Apple TV Hacks
Apple TV hacks have been available since days of Apple TVs release. Apple is not currently preventing users from installing Apple TV hacks, but users are warned that applying hacks will void the product's warranty.
Software Hacks in the Beginning
Apple TVs operating system was described by w:Walt Mossberg as "a modified version of the Mac operating system". Hackers began creating Front Row extensions by gaining SSH and FTP access to the device.
Initially, software hacking required physical changes to the Apple TV hardware; the bottom rubber panel was removed (which is near impossible to do perfectly) and the hard drive connected to a computer. This leaves the rubber not fully connected and a sticky residue on the bottom metal. It is an aesthetic barrier to modification.
Because of problems associated with swaping the Apple TV hard drive, AppleTVHacks.net and FatWallet.com offered a US$1,000 reward for an external USB drive hack to utilize the USB "service port". Mid-2007, the USB hack was released.
The New Method: Patchstick
The community-created "Patchstick" project enables Apple TV owners to add software modifications using the USB hack. Users can download a Patchstick image to a USB drive and reboot the Apple TV from the drive. Software is then automatically transferred from the USB drive to the Apple TV device. A commercial version of the Patchstick was released mid-2008, the aTV Flash software. This software allows playback of common media files and includes a web browser, RSS reader and ability to download metadata from the w:IMDB. In a similar way to the open-source Patchstick method, the aTV Flash requires no physical modifications to the Apple TV. aTV Flash also enables the Loop pointer from Hillcrest Labs to be used for navigating Apple TV menus, and controlling video playback.
Creating the open-source Patchstick was a manual effort until the Mac atvusb-creator application was released in late 2008 on Google Code. atvusb-creator is noted as the "easiest way" to create the Patchstick and loads a USB drive with dropbear ssh, bin tools including compression and FTP utilities, and two plugins (SoftwareMenu and w:XBMC Media Center/w:Boxee Installer/Launcher).
Replacing Front Row: Boxee
Boxee is an open-source "media center application based on XBMC with a social networking spin" and includes its own plugins for Internet media services such as Flickr, Last.fm, Shoutcast, Joost, Comedy Central, MTV, and Hulu. Boxee also includes user-defined RSS audio, video, torrent and text feeds. Boxee installs a Netflix plugin, but Apple TV doesn't have enough processing power to run Microsoft's w:Silverlight, which Netflix depends on.
Boxee How Tos
- Install Boxee or XBMC on an Apple TV
- Hack Your Apple TV With Boxee
- Max Out Apple TV's Potential With Boxee
- Cut the Cable For Good with Boxee and Apple TV
Apple TV Updates
The Apple TV software updates typically remove any software hacks that are installed. Major hacks are updated on a regular basis and the Apple TV device can easily be re-hacked. The most common method used to "re-hack" is by using the Patchstick to reload hacks after an Apple TV software update. Although major hacks have been updated, most Front Row plugins have not been updated to work with Apple TV 2.x. AwkwardTV reports 10 plugins out of 32 have been certified to be compatible with the "Take Two" update.
Software How Tos
- access the device remotely through SSH,
- get Apple TV's version of Front Row running on other Apple computers,
- install regular versions of w:Mac OS X v10.4
- install regular versions of Linux
- add support for other codecs
- create Front Row w:plugins.
Hardware How Tos
Hardware modifications allow users to expand Apple TVs capabilities. Customers can:
- upgrade the hard drive on their Apple TVs, although a repair company such as Weaknees, MacService, and w:iResQ can install hard drive upgrades with data transfer. The company offers upgrades to 80GB, 120GB, 160GB, and 250GB hard drives.
- output color through w:composite video This hardware-based w:hack, which requires inexpensive hardware to trick the built-in w:operating system, enables users with non-w:HDTV TV sets, for which the Apple TV was originally designed, to connect Apple TVs to them.
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- HackTV Take 2: The AppleTV Hack Upgrade Liveblog
- Take 2 Safe Update
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- aTV: plug and play Apple TV hacking
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- iResQ.com Apple TV hard drive upgrades
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