Help Key: How to hack your Apple TV

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quick intro to boxee from boxee on Vimeo.
The Boxee application

It’s the holidays and you’re short on cash. You want something cool and new to play with but you already spend all your dough on Thomas the Tank Engine stuff (true story!). Why not upgrade stuff you already have?

I’m going to describe the process for upgrading your Apple TV by adding Boxee and XBMC to your Apple TV.

Making a patchstick.

A patchstick is basically a USB key of standard size containing a bootable chunk of data that the ATV can run and use to upgrade itself. The easiest way to get a patchstick, bar none, is to simply use ATVUSB Creator, a cross platform system for creating patchsticks.

XBMC is actually a media center that connects to other computers on your network over UPnP or SMB. You can create a drop box on other machines and give the ATV access to those folders and then drag almost any media format. I’m using it to play back flac files and it is excellent for playing downloads that you don’t want to convert to AppleTV format.

1. Download the Creator for your OS.
2. Insert a USB key of about 1GB in size. The smallest you can use is 512MB.
3. Run the program. It will format the USB key. Remove the USB key.
4. Unplug the Apple TV
5. Plug the USB key into the ATV
6. Plug in the ATV. Watch as it updates.
7. Unplug the ATV and remove the USB key.
8. Plug in the ATV. You should have access to the new applications. Do not run them immediately. Go into XBMC/Boxee and select Update. Update all of the software – there should be three packages.
9. Your ATV should restart. You’re ready to rock. Create an SMB share on any of your machines and help yourself to your media.

You can also ssh/scp into the machine by typing “ssh frontrow@appletv.local” into your Terminal application. The password is “frontrow”.

This Help Key doesn’t go into upgrading your hard drive but one excellent upgrade source is this old post on Engadget.

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