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.
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?
Erica Sadun over O’Reily had written a plugin for the Apple TV that allows you to execute any Perl scripts you have uploaded. Given that Perl can run also call shell scripts and any Unix command, this will allow a whole host of cool scripts to be written.
It also opens the doors for programmers and scripters with no knowledge of Cocoa programming to develop their own additions to BackRow.
Plugins from ‘The Mothership’
We are seeing an increasing number of homebrew plugins; AppleTVHacks.net is wondering when we’ll see the first plugins from Apple. We imagine there are 3 viable mechanisms for Apple to distribute plugins:
1) The software update system provides a gateway for Apple to do exactly that; update their software. Seeing as BackRows default features are just plugins themselves, it follows Apple must be able to access the plugins to update them. Thus, they can almost certainly install new plugins in this manner.
2) The Apple TV syncs media from the iTunes it is connected with, this includes music, video and photos. Could it be that plugins could also sync in this manner? Download a cool plugin from the iTunes Store, and have it sync directly to your Apple TV? Whilst not so likely, it is the only current mechanism in place for getting user-selected data to the Apple TV.
3) Apple may update the Apple TV via software update, and provide a plugin for… downloading plugins. While to begin with Apple will certainly want to keep the Apple TV simple and easy to use, as the user base grows and people become more acclimatised to using the Apple TVs, this could be a viable route for Apple.
We suggested an RSS reader plugin, and now it’s a reality. Over at Twenty08 they have released a plugin allowing you to read RSS feeds.
It is only a beta, and some users have reported crashes, but it is a big step forward for Apple TV Plugins, and we expect to see more and more cool plugins turning up.
What plugins will come next?
AppleTVHacks.net and FatWallet.com have teamed up to offer a $1000 bounty for the first team to get an Apple TV to use an external USB drive for storage.
The bounty will be won by the first team to submit a verified process and patch, within the rules:
- Patch must allow a USB hard drive, plugged into the Apple TV’s USB port to act as the default and primary storage for the Apple TV.
- The Apple TV must still boot from the internal drive and cannot use a complete replacement OS (the kernel may be patched, and additional kexts added).
- Patch must allow the media to be accessed as it would be were the internal drive being used (i.e if you couldn’t see their was a USB drive attached you wouldn’t know).
- Patch must be able to be applied without opening the case.
- Patch must be able to be removed (and the Apple TV to original configuration) without opening the case.
- No commercial files can be used asides from those found on the Apple TV or Mac OS X Intel. All others must be freely and legally distributable.
- The process cannot have been previously published, or demonstrated / distributed publicly.
- Judges decision is final.
As usual entries should be made to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject “USB Bounty”. Questions in the comments, please.
To get started, take a look at the USB page over at the AwkwardTV Wiki, ask questions at the Hackint0sh forums or in IRC at #awkwardtv on irc.moofspeak.net.
FatWallet.com, sponsors of the bounty, offers Cash Back shopping and Coupons for many of the best online stores, and is home to one of the leading shopping forums on the web. Big thanks to them!
There has been a great deal of fanfare, complaint and uproar over the Apple TV hard drive being only 40GB. Given the size of video content, and that Apple offer an iPod with an 80GB drive, it does seem rather strange.
Well, that’s because Apple seem to be planning additional models for the Apple TV. Keen eyed reader, eirikso, noticed that the Apple Store presents the Apple TV in the same manner as products that have multiple versions.
Lets examine the evidence, first up, the Apple Airport Extrene, a product with only one model:
[click to continue…]
Now that we can install full Mac OS X on the Apple TV, it really opens up the doors for making softmods to the Apple TV.
It appears the full version of Mac OS X will boot from an external USB drive, according to Turbo, the hacker who first managed to get the Apple TV to boot from USB.
Once booted, you can modify the Apple TV’s internal harddrive without needing to crack the case; and so you could enable SSH, Apache, or Apple Remote Desktop. You could even install 3rd party media centers, or just install some plugins.
Booting from USB requires booting the Apple TV as nromal then holding ‘menu’ and ‘-’ keys on the remote to initiate a restore boot. From there it takes a bit of timing, Turbo explains, “If I hold down menu and – from poweron until the first screen flash, I believe that it does the equivalent of cmd-opt-p-r. I only got it to boot from USB by releasing it at that point, then hitting it again just before the screen flashes on the second reset.”
He went on to explain that after the initial boot in this fashion; the Apple TV now boots from his USB drive by default if it is attached.
Obviously, we expect to see a whole host of softmods crop up, allowing people to tinker with their Apple TV’s without having to void the warranty by cracking it open.
Update: Turbo has posted detailed instructions on this on his site