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Subtitles on a 360 using TVersity as a virtual machine…

So… Got myself a 360 (Arcade, HDMI) a few weeks back. A neat little package. It’ll probably be the second console I won’t chip or crack in any way, unless I can be absolutely certain it won’t affect Live functionality. I don’t care much for playing against others, you see, but I am certainly an Achievement whore. Always been, really. I collect things and try to make my collections complete, it’s what I do.

(The only other console I won’t crack is my Gamecube, but that’s because the cost of cracking it is about the same cost as purchasing the only game I actually want for it – Metal gear Solid: Twin Snakes.)

Anyways, since I’m me, I’ve been fiddling around with the 360, trying to get as much usefulness out of it as humanly possible. First thing I noticed was that there, apparently, is no way whatsoever to stream video from an Ubuntu ur Linux system to the 360. We can’t have that, can we? I considered booting into Windows 7 every time I wanted to watch something, but I didn’t want to install a bunch of crapware on my shiny new W7 install just to test some stuff – and also, rebooting is a pain in the ass.

So: Virtual Machinery, then. I already had a fully working Windows XP virtual machine in VirtualBox, so I decided to try and use that. There are multiple advantages to thisd approach, such as the ability to just delete the virtual machine and create a new one if stuff go to hell, and not needing to reboot the computer – but there’s one major disadvantage: It demands a lot of raw system power. I’m using a Dual-Core 2.8 ghz 64-bit processor with 4 gigs of RAM (with 2 gigs usable by the virtual machine), and this is apparently enough. Just saying, if you got a smaller rig, YMMV etc.

What I did:

  1. Upgrade VirtualBox to version 3.0. (here, please learn how to add repositories yourself)
  2. In VirtualBox, go to the settings of your Virtual XP machine, go to “Network” and “Attached to” and set it to “Bridged Adapter”. Select the network card you use to connect to your local network (I assume you have a local network and that both your computer and your 360 are attached to it). This makes it possible for outside clients to connect to servers that run inside the virtual machine.
  3. Download and install TVersity (and its various codecs and plugins) in your virtual machine.
  4. For MKV support, I used Haali.
  5. Install Windows Media Player 11.
  6. Find a movie that has subtitles in the srt format. If movie filename is “movie.avi”, make sure your subtitle file is named “movie.srt”.
  7. Play this movie file in Windows Media Player. Unless you got some strange codec pack installed or something (which you shouldn’t, they are evil and crap), you should get two FFDshow icons, “FFa” for audio and “FFv” for video. Right-click the FFv icon and klick “Subtitles”. It should now be checked. Close Windows Movia Player, and open it again with the same movie. It should now have subtitles. If it does, we’re good to go.
  8. Add your media folders etc to TVersity, so it can index them.
  9. You should now be able to connect to your running TVersity media server from your 360.

Advantages and disadvantages over using XBMC on the old X-box:

The major advantage is processing power; the X-box is rather limited and cannot reliably and smoothly show hi-def content.

The disadvantages are many: Slower to respond since TVersity must transcode everything into a format the 360 understands, no correction of broken subs (i frequently need to use subtitle delays etc), my main comp needs to be turned on, the virtual machine started, and TVersity up and running and the computer can’t do much else at the same time. Also, I’ve only been able to get TVersity to recognise my server’s network shares with some ugly workarounds (mounting them first in Ubuntu and then as VirtualBox shared folders…)

I think I’ll stick to my X-box and XBMC for most of my media needs for now – but I’ll probably watch my any content available in Hi-Def on my 360 via TVersity. The difference in quality is enough to motivate the continued existence of my TVersity server. Besides, it’s a fun project.

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