Five Pounds of Flax

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I just patched my AppleTV via USB boot

Wednesday, July 04, 2007posted by Michael Rothwell @ 1:43 PM

I just booted my AppleTV from a USB flash drive and altered its configuration. I followed the instructions on the AwkwardTV wiki.

Under the AwkwardTV menu item, there's several options, including "install plugins" and "enable SSH server". I did both.

One of the plugins allows the "Backrow" media player to read files from the filesystem, rather than the iTunes database. That and Perian combined are very useful.

To ensure the NFS mount worked on boot, I sshed in, copied mount_nfs from my Macbook Pro into /sbin on the AppleTV, and created an /etc/rc.local (as follows)

/sbin/mount_nfs -a 8 -obg,rsize=8192,ro SERVER_IP:/export/movies /Users/frontrow/Movies/NAS

The NitoTV plugin advertises that it can play VIDEO_TS folders (DVDs), complete with menus. However, it doesn't work very well. I got it to play Lilo and Stitch from the NFS server, but the menu didn't play right; it started in the wrong place, and the overlay graphics were not drawn correctly. NitoTV wouldn't play anything but the sound on subsequent attempts. I would be nice to be able to play VIDEO_TS folders directly, without transcoding to MP4, as it would save time and ensure the highest possible quality (although at the cost of disk space).

I intend to keep transcoding things to MP4 with handbrake, tagging them with Atomic Parsley, and using iTunes to serve them. The advantages of this approach are:
  • Chapter markers are usable from the AppleTV
  • Metadata in the MP4s is viewable in the AppleTV interface (box art, plot, actors, etc).
Still, the AwkwardTV plugins provide a way to deal with "legacy media" -- AVIs of TV shows, for example -- so they are useful.