(Source: Wired)


A developer on Tuesday released a patch enabling Apple TV to play practically any DRM-free multimedia file with the insertion of a thumb drive into the box.

Normally, Apple TV can only play video and music files that are compatible with iTunes or bought through the iTunes Store, but coder Scott Davilla’s patch essentially “Jailbreaks” the TV set-top box from such restrictions by installing an open-source media center called Boxee.

Currently in limited, invite-only alpha testing, the patch automatically installs itself onto a thumb drive and adds a Boxee button to the main menu of Apple TV. Clicking on Boxee brings you to an interface allowing you to view about 30 types of DRM-free multimedia (e.g., DIVX, AVI, MKZ and BIN) from any computer connected to your network; you can even play multimedia through internet streams (e.g. Hulu and ABC.com videos).

Though similar hacks, called “patchsticks,” have been released in the past for Apple TV, Davilla’s is the first to install Boxee — an open source media browser that was first released for Mac OS X and Linux — onto the Apple TV. And since Davilla’s patchstick includes an automatic installer, it’s easier to apply than past hacks.

In addition to playing media on your network, Boxee enables other friends running Boxee to view information on what you just watched or listened to as well. For example, your Boxee buddies will be able to see that you just streamed the latest episode of Lost through ABC.com, and they can then click through to the site to watch it, too.

“We think Boxee will be a great complement for Apple TV,” said Andrew Kippen, a Boxee spokesperson. “It’ll spare users the need to spend $600 on a Mac mini just to view their DRM-free media.”


According to Kippen, Apple has been unaware of Boxee being developed for Apple TV. He said Davilla wasn’t worried about Apple “quashing” Boxee, since Apple has not fought Apple TV hacks in the past, and the corporation thus far appears fixated on hackers tampering with iPhone.

However, Boxee emerges at sour times for Apple in its developer community. The corporation recently rejected a few developers’ applications from distribution through its iPhone App Store on the grounds that they “duplicated” iTunes functionality. Podcaster has been the prime example: The application allowed iPhones to remotely download Podcasts without having to sync through iTunes — but Apple rejected the app, saying it was too similar to iTunes. Some have construed Apples actions as anticompetitive practices.

Though Davilla is not concerned with Apple, Boxee would be directly competing with iTunes by allowing Apple TV users to freely stream any content they wish, rather than pushing them to purchase multimedia through the iTunes Store. Kippen acknowledged this as a possibility, but he noted Boxee, and the tools to install it, are open source and that Davilla has been careful to respect Apple’s intellectual property.

Currently Boxee is invitation only, so those interested in installing it will have to request an invite. (Invited users can also share invites.) The current patch can only be downloaded and run by Mac users, but Davilla is releasing Windows and Linux versions next week. The patch also only works with bootable thumb drives. (If your drive isn’t bootable by default, you can modify it with an HP utility.)

After receiving an invite, you can install Boxee using the following instructions:

Step 1
Download the ATVUSB-Creator.
Step 2
Insert a “bootable” USB drive into your Mac.
Step 3

Run the ATVUSB-Creator and select your Apple TV version number (e.g., 2.1) and Boxee for Mac.


Step 4
Remove the USB drive and plug it into your Apple TV.

Step 5

Power on your AppleTV. The patchstick will run the ATV bootloader.

Step 6

After the bootloader finishes, remove the thumb drive from your AppleTV.

Step 7

Restart your AppleTV

Step 8

Click Boxee on the main menu. Then select update (this will download Boxee from the Internet).

Step 10

Once Boxee is done installing, restart your AppleTV.

Step 11

Click Boxee, and then select Boxee in the sub-menu to start the interface.

1 Comment to “Hack Apple TV With A Thumb Drive, Set It Free”

  1. Chris — October 2, 2008 @ 6:58 pm

    Hmm i dig the GUI they are using my current ATV is hacked using the ATVhacks patchstick.

Write a comment


Nmancer’s TekLog is based on WordPress platform, RSS tech , RSS comments design by Gx3.