Getting Boxeebox root and making it useful again

boxee

When it was released just three years ago, the Boxee Box – a set-top box designed to run the Boxee HTPC environment – was a pretty cool little device. Even though it was somewhat crippled from the get-go, the Boxee Box had a lot of neat features including a remote with a QWERTY keyboard, the ability to stream media over a home network, and automatic scraping of IMDB for proper info for all your torrented media. Team Boxee recently left for Samsung, and the severs have been shut down, but that doesn’t mean your Boxee Box has outlived its usefulness. Here’s a few hacks to get your Boxee Box up and running again, sent in by [Ryan].

Last year at DEFCON 20, [GTVHacker] demonstrated two ways to get root on the original Boxee Box. The first is a software root method that runs a shell script on every boot. The second is a far more elegant hardware modification that involves cutting two traces and soldering wires to a UART adapter.

Root is fine, but what the Boxee Box really needs is an update to its media player. Boxeehack does just this and only requires a USB stick for installation. Boxeehack puts back some of the default XMBC functions that were removed from the Boxee Box, and gives anyone running this media center root.

It may be old and unsupported, but there’s still plenty of life left in the Boxee Box. They’re also pretty cheap, so if you’re looking for a small media player for your TV, you might want to think about picking one of these boxes up.

Comments

  1. I have one and am running Boxeehack. Great little player, combined with a NAS with RSS torrent support and the Netflix app and Spotify app’s it’s a great device with. But I’m open to suggestions for better alternatives?

    • Matt says:

      I’m with you on that. I am also using boxeehack but it’s leaving me desiring a bit more. Do you still get lagging issues when playing .mkv files?

      • Yeah sometimes I do but I have learned to accept it, audiosync needs some correction sometimes to. Other than that it’s great, really liking the automatic subtitle function which boxeehack adds.

        Heard about the chromecast stuff as well, but since it lacks the capability to stream stuff from my NAS it’s not a viable option for me.

        • Joe says:

          Lagging issues with mkvs? Not sure what you guys are on about. I’m using boxeebox over gigabit ethernet and I can stream bluray ISOs with no issues. mkvs give me zero problems.

          are you streaming over wireless? if so, there’s your problem, most likely. try wired. you really shouldn’t be streaming HD content on anything less than wired gigabit ethernet, or, if you don’t have a choice, Wireless-N may be good enough.

    • rob says:

      I’m loving my chromecast so far <3

  2. Culley says:

    After the hardware version was announced the software only version of Boxee started to suck. Updates became infrequent and it just fell by the wayside, I jumped ship to Plex which at the time was still a Mac only so I had to run it on a Hackintosh. I’ve since moved to Linux and Windows. Plex is far better than XBMC or Boxee for home theater use if you use multiple TVs and mobile devices since it has a central server app. If you run a single machine XBMC works great though.

    • spider says:

      You can set xbmc up as a kind of server/client. Store your movies/tv shows on a nas have the database stored on a server and point all the xbmc installs to use this remote database, all installs will then have the same database and movies

    • krit says:

      Culley XBMC and Boxee don’t have a server app because they don’t need one. They can stream media from windows shares, NFS and pretty much any network share without any server software.

  3. Kyle of the Squirrel says:

    Quickly! Shut down the severs before they bleed out!

  4. Aud1073cH says:

    I bought one of these from a second hand store for cheap. No remote, no power supply, but the forums said it will take a USB keyboard, and I hacked the tip of one wall wart onto another to get enough power (12V 2A) to find that it was bricked. It would go to the grey loading screen, and then black out. No combination of keys, or putting it in the orange light mode would fix it. -luckily I’ve got enough spare hardware sitting around to build a HTPC to run something else.

    • Squirrel says:

      I’d blame your wall supply(s). That’s just a bad way to supply enough power. Try with an old ATX supply and see if your mileage varies.

