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.

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  • ukDave - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    Yes the xbox has a PS1 emulator, only one that i know of. Its called "PCSXbox". Good place for emulator info: http://xport.xbox-scene.com/ , obviosuly a subsection of xbox-scene.

    And before anyone asks, no there are none for the PS2 (nor will there ever be).
  • ukDave - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    I'm not 100% sure about the SmartXX, as i have the well known Xecuter 2.3b chip which has DIP switches mountable on the outsode of the xbox so that youc an disable it in order to play X-Box live and whatnot.

    From what i've just read over on the forums at xbox-scene, SmartXX is fully X-BoX Live compliant. You simply (as you say Kris) boot back into the MS BIOS. This can be done by turning the xbox on by pressing the EJECT button. To enable the modchip, turn on with the POWER button. (source: http://forums.xbox-scene.com/index.php?showtopic=3...

    SmartXX section of the forums: http://forums.xbox-scene.com/index.php?showforum=6...
  • ksherman - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    #3, you said there is mulators for n64 and down. Is there an emulator for PSone games? would love to be able to play FF7 again
  • KristopherKubicki - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    Jeff7181: I think with the SmartXX chip you can actually boot back into the normal MS BIOS and have no problems with X-Link and such. If you install Linux on the last 2 unpartitioned GB of your 10GB drive, your XBOX should basically have no idea that the machine is modded at all.

    LotoBak, ukDave, am I correct on that statement?

  • ukDave - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    Oh and Jeff, i believe many mod chips have the facility to simply turn them off with a flick of a switch, so you can continue to use XBOX Live. But as LotoBak says, there is the free X-Link service available too.
  • ukDave - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    http://www.xbox-scene.com is really the only place to go for XBOX related discussion, tutorials, really anything you need to know that isn't covered in this article.

    I bought a bodged XBOX mod from someone in the UK, got it professionally fixed and re-modded. It now has a 120GB disk for all my games, its connected to my LAN. With the excellent XBMC i can play literally any media file from any PC over the network, be it standard files such as MP3's or AVI's, or images such as .bins/cue's.

    Well worth looking into if you have an XBOX that is currently un-modded.

    Also, /me wants 8 XBOX's :D Although, those 'leccy costs, eek!
  • Jeff7181 - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    I've been thinking about modding mine to use to play video over the network... but I don't want to lose normal Xbox (and Xbox Live) functionality. Wish that was covered here, but I guess it's not really a "mod your Xbox" article as much as it's a "mod an Xbox to make a cheap PC" article.
  • LotoBak - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    Nice guys... besides your linking problem

    Knowing a little more about the xbox scene a few things your might consider...

    1) Mods go for as cheap as 10USD retail.
    2) Software exploiting the xbox is always an option which results in a 'free' modchip
    3) http://tutorials.xbox-scene.com to learn about most anything
    4) XBMC dvd menu support is comming!
    5) XBMC irc channel on irc.efnet.info #xbmc
    6) Online gaming is free through Xlink www.teamxlink.com
    7) Emulators for n64 and 'down' are available
    8) This is the cheapest htpc with 480p 720 and 1080i available
    9) xbmc supports many formats
    Audio : wav, aac, ac3, mp3, flac, ra, vorbis
    Video : ogg avi mkv rm, mov containers
    Codec : xivd, divx, mpeg2, mpeg1, quicktime, realvideo and realaudio (limited) and many others. The video engine is based apon mplayer open source project

    Networking :
    Shares :Supports ccx, samba (windows file sharing), and replaytv shares.
    Streaming : Supports a multitude of video and audio streaming formats. webradio is included which has a 'channel' browser for online shoutcast streams. There is also a apple movie trailer browser.

    Scripting :
    XBMC has python scripting language implimented so its open to many possibilities

    XBMC does have some rough edges but it is maturing quickly. If you are interested in contributing to the project check out www.xboxmediacenter.com and the 'XBMC' project on sourceforge

    Feel free to ask questions about xbox stuff here... ill watch it for a while
  • Marlin1975 - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

  • Marlin1975 - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    Page 6 has HOME instead of page 7 link

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