XBox 1+XBMC > new Mac Mini

in General Discussion edited January 2014
If you've got an XBox gathering dust or you want a nice media center solution for playing videos, I encourage you to check out XBMC (XBox Media Center).

I wanted a machine that could play video and music. I don't care about picture slideshows but it can do that, too.

Also, emulators for SNES, NES, Sega Genesis and a lot more.

You can set it up to stream from networked computers and it even accesses iTunes network shares (awesome). Adding and removing files is all done via FTP. It's beautiful.

I had nothing to start with and I had considered building a PC, but that's really all the XBox is; a commodity PC with a completely standard setup; 733mhz Celeron with an 8GB HD.

It's a slow processor, but there's not much overhead on it so it plays back fine. I even play h.264-encoded .mp4 files I've ripped from DVDs (much better compression than XViD).

Questions? Ask away.

At the bare minimum you will need to buy the following if you don't already have it:

- Microsoft XBox - $130 max

- Memory Card + Save Transfer Device (ActionReplay or Homebrew USB-to-XBox device or friend with modded XBox) - $30 max

- Splinter Cell or MechAssault or 007: Agent Under Fire (not XBox Live pack-in) - $5

So, starting from nothing you can spend $165 (max) to get a functional XBox Media Center. Oh yeah, and you've got an XBox so you have access to that entire game library.

I went further with it. I added a bigger hard drive and a wireless bridge. But these are not necessary at all.

If anyone wants, I can post a guide about how to do it and what you need.


  • Reply 1 of 11
    I'll take whatever info you've got on this. I've been toying with the idea of modding my XBox for awhile. The only problem is that I'll have to switch out the DVD-ROM on it, as it is faulty.

    Are feeding files to yours from your Mac?

    What do you need those particular games for? Fortunately I do have MechAssault.

  • Reply 2 of 11
    guarthoguartho Posts: 1,208member
    I would be very interested in that guide you mentioned. I'm especially interested in your addition of a wireless bridge.
  • Reply 3 of 11
    groveratgroverat Posts: 10,872member
    Sorry I hadn't checked the thread in a while. I didn't think anyone is interested.

    As far as the guide, I'm just jacking this wholesale from the guy I got it from.

    Read this 3 or 4 times before you do anything at all. Understand it fully before you move forward.


    For now I'm recommending we keep using 1.0 because 1.1 seemed to make things a lot less intuitive. Maybe I'll edit the 1.1 package to work better for our purposes.

    This new package is more stable, idiot-proof and has safeguard against security risks like your little brother, or stupid friends. You cannot break this without knowing enough to disable the security so you can finally mod without worry. Above all, this package has the option to dualboot to a retail package and allows you to play on xbox live safely in this mode. All you need to do to play on xbox live is press the eject button instead of power.




    * Xbox

    * Memory Card + Save transfer device (Action Replay, Homebrew usb-xbox cable and USB key, friend with modded xbox)

    * Mechassault, Splinter Cell, 007: Agent Under Fire (Cannot be the Xbox Live pack-in)

    * Krayzie?s NDURE Installer for whatever game you?re using

    Click here to download that!


    * Latest MS Dashboard (Update using Xbox Live tab on startup or using an Xbox Live game)

    * Connection to same network as your PC

    * FTP Program

    * Computer know-how and logic (Using FTP and knowledge of IP addresses)


    * Play homebrew software (Emulators, Xbox Media Center)

    * Install a new harddrive

    * Install a new replacement harddrive

    * FTP into your Xbox to install and edit software

    * Reset Xbox with button combo

    * Access the original MS Dashboard

    * Use Xbox Live (Simply turn the xbox on with the eject button)


    * Extract krayzie's Ndure package out of the rar file.

    * Use your Action Replay PC transfer device to transfer NDURE to a memory card. Usually this entails installing Action Replay's software and pointing Windows to the driver folder in the Action Replay folder if it can't find the drivers for the memory card.

