back to article Hacking the Apple TV

Apple’s Apple TV set-top box supports all the audio and video file formats that iTunes, iPods and iPhones can handle. That’s plenty for many folk, but for those who favour less mainstream formats or widespread ones that Apple’s not keen on — DivX, for one — it severely limits the value of the machine. Fortunately, once the …


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  1. Christopher Cormack

    Use Handbrake

    Don't get Elgato's Turbo.264! Handbrake is way superior to Elgato's h.264 dongle, is free and is also available for Linux and Windows (as well as OS X).

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    But what I want to do is...

    ... put the (unofficial) BBC iplayer downloader onto the AppleTV. That'll need the webkit set up but would then allow me to use a single box to download and play the programmes. I'm surprised that the BBC hasn't put its stuff onto iTunes anyway.

  3. Robert Simmons

    Resetting Volume

    I'm a developer of a plugin for the AppleTV myself, working in the AwkwardTV community. This is a bug with the current release of ATVFiles, the developer (EricIII) has posted a workaround for this. Basically go into Settings > Audio/Video and disable Volume Change, if I recall correctly (forums are down at the moment, cant give you the URL with the specifics!).

    This stops you from being able to control the system volume (using the + & - keys on the remote whilst playing music) - but also hides this annoying error. Its due to be corrected permanently on the next ATVFiles release - since ATVF 1.2 only has partial support for AppleTV OS 2.3.

  4. Jared Earle

    All well and good, but ...

    I installed Perian on an Apple TV last week and found that the CPU/GPU isn't up to playing 720p24 MKVs without stuttering. Files needed VisualHubbing into Apple TV-spec MPEG4s before they'd play smoothly.

    Sorry, but it's a deal-breaker. Apple TV vs Mac Mini? Mini wins, I'm afraid.

  5. Matthew

    As cool as ATV's are... soon as the MacMini has HDMI they'll become pointless as they don't have enough horses to play HD content in the formats folk will want.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    "as soon as the MacMini has HDMI they'll become pointless" - they are pointless now.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The MacMini Supports HDMI

    The MacMini Supports HDMI. It is called DVI. That's right. DVI and HDMI are pretty much the same thing. You just need a cable that converts DVI to HDMI - available in all electronics stores

  8. Tim Parker

    Composite hack


    Now, this is undoubtedly a by-product of our use of the composite-video output hack we applied last time. Not being C++ kernel coders, we're not sure how to get around this, but if you have a notion how it can be achieved, send us the details and we'll tell all next time.


    If you're pretty sure it's the composite hack then perhaps "don't use the composite hack" ? Still not heard any feedback on previous suggestions made about component->SCART as an output.. have you tried it yet Nick ? (or is there some reason it's not an option ?)

  9. Mectron

    a lot easy then that

    it's call Windows Vista Media center. it does not need to be hacked, it is not plagued by Apple inferior quality, it is not a prison and most important of all: It just work.

    Want HD video playbak

    Want to play ALL the video format?

    Want upgradability?

    Want HDMI? DVI? VGA? you name it!

    simple! don't buy Apple low quality inferior product! Just built yourself a Windows Vista media center box. is there is one thing that work great in Vist it is the Media Center

  10. David Mingay

    But what I want to do is...

    If you have the ATV Flash plug in (, or if you have hacked it yourself, you should download the Boxee beta as it has BBC iPlayer support (UK only)

    I've got it working and it is superb!

  11. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

    @Tim Parker

    If cheap Scart-YUV adaptors worked, there wouldn't be a market for $140 signal convertors, eg.

    The composite-video hack is a fine alternative - doubly so, since it doesn't cost a penny. Messing up screengrabs may be an issue for publishers, but it's not going to trouble anyone else.

  12. paul


    DVI != HDMI there is no audio?

    Windows Vista Media Center - doesn't that cost nearly as much as the apple TV? Doesn't it need a super computer and only stays up for 3 hours before crashing?

    Run mythtv , XBMC. Dont cost a penny and will keep running until you get a power outage.

  13. vincent himpe


    it'l keep running until you get a power outage . at which point you need to rebuilt the entire filesystem using a command prompt omly. no thanks.

    Want a media player ? get a box like Dvico's Tvix. That just works. period.

    And none of that 'fake HD'. I don't know why people think that 720 is HD.... 720 is ED ( enhanced definition ) only 1920x1080 or higher is HD.

    Now, on to something completely different. These two articles are titled 'hacking' : when does the soldering iron come out ? all i see is stupid software tricks. I would like to see 'expanding' this thing. Slap a 1.5 T harddisk on it , maybe two and RAID them ? take out the board and put it in a bigger case. How about moving to 1000 base -T. ? Make a fileserver out of it. instally dyndns so you can get to your files from anywhere int the world...

    Oh.. right its made by apple.. maybe if you are lucky you can spraypaint the case... that is if the paint doesnt peel off after a while ...

  14. Gordon Moar
    Jobs Horns

    Oh no you just dint...

    All this proves that Apple, Microsoft et al still have a way to go before they produce compelling media centers that will find homes in the living rooms of all but a masochistic fringe. Why force your customers to jump through frankly ridiculous hoops just to play content they legally own, just because the file format differs from the corporate preferred choice? Format bigotry, plain and simple.


    Ah, so you can play .FLAC and .MKV files out of the box on Vista Media Center can you? No, thought not. Windows MC is little better, if at all, than Apple TV in this respect, just a different set of hoops to jump through.

    I've all but given up trying to get my large library of FLAC files to play nice for any length of time on Vista MC and am either transcoding them to WMV Lossless or digging out the CDs and re-ripping. Doing the former makes even a bigger arse up of Media Player's tagging however. Still, there's always SP2, eh?

  15. Pete "oranges" B.


    "That's right. DVI and HDMI are pretty much the same thing."

    Yeah, evil.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Whats sad

    Is all these softwares you have to pay money for on Windows you can get Mac versions for free that will take two to three clicks, no mucking with settings to convert videos.

    Someone must at least look a what it takes to get any of this software running directly on AppleTV if it is at all possible versus shelling out money left and right for every bit of software kit you need to do things because you only have Windows running on your home PC.

  17. Jess



    Geexbox seems a far better bet to me.

  18. Jared Earle
    Thumb Down

    @vincent himpe

    Enhanced Definition? Enhanced Definition is just a fancy name for progressive scan like 480p and 576p.

    720p is HD by all definitions of the term. It uses practically the same bandwidth as 1080i for a start.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Said it before

    so I may as well say it again - the Western Digital HD TV is an ideal player for those wanting format coverage. The only bit they forgot was ethernet but I'm guessing they made it dual USB ported for cost and simplicity.

  20. Richard
    Thumb Up

    @ Gordon Moar

    Well said that man.

    And @ Mectron...

    As a long serving Windows fanboi I still fail to see the point or need for Media Centre. It pains me to say it but there it is. Every now and again I do a new install and think 'Hey, what's this? Oh, it's the same POS as last time.'

    And a question to all. I've got a mate who insists on using a Mac. It's his birthday in a few days. Would he go weak at the knees for one of those Turbo.264 jobbies? It's all Greek to me.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    @a lot easy then that

    Right. Then when you try to backup your favorite TV shows onto DVD (or a portable hard drive, or the new blu-ray burner kit), it accuses you of stealing.

    I'm planning to change my MCE box to run MythTV.

    SAY NO TO DRM!!!

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