May 30, 2010

HD on the Xbox port of XBMC

There was a discussion on Lifehacker about the end of life for XBMC on Xbox support this past friday, and a discussion was raised about HD on your XBMC enabled Xbox.

I for one want to make the most use out of my HDTV without having to spend a lot on a PC that just does media playing. There's cheaper ways, and having a softmodded Xbox also provides disk-less gaming, whether it's actual Xbox games, or emulators from past consoles. Last summer, I was poking around eBay and saw auctions for component cables for the original Xbox. I knew nothing about the capabilities of the Xbox, as I had a generation gap from the Dreamcast until I played a PS3.. Been out of the loop! I saw that some games were HD capable.

How this relates to XBMC: I started seeing things about how Xbox can't handle HD movies, and I know in it's raw form it cannot. Hell, you need a semi-decent machine (plus VLC) to handle a raw MKV Blu-Ray rip. So my first thought was, how then do I convert my *obtained* rips to a format that will work good on the Xbox? I found out about Handbrake, and continued to Google along trying to find the best settings. Here's my older blog post relating to this. In short, you crop off the 1280 width to 960, while keeping the height the same. You also knock the target file size to 3/4 of the original. Less data to send, but the video quality stays virtually untouched. Be sure 2-Pass encoding is also selected! Obviously I had no clue at first, and now it's still a little trial and error, but it's generally relating to the audio stream and passing it through to the receiver.

The cables on board:

I purchased Psyclone's Component cables for the Xbox, which also features a Optical out. This runs directly to my 5.1 capable stereo receiver. I also kept the Audio RCAs plugged into the TV so that I could still have audio if the Toslink was being used by the HD cable box (only one optical input)

Picture settings:

I kept the TV in frame for a few pictures to prove the concept here. I'm also running an Xbox-Optimized Confluence theme which was missing from the Xbox ports. That and other Xbox friendly HD-ish themes can be found here. As you can see, once the cables are plugged in, you should be able to go into the Unleash X dash and change your resolution, as well as in XBMC. 1080i is NOT recommended, as it does not seem to play nice with the RAM. Notice my TV says the output is 720p.

What are your thoughts? Yes, it's not TRUE HD. As in, not what a Blu-Ray can do. But this is darned near close to it. Think of it as the Xbox friendly skins are, but for your video files. Everything still outputs at 720p, plus I get 5.1 surround! These video files have been tested on both a wired connection and wirelessly via an Airport Express. It can be done via wireless just fine, but I always recommend a wired connection.

Mar 6, 2010

DD-WRT, we meet again...

Long time no blog eh? It's been busy since graduation has kicked in, but only lately have I had a ton of work to do. Most notably, I've done a revamp on my whole server setup. The old media server that has been on this blog for a long time has been re-purposed into a Hackintosh. This still has some bugs to fix, but I'll explain it in a later post when I finally get everything worked out.

This morning, I woke up to the equivalent of a nuclear holocaust on my network. Everything was down, nothing was connecting to nowhere. Eventually, I tracked it down to my old Buffalo router which I've had running for 3 years with DD-WRT. I gave it a hard reset, and it seemed to do, but it seemed like there was still something not right.. I updated it from v24 to v24 SP2, and it was nice to upgrade it but I was still missing my WDS with the ASUS router I have in the basement.

Then I googled upon this: and the solution at the bottom pointed exactly to what I had going on. I was using WPA2 Mixed Personal, but it seems there's a bit of a connection issue with that and WDS. Once I changed the settings on both routers to WPA Personal, they saw each other again, and all is well in the world... mostly.

I also now need to etch in stone some static addresses, namely for my Server and Desktop!