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The New Media Center Extender / Xbox

new360front Microsoft unveiled the updated Xbox 360 yesterday during their E3 Media Briefing.  It is small enough to fit inside the original Xbox 360 design.  The one thing that caught my attention in relation to Media Center is that Don Mattrick said it was “whisper quiet” as he was introducing the new design.

Could this new Xbox 360 design be the Media Center extender we have been waiting for?  The price is right and it is still the most powerful extender but I don’t know if they would ever update it to allow silverlight streaming since the 360 has its own version of Netflix and now ESPN3.com.

The other interesting thing that is potentially Media Center related is the new Kinect Xbox 360 controller.  It is a total hands free experience.  You can use your hands and voice to control the Xbox 360 dashboard and all of the media playback.  I really hope this functionality finds its way into the Media Center portion of Xbox 360.  I can control Media Center with my Xbox 360 controller today so there is hope of being able to control my Media Center with just my voice.

Do not expect anything new until CEDIA in September.  If you want to get the new Xbox though, it goes on sale this week.  You can pre-order now from Amazon.

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Help Me Replace My Dead Xbox

microsoft-xbox-360-elite My Xbox is officially dead.  At this point I really would just rather get a new one than replace it for the fourth time.  Three strikes and it’s time to move on.  Unfortunately I did not plan for this one like I did on Launch Day back in 2005 so I am reaching out to the internet in a cry for help.

I am down an extender and the blog is suffering from my grief and attempt to fix the problem myself.  Yesterday I walked into Best Buy and found the solution.  Best Buy has a new gift card concept called “Pitch In”.  Basically they give you the gift card for free and then you register it online.  From that point anyone can add money to the card in amounts of $5 or greater.

So now instead of one person buying a big gift or getting a handful of gift cards you can have everyone “Pitch In”.  So here is my Pitch In page and I am hoping that I can crowd source my new Xbox 360.

Andres Echevarria Best Buy Pitch In Page

Xbox 360 Freezing When Using the Network Connection

The Simpsons Special Edition Xbox 360

Doh!  My Xbox hates the internet.

The title pretty much says it all.  I have diagnosed my Xbox 360 freezing problems down to the network connection.  Any activity that uses the network connection will freeze my Xbox.

At first I thought it was Xbox Live activity that was freezing the Xbox since I am always connected to Xbox Live.  I tried going offline and it seemed to be ok.  As soon as I tried Media Center it would freeze.

I tried clearing the hard drive cache based on what I found online and what Xbox Customer support emailed me.  That didn’t work either but the Xbox worked great as long as the Cat5 was not connected.

I then tried removing the hard drive and playing games.  That worked great so I connected the cat 5 and tried to connect to Media Center and it froze again.

So basically the Xbox works great with no Cat5 connected and freezes consistently with Cat5 connected.  If I cannot get on my network and on Xbox Live this thing is basically a paper weight.

There has to be something that can be done.  I am going to test my friends Xbox on the network tonight to see if it is my network or the Xbox.  There has to be something that can be done to fix this that does not involve me spending any money or sending it to Microsoft.

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My Xbox 360 is dying

A XBOX 360 showing the Ring of Death.

Image via Wikipedia

I do not know what happened to my Xbox 360 this past weekend.  On Friday it just started acting up and freezing on me.  It did not just freeze once and then start working again.  It is now freezing up every time I turn it on after about 5 minutes of ANY activity (playing games, Netflix streaming, navigating the dashboard, Media Center).

This Xbox is actually a refurbished Xbox after my original Xbox 360 that I camped out for on launch day back in 2005 died with the dreaded Red Rings of Death.  Its showing all the signs of another red ring but has yet to actually red ring.  Because of that it is not covered under the extended warranty and would actually cost my $100 to get it repaired.  $100!  A new arcade unit cost $200 and would have HDMI and a better motherboard.

I wish I could just go to Best Buy and pick up another one but I just can’t afford to do that right now.  My other option is to use a Linksys DMA extender but I only have two and they are in use in other rooms.  I guess I may have to hit up eBay and Craigslist to find an extender.  Of course what I really want is a working 360!!!

This blows……..

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Moving Your Family to a Media Center Whole Home Solution – Part 2

In my first follow-up to my post on moving your family to a whole home Media Center solution I wanted to give a better idea on what I have in my setup and how it’s all connected.  We have four rooms in the house where we can use and enjoy Media Center.  The following diagram explains what equipment is where and how everything is connected:

Media Center Network

Office:  The home office is where I centered the Media Center and all the supporting components.  I have dual monitors connected to the Dell XPS 420 so I can use one as normal PC monitor and the second to watch Media Center at the same time (actually doing that as I write this post).   Audio is just stereo via computer speakers.

Master Bedroom:  In the master bedroom we are using a Linksys DMA2100 extender that is directly wired into the network.  It is connected to the TV via a single HDMI.  This is a nice clean setup with the least amount of cables (4): two power plugs, one network cable and the HDMI cable.  The DMA2100 looks great on this TV and fits the master bedroom scenario perfectly.  Audio is stereo via the TV speakers.

Living Room: The main TV is located in the living room.  Because of this I am using an Xbox 360.  It gives the closest experience to actually having the PC connected to the TV.  It also looks great over a VGA connection on this TV.  Audio is full 5.1 surround sound.

Guest Bedroom:  The TV in the guest bedroom is rarely used so it is the only TV that is still standard definition.  The great thing about Media Center is that I can still watch all of my HD content on this SD set and it looks like an amazing DVD. Audio is stereo via the TV speakers.  This is also the only wireless scenario I have.  The guest bedroom is right underneath the office so the wireless signal is fairly strong.  I have had experienced a few disconnects over extended viewing sessions but overall it worked great and streamed HD content just fine.

I’ll keep on digging deeper into other aspects in future posts.  Hopefully this helps answers some questions for those considering Media Center.

My Media Center Tour Videos

I created new videos of my Media Center setup now that I have the two CableCards installed (and working) and the second media center extender setup.

My Media Center Tour Part 01

The Video Tour

Here is a video tour of my new media center based setup. It’s in three parts.

Part 1: The Main TV

Part 2: The Upstairs TV

Part 3: Caller ID (Almost Forgot)