We’ve had our Xbox 360 Arcade hooked up to our new 32” flat panel since last weekend.  So far, my impressions are mixed.

When we first turned it on, we plugged in Pac Man, that came with the console as one of the arcade games.  Wow, it sucked.  There is this moving border thing around the edge of the game board and it’s very distracting.  And the game play seemed quite different from what we were used to.  (Kelly was playing).  Instead of a board full of dots, there were only some dots and it looked like after she ate them, more dots appeared.  Kelly also complained that it was hard to control.  Feeding Frenzy looked pretty fun though.  I played it a little too, and that’s a fun little game with a little bit of marine education mixed in.  That’ll be great for the kids (and us).  The other games were a little blah.  And the free demo games just annoy me—how do I turn that off!?  I don’t want to see these teasers mixed in with the games we own.

As I knew, the Arcade model didn’t come with an HDMI cable.  I don’t know anything about HD, so I figured this just meant I wouldn’t get the HD experience from the Xbox, and I was right.  I had to use the component cable and the TV was getting the signal in 480p (I think).  I decided that I should invest in the cable and I went hunting for one.

Being new to HD and the Xbox and not knowing how it works, I figured that the Xbox needed a special cable.  So my first stop was the Microsoft company store (online).  Nothing.  Next: the Xbox website.  Aha, I found the Xbox 360 HDMI Cable accessory… for $50!!!  Ouch!  Kelly expressed concern about the Xbox and the TV becoming a money pit, so there’s no way at $50 cable would fly.  I ended up sending a note to a distribution list here at work asking if anyone had a spare that they’d sell cheap.  As it turns out, I just needed any basic HDMI cable, and 2 people offered to give me one for free.  Yesterday, I got the cable from one of these fine people and I hooked it up.  Wow, that made a difference!!  It’s very pretty!  It makes the TV look great.

Our main use of this device is expected to be the music and photo capability though.  The Xbox is plugged into the same router as our HP MediaSmart HomeServer.  The HomeServer has like 10,000 digital photos, catalogued by date and time, as well as a few hundred CDs’ music.

I went to the media tab, then to music, and it seemed to find everything perfectly.  Cool.  The interface for playing music is a little odd though, as there are buttons on the screen that have icons that I don’t recognize, and I don’t know what they mean.  And there aren’t any tooltips or anything.  It took a few tries to get it into Shuffle mode.

With the (Christmas) music playing, it’s on to pictures.  For some strange reason, not all of the picture folders are showing up under the home server’s Photos share.  I have a folder for each year, and then subfolders for each month, then folders for each day under that.  At first, 2008 wasn’t showing up at all.  Only half of 2007 was showing up.  When I had time a couple of days later, I decided to investigate.

I thought it might be a permissions thing, and I found that not all of the folders had read access available to 'Network Service', and at first look, it seemed those were the folders not showing up.  So I reset permissions for all child objects of Photos, ensuring that Network Service has Read/List Folder Contents permission.  After this, more folders showed up on the Xbox, but still not all of them.  I could not find any permissions differences between folders showing up and folders missing.  On a whim, I reset permissions for all child objects of Photos again, without changing the effective permissions.  This caused more photos to show up again, but still not all.  Reset permissions yet again, and more photos became available, but again, not all.

Needless to say, this is baffling me.  If I find the (real) solution to this problem, I’ll be sure to post it here.

Something else on the Photos too… when you start a slideshow, it never starts in shuffle mode.  So the first picture is always the same while you work to turn it onto shuffle.  And the UI was a bit odd here too.  The icon shows what you think you want, but the tooltip says, “Turn Shuffle Off.”  It should tell me what the current state is instead of telling me what the action will do; that way the icon matches the description.  This complicated the whole problem of trying to understand these unfamiliar icons.

The last thing we have going on with the Xbox is that I cannot join Xbox Live.  I tried to join but it says that I have to upgrade to the new experience first.  But upgrading to the new experience failed.  After following the troubleshooting steps it provided, I found that my router’s MTU setting is apparently too low.  I’ll have to try to adjust this.  Hopefully the new experience makes the music and photos a little easier to navigate.  And I’ll cross my fingers that it will also correct the problem with discovering the photos, but I’m not optimistic.

I’m excited about the Xbox though.  I think this will be a fun toy for our family.  Kelly does love the music player and having access to our full library of songs.  She told me last night, “It’s like having my own personal juke box.”  She has always longed for a juke box.  I was glad to hear that she is happy with it.