How I Made A Free Status Board for our Web Apps with Geckoboard, Apple TV and RedPost

April 12th, 2011 by Richard Felix

Not long ago, a few pieces of a puzzle came together, and I had to act. Here at Sense Labs, we are writing new apps all the time and they all have server processes and statistics that we want to keep track of. I had a RedPost/Kit lying around. It’s the very first version of a digital sign platform that can be found here They don’t make the Kit anymore but its younger brother, the Sign is an even more capable successor: It had a Mini-PC built in, but as time went on and websites got more complex, it turned out to be more and more underpowered. I decided that I wanted to build a status board so that I could easily keep track of all these things, Then, Apple came out with their new Apple TV, we replaced the old one with the new one, and all of a sudden I had an extra Apple machine that I could make into what I needed, as the original Apple TV is very hackable.

So, first I installed Mac OS X on my Apple TV. The Apple TV isn’t really made to be a general purpose computer, so it’s not super fast and it doesn’t have a lot of memory, but it does run Safari okay, and since I just want to use the Apple TV to pull up the Geckoboard website and not do much else, it works great.
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There are 2 schools of thought when it comes to Apple TV hacking, and the one that I went with is the one that doesn’t require you to even open the Apple TV up. The basic overview is that you set up a USB hard drive, copy a special version of Mac OS X to it, and then set it up so that it can only be booted by the Apple TV.

The instructions that I followed to get Mac OS X working on the Apple TV are here:

If you’re going to connect the Apple TV to a monitor, you’ll need a HDMI to DVI cable. I happened to have one lying around, so I used that one, but you can find a great one for about $4 at MonoPrice here.

Then, once I installed OS X on the hard drive, I upgraded Safari to the latest version, fired up Geckoboard, and now it runs all day and shows the metrics that we want to see about our web apps. The best thing is, I didn’t spend a dime out of my pocket to get it working! Good stuff.

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