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Apple TV hacks, reviews, and trivia roundup

post #1 of 110
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Eager video fans have scrutinized the Apple TV from top to bottom during its launch week. Here's a recap of info you may have missed -- including freshly-discovered features and hacks.

Hacks revealed quickly

In a revelation that comes as little surprise to many, early adopters of the media hub have discovered that its Mac mini-like shell is easily accessible, requiring no more than the right screwdriver and patience.

The literal uncovering of the insides not only confirmed the presence of parts AppleInsider had learned were in the Apple TV, but also enabled the more aggressive to replace the hard drivewith one of their own, boosting onboard storage to well over the stock 40GB.

Moreover, the accessibility of the Apple TV's internal parts has validated tech journalist Walt Mossberg's claim that the box runs Mac OS X in scaled-down form, showing that most of the file structure is the same as for the unit's full-fleged Mac siblings. One pair of new owners has successfully installed Mac software, enabling basic support for video codecs not part of Apple's original specs for the machine.

Reviews tackle Apple TV's value

Curiosity alone hasn't characterized first experiences with the system, however. Members of the press have readily taken sides on the new product's long-term usefulness.

Most reactions to date have been positive -- but qualified. Mossberg's review for the Wall Street Journal was one of the most warmly receptive to the Apple TV, praising its ease of use and faulting it mainly for photo streaming and direct purchase features that the pundit is certain will be added later.

Others were less forgiving. PC World editor Edward Albro lauded the device's simplicity for newcomers but docked marks for its most glaring flaws, including the poor picture quality for iTunes videos. He also noted that Apple's supremacy was as much a commentary on the firm's competitors as the value of its actual product, which is ultimately dependent on iTunes.

"To say that Apple TV is the world's best media streaming device could be considered faint praise, the tech equivalent of calling someone the world's tallest midget," Albro said. "After all, most previous versions of these devices, which take music, video, and photos from your PC and play them on your TV and stereo, have been unreliable, hard to use and generally shunned by the buying public."

Little-known features surface

Meanwhile, at least two previously unannounced abilities of Apple's latest gadget have come to light now that buyers and reviewers can test the compact system themselves.

Although Apple's official specifications rule out all but widescreen HDTVs, software developer Rogue Amoeba and others have located a 480i mode in the Apple TV's Settings menu that offers owners of standard-ratio TVs with component inputs a functional (if slightly distorted) means of using the device without replacing their existing setups.

New York Times columnist David Pogue also highlighted a seldom-mentioned playback continuity feature in the Apple TV's handling of podcasts and videos.

"The integration of iPod, iTunes and Apple TV offers frequent payoffs," he noted. "For example, if you paused your iPod partway through a movie, TV show or song, Apple TV remembers your place when you resume playing it on your TV. Cool."
post #2 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


Others were less forgiving. PC World editor Edward Albro lauded the device's simplicity for newcomers but docked marks for its most glaring flaws, including the poor picture quality for iTunes videos. He also noted that Apple's supremacy was as much a commentary on the firm's competitors as the value of its actual product, which is ultimately dependent on iTunes.

"To say that Apple TV is the world's best media streaming device could be considered faint praise, the tech equivalent of calling someone the world's tallest midget," Albro said. "After all, most previous versions of these devices, which take music, video, and photos from your PC and play them on your TV and stereo, have been unreliable, hard to use and generally shunned by the buying public."

He goes on to say that the Apple TV is good in itself, regardless of poor competition:

Quote:
Originally Posted by PCWorld


Despite those reservations, though, Apple TV is more than just the tallest dwarf out there. Its the first media streaming device I could imagine recommending to a non-geek. And I wouldnt be surprised if it evolves into something even more powerful.

Nice use of selective quoting guys. At least provide links to the full reviews.

http://www.macworld.com/news/2007/03...watv/index.php for the PC World review
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post #3 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Moreover, the accessibility of the Apple TV's internal parts has validated tech journalist Walt Mossberg's claim that the box runs Mac OS X in scaled-down form, showing that most of the file structure is the same as for the unit's full-fleged Mac siblings. One pair of new owners has successfully installed Mac software, enabling basic support for video codecs not part of Apple's original specs for the machine.

