can I use an Atom eeeBox as a Media Center "server" for an XBOX 360 "client"?
October 1, 2009 2:21 PM   Subscribe

XBOX 360 as Media Center hackery: what's the minimum hardware I can get away with to serve as the Media Center PC "server" to the 360's "client"?

NOTE: I am aware of things like MythTV, XBMC and TVersity that can act as replacements for a Media Center PC, and display content from there. But I'm not asking about those on a full PC as a solution - I'm asking about something minimalist to act as a Media Center "server" and using the XBOX 360 as a "client" that does the streaming and display.

I'm going to do a case mod on my 360 because the thing is so damn LOUD it makes a lousy home theatre. I got a replacement case (Lian Li XB01)that promises to be much quieter.

Opening it up, it definitely looks like there's room for something small and quiet like an eeeBox or a mini(micro?)-ITX motherboard to also live inside the case, running headless and acting as the Media Center PC, adding MCE features to the XBOX 360. But it's gotta be small, very quiet, and have minimal cooling needs.

I already have an eeeBox (Atom N270 @ 1.6 ghz, 1gb RAM) at home. I'm not using it for anything, since I first got it to use as a mini HTPC and found out that it's NOT up to doing something like watching Hulu on an HDTV; between the streaming, processing, and HD output, it's underpowered.

But as I understand it, the XBOX would be doing all the video output processing; so I'd just need something to be the Media Center "backend", on the same router/switch as the 360, and stream from that backend to the 360's frontend.
Do I have that right?

If I could get everything I want, it would:
-enable Hulu watching through the 360, like PlayOn does on a windows box

-allow me to hook up a Hauppauge USB TV Tuner stick or ATI TVWonder unit and record/watch HDTV (since the eee's Atom would have a hard time doing video transcoding on the fly, if it could just capture and then play back after chewing on it for a day, that would be fine - I'm almost never watching anything the day it's on anyway.)

- for super extra bonus points, it would run on Linux. Since it's going to be always-on, internet connected, and headless, I'd like to not have to worry about malware, windows crashes and patches, etc. But that may be asking for too much.

Any Media Center or XBOX 360 experts out there able to advise?
posted by bartleby to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Hmm if you have vista or windows 7 on the pc that will do it out of the box. My laptop and desktop can be seen by my dlna tv and my ps3 without any extra software.
posted by majortom1981 at 2:29 PM on October 1, 2009

The XBMC Community Forum would be a good place to look for your answer and/or ask this question.
posted by euphorb at 2:33 PM on October 1, 2009

Media Player 11 on Windows XP is enough to get music and videos streaming to your 360.

Getting non-MS stuff to stream to the Xbox 360 is going to give you a whopper of a headache and I guarantee you now that it will still not work properly. But have a look here and see where it takes you.
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:36 PM on October 1, 2009

Best answer: If you are streaming supported codecs to the 360, you need little processing power.

If you want Hulu, Youtube, or non native formats like MKV, you will need to transcode- I don't think the Atom at 1.6 is powerful enough, especially if you can't even play Hulu locally.

It might be okay for HD recordings. I have a C2D 1.8 as running W7 MCE and it sits at around 25% CPU while playing back live TV (and recording the 30 minute buffer). Not sure how the Atom 1.6 would fare. However I would definitely not use a laptop hard drive, especially while recording and streaming at the same time. IIRC, HD recordings are 8GB per hour. Maybe hook up an external USB drive.

Also I'm not sure if there are any linux backends that will act as a 360 media center host where you can play live TV and change channels.
posted by wongcorgi at 4:14 PM on October 1, 2009

Also, why would you build/place a PC inside your 360 case to only serve content? You might as well have it act as your media center instead of juggling through hoops trying to get content to your 360.

Instead of shelling out $100+ for that 360 case, you could have a quiet CPU and motherboard that could be your HTPC. Add a PSU and ram and you're up to $150 tops.
posted by wongcorgi at 4:21 PM on October 1, 2009

Response by poster: @wongcorgi:
$150 tops? Not the way I do projects! If building my own from scratch, I would end up adding so many more toys and features that I'd lose track of the 360 project and end up building a kickass $1000 HTPC.

