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The $300 Mac


You have to wonder if anyone at Apple foresaw the unintended consequences of using a modified version of OS X on the Apple TV. It's likely that hacks were expected. Certainly, that is one theory behind the Apple TV "repairing" itself and disabling modifications, but whether or not it was foreseen by Apple, the next logical step in hacking the Apple TV has taken place. Via Apple TV Hacks, there is now a how-to for running OS X on the Apple TV.

Semthex wrote a processor emulation for the kernel, to sidestep the hardware restrictions that previously disallowed Mac OS X from running on the Apple TV. was only too happy to help out, and when it turned out we needed more testers we launched a competition to get some. Within hours we had hundreds of eager Apple TV hackers submit entries.

The process is not simple, requiring the removal of the drive from the Apple TV, connection to a Mac, installation of OS X, and modification of files including the kernel of the Apple TV OS. For those who are curious, there some Xbench numbers too, and the discussion thread for the project can be found here.

Not surprisingly, the Apple TV does not make a great Mac. The Apple TV has only 256MB RAM, a 40GB hard drive, and no optical disc. The Apple TV's Pentium-M derivative is woefully underpowered compared to a Mac Mini with a Core Duo. However, the Apple TV does have discrete graphics, an Nvidia GeForce Go 7300/7400, compared to a piece of cardboard in the shape of a graphics card for the Mac Mini (also known as integrated graphics). Still, even at twice the price, the Mac Mini is the far better deal if you are looking for a Mac.

But what if you are looking a Mac to sit next to the TV, one that can do everything the Apple TV can do, and run OS X, all for half the price of a new Mac Mini? Finally, an Apple TV for the rest of us.