Can I see that Apple TV from my desktop?

No. iTunes takes control of ATV management using Sync.

Can I drag/drop AVI files to the ATV?

No. There is no analog hole to tap directly into ATV and, Front Row cannot recognize AVI files, much less play them. It will only recognize mpg4, m4v, and mov, I think.

Apple TV is terrific as a media box for the iTunes eco-system. Rent/buy movies and music, populate it with your photos, etc. Anything that plays in iTunes, pretty much plays on the Apple TV.

However, if you want more out of the device, hack it. aTV Flash is the best. It comes highly recommended too:

Jobs called aTV a hobby, which to me, is code-speak for geeks, inviting them to make good use of it.

aTV Flash is user-friendly and it simply works. The software replaces the aTV OS, however, with a few clicks of your remote and you can restore your aTV back to factory specs in minutes.

It'll cost you fifty-bucks but, what it offers is worth the price of admission. My aTV now has access to so much more than you can imagine.

I didn't stop with the aTV Flash though. I installed Broadcom's Crystal HD Decoder Chip which gave me the ability to watch all HD, including 1080p over aTV! The Broadcom chip takes over video playback from the aTV's cpu.

The best thing of all though is, I now have access to XBMC, which is the original Xbox media center software ported to aTV. Think of it as a replacement for Front Row. It's available with aTV Flash.

The XBMC Project is a work in progress, with nightly builds available at the project's Google website. The nightly builds are not for the faint of heart. However, they do offer "stable" releases that have moved well beyond the beta stage.

They recently introduced a Mac desktop version of the XBMC software too, which is awesome. It also runs natively on Snow Leopard and PowerPC. It comes complete with skins, scripts, and applications that extend the media reach of aTV.

XBMC opens doors to a truly marvelous media experience; it supports all disc media, all network protocols, including SMB, all of the major Container, Video, Audio, Picture, and Subtitle formats.

XBMC is designed to work with the Crystal HD chip. It decodes HD video on the fly.

I now use Transmit to manage my aTV. They created a droplet for the desktop which provides drag & drop.

The downside to installing the Crystal HD chip though is, I had to remove the Wireless "N" chip in order to install the Crystal HD, which sits in the aTV's only mini PCIe slot. Luckily, aTV provides an ethernet port, which I connected directly to the router.

When I bought the Crystal HD chip, it was selling for 39 bucks. I see now, it's up to 54. Supply and demand, I guess.

Anyway, I would recommend aTV even if you don't hack it. Especially if you like the iTunes Store. Who knows Apple may even open up aTV to work with the App Store in the future.

M i c h a e l (OFI)