Who would have believed that?

JeffDM, dfiler or Mossberg? Hmmmm
post #4 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by david_oc View Post

Nice use of selective quoting guys. At least provide links to the full reviews.

http://www.macworld.com/news/2007/03...watv/index.php for the PC World review

Your link goes to Macworlds posting of the original article. Whereas the link from Appleinsider goes directly to the PC World Review. If I am wrong, I appologize as I am sure you would if you have erred.
post #5 of 110
this is apples big chance to again achieve cult status or blow it big time. should jobs decide to plug all the holes and make hacking this machine impossible or really hard, it will be like shooting yourself in the foot. if, on the other hand, they will allow the chip to fall where they may, this could be the start of a fantastic machine-running all codecs, using it as a ultra mini mac, whatever! let;s see what happens...



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post #6 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by palex9 View Post

this is apples big chance to again achieve cult status or blow it big time. should jobs decide to plug all the holes and make hacking this machine impossible or really hard, it will be like shooting yourself in the foot. if, on the other hand, they will allow the chip to fall where they may, this could be the start of a fantastic machine-running all codecs, using it as a ultra mini mac, whatever! let;s see what happens...

Like we have done with the enviroment.
post #7 of 110
I dont get it....how is the apple tv different from the mac mini? Does it do DVR stuff too? Skip commercials, etc? If not, what is the point, I'll just get a mac mini.
post #8 of 110
Also in the menu are 576i and 576p for PAL users.

And missing this thread in your roundup is almost sacrilegious.

http://forums.somethingawful.com/sho...readid=2391956
post #9 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by aegisdesign View Post

Also in the menu are 576i and 576p for PAL users.

And missing this thread in your roundup is almost sacrilegious.

http://forums.somethingawful.com/sho...readid=2391956

No they didn't - AI just links to an Electronista article. An extra click maybe, but SA is known to periodically block unregistered access to the forums. Wouldn't want people to be taken to a "LOL SIGN UP PLZ" link.
post #10 of 110
You may want to look at Pogue's follow up, and some interesting reader comments/reactions:

http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/...vide/#more-251

There's a tantalizing reference to something over the internet that Apple is being coy about.... and could appear later as possible functionality. (Anyone have any ideas on what that could be about?)
post #11 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by blingem View Post

I dont get it....how is the apple tv different from the mac mini? Does it do DVR stuff too? Skip commercials, etc? If not, what is the point, I'll just get a mac mini.

I can think of two: It's half the price; and it's easier to use.
post #12 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by blingem View Post

I dont get it....how is the apple tv different from the mac mini? Does it do DVR stuff too? Skip commercials, etc? If not, what is the point, I'll just get a mac mini.

Those who hack the Apple TV must feel pretty stupid not getting a Mac mini instead. If you're going to buy an Apple TV, replace the HD, hack in new codecs, why not just get the Mac mini...it'll be more powerful, will have more HD storage space, will support more codecs without hacks, and will allow the user to play games or browse the web...for about 100-150 dollars more if you count the purchase of a HD over the 300 dollars for Apple TV.
post #13 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by vmardian View Post

I can think of two: It's half the price; and it's easier to use.

Half the price? Not really if you think of the time spent hacking and the purchase of a larger HD.

I agree though if you meant half the price if you want to use Apple TV as is.
post #14 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by Abster2core View Post

Who would have believed that?

JeffDM, dfiler or Mossberg? Hmmmm

Please stop with the personal vendettas. Nobody claimed AppleTV didn't run OS X.

We only asserted that what Mossberg presented as fact, was likely to be merely guesswork. He's turned out to have guessed correctly... at which he had a 50% chance.

It is great that AppleTV is running OS X.

