XBox 360 - Home Media Center

Date Published: 02 February 2012

XBox 360 - Home Media Center

Recently I picked up an HP MediaSmart EX470 Windows Home Server to help consolidate my files at home and to provide a simple backup solution. It’s been great and it’s an extremely economical way to get backups. You can hook it up with Amazon S3 using JungleDisk and get simple offsite backup of the files (but not the backups) easily and cheaply as well, and JungleDisk is just one of many plugins available. I recommend the 500GB version for the price, as you can pick up a 1.5TB hard drive to plug into one of the extra bays for under $150.

One of the many plugins for the WHS is a media streaming one that makes it very easy to use the WHS from your XBox 360. With this, it becomes trivial to use the XBox to browse pictures, watch slideshows, watch video clips, and play music. Sometimes the lag is pretty bad when the XBox is trying to load a list of items, but this is likely just due to my wireless network and the significant distance between my XBox and my router and WHS.

Suggestion 1: Support Streaming Video

As much as I love this, there is certainly room for improvement around the XBox’s media capabilities. First of all, as I mentioned in my previous post, you can download HD content for the XBox from the video marketplace, but the files are (as you would expect) quite large, and unfortunately you can’t start watching the movie until it’s been downloaded (or at least, I wasn’t able to start playing it after it had downloaded 20% over the course of half an hour the other day – I went to bed before it reached 100%). It would be great if the XBox video marketplace supported streaming downloads, as one of my commenters on another post reports the AppleTV does.

Suggestion 2: Consolidate XBox 360, WMP, Zune into Unified Media Story

I’d also like to improve the music playing experience. Currently, there is no way to save a playlist using the XBox interface unless the songs are stored on the XBox. It does support playlists on the media server it’s connecting to, but not Zune playlists. So if you’re a Zune user, you have to duplicate your playlists using Windows Media Player so that the XBox can use them, and you have to do all of this from your computer, not your XBox because the XBox can’t store playlists that include songs that aren’t on the XBox. It’s very uncoordinated in its current state, and not the kind of seamless application sharing that Microsoft is well-known for in other areas, such as Office. I’d really like to see some consolidation between Zune, Windows Media Player, and the XBox so that it’s much easier for these technologies to work together. Microsoft needs one ring to rule them all (and not the RROD).

Suggestion 3: Allow Upgrades to the XBox at Market Value

I can get a 1.5 TB hard drive for under $150. I can get a 2GB flash memory drive for $1.85!

Market Hard Drive Cost: $0.10 per GB Market Flash Drive Cost: $0.92 per GB

Now, how much is for an XBox Hard Drive? Retail for the 120GB unit is $150, NewEgg has it right now for $135. How about a 2GB memory unit? Oh, wait, they don’t have those. 1GB? Nope. But you can get a state-of-the-art 512MB unit for just $40. My *phone* has more memory on its MicroSD card (300% more), and the MicroSD card is about 1/20th the size of the XBox memory card.

XBox Hard Drive Cost: $1.13 per GB (more than 10x market price) XBox Flash Drive Cost: $80 per GB (more than 80x market price)

Apparently you can upgrade your hard drive yourself without being limited to a mere 120GB overpriced unit, as this PCWorld article shows. I’m not aware of a similar way to create a cheaper memory unit. Oh, and it’s also annoying that the XBox supports up to 4 players but only 2 memory units. What if all 4 people have XBox Live Accounts they want to use, with the profiles on their memory units?

Either Microsoft should put out supported upgrades for the hard drives and memory units that are at least in the same ballpark as market values (even 2x as expensive would be fine w/me, honestly, but 10x and 80x is a bit extreme), or, better yet, they should allow the use of standard electronics like USB flash drives and USB hard drives. I understand part of the reluctance to do this is to make hacking and cheating more difficult, so I would settle for the first option (and I’m sure Microsoft’s sales of these peripherals would be quite good, too).

Steve Smith

About Ardalis

Software Architect

Steve is an experienced software architect and trainer, focusing on code quality and Domain-Driven Design with .NET.