MythTV library on Apple TV without a jailbreak

[Dan] wrote in to share a link to his MythTv to Apple TV setup. He found a way to make the recordings he made on his Linux box available on the 2nd Generation Apple TV. Our first thought is that he would use XBMC on a jailbroken device  but that is not the case. The secret is to roll iTunes into the mix.

Take a look at the diagram above. The system starts with an Arch Linux box that runs MythTV, an open source program which allows you to record from tuner or encoder hardware. But actually watching those recordings on an iOS device is difficult for a couple of reasons. First, Apple likes to keep their devices locked up tight in hopes that you buy your entertainment rather than watching over-the-air records. Second, if you’re recording ATSC channels the files may be 1080i or 1080p, neither of which can be handled by the Apple TV 2. [Dan] gets around this by first using the command line version of Handbrake to transcode the recordings to an h264 format. He then uses iTunes running on an Windows 7 virtual machine (on the Linux box) to host the transcoded files in a library the Apple TV can access.

Comments

  1. Rob says:

    very clever!

  2. chuck says:

    Why go through all the trouble to support that crappy hardware? This isn’t even a hack, it’s a workaround.
    Something better would be like, um, say, putting XBMC on a nettop and not having to live with the hardware manufacturer lockin. Remember when we hated lockin?
    Lockin was bad when M$ was doing it, now that Apple does it we just install windows in a VM and smile?

    • psychicpsquirrel says:

      Way to go Chuck. Instead of learning something from Dan’s solution, or contributing to the discussion in a more constructive way, you jump right in with same old anti MS and Apple rhetoric we’ve all heard before.

      Even though Dan’s solution isn’t the simplest, it solves his problem with the resources he already owns. And if you actually took the time to read the linked article, you’d see there’s a reason that he chose to go this way.

      @Dan. Have you considered using aTV Flash from Firecore instead. It isn’t free, but the ui works the same as the standard ATV2 apps, and they’re regularly adding new features. I agree with you in that even though XBMC is more powerful, it’s user interface leaves a lot to be desired. There’s a reason that all these ‘locked’ consumer devices sell as well as they do.

      Why am I feeding the trolls? Fanboys and Haters are like 2 sides of the same Troll coin. The opinion of either isn’t worth 2cents.

      • Zizzle says:

        I agree with Chuck.

        People who defend corporate lockdown on a hack site? I don’t get it. Sounds like fanboyism to me.

        If MS and Apple had their way there would be no hacks. Take their locked down, non-interoperable, DRMed crap and be greatful that they don’t turn the DRM server off so your hardware becomes useless.

        We need to support the open vendors with our dollars, or before long general purpose computing will be gone and we won’t even be able to.

      • Rob says:

        No reply option available to Zizzle’s comment, so I’ll leave it here: Why make the perfect the enemy of the good?

    • Rob says:

      It sounds as if the WAF goes way up with an Apple interface, probably the CAF (Child Acceptance Factor) too. So why try to implement huge changes when a piece of hardware and some clever scripting can become an invisible middleman and everybody gets to be entertained happily?

      This isn’t necessarily a be-all/end-all solution (between generation loss on conversions and power useage for the extra hardware, this is not a free solution by any means), but the point of a hack is to meet the needs at hand with the tools at hand within the time at hand. Therefore, this is certainly a hack. It sounds like Dan was quite successful, and this project will certainly be of insipration to others faced with similar circumstances.

      So what’s the problem?

      • blujay42 says:

        You had the option to marry someone who wasn’t a complete goon, and to teach your kids how to (at least) use windows. Windows is pretty dang intuitive these days, if you hadn’t noticed.

        My dad taught me how to set up a linux box for a game server.

        It wasn’t about the game server.

        It was about learning to not be a sheep.

  3. Gdogg says:

    I don’t get why he didn’t just record, transcode, host on SMB, and let a jail broken ATV with XBMC do the rest.

  4. Mike bradley says:

    I use a western digital box, plays files from shares, thumb drive, etc… FYI, I have an apple tv box too, wd outperforms in flexibility. The only thing I use the apple box for now, is to mirror an iPad to conf room monitor.

