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My favorite console…

…is still the original X-box. Not because of its admittedly mediocre game library, but because of its flexibility.

It can’t have escaped anyone’s attention that I’m kind of a geeky kind of guy. I like fiddling with things. I like taking things apart, see how they work, make my own little contribution, and then put them together again. And so the X-box was more or less made for people like me.

Not exactly, of course. Microsoft, at its launch, boasted that their new console was impossible to crack or modify in any way. About a week later, or if it was just tree days, a group of hackers released photos of an X-box running Linux. Microsoft really should have known better. The modchips quickly appeared on the market. And remember, this was before Microsofts’s online services offered up anything of actual value, except for a very small bunch of hardcore multiplayer Halo fans… Like I said, the X-box’ greatness hardly lies in its games (though there are a fair number I still think are really great. Some well-known, like Halo… And some less well-known, like Transworld Snowboarding. perhaps I’ll make another post about my favourite X-box games. After all, the hardware was vastly superior to the PS2).

Anyways, the X-box is more or less a PC in a black box, running a very specialized kernel and OS. It has a hard drive, a DVD-rom drive… and well, that’s all you really need.

Currently, my X-box is mostly used as a media machine. I use it to play movies that are in AVI format, using SRT softsubs, from my server. I run XBMC, and the X-box port is fast, responsive and overall a joy to use. I’ve also emulators for the NES, SNES, Mega Drive, Master System, Game Gear, Game Boy, Gameboy Advance and Playstation 1 consoles. This is what I mean when I’m talking about flexibility. I’ve changed the CPU fan first to an 80mm Zalman fan and then to a super-silent Noctua NF-R8. I’ve upgraded the harddrive to a 80gb, and I’ll change that soon, too, into something more quiet. Half an hour ago I changed the cooling paste used to fix the GPU and CPU heatsinks to their respective chipsets, earning me 5-10 degrees (celsius) of cooling. I’ll change the GPU heatsink+fan to a Zalman noerthbridge heatsink soon, to get rid of that annoying GPU fan noise. I’ve cut the plastic innards in a dozen different ways to improve air flow and to make room for more improvements.

There are guides on the internet on how to give your X-box regular USB-ports, wireless keyboards, harddrive fans, and how to add an on/off switch to the DVD remote. I haven’t, sadly, found a guide yet for wireless networking.

These things will never be done on a PS2. It’s to far removed from the PC, it has no internal harddrive (or at least, its support for it is bad) and it just doesn’t lend itself to this level of pimpage. You but a chip in, and then you can play burned games and import DVD’s. Yay. Such things hardly interest me anymore.

The newer consoles have gone a different route: They have focused on online functionality to such an extent that the console becomes virtually useless without it – and then they use clever schemes to detect if you’ve modified your console, shutting down online access and account if the slightest thing seems to be wrong. The PS3’s Linux support is a nice touch, of course, but the way I hear it they don’t exactly allow such systems full control over the console’s hardware. Useless! There will never be an XBMC for these consoles. The 360 works for playing DVD’s, but AVI’s… without softsub support it’s worthless. It’s crap. The 360 is what happened when Microsoft managed to both learn and not learn from their experiences with the original: They found out people like me like to tinker, and they promptly decided they’d have none of that. And that’s why the 360, in my book, is less than its ancestor.

The original X-box still has much to give. And it’s just so much fun!

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