I decided to install the latest Debian to my old AppleTV in order to use it as a server in the house. It has 160GB hard drive, 256MB RAM and a 1GHz processor. I think it could work well for NAS and VPN.
I pulled the drive out of the AppleTV and hooked it up to my mac with a USB to IDE converter cable (All of this work is done on the Mac running Ubuntu under VMWare). It would be a little easier simply having a Linux machine handy. Then we wouldn’t have to deal with the virtual machine and host OS fighting for the USB devices. Anyway, you just need that AppleTV drive plugged into a Linux host to do these commands:
I used this method to prepare the drive:
Then booted up a Debian installer with VMWare, and installed Debian to partition #4 on the drive with partition #5 as swap. Do NOT install GRUB to the MBR, the recovery files that are placed in the two AppleTV partitions will search for menu.lst and boot that grub. You may need to install (create) menu.lst by hand, especially if your particular distro uses GRUB2 like the latest version of Debian does.
Here is a copy of the /boot/grub/menu.lst which I created by hand:
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.26-2-686 root=/dev/hda4 ro quiet processor.max_cstate=2
After the OS install is finished, I sync and remove the drive from my Linux machine. Put the drive back in the AppleTV and booted it up. The AppleTV should boot straight to linux.