Front Row 1.0 Reviewed with Video Demo

When Apple released Front Row 1.0 two weeks ago, it was almost a side note in Steve’s address.  Much more time was dedicated to the new iPod and the new iMac.  But it was Front Row that appears to have captured the attention of the Mac community.

For the unfamiliar, Front Row is Apple’s first foray into the home media center market.  While not a full fledged PVR (personal video recorder), Front Row does add a great deal to an average home entertainment system.  Front Row is simply an application that, when launched, takes over the desktop and replaces it with a simple, television friendly interface for the Mac’s multi-media content.

With Front Row launched, the Mac becomes a dedicated media player.  It offers full access to the entire iTunes and iPhoto libraries as well as all of the QuickTime movies stored in the users Movie folder.  The interface is large and easy to read.  It is designed to be read from across the room and controlled via wireless remote control.  It is literally design to used from the couch, or your favorite recliner.

In a strange turn of events, Apple currently only offers Front Row installed on the latest revision of the iMac G5.  It has been written specifically to run on only those machines.  This decision does not follow Apple software track record.  In the past, Apple has made software such as iMovie, iDVD, iTunes, and iPhoto free with all new Macs.  In addition, Apple offered the same software in a bundle at a reasonable price to users who weren’t interested in upgrading their systems.  At least for the time being, Apple seems insistent that users purchase a new iMac if they would like to take advantage of the multi-media capabilities of Front Row.  Oddly, the iMac hardly looks at home in the average entertainment center.  The Mac Mini seems better suited for such an application.

Since Apple is reluctant to put Front Row in the hands of the rest of us, an enterprising hacker has done the job for them.  Little more than a week after the release of Front Row, hacked copies have started showing up in the wild.  It seems that someone has removed the portion of code that restricts the software from running on non-iMac systems.

Installing the hacked software is easy.  Even easier than the instructions that accompany the download indicate.  Simply throw the application in the Applications directory and open up the Apple Script Editor.  Paste in a chunk of AppleScript code from the instructions and save the script to drive.  Then, just install xKeys and map an F-key to the AppleScript you just saved.  xKeys then opens the AppleScript which, in turn, launches Front Row and you are off to the races.

In my short time playing with the software, there are a few issues.  At this point, the built in DVD player does not seem to work.  It is possible that the DVD player code is tied to the mechanism built into the new iMac, but since this software is hacked, it is impossible to be sure.  Running on a PowerBook the software is a little slow, but entirely usable.


Since Front Row is so well suited for the Mac Mini, it seems very likely that Apple will release a version in the near future that will support all modern Mac hardware.  It is also possible that Apple has even more planned for the software.  Since there are 4 basic applications built into Front Row now, it is conceivable that Apple will take this software to the next logical step and integrate PVR functionality.  At the very least, I have hopes of seeing Elgato add support for their EyeTV product.

It has been long rumored that Apple is working on a Mac based PVR, or Tivo like device.  At one point, I even saw some photos that looked promising.  To this day I am still not sure if they were a hoax.  But, given Apple new interest in home entertainment, is seems clear that some form of Mac Media Center is on the horizon.  At least for now, we can play with a hacked copy of Front Row.

Installation instructions and a link to the .torrent file can be found here.

UPDATE 2: 10/29/05 6:45PM
Here’s a link to a new copy of DVD Player.  I have read that updating to the version fixes DVD problems in Front Row.  This page also contains an alternate download link for Front Row.  Please not that I have not yet tested either download.

Update 3: 10/31/05 9:06PM
Mac OS X 10.4.3 was released earlier today.  Initial reports indicate that it breaks the cracked copy of Front Row.  It should only be a matter of time until a new crack is available.  Consider waiting on the 10.4.3 update if Front Row is a priority.

Update 4: 11/1/05 12:37PM
If you have installed 10.4.3, it seems there is a simple way to get Front Row working again.  Simply hold down the escape key while you launch the Open Front Row AppleScript.  I don’t yet understand how or why this works, but Front Row is functional once again!

Holding down the shift key also seems to work.  It also puts the transition into super slow motion.  It gives you more time to appreciate the killer UI effects.

Update 5: 11/1/05 10:56PM
It looks like there is a simply solution to the 10.4.3 Front Row break.  I can’t tell if Apple broke the crack intentionally, or if there was simply a bug in the original AppleScript, but it is a simple fix.  Just open the AppleScript that you created when you installed the original hack, and replace the contents with this:

tell application “System Events”
tell application “Front Row” to activate
key code 53 using {command down}
delay 0.0
key code 53
end tell


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One Response to Front Row 1.0 Reviewed with Video Demo
  1. dfsfse Reply

    how to put dvd to ipod?you can use a dvd to ipod converter to help you.

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