Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Pleasures of Hacking the Apple TV

The Pleasures of Hacking the Apple TV
Cyrus Farivar, PC World Fri Mar 30, 9:00 PM ET
It's been barely a week since the release of the Apple TV, the new box from Apple that allows for streaming video to a television, but hackers from coast-to-coast have already been able to turn the $300 multimedia box into a full-fledged computer.


The Apple TV comes with a stripped-down version of Apple's OS X, but retains many of its basic features, such as directory structure and file format.

Hacking the Apple TV is the latest in a series of hardware hacks on multimedia devices, including the: XBox 360 and the TiVo. Each time, hackers hope to extend functionality of the device beyond its original intent.

TIn just over a week, hackers have been able to upgrade the Apple TV's 40GB hard drive (derided by many as being too small for any serious media collection) and enable secure shell access (SSH) to the machine, among other things. Most recently, and the most practical hack so far to date (announced on March 29) is to enable the USB port, which had been disabled by Apple in software.

Complete Instructions
One of the first people to detail a set of complete instructions for upgrading the Apple TV's hard drive was Ben Drawbaugh of Tampa, Fla., a contributing editor at the popular tech blog Engadget. PC World's sister publication, Macworld, also has a well-illustrated how-to.

"Once I got the thing apart, I plugged it into my Mac and I realized that it was basically another Mac hard drive and I could recognize most of the partitions," he said.

By the end of the day on March 23, Drawbaugh had detailed precise step-by-step instructions as to how to copy the operating system to a local machine, which then allowed him to format the drive and then recopy the data to a larger disk.

The next step after upgrading the drive that many Apple TV fans are doing is enabling secure shell access. SSH, as it is commonly known, is a method by which it is possible to execute instructions on a remote machine over a network.

Enabling SSH is important because Apple made it difficult to interact with the Apple TV with a keyboard and mouse. As such, SSH circumvents this roadblock and enables power administrator-level access.

A pair of hackers from the Web site forums on SomethingAwful.com are generally credited with being the first ones to figure out how to enable SSH on the Apple TV. They announced their find on March 23.

One of them, Daniel Weatherford, a 20-year-old software engineer in Palo Alto, Calif., who goes by the online handle "Sabretooth," said he found installing SSH to be surprisingly easy. He used Dropbear, an open-source SSH server.

"We actually first were going to enable the built-in Mac OS sshd [SSH Daemon], but it wasn't on the drive, so that was the second choice," he said. "We probably could've just copied over the proper files for sshd, but this was easier, since Dropbear is a single statically-linked binary that requires no extra configuration files."

SSH comes standard on every Mac, but Windows users can easily download it.

It's Really an Intel Mac
Given that the Apple TV is, at its core, an Intel Mac capable of running Windows software via virtualization software like Parallels, it may also soon be possible to run Windows applications directly on the Apple TV, and/or to access Windows network volumes directly.

With SSH out of the way, it was a simple matter of time before various applications ranging from the practical (Firefox), to the impractical (World of Warcraft) were confirmed to run on the Apple TV.

Nick Ippolito, an 18-year-old who lives outside Washington, D.C. and goes by the online handle "ipp," wrote up one of the first complete guides to enable SSH and virtual network control (VNC), which allows for users on another computer on the same local network to gain complete access of the machine.

However, Ippolito made one interesting discovery by accident.

On the morning of March 29, he and some others from TutorialNinjas.net who had been modding their Apple TVs discovered that they were unable to SSH into their boxes as they had been previously.

Gritty Details
He posted: "Several of us over in the Awkward TV IRC(l0rdr0ck, myself, and others) have had our Mod'd Apple TV's played with over night(SSH/VNC disabled), our guess is apple has started to fight back the mod'd Apple TV's. This is a warning to all of you to block your Apple TV from the internet by going into your routers settings and denying it internet access!"

Ippolito later said that it seemed more likely that there was some sort of internal script running on Apple TV that was designed to clean up unauthorized changes made to the box.

"[The Apple TV] told itself to execute a file repair script or change the permissions," he said. "We're not saying Apple did it but it's weird that all five of us had it happen at the same time. I had to take the hard drive back out and fix the permissions [to regain control]."

Apple did not return repeated requests for comment by phone or e-mail.

Just for Fun
For now, there aren't very many tangible benefits (as of yet) to hacking the Apple TV. But that hasn't stopped Drawbaugh, who is currently working on a way to hack the Apple TV without opening up the case and taking out the hard drive.

"Hacks don't have to be practical, they have to be enjoyable," he said.

