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.

An iTunes rating box for everyone

If you’ve ever scoffed at the idea of opening up iTunes every four minutes to rate a song, [Steve] is the guy to talk to. He built a small hardware box with five illuminated buttons to rate the current song playing on iTunes.

This build comes after [Steve]’s earlier Arduino-based rating box that was functional, but didn’t have the level of polish he desired. To get to the current iteration, [Steve] designed a custom board around a PIC18F microcontroller programmed as a USB HID device. After a great deal of frustration soldering teeny SMD components, [Steve] had a functioning USB five-star iTunes rating box. With a custom acrylic case the build was finally completed.

We’re very impressed with the finished version of [Steve]’s TuneConsole, as he calls it. We can certainly imagine other people wanting a similar device. Whether that comes from releasing the schematics and boards or selling PCBs on Seeed Studio is something we’re eager to find out.

RFID playlists plus a QR code concept

Here’s another audio playback hack that uses physical tokens to choose what you’re listening to. It uses Touchatag RFID hardware to control iTunes. The concept is very similar to the standalone Arduino jukebox we saw on Wednesday except this one interfaces with your computer and the tags select entire albums instead of just one song. A shell script processes the incoming tag ID from the reader, populates a playlist with all the tracks from the associated album, then executes an AppleScript to launch that playlist. Check out the short demo after the break.

But what really caught our eye is the QR-code reader concept which [Janis] hopes to implement at some point in the future. The computer side of things doesn’t need to be changed, but we love the challenge of putting together an FPGA-based camera to recognize and decode the QR image. Looks like a perfect use for that $10 camera module and it’s FPGA driver!

Continue reading “RFID playlists plus a QR code concept”

Overbuilding an iTunes rating system

Even though iTunes and it’s song rating system has been around for over a decade now, [Steve] still hasn’t gotten around to assigning ratings to his vast library of MP3s. We can’t blame him – who wants to pull up iTunes every four minutes and assign a star rating to each song individually? To solve this interface problem, [Steve] set out to design a hardware song rating interface that fell down the rabbit hole into development hell.

The build started off simply enough – just an Arduino attached to a few buttons that sends data to a Cocoa app which rates the current song. Everything was working wonderfully until [Steve] restarted his mac and the COM ports went to pot. Wanting a ‘plug-and-play’ solution, he did away with the Arduino-based build and started designing a USB device that would display the current iTunes track and provide hardware buttons for rating the current song.

The current build is based around a very capable PIC 18F4550 micro. After looking up the USB HID protocol, [Steve] had some boards fabricated. He’s keeping us waiting on a final build report, but with the amount of work that went into this project, we’re sure it’ll be a winner.

iTunes LP: there’s a hack for that

fantasia

One of the most-hyped features of iTunes version 9 is the addition of “iTunes LP,” which aims to recreate the classic record album experience with artwork and photos, lyrics, and liner notes — provided, of course, that you can pony up the purported $10,000 for production and you’re not one of those filthy indie labels.

Almost immediately upon its release, folks set about dismantling the iTunes LP format and found that it largely consists of an unprotected combination of HTML, CSS and JavaScript files. Such information is now scattered about the web, but a new site, iTunesLP.net, is jockeying to be the one-stop shop both for LP creation tutorials and for fan-made LP downloads (sans the copyrighted music tracks — bring your own). The first LP available for download there is [Walt Disney]’s 1957 release of Fantasia, faithfully reproducing the original 24-page color program in all its politically incorrect glory. Check it out…quickly, before Apple and Disney lay the smack down.

Palm Pre iPod spoofing confirmed

palmpre

The new Palm Pre cellphone has a “media sync” feature which lets the device sync with iTunes in a fashion identical to an iPod. Last week [Jon Lech Johansen] speculated that this was not done in cooperation with Apple and that Palm was spoofing the iPod’s USB controller. This was confirmed today when a tipster sent him a screenshot of what the device reports in both standard and media sync modes. The Palm Pre reports its Product ID as iPod and Vendor ID as Apple with a few other changes. [Jon] notes that it doesn’t change the root USB node, so Apple should be able to block this behavior with an iTunes update. With Palm already pulling tricks like this presumably through software we wonder if this will become a full-on arms race.

Android hacks roundup

Our friend [Jeffrey Sharkey] hacked the iTunes remote control protocol and produced his own version for Android, one of the smartphone OSes we just covered. He pored over dumped packets for a few days and wrote a client which is of course GPL’d. Besides that, he’s been busy winning the Android Developer Challenge. His app, Compare Everywhere, was one of the top 10 winners, netting him a cool $275,000. This ingenious bit of code deciphers barcodes scanned using a cell phone camera and then finds prices for that item at every nearby store that sells it.

The other winners wrote apps that do cool things such as one-click cab ordering, locate missing children, and find parties. Check out all 50 finalists and winners here.