows! They are now charging for their patchstick as well.

  • Craig

    These guys are stealing from the developer community. Plain and simple.

    Regarding voiding the warranty, so long as you can restore it to the factory install, I don’t see anyone would ever know you did anything with it, let alone void the warranty. It’s not like you have to crack open the case.

  • Think Different

    It may be a copyright infringement issue, but rather than get knee deep in legal arguments, Apple should look at this type of solution as a challenge for what’s possible and what consumers are willing to pay for.

    If consumers spent $299 on a box, and then are spending another $60 for this, with no support, possible copyright issues, and a less than seamless experience, what would they pay for a full fledged entertainment platform?

    Apple is missing the boat treating this as a “hobby”…if they aren’t going to build the apps, at least release an SDK and let the ATV community meet the untapped potential. Until then, more power to ATV Flash for enabling the average joe to squeeze some value out this expensive brick.

  • mjm7496

    I heard on an interview that the ATV Flash program uses a custom built Linux loader for the open source applications. If this is the case then I don’t see how they are breaking any copyright laws. As far as using the community developed applications in a for profit product… I think this is definitely against the spirit of the movement, but I always thought it was acceptable as long as the code was made available? There are tons of these cheap little ultra portable computers using linux derivatives that are being sold right now. How is this any different?

    In my opinion the guy is basically just charging $60 for a flash drive that has a custom written application for loading some open source software. The biggest benefit is not having to crack your ATV to access the hard drive.

    Besides… In less than 2 weeks this thing will be all over the torrent sites for free and this guy won’t be able to make a $$$ for his effort. Let him make some money know while he can. :-)

  • http://blog.electronicalifornia.com J

    It’s a $60 lazy idiot tax

  • mjm7496

    Hmmm I guess someone wants to be a condescending prick. Personally my time is worth $60, but then again I make more than minimum wage. If you don’t think it’s worth the money then don’t buy it. For those that don’t have the time/desire to go through the steps required to mod your ATV then this is an option that is otherwise unavailable.

  • http://atv4windows.com/ Think Different

    As bd indicated above atv4windows is doing something similar, but using a subscription model. To me this makes more sense, as they are charging for the FAQ’s, Wiki and Support of the Open Source Applications. Plus as AppleTV 3.0 comes out, subscribers will get robust support to get migrated, so you are paying for the support vs the patchstick code that the site also provides.

    While the torrent for the atv4windows image is floating out there, I chose to subscribe, as they are regularly updating the image and supporting it, and more importantly listening to subscribers input to improve the AppleTV experience.

    mjm7496 is on target, paying $25 for a subscription for 5 years of support and an easy to follow process for updating is well worth it. For those that are more interested in the exercise of hacking, then these options don’t apply, for the rest, they are a deal.

  • JB

    I agree with mjm7496. Ease of implementation is worth the small fee. Hat’s off to Apple Core for simplifying the process. Developers should take note, not complain.

  • Modhran

    Well, aTV Flash 2.2 is no more. They’ve pulled it from the site and say they’ll be refunding all their customers who’s flash drives haven’t shipped yet.

    I attempted to buy one of these, but now I can’t. I would love to be able to do all this hacking myself, but I just don’t have the knowledge or time to learn.

    What options do I have now?

  • Bawbee

    I’m with Modhran. They cancelled my order. I’m not up to the standard to do this installation myself and this was an easy option. I desperately want the facilities that aTV Flash would have given me. Anything else on the horizon?

  • markus

    Modhran & Bawbee, check out http://www.atv4windows.com for ready made patchsticks (for windows, OSX or linux)

  • SEJ

    Being too lazy to undertake hacking my AppleTV, I bought the aTV Flash. I got it before they stopped selling them. It installed without a hitch. I now have to figure out what all the hacks it installed do and how to use them, as there was no documentation at all. If nothing else, it got me motivated to learn about hacking the thing, which led me to this site. In addition to my AppleTV, I have a Mac Mini hooked up to my HD TV’s monitor port, so I am unclear as to what the hacks will let me do that I can’t already do on the Mini.

  • Warmingup

    I’m chiming in a bit late …but here is my take.

    I ordered promptly and mine is in transit I believe USPS to Australia. Is it good value? Not sure….But if it works as described I’ll feel that it is cost effective for me…I reckon I could do it a Geekier way but I’m 54 and I am only just realising that I may well not live forever and I should perhaps learn to prioritise my time left.

    Currently I “Handbrake” and “iSquint” and “iTunes” all sorts of video content to my AppleTV. It’s time consuming and I sometimes get downstairs to watch a Vid only to find a glitch in the conversion/optimising process.

    Hopefully the ATVF2 will help.

    Is it stolen code? I don’t know but I’ll be very interested to find out when arrives what “Anti-Cloning” measures they have added if any to protect “their” Intellectual Property.

  • Dag68

    Well, I moved quickly enough, my ATV patchstick arrive today and I’ve installed it and got just about everything up and running. I’m very happy with the value for cost. Installation went without a hitch and I didn’t have to spend a week reading forum post to learn how. Any complaints I have now are with the particular pieces of software (Couch surfer – I want to change the display font or the resolution!)

    I’ve hacked most every piece of hardware I’ve bought , including my iPhone, ReplayTV, Motorola Razr and several other phones, Virgin Webplayer, I-Opener, Cue Cat and god knows what else. I suck with a solder gun but have managed to build a 9v usb charger in an altoids tin, mod an old mouse into a gaming spinner and wire a Mame control panel. I’ve rarely bricked anything irrevocably but I’ve been so happy with my AppleTV that I was reluctant to attack it without some careful in depth study and I lack the time for that study. The ATV patchstick is the perfect solution and well worth the $60 idiot tax (I’d rather call it the “my life is to busy” tax.

    I know that folks have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours developing these hacks but you know what, not everyone has the knowledge and/or training to do these kind of hacks unsupported and I for one think its fine for them to take the shortcut. Isn’t what we do about expanding the box (whichever box happens to be in hand) and opening it up. Why keep that from all but the “worthy” who are willing to climb a technical mountain to gain nirvanna? That sounds like BS from people who didn’t develop the hacks themselves but want to feel special because they’ve got the skills to apply them.

    I understand people getting hot about the $$$ charged, but 60 bucks isn’t a lot for the value of making this easy and if it was, no one would buy. I expect they did some real work to automate the install and make it safe (ish?). If they charged $60 for you to ship your AppleTV to them and install the hacks for you, I don’t think many would find that excessive or dishonest. That should be their next business model, offered in conjunction with their hard drive upgrade service.

    My only disappointment is that I may lose out on my anticipated year of upgrades that was supposed to be included in my $60. I’m sure I still qualify for upgrades, but I don’t know if any will come out. But now that I’ve got SFTP access, hopefully I can roll with the punches!

  • Dag68

    PS: I’m thrilled that I can stop converting everything into one apple’s chosen codecs just to view it on my TV

  • void

    Value-adding software by offering it up for as a combo of hardware/service for is ok. Many of us are not geeks with tons of time. We just want plug’n’play. If developers want in on the action, go for it and we’ll buy it from them. If not, shut up.

  • http://www.goaze.nl vakantie

    I must say this is apple at its top. We “fan’s” have to pay to get the best from apple. I love the fruity computer brand, but can’t the do something for the apple community once.

  • Bill

    Well, after spending some time, with a Tiger disk, that I borrowed from a friend I now know it is not all that easy to just go and make a patchstick. First off you need the install disk from and OS you never owned. Then you borrow it, only to find that the files you need aren’t in the packages you think they are supposed to be in.

    Many of us are new Apple owners and we don’t have Tiger disks, so we can’t just go out and make a patchstick. We aren’t lazy, we just need to be able to get all of the files we need, and this is impossible for us to do.

    Frankly, I would rather give some guy the money for doing this, rather than have to search the net for a bunch of files that aren’t in the package that Awkward says there in.

  • pigumon

    Um… Has no one been to the site lately?

    The reason they stopped shipping flash drive with 2.2 is that they are now doing “bring your own flash drive” and instant download version 3.0!!!

    =)

  • Dietbert

    I just got a subscription on atvpatch.com (was atv4windows.com) (I think thats the same business, other people) and got my patchstickimage as download for $20 and for THAT Price is ok compared to the work I do not have with building the Stick. but $60 is toomuch for me.

  • Chas

    I am using ATVPATCH and for $20 (especially with the UK exchange rates) is quite a good deal. It enables everything I need. I do not see how ATVFLASH can charge $50 for exactly the same thing.

  • http://www.uti-in-dogs.com Mark

    They can charge whatever they want to, guys…is just business at the end of the day

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