It means that 3rd party mods will be simple and that Apple can deliver improvements quite easily. Their developers are already familiar with the software and hardware so patches and upgrades should be inexpensive to produce.
post #15 of 110
What the hell? They use screws on the Apple TV too? They had better make these changes to the Mini or I'm going to be very annoyed. This certainly makes it more of a conscious decision than a cost cutting one i.e they want people to hack the Apple TV but not their computers. It should be the other way round.

At least they are moving in the right direction concerning making it easier for users to adjust the products the way they want. What does it say regarding the warranty though? If you take an Apple TV with an upgraded HD into a store, will they refuse to fix it?
post #16 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

If you take an Apple TV with an upgraded HD into a store, will they refuse to fix it?

I'd be stunned if they offered fixes for user upgraded models. Maybe third parties might though.
post #17 of 110
Quote:
should jobs decide to plug all the holes and make hacking this machine impossible or really hard, it will be like shooting yourself in the foot.

Apple shipped it like this on purpose. They knew that the box was going to hacked. If they really wanted to lock down they would have done it already.

Quote:
Those who hack the Apple TV must feel pretty stupid not getting a Mac mini instead. If you're going to buy an Apple TV, replace the HD, hack in new codecs, why not just get the Mac mini

Where is the line between software that adds more functionality and a hack. There are a lot of codecs Quicktime can not play natively that additional software is needed for that ability. Is that only added functionality or a hack?

Since AppleTV is using OSX eventually people will make additional software to add codecs.

Adding 120GB drive you still come out cheaper with the AppleTV than the Mac mini. I don't understand why Apple does not allow upgrading the HD from its store.

Quote:
We only asserted that what Mossberg presented as fact, was likely to be merely guesswork. He's turned out to have guessed correctly... at which he had a 50% chance.

Since he was right shows that he knew as fact and it was not a guess.

Quote:
If you take an Apple TV with an upgraded HD into a store, will they refuse to fix it?

Probably depends on if upgrading the HD voids the warranty. Hopefully it won't.
post #18 of 110
Wouldn't it be possible to modify the Mac Mini to use an external 3.5" 500GB/750GB drive?
post #19 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by Abster2core View Post

Who would have believed that?

JeffDM, dfiler or Mossberg? Hmmmm

I think you have mistaken the situation, like you did in the previous thread. No one in that thread claimed that it wasn't running OS X in some form. A few of us were asking how he could say that as if he knew for certain because Apple and their reps didn't say publicly that it was running a form of OS X, it was unstated. This sentiment was also made by Chucker, pmjoe and DeaPeaJay as well, in the same thread, so why didn't you mention them in your list?

For all we know, maybe he guessed and got lucky. As it is, it took someone to gut the machine to validate this, Apple's site and documentation still doesn't say this that I've found.
post #20 of 110
vmardian: So far, the USB port has resisted attempts to make it support external drives. I don't think it will be long now though.

Of course, that begs the question of how you get the hack into the machine in the first place if you don't have external drive access to start with...

I think the first person who figures out how to push an update into the beast that enables USB support, ssh support, or other external access, without first cracking the case, is going to be hailed as a minor deity for, oh, a week at least. Apparently there is ARD support built in, though, so that may be the appropriate vector.

Here's an idea - how long until the media extension software in the ATV is yoinked out and placeable on a mini or other Mac? ie, buy a mini, plop the ATV software on it, and have the same network-wide media access, but with a full machine?
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post #21 of 110
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Originally Posted by vmardian View Post

Wouldn't it be possible to modify the Mac Mini to use an external 3.5" 500GB/750GB drive?

You'd probably have to route the cable out of the appletv. Someone ought to try it.
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post #22 of 110
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Originally Posted by vmardian View Post

Wouldn't it be possible to modify the Mac Mini to use an external 3.5" 500GB/750GB drive?

I think it is, but so far, none of those hacks have been pretty.
post #23 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

If you take an Apple TV with an upgraded HD into a store, will they refuse to fix it?

Would you?
http://www.apple.com/legal/warranty/hardware.html
post #24 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kickaha View Post

vmardian: So far, the USB port has resisted attempts to make it support external drives. I don't think it will be long now though.

