Installing Custom Firmware on the WDTV Live Plus

WDTV Live Plus

Building an HTPC can be time consuming and expensive. I have built many HTPCs for myself and friends and usually spend about $400 on average for a decent system plus they pull several hundred Watts of power adding a large expense if you leave them running 24/7 (which you usually need to do to download your favorite shows). For many this type of system is overkill and outside their budget. Some alternatives are things like Boxee, Roku, or small nettop PCs. But one that doesn’t get enough attention as I think it should is the WD TV. With the right tools this little powerhouse can give you a full featured HTPC experience for less than $70 and it only draws around 30 Watts. In this first article on the WD TV I will cover how to install a custom firmware called wdlxtv by b-rad and how to get it setup.

This article will focus on the WD TV Live Plus because this is what I use. You can also install the custom firmware on the WDTV Live and WDTV G2, but as I do not have these devices, you will have to read the forums for how to do it.

Hardware

WDTV Live Plus: Like I said, you can install the custom firmware on other models, but I will cover how to do it with the WD TV Live Plus. So how do you know what model you have? Look at the model number on the side of the device. WD TV Live Plus will look like one of these: WDBABX0000NBK, WDBREC0000NBK, WDBG30000NBK).

Storage: You will also need a thumb drive (256MB or larger), and an external hard drive. The flash drive is to install the firmware, the hard drive is for storing your downloaded content. You can just use a large flash drive for the content, but the constant writes will quickly deteriorate the life of the drive. For anybody starting their first HTPC project that doesn’t have a massive collection of media, a 500GB or 1TB hard drive should be fine. If you know you are going to be downloading like crazy, go for a 2TB external drive.

Network Connectivity: The WD TV Live Plus has an RJ45 port for ethernet, but if you want to use WiFi you can purchase an adapter online. This is the one I use and it works well for me (Airlink101 AWLL5077).

 What will this do for me?

By default the WD TV will supports the following playback:

  • Video – AVI (Xvid, AVC, MPEG1/2/4), MPG/MPEG, VOB, MKV (h.264, x.264, AVC, MPEG1/2/4, VC-1), TS/TP/M2T (MPEG1/2/4, AVC, VC-1), MP4/MOV (MPEG4, h.264), M2TS, WMV9
  • Photo – JPEG, GIF, TIF/TIFF, BMP, PNG
  • Audio – MP3, WAV/PCM/LPCM, WMA, AAC, FLAC, MKA, AIF/AIFF, OGG, Dolby Digital, DTS
  • Playlist – PLS, M3U, WPL
  • Subtitle – SRT, ASS, SSA, SUB, SMI
  • Netflix

The custom firmware (WDLXTV) adds the following options by default:

  • Bittorrent client (rtorrent + rutorrent)
  • Usenet download client (nzbget)
  • DAAP/Roku server (through mt-daapd)
  • NFS sharing (client and server)
  • User-generated movie sheets
  • Apache web server
  • FTP server
  • SSH server
  • Streaming from online sources through third-party plugins, allows you access to services such as Picasa, Grooveshark, Apple Trailers, and much more – over 30 plugins available at this time
  • Shoutcast
  • YoutubeHD (WD only allows for SD content)
  • Custom applications through app.bin or Optware, adding applications such as Asterisk, Mediatomb, Python, etc…
  • WDTVExt, allowing custom plugins that can alter the functionality of the OSD (BaseFW 1.02 ONLY)
  • Third party OSD themes
  • Custom wallpaper and screen saver image
  • Customizable IR remote functions
  • …and a lot more

Installing the Custom Firmware

So now that you have all of your hardware ready, lets put it to use. First you will need to format your flash drive with a FAT32 file system. You can do this by plugging it into your computer and right clicking on the drive in My Computer, then selecting format. This will delete everything from the drive so make sure you don’t have anything you care about on it. While the drive is formatting, download the latest wdlxtv firmware for your device. You can get the newest firmware from the wdlxtv forums or just follow this link (1.05.04_B-WDLXTV-Plus-0.5.1.1).

Download the archive file and extract it. Inside you will find several files. You will only need 4 of them. Copy wdtvlive2.ver, wdtvlive2.fff, wdtvlive2.bin, and wdtvlive2.bi2 to the root of your external device (thumb drive or external hard drive).

Safely remove your device from your PC and plug it into your WD TV. You should see a new menu item appear in your menu saying “Firmware Update Detected”. Select install update and let it do its thing. It will reboot a couple times.

If you do not get the firmware update message you may already have a newer version. Check to see if your firmware is newer than 1.05.04 by going to Settings > System > About. If your firmware version is 1.06.xx, plug your external device back into your computer. Open the folder and edit wdtvlive2.ver with notepad. Change VERSION=’1.05.04_B.WDLXTV_PLUS-0.5.1.1′ to VERSION=’2.05.04_B.WDLXTV_PLUS-0.5.1.1′. This will trick the WD TV into thinking your firmware version is newer even though it isn’t. Safely remove the external device again and plug it into the WD TV. You should now see the firmware update option.

Once your device has been updated, verify it by going into Settings > System > About. You should see the custom wdlxtv message in there. Press back twice. Go to Network Settings. Find your IP address and remember it.

Next download and execute Putty. This is a telnet and ssh client that will allow you to manage the WDTV. Enter your WD TV’s IP address in the Host Name (or IP address) field. For connection type select Telnet. Press Open to connect. Enter root for the username and just press enter for the password (there is no password set). Now you are logged into a telnet session of the WD TV.

Telnet is very unsecure and should be used as little as possible. Instead, use an encrypted ssh session. To do this we need to set a password for the root user account. Type passwd and press enter. Enter a password. It may say that the password is not strong enough, type the same password again. If you want to make it strong, type passwd again and enter a more complex password. When you are satisfied type exit.

Open Putty again and enter your WDTV’s IP again. This time select SSL. After you press Open a warning message will appear asking you to validate the certificate. Select Yes. Enter root as the username and your password you entered earlier.

Next we need to enable the wdtv Web Frontend (the web interface). Enter the following commands:

config_tool -c APACHE='ON'
config_tool -s
/etc/init.d/S66apache2 start

Open a browser on your computer and navigate to your WD TV’s IP (http://<wdtv ip here>). This will take you to the wdlxtv Web Frontend where you can make all kinds of configuration changes. The default username and password is wdlxtv. For now you probably don’t need to make any configuration changes in the WDLXTV Config section. In future articles I will cover some of these options and how to use them. For now just use the already installed applications.

Congratulations, you now have a WDTV Live Plus with wdlxtv on it. I know this probably wasn’t the most exciting article you have read here on TotalHTPC, but it will be a base for the future articles I plan to write including installing SABnzbd/SickBeard/CouchPotato on it; watching Netflix from outside the US; using rTorrent/ruTorrent on it; and many more.

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