So after using FIRECORE I am finding that yes it is worth it. The expense was shocking, as:
1) I have just as much (or more) new functionality via the new purchase of an ATV V2, as I do with upgrading the software via the FIRECORE software.
2) There is a lot to learn in how to optimize the FIRECORE software on your older ATV V1. In fact, too much to learn. Be prepared to spend hours of hobby time, understanding all the options possible.
3) You will need other software to make FIRECORE work well (with the XBMC application specifically). I suggest the PLAYON software for Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon VOD services.
4) It will save you at least an hour or two in setup and functions, and that is worth the price.
5) the alternative free version is not so easy to use either. discussions are not easy to understand. Yes tech support is hard to get for FIRECORE, but it does exist, and you can keep trying to ask questions, while you search to see if someone else asked a similar question on the discussion board here.