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.


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.

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.

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.

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