Economy of Effort

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Xbox: Modded For Fun And Profit

OK, maybe not so much with the “profit”, but plenty of the “fun”.

I have a history of using old hardware for new purposes. I currently have a media server / router box in my room that is (mostly) a computer that I built for my best friend some 6-7 years ago. I’ve refurbished machines for family members, and torn parts out of spare systems to repair or upgrade others peoples' systems.

Now, game consoles are getting in on the action. I had planned on modding my Xbox once I got an Xbox 360. And, as of a few days ago, I finally went ahead and did it.

Some research and help from neighborhood friendly Gamers With Jobs made the entire process very smooth and simple. I found out that I did not, in fact, need a modchip at all. Instead, a “soft mod” would serve all of my purposes easily.

Xbox My goals were two in number: to be able to watch IPTV (video podcasts and such) on my television, and to be able to emulate all of my old consoles from the early ‘90s on back (so that I can leave that hardware in storage). These goals, as it turned out, were very easily achieved.

To perform the softmod, I needed the Krayzie Ndure Softmod Pack (found on your nearest Bittorrent search engine) and a Pro Action Replay USB. The Pro Action Replay is usually used for downloading “cheat” savegames from the Internet to a memory card that plugs into the Xbox controllers. For my purposes, the save game was a “hack” from the Ndure pack, which would almost completely automate the process of installing a new BIOS and dashboard, as well as backing up the original stuff. All I needed was a copy of the original Splinter Cell (which I never got rid of) and I was off.

After the Ndure install finished, I had a modded Xbox running the Evolution-X dashboard. That allowed me to FTP into the Xbox from my laptop. For emulators and other apps (like Xbox Media Center), one need fire up their IRC client, and head to EFNet and #xbins. Or, if you have a nice legal copy of the Xbox Development Kit (and who doesn’t?), you can just download the source code from the project websites and build it yourself. Either way, once the binaries are built, it’s just a matter of FTP-ing into the Xbox and uploading them into the “Apps” and “Emus” folders.

Xbox Media Center had little trouble getting onto my Samba network and pulling video files from my media server on demand. I tweaked a copy of the Bashpodder podcast client script to download and store video podcasts in a particular folder, and told XBMC to look in that folder. Voila, it streams the video from my server whenever I browse to view a video.

Which leads me to my initial list of must-see video podcasts: DigitalLife TV (Patrick Norton and Robert Heron from TechTV, doing a 45 minute tech show) Rocketboom (a daily 3-minute mini-show, loosely about tech and the Internet, with a very cute anchorwoman) 1UP TV (good gaming TV) Diggnation (Kevin Rose and Alex Albrecht discussing stories from - probably more enjoyable than digg itself) Tiki Bar TV (ummm… it’s kind of like a recurring skit about a new cocktail each time, except with less structure and more funny. And LaLa is hot)

I have some others subscribed to but not yet viewed.

Anyway - I got some good answers to my question in the last post about games for my parents. They bought Mario Kart, as well as an old copy of Madden for $5 to try out. And I imagine they will go get Mario Tennis after they’ve worn their current stash out a bit more.

Now, I’m waiting on a copy of Beyond Good & Evil to arrive in the mail, as a Christmas present for my girlfriend (which should have been here around Christmas, but the tool I originally ordered it from on sat around for a week and cancelled the order January 3rd, without a word). But that’s a discussion for another post.