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Interesting PVR and XBox development...
Posted 29 July 2004 - 10:59 AM
GentooX is a version of Linux that can be installed and run on a modified XBox. MythTV is an open source Linux project which turns a Linux PC into a free PVR provided you have a video capture card, etc in the PC..
As refurbished XBoxes can be had for around $119.00 from various sources, this makes for one really cheap PVR. Or, it sounds like soon Friendtech will be offering modified complete XBox PVRs using MythTV at http://www.friendtech.com, probably for slightly more that you would pay to install the mod chip, drive and software yourself. The really cool part is that these media centers that they are saying are being developed will have all of the benefits of a modified XBox too. They will run Linux applications and games, or some windows equivalents using Wine, or emulators and homebrew software developed for the XBox, or XBox games. I have an XBox that I modified myself with an Xecuter2 2.3B+ Pro chip (soldered it myself and all), I have an unmodified XBox which I use to connect to XBox Live as Microsoft has employed a mechanism that detects if an XBox has been modified and denies modded XBox service with XBox Live. They have said that they really don't care that the XBox was modified so much as they care that everyone playing on the XBox Live service have equal systems so that play is not unfair for the people using non-modified systems. I also have a Friendtech DreamX-733 which I use solely for media storage and retrieval and Internet streaming using the XBox media center. Personally, I couldn't be happier with the thing and I liked it so much that I ordered an upgrade kit for the non-Friendtech XBox that I modified myself and it is now further modified and has 128M of RAM (instead of the usual 64M) and a 250G hard drive in it.
The only gotcha that you have to look out for if you intend to modify an XBox yourself, is when you buy the XBox, it is better to get refurbished in order to make sure that you get a version 1.0 to version 1.5 motherboard based XBox. I have hear that the newer 1.6 motherboard based XBoxes have changed a lot of the circuitry on the motherboard and thus is harder to modify (actually, I think there are people still working on it.) Refurbished XBoxes are the way to go at this point for modding. If you are artistic, there is tons of information available on painting XBoxes and XBox jewels and lighting them up with LEDs and such.
Anyway I think that this is a fairly interesting development for the PVR world. I doubt that XBoxes will replace my TIVOs anytime soon, but they can enhance my overall PVR experience and even provide me with more PVR storage and the ability to archive what I store to DVD if I so choose.
Here is some news quoted from http://www.xbox-scene.com:
Friendtech Media Center (MCE) screenshots available
>> From ShALLaX on http://gentoox.shallax.com:
A picture says a thousand words... so imaging what a whole forum post of them says! Also a video has been released demonstrating how MCE can cope with DVD ripping whilst playing back a pre-ripped movie! Check it out here.
All images captured and hosted by Kris of xboxrepairguide.com.
(July 29 13:36 GMT+1) - (direct link to article)
(Posted by:: XanTium)
Announcing a new project... Friendtech Media Center
>> From ShALLaX on http://gentoox.shallax.com/:
Developed in collaboration with Friendtech, both I (the developer) and CyKiller (the coordinator) are proud to announce "Friendtech Media Center". Based upon "Gentoox" and the tried and tested "MythTV(info)", the media center currently allows for playback of videos and audio while offering more advanced features such as an image gallery, DVD ripping and encoding, CD ripping and encoding, web browsing and weather forecasting. All the time an FTP server and SAMBA server are running in the background to allow you to upload new media and even download ripped media to/ from your Xbox.
The project itself is still only in BETA stages and has been in development for under a month. The release of BETA 4 brings Gentoox and the Media Center together in one package - when installing the Media Center, it will ask for a Gentoox CD and install both in one go. This means you can either boot straight into the media center to watch some movies, or boot into Gentoox to use instant messaging clients/ chat such as GAIM and Xchat (irc). Basically, this turns your Xbox into a complete computer and then some. Remember, the emphasis of the project is on ease of use. There is no messing around trying to set the software up - it works straight out of the box! Just run through the fully automated installer and you'll be up and running in no time... Linux has never been this easy.
"So whats so great about this?", you may think. Legalities. XBMC/ XBMP, while being very good piece of software, are illegal. This is because they have been compiled with illegal, stolen software development kits (XDK) and require illegal, hacked BIOSes to load them. Friendtech Media Center (or MCE for short) only requires a special version of Cromwell(info) to boot. Cromwell, as many know, is a clean implementation of a custom BIOS for the Xbox which was designed specifically for booting Linux and nothing else.
