Bad news: this morning’s Apple TV update broke PlexConnect hack

By , Aug 27, 2013

PlexConnect on Apple TV (MacRumors 001)

Apple this morning has issued an update making its popular $99 Apple TV gadget a whole lot more useful by enabling an additional five content channels: 24/7 music video streaming via Vevo TV, in addition to on-demand and live video feeds from Weather Channel, Disney Channel, Disney XD and Smithsonian Channel.

While not a software update per se – new icons automatically appear on your Home screen upon firing up the set-top box without requiring any intervention on the user’s part – something has changed because it’s broken PlexConnect, a popular hack that fools Apple’s Trailers app into streaming media files stored on your computer, no jailbreak required…

Good news: a blogger has figured out how the update has messed up PlexConnect.

Bad news: the Plex team has now confirmed there’s nothing they can do about it. Here’s to hoping that Apple will release an Apple TV software development kit sooner than later.

Jordan Golson of MacRumors got in touch with Plex CTO Elan Feingold who told him that the update has closed the DNS loophole that made the hack possible:

I was saddened to hear that PlexConnect stopped working. We can only hope that in the future Apple decides to release an SDK for the Apple TV.

“The level of interest in the project was quite high,” Feingold added.

I’m not surprised: a Plex Apple TV app must be at the top of many users’ wish list.

As for myself, Plex is my favorite solution for content streaming – I use the Mac/iOS apps on an everyday basis to beam movies, television shows, music and photos scattered around my computer and network-attached storage to my iPhone, iPod and iPad devices.

For those unfamiliar with PlexConnect, it’s a hack for non-jailbroken second and third-generation Apple TV that relies on a Python program running on your computer and pretending to be Apple’s Trailers app.

By changing DNS settings on the set-top box, the Python program on the computer side is able to intercept the Apple TV Trailer’s app network requests. It then transcodes media files stored on the Plex Media Server on your computer into an iOS-friendly format, with subtitle and IMDB metadata on media, and feeds the stream back to the Apple TV.

As a result, the Apple TV’s Trailers app streams your local content thinking it’s retrieving video from Apple’s movie trailers. A bunch of disgruntled users took to the Plex forums complaining about the inability to use PlexConnect following today’s update.

The hack was simple, brilliant and quite useful so there are going to be tons disappointed users now that Apple has closed the loophole. Other services that rely on this method may have also been affected, including Russian streaming service UnliMovie.tv.

While it’s still possible to use AirPlay and the Plex iOS client to stream your own content to the Apple TV, such solution is clunky and leaves a lot to be desired.

PlexConnect no longer works for me and I’ve tried everything, from restarting/powering down my Apple TV to backing out of PlexConnect all the way to the main menu.

Hopefully you can confirm down in the comments whether or not PlexConnect stopped working for you.

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  • J. Rockwell

    and this is exactly why the Roku is a better Plex streaming device than a “needed to be jailbroken AppleTV”.

    • http://twitter.com/jmarsh5 Justin Marshall

      It doesn’t need to be jailbroken. iOS devices stream Plex to AppleTV via AirPlay. No quality lost, and in my personal opinion easier to pick shows or movies.

      • ✪ aidan harris ✪

        Although it works I consider this to be a workaround rather than a permanent solution. The Apple TV although greatly enhanced by iOS and Mac (with OS X Mavericks) devices I believe should not have to rely on other devices to push it content. Instead I believe content should be easily accessible from the Apple TV without needing any other devices. In short I believe Apple should provide an SDK that allows developers to create their own apps or channels. Whether this will happen or not I can’t tell since at the moment the Apple TV is in the hobby stage and is still in the process of exiting this stage (maybe it never will)…

      • SimonReidy

        There actually is a bit of quality lost. Not only is the media generally transcoded by Plex, but then its re-encoded again to an h.264 stream as part of AirPlay. By that time the video reaches your TV it has been re-encoded at least twice, and each time lossy re-encoding takes place there is always a drop in quality (and the introduction of artefacts like pixelation/blockiness from all the compression).

        It’s also a much clunkier solution than having a native app on the ATV to browse and control content, but at least its better than nothing.

