December 8, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Despite its limitations, the Google Chromecast is a great little device for its paltry $35 asking price. However, it’s certainly not perfect, and one of the main limitations is in the limited number of content providers.
Those lucky enough to have rooted their device before the first OTA blocked the root method have some fun options to play around with such as a custom ROM and the like. But those who received the automatic OTA before getting a chance to root are unfortunately out of luck.
Now, it appears as if new first party functionality is coming soon to the device. This comes in the form of two new APIs new to Android 4.4.1: CAPTURE_SECURE_VIDEO_OUTPUT and CAPTURE_VIDEO_OUTPUT. These APIs will only be available to Google and OEMs, presumably for copyright-related reasons. And if that’s the case and proprietary DRM is used, this means that the previously covered Cheapcast and other Chromecast emulators will probably not work.
Regardless of the issues, this is very good news for Chromecast owners. Since the cheapest Miracast receivers are approximately twice as expensive as the Chromecast, this could be quite useful for budget-conscious users looking to mirror their Android devices onto the big screen.
This, along with rumors of a Nexus TV, has us excited to see what Google has in store for the living room in the months to come! What are your thoughts? Do you own a Chromecast? Do you actually use it, or is it just needlessly sagging the HDMI ports on your TV, preamp-processor, or A/V Receiver? Let us know in the comments below!
December 2, 2013 By: Tomek Kondrat
Android is one of the most amazing mobile OSes ever released. The ability to mod and customize the OS so easily gives almost unlimited possibilities. The highly modified and stripped version seem on the Google Chromecast also has some potential. Not too long ago, we presented a custom ROM and recovery for Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch. Today we want to show another amusing development: a custom ROM for the Google Chromecast.
For those who don’t know what Chromecast is, it is an HDMI media streaming stock. And now, thanks to XDA Senior Member ddggttff3, there is a custom ROM based on the 13300 stock image. It is rooted and even has its own OTA system. Furthermore, it has a dedicated recovery and a custom kernel to enhance the user experience.
As good of a value as the $35 Google Chromecast is, the device has so much potential that is trapped behind Google’s walled garden. The whitelist, which only allows certain services to work with the device, may be meant to ensure that everything works seamlessly. But for power users, this is only a roadblock to true device freedom.
So far, the device has gotten off to a rocky start in terms of modification. We quickly saw the device rooted, only to see the “exploit” patched in the following update. Ever since, the Chromecast world was divided into the haves and have-nots: those who were able to root before the automatic and unstoppable (once connected to the Internet ) update, and those who weren’t so lucky.
Up until now, however, there was little practical benefit to most end users to be rooted. Sure, it was cool due to its inherent novelty, but there wasn’t much added value to be had once root was achieved. Now, there’s a very practical reason to want to be in the former: KyoCast by XDA Forum Member Kyonz.
KyoCast allows you to get around Google’s whitelist easily. It comes in the form of a modified image that can be flashed to the device via the previously covered Flashcast. It works by redirecting traffic requests for whitelist information to KyoCast servers. Here, various third party services and applications are allowed.
So what services can you connect to so far? AOL, HBO, Post, Rev3, and Songza. Note, however, that this is just the list of added services. In other words, clients are not available yet, but they are bound to come soon. And of course, developers can contact Kyonz to get their services added to the modified whitelist. Finally, Kyonz provides a restore image to move back to the original hosts file, and thus the original whitelist.
Make your way over to the original thread to get started.
Some time ago, we wrote about how the folks over at GTVHacker managed to root the Google Chromecast. Shortly thereafter, the secure boot vulnerability was closed, and this root method no longer worked. For this reason, many users refuse to let new Chromecast units connect to the Internet before first rooting and disabling OTAs.
Naturally, if you have already connected your Chromecast and it has already updated its firmware, you cannot root the device at the moment. However, for those lucky enough to have a unit running the original shipping firmware, you now have a streamlined method of acquiring root thanks to XDA Forum Member tchebb and his USB image flashCast.
So what is flashCast, exactly? Well, as described by the developer:
FlashCast is a USB image that provides a standardized way to mod your Chromecast. Think of it like a recovery which runs off of a USB drive. No more struggling with the limitations of the GTVHacker image, which is hard to modify and can only flash the /system partition. FlashCast is based on shell scripts, so it you can use it to do anything you can do with a root shell. It also comes with a comprehensive suite of helper functions, so many tasks actually become much easier than they would be using a regular shell.
In other words, it’s an easy and standardized image that works analogously to a recovery. So what do you need to use this? As stated above, you first need a Chromecast with a vulnerable bootloader. In addition, you need the latest version of flashCast, a USB drive of at least 128 MB, and a powered micro USB OTG cable.
