If you don't feel like turning your $150 XBOX (technically $210 XBOX + mod chip) into a $150 computer, you can always turn it into a $150 DVD player. XBOX Media Center, or XBMC, is a full-featured package that can be run on any modified XBOX. XBMC mimics Windows Media Center Edition from Microsoft, but is an open source software. Not too long ago, we took a look at MythTV, a Linux-based media center package meant to be run on PC hardware, and discussed the differences between it and Microsoft's Windows Media Center Edition.

XBMC is similar to MythTV in many ways, without capture capability. Obviously, the Linux/open source aspects of the software put them in the same category, but many of the features are similar also. Since XBMC is open source, developers can implement new features to expand on the package as they feel necessary, and the most obvious add-ons implemented on one can easily be added to the other. For example, the weather forecast program built into XBMC has been coded as an add-in for MythTV. This does not necessarily mean that it is the same code, but rather just the same idea.

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Besides the extras, XBMC's core functionality is the ability to play audio and video of various formats (with the help of different codecs), slideshows of pictures, as well as CDs and DVDs from the DVD-ROM drive. Programs can also be launched from XBMC as an alternative to the OS installed after modding the hardware. The only function missing from XBMC, which is included in PC-based media center packages, is the TV functionality. Since a TV tuner card cannot be installed in an XBOX, media playback is limited to local/networked/streamed material. If you use your XBMC as a local platform to play ripped movies off the network, you have a very powerful, sleek network player.

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Since Microsoft has gladly included a 10/100 Ethernet port on the XBOX, it can be networked to any PC network to allow sharing of files through SMB shares or FTP. For XBMC, SMB shares can be set up to stream files over a local area network.

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XBMC is also fully skin-able to further personalize the experience. Using PNG files, like MythTV does, XBMC can be customized to mimic Windows Media Center or any other media center package.

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Right now, XMBC is a little rough around the edges. The weather plugin and network browser are certainly awesome features, but DVD playback and menu options look like they need a little work still. XMBC shows some promise, and when the project matures enough,we will definitely anticipate using it in a more ambitious manner.

Desktop Performance A Beowulf Cluster
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  • Nepsir - Thursday, November 11, 2004 - link

    I was just wondering if you will do a test with mental ray on the cluster (I think you mentioned something about Mental Ray in the article). It would be really interesting to see the results of that since me and a couple of friends got modded X-Boxes and I have a 3dsMax6 license (Mental Ray is included).
  • gibson042 - Thursday, November 11, 2004 - link

    You might want to look at the "mini-cluster" project (http://www.mini-itx.com/projects/cluster/) when planning/designing/building your EPIA cluster. It's a 12-node (originally 6) cluster developed by Glen Gardner, and appears to be the same size or a little smaller than a stack of an equal number of XBOXes. Of course, the frame is custom built and the hardware is exposed to the world.
  • Aikouka - Thursday, November 11, 2004 - link

    I can say that I love having a modded xbox, because the capabilities are so much greater. As discussed earlier, a software mod can be a great way to do it (although it usually requires a game unless you want to take your HDD out, which is NOT a fun method unless you love swapping IDE cables.)

    It's also good to note that you should be careful when modding these or even make a backup of the hdd on your system, because things can go wrong, and if you like to fiddle with things, then your chances will be a lot higher. I know at one point I was stuck in error 16 and had to pull the HDD out and unlock it using the IDE swap method.

    Are there plans for an article on modding something such as the PS2? I just recently tried a no-solder modchip in the PS2, and it doesn't seem to be going along too well. Maybe it's time for a flip-top.
  • Scarceas - Thursday, November 11, 2004 - link

    "We crimped our own cabling as you can see in the image below."

    I'm still looking for the image, I know its there somewhere!
  • bleugh - Thursday, November 11, 2004 - link

    If anyone wants their xbox motherboards upgraded to 128 megabytes of memory, I can do it

    I'm UK based and use BRAND NEW samsung memory chips

    I can upgrade your existing motherboards, sell you ready upgraded boards, or even just the chips!

    if one of the anandtech team wants their xboxes upgraded i'll happily do it at cost, please contact me to discuss

  • LotoBak - Thursday, November 11, 2004 - link

    First, XBox live banning....

    Basically this is how it used to work. When your on live it does a hash of your bios. A mod replaces your bios. If you bios is not the retail ms bios the serial (eeprom) is blacklisted. NOW since halo2 has been released it appears that MS has changed a while bunch of shit on us. Preliminary information indicates that MS is banning by hard drive serial+model numbers, xbox serial, and flagging the gamertag as 'potential pirate'. Thus to unban the xbox both a new hdd and eeprom are needed. Then you must cancel and create a new xbox live account. There are more details about how it all works but bottom line is we dont know how it works now. They can throw new stuff at us anytime now. Rumors are flying that hdd capacities are being scanned as well. For all intents and perposes xbox + modded xbox's do not mix.

    Yes there is a PS1 emu for xbox. That said xbox DVD drives do not read cd-r (or retail ps1 games) Therefor all games must be transfered to the xbox hdd in bin/cue or iso format

    When comparing mods remember, the mod contains no modded bios stuff. They are useless in them selves. You will need to aquire a modded bios for your xbox (online, free). What this means is that every mod can contain the same bios's. Therefor they all contain the same base features (mostly booting unsigned code). Hardware features and support is where you want to base your decision on. If you want cheap + no manufacterer support there are 10$ solutions around for you(enabled/disables with power button). If you want support with a mod with a few extra hardware features (2 bios's, external switch) that'll cost around 30-40. Fancy Shamcy lcd support, 8 bios banks, blah blah blah fancy external thing thoes are up to 75ish. But in the end they all allow you to run the same software on the xbox.

    if you want to learn read some beginner tutorials at http://tutorials.xbox-scene.com
  • Omega215D - Thursday, November 11, 2004 - link

    After seeing Halo 2, it makes me wonder if they really need Pixel Shader 2.0. Its pretty cool that I can play old games on the XBOx through emulators though but i wanna see when the next XBOX kicks off before spending $200.
  • ViRGE - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    #12, probably not. The Xbox's GPU is a GeForce 4 class GPU - the lack of Pixel Shader 2.0 features can really be limiting.
  • euph - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    is there any way to use the gpu for the pov-ray rendering?
  • ukDave - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    Little quote that sums up the SmartXX XBL saga:

    Q: just bought a Smart XX mod and I still don't know if i'll be able to play xbox live so please somebody tell me if i'll be able to play it.
    A: There is no easy way to answer this question. First of all, it all depends on circumstance. Have you upgraded your hard drive? Has your Xbox ever been banned before? And, for newbs, are you thinking about playing on live while using a bios from the chip.

    If you answered yes to any of these questions you've won a lifetime ban from Microsoft!

    Sleep time :) And i don't even use XBL :D

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