Wednesday, April 11th 2007
AppleTV comes to town04/11/2007 03:05 PM
In keeping with my de-redmondization
project, I acquire an AppleTV and immediately start investigating ways
to hack it.
I told you that a couple of weeks ago
Suzanne got herself a 2.0Ghz MacBook, right? She's become quite addicted
to it, reaching for it in the morning before she even reaches for
me. Yes, I've assisted her in primping the thing so that it
has useful stuff on it and by removing evil things, so Microsoft Office
for the Mac is now safely zipped up out of the way and replaced with NeoOffice,
and of course she's using Firefox and open-source IM clients. She
also has a Notes 7.02 client on it, though I haven't shown her what to
do with it yet... we're working on the myrabbits.org domain and
once it's set up properly she can do her blogging with the BlogSphere 3
By the way, good job on the new version,
Dec and Rocky and everybody. I jumped straight from 1.2b to this
V3 release with no major hassles at all. Comment spam is down somewhat.
We were at CompUSA the other night,
and I decided I was going to get (a) an AppleTV and (b) a Seagate 160Gb
drive to eventually put in it to replace the rather anemic 40Gb it ships
with. Yes, there are rumors of impending higher-capacity aTVs, but
I didn't wanna wait and figured that since Apple still hasn't gotten around
to shipping a notebook with anything like a 160 in it, they won't
ship an aTV with one, either... but I can do it myself. Master voider-of-warranties
that I am, I figured I'd get the raw materials now. In fact, the
Seagate rang up at $139 even though its shelf tag said $179. See
also, "CompUSA closing half its stores."
Brought it home, found enough component
cables to attach it to my Philips HD-ready set, and lit it up.
I am quite impressed with it. Like
almost all Apple stuff, it's simple, elegant and loaded with nice touches
that just make it very Appley. The thing found my wireless network
all by itself, syncing it to my existing Apple machines was very straightforward,
and even finding the right screen resolution to work with the Philips was
simple once I checked the manual to see how to do it (the only time I looked
at the manual, by the way).
If you like FrontRow, you'll adore the
AppleTV. It's a smooth interface to allow you to play movies, television
shows, podcasts (including video podcasts), and of course, music. You
can also download movie trailers and show previews on the fly from the
Apple Store, and it doesn't ask you to key in anything to do so. Just
goes and gets it, and you watch.
But that's not the cool part.
The cool part is, the AppleTV has already
been hacked. Basically, when you buy one, you're buying a $299 low-powered
Intel Mac "nano." 1GHz Pentium M processor, 256M of soldered
RAM (not upgradeable), and a 40Gb hard drive. The video out is component
or HDMI , and the single USB port is disabled in software by Apple. However,
several projects have figured out how to re-enable the thing, meaning you
can then plug in a regular old Apple keyboard and mouse. What's more,
they've hacked up a version of the kernel which allows you to basically
run the full version of Mac OS 10.4.9 for Intel, and thus run anything
else you want on the box. Albeit slowly.
Even better, you don't lose the media
playback functionality, because that pretty front-end the aTV displays
out of the box is just another app. People have gotten it to work
on standard Macs.
Other fun stuff: out of the box,
aTV only plays H.264 and MPEG4-encoded video, but there are now ways to
put XviD and DivX codecs (and presumably others) on the thing. Rumors
of somebody getting Linux to run on it are a little vague.
Here, don't listen to me, just go read
additional codecs on your AppleTV
home of a lot of AppleTV hacking activity
your hard drive and void your
blog (he's the guy who released
a hacked aTV kernel allowing the aTV to run normal Mac OS X)
If you do this stuff right, you'll have
the least-expensive low-end Macintosh in history. Of course, if you
do it wrong, you'll probably brick the thing, but it's only $299...
Go have fun. I will.
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