Posts tagged: XBox

The Power Of The Force

People are often surprised when I explain that I do not own a games console and therefore no longer play any form of video games. Their expectations of me fail to meet the reality and I suppose, being a geek I should have some gaming fetish of some kind. I do not. The days of spending hours, days if not whole weekends glued to a computer game for purely recreational purposes are well behind me. For the record, I was an avid player of Championship Manager. Let me clarify avid, I edited the player database, created myself as a player and took Arsenal on an unbeaten League run, was offered the England job and went on to win the European Championship in 2000 (playing in 1998) with myself scoring one of the four winning goals. There was a time in the mid to late nineties when I flirted with FIFA and shoot em ups, concluding with Return To Castle Wolfenstein in early 2001. The only notable resurgence was during my first year at University when I was given the original GTA to play. Many hours wasted on what at the time was a very simple game but highly addictive.

Personally I am glad those days are behind me and even if I wanted to play games now I would be struggle to find the time in the diary. Plus I know you schedule an hour, before you even glimpse at your watch or the clock, three hours have passed by. In addition to this, is the threat (although she refers to it as a promise) from my beautiful wife that she would rip the games console from the wall and throw it out the window, if she was ever to find me playing video games. (An Xbox 360 is unlikely to survive a four storey drop).

During Britain’s Got Talent last weekend, I watched an advert, which I thought could seriously tempt be back into gamer mode. (Although let the record show I was rarely any good!) We tend to watch Saturday night (and the majority of our television in fact) on a delay. The actual phrase I am well inform from those lovely people at Hummy TV forums is called ‘chase play’. On this occasion it was due to The Voice UK overlapping with the ITV show but in general we prefer to be able to fast forward through the ad breaks. Generally I rarely pay attention to the adverts, even though this is the most expensive slot of the week for advertisers. I stopped and reversed the recording to watch the official Microsoft advert for Stars Wars Kinect. Although this one below is much better!

I want one of those, particularly the limited edition R2D2 console. However I found the price (one morning this week in the Metro) at a staggering £350 which is just too expensive when the standard console is down to just over the one hundred pound mark. Even when you factor in the cost of Kinect and the Star Wars games, you realise how much of the fee must go down to the licence from LucasFilm. Nevertheless, the true power of Kinect is starting to be harnessed. I just love the idea of waving my hands around in my living room like a real Jedi!

Storm Troopers

The marketing department were well and truly in force at the office this morning and even though I did not get a chance to go and get a photograph with the Stormtroopers myself, Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi (actually Ben from IT but you get the Star Wars reference I’m sure!) was able to upload a selection of images to SkyDrive.

Storm Troopers

Goodbye XBMC! You shall be missed!

I had never heard of the Freecycle online service, although I knew some sort of community based on giving away your old items existed. It was my sister, Samantha that mentioned the website to me back in April. I had just moved into my flat in Slough and had an old TV combi unit to get rid of. Her friend Kirsty had used the site before and been able to kit out a flat in next to no time! I posted on the site and within a few minutes, the item was taken. Great! I have now used the site on many occasions to get rid of items no longer required. It was particularly useful in the summer when my parents were re-decorating their lounge and needed to get rid of an old TV and home cinema system. Gone in seconds! Yes, I know I could have put them on eBay and perhaps made a few quid but it was just not worth the hassle and with any commercial sale, the buyer will always have a recourse to come back to you if anything goes wrong. Do you really need the extra hassle? I did not!

