Apple TV Hacks and Extended Functionality
Immediately after Apple TV’s launch, users began hacking, or altering, its hardware and software to give the device new capabilities. Whether you’re looking simply to stretch Apple TV’s features a little or give it the ability to play content in new formats, there’s a plethora of ways to tweak this product to your liking. A major caveat here: Although Apple can’t stop you from hacking your Apple TV, doing so may void your warranty. You should also note that updates from Apple remove any hacked features you may install, but you can usually re-hack your Apple TV without difficulty.
Initial hacks targeted the first Apple TVs’ 40GB hard drives, which wouldn’t let you store many iTunes movies (around 1.5GB each) or TV shows (about 500MB each), without replacing them with more spacious drives. This procedure wasn’t terribly complicated for advanced users but the physical changes did alter the product’s aesthetics. This was only the opening act for Apple TV hackers, spawning sites such as AppleTV Hacks, where visitors trade tips for modifying their products.
Software hacks are easier for average users to perform and don’t require you to poke around sensitive components with a screwdriver. A so-called patchstick process lets you download free software from the Internet to a USB flash drive, plug the drive into your Apple TV and then restart the Apple TV so that it boots using the software on the USB drive. Depending on the patchstick version you choose, your Apple TV will have upgraded features, including new codecs that play .AVI, .WMV and other popular video formats, or new networking capabilities.
Some hacks let you access a broad array of online content using XBMC and Boxee. The XBMC and Boxee modifications are popular because they let you play content in formats that Apple TV’s original software won’t, such as .AVI and .WMV video clips. You need to register for an account to use Boxee’s popular combination of social interaction and multimedia content power. Once you do, you can use the software’s interface that lets you share opinions on content with other visitors, stream Netflix videos, and more.
The downside to these hacks, from the standpoints of Apple and producers of copyrighted material, is that users can play just about any content they want, including pirated videos and audio. This is a blow not only to Apple’s carefully constructed Apple TV business model, but it also steals profits from the makers of the material who are behind the purpose of owning an entertainment system to begin with.
To learn more about Apple TV and its capabilities, take a look at the links on the next page.
If you’re just getting started and trying to learn how to hack your Apple TV, then checking out the Beginners Guides section is probably the best place to start. This will help the novice get started with hacking the Apple TV, explaining steps in detail. Now in four flavours, we have:
* A Guide for the Second Generation AppleTV. This is for those who want to jailbreak the new AppleTV that Apple released in September 2010.
* A Guide for 3.x. This is for those who want to run the “new” menu system that Apple released in October 2009.
* A Guide for 2.x aka Take 2. This is for those who want to run the menu system that Apple released in February 2008.
* A Guide for 1.x. This is for those who want to run the “old” menu system prior to Take 2 which was released February 2008.
* HackMeNot or The Alternative To Hacking. Tried hacking and messed it up? Just can’t get stuff to work? Or think that it’s just too complicated. You can get more from your Apple TV than you think with a few free apps and the correct settings in iTunes.
* Automation Mac Only. How to use Applescript to watch a folder for new videos of any type, convert these files to Apple TV format, add them to iTunes, process them and name them neatly.
Apple has only one hobby that we know about and they call it the Apple TV ($229). What about you? Do you have any hobbies? Do you collect obscure stamps, rare coins, or funny pictures of your wiener dog?
Why not make Apple’s hobby your own. With a little bit of patience, and a lot of can-do attitude, you can take the Apple TV to the next level with a little help from some hackers.
If you are interested in hacking your Apple TV, then try one of the following options: avtusb-creator (free) or ATV Flash ($49.95). Both methods are great and as you check our list of reasons to hack the Apple TV, you can decide which one is right for you.
Note: After installing any third-party apps or hacks to your hacked Apple TV you should restart the Finder. To do this navigate to Software Menu>Restart Finder. This will save you a ton of frustration.
Lawyer-type note: While we’ve hacked our Apple TV on numerous occasions and have had no problems restoring it to factory freshness, there is always the risk of bricking your machine when you fiddle around with it. Especially if you decide to open it up and replace the hard drive.
“Why would I want to do this?” you say. We’ll give you the reasons in this list we’ve created:
20 Reasons Cool Reasons to Hack Your Apple TV
1. SSH (aTV Flash & atvusb-creator)
Hacking your Apple TV will allow you to enable SSH and once that is done, the things you can do to your Apple TV are practically endless. You can add and remove software, access the file system, etc.
