2004.07 31

X B O X   M e d i a   C e n t e r
A Private / Independent Field Test Report

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2004.07 31

The goal for this report is to present the successful "build up" of a chip modded XBOX console intended to run as multi-format video player, based upon XBMC, XBOX Media Center ( http://www.xboxmediacenter.de/ ), formerly known, during beta/development stages, as XBMP, XBOX Media Player. Thanks to K. for the insipiration and equipment selection tips..

List of components, prices and place of purchase

Overall total: 330.48 EUR  

Main project goals could have been be achieved within a smaller budget of just 197.50 EUR - approx. 150.00 EUR for a new simple pack XBOX plus 47.50 EUR for X-B.I.T Should you be able to get a 2nd hand XBOX on the 100 EUR region the budget could even get bellow 150 EUR. The remote command can be replaced with the use of the controllers and extended storage can be used, in particular for multimedia, via network share on a existing local pc / server.

Main project tasks in working sequence

 1. Setting up standard XBOX; General working test;
 2. Setting up X-B.I.T Chip (cut write protection tab, connect cables);
 3. Format and upload selected BIOS [*] to the X-B.I.T using USB link
 4. Open XBOX (warranty void) with torx set of 10, 15 and 20 size;
 5. Remove Hard Disk Drive and DVD Drive exposing console mboard;
 6. Install X-B.I.T Chip with special care for the "D0" alignment;
 7. Boot console to check that modchip and selected BIOS is running;
 8. Refit drives and boot console with auto-installer tools on RW media [**];
 9. Backup original disk to PC via FTP access;
10. Reopen console and replace original hard disk with new (larger) one;
11. Boot console with auto-installer tools on RW media [**];
Format and setup the new large hard disk;
13. Setup new Dashboard and Utils for system management [**];
14. Obtain XBMC, Xbox Media Center binaries and transfer/setup [***];
15. Run XMBC (add. config of SMB client to access NT network shares);
16. Fit IR/Remote Command kit for easy/comfort of use;

ref.: "EvolutionX.M8.Bios.rar" (approx. 0.4MB)
ref.: "SlaYer's EvoX Auto-Installer v2.5FINAL.iso" (approx. 215MB)
[***] ref.: "[XBOX] XBMC 1.0_Released june 29.2004.rar" (approx. 18MB)

Setting up...

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Opening up the XBOX Crystal (Limited Edition) package.
The crystal, transparent / clear case looks very cool.
Included in the package are the power and A/V cables (with SCART adapter and separate L/R audio plus composite video) and 2 controllers.

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Details of the 2 included controllers and the set of A/V cables.

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The X-B.I.T mod chip full set. Package contains the main chip and daughterboard, set of yellow and black cables that will work as connection from the main chip motherboard with the (to be external) daughterboard. Also included is a USB cable for connection with a PC for format and uploading of new BIOS (that can and should, on the first setup, be done "as is", still outside the console). A overall 2 MB is available allowing several different BIOS to co-exist (DIP Switch on the daughterboard allows easy select-run-test). Additional cabling and components are fitted for optional (disregarded) soldering oriented setup.

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Cutting the write protection "seal tab" is mandatory to proceed. A simple yet "hard way" to show if a chip was (or not) used before. Please make sure you use proper tools and care to avoid damage to the board and, on the other hand, to ensure that the cut is clean and close - the fitting on the XBOX motherboard must be precise and any excess materials left from a "generous" cut can prevent the correct fitting.

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The yellow and black connection cables between the X-B.I.T main and daughterboard. USB cable (mini USB type on the daughterboard plug). We now have all the connections ready to connect the X-B.I.T to any common PC with a USB port, and, using the X-B.I.T manufacturer's software, format it and upload a selected BIOS to it. For BIOS related support please check: http://www.xbox-scene.com/bios_retail.html and http://www.evolutionx.com . EvoX M8 was the option selected for the BIOS.

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Opening the XBOX case. Make sure you have a set of 3 Torx screw drivers, Torx size 20 for the 5 outside screws (marked with red circles and arrows on the last photo on the right). Torx size 10 for the support screws on the inside (one between the hard disk and the dvd drive, two on the dvd drive lower support structure). Torx size 15 for the internal side screws that hold the HD on place. A small cutting tool to help out with the stickers and, later on, a regular Philips screw driver will be required (fix the X-B.I.T modchip in place).

