Googles surprising little HDMI stick has been causing quite a bit of noise since its surprise announcement last week, and now that users are finally getting hands on time theres some interesting things going on in the software.
Theres no other way to describe it, Googles Chromecast is downright impressive. A $35 HDMI stick compatible with Android, iOS, and any traditional PC with the Chrome browser onboard would be a neat trick on its own, but this little stick is capable of streaming Netflix in 1080p using a system that is significantly more efficient than Apples Airplay.
The massive wave of early adopters over the weekend has ensured that weve only scratched the surface of this little single core Marvell stick. In fact, one group has already claimed root access to the stick, and has issued a call to arms for other developers to step in before Google plugs the hole they found.
The guys at GTV Hacker discovered a flaw in the verification of signed system images and have used that flaw to deploy a root shell on the device. This isnt useful to the average user yet, and in fact by publishing how the exploit was possible they very well may have started a ticking clock to when Google issues an update to the hardware that fixes this flaw and renders part of their work up to this point useless.
Their hope by announcing so loudly what they have accomplished, is that others in the Android modder/hacker scene will step up and help them turn this root exploit into something useful for users by deploying features that are not currently available through the Google controlled Chromecast experience.
Thats right, the GTV Hacker team is calling on Android enthusiasts instead of Chrome OS enthusiasts. According to their research on the software deployed to the Chromecast, the OS powering this device is not quite the stripped down Chrome OS that Google claimed during their presentation. Instead, Chromecast seems to be running stripped down GoogleTV code, which places it squarely in Android territory. Because it is running GoogleTV code, you cant just sideload an APK and install any app you please, which is why the GTV Hacker team is calling on the community to step up and lend a hand.
Given the limited nature of the hardware, it seems unlikely that anything particularly interesting will come from this exploit. You probably wont be playing Angry Birds or flashing CyanogenMod to your Chromecast, for example.
While a $35 Chromecast is an interesting thing to have, $35 Android based HDMI sticks are pretty common now. They are never particularly useful, and are almost always not worth the trouble. What makes the Chromecast great is the dead simple UI and an intent to add support for more in the future.
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