At the end of November, Android developer Howard Harte announced that he would give $1,000 to the first person who could jailbreak the Google TV. Just over a month later, the $1,000 has been collected and Harte says he is now "having a lot of fun" coding on his hacked unit...and likely watching some free Hulu.
"What this means is that we now have a complete Android development environment for the Google TV," explained Harte in an email. "I am able to use standard Android development tools to develop for GTV, just like developing for any other Android device."
Don't expect this hack to be widely adopted by Hulu-loving GTV fans everywhere, however. Jailbreaking the Logitech Revue unit involves opening up the box, soldiering some wires onto the circuit board, and then going through a relatively lengthy software hack.
"The most important thing for developers though is that they now have full access to developing for the platform well in advance of Google releasing the tools," wrote Harte. "Now, it should be possible for Rovio to port Angry Birds [...] to the Google TV."
The GTVHacker dev team recorded a video of its jailbroken Logitech Revue unit, showing off "bypassed content block and custom application install." Take a look at Hulu on Google TV and more:
Update: Harte contacted us with a few minor corrections, writing "the actual bounty paid was $500, since the rooting process involved a hardware hack. The $1000 bounty was for a software-only hack, which unfortunately did not happen. The original terms of the bounty stated that 'a partial consideration of $500 will be given for a hardware hack' and that a hardware hack is defined as any hack which involves opening the Google TV device. One other minor correction, I don't use it to watch Hulu, I only use it to develop apps..."
What, if not free Hulu, does a jailbroken Google TV mean, then? First off, it's likely that someone will come up with a software-only jailbreak at some point in the future. Beyond that, however, giving root access to daring developers means that, when Google finally opens its Google TV marketplace, developers will have had a head start figuring out the ins and outs of the system. We're curious to see where Google TV could go with the innovation of the developer community.
For those of you interested in all the geeky details, here's Harte's explanation:
The GTVHacker dev team consists of five members, and was started by Zenofex, who was able to connect a terminal to the Revue's UART1 serial port. This involved opening the Revue and soldering three wires, so it qualifies as a hardware hack. After connecting the serial terminal to UART1, Zenofex found a root shell running in Recovery Mode. With that, he had root access, but no way to install apps.
Zenofex enlisted the help of four other software hackers to assmble a toolchain for compiling the necessary tools to add "ADB" support to the Revue. Adding ADB, which is the Android Debug Bridge, allowed installing apps with standard adb commands over the network interface (either Ethernet or WLAN.)
With that complete, Apps that were written in Java would run fine on the Revue, and they had "Astro File Manager" running in short order. At this point, Zenofex contacted me to get a copy of my "Better Terminal Emulator Pro" app, which was required to be shown running on the Revue in a YouTube video under the terms of the "Root Bounty" offering.
It turned out that Better Terminal Emulator Pro, which relies heavily on Native (CPU-specific) code did not run on the Revue. What was needed was Google's Android Native Development Kit (NDK) for Google TV. Since that was not officially available, one clever GTVHacker member was able to combine the NDK from the Android-x86.org project with Intel's toolchain to produce a working NDK for the GTV. With this done, they recompiled the native shared library used by Better Terminal Emulator Pro for the GTV, and BTEP installed fine on the Revue and works.