Xbox 360 Accessorized

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Xbox Live Vision camera and Xbox 360 HD DVD
playerFriday night I picked up one of the Xbox 360 HD DVD players, an Xbox Live Vision camera, and a copy of GRAW 2. I am uber-stoked for all of these things.

The setup was pretty simple, though I think for folks less familiar with technology it may have been frustrating. See, I have the wireless network adapter for the Xbox 360 and that takes up the one USB port on the back of the unit. I’m sort of reluctant to jam a bunch of stuff into the front ports on the thing because, well, it’s ugly, and I really want those for other things (like my DDR dance mat). The wireless adapter, the camera, and the HD DVD player are all USB devices. Luckily, the HD DVD player has two USB ports on the back you can use to extend the Xbox with. So here’s how it looks now:

The HD DVD player plugs into the Xbox 360. The wireless network adapter and the camera plug into the HD DVD player. Everything is plugged in behind-the-scenes, so I don’t have any cords hanging out in front of the device.

So why was that confusing? A couple of reasons, actually.

First, the instructions for the camera tell you to plug it in “directly to the Xbox 360.” There’s even a picture of it plugging into one of the front USB ports on the Xbox. No, thank you. Even that wouldn’t have been as confusing except for…

Second, there’s some installation overhead to getting these things up and running and it doesn’t all just magically come up. Before you can hook up the HD DVD player, you have to put this DVD into the Xbox 360 that presumedly has some drivers it needs to install. Once it’s got that installed, you can plug in the HD DVD player. That said, it won’t actually recognize that the player is there until you turn the Xbox off and back on again. Is it plugged into the wrong port? Do I need to plug it into the front like in the instructions? No, but that isn’t immediately clear.

Once you’ve “rebooted,” the HD DVD player comes up, the network adapter comes up, and all is well… except it, for some reason, still hasn’t recognized the Xbox Live Vision camera. For that, you need to reboot again. On the second reboot, everything should be up and running. When it gets there, it’s really sweet, but getting there is the issue. (Note I did try hooking the camera up to the Xbox directly but it didn’t matter - it still took two reboots to get it going. Yes, that does mean I rebooted four - or more - times as I experimented with the setup, but the magic number does seem to be two.)

Now, I’ve only had the thing a couple of days, but here’s something I ran into: I decided to move the camera to a better location and zip-tie up some of the cables for the HD DVD player so they were a little cleaner and more managed. To do that, I had to unplug the HD DVD player and the camera, do the clean-up, move the camera, and plug it all back in. After I was done, I fired up the Xbox and it took another two-reboot cycle to get the HD DVD and camera recognized again. I’m wondering if there’s some sort of memory the console has that recognizes which ports things were plugged into and gets confused if you move things or disconnect the power.

Like I said, though, once you get it all running, it’s cool. Some of the stuff I didn’t know (because it’s either not terribly well advertised or I just haven’t seen it):

You can take a picture using the camera and use that as your “personal” picture - the one that only friends see. That said, I don’t seem to be able to find it anywhere online, even if I go to my profile on the Xbox web site, so it must just be a Live feature. Regardless, it’s pretty cool. Even my dad (who also picked up a camera) has one, and went to a lot of work to make it.

When you have the camera plugged in, the Xbox 360 dashboard has a sort of “watery reflection” playing in a light overlay of whatever the camera is seeing. You don’t really notice it at first, then you’re scrolling through a menu going, “Hey, what is that… holy crap, I’m on the screen!” Once you notice it, it’s pretty cool. It ripples based on how much movement the camera detects, too.

The HD DVD player makes it so the eject button on the Xbox 360 dashboard is split in half - the top half controls the Xbox console drive (allowing you to select, for example, “Play Game” or “Open Tray”) and the bottom half controls the HD DVD player (“Play HD DVD Movie”). This is actually a great way to tell if the Xbox has “recognized” the HD DVD player or not (so you know whether you need to reboot).

All in all, I’m really digging it. It came with King Kong in HD, which isn’t my favorite movie by any means but is a decent demonstration of how much clearer movies are in HD and really makes you never want to buy another standard DVD. It also has some of the little HD features you can expect like “picture-in-picture” storyboards and behind-the-scenes interviews, which is cool because that way you don’t have to leave the movie to see what they’re talking about.

Anyway, it’s awesome, and now I have a renewed interest not only in continuing my Media Center integration effort, but also updating some select pictures to HD. I’m totally ordering Serenity.

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