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Web browser plugin for the Apple TV, anyone?

by editor @ AppleTVHacks.net on August 31, 2007

safari on appletv Web browser plugin for the Apple TV, anyone?

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?)  If not, I will pursue this further. Even if it means another bounty has to be set up for it.

Thoughts?

Job postings: earn money hacking Apple TV

by editor @ AppleTVHacks.net on August 29, 2007

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 luckk@appletvhacks.net . We will then supply you the contact information for these projects.

That keyboard has to go!

by editor @ AppleTVHacks.net on August 16, 2007

So far there hasn’t been a lot of need to use the “keyboard” on the Apple TV. Its overall interface is well laid out enough that there is hardly any need to do text input. However, you still need to occasionally use it.

full keyboard.thumbnail That keyboard has to go!

I used the default/full keyboard to input my network settings and that was about it. Even that, selecting letters one by one using the Apple Remote is very tedious on that keyboard. The travel between each letter is so great that it can really tire your thumbs out “typing” simple words.

The layout of the full/default keyboard on the Apple TV leaves much to be desire. The characters are laid out in 4 main rows: upper-case alphabet, lower-case alphabet, numbers + symbols, and the rest of the symbols. You have 26 characters to work with per row; that’s a lot of clicking. If a web browser were to be ported to Apple TV, this keyboard is definitely not suitable for the task.

small keyboard1.thumbnail That keyboard has to go!

You may also have seen the other “keyboard” on the Apple TV, which is used to search for content on Youtube. This keyboard has only 5 characters per line and it is much more efficient. Much less travel/clicking between letters. Apple took out the symbol row and placed a switch button at the bottom to switch to symbols and back. However, this keyboard does not have upper-case letters. There is no need for it here for searching Youtube content. However, for normal typing, you do need upper-case letters too.

It would be nice if Apple can learn from the cell phone manufacturers in terms of the text-input interface. it normally has “buttons” to switch to different keyboard modes. The “modes” include “upper case”, “CAP”, numbers, and symbols. Having the ability to switch between different modes allows the number of characters to be less per row, reducing the number of clicks.

hp keyboard.thumbnail That keyboard has to go!

I was looking around for a good example for a keyboard interface. I found the keyboard on my HP multi-function printer to be quite close to what I’ve dreamt up. The characters are laid out in 3 main rows with “switch” buttons at the bottom. Though it is not perfect, it is still far superior than Apple TV’s full/default keyboard.

If Apple insists on using the 6-button Apple Remote on the Apple TV, they need to come up with a better text-input interface than the current one.

Testers needed for Pure-FTPD on Apple TV

by editor @ AppleTVHacks.net on August 16, 2007

Scott Lyons has ported Pure-FTPD to Apple TV.  For those who are not familiar with this, Pure-FTPD is a “free (BSD), secure, production-quality and standard-conformant FTP server.”  Its source code has been ported to several *nix platforms including Linux, OpenBSD, NetBSD and FreeBSD.  And now, Apple TV.

Scott would like volunteers to test out this port.  He has started a wiki on AwkwardTV here.  If you some spare time, please go help him out.

Hack suggestions

by editor @ AppleTVHacks.net on August 16, 2007

Many of you wrote to us suggesting some interesting hacks for the Apple TV. We would like to share them with you, our readers. Yes, some of them are pretty far out but who knows. Maybe we can get volunteers to work on these to make them happen.

Here is what we have so far:

  • Apple TV USB-to-iPhone Hack – allowing Apple TV to read and play content stored on the iPhone (submitted by Reggie)
  • Put Sling Player for Mac inside Apple TV – so you can watch your shows recorded on the Slingbox on your Apple TV (submitted by Ubermaxi)
  • A reliable mount app – something that will detect volumes on your LAN automatically (submitted by UberMaxi)
  • OS X full install to work with Xbox 360 HD DVD – not Apple TV software but OS X on Apple TV (submitted by Steve K.)
  • Playlist for Movies/TV Shows – currently there is no playlist feature for these types of media yet; only for music. There are workarounds but better if Apple TV directly supports playlist for movies/tv shows (submitted by michel)
  • Work with ATI TV Wonder 600 – this is a USB device that acts as a HD DVR for PC (submitted by Postscript)
  • Windows on Apple TV – Basically running Windows via BootCamp on a full OS X installation (submitted by Mitchell O.)

Let us know what you think.

Please open up the Apple TV: An Open Letter to Steve Jobs

by editor @ AppleTVHacks.net on August 11, 2007

appletv Please open up the Apple TV:  An Open Letter to Steve Jobs

Dear Mr. Jobs,

Thank you for releasing the long-waited Apple TV back in March of this year. We think it’s a wonderful device and a great addition to the home theater setup.

With the Apple TV’s easy-to-use interface and simplified remote, we can now watch our favorite movies and TV shows we’ve downloaded from the iTunes Store on our 52″ plasma screen. We can listen to our music collection via our souped-up home theater instead of having it come out from our PC speakers. We can share our vacation photos with our friends in the living room instead of having them crammed in front of the computer. And lastly, we can also enjoy those funny YouTube videos from our couch without going back to the computer.

As wonderful as it is, Apple TV is a closed system. Without hacking it, there is no way to add new features to this one-of-a-kind device. Just a simple feature like supporting new file format requires a hack that probably makes casual users cringe at the thought of trying it out.

Yes, there is a large community of “hackers” that helps with adding features to your closed-up Apple TV. It is not that we are hackers by the classic definition. We don’t try to get into people’s bank accounts, hack into the DOD computer systems, nor do we like to be known as “hackers”. We do it because we see the vast potential of this device. With no support from Apple, we do not have other ways; we are forced to be known as “hackers.”

Your current favorite iProduct, the iPhone, has a development kit and the number of applications for it is growing daily. Though limited, the development kit for the iPhone allows for applications to use its native services making easy to expand on the phone’s functionality.

There also exists a Widget development kit, which allows Dashboard Widgets to be created with ease. That kit alone enables the widget application base to grow to 3100+ widgets strong.

The developers who develop on these kits are still known as “developers.” We, on the other hand, are known as “hackers.” All this just because of our love for the Apple TV.

As for the Apple TV community, we get NOTHING. No development kit to add new functionality like the iPhone. No accessories like the ever-popular iPod, unless you call those Apple TV “skins” accessories.

Frankly, we are frustrated.

Here is our plea to you, Mr. Jobs. Please open up the Apple TV.

Just imagine what it can do. By having a development kit, we can easily add new features to the Apple TV without risking to void the warranty. Want to support a new file format? Boom, a plugin for that. A new arcade game? Boom, a game plugin for that. Want to surf the web? Boom, a Safari-like plugin for that too. Oh how wonderful it is to be surfing the web on a 52″ plasma TV.

And if there is hardware development kit, think of the hundreds of manufacturers who would be eager to develop new accessories for it. A DVD drive? Boom. An AV box? Boom. A hard drive for extra storage? Boom. You already have a “made for iPod” certification program. Why not have one for the Apple TV too?

Yes, there will be a lot of “BOOMS” in the Apple TV Land only if there is a development kit for it.

You mentioned that Apple TV is a “hobby” to you. So why not let it be our hobby to legitimately develop for it too.

Eagerly waiting for your reply.

Sincerely,

The AppleTVHacks.net team

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