While the software is indeed in its early stages, it is full functional and (hopefully!) unhindered by bugs. The software also comes with a quick and automated rescue feature, so in the unlikely event of something going wrong - you can recover from it without even getting out of your seat to change CDs. MCE has been thoroughly tested by myself, CyKiller and a few other select testers who have all deemed it to be a great step forward. MCE can be operated entirely from a remote control, though a keyboard and xpad are HIGHLY recommended. Plans include PVR support in the future among other things.
"So what will this cost me?". Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The founder of Friendtech, Paul Hu, has generously decided to give this piece of software away free to the community and it will be shipped as standard with all future Friendtech Bravo Xbox machines and with their DreamX line by customer request.
"Ok, when can I get it?". Current plans schedule the release of BETA 4 for July 31st 2004! Be patient until then, and keep watching Friendtech's Xbox Homepage and here for updates!
Now for some technical information:
* You will need at least a 20GB hdd installed in your Xbox.
* You will need a raincoat flashable modchip/ TSOP with a 256K bank for this to work. (Xenium/ SmartXX will NOT work).
* MCE formats your F: drive COMPLETELY to a Linux recognisable format - it will no longer be FatX and you will no longer be able to backup games to it. If you have anything on F:, BACK IT UP FIRST! The decision to make it Linux Native was based on two factors, legality and speed. Native filesystems are faster than loopbacks and if you are using your Xbox legally, you have no need for F: to be accessible by your standard Xbox software.
* Gentoox will require 3.5-4.5GB of space on E: depending on whether you choose "Home" or "Pro" respectively.
Thats all for now. Please do not contact CyKiller or Friendtech regarding this project, all details will be posted later on their site. If you do have some urgent questions, feel free to contact me via this website.
I've opened a new set of forums for MCE discussion. Just click the forum link on the left and scroll down!
(July 28 05:40 GMT+1) - (direct link to article)
(Posted by:: XanTium)
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Posted 29 July 2004 - 10:48 PM
And how does the Xbox do the 'R' in PVR again? Ah, add a USB capture card...for some extra money. And of course your 8GB hard drive partitioned into several smaller filesystems should be able to record several minutes of video before it decides to fill up. Sure you can add a larger hard drive...for some extra money. And the 64MB of memory will likely be enough...or not...so get a memory upgrade. So now you have this closed piece of hardware that you have hacked together to do a mediocre job as a PVR. At least the interface doesn't look like crap (or not...even my wife says it looks like ass).
Now of course you can get all the necessary mods by going to friendtech and getting their DreamX system for 199 + 100 trade in + 109 for the HD/Media Center upgrade (total $408) and we still haven't gotten the tuner/encoder.
Posted 30 July 2004 - 07:48 AM
If you seriously doubt me in this, then if you want to know who I am and who I work for. I am Bill Tello and I work for Occupational Health Research in Skowhegan, Maine and if you google search me you will even get to a link with a picture on http://www.systoc.com which is OHRs web site.
As two of my interests are television and gaming, I am excited by PVR news and gaming console news. I'm also into emulation. So, that is why I go to XBox-Scene and read the news there and why I am a member (mostly lurker) of this forum, http://www.dbsforums.com and http://www.satelliteguys.us.
So, comment as you will and think what you want, but I have every much a right to be here as you, my friend.
You are right in that I really can't see how they are going to accomplish this in a cost effective manner. However, it is still exciting news and I'm sure Friendtech knows what is a reasonable price point and what is not and I'm staying optimistic in how all this unfolds. You also have to consider that a modified XBox Media Center PC (PVR) will still have all of the extra functionality and features as any other modified XBox. This means you can emulate Intellivision, Colecovision, Atari 2600/5200/7800/800/1040ST, Apple II, DOS, Sierra AGI, NES/Super NES/NES64, Sega Master System/Genesis/GB/GBA, Turbo Graphics-16, many other consoles and arcade games through MAMEoX as well as many homebrew games and applications available through information on XBins and XBox-Scene and run Linux and Linus games and apps. You can also run regular retail purchased XBox games on it. So those extra features alone for some of us will be worth a slightly higher price than the average PVR. You also have to consider that they are saying this new Friendtech Media PC will be able to archive the recorded media directly to DVD, however as it is a modded XBox, you could also FTP to it from your PC and copy it there too.
Did I also fail to mention that I own two TIVOs: a DirecTIVO and a standalone TIVO (both series 2) and I wouldn't dream of replacing them for the world? The XBox running the XBox Media Center is still just as cool as I can use it to stream Internet too.