I have had an original XBox since 2003, when my sisters bought me the console as a Christmas present. I believe the console was discontinued a few months later. Do I play video games? No, so why did I request such a console? Well I had heard about the media centre software, XBMC through my dearest friend Hussein. With his expert help in August 2004, I was able to mod my XBox to install the custom media centre. I now had the media player I craved in the lounge, not only to play music video, movies and games but for so much more besides. I could view movie trailers direct from the Apple website. Hussein had provided me with an optical audio output lead, which fed directly into my home cinema system. Movies looked and sounded awesome! Not bad for a CRT based television that was coming up to six years old. The software was constantly being tweaked by a friendly band of users online. A plugin repository was also created to include a number of features such as, audio scrobblers, YouTube and weather applications. Remember this is the time before “App Store” became a trademark of the Apple Corporation. With the launch of BBC iPlayer, a plugin was soon made available, which meant you did not have to watch episodes from Albert Square you had missed on the small computer screen but on the biggest screen in the house. I know this may sound rather old school, if you already have a PVR. We did not get Sky+ until 2009, and even though we had Sky, the majority of the television we watched was from the Beeb. Even though Aunty did constantly try to block the service and add in additional security to their streams, someone out in the XBMC Community would put together a new release of the plugin with a workaround. This included a complete rebuild of the XBMC software at one stage but the plugin worked a dream for both radio and television streams. It had started off as a download service of the iPod / iPhone feed, which had to be downloaded before being played. A few months later, an instant stream option was added which worked a treat. The quality being close to broadcast television, not bad on our Sky Broadband pipe of 1.5 meg at the time!

The XBOX was the media centre for my family home and in 2008, I had moved out to my flat in Newbury. At one stage I was considering building my own media centre from an old PC donated by Pav. In the end, I was gifted an old crystal XBox by Pav’s younger brother Rav (he had been given a 360 by his parents for his birthday in March 2009). It was late March when I finally had the time to set it up and install the latest version of XBMC. This device had already been modded with a custom dashboard. Two days later I was downloading and watching a music video by Keri Hilson.

With the advent of high definition services, the place for the XBOX was limited. It could show limited 720p video and to date there were only one HD video I had watched on the device. The first high definition video I ever saw (would not actually play on the device) All Night Long by Alexandra Burke and featuring Pitbull. Unfortunately the music video in question is Knockout by Lil Wayne featuring Nicki Minaj. Hardly outstanding contributions to the art of music videos and perhaps a poor reflection on my music video collection, which is close to the one thousand mark. (For reference the majority of music videos I download now are in HD, with only older archive or live performances in standard definition). As time went by fewer videos would play on the device which is a shame because up to that point in time, the software was extremely versatile and would download any codecs it did not have stored locally from the web.

When I moved back in wtih my parents in October 2009, I had two XBoxes and decided to gift one away to my dear friend Sippy. I met up with him for the first time since I had left Uni in 2004, some six years ago! I do hope he appreciated the gift. I had driven all the way up to Birmingham to deliver by hand myself. I wonder if he is still using it? I know he had an older XBox but was that on it’s way out?

My parents now have a 50″ HD plasma TV and the XBox is surplus to their requirements. I brought it back to Slough yesterday afternoon, on my return from seeing Mission Impossible with my Dad. I then spend today clearing the personal photographs and video before giving the device away on Freecycle. I did have to make it clear this was the original XBox from 2001, not a 360! (Who in their right minds would give a working one of those away?). It went to a good home in Slough, to a younger brother who was trying to get a game on his older brother’s 360! Just a shame I could not find the original DVD remote and will have to list that separately on Freecycle another time! It was emotionally moment for me, giving the device away. I know it has gone on to an extended life with another family but for the past seven years it had served my family extremely well. Every dog has his day and the time has come to move on. I suppose this gives me a chance to appreciate my new media centre (the Humax HDR-Fox-T2) but also plan the media centre for my family in the near future. Subscription satellite will have to go!

