How to Install XBMC on Apple TV 2
The excellent media center software XBMC has finally come to Apple TV 2, but beyond being a great media center, if you’re wondering why else you should care I’ll sum it up in one word: 1080p. Yes, using XBMC, you can unleash 1080p video playback on the $99 Apple TV2… the playback suffers from occasional choppiness on uncompressed bluray video, but hey it’s the first release, and could make the ATV2 the cheapest 1080p video playback device on the market.
You’ll need the following to get started:
- Apple TV 2 (Amazon link) running iOS 4.1, iOS 4.2.1, or later
- Seas0npass to jailbreak the Apple TV 2 (Instructions to jailbreak are below)
- A micro-USB cable (this is used for the jailbreak and tethered boot)
- The IP address of your AppleTV
We’ll now walk through the process of both jailbreaking the AppleTV2 and installing XBMC:
Jailbreaking the Apple TV2
The first thing you’ll need to do is to jailbreak your Apple TV, this is made remarkably easy with Seas0nPass, which is arguably one of the easiest jailbreak apps out there for any iOS hardware. If you’re familiar with the process of jailbreaking an iPhone this will be very familiar to you, here’s a quick overview:
- Download and launch Seas0nPass (Direct Download link)
- Click on the “Create IPSW” button, this will download and create a custom jailbroken IPSW file
- You’ll now want to connect the Apple TV to your computer using a Micro USB cable, and then put the AppleTV into DFU mode (follow instructions on the screen for this)
- Once in DFU, iTunes will launch and start to restore the Apple TV with the custom IPSW Seas0nPass created, this is how the jailbreak is actually installed
- After the AppleTV is jailbroken, you’ll need to disconnect it from your computer briefly and then perform what is called a tethered boot. This basically just means you have to assist the bootloader by connecting it to your computer and using Seas0nPass again, but this time selecting ‘Boot Tethered’ from the menu
- Follow the instructions to tethered boot your newly jailbroken AppleTV
Now that your Apple TV2 is jailbroken, you can install the XBMC software onto it.
Install XBMC on the AppleTV 2
Installing XBMC is just a matter of using SSH to connect to the newly jailbroken ATV2 to download and install the software. Here are the instructions from the XBMC team:
ssh firstname.lastname@example.org (fill in your own ATV IP address)
When prompted for your password, enter ‘alpine’ if you haven’t changed it. Now you’ll want to install the XBMC software, execute each of these commands independently:
echo "deb http://mirrors.xbmc.org/apt/atv2 ./" > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/xbmc.list
Next use apt-get:
And finally, install the software:
apt-get install org.xbmc.xbmc-atv2
When XBMC has completed installing, your AppleTV’s built-in media manager FrontRow will restart itself and you will see XBMC in the list of options, just select it to launch XBMC.
I haven’t had the chance to try this out myself yet, but apparently XBMC runs quite well. 720p video runs beautifully as expected, but some uncompressed 1080p videos have occasional stuttering and choppiness as you can see in the video below from Engadget. It’s possible that the stuttering may be resolved with future software updates that better optimize hardware acceleration:
If you don’t have an Apple TV you can still setup a media center on any Mac by using Plex or XBMC. It’s simple, just download the software, grab an HDMI adapter and AUX cable, and your Mac is now a media center.
Oh and while we’re on the topic of XBMC, perhaps less useful but still interesting is that it was also just released for iPhone and iPad. This too requires a jailbreak, and the XBMC app can be found via Cydia.