With its substantial underpinnings, the Apple TV has emerged as this season’s most hack-worthy object. It seems that every single day brings another fun, useful, or just plan interesting Apple TV hack. It’s great to witness the brains and creativity of the Mac hacking community.
Of course, the hacks below are noted for your reading pleasure. Use caution, common sense, and respect user license agreements where they apply. Also, these hacks are emerging and changing and even being addressed by Apple rapidly. So, links may change and the info below could go out of date even in a couple of days.
Here are some of the most notable Apple TV hacks to date:
1. With the installation of Perian, Apple TV can play Divx and Xvid video files, and likely more in the future. Perian is a free, open source QuickTime component that adds native support for many popular video formats. Here are some detailed and fairly advanced installation instructions:
Hopefully this process will be simplified in the future. Limited format support may hold back sales of Apple TV.
2. Upgrade Apple TV’s hard drive. The Apple TV’s stock 40GB hard drive insults some people, despite the fact that Apple TV is only intended to be a bridge between your computer and your TV / home entertainment system. Almost all reports say that streaming media over 802.11g and especially 802.11n networks works well, with minimal lag.
If you do intend to keep lots of media synched on the Apple TV, 40 GB is very limited. So far, you can’t plug an external USB drive into the Apple TV’s USB port. Many people have already upgraded their Apple TV’s internal drive. Here’s a good tutorial on doing this:
And another one, recently updated:
Techrestore.com and Iresq.com have also announced that they will provide drive upgrades, ranging in price from $99 for a 60GB drive to $129 for a 160GB drive.
Small Dog Electronics will be offering a kit with all required parts, as USB enclosure for the 40 GB drive removed from the Mac mini, and a full color printed guide. We’ll test this upgrade kit rigorously in several situations before we start selling it though!
3. Bootable USB Port: Apple says the Apple TV’s USB port is only for “diagnostic purposes.” However, it turns out that it is possible to make the Apple TV boot from an external drive. Read about how to do this, and see a video here:
Note that as of this writing, the Apple TV still won’t recognize USB devices plugged into it, beyond booting.
4. Install Apple Remote Desktop, VNC, and SSH On an Apple TV: This will allow you to access your Apple TV remotely. Read how at:
5. Use Automator and Quicktime Pro to encode Xvix, WMV and Divx files in the Apple TV’s native file format. This is very cool, and a great demonstration of the power of Automator. Check it out here:
If you don’t want to do this, I recommend using Visual Hub to convert your files into the Apple TV file format.
6. Turning a Mac Mini into an Apple TV – This is cool. Jon Wise has created a script that will make your Mac mini function like an Apple TV. I am definitely try this out! See it here:
7. Make FrontRow Look Like an AppleTV: If you don’t want to actually install the Apple TV software on your Mac, you can skin Front Row so it looks like the Apple TV interface. Check it out here:
6. Apple TV software running on a MacBook. Check it out here: