Is there an Apple TV backdoor?

by editor @ on March 29, 2007

Over at the Tutorial Ninja’s site their is a claim that Apple have a backdoor in the Apple TV. With some features that have been hacked open (e.g VNC and SSH) becoming disabled.

Is this an Apple TV backdoor? Or is it just a software update or repair permissions script that has side effects? Nobody is quite sure yet.

$500 bounty to make an Apple TV telephone exchange

by editor @ on March 28, 2007

asterisk $500 bounty to make an Apple TV telephone exchange

Apple TV Hacks are please to announce the second in our series of bounties! $500 has been put up by Sokol & Associates for the first team to get the open source PBX system, Asterisk, running on an Apple TV.

Asterisk is a complete IP PBX in software; PBX being a telephone exchange system like you may find in your office. It runs on a wide variety of operating systems including Linux, Mac OS X, OpenBSD, FreeBSD and Sun Solaris and supports Voice over IP in many protocols, and can interoperate with almost all standards-based telephony equipment using relatively inexpensive hardware.

In addition the winner will also receive an all access pass to the AstriCon conference and exhibition this fall in Phoenix, Arizona (worth $550).

The rules:

1) We must be able to reproduce the hack based on detailed instructions provided.
2) The hack must use the stock Asterisk 1.4.2 code.
3) The hack must include the new Asterisk GUI.
4) Asterisk must start at boot time and run as a system service.
5) The hack must be previously unpublished.

“At $299, it would make an ideal embedded PBX platform.”, says Steven Sokol, and who could disagree? Combined with all the other features, both built in and being added through hacks, the Apple TV could fast become the single box solution to a whole host of problems and even more irresistable at a low price point.

Questions in the comments, please. Submissions should emailed to, like usual.

iTunes competitor, Joost, running on Apple TV

by editor @ on March 28, 2007

Joost, an iTunes competitor can now be run on an Apple TV. Joostteam and ars technica both have articles.

Joost, though still in beta, is the brainchild of the same people behind the Kazaa and Skype. It will offer Cable TV shows straight to your computer, via the internet by way of (legal) peer to peer filesharing. Obviously, this could be a brilliant function to have on your Apple TV!

joost iTunes competitor, Joost, running on Apple TV

Apple TV running on a Macbook

by editor @ on March 27, 2007

Apple TV OS can now run on a Macbook! was able to patch to the Apple TV, and now has an operating Apple TV:

mb apple tv 1 Apple TV running on a Macbook

You can use your remote as normal, it shows up in iTunes on other computers:

mb apple tv 2 Apple TV running on a Macbook
mb apple tv 3 Apple TV running on a Macbook

The method

Install a fresh copy of regular OS X (not the Apple TV version, the Mac version), or clone one. Just make sure you have everything backed up. Download a copy of the patched Finder file (we can’t help you here). Now, copy the from your Apple TV drive, and transplant the patch file (which is just the binary part of the app) into it, and set the permissions:

cd /Volumes/OSBoot/System/Library/CoreServices/
sudo cp -pr ./ /Volume/FreshOSX/System/Library/CoreServices/.
cd /Volume/FreshOSX/System/Library/CoreServices/
sudo cp /path/to/patched/Finder .
sudo chown root:wheel Finder
sudo chmod 755 Finder

Next you must copy over 2 additional Frameworks from the Apple TV to the OS X install:

cd /Volumes/OSBoot/System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/
sudo cp -pr ./iPhotoAccess.framework /Volume/FreshOSX/System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/.
sudo cp -pr ./BackRow.framework /Volume/FreshOSX/System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/.

Now, reboot and hold down Option to choose your boot drive, select the new OS X install and boot from it. You should be away:

Thanks again to semthex for this hack, you can find him over at the forums. Thanks go to skr3dii for the video, you can visit him over at his blog.

Booting the Apple TV from a USB drive

by editor @ on March 26, 2007

Ozy from AwkwardTV has managed to get his Apple TV to boot from an external USB drive into the recovery mode.

It appears if you attach the USB drive with a duplicate of Apple TV OS, boot the Apple TV normally, attach the USB drive, and then do a recovery reboot (holding ‘menu’ and ‘-’ keys on the remote) that the machine will begin to boot from the USB drive.

You can see his video here.

This opens the possibility up for booting off a USB drive to make modifications to the Apple TV without having to open the case. Good work guys!

Hidden files in the Apple TV kernel file

by editor @ on March 26, 2007

There has been debate over whether the Apple TV is really running OS X ‘proper’, or a derivative. One point is there are important system files which are absent, or are they? has been made aware of some kernel extensions and other files that are hidden within the Apple TV’s ‘kernel’ file.

This process is for hardcore geeks only – but may lead to something that everyone can benefit from

Find the hidden files…

If you open it up an image of the harddrve you will see the filesystem of the AppleTV. It contains all the files we know from it’s big brother OS X, but where is the kernel? The EFI bootloader boot.efi is there, but not the kernel. There is a file called mach_kernel.prelink but it does not disassemble or look really right, even though you can see the __TEXT marks in a hex editor. Well the reason for this is, this little ~6MB file is not the kernel. It is a package of files utilized by the EFI, compressed with an odd compression algorithm. So to extract these files? It is easier than you may think, lets take a look…

If you open the file up you will see the header starts with “complzss”, which you probably won’t recognise. Well this header belongs to none of the common compression techniques used on OS X, so what is it? A quick search on Google turned up “The SWORD Project”, an open source bible software projevt, which uses the same compression. You must download the API files for Linux from this page, we are going to use the compression utility it includes.

Run ./configure in the main directory, and then run make, the change to the ‘tests’ directory and run make again, which will build the ‘complzss’ utility. At first this didn’t work, but after some experimentation we found the solution. You need to make a copy of the ‘mach_kernel.prelink’ file from the OSBoot drive, and name mach_kernel.lzs. You then need to remove the first 180 bytes of the file in a hex editor, so it should now start with “FFCEFA” (you may notice the Intel Mach header…). Finally run this file though the ‘complzss’ utility. Bingo! You have a new decompressed file.

Well but the file still seemed a bit huge for a Intel only kernel, so we opened it in a hex editor and examined it carefully. It seems the file contains multiple file headers! Well now came the hard part, cutting it into peaces. From begining of each header to the next (mach header for Intel starts: CEFAEDFE0700 hex). After cutting the file correctly you will end up with ~100 files, albeit without names.

These files appear to be missing daemons, kexts etc. the system image you made earlier is missing. Among them the kext for the remote etc. are included so this is a big step towards getting OS X ‘proper’ to run on the Apple TV.

Now begins the process of digging through these files and seeing what other bounty lays within.

Thanks go to semthex for discovering this process, you can visit him on the to discuss Apple TV hacks with him.

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