Getting Boxeebox Root And Making It Useful Again

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.

41 thoughts on “Getting Boxeebox Root And Making It Useful Again

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

  1. 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.

    1. 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

    2. 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.

  2. 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.

      1. 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.

    1. 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.

  3. 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 ( 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!

    1. 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.

      1. 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?

    2. 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.

  4. 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….

    1. 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?

  5. 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.


    1. Hello! No, you solder one end (3 wires – RX,TX&ground) of the cable to 3 traces on Boxee motherboard, then plug this adapter in your PC and run a serial terminal program on your PC to connect to Boxee. Reply if you have more questions =)

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

    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!

    1. Hello, First of all, you need a USB-UART converter. Simple USB cable won’t do. This converter has 2 sides – one has USB plug/socket and is to be connected to PC, another has UART pins (We need TX, RX and GND) and is to be connected to Boxeebox. Reply about whether you’re sure you have this adapter, post a photo if you can =)

  7. I was a big big fan of Boxee Box when it first dropped and I still am very happy with this box. We have 2 Boxees running in our house and my whole family loves them both! We run the Boxhacks on it now and really like what this did for the box, it actually brought more life to this amazing little box. I really like the fact that it runs VPN right on the box and does a GREAT job and keeping you connected. I have never had issues with MKV files or anything else for that matter, I agree with the author that pif you see one on a shelf somewhere grab it up you will really learn to enjoy this box.

  8. I love our boxee and recently experimented with hacks and XBMC on it which worked fine but the real thing I want to do is update the codecs to run newer files…specifically the Hi10P files as most anime is compressed this way. I thought adding Hacks and XBMC would allow me to but no luck. I run CCCP codecs on my PC and it can run the files so I know they work. Anyone have any suggestions? Thanks!

  9. Regarding audio issues: Sound drops when playing DTS-HD MA (not sure about Dolby TrueHD). Everyone has this bug. This is because of a HDMI driver bug that Boxee never fixed. Since the firmware is encrypted no one can fix it.

  10. Great forum but, has anyone come up with a method to update the Netflix app? Issue I’m having since Netflix went to version 4.0 (BOXEE is 3.0xx) Dolby Digital Is no longer available. Just curious if anyone found a way to do this. Thanks – BTW, Dolby Digital and DTS work just fine with all other sources.

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