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XBOX opened. Removing the Hard Disk drive and the DVD drive.
Full access to the motherboard granted and solder less modchip fitted in (last photo, within the red square), using pressure pins (pogo pin) on the appropriate spots of the main board. This is the most tricky part of all the project. Make sure you study in detail all the close up photo diagrams from X-B.I.T manufacture's site, http://www.dms3.com , in particular the one that shows the "D0" spot on the main board (photo bellow (c) DMS3.com) .

The "D0" critical spot. Photo (c) DMS3.com

If the X-B.I.T connection to this tiny spot is not micro-correct the XBOX will boot "plainly" and not use any of the chipmod features - in particular the selected BIOS. Make sure you use a well placed and vivid source of light (a Maglite or SureFire torch can be used with great efficient result) to ensure proper positioning. I insist, this is the top tricky part of all the setup. It's not unusual, even for the experienced hardware and electronics professional, to be forced to repeat the fitting by trial-error approach, 2, 3 or more times. Just be patient and have a good light source and a close detailed view on the diagrams from DMS3.com.

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Special care was taken on the external finishing and protection for the X-B.I.T chip and, in particular, of the pending cables. Spyro band plastic cord was used all around the cabling (for protection and tidiness), and Velcro sticker for easy, non permanent grip of the daughterboard to the back side of the console chassis.

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All stickers (code bar, serials, warnings etc) were removed from the lower back side of the XBOX. Crystal on all sides. Last photo on the right shows close-up detail on the finishing of the external controller for the X-B.I.T.

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Replacement hard disk. A Seagate Barracuda 7200rpm 120 GB. Hardware fitting is a simple as doing it on a regular PC. Just make sure you have a Torx size 15 screw driver for internal the side support screws.

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Original XBOX accessories range.
The Infrared (IR) device and the remote command.

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All setup along the rest of the home theater center. XBOX Media Center was tested over the XBOX built in Network Interface Card (NIC), Ethernet 10/100 Mbps, across UTP CAT5 cabling, connecting to a central switch, where access was made to a local server hosting a NTFS file share of multimedia files. The SMB configuration was very simple and worked right on. Performance and easy of use are top notch. For a full ilustrated and detailed review on the XBMC software please check the excellent Tom's Hardware review at: http://www6.tomshardware.com/consumer/20040511/index.html  (I reproduce some of Tom's screen captures bellow).

The Xbox Media Center Up Close Video Playback ... and groups them together as a new menu item. This actually only becomes apparent when you deselect it or undo the action by choosing "unstack."
The XBox Media Centre up and running. Photo (c) tomshardware.com

Tests were performed over a huge diversity of video enconding format samples, ranging from DivX 3.a, 4.x and 5.x to XVID and XVID QPEL, all with different sound codecs (AC3, MPEG). I still haven't found, on a test sample of +100 videos one that was not reproduced with top notch performance.


XBMC, The XBOX Media Center Software
>> XBMC - Xbox Media Center

Tom's Hardware detailed review on XMBC
>> http://www.tomshardware.com

X-B.I.T, DMS3 Mod Chip
>> http://www.dms3.com/

BIOS related
>> http://www.evolutionx.com

>> http://www.xbox-scene.com/bios_retail.html

Reference Guide and Support on Modchip and Software
>> Convert your Xbox into a media center

>> Local Mirror

Reference Guide and Support on Modchip and Software
>> This Guide Will Help You Flash A Bios

Summary on box open and chip fitting (high quality photos)
>> Khayman Box

Please note that for privacy and security reasons all serial numbers and similar unique identifiers were digitally blurred from the photos. Furthermore this is a academic test of technology solutions, held on a private environment and with strictly private goals. No commercial goals, either direct or indirect, are either cause or consequence of this test. All brands and logos are copyrighted by their owners. Photos are report text are both copyrighted to: webmaster@air-arms.com . All rights reserved. Formal permission required for reproduction.