Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The move from Netgear MP101 to Xbox Media Center

For some time now, I've been using a Netgear MP101 with the free TwonkyVision MusicServer. Unfortunately, the free version of MusicServer is no longer available from TwonkyVision as it is now part of the TwonkyMedia package, but you can still get it from places like the "Files" section of the NetgearMP101 Yahoo! Group. Even though the MP101 includes wireless B support, in order to have optimum playback performance, I used two Belkin Wireless G routers bridged together and connected the MP101 to the bridged router via ethernet. Using the matched routers to do the wireless communication gives significant communications improvements over using the wireless B.

Well, that was well and good for music, but I wanted to do more (view pictures, videos, etc). I first tried out MythTV and MediaPortal on a spare computer. They were ok, though a bit slow (particularly in startup time) and MythTV proved a little difficult to get working with the hardware I had. Though the biggest factor in not going that route was that my wife was not happy with the computer case sitting next to the entertainment center. Yes, I could buy a small form-factor case, motherboard, etc. and build a small PC to look like another audio component to fit in the entertainment canter, but I wanted to do this cheaply.

Then I ran into this article in Popular Science (printed edition) to build an "Xbox Media Monster". I knew you could hack Xboxes to run Linux or make them into media centers, but I thought you needed a modchip or good soldering skills (which I don't have), but apparently now you no longer need to do any hardware modifications! The instructions in the printed Popular Science article were a little too general, so I found more complete instructions here which include the specific part numbers you need for the original MechAssault.

So, I made a quick stop to GameStop to buy a used Xbox, an Action Replay memory device, and an original copy of the game MechAssault. Finding the original MechAssault was the only tricky part and required me to go to a second store. Then I simply followed the instructions and I was up and running XBMC (XBox Media Center) in no time. I used the XBMC BLINGBLING edition as it was the most up-to-date edition I could find.

I'm loving my Xbox Media Center now. Besides being able to view and stream my pictures, music, and videos from my Linux server, XBMC also contains a scripting ability for which many scripts are available to do things like view the latest videos on YouTube, Google Videos, or your favorite community video source, stream audio from Shoutcast, Live365, or other audio sources, view current weather radar, TV listings, etc. If there's a media source online, someone probably has a script to view it via XBMC.

XBMC can play video DVD and audio CDs (and rip them for you). You can use Xlink Kai to play games across the internet instead of a normal LAN (Local Area Network). Additionally, you can install Xbox apps like dvd2xbox to rip your Xbox games to the Xbox hard drive. Extracting your favorite game to the hard drive can help game performance. Another Xbox application you may want to try is MAMEoX to play your favorite classic arcade game on your Xbox.

XBMC includes a web server so you can remotely control your Xbox, and an FTP server to move files to/from your Xbox.

All in all, it's an impressive system for around $140 (for Xbox and all necessary accessories).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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And Bye.