There's always time to play

Friday, August 8, 2008

Pairing the Itunes Remote app with your own server

I got a bit further today, but first I'll start with information you would need to try this yourself.

You need a working installation of a zeroconf implementation, the implementation of choice is avahi in my case. You need to set up two services for your zeroconf implementation, I'm using avahi so I made two files in /etc/avahi/services:

<?xml version="1.0" standalone='no'?><!--*-nxml-*-->
<!DOCTYPE service-group SYSTEM "avahi-service.dtd">
<name>Long magic iPod identifier</name>
<txt-record>DvNm=Test remote</txt-record>
<txt-record>Pair=pairing code</txt-record>

The first bold string is to be replaced with your iPod's id exported in _touch-remote._tcp on your ipod (it actually is the service name, as the xml shows). The next bold string is to be replaced with the paircode. Because ultimately my goal is to have the remote app talk to my own application, I will need to copy this from the ipod as well. I always first click 'Add library' (I assume that's what it is, I've got mine set to Dutch...), then copy the id, then save the file (make sure to keep the pincode screen open, new pincode means new pairing code). Now on my laptop with iTunes (in Windows) I immediately see 'Test remote' appear at the remotes list, isn't that great?

<?xml version="1.0" standalone='no'?><!--*-nxml-*-->
<!DOCTYPE service-group SYSTEM "avahi-service.dtd">
<txt-record>CtlN=Test library</txt-record>

This file has some magic strings in it too, but these are less interesting. Name is obviously an identifier, this is how the remote will find the server after the server application has requested pairing. DbId is almost the same as name, in my case it happened to be 3 more than DbId. I changed both numbers (but kept the difference the same) because I would otherwise immediately get an error that the remote was not paired, seems it was connecting to iTunes (duplicate IDs). CtlN is the name the remote app will list as the library name, it actually works...

Now on to the next part, the connection.
When you click on a remote in iTunes it asks you to enter a pincode. As soon as you enter the code iTunes will make a http request to the port the _touch-remote._tcp service is running on (changes everytime on ipod touch, always seems to be port 505xx). Actually it probably should be seen as a DAAP request, but since DAAP is just special http it won't really matter. The request will feature a pairing-code and a database id, both as GET vars. The pairing code seems to be a hash of the pairing code the _touch-remote._tcp service lists combined with the pin code. I have not even tried to figure out how it's calculated, except for the fact that it's just as long as a md5 sum.

In the case with our fake remote, we can run netcat on port 50508 (port I chose/used), to do this, run 'nc -l -p 50508' in a terminal. Now if I click on 'Test remote' and enter my pin, iTunes sends a nice pairing-code. Because we used the service pairing code from the real remote for our fake remote, and typed the correct pincode, the remote will be happy if we forward the request. You can do this by just copying/pasting the request iTunes made into telnet or netcat connected to the real remote app. When forwarding the request, be sure to replace the database id iTunes passes along for the id you entered as name in touch-able.service. Now you should have paired your iTunes remote with your computer.

This pairing process is currently quite complicated, but I don't think I'm able to solve the hashing riddle without reverse engineering iTunes or the remote application, but I'm not sure I would actually manage to do that and also I'm not sure if it would be legal to do so. Not that I really care that much about it being legal (just applies to this case), if someone else would solve the issue I'd be happy to use it.

So what's next? Well now that it's paired the remote will connect to the port listed for the touch-able service and request server info ('GET /server-info HTTP/1.1'). It's easy to get this from iTunes (just forward the request), the real issue is that almost everything that iTunes and the Remote pass to eachother is gzip or zlib compressed. Wireshark seems to be able to decompress most of it, but the response the remote sends to complete pairing seems to be compressed too and I haven't succeeded in decompressing it yet. It should be valid http traffic, actually it also starts with '200 ok', so I know I succeeded in pairing.

The next step is to send some server info (and see what the remote likes and doesn't like) and then figure out the login process. So far I know the remote sends a login request with a paring-guid or something, at least it's a magic number that should identify the remote to iTunes so iTunes can check if it's really paired. Nice for security, but for now I'll guess that part will be happy with another '200 ok'. The remote does however continue after this by passing a session id along when asking for information, so it could be I have to return a session id on login, after which the session id can be used to identify connected remotes.

When there's a real session I can start digging into the harder stuff (at least I'll guess it'll be hard). Some things will probably be quite easy (fetching album-art, fetching volume settings, changing them), getting a playlist will probably be harder...

What also comes to mind right now is that you can use the remote to set speaker volumes for the so-called airtunes speakers. Perhaps it would be nice to abuse this, I can definately understand anyone that wants to create a fake speaker to control whatever slider on his system.

That's it for now, if someone can give me tips on the compression (maybe I should look at wget, curl or whatever code?) I would be very happy, other than that I'm hoping to postpone programming as long as possible so I have more time to think about design.

Edit: Short-term conclusions:
* The DbId/name for the server isn't used in the pairing hash
* The remote port number isn't used in the pairing hash (makes life a bit easier)
* Having the remote paired will make it request /server-info, on teh port specified for the touch-able service, and it stays paired for now... (I guess login can kill pairing)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

iPod Touch iTunes Remote without iTunes?

With the new iPod firmware Apple also released a remote for iTunes as iPhone/iPod Touch application. The application is quite nice, but I won't go into much detail on usability etc right now (if I ever will at all). The thing I wanted to discuss is using the remote application without iTunes. I would love to use the remote for my normal machine or my home theatre pc. The application has support for 'Movies' and 'Television Shows' too, so it would be usable for mythtv. Actually it could be possible to abuse playlists or whatever (ratings for priorities?) to use the application to schedule recordings.

So this is all nice and stuff, but where is the documentation? Well I guess there isn't any. It seems however that Apple is using Daap to control iTunes. A daap server is just a special HTTP server, so the protocol is easy. Also the services (remote and touch-able) are exported using bonjour/zeroconf, so I can fake these services using avahi. So far I managed to create the services so iTunes will think my computer is a iTunes remote. It sends the pincode it uses for connection, but that's how far I've gotten up to now. The pincode is encrypted or hashed, but I guess the hash contains more than just the pincode. I used telnet to send a pincode to the remote application (getting the pincode by having iTunes sending it to netcat), but it just failed with a 404. Perhaps I'm doing something wrong.

I'm going to continue work on this, I already thought of some other stuff to try, so if you're interested leave a comment so I know people want this. Also if you know more than me already, feel free to leave it in a comment too...