Apple TV plus Hulu and more

Recently I acquired an Apple TV 2, in all it’s Apple glory – well, actually that’s where this story begins because if you have an Apple TV, you know it’s rather limited out of the box. So that’s where a little afternoon hacking comes in. In only a few short hours with this amazing device, I successfully installed XBMC  on it, configuring it to by-pass iTunes completely and setup another configuration to access sites like Pandora, Hulu, Amazon Video-on-Demand, and many other sites. Here’s a little background on the Apple TV 2.

The Apple TV 2 is a palm-sized media box which can access the iTunes store to rent movies and TV shows. It can also access Netflix, music, and photos. It does all this via your home wi-fi or it can plug into your internet router. It’s got a sleek little remote to control the content. You connect it to your TV via HDMI. Basically, that’s it (that anyone cares about). But in my home network, this little device is not nearly up to snuff. We need more power – more juice. And here’s how I got it to function as the media box it should.

First let me say, it’s pretty darn easy. The steps are clear, it just sounds harder than it looks.

STEP 1

Jailbreak your Apple TV 2.
Thanks to Gizmodo and SeasOnPass there is no guess work. Now Jailbreaking is simply the process of installing custom firmware onto a device in order to add more functionality. To do that with the ATV2, AppleTvHacks.net has drawn up the procedure for opening up this device (or see it here right from the software developers). In summary, it’s a matter of connecting your ATV2 to your computer and running the installer. There’s a little more to it so make sure to check out the link.

Tip: what they don’t mention in the procedure, is that when after you’ve jailbroken it, unplug it from the computer and plug it into your TV and network. You need to set it up as you would normally so that its connected to the internet thus allowing you to proceed to the next step. What’s awesome is that once you power it up on your TV, you can’t even tell it’s been jailbroken – it looks just like it would out the box (but it’s not).

STEP 2

Install XBMC.

You’ve just jailbroken your Apple TV. What this immediately does is allows you to SSH into the device – in other words, you’re remoting into the file system on the hardware necessary in order to install XBMC. “XBMC (formerly “Xbox Media Center”) is a free, open source (GPL) multimedia player that runs on the first-generation Microsoft Xbox™, (not the newer Xbox 360), as well as on computers running Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows” (wiki.xbmc.org). This is the tool that allows you to connect to your media content outside of iTunes, for instance, your movies on your network harddrive, otherwise, you’d have to port all your media into iTunes (boo!). The install is pretty easy. Click here to view the steps done from a Mac.

Note: So now you can access your media out side of iTunes, plus have more functionality than before. But if you want to access hulu, you must continue on.

STEP 3

In order to access hulu basic, pandora, Amazon VOD, and more, you need a great piece of software called PlayOn. Oh yeah, and well, you’ll need a PC in the house. Fortunately, that’s not an issue for me. I have all sorts of computers in the house. The setup is again, pretty easy. You can see how it’s done by checking out this YouTube video (or see below). The video includes the entire process of jailbreaking and installing XBMC so it’s a good reference tool.

In summary, download and install Playon on a PC connected to your network, preferably one that’s on all the time. Open PlayOn and configure your sites in the Channels tab. Make sure the media server is running (on the General settings tab – might take 5-10 minutes). Go into XBMC on the ATV2 and connect to the PlayOn server you just set up. Kaboom! There ya go. You know have all sorts of goodies. Easy right?

I’ve been running this setup for only a day now and so far so good. No fires or bricks. Say you mess up though, and didn’t brick the device, or you don’t like the setup, just restore the factory firmware through iTunes.

Enjoy.

15 Comments:


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    [...] Apple TV and Hulu and some-more | Tech4Eleven Posted by Cory Church on Feb 28, 2011 in Blog, customizations, hardware, mac | 0 comments [...]

  • By RH 11 Mar 2011

    Where do you find the PlayOn server in XBMC?
    I have PlayOn installed and running on my computer but can not find it in XBMC on my ATV2.
    thanks in advance.

  • By RH 11 Mar 2011

    watched video again, I am just a little slow tonight, got it figured out. Great write up. It is running well now. thanks

    • By Cory Church 14 Mar 2011

      Glad you figured it out. It really is pretty simple. Although I have notice issues with PlayOn ad Amazon Video on Demand. I think it’s due to a recent change on Amazon’s side.

  • By RH 15 Mar 2011

    I was just looking under the PlayOn selection in PlayOn and it said they currently have a problem with shows not showing up for some accounts and that they would have it fixed shortly.

  • By Cory Church 15 Mar 2011

    I read something about that too. So we’ll see what happens.

  • By Jayce 17 May 2011

    Does this allow you to use airplay?

    • By Cory Church 17 May 2011

      Can you explain more? You can already use airplay with the ATV2 and a ipod, ipad, iphone – no hack needed.

  • By Cream of Beats 27 May 2011

    All this hacking looks like too much work. Need a PC running 24 hours plus a play-on subscription..all this for a $10/month hulu subscription. I think the best way is to buy a cheapo used mac mini and dedicate it to your HD tv. No hacks, no bs.

    • By Cory Church 27 May 2011

      Cream of Beats – I couldn’t agree with you more. My first choice would have been a Mac Mini – still is. I miss accessing the internet if I want to (I use to have a PC installed (http://tech4eleven.com/800/mediabox-new-interface/)). The down side here is the price. ATV2 is only $100 – that’s pretty dang nice. So this article is for those who are el cheapo, like me, and prefer to hack. Truth be told, I restored my ATV2 back to factory defaults a couple weeks after this hack. It worked great but there’s just something about that “out of the box” experience that gets me.

  • By Krisspy451 06 Jun 2011

    Do i have to have a mac to do this? i cannot for the life of me figure out how to access the terminal prompt on a pc

  • By Karma 07 Aug 2011

    I have it on my appletv 2,(HBMX) however, when I go in to each category, nothing is there. E.g., Hulu shows up, pick recent movie and nothing. It is like that for everything. HELP? Thanks in advance

  • By michnet 18 Apr 2012

    Hey
    To Karma: What is hbmx??

  • By Karma 18 Apr 2012

    Should have read XBMC. I posted that so long ago, I forgot about it. I must have been new to the scene back then. . My ATV’s are all setup the way I want them and working great!!

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