Can Hackers Turn Apple TV into the Set Top Box of Your Dreams?

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The Apple TV is a beautiful device that I can't quite find a reason to use. I have one at my house and I find I rarely turn it on. But maybe a group of rebel coders can jailbreak it into something more interesting. Brian Chen reports that the hackers anticipate they'll have the gadget broken wide open within a month or two.

"The Apple TV has been jailbroken for less than a month, and the amount of progress that's been made on [hacking] it so far is absolutely phenomenal," said Scott Davilla, a programmer who is working to get the Boxee TV platform running on the Apple TV.

Apple's original Apple TV was cracked years ago, but there was relatively low enthusiasm in modifying the device because of some nagging technical hurdles... However, this time around, the Apple TV jailbreak community, called Awkward TV, believes that hacking Apple's set-top box will be much more popular and energetic.

This is thanks largely to the fact that the second-generation Apple TV runs iOS, the same mobile operating system that powers the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Hacking the device will be much easier for users: The Apple TV requires connecting with a computer by a USB cable and running existing jailbreak software to break its restrictions, just like users did with the iPhone. (In other words, the annoying patch-stick method is no more.)

And besides, hackers can't resist the allure of modifying a $100 device into the set-top box of their dreams -- a path that carries much less risk than, say, tampering with a pricier Mac Mini or a less aesthetically pleasing Windows PC.

Read the full story at Gadget Lab at Wired.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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