What next for Apple TV hacking?

by editor @ AppleTVHacks.net on April 25, 2007

Whilst some interesting working is being done with plugins for the Apple TV, the number of new hacks as declined. While this is somewhat inevitable as certain milestones are achieved, we think there is still a lot to be done. Here are some of the current and possible future projects for the Apple TV.

Apple TV in your Car

AppleTVHacks is not aware of any teams currently attempting this, but we are sure it is only a matter of time. DVD players are becoming commonplace in cars, certainly in family vehicles where the kids can be kept entertained whilst travelling.

The Apple TV represents the next step in evolution for exactly this scenario, you can load up content for the kids, which they can choose between (fight over!) themselves while you concern yourself with experimenting with your cruise control. When the kids aren’t listening, you can use it to stream music through the car stereo, and everyone is happy.

Add the fact that your wireless probably reaches the Garage where the car is parked and updating the content becomes a breeze.

Content Subscriptions

Until Apple deliver a functioning install of the iTunes Store that is integrated with the Apple TV operating system, anyone looking for automated downloading of their favourite shows ready for watching when they get home from work is stuck.

The Apple TV can already handle using other media players, and so all that is needed is another source of content. Enter torrents, which combned with RSS subscriptions could automatically obtain content as it appears. All that is needed is for these elements to be tied together, maybe wrapped up in a plugin and a microwave that does the popcorn on a timer.

Man in the Middle Upgrade

This could be the most important hack to date; it would allow hacking and upgrading the Apple TV without any need to open the case or download and apply patches using a USB drive. That is of course, if it is possible….

The Apple TV uses a built in Software Update mechanism which contacts Apple’s servers to check for updates. These updates will presumably allow Apple to fix and enhance the Apple TV’s built in features (no updates have been seen yet). You may be aware that these built in features are actually just plugins to the core application, which means the Software Update system would have the ability to access the plugins.

This hack would involve tweaking the settings on your wireless router to trick your Apple TV into asking for Software Updates from your computer. Your computer could then provide additional plugins of your choosing and you’d never have had to void your warranty in the process.

Linux on the Apple TV

Obviously, any hardcore geeks are keen to see Linux on any new electronic device, and the geeks over at AwkwardTV are working on exactly that.

Whilst we’ve already seen Mac OS X on Apple TV, there would be some benefits to having Linux running. Most notably that Linux is free and might unlock features of the Apple TV for those without an OS X install to apply.

Some initial success has been made, but there is a fair way to go yet before installing Linux on the Apple TV becomes useful to anyone who isn’t doing it just for the fun of it. One to keep an eye on.

  • Xianli

    ATV in a car wouldn’t be as easy, because of the permanent powersupply that it needs. I don’t think the ATV would like to be turned on/off so many times everydays.

    We certainly would have to fake a HID event from a UPS to USB that let the ATV OS to shutdown by itselft and turn it back on when needed.

    If the system is turned on/off too often and espacially while reading something (media file), at the end it will certainly result a file corruption that will start the recovery sequence.

    My 2 cents…

  • Jgibbs

    The only problem with this is if your playing a file you have purchased the appletv looks to see if the file is purchased by you from apple. I have worked most of the kinks out of my setup but I am having problems with my composite video to component video converter between my appletv and my pioneer head unite. It could be as simple as my power inverter or a bad conversion unite but it is my second of each. Other than that this was a fairly easy install in my 04 Chevy pickup and I will post my picks and what hardware was used when I am done and have worked out my miner bugs.

  • Jgibbs

    The comment about the atv not liking being turned on and off all the time is a possible problem but has not been one for me yet. The boot time does suck bit its not bad. The big problem would be if you started your vehicle and then before it was booted fully you killed you vehicle. This is solvable by using a shutoff delay relay between the battery and the power inverter allowing the atv to stay on for a set amount of time before the relay would cut the power form the battery. I will have to look into this but will let you know what I come up with.

  • Shutting down during a read isn’t a problem. It’s during writes that you run into trouble. Fortunately HFS+ is journaled.

