Moving my European XBox 360 to North America

XBox 360 LogoI’m writing this post in case anyone else out there wants to know what will happen to a European XBox 360 (in my case, from Ireland) if it’s moved to North America (in my case, Canada).  [update] The story started out not particularly great, but now, a few updates later, it is significantly better.  By purchasing a new power supply, you’ll have everything you need.  And although games are marked as region-specific, it turns out that many of them are not, and so by checking them against a list, you’ll find you can purchase many games in the shops, even those that are marked as “NTSC only”! 

So here’s the run-down.

Buying new games in the shop: You can NOT buy North American games and play them in your European XBox360.  XBox360s do not play games that were purchased in other regions, as per this.  [Update: It looks like the North American versions of some XBox360 games will work with a PAL (European) XBox360!  Thanks to John in the comments for the link to VideoGamesPlus at Blogspot where they test North American games in a PAL system and list the ones that work.  And here’s a chart at Wikipedia of Region-Free 360 titles.]  For titles that aren’t region-free, you’ll need to have them shipped to you.  Solution: make some friends before you leave.  And maybe give them a few Euros for future postage.

Buying games through XBox Live and XBox Live Arcade: This continues to work just fine and you can purchase new XBLA games using this method.  I had to change my Region from Ireland to Canada before I could sign in to Xbox Live.  It updated my console before I was able to sign in (this could have been a routine update, I’m not sure).

PAL/NTSC 50Hz/60Hz: My European XBox works fine on an NTSC TV. 

Watching DVDs: You can ONLY watch DVDs from the XBox’s home region.  So my console rejects Region 1 (North American) DVDs.

Power Supply:  The European power supply — you know, that LOUD, GRAY BRICK sitting behind your TV? — DOES NOT WORK in North America.  If you use an outlet adaptor to physically plug it in, the unit will not accept as input the 110V power from North America.  Trust me, I tried; the power supply gives the amber “stand by” indication, but the XBox360 console itself gives you a flashing red ring. The European XBox power supply requires an input of 200 to 240 Volts from which it will generate an output of 203 Watts for the XBox at 12V / 16.5A.  Think about that for a second.  203 Watts is the equivalent of, like, 5 light bulbs. 

If you go looking for a voltage adaptor that will step up the North American voltage from its native 110 or 120 volts to the required 200-240 volts, most power adaptors you’ll find will produce around 60 Watts, which is adequate for a toaster or a microwave, but not your XBox360.  It sounds like this guy, Mike, had better luck finding one than I did when he moved the other way across the Atlantic. 

Your alternative is to pay a fortune for a North American XBox360 Power Supply (I got mine from Future Shop.)  They are scarce though, so call before you go.  Mine cost $99Cdn.  Ouch.

So here are the options, as far as I can see:

Option A: Buy a new XBox360 power supply in North America for ~$99Cdn.  Keep your old games.  Buy region-free games, and have games that aren’t region-free shipped to you.

Option B: Buy a new Xbox360 core system in North America for ~$299Cdn.  Don’t bring your core system with you.  Take out the hard drive.  Keep all peripherals.  Sell your old games that aren’t region free.

If you have any questions about this or suggestions for me, I’d be grateful to hear from you.  I have it up and running now, and confirmed that I can play an NTSC title on my PAL XBox (Project Sylpheed, which specifically says on the package it is for NTSC only), but other than that, I haven’t had the time to do any gaming since I’ve been back.

BONUS LINK: If you’re interested in embarking on a cross-Atlantic move in either direction with your XBox360, you should also read Mike and Rion’s guide.

BONUS #2: On a simpler note, here’s my guide to moving a European Nintendo DS to North America: (1) Play it on the plane. (2) Go to store and purchase game for $24Cdn (approx. 16EUR) instead of 49EUR. (3) Keep playing.

A Wii Flock of Boids: Integrating the Nintendo Wii Controller with XNA

A wee flock of boidsAs part of my Last Stand demo, I showed how to integrate Nintendo’s Wiimote controller into XNA, first to navigate a butterfly around an environment by tilting and rolling the controller, and then to walk a creature across a tightrope wire by holding the Wiimote like a balancing pole.

I won’t be posting the code to this demo, but here is a description of how this works and how you can integrate the Wiimote controller with XNA, possibly to make your own Wiimote-controlled applications on the PC.

WiiMote Control:

I integrated the Wii controller using Brian Peek’s Managed Library for Nintendo’s Wiimote, which I found through Coding4Fun.  Brian includes a test app which you can use to help connect and test your Wiimote.  It took less than 20 minutes for me to integrate this library into XNA and map the accelerometers to the butterfly’s motion, but it had previously taken me 4 days and 8 (yes, eight) different attempts to find a Bluetooth adaptor that would work on Vista and speak with the Wiimote. 

Having Windows talk Bluetooth to the Wiimote is the hardest part:

The Wiibrew Wiki offers a list of Bluetooth devices which can communicate with the Wiimote.  Bear in mind that Vista seems to complicate things tremendously.  Many of the drivers for Bluetooth dongles listed as Wiimote-compatible are incompatible with Vista, and when I forced two of them to install, they sent me from Bluetooth to Bluescreen.

