Sony Google TV devices running unsigned kernels

The proud cry of “I am root” rings true once again, this time on Sony Google TV devices. Although a low-level exploit was found on previous firmware versions, a downgrade process lets you run unsigned kernels on updated TV or Bluray models of the Internet streaming devices.

These systems are Android-based, which currently run version 3.1 Honeycomb. This version patches the previous exploit, but with three different USB sticks you can downgrade, exploit, and upgrade to an altered and unsigned hack of the most recent kernel. This gives you the root access you may have been longing for, but other than the features discussed in the forum thread there’s not a whole lot of changes rolled into the exploit yet.

We’re always looking out for open source projects running on living-room devices and hope that someday we’ll see a branch of XBMC for the GTV. Until then we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed for the viability of a RaspberryPI XBMC.

Comments

  1. Hackerspacer says:

    Can somebody fill me in as to why this is useful? Android is a reasonable OS but it isn’t as flexible as, say, Debian or even Windows.

    So you can root these GTV’s – which is nice – but then what? You have an ecosystem of apps that are available but what is the advantage of apps over an evolved ecosystem of programs?

    Last I checked, even VLC wasn’t available on Android or if it was, it was very, very alpha.

  2. CrashSerious says:

    It’s clearly about running what you want on the hardware you purchased, Hackerspacer.

    You are assuming, I think, that if it doesn’t run linux (or in your words “or even windows”) it’s not useful. This is an innaccurate assumption. Many times the “evolved echosystem” you are locked into is the one that the TV manufacturer creates, which is not the entire android market and certainly doesn’t allow you to develop your own software for it.

    Essentially, this is something a hacker in the ruest sense of the word would enjoy. The fact that it’s a Sony TV that was Hacked; well– that’s a nice bonus now, isn’t it? ;-)

    • Hackerspacer says:

      Oh the irony of it being Sony hardware was not lost on me.

      I am not assuming though that linux or windows is the only hardware/software ecosystem that matters. What I am getting at though is for the general end user who doesn’t do much or any software development – how is this useful to them?

      For example, the XBMC became useful once you could run linux on it. Because then people developed an entire front end for it with the specific purpose of using it as a frontend.

      How exactly does this become MORE useful if it can “only” run Android vs a more mature ecosystem of software, such as linux or windows? Yes, it is useful that you can run your own software rather than vendor locked software but big picture – how is that BETTER than a mature OS?

      I guess it comes down to why are people so excited about iOS and Android? I would rather run linux – maybe I just don’t understand it well enough to make an informed decision.

      • Volfram says:

        You seem to be assuming that either Android devices are not worth hacking, or that these TVs are not already running Android. Neither is true. They’re running a locked-down version of Android when they leave the factory.

        This exploit may allow you to install Linux on them.

      • Hackerspacer says:

        Android is worth hacking – just root it so you can run your own software.

        These run Android, this method allows you to root them. I get that. But in the end you still have Android, right? My point is that I would rather run Linux over Android. Since these are probably ARM based, that becomes slightly more difficult but maybe I am missing something here? It would be nice to run i386 or x64 Linux if for no other reason than the vast software already available.

      • Volfram says:

        If you understand that the TV already runs Android, and you agree that hacking Android isn’t a waste of time, what’s your problem? If you’d rather have something running Linux, buy something else. As-is, you’re coming off as pedantic and Linux-elitist.

      • pockpock says:

        I don’t get this. I know it was quite a long time ago but isn’t android based on linux? Missing drivers aside wouldn’t it be as complex building an existing application for linux as it would be building it for android?

        Most libraries was written with a desktop PC in mind and wouldn’t run on an embedded device – is this your point? If so you should complain about ARM-processors beeing used (not android), although I would disagree with you. Most TVs already has connectors to connect your desktop PCs and I use those quite often. An embedded microprocessor would save me power cost and time getting up to set up the connection.

        Besides using linux on a device isn’t equal to usefulness of a device. E.g: You could run linux on a Wii and still it was easier for the most Wii-developers to port the applications for the Wii-native “OS” (it’s just a bunch of functions). I think you could directly apply that situation to this TV.

  3. supershwa says:

    Awesome. I have one of these babies in my living room – time to void another warranty. :)

  4. supershwa says:

    To follow up with some of the “why would I do this” questions:

    1. One of the issues with Sony Google TVs is they don’t have support for NTFS (only FAT32). This sucks when you want to plug in a USB drive you’ve already loaded up using a computer.

    I haven’t tried it yet, but according to the thread mentioned in the article using this root hack you can add support for NTFS.

    2. Also, the damn TV doesn’t support MKV files – I’ve tried a couple of Media Server hacks to get this working through a server on the LAN, and while it works on the PS3, it won’t work on the TV.

    I’d imagine someone’s going to add MKV support to the filesystem via a hack if VLC doesn’t do it first.

    • supershwa says:

      *further note: MKV files are not supported via a media server OR the native filesystem via USB

    • Redleader36 says:

      Not sure it will support MKV’s but give GTVBox a try. It allows me to play much more than the stock media player.

      Its available from the dev for free on the forums somewhere…

    • ewookie says:

      i am assuming that after rooting the device one could install off-market apps or alternative market apps (like slideme). i would be interested in installing old console emulators…but…what options would i have for a controller?

    • pliers says:

      NTFS shouldn’t be used on portable storage for a good reason, NTFS files and folders retain security permissions when moved to a container on the same volume but take on the security permissions of a new container when moving to a different device, but the CREATOR/OWNER remains the same… this can have consequences depending on the destination containers security settings… meaning you could end up being locked out, or have a file you cant open or delete, or at least end up with a files owner being represented by a ‘bare SID’ ( unknown user) . this isnt a problem for windows ‘pro’ OS’s as its simple and easy to change ownership of the file, if your
      a member of admins or have inherited the take ownership permission, but exporting to a ‘home’OS can be tricky as they tend to omit the security tab.. fat32 does not suffer this issue as ownership as it has no concept of file ownership or ntfs permissions they are lost when imported onto a fat32 device, and exporting from fat32 takes on the logged in user as the owner and the files aquires its permissions from the ntfs container to which it is placed like everything on any system everything is owned by some entity… the only real issue with fat32 on portable storage, besides appearing to be slower is the max file size of 4gb per file

      hope you find this useful……

  5. S says:

    The best root exploit for Sony products is to not buy them and to discourage others to buy Sony.

    Although is understandable that for a hacker mind is irresitible to hack them when given for free.

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