    I don’t see why the big push for linux when darwin is also free and obviously does run on the appletv as well (and with darwin you could still make use of the existing apps).

  • DaveGee

    I’m not sure why people are questioning an AppleTV in the car when people (even many Windows users) have been buying minis as carputers since… well… since the mini firsts hit the streets. (heh) Back when the mini was 1st introduced I do remember that windows users were quite amazed at the tiny size and its unique ability to fit into very small spaces.


  • DaveGee

    Now this is just my .02 cents and please try not to take this as an attack on anyone because I have noting but admiration for those who have been doing work on projects such as these….


    I think one of the ‘problems’ with the Macintosh developer community is how so many (not all… but many) are so dead set against opening up their source code. This is very sad since many people (me included) learn from example – yes I know it isn’t the ‘right way’ to gain your skills but the fact remains people like me are quite numerous.

    In the unix and (to a lesser degree) the Windows world this isn’t the case. People are much more open to sharing their knowledge and their source code. People in turn learn from that code and extend/enhanse it and so on and so on… In the end you’ve got an ever growing developer community many who in turn share their knowledge by way of their source code.

    The Mac world has never been like this and in turn we have less people who’ll even attempt to dive in head first into programming and because of that we have less people who can code all the great ideas people have (for plugins or whatever).

    Think of all the programs that the developer just ‘moved on’ from. Who knows maybe the developer just lost interest in ‘whatever’ that got him to write the program in the first place – I’d hazard to guess they number into many many thousands (for the Mac). Imagine if even 10% turned around and said… okay I’ve lost interest in this program so I’m providing the source code and you can feel free to do with it what you will (or insert some stipulations).

    Oh well you get what I’m trying to say… (I hope) and again this isn’t meant to be an attack on anyone, it’s simply a plea for Mac developers to perhaps think about making their code more open so fellow mac users have a chance to learn from your knowledge.

    In the end we’d all benefit…


  • Matthew

    Biggest problem with AppleTV in the car is not the power supply or hard drive corruption…these are all solved problems. The real issue surrounds the desire to have an HD level sunlight visible LCD. The LCDs used in most in-vehicle computing applications these days are FAR from HD, and most are not the right aspect ratio.

    That said, that is just a matter of time, or a matter of settling for something less than ideal.

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  • Nicko

    I think that you’ll find that the “Man in the Middle Upgrade” is not possible. Software Updates from Apple are signed with digital signatures which are functionally impossible to forge. The checks of these signatures can be compromised by changing the public keys used to validate the signatures, but that would require access to the content of the disc, so you have a bootstrap problem; until you compromise the system you can’t compromise the system. I expect that booting off of a USB drive is going to be much more practical and no more likely to invalidate your warranty.

  • bubba

    wow, appletv hacking sure has been quiet lately.

  • sev

    i think someone should figure out how to hook up the xbox 360 hddvd to the aple tv

  • sheckylovejoy

    I think content subscriptions will already work with iTMS. It certainly works for podcasts, that I much I know, but it should work also for season subscriptions through iTMS. That is to say, a new episode appears, is automatically downloaded by your Mac (so long as iTunes is open), and so long as it is configured correctly, synced with the AppleTV

  • tony

    Torrents + RSS + Video Codecs all via the USB would motivate me to buy a unit in a heartbeat.

  • matt rotherham

    As of today apple have commited to adding features via updates (for free!) so we will see them adding features requested (RSS anyone?) but this means that they have been using hacking as market research, they know what we want and they look set to just hand it us, but want would be very heaven, true glory apple style would be

    Apple TV dev tools, for mac, connect to network or load to USB. make your own updates.

    this seems very unlikely yes but if it means that people can customise this little bit of tech to there very own spec, people will buy it.


    but now for my second little rant. WHY oh WHY do people moan about the HD size. this is not meant to store all your media on. the main function is to STREAM. if you want somthing with a bigger HD and OSX on it why not just get a mac mini and use the HDMI input (thats what i am doing) put the ATV OS on your mac mini, have it stream from itself and have 4 hard drives plugged in (again me, 2 TB BABY!) plus this means you can have many versions of the OS (if you run it as an app, copy and edit) this means you can try as many mods as you want without risk of damage

    BTW new plugins

    emulator to work with keyboard
    fave. web page browser

  • stefan

    Well you can indeed dowload new TV Show episodes automatically using the nifty little programme TVShows. Combined with ATVFilesyou got that problem already solved…
    Anyway, would be nice to see TVShows integrated in the AppleTV menu, thus being able to subscribe to certain shows. Thinking one step further, these shows could be automatically converted via VisualHub and then added to iTunes – should indeed be possible with some Apple Script. Anyone?

