We Took the Plunge…

April 13, 2006

…and finally canceled cable! It’s all part of our mission to streamline our lives and our stuff.

Like most everyone else, Kev and I do enjoy watching TV from time to time, so we came up with an alternative to traditional cable TV. What we have as a replacement is an Xbox that we modded to work like a Tivo, but better. It plays DVD’s, plays CD’s, plays anything you record (explained more below), plays streaming anything (movies, music, news clips, etc.). And it still plays games. It’s our new (yet, used) all-in-one media center! It was fun modding the machine, but it wasn’t a super easy thing to do. Now I understand why it’s not a more common practice.

Modded XboxWe’re still working out all the kinks with learning how to schedule shows to record, but already we’re enjoying the freedom and versatility the Xbox offers over conventional TV/cable.

If you’re thinking about modding an Xbox yourself, this walk-through is a good starting point and it’s what we followed to mod ours. I recommend finding a Game Stop or other gaming store that offers used/refurbished game systems to purchase the Xbox. We bought ours used. It’s a whole lot cheaper and you don’t need a new one for the modding to work.

The software powering it is the Xbox Media Center (XBMC). It’s open source, of course. The program is streamlined and very smart. You can skin the look of it, but the original skin it comes with is pleasing to the eye. When you first power it up, that’s what shows the menu for Music, Videos, etc. We use RSS to find the shows we used to watch on TV/cable and have them download automatically.

Another blogger, Jon, wrote about his experience using RSS to download shows. I won’t go into the details here, because he does a much better job of explaining it than I ever could.

If you’re up to the challenge of taking on a modding project, I recommend this one. Bonus: saving at least $60 a month in cable bills! So, now that we’ve crossed that off the list of things to do, we’re working on the next list item: wood floors.

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