Posted by: Andy | September 4, 2006

xbox drama or: How I spent my labor day weekend

So…I don’t know why but I started thinking about Dark Wizard, this old school Sega CD (seriously!) game I used to really enjoy back in the day. (It sure beat the shit out of Sewer Shark!). Anyway, along with the Shining Force series & Warsong, it was one of the earlier turn based SRPGs (Strategy Role Playing Game -or whatever the technical term is these days).

The graphics were for shit, but what do you expect, it was 16bit! Why was it on Sega-CD and not Genesis (or the awesomely underwhelming 32x)? Voice acting & anime video! Yeah, it wasn’t really worth it for that. But the strategy portion of the game was a lot of fun.

ANNNNNYWAY, skip to last Wednesday or so – I’m thinking, man I’d really like to play it again. And Diety knows where my SegaCD is now! Probably in a land fill somewhere. So, I did a bunch of digging and got it working on an emulator on my PC. But alas, it looks crappy on my monitor AND I don’t really have a gamepad. As a result of my digging around though I came to find that the Xbox (once hacked) can run emulators for Arcade, Nes, SNES, SMS, Genesis/32x/SegaCD & even Saturn (supposedly!) and Playstation 1!

So, I decided that in lieu of spending $50 on a used sega-cd I would used for one thing and then throw away, I would dive into the world of xbox modding. The handy (or stupid from Microsoft’s point of view maybe) thing about the xbox is that its basically a stripped down computer (even more so than previous consoles), so once you get in through a backdoor you can hack it MUCH MUCH farther than any previous console.

Skip ahead a little more. I find a local guy (on craigslist, who does SOFT mods – these are different from HARD mods, which require physically installing a chip on your console (and were the main way to hack PS1 & PS2s). Soft mods [simplified] are just like changing the OS on your computer from Windows to Linux (you can run Linux on an xbox too, but that’s not what I’m doing). So, anyway the guy softmods my xbox, and puts in an extra hard drive (music/movies/etc. will fill up that little 10gig hard drive in no time!).

I get it home and it works fine for playing my sega CD game, as well as streaming audio & video off my networked computer – AWESOME! Almost anyway – I don’t have a network upstairs. I COULD have bought the xbox wireless adapter for $100, but no, I’m a bargain hunter and I know a device that fucking simple is not worth $100 – more than a full on wireless router (more on that later). So, I hunted around and found that Best Buy is running a special on the Linksys WGA54AG wireless gaming adapter for $49.99 (regularly $79.99 online).

We just happened to be near the one in Beaverton, so I planned to swing by there (#2) and pick one up. I recalled seeing that model on trip #1 (Saturday morning to pick up the hard drive) to the Best Buy out near the airport, so I hoped this one would have some as well. I also recalled seeing what I assume is the older model, the WGA54G, which lacks the A band which does some kind of data verification for supposedly better speeds. Meh. ANYWAY again.

So, go into best buy, see the display sign for the WGA54AGs and a stack of boxes behind it, pick one up. Realize it is a WGA54G and there are no AGs in the area. I check around, none at all anywhere. OK..I guess the employees just fucked up because they look similar (although they don’t really, one has more shiny colors on the front). Figure there is nothing else here so maybe they are doing substitutions. Take it over to get it run up and it rings up at $99.99 – awesome! I guess the retail prices is higher than the online price (which lists it at $89.99), but that’s normal. I debate with the cashier for a bit, but he’s an idiot and can’t do anything to help me even if his store screwed something up. Do I want to go over his head to a manager right now? Not really.

I head back to the router/wireless area knowing that there should an access point for sale, which does the same thing but on a larger scale (multiple computers plugged into it versus just 1 for the gaming adapter). Lo and behold not a single access point. OK…so routers have built in access points I should be able to run one in access point only mode right? Right. And the tech agrees with me. So I pick up the good old Linksys WRT54G, workhorse that it is – and the rep confirms that it should run in access point mode. Not that they usually know stuff….

Get it home, fuck with it for an hour or two. Turns our it has version 6 of the hardware (which is not labeled at all on the box) and the access point features are only available by HACKING versions 1-4. Not awesome! Take that shit back and head (today) back to my new favorite Best Buy store (the one by the airport) where I’m 3/3 with getting kick ass reps to assist me. By this point they have run out of AGs, but I talk to a floor guy and he oks exchanging the router that I just bought for a G at the AG sale price. Woot.

You thought I was done didn’t you? HELL NO! It then took me an hour on the phone with a nice man with an accent placing him as probably located somewhere near India. Which would have been ok as he seemed to know what he was doing EXCEPT there was massing feedback from his phone and/or headset the entire time. AWESOME!

After an hour on the phone with him we determine that my gaming adapter does not behave at all like it is supposed to – firmware upgrades don’t take, and a variety of other fun things. But after he goes to check with a supervisor for the 4th time or so I techno-majagically getting it working. Go me. And I don’t even care if it’s not working right, I’m just glad it working. Thank milk suckling, baby gap wearing baby Jebus for our new speakerphones or I would have stabbed myself in the ear with a 19″ LCD (How you ask? Where there’s a will to be deaf there’s a way!).

End result? We can play music/movies (anime, yay!) from our downstairs PC on the upstairs tv/xbox combo. And I can FTP into the xbox and transfer files without having to bring it and a large, heavy tv down to my computer/router setup in the basement.

I bet you totally had more fun than me this weekend.

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