I got the Quiet 360 case (at a significant discount) because I can fulfill most of my entertainment needs with the 360 I already own - but not while the internal fans are louder than my TV.

To fulfill the rest of my entertainment needs, I'd need to add in the MCE features made available on the 360 via pairing it with a Media Center PC or some linux workaround. So why not try?

I knew from a test that the eeeBox that I already own isn't adequate as a HTPC on its own due to the almost nonexistent GPU, and I don't have much other use for it. But when I saw that it would probably fit inside the 360 mod case (for tidyness' sake), and had heard some hints that it's the 360 that actually does the graphics heavy lifting in that setup, I thought I might be able to solve my 360 shortcomings by using the "lightweight" eeeBox as the Windows Media Center PC to pair it with.

Googling around as answers were coming in, I see that some folks seem to have had some success using Atom machines as Media Centers when running Windows 7. I'm pretty sure I can get my hands on at least an evaluation copy of W7, so I guess I'll just try that before I start modding my case mod further.
posted by bartleby at 5:36 PM on October 1, 2009

I've used Coherence to stream media from my Eee Box, running Debian GNU/Linux, to my XBox 360. Mind, I've only really poked at it as a proof of concept, but it seemed to work. Check and see if that will do what you need.
posted by SemiSophos at 6:33 PM on October 1, 2009

You also could wait until Adobe releases their GPU enabled video decoding version of flash next year.

That being said, if you want things the 360 cant natively do (via PlayOn, MediaStream360 or whatever), that is all processing done on the PC side, with raw video sent to the 360 in the appropriate format. If the eee can't do hulu, your 360 won't be able to. So, if you're just serving content, you might as well just plug a usb drive into the 360 (if you can fit a pc in the case, surely you can fit a drive and just loop the usb to the back). Get an A->A extension so you can plug your computer in to transfer files, and you should be set.

Or, you can build an htpc yourself that will do the trick for ~300 bux. From another guide:

"This build will, in the main configuration listed, be a very light front-end build that assumes your media is being stored and streamed from another location on the network. That said, it can easily be adapted to include storage in the box, as the optional components will demonstrate. Note that expansion is limited with this build, and it is not aimed at those looking for a more fully-fledged machine in their HTPC. This could run either Linux with XBMC, or Windows Home Premium (or above) and its built in Media Center functionality.

ZOTAC IONITX-D-E Intel Atom N330 Dual Core 1.6 GHz 441 NVIDIA ION Mini ITX Motherboard/CPU Combo
Price: $169.99 Newegg listing

JETWAY JC-300-B Black Mini-ITX Tower Computer Case w/ 60W Power Supply
Price: $69.99 Newegg listing

CORSAIR XMS2 2GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400)
Price: $29.99 Newegg listing

Patriot 8GB Flash Drive
Price: $15.99 Newegg listing

Anyware GP-IR02BK Vista 2 channel IR Remote Control
Price: $26.99 Newegg listing

Total (pre-tax/shipping): $312.95

This is the core of the box, including an ION board with a dual-core Atom processor. Atoms are not the most powerful processors, especially when compared with more traditional PC fare, but for the purposes of an HTPC they are perfect given the advent of hardware accelerated HD playback (which the onboard nVidia GeForce 9400M makes possible). This board will draw a minuscule amount of power even when in use, and will handle HD video with very low CPU usage given VDPAU or DXVA is enabled. There are also substantial power usage benefits, as this box should draw about 30W during use, and almost nothing when idling (note: it will use more if you install a real hard drive or an optical drive). The case is small and sleek, and if you're storing your media elsewhere the need for an internal hard drive is precluded; as such, the listed 8GB flash drive will serve as the sole drive for the system in this configuration. Though not required, an MCE remote has been included as I assumed most people would want a remote."
posted by CharlesV42 at 6:39 AM on October 2, 2009

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