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So you just got an Apple TV -- now what?

All day on December 25, TUAW presents "Now What?" We've got first steps and recommendations for all the Apple gifts you (hopefully!) found under the tree today. Happy holidays!

The Apple TV launched almost two years ago and has yet to really "take off." That's OK, with more and more downloadable HD content, improved support for stuff like podcasts and Airtunes and some awesome third-party solutions, the Apple TV can easily become a great media center.

Did Santa bring you an Apple TV this year? These are my tips for making it even more awesome!

Boxee It

I've made no secret about my unabashed love for boxee, the awesome media center with a social kick that can run on your Apple TV. It should be no surprise that my first piece of advice is that you set-up boxee on your Apple TV as soon as you get it connected to your TV and home theater.

Need an invite? If you don't have a friend to ask, check out the boxee forums, hit up the boxee Twitter feed or pester me (@film_girl) and you should be able to get one pretty quickly. On January 8th, 2009, boxee will be opening up the alpha for everyone.

After you've updated your Apple TV to the latest firmware, follow my instructions or take a look the information at the ATV USB Creator project page for the the details on making a patchstick. The process is extremely easy and you just need a USB stick (1 GB or more recommended) and a few minutes to get everything up and running.

Once boxee is installed, you can enjoy Hulu (if you live in the US), streaming video from other services, last.fm and playback of other file types that won't natively play on the Apple TV; you can store those files either on the Apple TV, or that you access from another hard drive.

Learn about the other cool software add-ons

I really love the Awkward TV Wiki, which is a great way to stay abreast of the latest programs and hacks users have created for the Apple TV. Most of these plugins can be installed via a patchstick -- like boxee -- and they run on-top of the existing Apple TV interface. Some of the coolest utilities, like Couchsurfer, have recently been updated for firmware 2.3.

Although modifying your Apple TV does come with some risks (you might have to do a factory restore if something goes wrong), the methodology of applying said modifications has become much, much easier and you really aren't putting your Apple TV at risk. Still, keep in mind that Apple won't provide any technical support for a modified Apple TV (which means, restore it to factory settings before sending it back :-)).

Try out a new remote, ore the iPhone/iPod touch remote app

One of the most usefulf feature additions in firmware 2.3 is the ability to program a universal remote to work with the Apple TV. If you have a really nice programmable remote, like the Logitech Harmony, you've already been able to use it with the Apple TV -- but now you can do the same thing with your TV or receiver remote.

Even better, if you have an iPhone or iPod touch, the Remote app [iTunes link] is pretty awesome. The Remote app let's you control music from your Apple TV -- which is fantastic if you want to use the ATV as a music center.

Rent some holiday movies or buy a holiday TV show

'Tis the season! Rent or buy a Christmas movie directly from the Apple TV! You can also peruse some holiday TV classics, like The Best Christmukkah Ever from the first season of The O.C.



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All day on December 25, TUAW presents "Now What?" We've got first steps and recommendations for all the Apple gifts you (hopefully!)...