My wife and I broke down and bought an original Xbox for our two sons several years ago.
The boys were ecstatic when they unwrapped their prize and saw the neon green X that promised worlds of adventure and teenage RSI.
But alas, like all technology, the Xbox was soon usurped. Microsoft molded a new, translucent object of desire, and the black plastic box was shoved into the corner, crowned with a tangle of old-school corded controllers encrusted with dust.
That's when I claimed it, dusted off its crown and once again made it king of our family room.
Using some straightforward soft-mod instructions from the ever-resourceful Gina Trapani at Lifehacker, I transformed the old Xbox into a Linux computer and loaded it with XBMC (Xbox Media Center) software. Instead of Splinter Cell and Halo, I was going to use the Xbox and my Internet connection to get "Family Guy" and "Battlestar Galactica."
While there's no sense recreating Gina's instructions (I'd never do it as well), I did stumble on a few things:
-- Getting the hack through IRC was an incredible hassle. My FTP client (FileZilla) kept getting booted when I navigated to the proper directory for the download. Since the "super-secret" FTP username and password work only once, I couldn't log back in. After hours of frustration, I learned that if I left FileZilla pointed to the proper directory, then asked again via IRC for a password (using the same name), I could start the download without getting kicked off. This took me hours to noodle out.
-- The latest build of the most popular XBMC distro is freely available at T3CH. You want to grab the "bleeding edge" version. (I started with the "stable" version, but soon updated it).
-- The Action Replay software that I received was buggy. The software presents you with three panels, which represent the three locations (memory card, PC and online) available for game saves or exploits. The Lifehacker instructions say to drop the exploit on the PC panel, then drag it to the memory card. I got the exploit into the PC panel by dragging if from my Windows desktop, but the software would not allow me to drag it from one panel to another. After considerable frustration, I simply dragged the exploit from my desktop onto the memory card panel and it worked!
-- The Lifehacker instructions say to "install the softmod" but they don't say where. The Xbox hard drive is partitioned into several drives. I guessed C:/ and it worked.
Once the installation was done, I went in search of scripts and plugins to extend the capabilities of my reborn wonder. I started with a plugin to stream video from the popular Web site Hulu, which hosts thousands of TV shows and movies.
I was disappointed when the plugin didn't work. I could navigate the directories, but the videos wouldn't play. I spent hours online looking for answers (documentation for this stuff is sparse to non-existent). I eventually just updated the XBMC software. Once the new "bleeding edge" software was installed, the Hulu plugin worked like a charm. I spent the next 90 minutes watching "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels."
Spurred on by my success, I downloaded the Navi-X Media Browser, which essentially puts another media player inside XBMC. The Navi-X package includes scripts for dozens of online media sources, including YouTube, Adult Swim, Flickr and others. In my experience, some worked and others didn't, but there are more than enough to keep you busy for weeks.
Next up, I'm going to custom keymap my universal remote (I already have an IR adapter) so that I can shed the old-school controller.
All this for less than $30. W00t!