  5. Andrew says:

    Nice!… I had XBMC back when you needed a hacked XBox (xbox 1) to run it. I still have all the fixings for it too. I’ve tried XBMC on other machines but Apple TV definitely has the UI worked out. I’ll use this workaround to get my non-apple compliant material on the tube. Thanks for posting that!

  6. blujay42 says:

    “Way to go Chuck. Instead of learning something from Dan’s solution, or contributing to the discussion in a more constructive way, you jump right in with same old anti MS and Apple rhetoric we’ve all heard before.”

    Except that in this case it’s justified. Maybe you’re a pushover, but I am not- I expect to be under the hood of all my cars and computers. This is a workaround by definition. Barely worthy of being on this site.

    “Hey look, I found a way to make something that should work natively but doesn’t because my software is restrictive play out! I’m so smart, I’m surprised I didn’t realize I could just buy from a hardware vendor that doesn’t make all it’s profit on proprietary design limitations and planned obsolescence!”

    • Tim e. Domain says:

      Ah, yes, a man of principles. :)
      You must show us how to fight the good fight, tiger.
      “marrying a woman who wasn’t a complete goon” – absolutely priceless.

      blujay42, I have bad news for you. Even as you read this, a genetically induced virus is rewiring your brain, connection by connection, neuron by neuron. It is a slow acting virus, and it probably started working on you when you turned 16. Sadly, you will likely be almost 35 before the damage is completely irreversible.

      This virus will render you you into a less effective person who can no longer understand the universe, but it will begin to cause a sort of slow paralysis resulting from being able to think more complex thoughts and accumulate both empathy and life experience.

      I urge you to fight this virus with all your might, because if you can maintain your concrete understanding of the world and your firm convictions about right and wrong after a decade or two, you may rise to become someone we all read about in the news.

      I will warn you, though – the virus is well adapted, relentless, and few can resist. I have eaten with Richard Stallman, and I assure you – even he has been profoundly affected by this virus.

      Good Luck. Also, we look forward to meeting your future wife – hopefully she too can fight the virus and help society to overcome our losing battle with intellectual malaise.

  7. Dan says:

    Heh- I guess I was expecting a little bit of a flamewar with my post.
    I appreciate that people cared enough to post :).

    With anything on this site, you can take it or leave it.

    As I mentioned in my article, my wife gave me the Apple TV2 as a gift. What do you want me to do? Tell her- no, sorry honey- this isn’t an open platform? Let’s return it. Have you done that with your spouse before? How did it work out for you?

    Again in the article I mentioned that the first thing I did was jailbreak, use XBMC with CIFS share. That worked pretty well, but it was odd going between XBMS and the Apple TV interface.

    In hindsight, I definitely would have gone with something like the WD devices, and used DLNA to stream my content. I never claimed that this was a perfect solution.

    Anyway, I saw it as a challenge to see if I could manipulate the stock hardware to get it to do what I want. I have to say I was pretty successful there.

    @ psychicpsquirrel: Thanks for the comment on the aTV software- very cool- I’d never heard of that one before!

    • cyrozap says:

      I’m kind of in the same boat as you with the whole “family member gave me an Apple TV” thing and have been wondering for a while what to do with mine. Your project looks to me like it would be a fun one to undertake and I’m seriously considering trying it!

      I can’t wait till I can finally ditch my cable provider and this will definitely help me get there!

  8. Procastin8or says:

    I can honestly say I haven’t been happy with any of the stand-alone boxes. I liked XBMC on my original Xbox better than the others I’ve tried, but no netflix support. I own a Roku and a Logitech revue and both are lacking in my opinion. I take the Roku on travel for Netflix, so that is nice. I wish it had a browser so I didn’t have to do a work-around to get it to work on Hotel Wi-Fi. I don’t really like Plex, so getting MP3’s and Movies from the PC to the living room is just awkward. I would really like either of the two I own if they just had better apps. I was really wanting to like the Apple TV, but without a JB on the Atv3, I don’t see the point. Really thinking about building a small entertainment PC (running Windows 7) so that I can get to all of the content I want access to… and of course I need to build a DVR probably running linux.

    I also want to ditch cable, but I can’t find a solution for ESPN. It’s a requirement for Football season… Other stuff I can live without if it’s not OTA.

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