Apple TV Hacks

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History[edit | edit source]

Disclaimer[edit | edit source]

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.[1]

Software Hacks in the Beginning[edit | edit source]

Apple TVs operating system was described by w:Walt Mossberg as "a modified version of the Mac operating system".[2] 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.[3]

Because of problems associated with swaping the Apple TV hard drive, and offered a US$1,000 reward for an external USB drive hack to utilize the USB "service port".[4] Mid-2007, the USB hack was released.[5]

The New Method: Patchstick[edit | edit source]

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.[6][7] 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.[8] aTV Flash also enables the Loop pointer from Hillcrest Labs to be used for navigating Apple TV menus, and controlling video playback.[9]

Creating the open-source Patchstick was a manual effort until the Mac atvusb-creator application was released in late 2008 on Google Code.[10][11] 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).[12][13]

Replacing Front Row: Boxee[edit | edit source]

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,, Shoutcast, Joost, Comedy Central, MTV, and Hulu. Boxee also includes user-defined RSS audio, video, torrent and text feeds.[14][15] Boxee installs a Netflix plugin, but Apple TV doesn't have enough processing power to run Microsoft's w:Silverlight, which Netflix depends on.[16][17]

Boxee How Tos[edit | edit source]

  • Install Boxee or XBMC on an Apple TV[18]
  • Hack Your Apple TV With Boxee[19]
  • Max Out Apple TV's Potential With Boxee[20]
  • Cut the Cable For Good with Boxee and Apple TV[21]

Apple TV Updates[edit | edit source]

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.[22][23][24][25][26] The most common method used to "re-hack" is by using the Patchstick to reload hacks after an Apple TV software update.[27] 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.[28]

Software How Tos[edit | edit source]

Hardware How Tos[edit | edit source]

Hardware modifications allow users to expand Apple TVs capabilities. Customers can:

  • upgrade the hard drive on their Apple TVs,[35] 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.[36]
  • output color through w:composite video[37][38][39][40] 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,[41] to connect Apple TVs to them.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Apple denies meddling with Apple TV hacks".
  2. Mossberg, Walt (2007-03-21). "From PC to TV -- via Apple". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2007-04-03.
  3. Frakes, Dan (2007-05-30). "Upgrading Apple TV's hard drive". Macworld. Retrieved 2008-03-21.
  4. "$1000 Bounty for External USB Drive Hack". Apple TV Hacks. 2007-04-08. Retrieved 2007-04-18.
  5. "USB patch released. usb patch released hallelujah!". Apple TV Hacks. 2007-07-28. Retrieved 2007-08-01.
  6. staff (2007-04-18). "Patchstick Working - Unlocks ATV in minutes". Apple TV Hacks blog. blogspot. Retrieved 2008-03-21.
  7. staff. "Patchstick". AwkwardTV wiki. AwkwardTV. Retrieved 2009-03-24.
  8. Popular Science - Polish the Apple TV
  9. "Using Loop Pointer now possible with aTV Flash". Apple TV Hacks. 2009-06-17. Retrieved 2009-06-23.
  10. staff. "Beginners Guide for 2.x". AwkwardTV wiki. AwkwardTV. Retrieved 2009-03-24.
  11. staff. "atvusb-creator". ohloh review. ohloh. Retrieved 2009-03-24.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Cheng, Jacqui (2007-04-09). "Plugins for the Apple TV: RSS and Perl scripts". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2007-04-11.
  13. Todd Harter. "atvusb-creator - Google Code". Twine Bookmark. Twine. Retrieved 2009-03-24.
  14. Harrison Hoffman. "Boxee plugs into Joost, MTV Music". The Web Services Report blog. Cnet News. Retrieved 2009-03-24.
  15. Heater, Brian (2009-03-06). "Boxee Circumvents Hulu Ban with RSS Reader". PC Magazine. Retrieved 2009-03-17.
  16. Zjawinski, Sonia (2009-04-09). "Apple TV + Boxee, the Discoveries Continue". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
  17. "netflix does not work on the apple tv". Boxee forums. 2009-04-11. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
  18. Mat Lu. "Install Boxee or XBMC on an Apple TV". via Engadget. The Unofficial Apple Weblog. Retrieved 2009-03-24.
  19. staff. "Hack Your Apple TV With Boxee". Wired articles. Wired. Retrieved 2009-03-24.
  20. John Mahoney. "How To: Max Out Apple TV's Potential With Boxee". Gizmodo How-To. Gizmodo. Retrieved 2009-03-24.
  21. Purdy, Kevin (2009-01-29). "Cut the Cable For Good with Boxee and Apple TV". LifeHacker. Retrieved 2009-03-17.
  22. staff (2007-07-08). "June 20 2007 Patch (aka the YouTube Patch)". Retrieved 2007-07-16.
  23. staff (2007-06-21). "AppleTV Software Updated". Retrieved 2007-07-16.
  24. HackTV Take 2: The AppleTV Hack Upgrade Liveblog
  25. Take 2 Safe Update
  26. John Biggs (2009-03-02). "How to recover Boxee/XBMC after the Apple TV update". CrunchGear. Retrieved 2009-03-24.
  27. aTV: plug and play Apple TV hacking
  28. staff. "ATV2-Compatible Plugins". AwkwardTV. Retrieved 2009-03-24.
  29. "Applications running on the Apple TV". Apple TV Hacks. 2007-03-24. Retrieved 2007-04-03.
  30. "Apple TV running on a Macbook". Apple TV Hacks. 2007-03-27. Retrieved 2007-04-03.
  31. Drawbaugh, Ben (2007-03-31). "Apple TV running full version of OS X". Engadget. Retrieved 2007-04-03.
  32. Sadun, Erica (2007-04-10). "Linux on Apple TV". The Unofficial Apple Weblog. Retrieved 2007-04-11.
  33. "Apple TV Hacked to Run XviD, DiVX to Follow?". Gizmodo. 2007-03-23. Retrieved 2007-04-03.
  34. staff. "The AwkwardTV Plug-in Directory". AwkwardTV. Retrieved 2009-03-24.
  35. "DIY: Apple TV Hard Drive Upgraded to 120GB". Gizmodo. 2007-03-23. Retrieved 2007-04-03.
  36. Apple TV hard drive upgrades
  37. "How to use your Apple TV under Composite WITH COLOR".
  38. TUAW (unofficial Apple weblog) : Found Footage: Apple TV Composite Hack in Full Color
  39. Reghardware: How to get colour composite-video from an Apple TV
  40. Wired Blogs: Apple TV Hacked to Output Full Composite Color
  41. Ars at Macworld: Questions about the AppleTV.