Don Reisinger’s out with a column pitching the Xbox 360 as an Apple TV replacement. While we’re big fans of the 360 (and PS3) as an all-purpose digital media solution, it doesn’t offer the elegant simplicity of a Roku ($50 – $100) or Apple TV ($99). Further, once you add the remote and (recurring) Xbox Live annual subscription, even the base Xbox 360 console will run you about three times ($280) the cost of an aTV. And that power brick is still huge. For many, Netflix and YouTube are the streaming tentpole supplements to Apple’s iTunes ecosystem. And it’s really no longer the walled garden it once was with content partners such as NHL and Vimeo recently joining the solid prior lineup including MLB, Flickr, and podcast directory.
Having said that, for this class of device, I still generally prefer Roku over Apple TV given it’s broader catalog of content partner, USB drive support, and more traditional remote. And why I was thinking of picking up another Roku. But a few Twitter followers convinced me to jailbreak my Apple TV once again, instead of investing in another box. Once jailbroken, apps like XBMC and Plex allow you to get at the media on your home network… and in some cases, beyond. With relatively no downside.
Hacking Apple TV is ridiculously simple these days thanks to Seas0nPass. Basically, you download the program to Mac or Windows and the wizard will walk you through the process as it creates the appropriate software package and loads it onto your Apple TV. You’ll just want to make sure you have the current version of iTunes and a USB-to-microUSB cable. One word of advice – while Seas0nPass runs, abstain from multitasking as the program sends keystrokes to iTunes that I inadvertently disrupted on my first attempt. The steps:
- Download, unzip, and launch Seas0nPass
- Click Create IPSW
- When prompted, connect an unplugged Apple TV to the computer via USB
- Press and hold the Apple TV Menu and Play/Pause remote buttons for 7 seconds
- Let Seas0nPass and iTunes do their thing
Once jailbroken, you can connect to your Apple TV via ssh or sftp. On a Mac, I merely terminaled in using the default iOS settings. So here’s one simple way to take control of the Apple TV from a Mac:
- Open Terminal
- Type ssh firstname.lastname@example.org (or use the aTV’s IP address)
- Type yes to all prompts
- Enter the password alpine when asked
From there you can install XBMC or Plex via the command line. I’m currently experimenting streaming local video via the Plex Media Server and therefore installed the Plex client on aTV by simply copying and pasting the 6 lines found here. Thus far, the Apple TV had no problem finding my iMac video library and successfully streams 720p content. We’ll have to see how 1080p works out, as I previously had some difficulty via XBMC. There are other video-centric apps work checking out such as NitoTV and, if you’re not deterred by the $30 fee, aTV Flash pretty much bundles most of the apps and features you’d want – including a web browser that supports HTML5 streaming.