It’s been a while there was any update to the Sapphire Plugin. We even thought that there wasn’t going to be any more updates from the Sapphire development team.
They sure surprised us when we saw the update on AwkwardTV.org’s wiki page. And the new version promises to bring oodles of new features to an already excellent plugin.
For those who are not familiar with Sapphire, it is a media browser plugin used to identify media files from multiple collections. With only a filename to work with, it can intelligently display cover art along with movie/show information related to the file.
Among the new features are direct volume access, music playback and on-demand browser switching.
Our “partner in crime”, awkwardtv.org, is down. We could only hope this is temporary. We checked the main web site and the wiki pages and nothing was up.
A refuge for Apple TV modders, awkwardtv.org, is home to numerous Apple TV-related forums and wiki pages. Mods like the patchstick, enabling ssh, adding more codecs, upgrading hard drive and numerous plugins could be found on the site. In fact, many of our articles contain links to awkwardtv.org.
Come back, awkwardtv.org. Don’t abandon us.
Upate:Â The site is back up. Â Phew, and we were worried.
Many Apple-related rumor sites are reporting that Apple TV will be updated to include the iTunes Store very soon. This stemmed from last week’s announcement of the Wi-Fi iTunes Store for the iPod Touch and iPhone.
While Macrumors and The Mac Newb Tube only speculate that the iTunes Store will be coming to the Apple TV, LoopRumors has received information from “very reliable sources” that a MAJOR update is coming to the Apple TV. (We sure like the word “MAJOR”.) Actually, we can already see a hint of the future iTunes Store integration in the current version from the iTunes Store setting in the Settings menu
We can’t wait for this to happen. An update for the Apple TV is long overdue. Youtube integration in the last update was a nice touch but hardly useful. At least with the iTunes Store embedded into the Apple TV, we can finally be able to sit in the comfort of our own couch to browse through the iTunes catalog. Hopefully, bluetooth dongle support will come too because browsing through a catalog that big with the Apple Remote is going to be a pain.
On the other hand, the last update took out many useful tools used for hacking. Some of the files were even encrypted, making hacking the Apple TV harder. Hopefully, with this update, Apple will just leave the tools intact.
Only two new features we would like to see in this update would be looping support and movie playlist. That would be huge.
Thanks in advance, Apple. (though it’s only a rumor.)
If there is one Apple TV plugin you should try out, look no further than the nitoTV plugin by nitoSoft. As far as we know, it is the only plugin project being actively developed for the Apple TV. The guys at nitoSoft has been furiously releasing updates at a break-neck pace. Unlike most plugins out there, this one is more refined than others.
Based on a port of mplayer, a popular open source movie player, nitoTV seamlessly integrates with the Apple TV interface to bring you a viewing experience like no other.
For starters, it lets you play movie files in just about any format out there; so for those of you complaining that Apple TV doesn’t support so and so format, take a look at this plugin. It even supports subtitle, something we’re still waiting for Apple to do something about with their movies and TV shows. Yes, sometimes, I just like to watch my shows in Thai and other times, in Japanese.
Don’t feel like spending the time converting all your DVDs to mp4 to play on the Apple TV? No worries, mate. The plugin will play your DVD content, be it from actual DVD from a mounted USB DVD drive or from a ripped ISO. You can even mount the ISO on a network drive. The last few revisions includes a “DVD Import” feature, which supposedly imports the content of a DVD without even conversion. We haven’t tried this out ourselves but it’s worth a look.
All in all, we think Apple can sure learn a thing or two from the development of this plugin. Are you listening, Apple?
To the folks at nitoSoft, we salute you for bringing this gem to our favorite platform.
Having a web browser running on the Apple TV has always been on top of my list of hacks I wish somebody would do. Even better, Safari running on Apple TV. With this one application, I can browse the web, read RSS feeds, watch movies, check my Yahoo calendar and so on and so on.
There are many devices out there that attempt to connect that big plasma/LCD screen on the wall to the web. Media Center PC, PS3, Wii, Xbox360 (with tversity) and Microsoft Web TV just to name a few. But each has its own pitfalls (low resolution, bad integration, hard to implement, etc.). None of them offers an elegant solution to the problem.
Apple TV, with its elegant FrontRow interface and the ease of use of the Apple Remote, has a chance to shine here. I’m not talking about the watered-down experience like the Web TV or Opera on the Wii. Or full-blown-but-complex experience of running Internet Explorer on the Media Center PC or running Safari on the Mac mini. This is such a natural thing for Apple to do. Why bring Safari to Windows when it has absolutely no chance of winning anybody over? Instead bring it to the Apple TV and create a whole new experience in the living room.
I am seriously investigating this. I am currently looking at Camino’s source code and see how that can be turn into a plugin using AwkwardTV.org’s plugin interface. The Web Kit that Apple has bundled with XCode does not run on Apple TV and I don’t know how complex it is to modify that to work. So, I’m going the open source route at the moment.
However, I am hoping that comes September 5th, not only will there be iPod-related news but also, Apple-TV-related news. And if one of the news happens to be Safari running on the Apple TV, I will stop working this. (hey, I can dream, can’t I?)Â If not, I will pursue this further. Even if it means another bounty has to be set up for it.
Believe it or not, we’ve been getting emails asking if we could do special projects involving modifying Apple TV to do specific tasks. Unfortunately, we don’t. But maybe this is a start of something new. We might actually have a job board listing all the projects that people are willing to pay to have them done.
Here are two outstanding requests that were sent to us.
The first project is from a french photographer, who is currently using a custom Java software to showcase his work, would like to have an custom software written so he could do the following: have photos served from a Mac server to multiple Apple TVs, each attached to a projector. Images from the server will have to be synchronized so that all of the “slave” Apple TVs show the same image at the same time.
Here is another one.
I need someone to set up the following for an in-hotel room system:
Upon boot up, ATV shows a screen that requires input from the user in order to proceed further. This screen will be along the lines of : “To access premium
content, please press “Enter” to continue.”
Next screen: “Warning: Your room account will be billed $x should you wish to continue. To continue press “Enter”"
The software should then go into the ATV’s menu and display two folders containing whatever video content is loaded on the hard drive.
The software should also write a text file confirming the user acknowledgment. This text file should be sent wirelessly to a server.
The software should then default back to the initial acknowledge entry screen at 11am each day. It must be impossible for the casual user to access the movies in any other way.
Obviously I would supply more detail to interested parties and of course would be willing to pay development fees.
Anyone who would like to work on any one of these projects, please contact email@example.com . We will then supply you the contact information for these projects.