Island in the tech stream

It’s been over a year since the second-generation Apple TV emerged from the Cupertino location of Hobbytown USA, yet the black, minier-than-a-mini set-top box remains intriguing for what it does and confounding for what it doesn’t. It’s much smaller and more powerful than the original Apple TV that debuted in 2007. Yet that new A4 chip still won’t push out 1080p video, limiting itself to 720p just like its forbear. And it runs cooler because it lacks a hard drive. It’s nothing but a streamer, baby. So I hope you like keeping your computer on all the time. At least until iTunes Match extends to videos. And good luck with that.

Still, it’s a lot cheaper than the original ATV. When I was gifted my Gen1 over Christmas in 2008, I think it was just over $200 for a refurb 40GB version. How quaint. Of course, as I’ve written of before, I hacked that ATV with a 250GB drive and ATVUSB-creator to give it some additional oomph with Boxee and other bits. But in the end, that original ATV became nothing more than a way to watch home movies on our main television instead of having to gather the children around a laptop.

What I really wanted from my Apple TV was AirPlay and AirPlay Mirroring, features that the second generation now sports. These handy new standards from Apple let you beam video from one device to another—in my case, an iPhone to, hopefully, an Apple TV. Mirroring lets you, you know, mirror what’s on one device to another. So you can play Infinity Blade II on your 80-inch AQUOS. Assuming you have an iPad 2 or iPhone 4S and an ATV 2, of course.

Which I don’t. As in, I don’t own any of those devices. I’m holding out for the iPad 3 that should hit in three or four months. I’d love a 4S, but might just hang on to my 3GS until the 5 arrives so I can get off the "S" upgrade train. And unless your memory or reading skills are truly horrific, you know my ATV status.

So what to do, what to do? What else? Hack that mother.

While I had initially set up my Apple TV in a hacked manner, its usefulness had waned over the years. As such, when Apple released its final update for the Gen1 ATVs, I went ahead and updated without re-hacking. Fortunately, using ATVUSB-creator is ridiculously easy. Plug in a USB stick, run the program. Take said USB stick, plug it into your ATV, restart ATV and watch the hacking unfold. Reboot. Done.

The hacking permits SSH access to your Apple TV, necessary for step two: Enabling AirPlay. Now, this isn’t quite full-on Apple-approved AirPlay. It’s AirPlay via a third-party iOS app called RemoteHD. RemoteHD can be used as a remote control for any Apple device, as well as viewing one device’s screen on another. It is not specifically meant for Apple TV. But the devs were cool enough to add AirPlay enhancement to the mix. After sending three little commands via Terminal to the ATV, the RemoteHD components were installed.

Then I downloaded the actual app to my iPhone. At $7.99, it’s a bit steep. A lot steep. But cheaper than a $90 ATV 2 (at Amazon). And really, I do it for you people, so it’s a smallish price to pay. I fired up the app and, well, had no real idea what to do. I could control my ATV just fine, just like with Apple’s own Remote app. No big whoop. But I couldn’t find any hint of AirPlay. So I got all Millennial and called my mom who called the developers’ moms and informed them that their sons were denying me entitled right to stream Ernie’s Rubber Ducky song to my TV for my own entitled children to see.

Or I just opened up YouTube, tapped the output button and selected the ATV. And it worked. Huzzah, yadda, yadda.

I’m glad it worked. I’m glad it was easy. I’m glad it was cheap. It’ll tide me over until I upgrade everything (and will probably end up with some actual Apple TV TV instead of a box). But, of course, it’s only halfway there. I can stream YouTube, my own videos and my own photos. But no mirroring of apps. So, no A Charlie Brown Christmas or The Monster at the End of This Book in 720p semi-glory.

Oh well. Not bad for mildly aged tech.

Later, Fox

Comments closed
    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 8 years ago

    why buy a product you have to hack to get proper functionality out of it?

      • derFunkenstein
      • 8 years ago

      Indeed. I dumped my 2nd gen Apple TV and I just stream to the PS3. I was tired of either leaving iTunes running all the time or remembering to start it before I started streaming. Friggin stupid, it is.

    • FuturePastNow
    • 8 years ago

    You know what I don’t understand about the AppleTV? It runs iOS. Why can’t it run iPhone/iPad games? Apple could raise the price by $50, throw in the Magic Trackpad to serve as a controller, and an awful lot of people would buy one to play Angry Birds on their TV.

    This seems like a no-brainer to me.

      • UberGerbil
      • 8 years ago

      Yeah, this seemed like the obvious direction for the product to me too. But I think Apple is waiting to get all their ducks in a row before they do that — both on their side (iOS and 1st party apps) and in the app library. The apps will have to run well on at 1080p, for example (which probably means the hi-res iPad comes first, to prime that pump). They probably want to do a wireless trackpad, or some other “magic” UI device (on top of the obvious iPod/Pad app). And who knows, maybe they have some partnerships (electronics companies? the studios? the cable companies?) to nail down as well, depending on how they plan to position it.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 8 years ago

      How do you suggest controlling these games?

      • TakinYourPoints
      • 8 years ago

      Games are starting to support it in conjunction with an iPad or iPhone: [url<]http://www.engadget.com/2011/10/07/real-racing-2-shows-off-iphone-4s-graphical-chops-brings-split/[/url<]

        • FuturePastNow
        • 8 years ago

        Eh, that’s not the game running [i<]on[/i<] an AppleTV, but being streamed [i<]to[/i<] an ATV. Though I suppose that's a really blurry line as far as the player is concerned.

