Hacks

How to run Firefox on the Apple TV

by editor @ AppleTVHacks.net on October 11, 2007

firefox appletv How to run Firefox on the Apple TV

Agentgonzo has just detailed how you can get Firefox to run on the Apple TV using a combination of hacks including keyboard/mouse hack, mouse pointer hack and application loader plugin.

Actually, this technique can be used to run just about any OS X application on the Apple TV.

Thanks, Agentgonzo, for putting the article together.

JamanTV: a sneak preview

by editor @ AppleTVHacks.net on September 27, 2007

jaman appletv JamanTV:  a sneak preview
Introduction

Are you just bored sick waiting for iTunes to offer movie rentals? Yes, you’ve probably been hearing about it for weeks (months?) that Apple is going to offer movies for rent via iTunes soon. I guess, it is just not soon enough. It was a rumor then it STILL is today. Meanwhile, subscribers of services like Amazon Unbox, Movielink and CinemaNow are already enjoying their rented movies on their PCs, Xbox 360′s and Tivos. Yeah, I know, you’re contemplating listing your Apple TV on Craig’s list and trade it in for an Xbox 360 (Halo 3, anyone?).

But wait, there is still hope. OK, not just hope. It’s a soon-to-be reality. You WILL be able to watch rented movies on your Apple TV very very soon.

Jaman, a movie download service featuring some of the top movies from all over the globe, is gearing up for the release of their JamanTV player. You might have heard about this application when it was featured on gigaom back in June. In that post, Om Malik wrote about an application that allowed rented movies from Jaman to be viewed right on the Apple TV. And, boy, was he excited about it. However, since then, there had been no update on that news.

Then, it happened. Last week, I was given the opportunity to preview the upcoming JamanTV application when the company contacted me to take a look at it. Of course, I jumped on it. I couldn’t have waited another day to be able view rented movies on my Apple TV.

How it works

There are two components to getting Jaman movies to work on the Apple TV: the Jaman Player for your PC/Mac and JamanTV player for your Apple TV. The computer-based player behaves similar to iTunes, in which it manages the downloaded movies and also keeps track of external devices allowed to sync with it. Once the JamanTV player is installed on the Apple TV, it can then be added to the device list to be synced with the computer-based player.

player1 JamanTV:  a sneak preview

The Jaman Player for your computer is publicly available from the site and is actually required to view movies from the service. On the other hand, the yet-to-be-released JamanTV for the Apple TV has to be installed via a PatchStick.

For those not familiar with a PatchStick, it is bootable USB flash drive that contains scripts for enabling SSH and installing other 3rd party components on to the Apple TV. You can read more about it at awkwardtv.org.

Installation

Installing the Jaman Player on the computer was a no brainer. It installed just like any application out there. With the player installed, you can log in to the service and start renting movies right away.

Installing JamanTV via a PatchStick was relatively simple too. However, there was one major requirement: an Intel Mac. This is needed to run the script for creating the PatchStick. I am confident that this requirement will go away in the future but for now, this is the way it is.

A Jaman representative gave me a zip file called Patchstick.zip, containing applications and scripts to create my very own PatchStick.

patchstick content JamanTV:  a sneak preview

The Patchstick.zip file contains the main install script, createPatchstick, 2 instruction files in PDF and two folders caled “Patchstick” and “root”.

The install script needed the following:

  • Admin privileges
  • Apple TV 1.1 software update (found here)
  • USB flash drive with at least 128mb capacity

Before the install script could be run, the Apple TV 1.1 software update had to be extracted and mounted first. Opening it would mount a volume called “OSBoot” in the Finder. The script needed some files from the “OSBoot” mounted volume to be copied to the Patchstick.

I found the two instruction files to be very detailed and informative. Following the instructions in the “ModifyAppleTV2.pdf” file, I managed to run the install script with ease.

The install script partitioned the USB drive into two partitions: an Apple TV Recovery partition and a regular OS X partition. All the tools and software resided in the Apple TV Recovery partition to be copied to the Apple TV.

Just to be sure that the install script was solid, I ran it through about 10 – 15 times. On certain occasions, I ran into a minor glitch in the script. The script used the command “diskutil unmountDisk” to unmount the USB drive. This was not always successful. After changing it to “disktool -u”, the problem went away.

terminal JamanTV:  a sneak preview

Once the Patchstick was created, I plugged it into the Apple TV and booted from it (“menu” and “-” buttons). With the Patchstick connected, Apple TV booted from it and the install script copied necessary components to the Apple TV. After a couple of reboots, my Apple TV now had a new entry on the root menu called “Jaman Movies”.

jamantv JamanTV:  a sneak preview
At this point, there was just one more step left: adding the patched Apple TV to Jaman Player’s list of devices to sync with. The player required the serial number of the Apple TV for this. The serial number could be obtained from the following sources: iTunes, Jaman Movies menu and Settings menu.

add device1 JamanTV:  a sneak preview
Once the Apple TV was added, the player immediately started the syncing process to transfer the downloaded movies to the Apple TV. It couldn’t be any easier than this.

Depending on your network speed, each movie should take only a few minutes to be transferred. However, some movies might take up a few gigabytes of storage. My network runs on Airport Extreme (802.11n) so transferring a few gigabytes of movies did not take long at all. On the other hand, downloading a movie from the service via the Internet took about 40 minutes to an hour.

configuration screen1 JamanTV:  a sneak preview

Conclusion

Overall, I am very impressed with the JamanTV software. Hats off to the developers for keeping the install process simple and making the players well-polished.

The only thing I would like to see in the future is maybe the ability to preview and rent movies right from the Apple TV without syncing with the PC.

Last I heard, Jaman is ready to get the JamanTV out to the public any day now. Once it is released, you can finally enjoy rented movies on your Apple TV too.

Update

I was given the permission to go ahead and post the Patchstick file for download. It is available here.

Enjoy.

Get Apple TV to work with SCART

by editor @ AppleTVHacks.net on August 23, 2007

component to rgb Get Apple TV to work with SCART

Thomas Schmidt (Germany) got an Apple TV as a gift from his girlfriend but soon realized that it wouldn’t work with his non-HD television, which lacks component input. So he set out to build a converter to convert the component output from Apple TV to RGB (SCART) input.

Through trials and errors, he was able to build a prototype of the device. Not a pretty one but it does work. The schematics, photos and the PCB layout of his creation can be found here.

Thanks, Thomas. We hope you and your girlfriend are enjoying the Apple TV. Let’s hope that Apple finally sells TV shows and movies on iTunes Germany soon so you will get to enjoy it even more. And better start saving up for a new HDTV soon.

Oh, and US readers, you can pretty much ignore the whole post since SCART-equipped TVs are virtually non-existent in the US.

USB Patch: 2 days later

by editor @ AppleTVHacks.net on July 29, 2007

We are aware that the USB Patch released on Friday night was pretty restrictive on the requirements:  Intel-Mac, OS X files, Apple TV Software 1.0, etc.

Now that the source code is out in the wild,  we would like the community to investigate these issues and submit improvements over the existing code.

We feel that the highest priority is to make the patch work with Apple TV software 1.1.  Reverting back your Apple TV software to the previous version is just a step backward.  One shouldn’t have to be forced to do this.

Next priority is to make the install script work on other environments:  Windows, PPC OS X, etc. Correct me if I’m wrong but if all of compilation takes place on the Apple TV, (which runs the Intel version of OS X) then there shouldn’t be any restrictions on the computer that remotes into it, right?  Or you can just tell me that I’m full of it.

Of course, the ultimate goal is to wrap the geeky stuff in a nice GUI, then we’ll all be happy.  Volunteers?

So what are you waiting for?  Help us out.  All lines are opened, operators are standing by.

USB patch released. HALLELUJAH!

by editor @ AppleTVHacks.net on July 28, 2007

After numerous delays, we present you the USB patch that you guys have been waiting for. You can find the link to the patch at the bottom of this blog entry.

