Just what is it with this store? Was in there three times in 24 hours on Friday/Saturday and each time they managed to succeed in pissing me off. Firstly, on Friday, after driving 1.5 miles in an hour I got to the store and filled out a card – looking for a soldering iron and some lead free solder. Queue up and find that they’ve none in stock. What – no soldering irons I said. It was then the return of the Spanish Inquisition.

The geek behind the counter (obviously a spark) asked we what kind of soldering I was doing. Electronics I replied, just ever so slightly annoyed with his tone.

Yes, but what kind of electronics. Eh?? Twat? I replied with ‘soldering motherboard’ which got the response ‘nothing in stock for that’. What about the lead-free solder. Nothing. Twat. So a wasted journey but at least we knew Maplin didn’t have what we required.

The second visit was on Saturday lunchtime looking for solder braid. And what do we find on the shelf – tons of lead-free solder and the soldering iron we were after. Buggers! Especially as we had bought solder and an iron from B&Q. Agghhhhh!!!

The third visit hacked me off because I was issued with a free anorak for being a frequent visitor. I hate Maplin. A shop for ubergeeks.


Well, 13 hours after starting we finally managed to mod 3 xbox’s yesterday. And it was FAR harder than we had imagined. Stripping the boxes apart was pretty straightforward. Even the first solder was not too bad, just very time consuming. This involved de-soldering 12 pin points (although we managed to do 16), pushing a plug into the holes and re-soldering – took about an hour. However the final solder task was one solder point on the xbox motherboard – d0. What a bitch.

Graham’s board was the first victim and after an hour of trying the two points one of the tracks was lifted off the board. When I say lifted, more like burnt away! A combination of lack of tools and lack of skill. An hour after realising the damage we took the first sensible decision of the day – call for help. One of Grahams friends was a spark with electronics experience. 20 mins later he had arrived, but said we didn’t have the right tools. So one trip to Maplin later (3rd time in the space of 24 hours but thats a whole other post) and we had a good soldering iron.

John then did his magic, repairing the track and soldering the chip on. We tested the box – woo-hoo – it worked. We then set-up a production line Henry Ford would be proud off and we rattled through the other 2 boxes. This cannot be underestimated – get someone who knows what they are doing when it comes to soldering, especially motherboard stuff. What took us an hour, John did in 5 mins. Very impressive.

So I left last tired but pleased. Checked at home and it worked really well. Until this morning, where the day just got worse and worse.

Firstly, got FTP working and fired over a copy of XBMC. Cool – that worked. Then started playing with some of the emulators – Rick Dangerous for the xbox :-). I then ripped GTA 3 with ease. This was going to be good. Switched off for a while as a sore head was developing. But then wanted to try the shoutcast streaming so switched on again. Oops. Screen was flicking between wide and 4:3 and flickering slightly. A bit of investigation and it turned out the box thought it was NTSC and Japanese. Strange. And I couldn’t change the setting. Bugger.

A bit of panic searching lead me nowhere. I stopped for a bit as the head was getting worse. Roll on 6 hours and a short nap later. Find a setting in Smartxx to change region – no effect. Then try Avalaunch which was the worst thing I could do. Changed regions in there and switched off and on. Bugger. Smartxx would load but no matter which bios I loaded, I would get no graphics. The xbox looked knackered. Tried the backup flash in Smartxx – no difference!!

After a couple of hours I found that Avalaunch is buggy. Changing the region settings in their can screw your xbox. I eventually found a recovery bios which I could flash to Smartxx via the pc web front end. Thanks goodness we chose Smartxx as other chips don’t let you do this. I ran the fix, and switched off and on. Thankfully the machine now works. Took a backup of the eeprom just in case this happens again. Phew. An eventful weekend, but now have a really great gadget. Ok, it’s a toy, but a very cool one!