Wednesday 9th April 2008

I have been using the BBC iPlayer since launch on Christmas Day but had a request. A killer script for the XBMC (the product formerly known as Xbox Media Centre – great new web site) to enable the programmes to be downloaded (or streamed) to my television screen. I had a hunt around on the various forums and although there was a lively request thread (started on 28th June, during the beta testing) nothing had materialised. I thought I would check again today, during my lunch hour and low and behold, a genius has created the script and put it live for anyone to download. So, of course I downloaded the zip file and loaded it straight onto my machine when I got back from the gym tonight. It works a treat! Sure, you have to wait for the video files to download (4 odd minutes for a 15 minute episode of Torchwood Declassified) but it is worth the wait and the quality is not too bad (although nowhere as good as Apple Quicktime trailers.) The video quality from Albert Square is never something that will bother me, even when I watch catchup episodes streamed on my PC. The king is making sure you follow the plot, not the sparkle on Pat Butcher’s earrings. Check out some screen shots a lovely chap has uploaded to FlickR. On a similar topic, the Nintendo Wii now can stream content from the iPlayer. I am sure it will only be a matter of time, the XBMC community work out a way to take a look under the hood of this avenue and port it over to the Xbox. Apart from the delay in waiting for programmes to download, this has to be one of the best scripts to have been released for XBMC. Now, when I miss a show, I can get my XBox to download it and watch it later.

What else have I been up to? Well it is week two in my new get fit routine. It is going well, not too bad. I feel a bit better but I believe the dramatic improvements will come over time. Particularly as my programme will be reviewed every two weeks. It was quite scary this evening to see a big bulky guy spend over thirty minutes on the rowing machine at level 10, while I was set to level five and struggled to complete my ten minutes (still a few meters short of breaking the 2000 barrier). Then, while on my final piece of equipment, the treadmill, I looked across at a guy wearing the Arsenal away shirt (very brave considering last night) and his time was ticking past fifty-five minutes. I just about manage fifteen minutes, I do not think I could stomach a whole hour of running (at quite a high speed). I am a long long way from reaching the physical peakness of these fellow gym users but I am on the right track. Just remember, making it to every session is a victory in itself. I have another session tomorrow night and then a fitness test Sunday lunchtime. Based on my performance, my programme will be adapted. Then I think I will have to spend a least a month building it up. Beyond that, I just do not know.

My weekend plans did involve Tazza coming over from East London and spending the day in Wycombe with him but he has to attend a TA weekend. It is a shame, as I have not seen him in over a year as we both have been really busy. No trouble, I think it will be a quiet weekend, I will get a few books from the library and also enjoy watching Doctor Who. Oh, and then I get back from the gym, there is the small matter of a football match in the North West.

Monday 29th October 2007

I brought the XBox back to life on Saturday afternoon. It had not been working since June, perhaps a little earlier when I screwed up the upgrade of the Xbox Media Centre. It has taken me so long to get around to fixing it, as my attempts in mid September failed miserably. For a time, I had an Evox Boot CD (created by MightyMouse back in August 2004, when we modded the XBox) but have lost it now. I took the ISO into the office and had it sitting on my desktop machine before my colleague deleted the file with my permission, dear I say! I searched the net and created one but it failed to work. I tried to search again and found a great bit of software built by a member of the community. XBINS-TIRC. It fully automates the process of connecting to IRC (Internet Relay Chat), connecting to the right channel, getting the password for the Xbins distribution FTP site and then opening built in FTP client (FileZilla) to connect you onto the site. Magic. Everything done right on your screen with no user interaction required. I downloaded the Evox Dash and burnt the Xbox ISO to CD-Rw. However as expected it did not work. I set up my laptop and downloaded the latest T3CH release to put on, along with all the videos I had downloaded over the past few months. I had to get the Xbox Media Center loading again, so by chance still had an old version from April 2006 on the drive. This used an old XML configuration file, which thankfully I had kept in the root of the drive. Copying to the two files off the Xbox, renaming them and placing them back onto the root of the device. Then the moment of truth. Reboot. It worked! Fantastic. I cannot explain the full technicalities, but if the Xbox Media Centre does not load as the main dashboard, the XBox goes into a recovery state. You can still login via FTP but not all the drives are available. F: changes to Q: but you cannot see anything about from the main files in the root. So the only alternative is to use the Evox Boot CD or get some form of dashboard running off the device. I copied over about over a gig worth of music videos. Then I upgraded to the latest version of the XBox Media Centre, carefully following the instructions on the wiki. We were back in business! Now, just to get that YouTube script downloaded and working!