    * After you install the software, just run it and drag NDURE ( from an Explorer window onto the memory card in the Action Replay software. If you did this right, you should see "Run Linux" on the memory card.

    * Delete Mechassault saves from your Xbox's harddrive and copy "Run Linux" from the memory card to your harddrive. If you don?t see copy you need to press right to select ?Run Linux?. Verify that it copied fine.

    Installing the mod:

    * Start up your exploited game (in this case Mechassault).

    * Load the exploited save (in Mechassult you just go into campaign and select ?Run Linux?)

    * Select ?1st backup eeprom? then ?Backup eeprom?. NDURE will boot evolution x with a menu item to backup your eeprom. After you select backup eeprom, return to the main menu.

    * At this point I recommend FTPing into your xbox and downloading the eeprom. Use the IP in the bottom right corner and the user/pass of xbox/xbox.

    * Next, select ?Install NDURE softmod. Another option will come up. The top option explains what they both mean but most likely you?ll be using nkpatcher 06 unles your harddrive is larger than 250 gigs. Next you choose the dashboard you want to use, evox doesn?t do half the things that unleash can so use UnleashX. Ndure warns you that it will scan for the presence of files needed for the dashboard, and if you don?t have them, it will cancel the install. You?ll need to update to dashboard 5960 before going through with the install (more on that later). You also will get an error if you haven?t backed up your eeprom.

    * If your dashboard checks out, Ndure will continue with the installation. The installation goes through a lot of beeps and pauses so be sure not to turn your xbox off until it says that the process is done.

    * After it is done installing the core package, it will tell yoy to remove the game and reboot, but it will turn off the xbox for you. Turn the xbox back on with the eject button and take out the disk.

    * Your only option here is to press A so just press A. The shadow C function will hide all your important dashboard files behind a fake C image that shows only the normal MSDashboard. This protects your xbox from security risks ranging from updaters to little brothers and sisters. Your xbox is now idiot proof so long as you don?t delete the exploited gamesave or start deleting things from inside the gamesave (the only state where your real C drive is exposed).

    * Your xbox is now modded! If you didn't before, FTP into your xbox and backup your eeprom and C drive. Just grab the folder E\backups\\.

    Finding stuff:

    * Join #xbins on efnet with your favorite IRC client

    * Send a /msg to xbins "/msg xbins !list" without the quotes.

    * Read all the instructions that xbins sends to you and connect to the FTP server

    * Go into XBOX, and download whatever you need (there's a file limit so don't go crazy)

    Installing stuff:

    * Unzip your program of choice to a folder on your computer.

    * Upload to your xbox. If your xbe file is C\horseporn\\whateverthefuck\\default.xbe, upload the whateverthefuck folder to (e/f)\(apps/games/dashboards)\\ on your xbox.

    * Decide whichever you want to use in those parantheses, E is if you're using a stock harddrive and F is if you've upgraded to a larger drive. The different folder names determine which menu item the program will go under.

    * For example, if you're installing xbox media center on your F drive (because you have an upgraded harddrive), it will go in F\apps\\xbmc\\ and F\apps\\xbmc\\default.xbe will be the program itself. After you refresh your lists by pressing start in the main menu, xbox media center will show up in the applications menu.

    Playing on live:

    * The first thing you have to remember is that when xbox live first sees your xbox, it ?marries? your harddrive serial number and your xbox?s serial number together. If it sees either one separated, it assumes the xbox has been modified and bans it within 24 hours. So if you play on xbox live and then switch harddrives later, you?ll get banned for trying to go back on. You can switch harddrives before playing on live, just don?t play on live and then switch harddrives.

    * To play on live safely, you?ll first have to activate the dual boot retail mode. Load up your exploited gamesave of choice.

    * Go to ?extras? and then ?multiboot.? The option you want is dual-retail. Tri-save also works but I don?t recommend it because it takes forever to boot.

