Second-gen Apple TV: eminently hackable

Second-gen Apple TV: eminently hackable

Summary: If you're looking for another reason to love the new second-generation Apple TV, here's one: it's eminently hackable -- according to early word from developers.

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TOPICS: Apple, Hardware, Mobility
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If you're looking for another reason to love the new second-generation Apple TV, here's one: it's eminently hackable -- according to early word from developers.

Steven Troughton-Smith discovered that iOS applications can be installed on the new Apple TV with a slight modification to identify them as Apple TV-compatible according to Gizmodo (via MacRumors). The problem is that the Apple TV lacks a launcher to run such apps.

iOS developer Matthias Ringwald tells Erica Sadun at TUAW that it shouldn't be hard to get his custom Bluetooth stack running on Apple TV once it's jailbroken. "I managed to hook the communication between BlueTool and BT chipset before, so I can record that exchange on iPad which sets up the Bluetooth chipset and just do a playback. Chances are good."

Ringwald (a.k.a "King of BTstack") built a BTstack Synergy Client "which works with Synergy to accept remote events and synthesize them on a jailbroken iPad or iPhone." This allows JB iOS devices to communicate with external bluetooth devices including keyboards, mice, Wiimotes, and Bluetooth GPS dongles.

Sadun notes that "frappliances" also have potential as a way to install third-party apps on new Apple TV:

...developer Dustin Howett has been keeping track of Apple TV's white list, which limits what Front Row appliances or "frappliances" (think "apps for Apple TV") can be run on the system. He's continuing to work on his open source beigelist project for the new iOS-based Apple TV 2. Beigelist promises to allow custom frappliances to be installed and run, to offer a wider range of end-user functionality.

Although progress is being made and the new Apple TV is sure to eventually succumb to the jailbreakers, it won't be as easy as it was on the first-gen Apple TV's. The original Apple TV basically runs Mac OS X Tiger and can run software like Safari and Perian out of the box, whereas the new Apple TV runs iOS "with its strengthened watch dogs and white lists.

Sadun advises early adopters to "be patient" noting that firmware updates reset progress and "you're likely to see slow, steady development for the new device with as many regular steps backs as leaps forward."

Steve Jobs hinted that an App Store for the Apple TV could debut when the time is right but Apple doesn't have time to rest on its laurels. Google is planning to begin offering Google TV service later this month and it's expected to run apps from the Android Market by early 2011.

What about you? Apple TV or Google TV?

Image: gdgt

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Mobility

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9 comments
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  • If the best thing you can say about a device

    is that you can easily break it (at the least violating warranty, and is jail-breaking even legal?) so that you can make it useful, then you have the wrong device.
    mdemuth
    • RE: Second-gen Apple TV: eminently hackable

      @mdemuth

      Jailbreaking is legal. And once the experimenters have had their fun, this will be basically a $99 Mac Mini.

      From just playing video on demand to a full service iOS device, for $99.
      Jkirk3279
      • RE: Second-gen Apple TV: eminently hackable

        @Jkirk3279

        More like a screenless iPod Touch with HDMI. Not bad for $99 I guess.
        kcmaclaren
      • RE: Second-gen Apple TV: eminently hackable

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        rainnwilson94
    • RE: Second-gen Apple TV: eminently hackable

      @mdemuth Why do you say that it has to be [i]jail[/i]broken to be useful? For most people Apple TV is useful as is but for those few who like to tinker and push the envelope ANY device is fair game to be improved upon... If you want to talk mobile devices some people root Android devices, jailbreak iOS devices, bake roms for WM devices (and perhaps will for WP7 devices), and run hybrid OSs on BB devices. There are many ways to hack a TiVo device, an Xbox, etc. BUT all of these devices are quite usable stock.

      Also as was pointed out, jailbreaking is quite legal - it will void one's warranty IF it found out... for most iOS devices a simple firmware restore will bring the iOS device back to stock.
      athynz
      • RE: Second-gen Apple TV: eminently hackable

        @athynz
        So things are only wrong if you get caught? And people wonder what is wrong with the world these days.
        And the only 2 people I know that own AppleTV's have them collecting dust in closets. Maybe the new ones will be better.
        mdemuth
  • Which one would I pick?

    How about the one that's available? Seeing as how Google TV isn't released yet, I guess Apple TV is the way to go.

    As far as the ability of aTV to be hacked...Not a deal maker/breaker for me. I've got computers at home so no reason really to do anything with it other than what it's intended to do. Except maybe surf the internet from my couch. But I could do that on my MBPro or iPhone so again, it's not really offering anything to me that I don't already have access to with other devices.
    heymatthew
  • RE: Second-gen Apple TV: eminently hackable

    Right now I'd choose the Apple TV because - as was pointed out above - it is available now. Also there is no confirmed price on the Google TV companion box made by Logitech although there is talk of it being around the same price as Apple TV. But one of the main reasons is iTunes integration as that is what I use on all the computers in my home (and used to sync media to my iPhone as well as my wife's and daughter's iPhones).

    It is pretty cool that the Apple TV can be jailbroken (theoretically at this point) but it is not really all that important for me since this would be more of a hobby thing at first and with this gen Apple TV the price is much better than the previous generation.
    athynz
  • all I want from any xx TV is to run XBMC on it

    All I want from any xx TV is to run XBMC on it. That said, I currently have the original Apple TV (hacked) which is running XBMC. It is just not powerful enough for HD movies ...
    I will get this new Apple TV, or Google TV, as soon as it is ready for XBMC.
    Good enough ?
    dcdavy