Samsung TV Firmware Hacking


[Erdem] is leading up the efforts to reverse engineer Samsung TV firmware with a project called SamyGo. Official Samsung firmware uses the Linux kernel, making it a familiar system to work with for many developers. So far they’ve implemented NFS and SAMBA for sharing files over the network, improved playback from USB devices, and unlocked the ability to use non-Samsung WiFi dongles.

In order to make changes to the system, you need to enable a telnet connection on the device. The SamyGo team accomplished this by changing an official version of the firmware in a hex editor to start the telnet daemon at boot time. This altered firmware is then flashed using Samsung’s built in upgrade system. Once telnet is enabled, non-official firmware can be manually flashed.

We’d love to see this project expand to other TV Brands in the future. In fact, we were looking for something like this back in June when we realized that our Sony Bravia runs a Linux kernel and can be updated via USB drive.  Be careful if you want to try this out. We can only imagine the fallout after telling your significant other that you bricked a high-priced LCD.

80 thoughts on “Samsung TV Firmware Hacking

  1. I don’t know if the arm chip is up to it but how cool would it be if someone could port the mythtv frontend to this? You could have a backend computer somewhere with your tuners and hdd and then you wouldn’t even need a computer for the frontend.

  2. “D’oh, got beat out mentioning mythtv by only 2 minutes!”

    Which only serves to prove your point:

    “I am sure the thought crosses the mind of many of us reading this”


    My question is, can you play Doom on it?

  3. Ok, ok… Re: Zeecue…

    As a mythtv user w/several other media players collecting dust. I have got to say – native mythtv play back is very much worth it!

    From my experience, nothing else comes close to a real mythtv front end. Not UPNP, not VLC, not even videos loaded directly on the HDD of some of these media boxes. I know, I have some of those media boxes.

    This hack is really interesting – however, I see trying to understand the video hardware as being an almost insurmountable challenge. Mythtv uses a lot of graphic overlay. If you can’t stick the menus and overlays onto the screen (in some cases on top of the video) it will make for an intolerable experience.

    Of course if, by some stroke of luck, they used a common video chip set, it could all just fall into place. That would be awesome. Having put off buying a new TV – I would then have to seriously consider a Samsung.

  4. To clarify my above statement: This is bad for OSS. A major vendor moves to OSS and their product is revered. Any chances of profit margins through extended product lines is shot down. Trust me when I say there engineers and marketing pukes see it the same way I do. Other major vendors are going to take this into consideration.

  5. (reversed* + their* = troll proofing)

    Never mind, I’m probably baiting, but if you work at one of these companies you know how influential this will be; design is dictated by marketing/profits.

  6. It’s unlikely that the few people willing to risk bricking their TV is going to be be a significant segment of the population. It’s also unlikely to influence any of the “general public” buying one of these TVs.

    Your more likely to hear news stories about them refusing to honour warantees for people who’ve put 3rd party firmware on it.

  7. You should go read it and try again. Vendors= manufacturers…not end users.

    This will effect vendors decisions to go with open source implementations. How many proprietary firmware units do you see this being done to anywhere?

    You should of corrected “be be” and went and mocked someone closer to your own level of intelligence. Which is needless to say(given the noob-troll way you used my name and failed at patronising me) far below mine.

  8. It sounds to me like others are more likely to BUY the product because it may open other possibilities. The normal home user isn’t going to try to enable telnet and flash firmware on a new TV. Samsung will more than likely MAKE money because hobbyists and hackers may be able to delve into the inner workings of a TV they wouldn’t have bought if it weren’t for a glimmer of hacking the box. This is exactly why OSS can and does work.

  9. LG tv’s are running linux too, I’d just be too scared to play around with my 40 odd inch tv just for streaming medai when my ps3’s plugged in and running to a media server too.

  10. I hope I’m not totally offtopic here. I have an European Sony KDL-32V5500. It’s quite limited compared to its Japanese (as I know, they have a full web browser) and American (many Yahoo! widgets) brothers, and I guess their (I mean the actual Bravia line’s) cores must be the same, probably ARM based.

    Are there some hackers working on this firmware too? I have several decades of software hacking (currently I do this for living) and assembly coding (including ARMs) background. Maybe I could join a project, but so far the firmware is too crippled for me (heavily encoded chaos without headers and footers).

    I figured out these Bravias run special MontaVista Linuxes, firmwares are available here: parts of the sources (the GPL-ed libs) are available here: Unfortunately my TV isn’t listed on the second one yet.

