House of Amill - Serious Art, Stupid Logo

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Serious Art, Stupid Logo

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What I Do When I'm not Doing What I Do Best

These are the Side Projects. The little mods and nifty things that are not large enough for their own pages. Stuff like adding lights to things but tougher than "Plug into wall - Turn on Power - Dance."

Just use the Drop-down menu to find the project you want. Trust - this page will grow ever larger as time passes. Take your time and you might learn something!=P

~ XBox to USB Mod ~

XBox - To some, it is the King of the Consoles. To others, the reason why no one is playing on the Halo servers anymore. I'm a gamer through and through so I try not to take sides. I have been known to refer to the XBox as the Ark of the Covenant - Too good to really exist and has a knack for killing pesky Nazis - but this doesn't mean I don't play it. This also doesn't mean I own one either.

I'm a PC guy. I build them, I game on them. You could say I've been spoiled by years upon years of Mouse/Keyboard action. I've become pretty good in Halo but the skills I have there do not translate to the console at all. I'm too twitchy on the sticks which makes my aim horrible. o.@ The question: How can I, a PC guy, rock the XBox as well as I do with a Mouse and Keyboard? Build a controller adapter. Thanks to Microsoft's XBox development team, this is a cakewalk for anyone with a little electrical tape and a bit of know how.

This is a simple mod that can be done to any XBox controller and can be found in a bajillion places online. I used the handy dandy guide from I won't get too fancy in the details but I will give you the basics.

Tools Needed:

  • Spare USB connector - Preferably an A/B cord. I'll talk more on this later.
  • Extension cable for an XBox controller. Two if possible, in case of mistakes and all.
  • Electrical Tape for cable wrapping.
  • Razorblade or Exacto knife.
  • XBox controller. You have to test it with something afterwards.=P
  • PC running the XBCD program. 'Tis well built drivers to run XBox controllers and dance pads. Mac folk can try running the Xbox HID Driver for Mac OS X. I personally haven't tested it so give it a whirl and see if it goes.

Follow these steps and enjoy the show.
First, slice the USB cable in twain. Be sure to give yourself a reasonable amount of cord, too. Think people - too much means tangled masses of wires and a weak signal while two little means a mistake could cost you a cord.
Second, slice the XBox extension cord at the head that connects to the system. Be sure to grab the end of the USB cable that plugs into the PC, not external devices! Save this for a possible secondary mod. Now roll back the outer sheathing on both cables and expose enough of the inner wires to do this thing up proper.
Third - connect the like colored wires together. It should be a one to one setup with a spare yellow wire. This is most likely for XBox Live Headsets or the like. Ignore this wire, you won't miss it. I used the Exacto knife to "Shave" the small wires clean. This is an easy step to ruin so be careful and play it safe. Those things snap easily and I almost ran out of cable on the XBox side. o.@
Fourth and final build step - Wrap the exposed parts of the wires tightly in electrical tape. Sure, you could solder and heat shrink it but who needs fancy.=P I twisted the like colored wires together then wrapped the first one alone. The next set has one pass alone, then wrapped to the first. Do this for the rest and you'll get a nice tight wrap.

After all this, you should end up with a working adapter. Using the XBCD drivers, your system should recognize the device. If not, it could be the controller you're using. The dancepad I used to test didn't want to take on the computer. It works on the console though. Go fig.=P

I recommended doing this on an extension and not the controller as extension cables are easier to get. Cheaper too. You mess up and you'll be out five bucks instead of ten or twenty. I also brought up the idea of an A/B USB cable. Logic says that, if the mod works one way, it should work the other way as well. 'Tis theory from me so do your research befor you try it.

Overall, this was a quickie project. Hour if you're not too skilled, ten minutes tops if you can splice wires in your sleep. Good luck and happy gaming!

~ End

~ WinXP: Vista'd Mod ~

Let's face it, folks. Windows Vista - as it is currently - sucks geeks dry. No good way to put it. As a person who spent quite a bit of time with the beta and is currently trying to fix two systems with the basic build, I feel that much of that operating system is in need of an all out overhaul. That said, it does have one very interesting advantage over WinXP for guys like me: It looks good. I liked the sidebar and I'm a fan of the slick looking black glass (No transparency, but I'll hit that point up later).