      • Jdgg84

        First of all, there are better apps than Plex to stream, such as “Movie Box” and the Atv does not need to be jailbroken and can also have media streamed to it from android.

        I stream blu-ray quality movies and shows all the time. Blame the loss in quality on the video streaming tech, not the device doing the work.

      • Tom Dagosa

        Not only is there a loss in quality via AirPlay, but if you use AirPlay to stream media from an external device running Plex server, you’re actually forcing twice as much data through your Wi-Fi network than you should have to (the media first streams to your iPad/iPhone/iPod, which then turns around and streams it to your ATV). As aidan harris said, given this architecture, this can only be considered a workaround at best.

        And… to quip… the PlexConnect interface on my ATV blew away any other media library browser that I’ve used, be it Apple Remote, Plex, or anything else running on my iPad.

  • marco1993

    Come out with a jailbreak for Apple TV 3 already

    • jocastro

      good luck with that

      • ✪ aidan harris ✪

        When you say “good luck with that” you make it sound as if luck will be needed. I don’t think any element of luck will be needed but rather someone with some serious hacking skill to actually work on it and treat it as a real project since as far as I know no one is even working on a jailbreak for the Apple TV which is why one will never happen…

      • chumawumba

        Chill man it’s a figure of speech.

      • ✪ aidan harris ✪

        If it sounds like I’m angry I’m not ;)

        Just pointing out why we’ll never see one since I may be wrong but does anyone actually know the status of the Apple TV jailbreak? I’d like to think I’m wrong and believe that someone is actually working on it but sadly I don’t think I am wrong :(

      • SimonReidy

        From memory, the general consensus is it can’t be done. The ATV3 doesn’t have a traditional bootloader to hack, and there doesn’t seem to be any way to inject the required code (something like that anyway. I might have the specifics wrong).

  • ✪ aidan harris ✪

    The only thing I find bad about this update is the fact that it was forced upon Apple TV users at least iOS users have a choice when it comes to updates…

    • mav3rick

      Wow! You mean to say the world most worshiped tech Co. still does
      not give choices to the users? Because ONLY THEY know what sheep need. What an inferior apple…

      • ✪ aidan harris ✪

        “Because ONLY THEY know what users need”

        If they knew that they’d have done it by now since the Apple TV is not what people need but what people want but who knows maybe that’ll change in the future…

      • mav3rick

        This is their belief stated numerous times including this past Jun. keynote at neonOS presentation.
        Corrected: not users but sheep…

      • ✪ aidan harris ✪

        Well now you’ve lost me all together since despite popular belief the last time I checked Apple is a company in the technology industry and not the farming & agriculture industry…

  • Cesar D

    Then is right now for the developers to need to start working with a Jailbreak of Apple TV 3.

  • SimonReidy

    It’s times like this I feel very lucky to still have my ATV2 with native Plex and XBMC clients. Sure it’s only 720p, but for $99 its turned out to be the best investment for my home theatre I’ve ever made.

  • Dante Arellano

    Fuckk the another’s boxes sucks are very complex and fully charger of bugs slow software and those Chanel’s has just clips of 5 min contend Apple TV could be better but for sure still the number one!

    • Tom Dagosa

      [head spinning] What??? I honestly have no idea what the heck you’re trying to say.

  • Francis San Pedro

    i havent updated my ATV2 since the last jailbreak

  • Yasser Kaskas

    Big surprise, when has Apple not fixed an exploit? You guys knew this was coming.

  • unabatedshagie

    I’m in the UK, turned on my ATV last night and noticed that I had the Vevo channel. I went into the Trailers channel and Plex was still working.

  • abdullah575

    it sucks !!!!

  • Patrick Laursen

    aside from performing an update that gave me those channels as well, I have not noticed the inability to connect to my PlexConnect and stream movies via my network. i will test this and see if the updates does in fact ‘mess’ with my setup as I have 2 Apple tv 3′s and both run different firmware versions.

  • M-C Reid

    Yep. My house just standardized on Roku devices. Ideally, I’d prefer AppleTV, but an open architecture and Plex support specifically are a must.