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XBOX Mod shim John & Kristie

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projects :: Tuesday, April 5, 2005
FREMONT, SEATTLE, WA :: It's possible to turn the XBOX into an impressive media center PC with a simple hardware modification to bypass the system's restrictive BIOS. There are literally hundreds of vendors that sell "mod chips" and dozens of manufacturers that produce them. Deciding on which one to get depends on your XBOX version, which features you want, and whether you're comfortable soldering tiny pins onto the motherboard. To be safe, I opted for a solderless version.

I installed XBOX Media Center (XBMC) as my new dashboard, and while I had the case open, I swapped out the 10 GB hard drive for a 250 GB version. Now I have plenty of space to copy over my games, movies, television shows, songs and photos. If I run out of space on the hard drive, XBMC automatically sets up an SMB share and FTP server to easily transfer and/or stream files across my home network. It plays virtually every media file type, and automagically uses my iTunes playlists to neatly categorize all of my music. It communicates with IMDB to get movie information, provides weather reports, plays ShoutCast music streams, plays the latest movie trailers straight from QuickTime's website, and the latest video game trailers as well. With XBMC, it's easy to forget the XBOX is a video game console.

The entire interface is controllable from the wireless DVD remote, and you can have songs or movies play in a smaller window while utilizing other functions. And it looks cool to boot. My first few hours with XBMC blew me away with the seemingly 10-fold increase in functionality. Certainly worth the $35 for the mod chip (XBMC is open source). I'm just regretting it took me so long to do it. Hopefully Microsoft takes notice and makes these features standard in their next console. If not, I'm sure the mod scene will be eager to hack it as well.

For more information, one of the best resources is www.xbox-scene.com.

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