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How I made my XBox360 Media Center Extender Silent–Final Result

August 26, 2010 1 comment
Awesome!  It works as great as I had hoped.  I have all of my cables run through my wall with the XBox360 in the closet and the IR Receiver now zip tied to the bottom edge of the LCD TV.  It looks great and it works great.  The Power LED for the XBox is just as convenient as I imagined and the IR Receiver is not picky at all with respect to direction, even working when IR is bounced off the opposite wall (that was my wife’s test).  I definitely have a 10 out of 10 WAF approval on this one.  I would definitely say it works better than the IR receiver built into the Jasper XBox.  Also, as I had anticipated, putting the two IR receivers in parallel allows either one to receive IR, although I suspect that if they both get IR at the same time, it would work poorly.  Also, since I have fluorescent lighting in my closet (which can emit IR), I taped over the IR receiver built into the XBox with Black electrical tape (white tape was transparent to IR, so I put white tape on top of the black tape).  Below are the pictures of the final product.
TV with IR Receiver attached at bottom
Close up of the receiver with red power indicator
XBox360 neatly tucked away on the top shelf of the closet (notice the IR Receiver plugged in on the right side and the tape covering the IR receiver)
Done!
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How I made my XBox360 Media Center Extender Silent–Part 2

August 23, 2010 4 comments

The XBox360 in the bedroom has been a tough road.  I was unsatisfied with the occasional RRoD (Red Ring of Death) and with the IR Receiver’s poor reliability on the second generation XBox360 (aka. Falcon).  So, I picked up a new 3rd Generation XBox360 (aka. Jasper).  The Jasper has much better out of the box IR reliability and is less directional.  Also, it runs cooler and rarely gets the RRoD, fingers crossed. 

IR Receiver

So, I started reading and researching the IR receivers in the XBox.  The Falcon appears to be a Sharp Microelectronics receiver.  The Jasper is clearly a Sharp receiver with the Sharp “S” on the side.  I believe it to be similar to this one here.  There is a key difference though.  The one in the XBoxes have the ground as the middle pin and I could not find any 38K Sharp receivers on Mouser that had such a configuration, so these may be a special run for MS?  So, in my reading it seems that you may be able to put these in parallel as long as only 1 is getting blasted at any one time.  So this time, instead of removing the IR receiver, I am going to leave it and my plan was to buy a second compatible IR Receiver component to have externally.  This way, the external IR receiver will be detachable and leave the XBox360 bootable/functional.      

Power LED

At first I thought it would be cool to use a green LED, like on the XBox.  But then I thought that red is actually a better color to have in the dark.  There is a reason why most devices like alarm clocks and telescope electronics use red, I think it has something to do with preventing pupil dilation or something.  So, I got a red LED that would work with the 5 volts I could harvest from the XBox. 

Media Center IR Receiver

Then it dawned on me that, everything I was looking for was already in a spare Media Center USB Receiver that I had already lying around in a spare parts bin.  So, I cracked it open (needs a small torx head screwdriver) and sure enough, it was another Sharp IR Receiver.  This one actually had a “D28” on the side, so I know it is this one.  Unlike the XBox, this appears to have an off-the-shelf pin assignment with the ground on the side and power in the middle.  So, basically, I decided to reuse this with some re-wiring. 

Wiring the XBox

So, for simplicity, the connector to the XBox is a USB plug.  It may be confusing, but I don’t care.  The easiest mounting location was to put a USB Breakout connection from a PC on the side opposite the harddrive.  I just drilled a few holes and neatly mounted the USB port on the side.  One thing I wanted to do (and succeeded) was to be able to solder only on the top surface of the motherboard because I do not want to remove the heat sinks from the GPU/CPU because they are working just fine and I wanted to simplify the job by disassembling no more than I had to…  removing the heatsinks would have been necessary if I needed to solder to the under side of the motherboard. 

