I got an XBox 360. Now What?
December 2, 2008 12:29 PM   Subscribe

I got an Xbox 360. It's awesome. I can do so much stuff! Now what?

I love my new XBox 360. There is so much you can do with it, I'm just amazed. But am I missing anything? What are some things you can do that are a bit less obvious? In particular, I'd like to know if it's possible to surf the web or watch television shows on it (via hulu or something). I'm interested in anything else cool, too.

In other words, what are some features of the Xbox 360 you won't find listed on the box?
posted by superbird to Technology (15 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I just hooked up my Netflix account to my Xbox live account, and it is teh awesome.
posted by gnutron at 12:36 PM on December 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you have an external hard drive, you can download movie files on your computer and then connect the hard drive to your Xbox, allowing you to watch your downloads on your teevee instead of your computer screen. You can also listen to music that way with wicked Xbox visuals.

And Netflix!
posted by Bookhouse at 12:38 PM on December 2, 2008

Best answer: PlayOn (in addition to a Windows machine and a network) will allow you to watch video from a variety of online streaming sources, including Hulu. The quality will be decent, but not HD or anything. It works great for me, but PlayOn does cost $30 after the initial 3-week trial.

TVersity does the same thing for your local videos (i.e. any DivX, QuickTime, WMV, or other types) you have stored locally, and will even transcode (convert on the fly) to a format the Xbox 360 understands. This does, again, require a Windows computer and one with some decent heft if you want to transcode in good quality. TVersity will monitor local directories and update the on-screen list as files are added, which is handy.

Of course, you can go whole-hog and use your 360 as an extender to Windows Media Center. If you have access to a broad range of over-the-air digital television channels--and, you guessed it, a reasonably well-powered Windows (Vista, preferred) computer along with a USB or other type television tuner and antenna--your 360 will act like a "remote viewing" platform for anything recorded to your Media Center computer and can even function exactly like a DVR, with the programs being recorded on the computer and played through your 360. (Your 360 doesn't record programs directly to itself) The above two programs work well with WMC, as I use all three.
posted by fireoyster at 12:46 PM on December 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

You can plug your ipod into the xbox using a usb cable and listen to music (with or without visuals) However, the xbox can only handle a playlist of about 100 songs. Using a playlist or library with more than that will confuse it and you'll only hear a mix of songs alphabetically near the first song you picked.

We also have a Logitech Harmony 670 remote and can control the xbox with it.
posted by youngergirl44 at 12:52 PM on December 2, 2008

Web surfing isn't possible. The Wii and PS3 offer this feature but for some reason (It's not a computer! It's a gaming machine!) Microsoft doesn't feel inclined to offer a browser.

Installing games to the hard drive is my killer feature. The DVD drive is incredibly obnoxious if not placed in an enclosed space.
posted by llin at 12:57 PM on December 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Windows Media player + wireless network allows you to stream music and movies to your xbox. My xbox is essentially my media center now without the need for Windows Media Center. When you search for videos or music you can select a remote machine that is sharing music. This is my favorite feature of the xbox and was essentially why I bought it (and to play games of course).
posted by birdlips at 1:13 PM on December 2, 2008

You'll find that TVersity is a huge pain in the ass outside of a gee-whiz it works phase. You really can't do much outside of Marketplace and I think this is by design. It should, in theory be able to stream 720p, but it has to be in wmv format and all special, plus you won't get surround sound.

Of course, fiddling with the 360 got me into the HTPC craze and I eventually spent gobs of money on that, beware!
posted by geoff. at 1:19 PM on December 2, 2008

I'd give a huge second to PlayOn that fireoyster mentioned. This is the first software in a long time that I think is worth me paying for. I use Hulu all the time, and the ability to watch Hulu stuff right on my TV is awesome.

The Xbox 360 supports playing music from Zunes, iPods, and other digital media players as long as the music on them is not DRM'd. It also supports playing many formats of video and audio files off of normal USB flash drives and data CDs or DVDs. And yes, normal streaming of movies and music, too, but that's a bullet point on the back of the box.

Don't neglect to explore the Xbox Live Marketplace and look at the Arcade. There are lots of cool titles in here that will keep you occupied for hours on end and only cost you around 800 to 1200 Microsoft Points ($10 - $15 in human terms). You can also download game demos of many of the latest games, so you may not even need to rent games to see if you'll like them.

