Back in June last year when i was planning the IT infrastructure of the new house, I came across XBMC which is essentially a custom dashboard for the Xbox that literally turns it into a networked media player (plus you still get to play your console games!). Given that you can get a second hand Xbox for less than $200 a pop (modded ones even!), this is going to be a much cheaper alternative than buying dedicated networked media players on the market today.
So over the next few months, I shopped in ebay and Yahoo Auctions looking for a modded Xbox and finally landed one that cost $150 including two controllers and a bunch of games. Not bad indeed.
Now on to getting XBMC installed. There are a couple of ways to do it. From the hard way of compiling from source to locating a pre-compiled binary on bittorrent. As luck would have it, while lurking around the XBMC forums, I came across something known as Auto-Installer Deluxe (AID for short). This is essentially a project that packages some of the most common and useful tools and applications (such as the XBMC!) into an ISO so that you can easily get it installed on your Xbox with minimum fuss. This is a god-sent given that I'm completely new to Xbox!
Figuring out how to compile the ISO was abit of a challenge. The project is organized in such a way that it offers alot of flexibility for users to decide what gets installed on their Xbox. That means you don't simply get to download an ISO file, burn it onto a DVD and pop it into your Xbox. Nope. You have to download two separate packages (4.10 base package and the 4.13 update package as of this writing) and then build your own ISO using the supplied utilities on the PC. The manual that came along with the package was extremely helpful (Kudos to the team for supplying one) and I managed to figure my way out after awhile.
Next challenge was to find a compatible DVD media to burn. Again, thanks to the manual, I found out that I've got a Samsung DVD drive in my Xbox and its pretty picky when it comes to accepting the type of media its loaded with. I had to go out and buy a DVD-RW disc just for this as my stock of DVD media are all in the + format which the Samsung loathes.
Once I got the ISO on to the disc, the rest is easy. Simply pop the DVD into the Xbox, turn it on, wait for a few seconds and you will see the AID menu on screen. From there, select "one-click install" (there are two options here, one for those with modchip and another for those with softmod.) followed by your choice of dashboard and let it do its thing. When completed, it will ask you to reset and ta-da, XBMC running on the Xbox!