Practical Technology

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Calling Apple TV Hackers


Hardware hackers, as tracked on the Apple TV Hacks site have been having a grand old time working on the Apple TV. But, one accomplishment has been eluding them: getting an Apple TV to use an external USB drive for storage.

On April 8th, Apple TV Hacks, together with, a site devoted to tracking online sales, teamed up to offer a $1,000 bounty for the first team to get an Apple TV to use an external USB drive. Since then, programmers have managed to do bits and pieces of the hack, but no one has managed to put it all together yet for the $1,000 prize.

Part of the difficulty seems to be in the rules, which make it clear that this hack must be an addition to an otherwise unmodified Apple TV. So, such obvious first steps to an answer such as simply getting the Apple TV to boot into a full Mac OS and addressing the USB port from there are not allowed.

For those who don’t know, by the way, semthex from pulled off getting an Apple TV to boot into Mac OS X several weeks ago. A complete do it yourself guide is available on Apple TV Hacks.

The rules require the winner to submit a verified process and patch, which follows these rules:

* Patch must allow a USB hard drive, plugged into the Apple TV’s USB port to act as the default and primary storage for the Apple TV.

* The Apple TV must still boot from the internal drive and cannot use a complete replacement OS (the kernel may be patched, and additional kexts added).

* Patch must allow the media to be accessed as it would be were the internal drive being used (i.e. if you couldn’t see there was a USB drive attached you wouldn’t know).

* Patch must be able to be applied without opening the case.

* Patch must be able to be removed (and the Apple TV to original configuration) without opening the case.

* No commercial files can be used asides from those found on the Apple TV or Mac OS X Intel. All others must be freely and legally distributable.

* The process cannot have been previously published, or demonstrated / distributed publicly.

* Judges decision is final.

Think you can pull it off? Send your entry to:, with the subject “USB Bounty.”

Besides the thousand bucks, you’ll also make tens of thousands of Apple TV fans happy. As I said before, the Apple TV’s network performance makes it possible to stream remote movies to a television quite nicely , but there is something more than a little tempting about the idea of having say a LaCie 1 TB Big Disk with one terabyte of videos sitting next to my Apple TV.

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