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July 12, 2004

Turning XBox into a Media Center

There was only one reason why I wanted to mod our xbox: not to run pirated games, not install a ps2 emulator, not to run linux, but to run XBox Media Center. Given that the xbox was already set up to run over the living room's television and plugged into the main audio set, it was the ideal device to double up as media terminal.

I choose to get the Xecuter 2.3B Lite Plus, which is the solderless version, from Modchips. It got stuck a few days while going through customs, but it arrived in good shape. Installation was simple, although the matching up of the pins from the chips and the locations on the motherboard requires some sensitivity. But it is still way more convenient than soldering it. The instructions are pretty good, although I would not suggest this if you have never opend an electronics device before. The whole install went like a breeze and quickly resulted in a bios-flash-boot screen (see the pictures below).

Given that I didn't know which tools were useful and which not, I went with the SlaYer's auto-install package, which allows you to flash a bios, install a new shell, and install a set of basic applications. I also downloaded the latest version of XBox Media Center, as the Slayer's install only comes with the now obsolete Media Player. Again flashing and install went smooth and on reboot the xbox booted into the EvolutionX shell from the hard disk. I could now ftp into the xbox and update the menus of the shell and install the latest XBMC version. After pointing the media center software to our server with all our video files, we could now see the media center in action the way we intended it.

It has been running like this for 2-3 weeks now, and I am absolutely enthusiastic about it. The quality of audio, video and images is really good. It also works great as a region free dvd player. Using the controls needs some getting used to, but we have wireless ones so that makes it a bit cleaner. It was absolutely worth wrecking the xbox's warranty for. Now we are entering the phase in that we have to figure out how we can have the PVR processing, which is now set up to produce the best results for the AV300 series, generate video that has the right quality for xbmc also.

Posted by Werner Vogels at July 12, 2004 01:37 PM