Monday, July 2, 2007

So I have an Xbox for awhile

A week ago my sister-in-law and her boyfriend got in a bit of a fight, and I wound up with his Xbox - he was afraid something would happen to it, even though as far as "taking sides" goes, I'm on my wife's side, who's on her sister's side - although that doesn't necessarily mean I'm on her sister's side. I'm like Switzerland, I don't take sides. But anyway, be that as it may, I wound up with custody of the Xbox and about a dozen and a half games - none I give two craps about except for one: "WWE RAW 2". It's a wrestling game, and though I've mastered it to the point where I can beat just about anybody with just about anybody (I mean, I can probably beat Hulk Hogan or Triple H with Stephanie McMahon or Rey Mysterio - if you don't know these people, what I'm sayin is I can beat Goliath with David.)

But did I hook it up right away? Nope, procrastinator to the end. I just hooked it up - like, as in quarter after 5am. It's 5:30am right now, but I'm tying this in a text editor waiting for a download to finish. (No Ma, nothing dirty - it's a system files update kit called AutoPatcher.) We were right about to go to bed, and what do I do? No, I didn't hook it up to my ubërsexy wide 32" HDTV... no, I hooked it up to the POS 19" Dollar General or Walmart brand rounded-tube TV in the bedroom. It just doesn't look that much better on an HD set. (We've tried - this is the second time the Xbox has been here.) Sure, the image is bigger and some edges are sharper, but like every other console (barring the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360) it looks just as good on a crappy TV as it does on a good one. Plus, I haven't got much room on my power stip here, let alone room on the desk. The bedroom is a better location, and if John wants it back, it'll be much easier to disconnect (albeit farther to carry) in there.

An Xbox is a pretty cool system. It's not as powerful as a Playstation 2 despite being about ten times the size - but it's not far behind. (I mean, the PS2 can play "WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2007", the be-all-end-all of wrestling games, but for Xbox, you have to have a 360 - the old Xbox just doesn't have the clocks to run it. Heck, even Sony's portable PSP can play SDvR07.) But that aside, the Xbox is a viable system in its own right, despite being put out by console gaming newcomer Microsoft. But being that it's Microsoft, it has one advantage, and it's the system's biggest secret (not so much now as when it was new): It's really a PC that hooks up to a TV, but with one difference. It can only use "authorized" software, distributed by Microsoft and their partners. Well, as shipped. The Xbox can be modified to run Linux, the free and open-source (meaning you can edit the source code, change it up some depending on your programming skill) competitor to Windows. It actually can't run Windows, but running Linux you can run Windows in a virtual machine, or emulate Windows, but what's the point? You lose performance and Linux can basically do everything Windows can - if you know what you're doing.

But then you can't play Xbox games, and then what you have is a badly made computer. No, a better solution is to bypass the Xbox's region code checker (which also verifies the game is authentic) and replace the Xbox's dashboard (the stuff you can work with if you start it without a game) with a custom one, which lets you do a lot more. This way you get the expanded functionality without sacrificing what it was made for. I got a chance to tinker with a modded Xbox (no, it was not mine, it belonged to someone I knew in California) and it was amazing. Looked different, was different. Started with a menu... entries like Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Arcade, Xbox Games, Media Center, and others. You click on the first three - every game ever made for those systems. Arcade - thousands of arcade machines rendered for a computer (or Xbox). Xbox games - about a dozen of them ran off the hard drive, upgraded from 10GB to 120GB. Halo, for instance, loaded much faster and otherwise played just the same. Media Center had hundreds of music files (songs, albums), some video clips, photos... Then I go to put in an Xbox game. Rather than load it, it came up and asked me if I wanted to play it, or copy it. It took about half an hour to copy it, but once it did I no longer needed the disc, it was on the hard drive. DVD movies, it did the same thing for.

But no, I'm not going to modify this dude's Xbox. A new hard drive (figure at least $100), a modchip (around $60), soldering stuff - I don't think I'm technically adept enough to modify an Xbox. I wanted a modded Xbox for a while, but the Xbox's time has passed, and I can do all that stuff I said (yes including the Nintendo games) and more on my comptuer. My computer can play Playstation games now, so I have to retract what I said previously about it not being possible. That was my fault, I was making a stupid mistake. (But it was true that I had never seen anyone else do it...) I got my computer to load a Playstation 2 game, but not actually play it - only Start and Select worked on my controller, so I saw the menus, etc.

No, what I am going to mod - with no technical expertise needed, no less, is my Nintendo DS. Smaller than a paperback book - the size of a checkbook 1/2" thick actually - this bad boy has approximately the horsepower of the old Nintendo 64 (although its games are mostly 2D), two screens (one being a touch screen), a microphone - and oh yes, Wi-Fi. A guy I met at work came in with one - before I bought mine, actually - and was playing Mp3s on it, a la Winamp - so I had to interrupt him and ask him how he did it, being that I knew a stock NDS didn't have that capability. He told me about the M3 device, which I'll be getting in the next couple months. This bad boy, you plug it in like any NDS game, but it's not a software/game pack, it's an adapter. You plug a MicroSD card (aka Transflash, what cell phones use) into the back, up to 2GB, and like a modded Xbox, the NDS will run unauthorized software. As I understand it, the M3 software will play music, read text files, play videos, and play all or at least some console games. As long as it supports Nintendo and Super Nintendo I'll be happy. I know it'll play NDS games (downloaded, heh heh), so it should play Game Boy games as well. If it will play Sega Genesis games, that's great too. Altered Beast, Sonic, Toejam and Earl... I can go with some Sega stuff too. And all that in one cartridge the same size and weight as any NDS game. No need to open the NDS, no need to solder anything - and I've seen the M3 device for around $100 shipped with a memory card. I'm either going to get one with a memory card, or without and buy a 2GB card separately. I have an Mp3 player and my phone plays Mp3s as well, but I'll have some favorites up there. My phone does videos, but the quality is low - so I'll probably designate the DS for video. The screen is comparable to that of an iPod. And of course all my favorite classic games. Oh yeah, and some books. Maybe rig some Sudoku game to it - yes, I'm still solving those things. (Still on easy, too, and not finding them "easy" at all.)

Well, it's 6AM now. Jen's off today, so we get to watch RAW together later. I hope they continue the "Vince murdered" angle, but since Vince appeared on both RAW and ECW "posthumously" I'm betting that story just got cancelled. Sad, because it was probably going to end with a big bang. But more importantly, when we wake up, I'm going to cook her breakfast, and then we're gonna go shoot pool for at least a few hours. And maybe see if a friend from work can join us if he's up. So, adios.

Update Thursday 5 July 2007 9:15AM - Sure enough, the next day he asked for it back. Oh well. And for the record, in my first game I played regular pick Tommy Dreamer against Jen's choice, Y2J Chris Jericho. Second game, it was Chris Benoit vs. Cena at Wrestlemania. I played Benoit, and oh yes, I made Cena tap. (Had Dreamer pin Jericho, don't remember where that was at.)

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