XBox 360 And Home Automation

Jim Doolittle

Active Member
OK. Should be getting my first XBox 360 today or tomorrow :lol:. Now I have several questions.

I plan on using this for audio, video, gaming, and home automation. Will let MCE extender features take care of part of audio and video. Can I also use the CD/DVD drive to run regular CDs and DVDs well enough to eliminate my DVD player (which is quirky anyway)? If so, is there an ability to control with network commands or should I plan on learning the remote's commands so that I can control via PocketPC or HS web interface?

I have Visual Studio 2005. Would it be difficult to write my own add-in that allowed some simple HA commands?
OK. XBox 360 is excellent DVD player. I currently have a Sony 27" TV that is about 20 years old. It was one of the biggest and had more lines of resolution than typical TVs at the time. never noticed any difference until DVDs came out and I swear the picture with an existing DVD we have is even better than ever. Must have had a crappy DVD player all this time...but we thought it was good...better than VHS :).

Time for HDTV :lol:
I got my 360 last November (I was one of the idiots waiting in line for hours on end at launch) I really like the Extender capabilities! I use it to play audio / video ect through the TV in the living room.

As far as controlling the DVD, I recommend just the Standard Remote for around $20 that you can purchase for the 360. It is a pretty full featured remote, and would be easier then picking up a Pocket PC and navigating to the screens, sending the command to the network, processing it, and then sending the command from an IR blaster to the 360. Just too many steps, and time till command is executed for standard pause, play, rewind ect.

If you want something with a bit more options, around the $100 price range, Harmony makes a
Remote for the 360

The only way I have been satisfied with sending commands through the network / Home Seer, is when it's a macro to turn on multiple devices, set the line in on the tv ect. For everyday remote control use, nothing beats the standard remote.
I will likely need to put an IR receiver next to A/V/XBox and let HS/Ocelot do macros using the XBox remote. In retrospect, the Harmony may not have been a bad idea but I need to leave some cash left over for games. :lol: .
I connected my daughter's new HP digital camera to my HP Pavilion PC that is a Media Center PC running mostly HS. Nice thing about Hp -> HP is that everything seems to work really good together.

Anyway, I grabbed images and movies that my daughter captured. I am using the XBox 360 as an MCE Extender and it shows pictures from the HP PC fine but doe snot recognize format of the AVI video files. MCE running on the HP does recognize and plays them fine. I know that the XBox 360 as an MCE Extender (or any MCE Extender for that matter) can be limited with video playback but is there something I can do to view these AVI without converting them? I have already heard that I need to convert divX/xVid but I was hoping that I could install more codecs.

Meanwhile...I am googling...
I went through the MCE / 360 Extender bit earlier this year. I wasn't happy with the extender. It has been awhile but it would not work properly occasionally, not to mention the remote playback issues of various types. Many others here were happy, so my issues could have been isolated.

I'm now working through issues with Sage, but I think version 6 of sage with wired extenders is what I have been looking for. It is just not out yet. I tried the beta and the remote playback was nice, but various other pre-release items forced me back to version 5 for now (WAF!). I liked the $109 price tag on the extenders and no complicated work arounds for all video playback from all rooms. Plus I wanted to extend my setup beyond MCE, and MCE does not have a lot of automation options (although a few new ones popped up recently).

MCE also had certain guide glitches where MS said it was the FCC's fault but Sage, Tivo and one other service all got the right information in the same circumstance. Not sure how prevalent that was. I was having problems for local (non-hd) guide info for channel 9 and 11 for starters.

As for the harmony remotes, they are pretty nice. I have an 880 and a 520 (I think that is the model). The charging cradle on the 880 (or the corresponding contacts on the remote) seem to be sensitive and I have to play with it to charge properly. That is my only complaint (I am on my second).
Yes, my major gripe with the 360 is that it will ONLY play WMV files. That was just stupidity on MS"s behalf, as far as I am concerned.

There are a couple ways around this. One is to transcode the video into WMB format using a program like Videora.

The other option is to have a "Buffer" between the video on your PC and the 360. It is possible to transcode the video as it is being sent to the 360 on the fly. You can read more about that HERE.
Moving along with my HA upgrades, which includes easy viewing and storage of audio and video, I am thinking of getting my wife a DVD camcorder (so far looks like Canon DC40 is good for the buck). Tired of digitizing VHS-C.

I am now using XBox 360 as main CD and DVD player for A/V system. However, I RTFM and noticed that the XBox 360 should not use 3" discs. Although permanent storage and video editing would be done at the MCE PC, quick playback would be done at the XBox 360. Inability to insert the 3" DVD would lower WAF I suppose the A/V receivers front RCA connections could still be used just like with our VHS-C camcorder.

What do you other guys do? Use a "real" DVD player?
I recently found that I like the XBox's ability to get music from MCE computer without accessing Media Center. Seems a little snappier plus you get visualizations. I need to get this all figured out before I have company over and let them pick songs. Should I use built-in XBox ability, native MCE Extender, or an MCE Extender add-in?