Apple TV 2G and XBMC Setup Bliss
So, you’ve just gotten an Apple TV 2G or you want to get one and you’re interested in getting it up and running as an XBMC device. If you’re willing to live with 720p output (it can decode 1080p videos, it just downscales them), I believe that the Apple TV 2G (ATV from here on in) is a bargain – it performs relatively well, is reasonably hackable and can be gotten for $130 AUD locally.
On a whim, I decided to go and get one today upon hearing that XBMC could now be run. What follows is my trials and tribulations in getting it going and what I found out after all.
Jail breaking the Device
In order to actually install XBMC (and other tools) on the device, one must first set Jailbreak it. The current jailbreaking process is relatively trivial (with a few caveats) and reasonably quick to get done if you know what you’re doing.
Unfortunately, since it’s a tethered jailbreak (at the moment at least on Firmware 4.1.1), every time you boot the device you’ll unfortunately have to have a laptop / computer connected temporarily. Luckily, for me at least, I wanted a device to use on a spare monitor in my office so this works perfectly. Also, actually rebooting the device is fairly rare since in most cases you’ll just put it to sleep.
Actually performing the jailbreak was trivial – I had a few issues (primarily, I couldn’t read instructions). To get started, Download Seas0nPass, a free tool that mostly automates the process. Following the guide on the FireCore Support Site, it should only take 15-20 minutes once the firmware has been downloaded.
I found it worth noting that for the actual jailbreak, you simply need to disconnect everything, temporarily disconnect all cables. When Seas0nPass asks you to connect the usb cable, connect only the microusb cable – From there, it should be fairly straight forward.
The next thing you’ll want to do is to SSH into the device. This process is relatively straight forward. Out of the box, your Apple TV will have the name ‘Apple TV’ – Once your device has undergone a tethered boot, you can simple run:
From a mac to connect. On other machines / if you’ve changed the name, you’ll need to substitute
Apple-TV.local for the
IP address found in network settings to continue. Once you’ve logged in, change your password to something you’ll remember
for both the root user and the mobile user:
passwd passwd mobile
With that done, you should now have full SSH access to the device.
Although fairly simplistic still, VitoTV is a very handy program that makes it easy to install other programs and to hook into the OS. To install it, whilst still logged in, run:
apt-get install wget wget -O- http://apt.awkwardtv.org/awkwardtv.pub | apt-key add - wget http://dl.dropbox.com/u/16129573/com.nito.deb dpkg -i com.nito.deb apt-get update apt-get install com.nito.nitotv killall AppleTV
With that done, your screen should restart and you should now see a ‘nitoTV’ menu icon. Go to it, and then open ‘Install Software’, a handy application that will make it easy for you to install other things.
From here, it’s simply a matter of choosing ‘XBMC-ATV2’ from the install menu in nitoTV, and letting it work it’s magic. With that done, go back to the menu and start XBMC.
The first thing that got me was some of the controls seemed counter-intuitive at first. All in all, it’s a fairly simple navigation scheme but it’s worth knowing that when using XBMC you can use:
- Hold Down the Menu Button for a few seconds – Brings up the context menu
- Left / Right vs Up / Down – Left / Right typically navigate menus whilst up / down goes through them.
- Hold down the middle button – On videos, this will show the main navigation bar thing.
To quit XBMC and return to the dashboard, you simply need to hold the context menu button or select the power icon and select ‘exit’ (not reboot or shutdown).
In terms of using it, I’ve found the Rapier theme (the linked version works on it) fairly easy to use – To install it, SSH into your Apple TV as mobile and run:
And then go to settings, addons, install from zip and find the file above (it should be in your home directory). With that done, now go into the install addons menu, find the Lanpartei source and install the Skin. Switching it over, not only does it feel a lot more responsive but I’ve found it much more aesthetically pleasing in general.
Playing actual content appears to be good – I’ve noticed it lags a lot when seeking (which is my main pain point at the moment) but it’s very useable and should only improve with time.
Over all, I’ve found using the Apple TV a very comfortable experience coming from a WDTV Live – It performs well, looks pretty and although there are only a few open source apps at the moment, as an XBMC device it mostly excels. Given time, I believe it can only improve and honestly, I’d be happy even if it stayed mostly as it already is.