Archives For Hacks

hbo-go-appletv

Supposedly today is the day Xbox 360 owners will be treated to HBO GO. Unless you’re a Comcast customer. In which case you’ll likely be accessing HBO on demand content via the Xfinity app… as they apparently intend to own the experience. Likewise, while Comcast doesn’t offer a Roku app, they block HBO GO access on that platform out of hand. Apple TV, by comparison, features access to neither Xfinity nor HBO GO. Sort of.

Owners of the iPhone 4s, iPad 2, or new iPad are entitled to AirPlay mirroring capabilities — a feature Apple describes as allowing one to beam “everything” displayed on an iDevice to an Apple TV. Unfortunately, “everything” doesn’t actually include the iOS HBO GO app… which fails with an unclear error citing “HDMI video out.” However, a pair of Twitter pals (Bill, Mike) clued me in to a nice little workaround… for Comcast customers.

Via Comcast’s Xfinity app, subscribers with compatible iOS devices can beam any and all content — including HBO — to Apple TV. And, as you can see from the pic, it does work. To reduce distracting letterboxing, since your iDevice probably doesn’t share the same resolution and aspect ratio as your television, you’d want to employ your HDTV’s zoom function. No, this won’t provide anything close to Blu-ray quality. But I’d say it’s a reasonable hack for a subset of folks and various situations. For Android owners who’d prefer HBO GO on the big screen there’s always HDMI out.

While most of the competition offers YouTube on the big screen, Roku remains a notable holdout. At one point, we did enjoy an unofficial “private” channel… which Google had shut down (to new users). And while there was a glimmer of hope last fall that an authentic YouTube channel was headed our way, it’s yet to materialize.

We have no way of knowing if this is related to an unwillingness by Roku to license YouTube, technical issues, or something else. But we do have a workaround: YouTube video links that are dropped into your News Feed or Timeline can be accessed via the official Facebook Channel on Roku. It may not be pretty, and lacks the discovery element, but it’s fairly effective. And if you’re not interested in spamming your friends, simply set the video status updates to private.

Check out the video above to see the process in action.

Hack Your Apple TV

Dave Zatz —  January 29, 2012 — 28 Comments

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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. Continue Reading…

Just a few short days after Apple TV was upgraded to 4.4 (and then 4.4.1), the user friendly Seas0nPass jailbreak utility has now likewise been updated to free you from the stock confines of Apple’s diminutive media streamer. Sort of.

Unfortunately, this initial 4.4 Apple TV jailbreak requires the aTV be tethered  to a computer at boot. An annoyance, yes. But not a deal breaker. Which brings us to the fairly critical plugins which fail to work under the update… including XBMC.

Considering a majority of jailbreakers do so to harness the more extensive local media playback capabilities of XBMC, this limitation could be a non-starter for many. So it’s probably good news that for the time being it’s possible to abstain from upgrading your hacked 4.3 Apple TV. By the time Apple removes 4.3 code signing and forces an upgrade, one hopes these early jailbreak issues will have been resolved.

Itemized plugin status follows: Continue Reading…

Hacking The Nook Touch

Dave Zatz —  June 13, 2011 — 5 Comments

nook-touch-kindle

What a difference a week makes…

When we last discussed Barnes & Noble’s new Nook Touch e-Reader ($139), I lamented the absence of a web browser. While some browser components were clearly present, to enable WiFi hotspot login functionality, there was no obvious means to launch a full-on browsing experience. As it turns out, it’s not so tricky at all. In fact, no hacking required. However, what you end up with is indeed a hack. For now. As the browsing experience is less than ideal. But, hey, it’ll do in a pinch and this gives me some hope that B&N intends to refine and release this feature.

More interestingly, the Nook Touch seems to have a good deal in common with it’s larger, Color brethren. And I learned on Liliputing that it’s been rooted. Directions can be found here but, while the steps are simple, the end result isn’t entirely suitable for novices at this point. What you’re left with is basically an unlocked device that you can sideload apps onto… and launch via computer. So while the savvy are mucking about with the Amazon Kindle app, I wouldn’t say the root experience is quite ready for weekend geek warriors.

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Coincidentally, last week, both Blake Krikorian and I worked out methods to move compelling HBO GO content from smartphone to television. Blake, who you might recognize as the inventor of the Slingbox and champion of the Crestron Android app, ultimately got it done via his Motorola Atrix… in conjunction with the multimedia dock. Like the Atrix’s netbook enclosure accessory, the multimedia dock launches Motorola’s Linux webtop OS/interface and Blake merely brought up HBO GO via the desktop version of Firefox. On a 103″ plasma. As I quipped on Facebook, 320×240 never looked so good. (Although, HBO is definitely streaming higher res than that.) Jason Hirschhorn, who you might recognize as a former MTV, Sling, or MySpace executive and curator of the must-follow MediaReDEFined, snapped the incriminating photographic evidence.

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Likewise, I attempted to harness the power of my iPhone in ways it wasn’t intended… by HBO. Having picked up Apple’s digital AV adapter, I had plans to pipe iPhone app content onto the TV via HDMI (as screen mirroring is only offered from the iPad 2). Unfortunately, although not unsurprisingly, most app providers haven’t enabled this functionality. And, once again, I jailbroke my phone to extend its capabilities. The $4 DisplayOut app (purchased via Cydia) provides iPhone 4 display mirroring, in addition to pushing audio out over the aforementioned HDMI. Stretched Flight of the Conchords quality wasn’t great on the big screen and the process of streaming while mirroring pretty much crushes the iPhone battery. Not to mention Apple’s dongle is not compatible with their iPhone bumper. So while I figured I’d end up writing a post chronicling how this $40 cable would replace my more bulky Roku on travel, it just wasn’t meant to be.

There’s good news and bad news for anyone who wants to upgrade their iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad to the latest version of iOS, but also wants to be able to jailbreak their device to run apps that aren’t supported by Apple. The good news is that you can jailbreak iOS 4.3.1. The bad news is that the process is rather long and complicated, you’ll need to connect your device to a computer to reboot if you don’t want to lose your jailbreak, and there’s no support for carrier unlocking, which means if you’re using your iPhone with an unsupported network, you should probably just hold off on updating to iOS 4.3.1. altogether.

The latest operating system update provides minor bug fixes, addressing a graphics glitch on the latest iPod touch models and some other bugs affecting iPhones and iPads. But if you need a carrier unlock or if you wand an “untethered” jailbreak which lets you reboot without a computer nearby, you should probably hold off until hackers release new jailbreak tools. Read the rest of this entry »