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Jailbreaking, and installing Plex on the Apple TV 2

I was tempted to do a commentary on Plex vs XBMC (both fantastic btw), and why I decided to go with Plex (and jailbreak an ATV accordingly), but… let’s just get to the process.

Prep

To jailbreak the Apple TV (2nd generation), you’ll need the AppleTV, the cord to plug it into some electricity, and a cable that converts regular USB to MicroUSB-B (not the “A” version of MicroUSB, and NOT the more common MiniUSB).

Yes, you’ll have to buy the cable separately. Yes, they’re a BEAR to find – I have a zillion cables that do MiniUSB, but couldn’t find any around here that were MicroUSB. For a low-cost online option, you might want to check out MonoPrice.com – you shouldn’t have problems finding them at most online retailers, but MonoPrice is usually pretty cheap (they ship to Canada too btw). I ended up looking around locally and 1 local computer place happened to have them (ComputerAvenue on St. Mary’s if you live near Winnipeg).

You’ll also need a computer with a USB port.

The Jailbreak

NOTE THAT JAILBREAKING MAY VOID YOUR WARRANTY. IT MAY SCREW WITH FUTURE APPLETV UPDATES. IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG, YOUR APPLETV MAY NOT BOOT. DON’T DO THIS UNLESS YOU’RE SURE.

I didn’t have much luck with GreenPois0n. After about 100 ¬†attempts (and while it walks you through it, the timing is brutal to get right, though it “claimed” to be successful many times when it wasn’t), and a few firmware flashes, and a couple different versions of GreenPois0n, I decided to keep looking for an alternate untethered jailbreak.

Turns out that Seas0nPass was the way to go. Currently it can be found at¬†http://support.firecore.com/entries/387605 but in the event you’re reading this months later, try Seas0nPass.com and see if you can find it there (note that it’s a leet-speak-style zero in Seas0n, not the letter “o” if you type it in manually). Both Windows and Mac OS X versions are available (I happened to use the Mac version)

There’s a guide as well at the above link(s). Follow it, but note that you need to do very little. It does most of the work, and it’s pretty freaking easy.

Once you’re jailbroken… disable updates

Now that you’re jailbroken, you don’t want an Apple TV update to catch you and throw you back in jail (overwrite your jailbreak).

NOTE THAT YOUR APPLE TV WILL NO LONGER UPDATE. THAT’S GOOD FOR YOUR JAILBREAK, BUT BAD IF APPLE PUTS OUT AN UPDATE YOU WANT (you would have to undo the following changes).

First, you’ll have to SSH into the AppleTV. Connect the AppleTV to your network if it isn’t yet.

If you’re on a Mac, and if this is the only AppleTV on your LAN, it’s as easy as opening Terminal and typing:

ssh root@apple-tv.local

OR

ssh root@whatever-ip-address-your-atv-is-on
(Example: ssh root@192.168.0.100)
(you can find the IP address in the Settings section on your AppleTV)

It’ll give you a warning (which you’ll say yes to), and then ask for a password. The default password is “alpine” (no quotes). If you’re using Windows, you’ll probably have to install a program like Putty to SSH in (in other words, time to do some Googling).

Now that you’re logged in through SSH, you’ll need to edit a file to disable updates. First, you’ll need to install an editor though! I decided to use “nano”, so to install it I typed the following:

apt-get update
apt-get install nano

The 1st one updates the list of things that can be installed (takes a while, make sure your network is connected to the internet). The 2nd installs nano.

Assuming that went well, you’ve got to edit the /etc/hosts file on the AppleTV. Since you’re still SSH’ed in as root, it’s a matter of typing:

nano /etc/hosts

You should be in a clunky-looking file editor now. It probably looks like this inside:

You’re going to add 3 lines to the bottom so it looks like this:

Then it’s CONTROL-O on your keyboard to save it, and CONTROL-X to exit.

Note that this change will not take effect until you restart the AppleTV. You can restart it now if you want (just type “restart” and hit enter), but remember to SSH back in before continuing if so. If this has all been pretty complicated for you so far, don’t restart yet – you can do it at the end (by unplugging it and plugging it back in if nothing else).

Installing the Plex client (finally)

I’m assuming you’re SSH’ed into the ATV (whether you restarted and SSH’ed back in, or have just finished the previous step but haven’t restarted).

The next instructions can be found in the Plex forums:
https://forums.plex.tv/index.php/topic/26064-08-beta-releases/

Note that it’s for the BETA release. It’s probably changed by the time you read this, so I suggest going to the Plex forums and reading up on the current procedure.

Anyway, to install the BETA version that I did (which may not be a great idea when you read this since a newer version may be out which you’ll probably want to use), I went about it like this:

echo “deb http://www.ambertation.de ./downloads/PLEX/” > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/plex.list
(the above is all 1 line, in the event it gets split up into 2 lines by the blog)

apt-get update

apt-get install com.plex.client-plugin=0.0.8.0.4

3 lines total. There were a couple confirmations messages.

AGAIN, I recommend reading the plex forums for this last phase/step. Once it’s done, you may have to reboot the AppleTV (either type “restart”, or simply yank the power cord and plug it back in)

Thoughts on Plex via the AppleTV

Plex for the AppleTV is fairly streamlined (compared to the full version on the computer). It looks great though – maintains the easy navigation, and you still have all the scraped TV/Movie information available. Some bits can be customized (turning on/off theme music when browsing TV series, a couple layout options, and a fair bit more).

I actually couldn’t quite figure out whether the AppleTV’s version of Plex is more “Plex Light”, or more “Plex designed to seamlessly integrate with the AppleTV”. It feels like a bit of both.

Note that the big downside is that there’s NO PLEX SERVER for the APPLE TV. Just the client. I’m assuming the AppleTV’s hardware just can’t handle it. You need a computer running the Plex Media Server, and it’ll stream to the Plex CLIENT on the AppleTV. Plex will happily watch whatever folders you want it to (including on machines/storage across your network), but the server itself has still got to be running on at least 1 machine, somewhere.