Monthly Archives: March 2011

Airport boredom

So right now I’m sitting in the airport in Beijing waiting for my flight; a wait of about 2 hours now. I have a myriad choice of internet connections here. I could sign up for the free airport ones via SMS if I had a Chinese phone, or if I went to one of the many kiosks that would allow me to use my passport number (which are over the other side of the airport). Needless to say, those are a no. Various other services are there to pay for, if you can find your way through the menus and pages that direct you to where to pay. In the end I’ve settled for good old Boingo wifi, which I’ve used in various other airports and pretty much always just works. It’s a bit pricey, but it works.

Now for the down side. Of course, the internet here is massively restricted for anything outside of China – or so it would seem. I still can’t get Facebook, or Twitter, or any connection to a great deal of websites, returning “No Data Received” and “Connection Error” and “No Route to Host” errors. Great.

Besides the internet issues there’s also the fact that I’m hungry and thirsty. There was breakfast at the hotel but I walked in, looked around, and walked straight out again. No coffee. No tea. No toast. No eggs. No bacon. All that was there was odd soups, noodles, and various other bits and pieces that didn’t look entirely edible to me. All of it was far too heavy to have for breakfast. Instead I settled for a cup of green tea (very old green tea) in my room. The problem here, at the airport, is that I have no money to buy anything. Generally the currencies they accept are of the country, and American dollars. I have about 7000 Japanese yen, and about £5 in my pocket. And not an ATM in sight. So… I’m screwed until I get on the plane and they give me something to eat and drink.

Oh and I didn’t get an upgrade. I asked. They quoted something like 14000 RMB for it; roughly £1350. So that was a no. Arse.

Here’s to two hours of waiting boredom.

Returning from Japan

My last post was from the first night in Japan, if I recall. Now I’m sitting here, in Beijing, writing a post on my return from Japan. Obviously I’m not home yet, being in Beijing and all, but this is about the only medium, that works right now, for me to get some thoughts across. The reason for this is that I’m currently sitting behind the behemoth that is the Chinese firewall for the internet. I’m finding that even the most basic of sites aren’t working from here, such as twitter, Facebook, YouTube, a few Google sites Etc. That might be a combination of the Chinese censorship, and the hotel’s filtering; either way it’s a pain in the ass.

On the up side, it’s around 10pm right now, and I’ll be heading towards an early bed in order to be up at 8am, so that I can grab some free breakfast after spending the night in this free hotel then jump on the free bus back to the airport to get on my newly scheduled flight back to the UK a day later than planned.

I’m going to see if I can blag an upgrade for my seat on the plane. Free or not, I want business class damnit (unless it would cost me more than £200…)

See you all back in England. (o/

In Japan :D

Well here I am, typing this post on my laptop in an apartment in Jujo in Tokyo in Japan. My dilFluke was on overdrive for the journey here. On the first flight, London to Beijing, I ended up with an empty seat next to me. Possibly the only empty seat on the plane, and it was mine! Good thing too, as it would appear that Air China planes have even less leg room than other planes I’ve been on. My knees literally touch the seat in front of me with my ass right at the back of the seat. Not all that comfortable, to be honest, but it was nice to have lateral space to spread in to.

My main worries had been on the transfer between Beijing and Tokyo. The scheduled stop over was 1h25m. That wouldn’t have been so bad if the Beijing website hadn’t said that the minimum time for international to international transfers was 60 minutes, and the Air China said 120 minutes for the same thing. As it turned out Beijing was near enough empty. Seriously. I saw about 300 people while I was there, and 250 of those had just got off the same plane as me. As a result I was off of my plane and sitting next to the gate for the next one within about 15 minutes. All of this would have been great if the plane was on schedule, but as it turns out it had been delayed anyway, by about 30 minutes. All in all I had time for a wander, a drink, quick toilet stop, and still had time to sit around reading for a while before I boarded.

Once in Japan things got interesting. The JR line wasn’t running, so no NEX (Narita express) to Shinjuku. Ok, so I’ll not get there in the 38 minutes that would have managed. There is another train line, but it’s a lot more convoluted and longer, and slower. Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention the huge ass queue that almost made a loop around the airport waiting for it. One rapidly made decision later and I come to a resounding “NO”. A quick stop at the information desk pointed me towards the bus direct to Shinjuku. By this point I’ve already rented a phone and call Laura to know the issues. She jovially points out that, due to traffic and such, the bus would most likely take around 3 hours. Beyond that she then goes on to say that the train I’d have to take after would most likely be packed like sardines too. Further fun for me to look forward to.