Both the Admiral and Pav have been pushing hard for me to mention the events of Saturday night. It was a good night, we went to Cafe du Sport first, then headed over to Mango. The VIP lounge upstairs had been pre-booked for the birthday party. It was relatively quiet to begin with around 10.30pm, when we got there but slowly filled up. It was a Halloween themed night with a handful of people dressed up. Pav arrived around 11pm. Foxy soon followed with some friends. Then the party really started. Had a good time, but it was a shame that not more of the usual crowd were out. Then again, perhaps it was a good thing that they were not!

Snowdome Ski Pass

Went to the Snowdome at Xscape today for my first ski lesson. I had booked two sessions at the beginning of October and taken the week off to fit them both in. The fast track lessons seemed ideal, as it was three hours on the slope to get used a hang of the sport. However, I think I should have opted to take single hour long lessons per a session and build up my progress slowly. I took my sister along and we got into MK quite early, a few minutes after 8pm. Having left Wycombe in the dark at 6.45am. My session was not until 9am but I thought getting there early would give me a chance to suss out the place. I got changed and grabbed my ski equipment and then waited for the instructor to arrive. He was a few minutes late but no matter. There was four of us on the course, Claire, Martin and Mark, all beginners. Our instructor was John, in his early twenties and seemed to be quite knowledgeable. We headed onto the slope, walking under a bright blue sign which says, “This Is It…”

It was soon quite clear that progress was going to be slow for this three hour fast track session. To begin with I struggled to climb up the slope, sliding down several times and having to have John come down, take my hands and help me get up. I got the idea of balancing and the right stance, but it was the snowplough that I failed with. After a few short runs down the lesson slope, we were put onto the ski lift and told to ski down but in the snowplough position to come to a steady stop at the beginning. This took me some time to get used to. My positioning was wrong, too much weight was at the back of the skis, causing me to fall on my backside a few times. Other times, I would just not be able to stop and would end of up heading towards (and into) the red barrier. Progress was slow, I was getting frustrated and tired. By now, it was clear that two members of the group (Mark and Martin) were picking everything up quite quickly, were as myself and Claire was struggling. We had a quick ten minute break, I grabbed a drink before we headed out back onto the slope. This time we went up higher and after a few bad runs, John handed us over to a different instructor. He had given up, so this elder gentleman (who was already teaching two other women) decided to help Claire and I. He took us up half way and then came down with us, coaching on us step by step as we come down the slope. This helped, not just a little but a great deal! I got the snowplough and actually started working on my turns. I was growing in confidence and even with a few more crashes, some quite dramatic. However time, was not on my side and just as I was getting comfortable, it was time to exit the slope.

I had failed the Level 2 stage and would need to re-take this so I could progress onto the Fast Track Levels 3 & 4. The Snowdome people called and left a message on the voicemail during the afternoon. I will call them back tomorrow. So, how do I sum up my first ever skiing experience? Scary, inscillerating and tiring. So tiring, that I went for an afternoon nap when we got back home. Due to the strange shape of my right foot, I had scraped it against the inside of my ski boot and sliced a couple of layers of skin off. It sounds more painful than it feels or looks but I bandaged it up quite well. It will take a while to heal. Looks like I will be back at the Snowdome sooner than I expected.

Sunday 30th April 2006

Finally got around to cleaning up and updating my XBox this morning. Well when I say XBox I mean the software, XBox Media Centre. The last release of the software was dated Christmas 2005 and I uploaded it on 4th January this year. So for the past four months, I have left the software from T3CH running and it has been one of the more stable releases. To be honest I have gone off the console in recent months and give it little attention. This was perhaps only the second time in my modding history that I loaded on the new release with no problems whatsoever. In the past, it would take me at least a handful attempts to get the software working, with my mistaking usually centering around the incorrect spelling of a directory. It felt good giving the console a spring clean and that bug would come back to haunt me later in the evening.

