Skip Ads Easily With a Standard Cable Remote Control
Difficulty: Easy; Time: 5 minutes
Many Motorola-made DVRs that cable-TV providers supply are unable to skip ads by jumping ahead 30 seconds. But you can remap the remote control to add this feature. I got it working with a Comcast remote, and it will likely work with your cable company's remote, too.
Press the Cable button at the top of the remote. Hold the Setup button until the Cable button flashes twice. Enter 994 on the keypad. The Cable button will flash twice again. Push the Setup button once. Enter 00173. Finally, push the button that you want to use as the 30-second skip; I chose the A button since I don't use it for anything else. The Cable button will flash twice.
To restore the original functionality to that key, follow the first steps described above, but after entering 994, push the remapped key twice. The Cable button will blink twice if your input has been accepted.
Add Capacity to a 20GB Xbox 360
Difficulty: Hard; Time: 90 minutes
Microsoft expects you to pay close to $200 to upgrade your Xbox 360's hard drive from 20GB to 120GB. That's about $150 more than a 120GB SATA drive actually costs. But with this slightly tricky hack, you can save a bundle while boosting your game console's storage capacity to hold more music, video, and other media files.
You'll need a DOS installation on a writable flash thumb drive for this hack. (The utility doesn't work under Windows, and you'll also be disconnecting your PC's hard drive.) First, grab a spare USB thumb drive and copy the HP Drive Key Boot Utility to it. The utility is designed for HP flash drives, but it works on other types of flash drives, too. Also download and mount a DOS image file.
In Windows Vista, right-click the HP utility and run it as an administrator. Select the thumb drive, choose the FAT structure, click the Create a DOS startup disk check box, and pick the DOS files when prompted. Then download the DOS Xbox utility, HDDHackr, and copy it to the root level of the thumb drive.
This hack is designed to work with a specific drive, the 120GB Western Digital Scorpio, model number WDGWD1200BEVS. You'll be replacing the drive's native firmware with Xbox-recognized firmware. You can track down the firmware online by doing a search for "hddss.bin 120 Xbox 360." Place the hddss.bin file in the root of your DOS thumb drive.
With your PC turned off, unplug any other SATA devices and then connect the new Scorpio drive to one of the SATA cables and to a power lead. Afterward, boot from your DOS thumb drive (specify a boot drive in your PC's BIOS, if necessary). At the DOS command line, type run hddhackr -f and press Enter. You'll be prompted to make a backup of the original drive firmware; do so.
Continue with the process to flash the firmware on the new hard drive. After a few seconds, you'll be prompted to restart the computer. Once you have done so, run the "hddhackr -f" command again, and it should report that the hard drive has been formatted for the Xbox 360.
Use Torx screwdrivers to remove the 20GB hard drive from your Xbox 360 and to remove the drive from its case. Swap the formatted Western Digital drive into the case, put it back together, and start the console. Follow the prompt under System, Memory to format the new drive; after formatting is complete, the drive will be ready for use.