  11. Has bricking the thing been proven to some extent? The claim that Linux (or FOSS) enables that is a bit trollish, and I expect unwarranted, certainly in this decade when the Mars Explorer has been ‘bricked’ and recovered in a public way especially visible to EEs.

  12. mythtv frontend? Why? I’d rather havea GOOD media center frontend like XBMC. Mythtv SUCKS horribly at media playback. It’s a great DVR, something that is impossible in a TV as it wont have tuner cards and storage.

    Put XBMC in there, unfortunately most TV hardware does NOT have the horsepower to playback HD content or even decent quality SD content, nor enough storage to put in anything significant. The hacking is light playing at best, Boot a kernel from a 2 gig sd card and actually gain access to the data streams then I’ll be impressed.

    but 90% of the tv functions are NOT linux controlled. the Linux kernel is for the photo playback and very limited media playback. None have the ability to even playback a xvid 720p video file.

  13. I believe the MARS explore was running VXWorks, not Linux. But I see your point – remote bricking and unbricking. Let me just say – they were lucky as all get out – I was amazed after reading the details.

    Isn’t XBMC the XBox media player? Boy, the last time I tried that I wasn’t very impressed. The graphics were nice – but that’s because it’s a game console. Guess I’ll have to try it again sometime. No, wait – to get HD I’d have to buy into a x360. Isn’t that over $300? For that I can get a duel core PC w/plenty of HDD space and build a myth box. But here’s the x360 killer for me – the PC can have tuner cards in it. The X360 can’t. Of course, if you like games that flips the argument the other way.

  14. xvid file? No, certainly not. MPEG 2 transport stream? Yes. Why would you want to send a xvid file to the TV? HD TVs have chips to decode MPEG2 TS, which should be taken advantage of. If you wanted the TV to decode any possible file you have on your NAS, that’s like saying, “I want my new phone to do EVERYTHING.” Phones were meant for communicating. Now they do everything, and the battery life sucks ass.

    Next you’ll be seeing TVs do everything. Yeah, I really want my TV generating more heat than my actual computer. To each their own, I guess…

    Oh, and linux is used for various tasks, such as the menu UI, controlling the chips and telling them all to do this or that through I2C. Having linux on the TV to playback media is not the point. It’s to control the hardware, like switching to different inputs. The program they coded to run in the linux environment watches the IR reciever, you hit the HDMI button, and it switches to HDMI (in the case of my TV, the program scans the HDMI inputs for an active signal and switches to it), and then tells the audio decoder to take input from the HDMI input. Linux isn’t doing the decoding, and it is not doing the rendering (a dedicated chip does this), but it does control the hardware.

  15. @st2000

    Based on your comment, it sounds like you think this is the baked in version of Media Center XBox comes with. XBMC, Boxee, and others are versions of software that can be installed on old XBoxes to convert them into full blown media center consoles.

    If you aren’t aware, I highly recommend checking them out.

  16. @farthead, Mythtv does a good job playing videos when mythvideo is configured to display them in a list. That makes the videos show up as the directory structure on the drive, which is how I prefer it. Plus you can configure it to play the videos in an internal player or any number of external players such as vlc and mplayer. Either way the reason why I said a mythtv frontend would be neat is because you can have a computer acting as a backend with your tuners and hard drives somewhere else and with a network connection you can use all that from any frontend machine on the network.

    But you already knew that so let me compliment you on your choice of names instead.

  17. I know of a LG TV that does (at least) 720p H.264 in MKV playback off USB storage (with overlayed status ui, and sub support), so at least some of these TV’s have the “grunt” as it were to do interesting things.

    Hopefully eventually we’ll end up with a OpenWRT situation where the ‘same’ base firmware can be ported to many different TV’s. Otherwise devs will just be spread too thin.

  18. @gomer pyle: It bypasses DRM. I’m sure people with money will buy it just like some did the x360 and make 3rd party vendors pissed at the unit manufacturer.

    Consumers don’t see this aspect of the electronics industry. DRM exists to protect profit margins that keep companies in operation, which in turn pay tens of thousands of individuals thus fueling the economy, and giving funding to the next product line. A million dollars doesn’t go far when you have that many employees making 15k+ a year.

    effect and affect are a nound and a verb with very close applications, I used it in the wrong hoo. I wasn’t the one correcting grammar in the first place. I see mistakes all over this and every other site on the internet, and it has little affect on my understanding and day to day life. Also, English language isn’t the human default despite the census in your suburb.