After watching Jimmy Hill’s Sunday Supplement, I tuned in for the first twenty minutes of Goals on Sunday. I wanted to see the goals from the Chelsea game plus José and the boys celebrating at the end. Watching another team win the League stirs strange emotions in me as a football fan. It spurs me on to wish my team onto greater things in the coming season. I had been out last night at a friend’s house, so missed out on watching MOTD. Looking over the cause of the season, Chelsea deserve their title and I admit Arsenal were never really in the title race from the off. You could clearly see the big gulf between the two London sides at the Community Shield in August last year. (Feels like a lifetime ago now, looking back). All I can hope that Wenger can completing the rebuilding over the summer and after this season of transition, we have a season of great domestic success. They saw football is far to predictable these days, but it is never just about the winner whom crosses the line first. It is about the drama on the track on the way. The champions may have been crowed but there are plenty of things to be fighting for further down the table. I was hoping Tottenham would falter against Bolton this afternoon, opting to listen to live commentary on Five Live only to fall asleep a little after the first half. Earlier this afternoon, I was looking at Radio Times online to see if any good movies were on. Bill &amp Ted’s Excellent Adventure was beening screened on ITV1 at 13:50 and I watched some of the ending. Such a cheesy 1980s teen movie but still entertaining as it was when I first saw it back in 1989. Whatever happened to Alex Winter?

At 9pm, after dinner I came back to my room and wondered what to do. There was nothing worth watching on terrestrial television and my Mum had already booked her time with Sky so I had the evening very much free to do as I pleased. I decided do some housekeeping. I put Romeo Must Die DVD on my computer and with perhaps only 40% concentration on the movie, pulled out my document drawer and took out all the paperwork. It was time to clear this chunk up. Generally speaking I am quite a tidy and organised person but I tend to fall into lapses of laziness. For examples, most of my statements were together in date ordered but then my car documents, ISA statements and other store card statements were all thrown into the same file, completely a mess. I had opted not to label up all the files before, when I got them back in January last year, because I thought I could work without them. How stupid was that? What has been happening to date is all my important mail would be kept in a drawer until the weekend. Then, usually on a Sunday morning I would organise what I would be keeping filed and what would be shredded and file these away. While this system does work, having a “catch all” file that slowly gets stuffed with all the unsorted junk just makes the job really difficult over time. This had to be done and I had just been putting it off for months. It took me just over two hours, a little longer than the movie in fact, but it feels great to have everything filed away in it’s rightful place and two big bags of paper that can be shredded and recycled. It is amazing how much chunk you can actually throw out and there were a few surprises I found. Including my university computer login password sheet which is coming up to nearly six years old. Generally speaking I am a hoarder, I like to hold onto things and rarely throw things away. Those things I do trash, I have to think long and hard (for a few minutes at least) whether I will actually need the letter, document or manuscript. My Dad always believes it is better to throw it away, if it is important you can always get a duplicate copy. I prefer to be in control of all my paperwork. The paperless office is purely a dream.

Friday 21st January 2005

Bored of all listening to the same CDs in the car on my journey to work, it was time for a change. Mainly because about 4 songs, appeared across 3 of the CDs. Having only a 5 disc CD changer does limit the choice, when you have been used the unlimited supply of the MP3 CD. As I pulled up onto my drive on Wednesday evening, I took the executive decision. Ejecting all discs from the in car audio entertainment system, I quickly placed them in my CD carry case. The plan was to burn a new album. But did I get around to it? No, of course not. To be honest, my current collection is looking quite tired, with none of the fresh material, I had hoped to acquire. To this day, there are a group of tracks I listen to on a regular basis. The proof is always in the data collection. Avoiding radio, particularly commercial variety throughout the week, goes not give me the opportunity to hear new up and coming artists. Even my viewing of music television is down. More on that later.