I was suggesting to *really* mod the Mac Mini and route the wire outside.
post #25 of 110
Bad move to make it HD only. I know they want to be Hi Tech but the video looks like crap. They have no HD content and yet they made it available for HD TV's only. The video they supply would look fine on a regular TV, plus their target audience would quadruple.
post #26 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by jawporta View Post

Bad move to make it HD only. I know they want to be Hi Tech but the video looks like crap. They have no HD content and yet they made it available for HD TV's only. The video they supply would look fine on a regular TV, plus their target audience would quadruple.

Only the original 320 x 240 videos look blurry. The 480p ones look fine, and they'll have 720p within a year.
post #27 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by vmardian View Post

I was suggesting to *really* mod the Mac Mini and route the wire outside.



The Mac mini has both FW and USB ports that support external drives already. I think you mean the ATV... in which case, if you have the case open, why not just replace the drive with a bigger one, or enable USB drive access so you never have to open it again? A dangling cable seem like the worst of all worlds...
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post #28 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by jawporta View Post

Bad move to make it HD only. I know they want to be Hi Tech but the video looks like crap. They have no HD content and yet they made it available for HD TV's only. The video they supply would look fine on a regular TV, plus their target audience would quadruple.

Nitpick: It's not HD only. It's HDMI/component only. There are SDTVs with component inputs. Not many, but some. Few enough that it makes the distinction a fine one, but there is a difference.
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post #29 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by vmardian View Post

Wouldn't it be possible to modify the Mac Mini to use an external 3.5" 500GB/750GB drive?

All you have to do is reboot from a firewire drive, that is already available in all Mac's with firewire, you can use any external firewire drive size you like.
post #30 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

This sentiment was also made by Chucker, pmjoe and DeaPeaJay as well, in the same thread, so why didn't you mention them in your list?

Becuse they didn't say, acknowledge or condone in any form that he (Mossberg) was "talking out of his ass."
post #31 of 110
Abster2core, "talking out of his ass" simply means making assertions without supporting evidence. It does not mean the speaker is correct, or incorrect, only that they are saying things that may or may not be true, but furthermore, that they're not in a position to know definitively about without providing said evidence.

Mossberg was, based on his lack of evidence in his article, subject to being accused of talking out of his ass.

What's your obsession with this, anyway? It's kind of creepy, at this stage.
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post #32 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kickaha View Post



The Mac mini has both FW and USB ports that support external drives already. I think you mean the ATV... in which case, if you have the case open, why not just replace the drive with a bigger one, or enable USB drive access so you never have to open it again? A dangling cable seem like the worst of all worlds...

Oops. Yeah I meant Apple TV.

It uses a 2.5" drive and those max out at 160GB.
post #33 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kickaha View Post

What's your obsession with this, anyway? It's kind of creepy, at this stage.

How many times do I have to say it? Mossberg did not say what he is being accused of saying. So how the hell could he be talking out of his ass in the first place. If you are going to accuse anyone get your facts straight.

Considering Mossberg had been given the product for over 10 days prior to anybody else that we know of, for the sole purpose to run it throught the mill, and being reputed as one of the leading tech writers in the industry, it just bugs the hell out of me to have some idiot spue his mouth off, maligning with predjuice and accusing somebody for something they never did or say in the first place.

Does it not seem weird to you that Mossberg has since been proven correct and that the accuser(s) has never supplied evidence to the contrary for something he never claimed in the first place?
post #34 of 110
Quote:
It uses a 2.5" drive and those max out at 160GB.

Actually the current max is 200GB. Fujitsu will soon offer a 300GB.

The question though is of AppleTV power and heat limitations. At what point does the drive draw too much power and generate too much heat for the small case.
post #35 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by Abster2core View Post

How many times do I have to say it? Mossberg did not say what he is being accused of saying. So how the hell could he be talking out of his ass in the first place. If you are going to accuse anyone get your facts straight.

