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Latest hacks turns Apple TV into £199/$299 Mac computer!

by Bob Crabtree on 10 April 2007, 11:23

Tags: Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qaief

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The hacks being done to the Apple TV network media player just get better and better. Among the latest is the creation of a replacement for the Mac OS X kernel. This lets you run the full version of the Mac OS X operating system on an Apple TV - turning it into an ultra-low-cost Mac computer!

This crafty coding effort by Semthex from Hackint0sh.org (free registration required) means that an Apple TV - selling for £199 in the UK and $299 in the USA - can, if you tweak it, run the same programs that formerly required, at very least, a Mac mini costing £399 in the UK and $599 in the USA.

So, while an Apple TV isn't cheap for a media player, it is way cheaper than any new Mac that's ever been sold.

And, seemingly, Apple TV actually runs native OS X programs rather well, despite its relatively lowly spec.

Trouble is, unless you have a hi-def TV, you're going to have to pay out for a component-to-RGB adaptor, such as this £90 model sold by Keene, bringing the total outlay (ignoring the time-cost of implementing the hacks) to only about £100 less than for a full-blown Mac mini.

Two other great new (and related) hacks are also listed in Hackint0sh.org's AppleTV forum:

* Dual-booting between the Apple TV's own operating system and OS X from the internal drive
* A keyboard emulator for the Apple IR handset (there's already a hack on 0xfeedbeef.com to let you use a Mac USB keyboard and mouse on an Apple TV)


Apple TV and handset


Apple TV uses an Intel CPU running a cut-down version of Apple's Unix-based OS X operating system and it's this highly-configurable OS that's made possible all of the many hacks we've already seen and holds out the promise of many more to come. Other useful hacks include:

* Enabling the Apple TV's USB port;
* Booting up from a USB-attached hard drive
* Playing XviD, as well as DivX files by using the free, open-source Perian QuickTime component that adds native support for many popular video formats.
* Upgrading the Apple TV's 40GB hard drive to a larger capacity

For an overview of previous hacks - and wish-lists - check out this recent HEXUS.lifestyle news story, Hackers turning Apple TV damp squib into hot item?

To stay up to date on what's happening with Apple TV, keep an eye on the HEXUS.lifestyle front page and on Apple TV Hacks and the AwkwardTV Wiki, as well as Hackint0sh.org's AppleTV forum.

Even though these newest hacks are quite staggering, we still reckon that Apple TV has little more mass-market appeal than it did when it was launched in the USA and in the UK.

The product can only output via HDMI and component, so can't connect to the majority of TV sets. Furthermore, even owners of HD TV sets aren't likely to find it overly appealing given that Apple has still not made available any HD footage to play - so all the product can do is output video at two low-quality resolutions, the best being 640x480 unless you go to the bother of repurposing high-def footage into a suitable form.

As a result, our own wish-list of hacks for Apple TV is still topped by a hack to let the device work at no extra cost on standard-definition TV sets - by somehow getting RGB from Apple TV's component output.

But do the latest hacks bring you any closer to buying an Apple TV? Share your thoughts in this thread in the HEXUS.community.

HEXUS.links

HEXUS.community :: discussion thread about this article
HEXUS.lifestyle - news :: Hackers turning Apple TV damp squib into hot item?
HEXUS.lifestyle - news :: Apple TV media player now available in UK. But why?
HEXUS.lifestyle - news :: Apple shows iPhone & HD network media player, changes name
HEXUS.lifestyle - opinions :: Apple movie downloads (US only) & network media player (yawn) - commentary on "special event"
HEXUS.lifestyle - news :: Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac is coming - but not right now
HEXUS.lifestyle - news :: Apple falls foul of Greenpeace for not being green enough
HEXUS.lifestyle - news :: Macworld San Francisco kicks off with launch of Roxio Toast 8

External.links

Apple TV Hacks - home page
AwkwardTV - Wiki
Hackint0sh.org's AppleTV forum - home page (free registration required)
Hackint0sh.org - running full Mac OS X on Apple TV
Hackint0sh.org - dual-booting between the Apple TV's own operating system and OS X from the internal drive
Hackint0sh.org - keyboard emulator for the Apple IR handset
Keene Electronics - Aptus 2 component-to-digital converter
0xfeedbeef.com - how to use a Mac USB keyboard and mouse on an Apple TV
Photobucket - Apple TV pulled apart (literally!)
Rogue Amoeba - Apple TV Surprises and Impressions
Something Awful forums - Home page (chargeable registration required)

Apple UK - Apple TV home page
Apple UK - Apple TV specs
Apple UK - home page
Apple USA - home page



HEXUS Forums :: 5 Comments

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Its interesting to see the community getting these things working, but I think its real usage is limited beyond a hackers toy.

256MB is simply not enough these days, even Windows XP is sluggish with this amount and OS X really needs 1GB or more to hit its stride.
If it was a case of swapping an SO-DIMM then there would be more potential, but when its soldered onto the board you are stuck with what you've got.
Thorburn
Its interesting to see the community getting these things working, but I think its real usage is limited beyond a hackers toy.

256MB is simply not enough these days, even Windows XP is sluggish with this amount and OS X really needs 1GB or more to hit its stride.
If it was a case of swapping an SO-DIMM then there would be more potential, but when its soldered onto the board you are stuck with what you've got.


I'd tended to have taken the same line but some of the people who've tried out this hack seem to be of the opinion that some native OS X apps run surprisingly well on Apple TV.

Without having had the chance to try this, I tend to think that Apple TV running OS X is going to be next to useless for power apps, such as for editing stills, audio or video, but may actually be okay for others, such as web-browsing, email and the playback of stills, audio and maybe video, whether networked or from an attached (internal or USB) hard disk.

As for XP - well, I've actually seen some well-put-together (and quite venerable) Dell machines running XP in an okay-ish fashion with 128MB of RAM, so 256MB might just be enough for XP to run basic apps on Apple TV if and when someone gets Boot Camp to run on it.
Absolutely, not saying it doesn't have its uses, merely that they are rather limited.

Especially once you add on the £100+ for a licensed copy of OS X, you could have bought a cheapo laptop from PC World and get a higher spec (same HDD and memory, faster CPU, optical drive, screen) for £299, and saved yourself a lot of hastle.
Thorburn
Absolutely, not saying it doesn't have its uses, merely that they are rather limited.

Especially once you add on the £100+ for a licensed copy of OS X, you could have bought a cheapo laptop from PC World and get a higher spec (same HDD and memory, faster CPU, optical drive, screen) for £299, and saved yourself a lot of hastle.


Points well made, me thinks!

However, the £299 Medion laptop from Woolies looks like the product to beat (and I'm not so sure that it's not now - or wasn't until recently - £249!).
I'm waiting for someone to install Vista on it and use Readyboost

Sorry :) Joking - I have to say Apple are being clever with this one by not clamping down on it - talk about the worlds best market research - deliver a product, let people hack and enable it with features then copy the features people want and put them in Gen2! :)

Also this forces other people to release updates for there Media devices - take Microsoft and the release of H.264 and MPEG Playback on the 360 - which is coming in their next update :)