I wish I had a hobby like this: Apple TV revenues top $1B in 2013

Although Apple considers it just a hobby, its Apple TV and related content is generating big revenues: Sales topped $1 billion in 2013. With a current $25 promotion for Apple TV, is the connected set-top box about to graduate from hobby status with new hardware?

Apple’s AirPlay Arrives on Android: DoubleTwist

Android smartphones and tablets can now stream music, videos and photos to AppleTV over Wi-Fi using the doubleTwist AirSync application. A quick test of the software shows that its simple to configure and can pipe digital media output to AppleTV with the tap of a button.

All Hail The Cord Cutters

In another major shift in the world of online video, more and more people are choosing to take advantage of broadband access by cutting the cable that connects them to their TVs and switching to streaming and downloadable video options such as Hulu, Netflix and iTunes.

The New Mac Mini — the Next Apple TV?

The Mac Mini desktop sees a hardware upgrade today, along with a price boost. It’s still the cheapest Mac desktop at $699, but with new Nvidia graphics and HDMI output, might it be your next Apple TV while Boxee and Google sit on the sidelines?

7 for 7: A Third OS for the Apple Tablet?

Could Apple possibly have three operating systems in mind for a tablet device, which it is widely expected to announce next week? In this post, part of a series of seven, you’ll find some good reasons why it might.

How-To: Making The Most Of Apple TV With XBMC And Boxee

AppleTV-xbmc-boxeeThe Apple TV, as envisioned by Apple (s aapl), is truly a very niche market device. You’re basically paying money for something that lets you pay more money to buy or rent music, movies and TV shows from the iTunes store. Sure, you can also stream content from iTunes on a computer, but when trying to stream from a central generic media device, the out of the box software just doesn’t cut it.

It is, however, possible to customize your Apple TV with unauthorized third party software (much like a jailbreak for iPhones/iPod touches) to transform it into a fantastic cheap media player (with certain limitations). Read More about How-To: Making The Most Of Apple TV With XBMC And Boxee

Boxee Adds Pandora Radio and Hints at the Future

boxeeYesterday, boxee released an update to their media center software for Apple TV (s aapl) and Mac OS X at a New York meetup. CEO Avner Ronen took the stage at Webster Hall to show some significant features in this latest alpha release including Pandora Radio, RadioTime, a new API for add-ons, an XUL-based framework for web-based video, and a PBS application from BoxeeHQ.

Pandora and RadioTime

The Pandora feature is absolutely brilliant. I had a chance to play with it for a while on Tuesday; it is the full Pandora experience on a 10-foot interface. You can log in to your account, select any of your channels, give a thumbs up or down, skip a song, and even create a new channel. I cannot begin to tell you how cool it is to listen to Pandora on my home theater sound system with the song information displayed on the big-screen TV, all thanks to boxee on the Apple TV. Driving this software with the free boxee remote iPhone app just makes it that much sweeter. Pandora on Apple TV is amazing.
The CTO of Pandora, Tom Conrad, got on stage at the meetup to talk about how excited his company was to be bringing their Internet radio service to the platform. You can get even more Internet radio by using the RadioTime application, finished just in time for the release, to listen to over 100,000 terrestrial radio stations. This app cleverly picks up your location by your IP address and presents you with a list of local stations. I found several popular FM stations (but not all of them) in the Denver area. Read More about Boxee Adds Pandora Radio and Hints at the Future

AppleTV 2.3.1 Released with Network Test

Apple TV

Sometime between last night and this morning, Apple (s aapl) released a minor update to the Apple TV. The new software version is 2.3.1 and includes a new network test function and other fixes that haven’t been listed by Apple as of this time. The update, just like all previous updates, disables Boxee and other hacks, but these are easily restored by running the patchstick again (more notes on that at the end).

When you run the network test, it will ask if you’ve been having trouble with slow downloads from the iTunes store. You can answer Yes or No to this question and it will still proceed to run the test. It then asks you what download speeds you expect to get from your Internet connection and begins a download test, probably similar to the various speed tests available on the web that simply download a file of a known size and then track how long it takes to complete the download. The test is a little dissatisfying because it doesn’t tell you anything — all the information from the test is sent to Apple and you never know what kind of download speeds you were seeing.

Restoring Boxee was as simple as running the patchstick update again. I had an additional problem on my own Apple TV in that my external USB drive wasn’t seen after the update. I was hoping that a quick reinstall of nitoTV would fix everything, but the USB drive was still not showing up when I ran “diskutil list” from the command line. I rather like having a 1TB Apple TV, so I’m off to restore the box from factory settings and make sure everything is working. I’ll let you know what happens in the comments below.

That said, I wouldn’t let my experience scare you away from the update. The new network test will be useful for anyone that is experiencing problems with downloading purchased or rented content from the iTunes store and there may be other fixes that Apple hasn’t announced yet. Some users on other forums are reporting improved responsiveness on the iPhone Remote app, which would be a welcome benefit.

Let me know how your upgrade goes in the comments.