Installing MythFrontend on an AppleTV

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Important.png Note: These instructions are for the original Apple TV. Not the second generation unit released at the end of 2010.

Warning.png Warning: The Apple TV is built using a 1GHz Pentium M, a GeForce 7300, and 256MB of memory. The limited processor, and graphics only capable of XvMC, mean this unit will only have enough power for standard definition content. Lower bitrate HD MPEG2 may be possible, but not advised. Further, the limited amount of memory may result in UI responsiveness issues.

Status: The guide is now complete, but I've not yet re-verified the procedure by restoring back to factory defaults and running through it again. If anyone else follows this procedure then please leave feedback

This document describes the process of installing MythFrontend on an AppleTV. Most of the information required to do this was gleaned from other websites, and I've tried to link to the source of the information. The only step in this procedure that I didn't find anywhere else was copying the fonts from another Mac to the AppleTV, someone on the dev mailing list suggested that it could be a missing font.

I haven't had time to take apart my AppleTV again and verify the procedure, so it would probably be a good idea if someone who has already voided their AppleTV warranty tried it first and adds some feedback if necessary.


Warning.png Warning: This HOWTO describes the process of installing MythFrontend on an AppleTV. As this procedure requires opening up the AppleTV and removing the hard drive it will almost certainly void your warranty. Do not attempt this procedure unless you are comfortable with this. You do this at your own risk, and I take no responsibility if you kill your AppleTV etc etc. UPDATE Jan 2011: AVOID OPENING THE CASE \ REMOVING HARDRIVE. INSTEAD: Create a USB patchstick [1] to install SSH instead of opening up your AppleTV. Youtube shows how to create the patchstick and patch SSH. [[2]] After installing SSH, then backup your system.


  • An Apple TV
  • An OSX build of MythFrontend. I used 0.20-fixes from, or you can build your own. NOTE that the recent pre-built binaries (anything build on 10.5.6 and above) will NOT run on a 10.4 box. You will need to build your own version
  • An Intel Mac to connect the harddrive to
  • A 2.5" IDE drive to firewire converter
  • Torx T8 and T10 screwdrivers

Document Conventions

Some commands in this HOWTO need to be run on your Mac, and some on the AppleTV. I've tried to make this clearer by specifiying the user and host as the command prompt. E.g. this should be run as a normal user on the Mac:

y@mac# ls -l /

whereas this should be run as root on the AppleTV:

root@appletv# ls -l /

Backup your AppleTV and install SSH

Backing up

I followed the instructions here

Basically, you need to open the AppleTV and remove the hard drive. Connect it to your Intel Mac (do not use a PPC Mac or you'll risk damaging the GUID partition) using the 2.5" IDE to firewire adaptor.

Use the diskutil command to determine which is the AppleTV disk. You'll see something like this:

y@mac# diskutil list
  #:                   type name               size      identifier
  0:  GUID_partition_scheme                    *149.1 GB disk0
  1:                    EFI                    200.0 MB  disk0s1
  2:              Apple_HFS Macintosh HD       148.7 GB  disk0s2
  0:  GUID_partition_scheme                    *37.3 GB  disk1
  1:                    EFI                    34.0 MB   disk1s1
  2:         Apple_Recovery                    400.0 MB  disk1s2
  3:              Apple_HFS OSBoot             900.0 MB  disk1s3
  4:              Apple_HFS Media              35.8 GB   disk1s4

In this case the AppleTV drive is /dev/disk1 (look for the OSBoot and Media partitions). Make a backup of the drive using the following command:

y@mac# dd if=/dev/disk1 of=AppleTV.img bs=1024k

Install SSH

I followed the instructions here

Copy ssh from /usr/sbin to the AppleTV drive and make sure it's executable:

y@mac# cp /usr/sbin/sshd /Volumes/OSBoot/usr/sbin/
y@mac# chmod +x /Volumes/OSBoot/usr/sbin/sshd

Ensure /Volumes/OSBoot/System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ssh.plist contains the following:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple Computer//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "">
<plist version="1.0">

Test SSH access

Return the drive to the AppleTV and start it up. Rather than start up normally it may bring up a menu asking if you want to do a restore. If this happens, run the diagnostics, this should be fine, and then select restart. Choosing restore will wipe out the work done in the previous steps.

Once it's started up, try and connect using ssh:

y@mac# ssh -1 frontrow@<appletv ip address>

the password is also frontrow

Preparing the AppleTV

The next few steps go through setting up a few things that make it easier to get Myth working on the AppleTV.