As luck had it, or dilFluke, the bus took around an hour, or an hour and a half (I’m not quite sure as by then I was drifting in and out of sleep). Even more luck, or the last remnants of dilFluke left  in the pot, made the train I needed just fine. No packing, no squeezing, and most importantly, no queue. Shinjuku station was playing with me for a while though. While walking towards the platform I needed the queue built up and built up, crazy long length queue… for a different platform. Phew! *shakes fist at Shinjuku station for toying with him like that*

Anyway, short journey on that train and I arrive at Jujo. I called Laura, she toddled over to get me, and we promptly stop off at a convenience store (combini) for hydrating liquid (Aquarius), and dehydrating liquid (Asahi beer), then proceed to grab a small bite for me to eat. Short walk later and we’re at her place.

Hours pass and beer is drunk until midnightish while I wonder how the hell I’m still awake. Eventually sleep came, but not for long. During the night there was another earthquake. Laura reckoned that it was around the 6 mark. I’m both happy and pissed at that earthquake. Happy because I’ve finally experienced one. Pissed because the bastard woke me up.

But anyway, in the end here I am. Sitting in Japan.

If anyone wants to know my number while I’m out here let me know and I’ll send it over. I can’t call out, but calls in are free. Well, I could have got a plan to call out, but from 120 yen a minute? The phone is already costing me 300 yen a day, and 80 yen per minute on domestic calls… phones are expensive here huh. :/

Anyway – Yey! Japan!

Wireless Xbox360 controller on a PC, without the commercial dongle

Update: I updated the post to mention using two 1N4001 or equivalent diodes instead of just one. Two diodes in series take the voltage down to almost exactly 3.3V, which is the required voltage for the RF board. I also added actual photos of the wiring now, as I’ve redone it (hence the messy wires from re-soldering Etc.)

Update 2: It seems that syncing is impossible directly from the RF module and PC, but if the wireless controller you use was already synced with the RF module, and hasn’t been re-synced with another Xbox since, it will work. However, I am working with another modification I found which adds LED and sync enable functions by means of a serial connection with a PIC16F628A μC. You can find the related forum post here: Link (and see how my thrown together version of it looks [here] and [here]. Messy, I know :P).

Update 4: Alternative means of syncing mentioned in the comments by George.

Update 5: Further testing on alternative syncing method shows how non-play & charge kit compatible peripherals can be synced -without- a microcontroller. Thanks, Pat.

Yesterday I had a thought – I don’t like having a wire to the Xbox360 controller I use for games on my PC. As I’m tight on cash right now I figured I’d have a quick look around to see if there was a way to use a wireless controller on the PC without going out and buying the official wireless transceiver. I was thinking that there may be some other RF transceiver that could be modified or adapted to work with it. As it happens, there -kind of- is.

Now if you’re like me, and have a spare wireless controller sitting around, it’s likely you have a dead red ringed Xbox 360 sitting in a cupboard. This is the key to getting the controller working with a PC. The wireless transceiver in the Xbox can be made to work with a little modification. Well, I say modification but I really mean little more than soldering a few wires and altering a .inf file. Let’s get on to it:

What you’ll need:

  • Dead/Red Ringed Xbox 360 you don’t mind cannibalising.
  • Any old USB cable you don’t mind cutting.
  • Two diodes – a couple of 1N4001 or equivalents will do. Basically it’s just there for a forward voltage drop WHICH IS VITAL (unless you don’t mind burning the board out and killing your USB controller).
  • A soldering iron.
  • Solder.
  • A brain.

Taking the Xbox 360 apart:

I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here. Anandtech.com has a perfectly good explanation of how to do this. Take a look here: http://www.anandtech.com/show/1864/inside-microsoft-s-xbox-360/3

Pro tip: Instead of a small plastic knife that they say to use to ping open the case, you can either buy a tool for it, make one out of an old CD/DVD spindle cover, or just rip the damn thing open with a screwdriver (after all, it’s dead right?).