    * When you reboot, boot the xbox by ejecting the tray. When you boot the xbox this way, your xbox is considered unmodded by xbox live and you should be safe for playing online.

    * Put in the xbox game you want to play and close the drive. The xbox will automatically load it and you can play online safely.

    Installing a new harddrive

    This is a little more involved than the xbox mod and if you mess up there is a slight chance you could lock your harddrive for good and no longer be able to use it. For safety only use the auto lock function and if you have to type in the locking key, triple check it.


    If you have logged on to xbox live at all, your serial number is now matched to the harddrive serial number. If you switch harddrives, and login to live, 12 hours later you will be banned.



    * Any harddrive that is lockable Check here to see if your harddrive will work

    * A computer

    * Ability to FTP and install harddrives.

    * Two torx screwdrivers (T10 and T20)

    * A soft-modded xbox

    * Xboxhdm v1.9 (get it here)

    Getting the EEPROM

    * The EEPROM is what you need to get the password to lock the HD for use on your xbox. It is specific to your xbox so you cant just download one

    * The EEPROM is stored in the backups folder, just ftp into your xbox and download it

    Unshadowing your xbox

    * Krayzie's Ndure uses a shadow C protection system which protects your dashboard from being overwritten or messed with.

    * To access your real C drive for backup purposes you'll have to run the exploited gamesave

    * When you're in the Krayzie installer menu FTP into your xbox and download everything off the C drive

    Preparing the tools

    * Backup all files from C and E as well as your EEPROM.

    * Unzip xboxhdm and go to the linux folder inside it.

    * Copy the backups you made to their respective folders. The C drive goes in "C", the E drive goes in "E", and your EEPROM goes in "eeprom". If you want, you can put any homebrew applications as will fill the CD in "F"

    * In the xboxhdm folder, run make-iso-win.bat and burn it to a disk using an image burning prog like Nero.

    * Shutdown your computer.

    Preparing the Harddrive

    * From now on, I will refer to the harddrive you want to put into your Xbox as just harddrive ok?

    * Change the jumper settings on the harddrive so it is on "CS" or "Cable Select"

    * Install the harddrive as the primary master and remove all other harddrives from your system so you don't inadvertantly change them into Xbox harddrives.

    * Start up your computer with the xboxhdm cd in and go into the BIOS to make sure your computer will boot from the CD drive.

    * When the CD loads, select "1) Boot VGA console with xbox-drive utilities (default)".

    * After it is done loading (takes 3-7 minutes), type in "xboxhd" to start the tool.

    * Press 1 to choose "1) Build a new Xbox HD from scratch" and it will ask you some easy to answer yes or no questions. Yes, you do want an F drive and you do want everything formatted for you.

    * Answer some more questions. Yes, you do want to format the F drive and yes, you want to transfer the files from C and E over (As well as F if you added some files but I've never done that). Transfering the backups can take a while so you'll have to come back to your computer after it's done to tell it to transfer E and F.

    * Reboot your computer when it asks you to.

    * This time when the CD loads, choose option 3 "3) Boot linux with locking/unlocking utilities".

    * When it asks, you to type in "lockhd -a" to automatically lock the harddrive with your EEPROM.

    * Shutdown your computer

    * Take the harddrive out of your computer.

    Installing the harddrive in your xbox

    * Opening XBOX Tutorial

    * Only go up to the part where you remove the harddrive, but also unscrew it from the little tray and remove it.

    * After that, verify that your harddrive is on "Cable Select" and connect it to your xbox to test it. If it seems to work, test everything. Test a back up game, an original game, a game from your harddrive, and XBOX Media Center. In your dashboard you should see an F drive with all the extra space thats on your harddrive above a normal stock xbox.

    * Some games won't boot unless you clear the cache after installing a new xbox, so delete E\cache and everything off the X Y Z drives.

    * If everything works, go through the steps backwards to put your xbox back together.