Mount drive as read/write

By default the OSBoot partition is read only. To mount it as read/write run the following (from

root@appletv# mount -o remount,rw /dev/disk0s3 /

To make it mount read/write on boot in future:

root@appletv# touch /.readwrite

Install vi and su

Copy vim and su to the AppleTV:

y@mac# scp -1 /usr/bin/vim frontrow@<appletv ip address>:~
y@mac# scp -1 /usr/bin/su frontrow@<appletv ip address>:~

Then on the AppleTV:

root@appletv# mv ~/vim /usr/bin/
root@appletv# mv ~/su /usr/bin/
root@appletv# ln -s /usr/bin/vim /usr/bin/vi

Disable watchdog

Instructions are from

Disable ripstop (as root):

root@appletv# mkdir /etc/mach_init.disabled
root@appletv# mv /etc/mach_init.d/ripstop.plist /etc/mach_init.disabled

Add the following to /etc/rc.local (create this file if it doesn't already exist):

/sbin/kextunload -b

This will unload the watchdog on startup.


root@appletv# shutdown -r now

Fix the timezone

My AppleTV thought it was in Rome. If the timezone is wrong problems occur when scheduling recordings. To fix this add the following to /etc/rc.local (adjust as necessary for you location):

/bin/ln -sf /usr/share/zoneinfo/Europe/London /etc/localtime

Either run the file or reboot for this to take effect.

Build MythFrontend

You will currently need a OS X Tiger (10.4) Intel machine to build the binaries for the AppleTV, as cross-compiling has not been sucessful yet. Build instructions are here: Building_MythTV_on_Mac_OS_X

Copy MythFrontend

Tar up MythFrontend and copy it to the AppleTV. This assumes that MythFrontend is installed in /Applications on your Mac:

y@mac# tar cf ~/MythFE.tar -C /Applications/
y@mac# scp -1 ~/MythFE.tar frontrow@<appletv ip address>:~

Untar MythFrontend on the AppleTV:

root@appletv# tar xf MythFE.tar -C /Applications/


Now that is on the AppleTV we can try running it.

frontrow@appletv# /Applications/

This will probably fail, and an crash dump will be generated in ~/Library/Logs/CrashReporter/CrashReporter.log. It will probably mention something about fonts. When this happened to me the first time I wasn't sure what to do, but someone on the mythtv-dev list suggested checking the fonts and it turned out that there were (unsurprisingly) lots more fonts on the Macbook than on the AppleTV, so I decided to try copying all the fonts across. I used the following commands (there are 3 mains locations for font storage - I copied everything but this is probably not necessary).

On the Mac:

y@mac# tar cf SystemLibraryFonts.tar -C /System/Library/Fonts/ *
y@mac# tar cf LibraryFonts.tar -C /Library/Fonts/ *
y@mac# tar cf HomeLibraryFonts.tar -C ~/Library/Fonts/ *
y@mac# scp -1 SystemLibraryFonts.tar frontrow@<appletv ip address>:~
y@mac# scp -1 LibraryFonts.tar frontrow@<appletv ip address>:~
y@mac# scp -1 HomeLibraryFonts.tar frontrow@<appletv ip address>:~

On the AppleTV:

root@appletv# rm -fr /System/Library/Fonts/*
root@appletv# rm -fr /Library/Fonts/*
root@appletv# rm -fr ~/Library/Fonts/* (this may not exist, I can't remember. if not you'll need to create it)
root@appletv# tar xf SystemLibraryFonts.tar -C /System/Library/Fonts/
root@appletv# tar xf LibraryFonts.tar -C /Library/Fonts/
root@appletv# tar xf HomeLibraryFonts.tar -C ~/Library/Fonts/

Restart the AppleTV

root@appletv# shutdown -r now

When it comes back up it may go into safe/diagnostic mode. If it does this then select Run Diagnostics and then Restart. Don't select Restore as it will restore the whole OS from a backup partition and you'll have to start all over again. The next time it should start up normally.

Run MythFrontend again

frontrow@appletv# /Applications/

Hopefully this time it will stay up and you won't get a crash report. You won't be able to see anything yet because the Finder (the AppleTV application) always makes itself the frontmost window. We'll sort that out in a bit. In another terminal try killing the Finder. Find the pid using:

frontrow@appletv# ps ax | grep Finder

and kill this process. You should briefly see MythFrontend before the Finder restarts. You may notice that it's asking for database connection parameters.

Quit MythFrontend (ctrl+C in the first session) and edit the database connection parameters file:

frontrow@appletv# vi ~/.mythtv/mysql.txt

adding the correct hostname, username and password (usually only the hostname needs changing).

Start MythFrontend again, check the output the ensure it starts correctly and try killing the Finder again. This time you should find that you see the main MythFrontend menu briefly before the Finder restarts.

Replace the Finder with MythFrontend

The following command updates the preferences for the loginwindow process so that it runs MythFrontend rather than Finder

root@appletv# defaults write /Library/Preferences/ Finder /Applications/

if you need to undo this you can do

root@appletv# defaults delete /Library/Preferences/ Finder

Restart the AppleTV again and you should find that MythFrontend starts rather than the AppleTV interface.

Another Option is to install the Apploader aka "Applications Menu plugin" and launch Mythfrontend from the menu (see:


The next step is to configure MythFrontend. It is possible but tedious to do this using the remote - an easier solution is to enable VNC using the instructions here, and install a VNC client such as Chicken of the VNC on your Mac. You can then use the mouse and keyboard to do the configuration.

External links