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Hacking the Apple TV

Adding new file formats

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How to Access ‘Non-standard’ Files

Restart the Apple TV using the Software menu option we installed last time, and the codecs will now be available to the system and to any applications running on it. The snag is, the Apple TV’s GUI — an application in its own right — won’t show any ‘unofficial’ files you copy across.

Apple TV ATVFiles

ATVFiles on the main menu

To locate and play them, you’ll need ATVFiles, an Apple TV application that can be easily downloaded and installed using the ‘Manage 3rd Party Plug-ins’ section of the Software menu.

ATVFiles allows you to browse the your Apple TV’s folder structure using the regular remote control, a feature (understandably) absent from the standard GUI. When you find a file you want to view, pressing the OK button presents an Apple TV UI-style preview, and a second click plays the movie or song.

If you fancy installing ATVFiles manually, here’s how you go about it. Download the software from Awkward TV, here. You’ll end up with a file called ATVFiles-1.2.0.run which you need to copy over to the Apple TV then run it with the terminal command:

sudo sh ATVFiles-1.2.0.run

This will download and install the ATVFiles.frappliance plug-in with the correct ownership settings then automatically restart the Apple TV UI. When it’s running again, the main menu will now contain an entry called Files.

This allows you to navigate around the Apple TV’s file structure and play media files through QuickTime, which we’ve already augmented with Perian.

Of course, most of them won’t sync across in iTunes, but with your file-transfer app, it’s easy enough to copy a bunch of them over. If you do, you may get an odd warning:

Apple TV ATVFiles

We saw this message when we tried a couple of AVI files. The videos played just fine, even though we had to use the Apple TV remote’s Menu button to get away from the warning screen. It’s an odd glitch, and with so many factors — codec, file, ATVFiles etc — it’s hard to pin down the cause. Please let us know if you’ve found a way to avoid this.

Mac DMGs on Windows

How do you open a Mac-oriented DMG disk image file on your Windows PC? We tried EZB Systems’ Ultra ISO. Version 9 can open a DMG downloaded on a Windows machine and cope with the Mac disk format sufficiently to show you the image’s contents. You can than navigate through the folder structure to the files you want and extract them to your desktop.

Ultra ISO

For example, we used it to open Perian_1.1.3.dmg downloaded from the Perian website. We were than able to find the key perian.zip file, extract it, then used Windows Vista’s own Zip tools to access the .component folders within.

Ultra ISO costs $30, but it’s available as a free, trial release.

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Next page: More Codecs to Add

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