I used the EPoX BT-DG05A Bluetooth USB Dongle.  The Microsoft Bluetooth stack included with Vista never spoke to the WiiMote at all, regardless of dongle model on the PC.  Instead, I am using the Toshiba Bluetooth stack (5.10.12), which Toshiba supports being installed onto Vista.  Be forewarned that Toshiba’s stack, when installed on a non-Toshiba machine, has a built-in 30-day timebombed expiry.  As of today, there is no way I could find to acquire a longer license to it… so Toshiba, please offer us a way we can license your stack.

Wiimote input is limited to Windows-based XNA games:

Once you get the Wiimote talking to my PC, having accelerometer input is very, very, very cool.  Both the Wiimote itself and the Nunchuk that can be optionally attached contain 3 accelerometers each, with output normalized to gravity.

Although this provides Wiimote input for Windows games written with XNA, when I publish my XNA game to the Xbox360, I am unable to use the Wiimote.  #ifdef statements in the code make the Wiimote bits conditionally compile for the Windows version.

Animation:

My butterflies are animated with the XNA Animation Components library, which you can download from Codeplex.  Thanks to David Astle (who leads the project) for sorting out a little bug in the InterpolationController.  It’s been fun making a (modest) contribution to that project.

Now I can significantly slow down the animation, and the engine smoothly blends between frames of Phil’s animations, giving the butterflies a really natural look, even when they’re at rest.

Flocking butterflies:

The autonomous butterflies follow the rules of Craig Reynolds’ classic Boids flocking algorithm, which encourage separation, alignment and cohesion of members of the flock.  They avoid obstacles, and tend towards a target.  Here’s the Boids pseudocode that I worked from – and it’s really cool how a high-level language like C# lets you work almost directly from that pseudocode!

Mawg on Tightrope

Art Assets:

The butterfly and Mawg‘s models and animations, as well as the environment, were created by Phil McDarby and originally appeared in Still Life and Mind Balance. The skydome also appears in my Guitar Hero X-Plorer demo.

p.s. If you liked this, you’ll also like the Lego NXT Wii Bowling Robot!

After the Last Stand

May the road rise to meet you...When the XNA-fuelled fireworks were over at yesterday’s Last Stand in Dublin (literally and figuratively) I was totally lost for words. When does that ever happen?!

What I really want to say most is thank you – especially to Clare Dillon, Philip McKeown, Fergal Breen and everyone else at Microsoft, MTUG, IrishDev and beyond who made my time with the Ireland developer communities so enjoyable. I love the communities because you guys WANT to be there and so it makes it worth my while to shower you with my honest (boundless?) enthusiasm.

And thank you so much for letting me keep the Lego Mindstorms NXT kit! (!!!) I promise you it will be well looked after and is staying in a loving home where it will get all the attention it deserves. And Siofra and I may have to share the table between mosaics and Lego from now on :)

You probably could tell, I really enjoyed the chance to pull out all the stops and show you what I’ve been up to.

Just like the guy who forgets that his glasses are on his forehead, I forgot that my speaker notes were in my pocket. There were about 4 other things about XNA and Robotics Studio I forgot to show you yesterday… but those all are for another day, except this one thing:

With the XNA 1.0 Refresh, it takes just one step to package up your games (code+content) to distribute as an install for Windows and XBox360! At present, you need to be a XNA Creators Club member to play the XBox versions, but the Windows ones are good to go for free.

So if I can have the permission of the inimitable Phil McDarby to distribute the beautiful background image behind the fireworks, I’ll take my Guitar Hero XPlorer-controlled finale, pack it up, and you can all answer Ireland’s Call with your Guitar Hero controllers any time you want, even when Ireland aren’t playing rugby at Croker.

 [Update: I’ve done this, and also released the code.]

p.s. thanks for reading this on my new blog… you’re at the right place, and I may be traveling the Earth but I’m not falling off the face of it :)

Rob’s Last Stand: XNA, Microsoft Robotics Studio, 360s, Wiis, and Dancing Robots

Irish Microsoft Technologies Conference

Talk Abstract:

By day, he helps mild-mannered developers build n-tiered architectures using .NET technologies.

But by night, the real Rob comes out. The one that works endlessly – nay, furiously – with XNA and the Microsoft Robotics Studio. And now, with backpack and camera over shoulders, he’s going freelance, making the IMTC, in fact, Rob’s Last Stand*. Witness applications written in C# that run on Windows and the Xbox 360! Gasp as the Nintendo Wii controller gets integrated into .NET to control a wee flock of boids! Learn how to do all this stuff yourself! And if none of that batters yer sausage (in the words of the esteemed Podge O’Leprosy), then come for the dancing robots.

Rob’s going to give the talk he’s been dying to give for 3 years, give away the Lego Mindstorms kit, and then boldly make like a moose, and vamoose.

Ah goodness, now you just have to be there.

When: June 7th, Irish Microsoft Technologies Conference
Where: Cineworld, Dublin
Level: All
Who should attend: Developers, IT Pros, Designers, Leprechauns, my Mammy.
What you’ll take away: XNA, Robotics Studio, possibilities for everything from commercial apps to weekend projects, a sense of awe and wonderment at the interconnectedness of all things, oh, and possibly some Lego.

* By “Rob’s Last Stand” please note that terms and conditions apply, including but not limited to Rob making another stand at the bar that night.

Helpful links: For those traveling from overseas, here are some resources that might come in handy, in no particular order —