Jan 31 2013

Review: Jailbroken Apple TV 2

*** Update March 28, 2014: There is no jailbreak available for the Apple TV 3 and it is very likely that there will never be one. ***

As of writing, there is no jailbreak available for the newest Apple TV 3, so if you would like to enjoy more services than Apple has to offer, you need to buy a second-hand Apple TV 2. In Europe, you can find one from the German and UK eBay and Amazon but the price may not please you, they are sold for 200-250 € apiece. There is a huge demand for the devices and there are very few sellers, hence the harsh price tag. In this review, I will write more details as I use my Apple TV 2 daily so please come back later to see more.

Jailbreaking iOS 5.2 (Old Downgrade Method)

On the very same day I bought my second-hand Apple TV 2, Apple released a new version of the iOS, 5.2. As I reset the device it said that it will also install a newer version of the operating system. iOS 5.1.1 was the last version to be jailbroken surely at the time. I was really anxious to know if I had ruined the possibility of a successful jailbreak or could it still be possible.

There are many great tutorials (for example here and here) about how to do the jailbreaking, so I will not cover the details here. To get my Apple TV into DFU mode, I had to first connect the power cord and then quickly the micro-USB cable and then press Menu + Play/Pause on the remote for 7 seconds. My first attempt failed as the iTunes phase refused to to the software restore. iTunes simply told me that it could not complete the restore process. I then shut down seas0npass and started it again and then it asked me if I wanted it to check any updates. I selected “Yes” and it updated itself. After updating, the jailbreaking process was quite different than in the previous attempt. Now it uploaded a couple of software packages into the Apple TV and then started to jailbreak via iTunes. It seemed to take forever as it installed and verified, back and forth. It probably took about 15 minutes to complete but in the end it again said that iTunes could not restore the software and it gave me an error code. I decided to connect it to my TV and see what had happened and lo behold it was successfully jailbroken! And the system menu displayed 5.0.2 version of iOS.

Jailbreaking iOS 5.2 (With Seas0npass 0.8.9)

It did not take long before the Firecore team released an updated Seas0npass 0.8.9 which supports the new iOS 5.2. I wanted to update to the newer iOS because in Europe you need to have at least 5.2 to be able to view NBA. I encountered a nasty error with the Seas0npass when it patched the filesystem: “Filesystem patches failed”. I googled and tried multiple tips on various forums but I had no success. Then I discovered a post in Firecore forum that said you should replace a file under Seas0npass.app directory with a fixed one. That helped. Again it took about 15 minutes to complete and it seemed to hang after the first error message that iTunes could not connect to the device. I was about to unplug my Apple TV and start over when it suddenly resumed. In the end it gave me another error that iTunes could not recover the software. However it worked just fine again!

aTV Flash (Black)

aTV Flash (Black) is a software installer package made by the same team that has developed seas0npass enabled jailbreaking. It allows to install many additional third-party applications including XBMC and nitoTV. XBMC and nitoTV themselves enable installing more software. Here is a nice review of the aTV Flash. The “(Black)” means that it does not for with the first generation silver-colored Apple TV. However there is a different version of aTV Flash available for the first gen Apple TV.

You will get download links to the software (Windows + Mac) after purchasing aTV Flash. Installing really is a no-brainer as it displays Apple TV devices and their IP addresses in your home network. Just select the correct one (if you have many) and select install. It will push the necessary software into the Apple TV and restart the device. That is it, it could not be easier. The installation adds one more icon to the home menu: Configuration. There you can install/uninstall different third-party software by simply clicking them on the list. Amazing!

Play ISO Files From a NAS

I have had a habit of making a backup of every DVD that I have bought for my kids. I put the backup disc to the case and the original to a safe place. That way the kids may handle the discs themselves and it does not matter if they drop/scratch them; I can always burn them another copy in a few minutes as I have saved the ISO files to my Synology NAS.

One of the reasons why I wanted to jailbreak my ATV2 was to be able to stream DVD ISO files straight off my NAS. XBMC can do this but so can the Media Player that comes with the aTV Flash package. You can add sources via Samba, NFS or Apple’s own AFP. Just add the video directory from your NAS as a source and the Media Player will scan its contents and get cover photos and movie synopsis for the movies. It is really amazing! The scanning takes a lot of time if you have many files so I left it running overnight.

NBA TV Missing with iOS 5.0.2

When the jailbreaking process downgraded iOS from 5.2 to 5.0.2, I noticed one unfortunate detail: the NBA TV app had disappeared! I think that this happened because 5.0.2 version did not have it preinstalled – at least in Finland. It appeared automatically in the app grid during the fall of 2012. I thought that it might reappear over time but as of writing it has not. Maybe I’ll get it back when I apply iOS 6.1 jailbreak when it is released. Actually I did.

NBA TV with iOS 5.2

I was very pleased to see NBA TV on the app grid. I had a couple of errors when trying to sign in with my season pass. The first error came when I entered my initials. It seemed to get stuck with a black screen. After a while it said “Exception: parseXML null”. This was because I had not entered my detail in Settings → iTunes. The second error just said that it was unable to sign in. After googling I realized that you can only have five devices connected to your account. You can check your devices in watch.nba.com, I had full five. Now, there was a bug that after removing my unwanted devices, the list still showed the old ones too. When I opened up the page with another browser it was fine. Now I was able to sign in.

More to Come…


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