 

Breakout USB socket

Final external appearance

Wiring to XBox (labeled with USB colors; my cable was too short so I extended with the phone wire shown).  Wires must be carefully soldered to the legs of the IR receiver without contacting the ground!  Then use some hot glue to mount everything in place. 

Re-Wiring the IR Receiver

This is more tricky. And this post is getting long, so I’ll just post the pictures of the wiring. 

The Result?

Well, my HDMI cable went bad, so I have not fully tested this.  But so far, so good.  Here is the video! 

 

 

The USB cable attached the the receiver is long ( 10 – 15 feet) and will work great when I run it through the wall.  Also, since this is not USB, it could probably be extended with off the shelf USB extension cables.  I’ll post an update after I test with my new HDMI cable arriving tomorrow. 

Disclaimer

I don’t recommend anyone try this unless you are willing to void your warranties and you REALLY understand electronics.  Maybe after some Electrical Engineer says this looks OK, others could try it.  But, if you miss one step, stuff could fry.  You have been warned! 

-Valkyrie-MT

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How I made my XBox360 Media Center Extender Silent–Part 1

August 23, 2010 Leave a comment

This is a repost from TGB of my first version (with critique at bottom):

So, the situation is that I have an LCD TV mounted on the wall in a bedroom and I want to use a Media Center Extender.  What I want:

  • Silence (no fan noise)
  • Playback of MKVs and DVBLink for HDPVR recordings 
  • Remote control that has backlighting and the same button layout to my other Media Center remote
  • Reliability. 

What I tried and why it failed:

  • Linksys DMA2100 sitting above TV – Did not playback my DVBLink for HDPVR recordings and the UI was sluggish (even with animation off), and I didn’t like the look of it on a bracket above the TV. 
  • XBox360 in room – too noisy to leave in room
  • XBox360 in closet connected through hole in the wall – Great!  But how to control it?
    • XBox360 RF based Game controller – no backlight and I prefer a remote with the button layout like my other remotes
    • RF to IR UFO repeater – doesn’t work with Media Center remotes… ugh.
    • Xantech IR Repeater – Can’t get it to work with Media Center remote even with LCD/CFL proof receiver. (tried 2 different models)
    • HotLink Pro – This actually works well with my Media Center remote, but I couldn’t get it to work reliably in the presence of my LCD TV after shifting around the sensor for about a month. 
    • Logitech Harmony – This should work, but it’s expensive and the button layout is not like my Media Center remotes.  I did not try this. 
    • USB Media Center Receiver connected to XBox360 – Neither the PC Version or Xbox version from Scene-It work at all.  I personally tried both.  (This really should have worked and MS should step up and add a driver for this IMHO)
    • Seriously – Crack open the XBox360 (voiding the warranty), cut out the IR receiver and extend it into the bedroom with phone cord – will it work, is it reliable?

The last point is what I have right now… and it works.  I cut out the IR receiver from inside the XBox360.  THIS VOIDS THE WARRANTY!  Actually, right after doing this mod, I got my first Red Ring of Death.  So, I did the standard RROD repair on Wednesday and it’s been workings for 2 days now…  Now, I am no Electrical Engineer, so I have no idea if this will continue working or eventually fry something because of the added resistance of the phone wire.  I have about 6 feet of wire going through the wall.  Here are a few pictures of this experiment: 

Connection to XBox360 motherboard

Sensor mounted with zip-tie to back of TV and hanging down

Overview with sensor (yes that tiny thing at the bottom of the TV is the sensor)

Update after 9 months of usage:

So, I’ll be honest.  This solution was barely usable.  When using a Media Center IR remote with this setup, the response was hit or miss because the IR receiver used in the Falcon XBox360 sucks.  It is a very picky receiver.  Also, when I turned on the XBox, I had to wait about 5 seconds before anything came up on the screen because there is no way to know if it is turned on.  Sometimes I would turn it off because I thought it hadn’t worked, but that would turn it back off, ugh.  Also, if I unplugged the IR receiver from the XBox360, the XBox360 would not boot at all.

See Part 2 for how I addressed all of these issues…

-Valkyrie-MT

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