The part you’re looking for:

It’s the board on the front of the machine where the ring and power button are. It’s held on by 3 screws, so be sure to pop the little plastic part off to find the third screw. Don’t go trying to pry it off like I almost did. Once the screws are out it just unplugs. And that’s your part.

The soldering part:

As you’re reading this and have an interest in it I’ll assume you know how to cut, strip, and tin your wires, so I’ll not bother with that part. Instead I’ll assume you’re sitting there with an RF board, a USB cable ready for soldering, a diode, and a hot soldering iron. Basically, follow the picture (click for bigger image):

xbox360_rf_module_wiringAnd make it look like this:

20110307_xbox360_rf_module_wiring_1

Beginner’s mistake/brain fart moment warning: Make sure the diode is the right way around.

I chose to cut the diode legs down a fair bit and soldered it off to the left of pin 1, along the bottom edge of the RF module. You might like that idea, you might not. It’s up to you how you solder it. I could have been neater, but I honestly didn’t see much point. I’m not going to make a project box for it or anything, and it’ll be hidden away somewhere so practicality > looks.

I will mention again that the diodes are ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. The whole board runs on 3.3V while USB standard is 5V. The diodes that you put in series on the power line will lower the voltage to tolerable levels for the board – almost exactly 3.3V, to be honest (my multimeter is showing 3.34V). From what I’ve read in comments in various places the RF board likes to burn out quite spectacularly without a diode in place, taking the USB controller it’s connected to with it. I was paranoid enough about it to actually test the unit on my old Macbook (that I neither care about nor use) before trusting it on my main machines.

Once you have that all soldered up, you have yourself a wireless dongle for your Xbox 360 wireless controller, something like this:

xbox_wireless_controller_adapter_front

Congratulations. Now for the software.

The software part:

This bit isn’t all that scary. You just need to modify the .inf file that comes with the official Microsoft drivers to allow for the different PID of the RF controller of the Xbox 360. First, if you don’t have it already, download the Xbox 360 Accessories Software for your operating system from the Microsoft gaming software download site, and install it. Now, before plugging the RF module in, you need to do that modifying I mentioned. Head over to c:Program FilesMicrosoft Xbox 360 Accessories (or wherever you installed it to) and make a backup of Xusb21.inf before opening it in your favourite text editor (Notepad++ is nice for it’s ini support with collapsing headers etc).

The parts you’re going to modify are under the headers [MSFT.NTx86.6.0], [MSFT.NTamd64.6.0], [MSFT.NTx86], and [MSFT.NTamd64].

What they’ll look like/similar to:

%XUSB21.DeviceName.Wired%=CC_Install, USBVid_045E&Pid_028E
%XUSB21.DeviceName%=CC_Install, USBVid_045E&Pid_0719
%XUSB21.DeviceName.Wired%=CC_Install, USBMS_COMP_XUSB10
%XUSB21.DeviceName%=CC_Install, USBMS_COMP_XUSB20
%XUSB21.DeviceName.Jump%=CC_Install, USBVid_045E&Pid_028F

What you need to change them to:

%XUSB21.DeviceName.Wired%=CC_Install, USBVid_045E&Pid_0291
%XUSB21.DeviceName%=CC_Install, USBVid_045E&Pid_0291
%XUSB21.DeviceName.Wired%=CC_Install, USBUNKNOWN
%XUSB21.DeviceName%=CC_Install, USBUNKNOWN

After you’ve saved the changes, go ahead and plug in the RF module. Chances are it will complain that drivers can’t be found. Cancel out of the hardware wizard and head over to the device manager and find the Unknown USB Device, or whatever it is your flavour of Windows has decided to call it. You’ll know which one it is by the yellow !triangle! (and if you don’t have a clue what I’m on about, what are you doing trying to hack an Xbox component on to a PC in the first place?). Give the device a right click and update it’s drivers, but tell it you have a disk and navigate to the Xusb21.inf you modified. It might complain about unsigned drivers, it might not, but if it does just tell it to continue. At the end of it all you’ll have an Xbox 360 Controller for Windows device with a Hardware Id of USBVID_045E&PID_0291 in your Device Manager. If not, reboot.

After all that, try syncing your Wireless controller with the unit. With any luck you should have a controller showing in your gaming devices. Give it a quick test with the diagnostics, maybe calibrate it etc.

And you’re done. On to wireless gaming. (o/

Any questions feel free to ask in the comments below and I’ll see what I can do to help.