First you need your Apple TV’s IP address. Navigate to on your Apple TV to Settings>General>Network there you’ll find your IP address. Make note of it.
Fire up the Terminal app located in the Utilities Folder. In the command prompt type in,
ssh frontrow@(IP Address)
When prompted for the password type: frontrow
There ya go, now your ready for SSH goodness with your Apple TV.
2. BOXEE (aTV Flash & atvusb-creator)
Enable Boxee and enjoy it’s 10-foot user interface and social networking features designed for the TV in your family room. Considered to be a Social Media Center, Boxee, will let you view, rate, and recommend content to your friends through social networks. Hack your Apple TV and get your own “Boxee Box” today!
3. XBMC (aTV Flash & atvusb-creator)
If you don’t like Boxee then consider enabling XBMC Media Center with its own 10-foot user interface designed for the TV in your family room. It allows you to easily maintain your collection of videos, photos, podcasts, and music from any computer, CD/DVD, local area network, and the Internet. Originally designed for the XBox this app now runs on your Apple TV.
4. Rearrange the Menu with Frap (atvusb-creator)
Tired of the way Apple arranged the Apple TV menu? You can change it. Plus, if you add more apps to the Apple TV, you’ll want to make sure your new apps show up in the menu. Anything with a -X will be off screen and unusable.
Navigate to the Software Menu>Frap Mover. From there you can move Frappliances (the name for apps) around with a weighting system. The higher the number the further right on the screen the Frap will be.
5. IMDB with Sapphire (aTV Flash & atvusb-creator)
Play and organize your own media using the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) using Sapphire. To install Sapphire, navigate to the Software Menu>Third Party. Scroll down to Trusted and you’ll see Sapphire. Click on Sapphire to install.
Once installed, locate Sapphire>Settings. If Sapphire is not showing up on your main screen, check your Frap order settings. Once you click Settings, click Populate File Data this will add information to all of your files video files on your Apple TV. Be patient, this could take a while.
6. nitoTV (aTV Flash & atvusb-creator)
It’s a media player, it lets you install an emulator, it lets you streams content. nitoTV allows you to install all that and more. You can even use it to install a plugin so that you can use a Composite cable with your Apple TV. nitoTV is similar to the Launcher app that comes preinstalled with the atvusb-creator. You can install the same way you install Sapphire. With atvusb-creator you may have to go into the Frap Mover to arrange it to appear on your main menu.
7. Turn on FTP Access (aTV Flash = easy & atvusb-creator = medium)
SSH is fine, but dragging and dropping files with the Finder is easier. To turn on FTP access you’re going to have to fire up the Terminal. For atvusb-creator, awkwardTV has all the code you’re going to need to enable FTP access. Once you’ve done that, you can sign in to your Apple TV with:
FTP: apple.tv.(ip address)
8. Game Emulators (atvusb-creator)
Before you start scouring the Internet for ROMs, you need to remember that you should only use ROMs for games you already own. Don’t be a thief.
Okay, we got that out of the way. After installing nitoTV you can install emulators for NES, SNES, Genesis, Sega Master System, and GameBoy Advanced by navigating to nitoTV>Settings>Install Software>Install Emulators. When you do that it will install all of the emulators mentioned. It’s an all or nothing deal.
After the install navigate to nitoTV>Application and there you’ll see all the emulation apps.
9. Browse the Internet – CouchSurfer Lite (atvusb-creator) =medium / CouchSurfer Pro (aTV Flash) = included
You might as well start browsing the web while you’re sitting on the couch. Instead of having everyone crowd around your MacBook, iPad, iPhone to read the latest article on MacLife.com, you can just load the site up on your gigantic HD TV and enjoy your personal space again. Also it’s harder to spilled your drink on your device when it’s 10-feet away. It’s not impossible, just difficult.
If you hacked your Apple TV with atvusb-creator you’ll need to install CouchSurfer Lite via SSH and FTP. Instructions on downloading and installing Couch Surfer are on awkwardTV. If you used aTV Flash, CouchSurfer Pro is already ready to go.
10. Bit Torrent with Transmission (atvusb-creator)
We know, we know, bit torrent is used primarily to download copyrighted material. But, you can find media on there that is actually supposed to be distributed via bit torrent. The bottom line, don’t steal. Now that we have that out of the way, you can install and run the Transmission bit torrent client on your Apple TV. Like CouchSurfer Lite, Transmission installation requires a bit more than a few steps. Once again, awkwardTV to the rescue.