  • DaveGee

    “but now for my second little rant. WHY oh WHY do people moan about the HD size. this is not meant to store all your media on. the main function is to STREAM.”

    Well and this is just a guess… but here are my top reasons why I think most want to have local content.

    The need to have a 2nd fully blown computer turned on 24/7 or at least turned on and ready to stream movies prior to youusing the AppleTV – and most likely said computer will be in a different room.

    But the number one reason why having to rely on a 2nd computer for playing a movie is how much it sucks when you’re in the middle of a fast moving and intense battle/race scene and Jr. fires up WOW (or some other cpu intensive game) and your movie slows to a crawl and dies… 😆


  • vudutu

    I have a suggested hack and in fact the person who can help me do it I will give a prize to, something I can work in the budget here at school say one of these nice 130 gig 2.5 FW and USB drives I have.

    I work at a small school and need a small digital signage system for the lobby and commons, for events and information just two monitors. Typically this would be scrolling or text signage that would display for x seconds then go to the next message, things like “lecture on Paris painters in room s366 at 12:00”. I have priced all the systems out there but they are all for large deployments and are too costly or are PC based.

    I know I know I can create a podcast and send it to the unit (what else is cool is students could subscribe) but the problem is the content creation needs to be dirt simple and I have never done it. I was thinking of sending Keynote content to it. I was also looking at the new Slingbox being talked about. Any ideas?

  • MemeSlider

    We have started looking at the AppleTV in the car. I have a thread going here:


    Lately, though, I feel that the AppleTV is not full featured enough for the car and the Mac Mini is where it’s at.


  • Not be able to use streaming radio on the AppleTV is a bit downer. The fact you can watch anything but iTunes sorced video is a bit crap as well. So far I am well unimpressed with AppleTV. What a useless piece of crap they are peddling. (Set-up was easy at least.)

  • Rowan

    Big problem is control. Yes you can use a remote, but for a car a touchscreen is best. Problem is, the touch screens are VGA… you can get HDMI to DVI, but not HDMI to VGA… correct me if i’m wrong please as i’d like to do this but will probably have to shell out for a mac mini.

  • jbarros

    I would add a couple of suggestions for hacking.

    In addition to the (already in the works) USB externa hard-drive, I would love to see an external USB DVD drive.

    Of course, a DVD drive would be great if one could also see a pluggin to play the DVD directly from AppleTV.

    Another nice hack would be to run iTunes direcly on AppleTV, such that I could buy programs without having to go to my computer.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • VLeung

    The most compelling reason to me (and many others I believe) on buying this AppleTV would be the available hack for streaming RMVB movie files from a Network Drive (or home PC) connected to our home wireless network.

    If it can stream and play all of those downloable RMVB movie files, just like the XBox with XBMC does, but in HD resolution, there should be no doubt that this thing will become as hot as the initial introduction of the WII.

  • I would add a web browser kiosk capability for an Apple TV hack. In particular, you
    would want a way to also do the 90 degree rotate for display of content for vertically
    mounted HDTVs as kiosk displays. That is done directly in Mac Mini, but might not
    be possible for for Apple TV.

  • what about [email protected]?

    may as well save the world on our unused processor cycles. it worked for the ps3…

  • Ward

    Hw about just the ability to mount AppleTV hard drive from a PC or another Apple remotely?

  • Put Apple TV in your Car, RV, Van…

    Taking pre-orders now.


  • Hey Dude,
    Really your thought will be a great mainstream for those who are looking for Digital Signage. As it sounds very good though i would like to light it at the wall of my facebook.

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