Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Ultimate Xbox 360

I had written before about how I wasn't too much of a fan of the newer model 360s. I had made peace with the E model. Everything was going well. Until I found a Jasper Xbox 360 at Goodwill for $15. The belt had slipped out of the DVD drive so it wasn't opening. Easily fixed with an orthodontic rubber band. But the phat 360 is... missing some things that later models had. Namely, wireless internet and a Kinect port. We can fix that. I decided to install a wireless adapter and Kinect port internally. This is sort of useless to install internally since you're knocking out 2 of the 3 available USB ports. We can fix that, too.

Remember the memory cards for the Xbox 360 that no one bought?

Those memory cards are actually just simple USB flash drives with a stupid end connector to throw everyone off the trail. Meaning we can convert those ports to connect USB devices. The only difference with the ports is that they supply 3.3v instead of the typical 5v that USB devices expect, but there's other places to source 5v. So, the goal became to add the Kinect port and the wifi adapter without rendering any of the original USB ports unusable. I mean, there's other shit we've gotta plug in. Like the Xbox Live Vision camera and the HDDVD drive!


So, I grabbed a wireless N adapter, a Kinect extension cable (for a female Kinect port), two USB extension cables (for the female USB end) and a 500gb HDD to make it even sweeter.

This is the front of the 360 with the memory card slots already removed. I'm using the ground and data+ and data- lines from the memory card port and the red wire is going to my 5V source. I ended up wiring everything in this manner (just using the female USB end and plugging things into it) because I couldn't get anything to work when soldered directly to the ports. I'm assuming this is because the data lines in USB are susceptible to interference. The shielding in the cables seems to keep everything on the up and up.

Adding the Kinect port poses some interesting problems. The Kinect port is just a modified USB port with a 12v line added to it. It needs to use the rear USB port, the other ports are limited in speed since there are multiple USB devices running on the bus they're connected to. The Kinect needs the full bandwidth available. The Kinect port also needs a 12v power source, which is why using the Kinect with an original 360 needs you to use an AC adapter.

The thing with adding the Kinect port is that you need to have a later model 360 (Falcon or Jasper, Xenons are out) that draw less amperage than the original Xenon. You would also need to pair it with a power supply for one of the models that has a higher draw (I'm using the PSU from my Xenon with my Jasper). The Kinect draws about 1.5 amps, so the disparity between the amperage the Jasper draws and the Xenon PSU supplies covers the difference and then some. The other thing I'm not sure about is... whether or not it actually works. I don't have a Kinect. I know I'll end up with one eventually, so I thought it would just be sort of a fun thing to do. Anyways, here's a bit about how I wired up the Kinect port.

This is the internals of the USB port and ethernet port towards the rear of the console. Since the USB port is on top, those silver traces run all the way down to the board. What I've done is cut the traces in half. This lets me solder the traces connected to the USB port to one of the memory card ports, meaning it can still be used as a USB port. The USB aspect of the Kinect port will be soldered to the traces still connected to the mother board. You'll notice that the farthest left trace is intact; it has no bearing on the USB connection. The relevant pins from right to left are 5V, data-, data+ and ground.

This shows how the wiring ended up. The gray wire coming off of the Kinect port is for the 12v, it's connected to one of the pins where the PSU plugs into the console. There's several 12v points on the 360 but it made sense to me that the best place to pull 1.5a at 12v would probably be the connector for the PSU. Drawing that much power somewhere else is likely to cause problems. Those traces are very malleable, and I'm pulling up on the cable to show the picture which is why they look all bent and wild.

I cut the case with some tin snips to let the port show through. This photo makes it look like the port is partially blocked, but it's mostly the angle and lighting. I'll have some more pics of that in a moment.

To fit the wireless adapter in the case, it needs to be removed from its housing. It's fairly easy to break open with a flat head screwdriver. The wireless N adapter has nice long cables for the antennae. The plastic bits can be broken with a pair of pliers and the internals removed as well. I'll be completely hiding the antennae.

I covered the adapter with electrical tape to prevent anything from shorting out against the housing. This is the area of the case where the DVD drive sits, that's the connector for the HDD right below the black mass that is the wifi adapter.

This shows where the antennae come through the case. They'll be hidden in the small compartment in front of where the HDD sits. This will prevent any interference that the aluminum housing would have caused.

I ended up cutting the bottom part of the fan shroud with a dremel to hide away some of the wires so that the DVD drive sits flat. Speaking of the DVD drive...

I added some rubber bumpers to the DVD drive to prevent the infamous circular scratches from occurring. I've only had it happen once, and it was fixable (not very severe).. but I'd rather it didn't happen again.

This is the wifi adapter tucked away next to the DVD drive. The board is really small, it's not a tight fit at all.

This shows where the case was cut for the Kinect port to show through. I did this with a dremel as well. I'll probably end up sanding it a bit to clean up the edges.

This shows where the wifi antennae sit.

And finally...

Here's the Xbox, showing the rear USB port working and connected to Xbox Live with no ethernet cable. This is actually a better wifi setup than the 360s with the integrated wifi, as the wireless N adapter is capable of full 5ghz N band connectivity while the S and E models' integrated wifi is not.

My only concern with the Kinect port at this point is that I may have to reopen the Xbox and add shielding to the wires since the other ones were so sensitive to interference. I also learned that I need to clean my flux up better as I was having some conductivity between the data lines for the wifi adapter once the system was on and warmed up a bit.

Time to game like it's 2005.

Since writing this, I managed to grab a Kinect from Goodwill for $5. The Kinect port works fantastic, and I haven't had any issues with it when playing a Kinect game or just leaving it active while playing other games.

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