The Joy of Being a Geek

I’ve long considered myself to be something of a geek, which I consider to be a positive thing.  I love tinkering with stuff, particularly computers and electronics.  It comes in handy, especially when you want to make something do things it wasn’t intended to do.

Take, for example, the Apple TV.  Apple TVs are great little devices for accessing media in your computer’s iTunes library on a TV.  They’re not so great if you have an extensive collection of media that’s not in iTunes, and would be too time consuming to move over.

I recently stayed with my cousin and her husband, and was mightily impressed with his media server setup.  He used a Raspberry Pi single board computer connected to the TV to access his movies and TV shows that were stored on a NAS.  It was a simple task to view movies using the XMBC Remote iOS app from a phone or iPad.

I’d love to have such a setup, but I don’t have a NAS, and don’t have the funds to get one.  I have a smart TV which can access a DLNA server, but based on a past experiments using Plex Server on my Mac, I wasn’t impressed with how it worked.  Plex itself worked fine, but the interface on the TV was atrocious.

I do have a couple of Apple TVs, so it would be nice to use them to access a Plex server, but Apple have not put that functionality in them.  I’ve read that a jail broken Apple TV can do it, but I can only jailbreak one of my Apple TVs (possibly…).  What ever I did, I wanted it to work on both of them.  Fortunately I found a solution.

I chanced upon an article showing how to tweak an Apple TV to redirect the trailers feature to access a Plex server.  This is supposed to work on both the V2 and V3 Apple TVs.  All I needed was a Plex server.  I didn’t want to use my MacBook Pro, because all my media files are on an external drive, and I like being able to move the laptop around.  What I do have are a couple of old PC laptops acquired for the purposes of playing around with Linux and Windows.

Now, wouldn’t it be great to use my existing drive of movies with Plex on Linux?  Yes, yes it would, except the drive is formatted in HFS+, and I wasn’t sure if Linux had the ability to read and write HFS+ drives.  I didn’t want to backup and reformat, since the drive has more data on it that I have backup space available.  Fortunately there are ways of using HFS drives in Linux.

The upside of all this is that I have an old laptop running Linux, happily connecting to my Mac formatted external HD.  My Apple TVs have been tweaked so that when you access trailers, you instead get my Plex server, but with the Apple TVs nice interface.  This all took a bit of messing about to set up, with much searching required to find out how to do some more obscure parts, so I will be posting a complete walk through of how I set everything up in the next day or so.