    Recommended Apps:

    Config Magic (HDD and EEPROM Tools)

    DVD-X2 (DVD Player usable without the remote)

    ***XBOX Media Center (Media player)


    XboyAdvance (GBA emu)

    FCEUltra (NES emu)

    Surreal64 (N64 emu, not 100% perfect)

    NeoGenesis (Genesis Emu)

    xSNES9x (SNES emu)

    MAMEoX (MAME emu)

    Z26x (Atari 2600 emu)

    Pcsxbox (PSX emu, only use ISOs

    I got this for wireless access.

    I got this hard drive for increased storage.
  • Reply 4 of 11
    groveratgroverat Posts: 10,872member
    And hey, who doesn't like screenshots?

    This is XBMC's front start page there. Easy navigation and great 10-ft. UI.

    This is from the Harry Potter movie trailer.

    There's a little widget in there that pulls info from IMDB, giving plot and cast lists and, obviously, the movie poster. I renamed some little files to trick it to make it look prettier. Impress your friends!

    One of the many cool visualizations one can have when playing music. Looks nice on the big plasma.

    If someone were to have a bunch of TV shows available to watch this is what it might look like. I just created empty folders with nothing in them (hence: empty) to get the point across. Probably best for home movies of birthdays and holidays! Or just a lovely stroll in the park. Endless possibilities, really.

    "Well, whores will have their trinkets."

    This is from the Black Books TV show trailer.
  • Reply 5 of 11
    My buddy has a modified XBox. It's pretty nice, and can play a lot of games from all sorts of systems via emulation, but I'm going to say that it's a lot easier to get a mac mini into your wireless network, and it's probably a lot better for surfing the net on your TV, if that's your thing.

    It also has Front Row, which you cannot underestimate. I have it on my iMac and feel like it would be much nicer on a Mac mini connected to the TV and speakers.

    While it appears to be that case that the mod-xBox is better for you than the mini would be, I think I'd be happier with the mini. It gives me the flexibility to use it as a full featured mac in a pinch, and has a user interface (front row) that I think a visitor in my house would be very comfortable using.
  • Reply 6 of 11
    groveratgroverat Posts: 10,872member
    The only configuring I had to do was to enter the DNS information and give it the same workgroup name as the computers I wanted to be able to stream from. Not terribly difficult.

    As a full-fledged computer, sure, the Mac Mini wins. But Apple is tip-toeing towards it being a media box for the television, and it's just too neutered.

    No one who has used my XBox has found the interface at all challenging. I have a screenshot of the opening page, which is just as straightforward (if not moreso since it actually has text describing the functions) as Front Row.

    The XBox was built in 2001 and the Mac Mini in 2006, so obviously it's got some advantages, but for a media center there's really no contest once you take the whole package into account.


    $160 vs. $600

    Liquid R:


    Are feeding files to yours from your Mac?

    I have a PC, but there's really no difference.

    You put things on the XBox via FTP. You can stream from either platform.

    I watch streamed video and listen to streamed audio all the time from a wirelessB router to the wirelessG bridge. Works fine once the cache is full.


    What do you need those particular games for? Fortunately I do have MechAssault.

    Those games have backdoors that allow unsigned code to run, which in turn allows the installer to do its Linux thing.
  • Reply 7 of 11
    I'm not saying the xBox is bad as a media center. I'm just saying I'd rather have a Mac Mini than an modded xBox, despite the high cost. I've used modded xBoxes, and I think your thread's title is a bit misguided. As far as doing exactly the same task as the modded xBox, perhaps it's not as strong, but it more than makes up for that in other areas, not the least of which is user friendliness. Since iPods have become so universal, it's not a big deal for someone to pick up the Mac mini remote and change a song. This means that I don't have to put down my beer and do it for them, or for that matter coach them through it. That's worth the extra money.