3rd paragraph from Mossberg's article, emphasis mine:

"Apple TV is tiny, just about eight inches square and an inch high, far smaller than a typical DVD player or cable or satellite box, even though it packs in a 40-gigabyte hard disk, an Intel processor and a modified version of the Mac operating system. And it has a carefully limited set of functions."

You can verify this for yourself at: http://ptech.wsj.com/archive/solution-20070321.html

What was it that you think he was 'accused' of saying that he didn't?

Quote:
Considering Mossberg had been given the product for over 10 days prior to anybody else that we know of, for the sole purpose to run it throught the mill, and being reputed as one of the leading tech writers in the industry, it just bugs the hell out of me to have some idiot spue his mouth off, maligning with predjuice and accusing somebody for something they never did or say in the first place.

Again, what is it that you think he did not say, that he was 'accused' of? I thought the entire point was that someone asked "Does he have proof of [the emphasized clause regarding the OS], or is he just talking out of his ass?" (paraphrasing), and you took exception, for whatever bizarre reasons. It's a valid question.

Quote:
Does it not seem weird to you that Mossberg has since been proven correct and that the accuser(s) has never supplied evidence to the contrary for something he never claimed in the first place?

Again, you're missing the point completely. It was never about correct/incorrect, it was about supporting evidence. For the above emphasized statement, direct from Mossberg's article, he offered no such evidence. It was an unsubstantiated statement, and while likely true based on his track record, was presented in such a manner that it left him open to claims of unjustified assertion. That is all. Let it go.
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post #36 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by TenoBell View Post

Actually the current max is 200GB. Fujitsu will soon offer a 300GB.

The question though is of AppleTV power and heat limitations. At what point does the drive draw too much power and generate too much heat for the small case.

The other thing is thickness. Fujitsu's 200 GB is 12.5mm high, AppleTV's drive is 9.5mm.
post #37 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by kim kap sol View Post

Those who hack the Apple TV must feel pretty stupid not getting a Mac mini instead. If you're going to buy an Apple TV, replace the HD, hack in new codecs, why not just get the Mac mini...it'll be more powerful, will have more HD storage space, will support more codecs without hacks, and will allow the user to play games or browse the web...

…and have significantly worse picture quality. I'd suggest that picture quality on a video-playing device should be a priority.
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post #38 of 110
Quote:
Fujitsu's 200 GB is 12.5mm high, AppleTV's drive is 9.5mm.

Yep that too.

Quote:
It was never about correct/incorrect, it was about supporting evidence. For the above emphasized statement, direct from Mossberg's article, he offered no such evidence. It was an unsubstantiated statement, and while likely true based on his track record, was presented in such a manner that it left him open to claims of unjustified assertion.

We went through this with the HD also. When Disney CEO Iger first said there was a HD. Because Apple had not publicly stated that AppleTV would have an HD many people assumed it was speculation at best and he did not know what he was talking about at worst.

What's likely the truth is that Apple told Iger it had an HD and Apple told Mossberg that it runs OS X, they both publicly stated what Apple had told them, only Apple had not yet publicly confirmed either.
post #39 of 110
Quote:
I'd suggest that picture quality on a video-playing should be a priority.

You don't get to have everything at once. You don't get top notch video quality and top notch streaming quality at the same time.

In Pogue's review of AppleTV and the Xbox, he stated streaming movies through AppleTV worked with no problems, while he would get error codes while streaming HD with the Xbox.
post #40 of 110
Quote:
Originally Posted by TenoBell View Post

You don't get to have everything at once. You don't get top notch video quality and top notch streaming quality at the same time.

Oh really?

My point was that AppleTV video output quality when playing Apple-supported codecs (MPEG-4 part 2 and part 10) is much higher than a Mac Mini playing those same files*. Whether the files are being streamed or played direct from the built-in HDD is irrelevant.


* By virtue of the fact that the AppleTV has the GeForce Go 7300 with all its wizzy HD-video handling features (motion-compensated de-interlacing, high-quality scaling, hardware H.264 decode etc. etc.), and the Mac Mini has a GMA950 with utterly shitty video handling features.
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