Getting into my car on Thursday morning, I looked into my Case Logic 64 CD case to hunt for a music for the short journey to work. Mix 107 filled a small hole, while my chosen disc was loaded. I thought it important to catch up with the latest traffic news in the process. Startled to discover that my entire stretch to the office was busy, my mind raced to find an alternative route. Taking a risk and seeing very few vehicles on the road, I used my usual standard route, knowing that the alternative would add minutes onto my arrival time, which was not acceptable. Had my ears been deceiving me? The roads were clear and I got to the office in good time. Proof that local radio can not always be as accurate as they would make you believe! The disc I had chosen was labeled, ‘American Home’ which gave me rough guess at a creation date of around Spring 2003. I knew two of the songs that would feature, would be by Madonna and Bone Thugs ‘n’ Harmony. The remaining eight tracks (yes, I know wasteful use of an eighty minute disc). Switching over to track four I was greeted with an moving instrumental intro, the perfect song for the perfect moment? Maybe. The song kicked in, just I headed into the picturesque part of my journey, crossing into the Royal country just as I cross over the River Thames. Had I finally made that big leap and could finally stop wondering why? Another bundle of random acts, history seems to have a habit of repeating itself.

This is turning out to be a weekend, sponsored by the Microsoft console. I will have to be careful of how I phrase the rest of this paragraph for sure. Mr. Gates’ lawyers are very expensive. Just look back at this feeble story from exactly a year ago. I received an interesting invitation in the post yesterday, in the now brand trademark green and black. Wondering what it was all about, I I opened to discover a final push by the marketing men, well in the UK at least. The Italian car manufacture has come on board to create limited edition, XBox cars. Seems like just another run of the mill gimmick by the PR men, with little being added in the name of small production batch, apart from the odd local plastered onto the dash and rear body panel. Although both models look impressive at first glance, looking beyond the image you find very little substance. Come on Microsoft, is this truly upgraded spec? Hopefully more will be revealed this weekend at the official launch. Am I just being cynical, or is this a way to shift a few more Puntos and Stilos off the forecourt with the temptation of a free console? As it would transpire, I am picking up some XBox titles this Saturday from a friend. This source will remain anonymous, but a full round of the games, reviews, screen shots will follow shortly. Plus I have the added bonus of the full Sony Surround Sound Home Cinema system, to literally blow me away! If only I can get my hands on the TV this weekend. :)

Wednesday 1st September 2004

Wednesday already? Where has the time gone? Does it feel like September? No, it does not at all. The summer is dying away and the train is getting for embarkation. Destination, the end of the year. Are you ready? Neither am I. I am sure together we will make it to the finish line, only to find this vicious circle starting again.

“Your warranty has just been voided by the way…” Not the words, you want to hear on a lazy Sunday morning. Very few things can get me up early on a Sunday. The thought and possibilities of converting my lonely games console, which was in fact, just a large paperweight, come desk stop. I had hardly played games on the machines (as my previous posts clearly describe). In several discussions on MSN Messenger, I had pestered Hussein, on how long the process would take in total. Two hours, was the likely estimate I had always got. He had also always given me the option to drop the box off, and pick it up again the following weekend, so I was not waiting around. There would be no fun, it doing that now, would there? So the let me take you on this adventure and fill you in on the background. Saturday evening, I called our local superhero, purely to double check the times and also if all required parts, tools were available. I could provide the special screwdriver, but sliver conductive paint was missing. This was the first of many setbacks. This seemed to the biggest obstacle in upgrading my console. With hope still strong in my heart, I headed off towards North West London around 8am, on Sunday morning. It was an unhealthy time to be awake, but it was worth the effort. Of course it was. Even if I came back home with a dead junk of metal, silicon and plastic.

