To continue my recent theme of a-political posts consisting of descriptions of recent hobby projects; I just built a “stereo component” that I had been thinking about for a couple of years. Since my entire CD collection along with a significant collection of sermons and lectures sits on my computer I had been thinking about how to add a stereo component that would play the MP3s over the network.

Since then things have come pretty far. No longer is audio the only consideration but you can build/buy a full multi-media appliance that supports video, audio, and still pictures along with internet connectivity and the ability to stream content over a home network. People are beginning to buy and build “media center” computers and incorporate them into home theaters.

XBox

What I have recently “built” (actually, more like “assembled” from various hardware and software components following tutorials on the web) is a full featured media center (minus the recording ability of some), packaged in a component smaller than a stero CD player, and all for under $200.

What’s made this possible are several clever individuals that figured out various ways to hack an XBox video game console and some industrious open source development of media center software.

The hardware you will need includes:
1) An XBox video game console [under $100 on eBay, $110 used from Gamestop]
2) An XBox DVD kit [under $20 on eBay]

Optional Hardware:
1) Hi-Def XBox cables [recommended for an HD TV – $15 at Gamestop]
1.5) or Hi-Def XBox cables with 5.1 digital surround sound[$35 – $50 at Amazon]
2) Replacement DVD Drive [very hard to find. I paid $30]
3) Replacement hard-disk drive [the Xbox drive is ony 8 to 10 Gig]
4) Xbox wireless controller [ about $30 (you can probably find it cheaper) ]

Tools:
1) A set of Torqs
2) A PC with a bootable CD drive and an empty primary IDE controller slot
3) A PC CD Burner
4) 1/2 a brain [optional but recommended in order to have less trouble than I did.]
5) To replace the DVD drive, you’ll need a soldering iron and some skill with it [optional].
6) Blank CDs

Follow up posts will contain some details on the steps to take to build your own, including links to tutorials and free software.

to be continued …