1.31.2010

AppleTV

So, I've had an AppleTV for quite some time now. I got it as a christmas gift a few years ago and I've absolutely LOVED it.

I was lucky enough to get a unit that had the 1.0 firmware which was hackable to allow connecting up a USB hard drive to expand the storage capacity and allow the unit to play other formats of media (divx, avi, mpeg, etc) aside from the defacto iTunes/Quicktime formats. Thanks to awkwardtv.org forums and a co-workers MacBook Pro, I was able to patch it the easy way and get a patchstick made and get it hacked.

I had considered upgrading the firmware to a newer version when Take 2 came along, but there didn't seem to be any compelling reason to me to do so since I didn't use flickr, or watch YouTube videos or have the desire to rent movies from the iTunes store.

Apple recently sent out an update to AppleTV's to get them to 3.0 (3.01 actually now). All of the posts on the forums had long drawn out processes in order to upgrade and still maintain the "extra" functionality that I desired. I read quite a bit on it and just felt like it was going to be too much of a pain to update.

I had read about atvflash somewhere in my online travels and how it's super easy to hack your AppleTV with the program they sell. Most of what I read was about some of the developers who wrote all the cool software that extends the unit being pissed off about having someone else profit from work they released as freeware.

Well, I "found" a copy of atvflash on a torrent site and figured I'd give it a whirl.

First copy I found was an older version. The software also "calls home" to verify if it can run, and hence I was out of luck. I pulled the trigger too late on the copy of atvflash that I had found. Missed the update by 3 days.....this annoyed me. It also set me on a quest to find the newest version in order to do what I set out to do which was: easily upgrade and hack my AppleTV.

So, a few hours of searching later and Voila! found a copy of the newest version, downloaded and proceeded to make a patchstick. It only takes about 500MB on a stick so I used one of my old SanDisk Cruzer 1GB stick.

I unblocked the update on my AppleTV, updated the software to 3.01. It's a definite improvement on the old Front Row look of 1.0, so kudos to Apple for that.

I plug in the patchstick and reboot. I get the Linux boot prompts, it's starts scrolling text and hangs........doh!

I power down and try again. Hangs at same spot. I get on the atvflash forums and see that others have had the same problem. All of the mod's advice was incompatible flash drive, try another....

I grab an old Sony 1GB drive I gave to Cathy a while back, copy her data off and make ANOTHER patchstick. In the meantime, my AppleTV booted up to a Mac OS X login box. WTF? So, it's factory restore time. I'm 2 hours into trying to update and patch at this point. I was still hoping that the recovery image on the AppleTV was still the old 1.0 and hadn't updated itself to 3.01 when I did the initial update....

So I figure I'll give it 1 more go. Factory restore back to 1.0 and update to 3.01. Still looking good, so I plug in the new patchstick on the Sony drive and reboot. I get the Linux boot, the scrolling text and bingo! she's working, successful install.

I take the Sony drive out and reboot. I now have a hacked 3.01 unit. Woot!

One of the nice features of the update is that the AppleTV can now display 1080p instead of maxing out at 1080i. Not really that big of a deal before since my older TV could only do 1080i anyway. Upgraded to a 42 1080p LCD about a month ago. It's amazing how much better the picture looks.

So, back to the hack. After the patchstick, there are a few more steps to get everything working, like USB drive support, mouse and keyboard support, DVD playback, etc...

Can't get the smart update to download the image file. Tried about 40 times with no luck.

I figured, ok, maybe I can find the image file myself somewhere and copy it over so that it won't have to download. Apple's site was apparently having issues which was why the AppleTV couldn't find it either.

I start downloading a copy from a ftp repository I found and it's going to take about 20 minutes. While this is downloading, I think "let's try 1 more time" and it starts working. 20 minutes later, the file finished on the AppleTV and updates. Still have a little work to do since AFP protocol is no working at the moment and it was nice to be able to mount the drives on my Macbook in order copy files to it instead of firing up an SFTP client. Oh well.

I must say that this update is very cool. On the old firmware, I had to download video podcasts to my computer and then sync them to the AppleTV. With this version, I can download direct from iTunes on the AppleTV and it'll sync it over to my Mac. A definite improvement. The movie trailers are also a lot more impressive since I can choose the HD version now. I didn't have that choice before. Very sweet.

Plus, the best part. When AppleTV Take 2 was released, there was an app called Remote available in the app store for iPhones and iPod Touch. It lets you control your the AppleTV from your phone. WAY cool. I was never able to take advantage of it before, since you needed 2.0 or better in order for Remote to control the AppleTV.

I had previously toyed with the idea of getting rid of my cable just about altogether a while back since I download most of the TV shows that I watch for my iPhone or the AppleTV. With this new update, I have an even more compelling reason to get rid of the TV service once my contract is up.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home