Just a recap for those who are not familiar with this. A few months back, AppleTVHacks.net and FatWallet set up a bounty looking for a way to use an external USB drive as a primary storage for the Apple TV. The patch must still allow the Apple TV to boot from its internal hard drive but only use the external USB drive as its primary storage.

First of all, our team would like to thank Patrick Walton of University of Chicago for sending us the original entry. We certainly appreciate his effort; it was a quite an achievement. Unfortunately, syncing did not work. By the time we realized the problem, Patrick was already too busy to fix his code.

Fortunately, Tom Anthony, our resident geek, was able to pick up where Patrick left off and fixed the syncing problem that the original patch had.

We would also like to thank Turbo for spending the time to test out the patch.

Instructions

The patch was written for and, therefore, tested on Apple TV software version 1.0. If you have 1.1, the patch might not work. Please let us know if you can get the patch to work on 1.1.

What you need:

  • An ssh-enabled Apple TV. If you don’t have that enabled yet, you can refer to this post to get it enabled. For instructions on how to enable ssh without opening the case, refer to this wiki page.
  • An Intel-Mac or Intel-based *nix. This is needed to run the script to patch the kernel on the Apple TV remotely. It maybe possible to run the install script under Windows using cygwin. However, we have not tried this.
  • An installed version of Mac OS X 10.4 Intel. Or a full copy of the contents of the “/System/Library/Extensions” folder from one.
  • An original, unmodified copy of the ‘mach_kernel.prelink’ file from the Apple TV. If the kernel on your Apple TV has not been modified yet, you can just tell the script to get it from there. Otherwise, you can obtain the file from Apple TV Software 1.1 update available here.
  • An external USB drive formatted using “Journaled HFS+” with the Apple Parition Map option (which is the default). This is the format the Apple TV expects.

The Procedure

  • Once you have all of the above, extract the zip file and READ THE README file. In it, you’ll find the instructions on how to run the script and what to do get the USB drive to work.
  • IMPORTANT: Please please please please back up the content of your Apple TV first before running the patch script. If there is one important step in performing the patch, it is BACKING UP your Apple TV.
  • Once you have your Apple TV backed up, run the script “install-atvrhd.sh” and follow the instructions. This process should take you less than 5 minutes. Once the kernel on your Apple TV is patched, the device will reboot.

Using it

  • Turn on the Apple TV without the USB drive inserted.
  • Wait for the intro sequence (flying TV screens, etc.) and insert the USB drive then.
  • Once inserted, the content of the internal hard drive will be copied to the external hard drive. This process can take a very long time. To remedy this, we recommend that you erase the content of your internal hard drive first so that there is no need to copy the content.
  • The Apple TV will restart automatically after the content is copied.
  • At this point, your Apple TV will use the external drive as its primary storage.

Uninstall

Under Unix or Intel Mac, use “uninstall-atvrhd.sh” to uninstall the patch. It should undo the changes – however, if you get really stuck, use the “Factory Restore” feature on your Apple TV.
Support

If you would like discuss about this patch (problems, praises, etc.), please use AppleTVSource.com’s Forums page for that.

And lastly

AppleTVHacks.net team would like to thank FatWallet for sponsoring this bounty and for their patience. Without them, this would not be possible.

We would also like to apologize to the community for delaying the release of this patch. We never thought that it would take this long. We know that many of you were dissatisfied (to put it lightly) with the progress. Many unforeseen events happened that resulted in the delay. Please accept our sincere apology.

Good luck experimenting with it. And, remember, BACKUP!

USB Patch

$1000 bounty still unclaimed; future bounty suggestions?

by editor @ AppleTVHacks.net on April 15, 2007

A week ago, in partnership with FatWallet.com, we announced a $1000 bounty for hacking an Apple TV to use an external USB drive for storage.

We’ve been monitoring the activity through the community, and whilst many parts of the overall hack have been achieved, nobody has managed to tick all the boxes yet. The $1000 bounty is proving to be the most elusive so far, but we think the work everyone is doing will be well worth it.

Future Bounties

We’ve been receiving suggestions for what we could offer future bounties for. What would you like to see your Apple TV do now which still hasn’t been provided by a hack?

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