    I’m going to go do other stuff now besides entertain lifeless internet trolls. This is my last comment on this entry.

  19. @farthead

    “but 90% of the tv functions are NOT linux controlled. the **Linux kernel** is for the photo playback and very limited media playback. None have the ability to even playback a xvid 720p video file.”

    Linux IS the kernel.

  20. I happen to be running 30 Samsung LCD TVs that have Microsoft Windows XP installed on them at work. They also have 2 USB ports. The feature is called “MagicNet” for whatever reason. These TVs cost about $1200 currently for 40 inch.

    I understand there are instructions to build MythTV for Windows, although I can’t imagine that it would be too difficult to get these things to run Linux rather than Windows. (Can’t try myself as they are currently in use).

  21. @farthead I think the point of using samsung TVs is that many if not most of them do have the horsepower to decode 1080p h264 (in an mkv container, no less). At least my 40″ 630 can. In the manual, they list the (lgpl) license for ffmpeg so you know samsung is using pretty standard multimedia software stacks.

  22. @tj
    DRM is a failure all around. Time for a new business model. I stand by my statement that more people are likely to buy their product if it could be modified. That means more sales of units. Adding peripherals shouldn’t have a 150% mark up. If a company wants to nickel and dime us all to death with minor upgrades..let that company die a slow death.
    Not everyone can afford an all in one box that does everything…they have to buy things as they can afford them.

    Since you possess such a superior intellect, you probably can afford anything you want. The only reason I brought up only one of your mistakes was to point out that you too can be wrong..big can everyone else. The difference is, I know that I don’t know everything whereas you seem to be far ahead of the rest of us. Get a grip and don’t be so arrogant. (climbs down from soapbox)

  23. @Skyler

    yes you can play doom on it, the question is when will you be able to…

    doom can run on everything, it just doesn’t yet (does on most)

    better question, when will you be able to at 1080p?

  24. If some one manages to hack in a new app that turns out to be popular then Samsung or any other manufacturer will be able to take the code and use it in their products. That saves the manufacturer development time and money. It allows them to tap into more minds with a greater range of back grounds. That is the power of open source.

    A really killer app would be getting calibration equipment talking to the firmware making calibration faster and easier.

    Go to local electronics store and rent some calibration gear go home, hook up, run calibration software on the laptop, take gear back to the store. Done. Give me that any day.

  25. Abby, that’s going to depend on the set; having a few of the right ARM9 cores, or MPEG4 hardware, available and well placed is going to be the tipping point, as casual access to framebuffers and overlay doesn’t mean 740i 28fps (or 60 or 128fps) can be played, scaled, nicely postprocessed, etc. Once the model’s fancy enough, you’re good to add SVG animation, browsers, video, tuner features, loud ad triage, etc.

  26. What about routing audio through custom number crunchers? What about Jack, ladspa, gstreamer and stuff like that? or pulseaudio?

    Of course on stripped down versions of those! Wouldnt’t it be awesome to have several filters like noise reduction, custom equalizers, hum remover, reverbration, oscilloscop etc ?

    What about Auto volume normalization for each equalizer frequency, so that you get crystal clear sound, even on crappy speakers ?

    What about running text to speech from the thumb drive?

    how about simple games like tetris?

    backing up and restoring preferences from thumb drive?

    Cellphone text messaging like keyboard using remote?

    overlaid calendar, clock.

    Synchronizing clock/calendar with some external source?

    Fake TV OS crash would be awesome as April fool joke.

    Finally, I guess there will be a SamyGo Appstore one day!

  27. well i just usedsamy go on my series 6 40″ media2.
    dlna just didnt want to work with my ushare so i used samygo and now i can play ALL of my movies mp3s and jpeg through a mounted share direct to te tv NOT using dlna.

  28. Hi,
    a couple of questions more:
    1) you mean, ushare on router (wl500gpv2) + samygo on LCD?
    2) Does it work with sub-titles?

    3) Can you provide some inputs how can I load ushare on router? I never tryied and I don’t want to loose print server + Samba features on WL500gpv2.
    As I don’t have a NAS, I must have USB samba to share contents.


  29. My experience on hack my samsumg tv with the samygo project was exciting, and I recomend.

    reason 1 : fix some bugs on the original.
    reason 2 : add wonderfould functions. forget dlna or upnp simply browse your network shares and go
    reason 3: open door to a new things, real browser instead blody and limited widgets, or recording video on the usb or shares disk. (PVR perhaps)
    reason 4 : access to the os as a root. you can install ….

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