As you can tell from other things around the site, I'll find ways to mod items for use and looks. After running around the site for a home-made headphone solution (Maybe later), I found an article on a full XP to Vista visual conversion. Don't get me wrong, now - I did not make my XP install magically into a Vista install. That would defeat the purpose of keeping XP. No, I changed the look of the system's UI to have the parts of Vista I dug from using it. You can do it as well by following CharredPC's article. I'm going to give you a run down of what I found useful as well as a discusion on the program called Alky - a program I used to run the Windows Sidebar for a while before all this. Here we go!

The set-up from CharredPC is really detailed. It comes complete with all the neccessary files, a ton of extras and the addition of a very detailed, very helpful set of instructions for offline reading. Read these and choose what you want to do. My set-up is as follows:
Black Glass and Visual Tricks: I followed his steps and installed the Vista theme, the SegoeUI font and the UXTheme Multi-Patcher. Consider the patcher the "Joker" code for the old Game Genie hardware - it needs to be installed for the Vista theme (as well as many other homebrew themes) to work. This gives the overall "Look" of Vista that I like. Though the package has the screensavers, wallpaper and cursors from Vista; that part of it wasn't high on my visuals list.
Nifty Bits may appear faster than they are: There are a couple of programs out there that will add the tranparency to the windows as well as change the start menu, add the side bar, add that quick view to the taskbar and switch up the hard drive icons. Out of the one's I mentioned, the only one I kept was the icons. I'm not running an ancient machine but I did find a bit of a slow down on my XP systems when I had these running. They did what they did well but I found that I could do without pretty easily. The system icons really help out in a pinch, though. Being able to see available drive space at a glance in the icon itself helped me to see what an absolute mess one of my drives had become. Really great for system matainence. I also kept the games. Something about the updated solitare and minesweeper just brings back good memories of OS's past.=)
System Tweaks: Many of the system tweaks CharredPC mentioned in the instructions are tweaks I recommend to people anyway. Stuff like turning off System Restore to regain unused space or simply keeping your drive clean by usuing the Sys Restore clean up function in the Disk Cleanup program. I absolutely can't manage a windows system without TweakUI. Google it, enjoy it. It safely opens up parts of the system that can actually add some much needed organization and some minor speed tweaks to your system. Though I don't spelunk the registry like I used to ('Tis a dangerous task, indeed), it is a very good place to look for speed tweaks and fixes.
A safe way to run it would be TweakNow's RegCleaner. It will get rid of all those little bits of programs left over in the registry after deleting them. It gives you a faster start up overall.
Project Alky: Like I mentioned earlier, I used to run the Windows Sidebar on my XP machine long before I tried this visual conversion using a program called VIAO or Alky for Applications. After doing a quick search for the program's recent owners, Falling Leaf Systems, I found that they regretably closed up shop. Indeed, it sucks but they have released their code into the wilds of Open Source. For those who find it and/or are willing to give it a try, let me give you my thoughts on it. I dug it. It was well written, basic as all get-out and it simply worked. The code for the sidebar I used came off of my own Vista Beta disk and no, I will not pass that code on to you. Company policy - I'm not cool on bringing down the wrath of Microsoft because I gave away a chunk of their property. You can find it online, usually along side a copy of Alky.
Now, Alky not only works with stuff like the sidebar. The crew at Falling Leaf worked on getting XP to run Vista-only games like Halo 2 and Shadorun but I never really gave it a try. From what I found, it worked well enough and there are even mentions of getting DirectX 10 to go on XP machines. Not needing or having a machine that could require DX10, I can't say much on it. It was a good project and a very slick piece of handiwork. I'll keep tabs on their sites to find any news of possible newcomers to pick up the project again.

Overall, this is a nice little visual project. It took me all of thirty minutes to do and I like the outcome. All is well and stable on both my XP machines and solitaire has once again become the bane of my gaming existance. Addictive little game, it is. If you're like me and you were never too cool with the "Little Tykes" style of Luna (XP's base theme), give this one a whirl. Good luck and happy gaming!

~ End

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