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Apple TV hacking update: Bluetooth, white lists, ports, cables

We continue to keep track of Apple TV's hacking potential; here's another quick update of the new hardware.

iFixit confirms that there's an on-board Bluetooth chip: "The Broadcom BCM4329XKUBG 802.11n Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/FM chip on the Panasonic board is exactly the same as the one we found on the iPad."

iOS developer Matthias Ringwald tells TUAW that it shouldn't be hard to get his custom Bluetooth stack running on Apple TV once it's openly jailbroken. "I managed to hook the communication between BlueTool and BT chipset before, so I can record that exchange on iPad which sets up the Bluetooth chipset and just do a playback. Chances are good."

Read on...
Ringwald adds, "Someone might have to give me a hand reversing BlueTool if the one from iPad doesn't work right away." Volunteers are encouraged to ping Ringwald directly.

In anticipation of the Apple TV jailbreak, developer Dustin Howett has been keeping track of Apple TV's white list, which limits what Front Row appliances or "frappliances" (think "apps for Apple TV") can be run on the system. He's continuing to work on his open source beigelist project for the new iOS-based Apple TV 2. Beigelist promises to allow custom frappliances to be installed and run, to offer a wider range of end-user functionality.

I was curious as to what open TCP ports the Apple TV had available, so I gave stroke a run-through to see. Stroke performs port scanning from the command line; my colleague Richard G adds, "If you're looking for something a little more badass than stroke for portscanning, consider using nmap." If you have it installed, nmap is fabulous, but stroke is already included in Apple's Network Utility application bundle. As you can see from the results, most of the ports appear to be dedicated to digital audio access. Port 49152 is tied to the remote audio output (raop) protocol.

iPhone dev Joshua Lee Tucker was kind enough to run nmap on Apple TV for us and produced this port scan chart.

Apple TV users with HDMI to DVI cables and older TVs or monitors continue to search for inexpensive audio solutions. So far, some TUAW readers seem to be using TOSlink Optical Audio to Digital Coax converters but that still requires a certain level of speaker sophistication. No "under ten bucks and it just plays sounds no matter how crappy" fixes have yet been found.

In the "let's peek through the software" side of things, it looks like Back Row offers a number of theme colors including (my favorite!) BRThemeColorObnoxiousOrange. I love finding that kind of stuff in dumps.

Finally, Jim Dovey (aka "Alan Quatermain"), the godfather of all third party Apple TV development has been hinting that he might revisit his BackRow development tools for the updated device. Do feel free to encourage him.

Even when the new Apple TV is publicly jailbroken it will be a"very different world from the original version that essentially ran Mac OS X Tiger. Older Apple TVs could run software like Safari and Perian basically out of the box. The new Apple TV's iOS operating system, with its strengthened watch dogs and white lists, ensures that hobbyists will take some time to get up and running -- much as they did through the various iterations of the original iPhone. So do be patient.

Services like Bluetooth and VNC are most likely to see early results with custom applications following slowly. Add into the equation that any firmware updates will reset progress, as they do in the iPhone jailbreak world, and you're likely to see slow, steady development for the new device with as many regular steps backs as leaps forward.

At the same time, Apple TV 2 offers faster hardware, cooler operation (seriously, you could cook food or heat rooms with the old version), and a lot more insights into iOS use in appliance and desktop systems. Apple TV expert Graham Booker tells TUAW, "The old Apple TV was warm because it didn't radiate that much away from the device compared to computers which blow air through them." The revised device uses an improved A4 chip like the one found in Apple's iPad.

Thanks everyone who chatted with me about Apple TV. And a big "Holla Peeps" to #awkwardtv over at irc.moofspeak.net

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