Modding The Xbox Into The Ultimate Multimedia Center

Xbox Multimedia Capabilities Untapped

The ideal home playback system for audio and video has yet to appear-at least that was our conclusion up until now. While some designed-for-the-living-room multimedia DVD players may support emerging standards such as Xvid, only a very few also offer a network connection and the requisite codecs to download and play the numerous different multimedia file types that are often required for video and gaming applications. And of course, these systems do not offer game play capabilities that the Xbox offers.

The best - and easiest - way to download and play multimedia files is with a PC that has the latest video codecs and playback software. However, for a TV-connected home theater system, there is no monitor, keyboard or mouse included. And of course, TV-based home theater systems do not have the capabilities to download from the Internet and install the latest codecs.

Back in February, we reported on a modified Xbox that can be transformed into a multimedia center with limited changes to the hardware and additional software. We now install the Xbox Media Center (XBMC) on a modded Xbox to see what happens.

Xbox Software: Only With Microsoft's Blessing

In order to compile software for the Xbox you need the Microsoft Software Development Kit for Xbox, or XDK for short. The source code is compiled and signed correspondingly with the help of special Xbox libraries running under Visual Studio .net just so that they can be executed on the Xbox. Sad to say, not all developers can get their hands on the XDK. Requests for it are checked by Microsoft to test profitability and to determine its cut of any resulting software sales.

That begs the legitimate question as to how the source code can be turned into an Xbox application if the XDK libraries required to run it are only available to a select few? As a rule, only the source code can be freely downloaded (for example as a project in

In addition to Visual Studio .net, an XDK 5778 compiler is required. An Xbox-capable, non-Microsoft compiler has yet to become available. The XBMC Package 1.0 Beta can be downloaded from Bittorrent at

Meanwhile, the Microsoft folks in Redmond, WA appear to have overlooked the Xbox' potential as a multimedia center. The company could have produced the now mature Xbox Media Center for sale in the form of, say, an "Xbox Home Theater Edition" itself - at a higher price with the matching equipment. If it had, it's likely that the current problem brought about by demanding developers would not have arisen.