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June 27, 2006

Setting up XSATA

I recently ordered an Xbox 360 accessory called XSATA. It is a small device that sits between your Xbox 360 and the 360's hard drive. The back of the device has a USB port and is designed to interact with your PC allowing you to 'see' and edit the files on the 360's hard drive. What follows is my experience in unpacking and setting up the XSATA.

The box is surprisingly light. I ordered it straight from the manufacturer's website. The box arrived a little banged up which made opening the strong plastic much easier.

Here are the package contents:
  • XSATA device in static-proof bag
  • USB Cable
  • Driver / Application disc
  • Manual

Here are various shots of the XSATA device itself.

The XSATA is really nothing more than a plastic shell with some serial ATA connections inside shaped like the Xbox 360 Hard Drive plug.

A close-up of the chips.

A close-up of the USB port.

Here is my setup. Luckily, the PC and the Xbox 360 are already close to each other.

To install the XSATA device, first remove your Xbox 360 hard drive. Press the button.

Lift the drive from the Xbox 360.

Slide the back of the XSATA device into the hard drive bay.

Carefully press the drive connector into place.

Press the front of the XSATA into place. This took more force than I expected. I almost expected the XSATA to break. I found the best method was to press the palm of my hand on the XSATA and mash it into place firmly.

CAREFULLY install your Xbox 360 hard drive into place on top of the XSATA. This was the most difficult part as the drive connector in the XSATA wiggles a bit. Make sure you like up the connectors with the XSATA and the hard drive before you press the drive into place.

Here is a picture of the XSATA in place.

Plug the USB cable into the back of the XSATA device.

Important: If the USB cable is connected between your PC and the XSATA device, your Xbox 360 WILL NOT BE ABLE TO USE THE HARD DRIVE. Be sure to disconnect the cable from either the PC or from the XSATA before you turn on the 360 if you intend to use the hard drive in the Xbox 360.

Here is a picture of the XSATA in place and the 360 back in its 'home' position.

Another image of the 360 and XSATA. In this image, you can see the illumination effects provided by the XSATA. Note that there is not a switch to enable or disable the lights. If the 360 is on, the XSATA lights up. This is something to note if the blue lights will distract you when watching a movie or playing a game. Luckily, my setup involves having my 360 in a closet, out of sight.

Before you plug the XSATA's USB connection into your PC, install the drivers and software.

Here is the icon for the installed software. It would have been nice if the software came with a higher resolution icon. You can see it has jaggy edges compared to other icons on my desktop making it look amateurish.

Once installed, the ST920217 AS USB Device shows up in your device manager.

Once everything is connected and you run the Xplorer 360 software, you will want to connect to the 360's drive. Drive > Open > Hard Drive.

The first thing I did was make a backup of my 360's hard drive. Drive > Backup Image.

Here is an example of what your Xbox 360 sees while you are accessing the hard drive from your PC. Note, there are no profiles found.

The Xbox 360 can not see the hard drive at all. When you are done with the software, be sure to power down the Xbox 360 and disconnect the USB cable from either the PS or the XSATA. When you power on the 360 again, the hard drive will show up as usual.

I hope this helps people get an understanding of the XSATA and its capabilities. I have to admit, at this point, it isn't very useful to me since all of the files on the hard drive contain cryptic code-like names. I was hoping to copy over some images for use in custom themes but I don't have the knowledge to deconstruct the existing themes. I'm sure someone out there will be able to do that, and more, soon.

So far I have been able to:
  • Backup my drive
  • Restore my drive
  • Copy over original Xbox save games including
    • > Prince of Persia
    • > Halo
    • > Halo2
    • > Crimson Skies
    • > Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
    • > Jade Empire
    • > Quantum Redshift
    • > Yourself Fitness!

Let me know if you have any questions I can help with about the XSATA.

June 14, 2006

Mario Kart DS - Different on DS Lite compared to DS "Fatty"

When Mario Kart is started on the Nintendo DS Lite, the game makes a different start up noise compared to when it starts up on the original DS, DS "Fatty".

What other differences are there between DS games on the old DS compared to DS Lite?

June 12, 2006

Buying By The Bullets

Look, there are lots of people throwing around, buzzwords about how something is done instead of the end result. Industry people and fanboys alike that are on about 'volumetric surfaces, 'dynamic skeletal animation' and ‘per-pixel-mapping’.

That’s nice, but there is a fundamental flaw in this approach.

Nobody really cares. Oh, sure there are some. The people who create and use these techniques care, as do the marketing people and fanboys. Many of these so-called ‘features’ don’t mean a damned thing to consumers.

Why would 99% of the consumers care HOW the grass was made to look pretty? Why would people care how the beautiful dancer moves? Why would people care how the soft reflections in her eyes shine? As long as the grass is green, the dancer moves gracefully, and her eyes shimmer like deep reflecting pools, people won’t care how it is done behind the scenes.

And people shouldn’t care.

Like a great magician knows, the tricks he is about to perform require the audience to be a little unknowing of what is happening behind the scenes.

So while it is interesting to know about these invisible ‘features’ they shouldn’t alter or affect our purchasing decision. Look at the games for yourself. See how they move, how they play. Decide for yourself if the games look fun or derivative and dull.

If you buy your games or consoles by the bullet point list of features, then you aren’t buying the best game or console. You are buying the best list of bullet points.