      • Squirrel says:

        Unless of course I misread what you did there (first read sounded like you took two 12V1A wall warts and tied their outputs together. Second read looks like you took the barrel plug from one and soldered it onto another). Either way, my advice still stands.

    • Patrick Lunn says:

      It might not be bricked, Are you passing through a receiver? If so, remove it from the receiver and plug directly to the TV. Use a separate cable to the receiver for sound. Some receivers do not support the boxee box HDMI signal.

  5. CJ says:

    I’m still using my BoxeeBox without boxeehack. I generally don’t have any problems with the player, and haven’t found a file using a codec it can’t handle yet. It is also still updating show lists with new shows, so I thought they must still have some servers running. The only consistent issue I’ve had is with flash video getting messed up by the ads on some websites (cbc.ca in particular). I guess sometimes the player will lock up if I skip around a video too much.

    I’m continually worried that support for it will just completely disappear at some point and the show and app databases will stop working, so I’ve been keeping a close eye on alternatives, like XBMC on the OUYA.

    What problems were you guys seeing that Boxeehack fixes? I’d hate to fix something that ain’t broke!

    • Robert Orris says:

      You really don’t have to worry about the app servers going down. I wrote the Boxee IGN app, I can tell you the important files arent hosted off of boxee’s servers its hosted by the people who created the apps mostly. Besides if the boxee repository goes down you can always just join or make another app repository and be set forever.

      • CJ says:

        Yeah that makes sense for the app repository.

        What about the list of available TV shows (like something/someone keeps track of what shows are playable off various websites, and Boxee shows you that list) and “box art” – like the images it shows for a show or a movie once it has been identified?

    • noonevac says:

      i too still use the original Boxee without any problems. I have xbmc running on several tv’s in the bedrooms but i use Boxee in the living room. i haven’t had any real trouble with it at all. use it for movies off my main server and netflix.

    • Joe says:

      the only real issue i have with the device is the web browser. it just doesn’t get along with most flash video players. everything else works fine.

  6. Vonskippy says:

    Maybe if they would have used a standard case, the whole project wouldn’t have tanked. Who wants some wonky slanted box case goofing up their whole AV stack.

  7. I was thinking about buying one of these recently as my Raspberry Pi is good running XBMC but doesn’t do Netflix and is kinda laggy in the menus…. So despite talk of Boxee’s ‘servers’ being shut down, does it all still work as it would have when they were up? I don’t really get what the servers part is about….

    • Galane says:

      Yup. Sure sign of something not quite right with a product is when they design some wonky case that can only be stacked as the very top item in a pile of AV gear.

      Oh, wait, that’s only every game console ever made going back to the original Magnavox Odyssey. ;-) Bunch of self-aggrandizing… They’ve never played well with others, have they?

  8. Mike Frame says:

    Check out boxeeplus, much easier and includes the improvements. http://boxeeplus.com/

  9. Frito_B says:

    My Boxee gets stuck on the grey loading screen. I have tried every trick to revive it with no success. I cannot get in to any screens, just the loading… screen.

    I was wondering if the hardware method of rooting could correct my problem, by bypassing the native flash which appears to be corrupt.

    If so, can anyone explain the hardware method with more detail than ….

    “Scrape the two vias labeled in the picture below, solder wires to a UART adapter (TX/RX). Ground to any ground point. Once the box boots, it will drop you to a root shell. ”

    I assume I plug a USB drive (with the OS or root shell installed) into the UART adapter (although the UART adapters that I found online appear to be for male USBs).

    A little over my head, but nothing to lose.

    Thanks

  10. Frito_B says:

    There are pictures here, not sure where the ground terminal is tho:

    http://www.gtvhacker.com/index.php/Boxee

    I need some more details:
    I’m assuming you use a USB cable soldered to the board?
    Plug the male end into your PC?
    How do you run a serial terminal program, is there a recommended one?
    Should the boxee be on or off when you run the program.

    Thanks for the help!

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