Wednesday, September 05, 2007

More about my geeky interests.

(Currently eating Chicken with Broccoli and listening to Steely Dan - 'My Old School'.)

On August 7th I bought an Xbox. To head off the usual incorrect assumptions, let me clarify: I bought an original Xbox, not an Xbox 360, and I bought it used. (It's true, I do have a mortgage, a car note, and the wisdom to not spend the equivalent of 2 car notes on a videogame console + accessories. And now having read that, my Mom and Dad are proud, even if they still don't understand my hobbies.)

The Xbox is undeniably *NEAT*. While playing around with it shortly after hooking the system up, I inserted my Cowboy Mouth CD, Voodoo Shoppe. I was offered the option to copy the CD to the hard drive, for listening later without the actual disc. I did so, not really expecting to take advantage of the functionality, but hey, it was neat, so why not, right? Fast-forward 3 weeks. At NAVA a couple of weeks ago, I purchased a second-hand copy of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City for the Xbox. Now, you've very likely heard about the Grand Theft Auto games, and formed an opinion about them, whether or not you've played them. Everything you've probably read or heard about the game is probably true. The game is obscenely over-the-top in terms of gratuitous violence, sleaze, display of drug and thug culture, etc... It's truly prurient. HOWEVER, it is also an excellent game. I wouldn't ever condone the playing or watching of this game by anyone not already a mature adult, but it is fun, clever, and well-made. If you aren't aware of the game, it's a spoof of Miami Vice, set in the '80s, with an 'M' rating (mature audiences only).

Well, one of the things I like enormously about the game is the in-game music. Throughout the game you frequently get into cars and drive from one location to another. There are maybe 6 or 8 active radio stations broadcasting in Vice City, and as you travel you can select which station you want to hear. A couple of nights ago, while playing, I was cycling through the channels, and as I hit 'next' after the last channel on the dial, I landed on the tape deck, and it was playing the Cowboy Mouth album I'd copied to the Xbox weeks ago! So, if I'd wanted to, I could listen to that album in-car as I tooled around Vice City! It's just a really neat little feature of the system.

Another neat thing is the additional functionality that can be implemented with a little bit of effort and disdain for Microsoft's preferences. I'm talking about 'modding'. The Xbox can do an amazing array of things when configured to. Over the last week I've successfully modified my Xbox, and have had a lot of fun doing so. Years ago, I spent a Saturday building a couple of adapters that allowed me to use Sega Genesis controllers on my Atari 7800. I had more fun, and spent more time, building the adapters than I did actually playing the system with the controllers once the hack was finished.

Similarly, I'm having more fun 'hacking' my Xbox than playing the games, and in fairness, they are good games.

On the modified Xbox, I've copied a half-dozen homebrew games to the system. I've installed MAME, and am working on copying the MAME ROMs to the system as well. The system is now capable of playing DVDs from any region, not just US Region DVDs. And I intend to swap the hard drive for one with greater capacity, and install Xbox Media Center as well, turning the machine into a full-blown media jukebox.

One unrelated tidbit I thought of while thinking about this post. I'm sure everybody has some topic that fascinates them, and isnot thought of as an interesting topic to discuss with others 'around the watercooler'. It might be the new drapes at JC Pennys, or the Treadmill machine at the sports shop, or some new self-help class at a local community college. Maybe 'Geeks', usually interested in traditional 'geeky' things, are simply more likely to discuss their hobbies with people that aren't necessarily interested in said hobbies, as opposed to being geeky simply because they are interested in something considered silly? I'm not sure if I'm explaining what I mean, but hopefully I'm getting the point across.

Back to work now.
(The Chicken & Broccoli is nearly finished now, and Wilco just faded out, into U2 now....)

PS: Yet again, the Blogger text editor is hosed on some of the paragraphs above. If anybody reading this knows how I can fix or workaround that, I'd love to hear from you.

PPS: Re-opened the post for editing, using Firefox, and this appears to have fixed the weird formatting. Aren't computers grand?

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