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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  • TimPope - Thursday, May 12, 2005 - link

    not bad information but i would have liked to see some kind of real world performance using openmosix.. a single x box on its own as a pc is slow but stick 2-4 together using open mosix could make a reasonably good machine and still be pretty cheap
  • Halz - Wednesday, November 17, 2004 - link

    The rule followed in the article for the -j option, "number of proccessors + 1", overlooked the logical proccessors of the Xeon's Hyperthreading.. -j should have then been something around 5 instead of 3
  • Halz - Wednesday, November 17, 2004 - link

    Simply compiling on the Opteron and Xeon with the same number of threads as the full cluster would have illustraighted a difference.

    More testing should have gone into finding how many threads was the ideal number for the given platforms.
  • artifex - Saturday, November 13, 2004 - link

    Aikouka, can't you just use one of those "HD Loader" type programs WITHOUT a modchip?
    I'd be all for modding my PS/2 if I thought I could actually do something useful with it, like stream audio/video from a PC or a ReplayTV or something.
  • KristopherKubicki - Saturday, November 13, 2004 - link

    Halz: what should it have been?

  • Aikouka - Thursday, November 11, 2004 - link

    23, yes, you can still do just about anything. I know with the software mod that I use, I've been having problems getting the original MS Dash to load up, but I've gotten around that using other programs for the original dashboard's functionality (dvd etc).

    You know, you can also replace the HDD with just a software mod, and it's not that hard. So, if you don't want to hardware mod and want more space, you can still put in a bigger HDD. As much as some people don't like the XBOX, in my opinion, it's probably the best console to mod.

    24, 2) Modchips also allow hdd loading if you have the PS2 HDD (using HDDLoader.) Also, it lets the warez'ers download and play games on the PS2 that they don't really own.
  • artifex - Thursday, November 11, 2004 - link

    1) what we really need is a usb-based tv tuner that actually works. That would be excellent for adding functionality both to XBoxen as cheap PVRs (though I'd still just use XBMC to stream from my ReplayTV, most of the time), but also would be great for iMacs. I'm sure if someone came up with a decent open architecture design, the community would come up with drivers for both types of systems.

    2) what are modchips for PS2s useful for, other than playing import games? Especially with the new PS2s having no drive (is there still a header on the new board style to add one back?)

    3) did I miss the obligatory dnetc test? You gotta do that, you know.
  • Booty - Thursday, November 11, 2004 - link

    I don't even own an Xbox, but reading this article has me reaching for my wallet...

    But first, I want to get this straight - I can mod the Xbox and still use XLink, right? I doubt I'd get a Live subscription anyway, but it'd be nice to have that option possible.

    Ideally I'd like to throw a bigger hard drive in there and then run XBMC, without losing the normal XBox capabilities.

    So if I can do that, I'm goin' to the store this weekend... :)
  • Halz - Thursday, November 11, 2004 - link

    The compile options for the Opteron and Xeon were starving the CPUs; the number of jobs (-j) was no where near optimal.
  • Halz - Thursday, November 11, 2004 - link

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