Once you have the required components, simply install flashCast to the USB drive with a low-level write using dd on Linux or Win32DiskImager on Windows. From there, use the special instructions to connect the device to the storage, keeping in mind the proper order.
To get started, head over to the original thread. Once again, this will only work with the original shipping firmware and will not work if your device has been updated. However, if you have a brand new, unused Chromecast, it’s practically begging to be flashCasted.
August 23, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
You can now play almost any video on your Google Chromecast. That and much more Chromecast stories are covered by Jordan, as he reviews all the important stories from this week. Included in this week’s news is an article about Google’s first party app updates and using Fling to view your local media on your Chromecast.
Jordan talks about the other videos released this week on XDA Developer TV. XDA Elite Recognized Developer AdamOutler released an unboxing of the Oppo Find Mirror (R819), and then he unboxed XDA:DevCon. Later, TK gave us an Android App Review of Floating Toucher. Pull up a chair and check out this video.
August 21, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
We’ve talked quite a bit about the Google Chromecast in the past few weeks. Ever since it was launched a little under a month ago, the little $35 media streamer has lived an exciting life. From gaining root to losing root and from alternate receivers to alternate content providers, there have certainly been more than a few twists and turns. We were even recently shown how to enable ADB on the device, so long as you were one of the lucky few to have obtained and kept root access before the root-killing OTA.
Now, there’s a new application by developer Leon Nicholls called Fling that runs on your desktop computer and sends many formats of local content to your Chromecast device. Fling is a Java application, which means that it will run on any computer that has JRE and the latest version of VLC (preferably 64-bit) installed. The app lists support for various media types (wmv, avi, mkv, mpg, mpeg, flv, 3gp, and ogm), with various transcoding parameters available within the configuration menu. The host computer’s instance of VLC is then used for the transcoding process.
Unfortunately for those who don’t yet have a physical Chromecast device, this seems to only work on hardware Chromecast devices rather than Android devices that have CheapCast installed. However, those who already have a device (yours truly just ordered his second a few hours ago) are in for a treat.
Best of all, Leon has made it open source, with all the relevant code available on Github. Head over to Leon Nicholls’s Google+ post to learn more. There, you’ll find links to the source code, which is available on his Github, as well as a download link for Fling itself. Be sure to leave your comments for the developer, as this tool just made Chromecast quite a bit better for quite a few people.
August 20, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
To say that the Google Chromecast has had its share of ups and downs would be an understatement. Not too long after its launch, we learned of a method to root the device, thanks to broken image signature verification. Not too long afterward, however, this hole was plugged and root access was removed on OTA-updated devices. In the time since, we’ve also seen an application that emulates Chromecast functionality on any Android device, as well as an app that reverse engineered the protocols to get around Google’s whitelist restrictions. However, here at XDA, we are power users. And power users want, among other things, ADB access.
Now thanks to XDA Senior Member death2all110, those lucky enough to have held onto root by using alternate system images can now easily access ADB with this guide. To get started, you take your rooted Chromecast and telnet into the device with PuTTY or any other telnet client. A few commands and a wget (to download adbd) later, and you’re ready to enable adbd. Next, you simply chmod the newly downloaded adbd to have the appropriate permissions, and then you execute it. Finally, you use adb connect [Chromecast Local IP Address] to connect to your Chromecast from your client computer.
The guide has lots of pictures and even a video walkthrough to make sure you don’t get stuck. Basically, it couldn’t be easier if you’re already rooted. Head over to the tutorial thread to get started.
August 18, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
One of the main downsides to the Google Chromecast is its inability to deal with a wide variety of content sources. After all, the device launched featuring official support for just Netflix, Google Movies, Google Music, and YouTube.
Sure, the Google Chromecast also allows for tab mirroring using Chrome and the Google Cast extension on a traditional computer. However, this wasn’t ideal for high resolution video due to various performance issues, and it still failed to provide a suitable solution for local content.
Thankfully, this is where Koushik Dutta of CyanogenMod and ClockworkMod fame comes in. After a couple of public demonstrations through his YouTube channel and Google+, Koush has now released a test APK for AirCast. His app enables you to send any local video from your device’s gallery app to your Chromecast. Furthermore, AirCast also enables you to send a video directly from Dropbox and Google Drive.
For those wondering why this was never released alongside the previous demos, this is because Koush was finally able to reverse engineer the Chromecast protocols and thus get around the developer whitelist restrictions imposed by Google. Unfortunately, the current build of AirCast is limited to only two days of functionality. However, a later build will released under the freemium model.
Love it or hate it, the Google Chromecast is an important device in Google’s continuing journey into the living room. Sure, it’s not quite as functional yet as other streaming options on the market, but the support will surely grow with time.