    • zdw
    • 8 years ago

    I run a 1st gen Apple TV with a CrystalHD card in it. Runs XBMC like a champ via Crystalbuntu:

    [url<]http://www.stmlabs.com/tag/crystalbuntu/[/url<] 1080p content, no problem. Does AirPlay as well. A huge upgrade for a little bit of hardware hacking.

    • anotherengineer
    • 8 years ago

    Lately Apple is reminding me more and more of Rambus, instead of the nifty gadget company it used to.
    I guess Rambus has some competition in the patent troll game, then again Rambus does have some legit patents on technology, while Apple tries to patent the ‘ipad’ name.
    [url<]http://www.itproportal.com/2011/12/10/apple-loses-ipad-patent-lawsuit-samsung-sell-galaxy-tab-101-australia/[/url<] I wonder if they are going to try to ban WD TV player, or any of the other items on the market even remotely similar to this.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 8 years ago

    So basically apple TV is still a practically useless device. My xbox or PS3 does the same thing in 1080p and it does other things FOR THE SAME MONEY!!!!!!

      • fershnickety
      • 8 years ago

      Not really. The new Apple TV ($99) is practically useless for less money than the xbox ($199) or PS3 ($250).

        • derFunkenstein
        • 8 years ago

        Ya, actually it does less for less money. Someone somewhere is going to say that’s a bargain.

          • sjl
          • 8 years ago

          Depends on your use case, doesn’t it? If all you have is a bunch of ripped DVDs, and no desire to move to BD, spending extra money to be able to play back 1080p is a little silly.

    • tone21705
    • 8 years ago

    I’m sorry but why doesn’t TechReport provide you with the newest ATV to review/hack? Writing reviews/user experience from tech in 2007 is hardly relevant…

      • JohnC
      • 8 years ago

      While I kinda agree with you (the ATV being largely irrelevant now, especially to people who can afford ATV2), technically it’s NOT a “review” or anything like this but merely a “personal blog” post…

        • Noigel
        • 8 years ago

        While I think he could deal with receiving some free tech… I kind of like him scraping to get his own answers. I enjoy the journey he takes and the suffered that ensues. Sure, maybe “even” reviews should be outright purchases for him but every “odd” review should require him to start out with a paperclip, a scuba mask, and a third hand gen 1 nano he found on ebay. 🙂

    • Scrotos
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]Yet that new A4 chip still won't push out 1080p video, limiting itself to 720p just like its forbear.[/quote<] [url<]http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/forbear[/url<] [url<]http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/forebearer[/url<]

      • axeman
      • 8 years ago

      The first link applies to use of it as a verb. Read the second definition in the first link. Your links only prove that his use is acceptable, even if uncommon. As a noun, forebearer, forebear, and forbear are all the same thing, even if forbear shouldn’t really be used as a noun.
      [url<]http://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/forebear[/url<] [url<]http://logophilius.blogspot.com/2009/01/disputed-words-forebear-forbear-and.html[/url<] Grammar freaks harp about things, but language evolves, and what used to be a common misspelling or misuse becomes acceptable. Deal with it, there ain't nothing you can do about it.

        • Scrotos
        • 8 years ago

        Um. While there is nothing I can do about it, he could edit his post to use the word he intended. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t whining about “omg how could you use the wrong word and here’s all these other errors1@#”

        Seems to be a simple mistake and was just pointing it out for ‘im. This was less effort than emailing directly.

        Even looking at the second link you provided, he still used the wrong word according to that grammarologist dude. Pretty much the only stretch you can make with his analysis is that so many people have made this mistake that grudgingly you could call it acceptable use.

        …or just be educated to use the proper word in the first place.

        But hey, I’m sure Jason appreciated your being his white knight and defending his honour! 🙂

        p.s. in case anyone thinks I’m full of myself in wordiology, I had to look up “forbear” because 1) it looked wrong and I didn’t know why and 2) I didn’t know it was an actual word with the meaning it has. So hell, I learned me somethin’ good, too.

          • indeego
          • 8 years ago

          > so many people have made this mistake that grudgingly you could call it acceptable use.

          [url=http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/linguistics/change.jsp<]This is an actual way language evolves.[/url<]

            • Scrotos
            • 8 years ago

            And the classic example going to the logical extreme: [url<]http://www.i18nguy.com/twain.html[/url<] I'm sorry, why are you guys defending the right to use the wrong word and look ignorant amongst those who have, well, I'd have said a high-school level education but I'm thinkin' now that that's not really applicable anymore? I imagine some old guy yelling out, "if everyone you knew jumped off a bridge, would you, too?!?" "Yes, it's the way of progress! I follow the lead of other ignorant people until our lack of knowledge becomes the new baseline! Get outta here with your stupid book learnin' and smarts, that's not fer us!" Anyway, this is a losing battle. Either it's doing the trendy thing to be contrarian and some posters here thought I was being aggressive and attacking Jason or y'all are really just advocating leaving mistakes in writing and language, justifying it as being the natural evolution of language. Pretty much any teacher in school would mark you off on mistakes in your writing. And in the professional arena, proposals with mistakes, binding legal documents with mistakes, no, not acceptable. It's like you guys don't work for a living or something but I know you do so maybe I'm wrong and people really are as stupid as you two are making out and that's the hip new trendy thing to do--defend ignorance and stupidity. I think Jason just made a simple mistake and I wanted to point it out. That's it. I didn't expect anyone to really want to defend mediocrity as a way of life.

    • Worby
    • 8 years ago

    [url<]http://www.engadget.com/2011/08/01/apple-tv-streams-purchased-tv-shows-not-just-rentals-from/[/url<]

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