I would have met one of my Internet idols. Someone whom I have looked up the past eighteen months, learning all about this live through his fantastic log. Felt strange when I finally got to his house and saw him. How would you describe meeting your idol? You think them greater than us mortals, yet when they appear before you, there is still that distance. That sense of being star struck! Although, this was the first time I was meeting Hussein, there was no time for showing too much respect. There was a job to be done. We didn’t have much time. Many other time. I was greeted by a relaxed, confident Hussein, aiming to get the job done. But disappointment was also on the doorstep. No silver conductive paint. The solution? A trip, to Maplin in Watford, adding at least another hour onto our scheduled upgrade time. My XBox was quickly unboxed and placed on the Jodiyawalla dinner table. It was turned over, as Hussein searched for the special screwdriver in my modest toolbox. As he unscrewed one of several metals screws to crack open that XBox. Be it by a third party, my warranty which still had a full four months left to run, had now become, completely void. A message in my head was telling me, “I hope this works…”. Did I have anything to fear? I was not sure. Normally, when you meet someone for the first time, you enjoy a meal, a drink or even a movie. You do not normally pressure them to mod your video console. I thought he had be optimistic with the time frame, but then again, what did I know? The whole process may have only taken an hour but Hussein wanted to add additional time in case we were facing problems. The first problem was on how to flash the bios. I will keep the more technical information on a separate project page. For now, I will keep it simple and explain what went wrong (well almost). Instead of hot swapping hard drives (not for the faint hearted) we were using the Mega X Key. This was to theoretically make the entire upgrade process much easier. In practice you transfer the saved game hack from PC to the key via USB. Then transfer from the key to the original XBox hard drive and then flash the bios. What could be simpler? Well it took a solid hour to transfer the game over to the key. The reason for this was, the 12″ Powerbook G4, Rev C being used as the project machine was running Mac OS X. I am not really familiar with these machines, but the file extension for saved games was not being shown. This was because VirtualPC was running on the Mac. Basically simulating a Windows 2000 partition. But as this was a fresh version, file extensions were hidden and as WinZip was not installed we could not have opened the saved game files. We did not know they were saved and hence compressed in zip file. This was only discovered after switching to the humble PC and Windows XP. With the game transferring and appearing as required on the key via the load game option in James Bond 007: Agent Under Fire (The world famous signature tune, does get rather annoying after hearing it thirteen times, almost on continuous repeat!).

With all the preparatory work complete, we headed across to Watford. Luckily the journey did not take as long as I expected and being a Sunday morning, traffic was light. We parked in one of the car parks just off the High Street. As we left the car and headed towards the main pedestrianised area. To our right, further up the street we could hear the small collective chanting of sanskrit from some converted Hare Krishna followers. My sense of direction is not great but luckily Hussein just has the ability to find a place quicker than me. (Seeing a passerby carrying a box in a large Maplin bag was a major giveaway!) So we headed in the direction in which he had came, to discover the shop was just a few hundred yards away.We got to the shop, to find it moderately busy. I searched around aimless to begin with but eventually we found the item we had been looking for. Yet, this was not enough, we needed a fine art brush to paint over the specific boards on the board. We went over to sales assistant Wayne, a 20 year old, who appeared completely oblivious to the our requirements. We explained that we needed to paint over to points on a PCB. He looked bemused and without any emotions advised us to head for an art shop instead. We headed for the Harlequin Shopping Centre and WHSmith. It is surprising how the quality of customer of service suddenly changed. We went from economy to business class within the space of a few minutes walk. The female sales assistant at the stationary store, was stacking some shelves but was more than happy to leave her post in order to provide us with the articles we required. Not only that, she went the extra mile, showing us a range of brushes and eventually we found one which was ideal for the job. Happy, we headed back to the car. As I started the engine, I asked Hussein, “How long do you estimate we got left?”. Rambling on in his way, which was just his head whining through the various processes that remained, he said an hour and a half at a push plus the time it would take to get home. I headed back to Hussein’s house with a contented smile, the project was back on track and my faith in my friend had grown. He would get the job done.

The clock ticked over to midday as we returned to the house, and Hussein got back to work. Wanting to record everything on my blog and also to provide photographs for both my own project and Hussein’s XBox page. Some people are just built for certain tasks and Hussein takes to this type of advanced DIY. It was as if he had been programmed before birth to use technology. Watching him work was a breath of fresh air. I have met many techie people in my life, and I am sure I will continue to do so. All, up to now have shown signs of great frustration when the technology is not going their way. Instead of throwing things around and bashing at the keyboard, Hussein just would logically think of the best strategy in order to get the job done. He did give me several heart attacks, I must admit. When attempting to flash the bios on the XBox, an error code would appear advising us to Contact Customer Support. I thought my worst fears had come true and my XBox was dead. Luckily there was someone there who had a good head on his shoulders. He was already carrying out the diagnostics and working through in his head, what we should do next to try and resolve the issue. The fact that the console could be successfully restarted meant all was not lost.

