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Something a little newer...


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...but still pretty nifty! I love repurposing old Apple tech, and this little project made me quite happy :)

 

I've had a first-gen Apple TV since late 2007, and I've been absolutely in love with it. Despite its age, it is still a wonderful little set-top box. Recently, though, my fiancé has been pressing for a new one, mostly so that we can watch netflix without booting up the Xbox and use AirPlay. As such, a refurb is on its way here, and I found myself looking for a new purpose for my trusty old Apple TV.

 

I self-host my website, and have been looking for a new, low-power server for several months now; I don't want to leave my iMac running at all times just to serve a website that gets very few hits. I suddenly realized that I now had a small, silent,, good-looking, low-power little computer sitting around in my unused Apple TV! I popped it apart, got Leopard installed on it, and am now using it as my server; it happily sits on a shelf, serving up my webpages and acting as a central home server. I also have it set up as a network bridge, providing an internet connection to my wifi-challenged old Xbox 360. I plan on setting it up as the central media repository for my home soon, a task that should be interesting to see if it is up to.

 

With a 1GHz Celeron, 256MB of RAM, and a slow PATA HDD, it's certainly not a speed demon; the little guy takes around two minutes to boot and another minute before it's at idle, but once it's finished, it's plenty snappy for my needs. I run it headless, only accessing it via screen sharing. This experiment is working out beautifully! With the machine idling most of the time, it actually runs cooler than it did as an Apple TV, so I have high hopes of it lasting for many years to come in its new role.

 

TL;DR An old Apple TV makes a decent server.

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I followed the directions listed here.

 

It really works amazingly well. I set it up about two weeks ago, and it's been extremely solid ever since. I love having a server that's dead silent and fairly low powered, but still runs everything that I need it to. My needs aren't all that intense, so I don't need tons of computing power; that's good, since this little guy can't provide much at all :p

 

For ~100USD on eBay, these things are getting cheap, and can be great, quiet, good-looking little home servers for most needs!

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I did this a while back so i could actually watch live tv (using a EyeTV DTT tuner) on my apple tv, and it works very nicely

however my only gripe with it is the lack of ram, i did look at upgradeing it, and although i could find pin compatible ram chips that would give it 512mb or 1gb of ram, apparently there is a eeprom chip that would need hacking, which i would have no idea how to go about doing

 

But apart from that it made a nice low power media player without the restrictions of the atv os ;)

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  • 1 month later...

I'm not sure that I'd try upgrading the RAM in this little bugger - it's soldered on there via BGA. Shame, since it's such a wonderful little box only hampered by a crippling lack of RAM.

 

As far as my server needs go, it isn't hampered much by its low RAM and slow HDD; it essentially just serves up media and a few files. However, whenever I do want to interact with it, it is a slow, miserable experience, made even more miserable by the old, slow HDD that I installed Leopard on for it. I rectified this problem today. Using an ATA-->SATA adapter, there is now a 64GB SSD in my Apple TV, and what a difference it makes! It still holds all of my files and media, and interacting with it is worlds faster. It takes far less time to boot, and is substantially more responsive once it is up and running! Add to that the fact that it is now completely silent (the small internal fan makes no sound that I have ever heard), and this is an even more wonderful server than before.

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As am I! The SSD really makes a difference though, turning a miserably slow but adequate server into a decent little server overall.

 

For those that might be interested, this is the SATA adapter that I wound up using; $3.77 shipped! And with a little bending of the SATA port to scoot it into a flatter angle, plus taking the housing off of the SSD to make it flatter, it fits in there beautifully and works just as well. That's the only problem with the Apple TV - there's not a whole lot of room in there to use much of anything that wasn't there originally. You need to get rather creative to fit better components into it. Then again, what's a hack without getting creative, right?

 

And so, my little server chugs along under a table holding up my second monitor. You can see in the picture that I have attached little rubber feets to the bottom to provide some additional ventilation across the bottom surface; I've never had any temperature problems, but better safe than sorry. I also added a small bit of garnish to the little guy :beige:

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Nice! I had never seen one of those before, but I had a feeling the Rainbow Apple wasn't stock.

 

Haha, nope, I added that on from my collection. The original Apple TV is a nice-looking little box; if you took an older Mac mini and squashed it flat, then reversed the colors of the plastic on the top (grey background, white text/logo), you have an Apple TV. The little thing is actually amazingly simple to take apart - after taking out a few torx screws, the whole thing pops apart. Nothing that I have found is glued in any way, making it a pleasant break from many modern Apple devices.

 

I took a few pics for those of you that might not be familiar with the original Apple TV, who have one and might be interested in some of these modifications, and for those of you that just enjoy looking at ripped-apart Apple hardware :)

 

Pic 1: This is just a top view of the little guy. Like I said, it's basically a squashed old Mac mini.

 

Pic 2: Showing the feets on the bottom. The Apple TV has a large rubber pad, much like an older mini or an AirPort Extreme. The rubber pad doesn't hold on there all that well once it's been removed, so it's simple to take off again.

 

Pic 3: This is the actual bottom. Note the four screw holes towards the bottom right; these are to mount the HDD, which screws onto the bottom plate. Since I have a bare SSD board in there, they are unused.

 

Pic 4: Inside the Apple TV. The large white block is the internal 40-something watt PSU. You can see all the RCA-style connectors out the back for video out, as well as the HDMI, 10/100 ethernet, and USB 2 ports. HDMI is the only video-out method that Mac OS X recognizes, and it works perfectly; the composite ports have been reported to occasionally work, but they only give a black and white picture. Happily this device has a full-size powered USB 2 port that OS X recognizes perfectly, making it trivial to hook up almost anything. You can also see the small internal fan; this fan is mounted on three rubber nubs and simply blows air around the bottom side of the logic board. It uses a standard AirPort card; it originally had an N-capable card in it, but since I don't use the wireless capabilities of my server, I swapped it for the G card in my old MacBook to give the laptop faster wifi. Front and center is the SSD and its SATA-->PATA adapter. The CPU and CPU are on the other side of the logic board, pressed against the top of the Apple TV. The top is a large sheet of thick aluminum with the plastic top glued to it; it acts as the primary heat spreader for the computer. When it's under high load, it can put out a decent amount of heat, but still nothing approaching what a "real computer" might.

 

Pic 5: Just all the parts, spread out a bit so you can see.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 68kMLA Supporter

neat idea. I have one laying around as I upgraded my AppleTV a couple of years ago.

 

My on concern about OS X, is I don't think Apple is still patching 10.5. For an internal use server I would be fine with an old version, but on the internet I would want the latest version.

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