Also, if you get into using the Marketplace a lot, the Marketplace on the Web just launched a few weeks ago, so you can add items to your download queue from your computer and they'll automatically start downloading the next time you turn on your 360.
posted by joshrholloway at 1:30 PM on December 2, 2008

I'm in the same boat, just picked up the 360 about a week ago.

Definitely connect your computer to the 360 to stream your own media. Netflix is a nice perk, but the selection is a little limited for now. The TV/Movie download service has lots of content - perfect for the misses on DVR.

Also, you'll need about 5,000 Microsoft Points to get a nice selection of best top-quality, critically acclaimed titles from XBOX Live Arcade.
posted by AloneOssifer at 1:40 PM on December 2, 2008

Connect360 if you're on a Mac.
posted by nitsuj at 2:15 PM on December 2, 2008

From what I've seen the 360 mod isn't too crazy difficult. I've got friends who have done it, you need to buy a special tool to open it up but from what I understand just getting the damn thing open is one of the more difficult steps. I know a guy who even takes his on Live but apparently that's something you have to be pretty saavy with b/c of Microsoft updating their shit all the time. After seeing a friend with a stack of about fifty 360 games it seemed very tempting but I'd do the research first. (his xbox eventually broke but that may or may not have been related to the mod.) Aside from that my favorite 360 pastime is talking mad shit on Halo 3.
posted by BrnP84 at 2:16 PM on December 2, 2008

BrnP84, I modded mine (flashed the DVD drive's firmware), no special tool was required (just tiny screwdrivers) and there's no risk to taking it on Live unless you're playing a pre-release or non-stealth game that you downloaded and burned. The mod does not appear to be remotely detectable by Microsoft but it's true that you never know what a future software update will bring.
posted by bizwank at 3:44 PM on December 2, 2008

Best answer: I am running Linux and streaming music and video files from my file server to the Xbox. This is similar to the process described above for a Windows machine, but with less resource overhead.

It isn't simple for a new user to Linux; feel free to send me a note if you need help.

(Warning: I am still a n00b and may lead you down the wrong path!)

You can also use your existing (or new) MSN Messenger/Windows Live Messenger account to send IMs. It isn't as full-featured as the actual IM client on your PC would be, but you can at least stay in touch with friends who have PCs and want to IM you while you're on Xbox Live. Just make sure to plug a USB keyboard into your Xbox to make this an experience less like walking on hot coals ;)

You can plug your iPod into the USB port on your Xbox and listen to music/play videos off of it, or other USB drives such as flash drives and external hard drives (with compatible file formats).

You can have video chats with friends and family (or random people online) if you have a compatible USB webcam.

You can use the Xbox to rip CD music and store it locally, or transfer it to your USB storage device.

You can share many of the activites above with your friends by using the new "Party" feature, whereby up to 8 people can be in the same room watching the same movie, and so on.

You can log into your Xbox Live account from your PC (xbox.com) and read or send text messages (no voice support, sorry), update your profile/friends list, and so on.

You can take screenshots/video replays in certain games and push them to a server on the internet, like in Gears of War 2.

You can play with/against both PC and Xbox opponents in certain games, such as Shadowrun.
posted by Nixie Pixel at 7:52 PM on December 2, 2008

I have been very happy using my xbox 360 as an extender for my vista media center for last couple years.

I used to use Transcode360 to stream unsupported movie files over the network to the 360, but I have since changed to TVersity. Also it depends if you would like to use the xbox dashboard or the xbox media center to play the content. Since I have my VMC hooked up to my directv receiver, I can stream live tv, recorded tv, music, internet tv to the xbox entender using Xbox media center. If you want to use the xbox dashboard to play media, you have to make sure you share it on your network (you also have a lot more supported media types if played through the dashboard).

I also run orb server on the vista media center so I can access all the media from anywhere. I believe TVersity has that feature but I dont use it for that. Orb streams to cell phones, other computers, other extenders. Its pretty handy.
posted by schindyguy at 2:49 PM on December 3, 2008


HD streaming is pretty much not available by using xbox as an extender with VMC. I believe netflix or other addins will be coming out or might already be available to allow HD streaming.

Popcorn hour's new device should support HD. Let me know if you want more info about it. Some good forums/resources for this stuff is missingremote.com (formally htpcnews.com)m thegreenbutton.com, and of course avsforum.com.
posted by schindyguy at 2:53 PM on December 3, 2008

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