    The Mini also has digital outputs and is HD capable.
  • Reply 8 of 11
    groveratgroverat Posts: 10,872member

    Originally posted by Splinemodel

    I've used modded xBoxes, and I think your thread's title is a bit misguided.

    It's more than a bit misguided. It's marketing.

    There are probably some XBox owners who might find this useful who don't know just how easy it is to make their machine 100x more useful.


    Since iPods have become so universal, it's not a big deal for someone to pick up the Mac mini remote and change a song.

    Push right on the d-pad.

    I spent $30 on the Logitech wireless controller and it sits next to my TV/DVR remote.


    The Mini also has digital outputs and is HD capable.

    Component out from the XBox, built-in standard.

    HD is a solid argument, but it's going to be a while until that is truly useful. Unless it has an HD-DVR and/or HD-DVD/Blu-Ray I'm not sure what you'll be getting on there for HD aside from big movie trailers.

    Hopefully by the time that takes off the XBox360 will be hackable or the PS3 will have a nice, open architecture.
  • Reply 9 of 11

    Originally posted by groverat

    Push right on the d-pad.

    I spent $30 on the Logitech wireless controller and it sits next to my TV/DVR remote.

    Personally, I'm an engineer, and I don't know what you do, but you're definitely a very logical person. Trouble is, too many people just don't "get" the way instruments work. They can't immediately abstract the way that a directional controller is going to, in fact, interact with the UI in a predictable manner. Since they've only ever used control pads for playing video games, it just doesn't sink in. This causes them to ask me to do it for them instead of trying themselves.

    This has happened way too many times before. For reference, the guy I know who had the modded xBox was a former roommate.

    And believe me: this isn't an argument about one way being better than the other. It's an argument about people being idiots, and the unfortunate truth that I'm lazy enough to kowtow to it.

    Moving along:

    As for component outputs, that's for the video only, and DVI is still generally clearer, although this varies from one TV to the next since they use different techniques for handling the (analog) component signal. The new mini has digital audio outputs (unless my eyes deceived me when I read about it). The bonus of having HD is more so that I can display pictures and things at 1280x768 or even 1920x1080. My current TV is something like 1366x864 or thereabouts. If the Mini supports that resolution (and I'm not sure it does) that's a big plus for me.

    Anyway, there are some features that are unique on each platform. The bigger question is if you think it's worth paying the premium for the Mini's enhanced A/V and higher coolness factor.
  • Reply 10 of 11
    groveratgroverat Posts: 10,872member

    Originally posted by Splinemodel

    Trouble is, too many people just don't "get" the way instruments work.


    If my grandmother were looking for a media center I wouldn't tell her to grab an XBox and get to hacking.

    People here are different. They are familiar with both computers and gaming consoles. And also, you can put it a little work and get a big reward (highly open, highly customizeable). Geeks like that, especially if it saves them a couple of iPod's worth of cash.

    The little Apple remote is nice, but it's not a killer. And if I'm really horny for a regular remote over a controller, I could get one for XBMC.


    The new mini has digital audio outputs (unless my eyes deceived me when I read about it).

    The XBox can push out Dolby Digital 5.1 surround.

    I don't consider sound one of the weaknesses.

    Also, the video quality on component vs. DVI is minimal at best.


    The bonus of having HD is more so that I can display pictures and things at 1280x768 or even 1920x1080. My current TV is something like 1366x864 or thereabouts. If the Mini supports that resolution (and I'm not sure it does) that's a big plus for me.

    How often are people doing slideshows?

    HD only matters for video, and for all intents and purposes, the Mac Mini isn't going to be doing much (if any) of that.

    Apple isn't going to be selling people HD TV shows or movies. The XBox can run the codec and resolution of their current offerings and chew gum at the same time.

    The fact that the XBox, a 700mhz Celeron machine, can even be in this fight (much less winning it) is a testament to how stupidly the major players are handling this.

    Front Row is pathetically crippled.
  • Reply 11 of 11
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