It took another few hours but we finally realised what we had been doing wrong. I saw ‘we’ but it was Hussein who found out the problem. We had been loading the saved game directly from the Mega X Key. However has this was making major changes to the bios, it would not copy over currently and the actual upgrade would not finish copying. Then as the XBox was reloaded the error message would appear. We needed to transfer the game over to the standard hard drive. Hussein discovered that we need to select the actual saved game, rather than the title itself, to get the option to transfer from the USB device to the hard drive.

It worked. Would you believe? A simple 2 second operation had taken over 2 hours to do. I felt rather stupid, but then I think Hussein felt more embarrassment. He was firstly much more of a gamer than myself and had more experience with this console than me. After all, mine had been boxed away for most of this year. Not to worry, we were making progress, if somewhat heavily behind schedule. It was 3pm, and I had hoped to have been home by at least 1pm. To make matters worse, we had treble checked the alterations to the motherboard, originally convinced that the points had not made the necessary contact. The moment we had all been waiting for happened and as a broad smile appeared on my face, I began to lose my patience. Starting to pester my friend on how long the final few processes would take. I should really not have let him to such distraction and instead just let him get on with the job at hand. I was hoping to leave within the hour but I was again being far too optimistic. Configuration was the final task but this was broken down into several other small tasks. Firstly backing up the data from the old drive to a PC. Then drop in the Western Digital Caviar SE drive. Then coping back the files from the old hard drive. The backing up process literally took a few seconds so I expected the same when placing the files and folders onto the new drive. But this was not the case. The whole process took over an hour with a feeble transfer rate of 40kb/s. Hussein explained that this was due to the Evox bios and to safe guard again file corruption during transfer the rate was capped. I really could not understand it but waited, if somewhat impatiently for the files to transfer. Meanwhile, Hussein setup the configuration for XBox Media Centre. More details to follow on my Project page. Stay tuned. Then to kill some time, I watched Hussein play Doom 3. Now I happily admit that I am not the bravest person in the world, but just this computer game really scared me witless. My mind drifted as my remember the brilliance of the first Doom. Let me just put it this way, this is not a game you would play in the dark, with your surround sound system up high. The thought alone sends a shiver up my spine.

With everything loaded up and working as required. The day was gone. There was not even time to transfer over some of the music videos which were on Hussein’s server. Never mind, I am sure I can come back in the future. I would like to extend my gratitude to Hussein for taking time over the Bank Holiday Weekend to mod my XBox. I would also like to extend my thanks to his family for putting up with for several hours longer than expected. At least they were able to squeeze in watching Khan clinching sliver at the Olympics. For months I had dreamed of the possibilities of having a media player in the lounge. Something beyond a DVD player. Finally, my dream has come true. There is still plenty to explore. I have only touched on some of the features available. I mainly use the device at the moment, to watch my personal collection of music videos and MP3s. There is web radio, DivX movie encoding and the ability to play emulators of good old SNES games 😉 Good Bless you XBox users! :) Now where is that XBox remote control?

Monday 30th August 2004

Oh yes, my XBox was successfully upgraded yesterday. It took longer than the two hours we had scheduled for the urgent maintenance Expect full details on my forth coming project page. Hopefully, I can find time later this week, to add this to my site and also go over any other parts of the site that need attention. I also have to write up about my weekend, Arsenal’s recent record breaking form, music and other things on my mind. For the time being, I’m going to go and continue to work out all the bells and whistles on XBox Media Centre (commonly referred to as XBMC). Still need to get some emulators and games loaded on yet! :)

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