While Google’s diminutive streamer may not be as developer friendly as we would have liked, official support from large developers and content providers is sure to grow in due time. Until then, we must unfortunately rely on tab streaming via Google Cast to get our content fix on the big screen. As many have found, however, the experience is often far from perfect unless you have an exemplary local network connection. Making matters worse, there is little that you can configure in the Google Cast Chrome plugin to optimize your experience.
To get around the limitations in the plugin’s setup page, XDA Forum Member umer936 stumbled on a method to fine tune your Chromecast’s tab streaming parameters. By simply going to inspect element and removing display: none from the stylesheet, you can access a plethora of fine tuning options for the plugin’s tab sharing. The options present include minimum and maximum video bitrate, quantization, maximum frames per second, audio bitrate, and various debugging options
Head over to the guide thread to get started tweaking your Chromecast’s tab sharing experience. Once you’ve found the optimal tradeoff between performance and stream stability, be sure to share your findings with the community.
Five days ago, we covered a rather useful discovery by the fine folks over at GTV Hacker, where due to a rather convenient oversight in the device’s cryptography pathway, a to-be-flashed firmware’s return code was never checked after passing through the device’s image verification software. In other words, this meant that you could run your own firmware at will, and all you needed was a USB key, the appropriate firmware, and a powered USB OTG cable.
At the time of the previous article, I noted the very real possibility that a future OTA would likely break this root method. Unfortunately, it appears as if that day has (rather expediently) come with OTA build 12840. Given that the original security hole is one so basic as to lead us to believe that it was left in place intentionally, we can only assume that other forces such as content providers or potential partners are at play. After all, root access could in their minds potentially open the door to pirated content. However, at this time, that is nothing more than speculation by one rather paranoid editor.
What can (or should) you do about it? At the moment, it appears as if there’s not much to do. OTA updates are applied to the device automatically, without any user intervention. XDA Forum Member tchebb has created an information thread detailing the issue, along with citing the changes made to /bootloader/bootloader.c in the Chromecast source code that are responsible for the root method closure.
In addition to sharing the bad news, tchebb’s thread also includes two methods that could theoretically prevent the OTA from being applied. One method involves attempting to remove the OTA signing keys on the device, whereas the other replaces the device’s update_engine with an empty executable script. As explained by tchebb himself:
THE FOLLOWING METHODS ARE UNTESTED AND ARE NOT GUARANTEED TO WORK OR LEAVE YOUR CHROMECAST IN A WORKING STATE. PERFORM THEM AT YOUR OWN RISK.
After telnetting into your rooted Chromecast or otherwise obtaining a root shell, you can try these two possible methods
- Rename otacerts.zip to otacerts.zip.bak in /system/etc/security/. This may remove the OTA signing keys and cause the Chromecast to reject any OTAs. However, I do not know whether this file is actually used or whether is simply a remnant from Chromecast’s Android base.
- Replace /chrome/update_engine with an empty, executable, shell script (make sure to make a backup copy first). I am very unsure of this method, since it is simply going off the name of the update_engine binary. If update_engine happens to perform some task core to the system, doing this will leave your device in an unusable state. If this happens, simply re-rooting using GTVHacker’s USB image should restore your system to how it was.
However, there is a large inherent risk with applying either, and bricked devices are highly likely. Because of that, we don’t recommend that anyone, except perhaps hardware hackers named Adam and others like him, attempt this.
[Many thanks to all who sent this one in!]
August 2, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
If just having the latest Android 4.3 wasn’t a good enough reason to upgrade, Android 4.3 has TRIM support! That and more are covered by Jordan, as he reviews all the important stories from this week. Included in this week’s news is an announcement that CyanogenMod Team has realeased Focal from Project Nemesis and some forums were added for the Nokia Lumia 1020 and the Huawei Ascend P6.
Jordan talks about the other videos released this week on XDA Developer TV. XDA Developer TV Producer Kevin released a video showing how to root the New Nexus 7 (2013), and later he compared the Old Nexus 7 to the New Nexus 7. TK then showed us everything we needed to know about the new Google Chromecast. Also check out Jordan’s Nvidia Shield unboxing video and gameplay video. Pull up a chair and check out this video.
August 1, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
Google’s press event caused the Internet great excitement. Besides the New Nexus 7 (2013), which was compared to the Old Nexus 7 and rooted here on XDA Developer TV, Google announced another exciting device: the Google Chromecast.
In this video, XDA Developer TV Producer TK takes a look at the Chromecast. TK shows how to set up the Chromecast device and then some examples of ‘casting’ an app to your telly through the Chromecast. TK even shows you how to do Word Processing and web browsing with the device, so check out this video.