Read PC World's and Macworld's reviews of the Apple TV. PC World also has a video review, and Macworld has posted a very useful Apple TV FAQ, as well as a long look at hacking the Apple TV.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Adobe Launches CS3 Creative Suite 3 for Intel Based Macs! WhooHoo!

Adobe Creative Suite CS3
Creative Suite 3 Design Premium. Deliver innovative ideas in print, web, and mobile design! Order Now!

A lot of Mac users and a lot of Windows users who have been waiting to switch over to Mac on the new Intel based ProMacs have been waiting for Adobe to launch CS3. The good news is it's finally out!

I am currently a CS3 Photoshop Beta user, and I can say that this is one of the best upgrades ever! In CS3 you have fully integrated RAW 32 bit image support and support for other 32bit formats like HDR, Open EXR and more! It has an improved heal brush which is fantastic and many other great new features and enhancements.

I strongly advice upgrading!

For web developers, the Dreamweaver upgrade is also a must have.

Dreamweaver Creative Suite 3. Design, develop, and maintain standard-based websites. Order Now!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Apple May Introduce Laptops That Store Data on Chips

Apple May Introduce Laptops That Store Data on Chips

By Kevin Cho

March 8 (Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc., maker of the iPod music players and Macintosh personal computers, may introduce a new laptop this year that will save data on flash memory chips instead of a hard drive, American Technology Research said.

``Our sources indicate that Apple would like to introduce the product in the second half to further capitalize on its strong MacBook growth,'' Shaw Wu, a San Francisco-based analyst at American Technology Research, wrote in a report dated March 7.

The release date of Apple's lighter and smaller notebook personal computer may depend on how much prices of NAND flash memory chips decline as they are still seven-to-eight times more expensive than hard-disk drives, Wu wrote. Alan Hely, a spokesman for Apple in London, declined to confirm or deny the report, citing company policy not to discuss rumors or speculation.

Samsung Electronics Co. and other chipmakers in the $12 billion NAND flash market are counting on laptops to help fuel future growth of the chips, which have already replaced hard drives as the most common type of storage device in portable music players. Sales of chip-based storage in PCs may surge eightfold in the latter half of the decade, according to Samsung.

``It would be positive for flash memory makers in that new demand can be created from diversified applications,'' said James Song, an analyst at Good Morning Shinhan Securities Co. in Seoul.

Shares of Samsung, the world's largest maker of NAND flash memory, rose 0.7 percent in Seoul. Toshiba Corp., the second largest, rose 5 percent in Tokyo, where the company is based.

Slimmer Products

Semiconductors are smaller than hard drives, allowing electronics makers to design slimmer products. They also process data faster and consume less energy. In 2005, Cupertino, California-based Apple used NAND flash chips to make the iPod Nano, reducing the size of the company's flagship music player by 80 percent.

Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung said in March last year it built the world's first laptop that saves files on flash. It said then that the market for chip-based storage in computers will rise to $4.5 billion by the end of the decade, from $538 million in 2006.

New demand may help ease a glut of the chips that's been driving down prices. Spot prices of the 4-gigabit NAND chip have fallen 38 percent this year after slumping 76 percent in 2005, according to Taiwan-based Dramexchange.com, Asia's biggest spot market for chips.

Still, demand growth for flash memory will increase 152 percent this year, outpacing the growth in supply, according to estimates by Merrill Lynch & Co. earlier this month.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kevin Cho in Seoul at kcho2@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: March 8, 2007 04:04 EST

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Go Beyond Vista - It's Time to Buy a Mac!

Apple Store

Monday, March 5, 2007

Google CEO discounts mergers, sees more Apple ties

Google CEO discounts mergers, sees more Apple ties

(Adds CEO comments on mergers, growing Apple ties, byline)

By Eric Auchard

SAN FRANCISCO, March 5 (Reuters) - Google Inc. (GOOG.O: Quote, Profile, Research) is spinning off mounds of cash from operations, but Chief Executive Eric Schmidt appeared to rule out seeking big mergers or making other dramatic changes in how the company uses cash.

Speaking to investors at the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference, Schmidt also said discussion of mergers with with other major Internet players was premature as the Web advertising industry remains in its early stages of growth.

He signaled that Google, the world's dominant Web search provider, is working more closely with Apple Inc. (AAPL.O: Quote, Profile, Research), the pace setter in the consumer electronics world. The Google chief executive joined the board of directors of Apple last year.

Schmidt was asked by an investor to comment on rumors Google could be developing an Internet communications device to compete with Apple's highly anticipated iPhone, which blends phone, computer and Internet features in one device.

"I don't want to comment on rumors," he said, then added: "I will tell you that Google and Apple are doing more and more things together through the normal course of communications ... We have similar goals and similar competitors." Continued...

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