Western Digital have released a fantastic product for playing back media from a USB storage device onto your TV. It’s called the WDTV and uses the Sigma Designs SMP863x chipset for decoding 1080P video in a variety of containers.

In short, it’s a fantastic product - but not suprisingly from Western Digital, it’s only intended as an accessory to their hard drive products - leaving the device without network connectivity. I’d really like this device to support network 1080P playback, as it would make a welcome replacement to the Xbox running XBMC in my room.

After talking to a mate of mine who has already purchased a unit for its hackability, I headed down to Officeworks to pick up a unit. At AUD$196, it’s quite reasonable.

First things firt, taking off the cover reveals a header labelled CN4. From speaking to my mate, I know this is a serial interface for the system. Googling around a bit reveals you’ll need a TTL->Serial converter to step up the voltage on the interface from 3.3V, and someone on the AVS Forums happily points out which pin is which.

Using the instructions from the MAX232’s datasheet (and a handy page online, as I’m not the best with electronics, etc), I built the conversion circuit and finished it off this morning.

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So the interface is up and running and I can see the output from the WDTV itself, however it seems that I can’t use the busybox terminal on the device - so I’ve either stuffed the TX side of my MAX232 circuit or I’ve missed something with my terminal setup.

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I’ll keep updating here as I make progress (or not)!

Update #1: After paying some attention to some solders and tracers on my TTL board, I’ve fixed the TX issue and can now interact with my WDTV’s busybox shell! More updates to come!

Update #2: I’ve uploaded the output from the full startup sequence here.