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I'm building a Totally-Awesome-Do-It-Yourself-Steam-Machine-Which-Also-Plays-Other-Media - Part 2

Welcome back, my friends, to our epic project. Today we’ll finish what we started some days ago (some more as planned, I know, I know). Since we already covered which parts should go into the Totally-Awesome-Do-It-Yourself-Steam-Machine-Which-Also-Plays-Other-Media, we are now free to concentrate on assembling and finally setting up the whole thing software-wise. In the end, we will have a machine that plays all of our video- and audio-entertainment via XBMC, and all of our games via Valve’s Steam. And the best part: all will be fully controllable with a DualShock 4 Controller from the PlayStation 4. Why? Because we can! Let’s doooo iiiiiiit…

Okay, first off: the assembling of all the parts into the tower should be no real hassle for someone who knows at least a little bit what he or she is doing. Make sure you use the manuals if you are unsure where which parts belong, and firstly install the power supply, then the mainboard, after that on top of it the CPU, followed by the RAM and the graphics card and you should be good to go. Considering tools you only need one size of a Phillips screwdriver and nothing else…well two functioning hands and eyes would be nice as well. All needed screws are part of the ordered items. If you are using not too many harddiscs in your system, you can get rid of the upper HDD cage in the front area of the tower. So the air can circulate even better. Also make sure to connect the two built-in fans to the mainboard. Speaking of fans: when I booted the system I noticed a strange heating up of the CPU – although it was pretty much in idle mode. So I re-opened the tower and saw that the CPU-fan didn’t work. What happened was that the power cable got in the way of the rotors and blocked them. So my advice is to either loosen the cable enough from the hooks at the side of the fan or let the case open the first time you start your system. Either way: I was glad that I noticed the problem soon enough. By the way, if you were worried: the two pre-installed fans in the tower as well as the Intel-boxed CPU-fan are enough to cool your system – even on hot summer days. At least I didn’t run into problems until now.

When all is built together you are now ready to boot the system for the first time. Press the Del-Key on startup to get into the BIOS. There, you can switch the boot-order to a USB-Device in case you want to install Windows from a USB-stick like I did. I used Windows 8 (and then updated it to 8.1) and had no problems with the process. When you enter the desktop for the first time, make sure to get all the latest drivers and updated from the manufacturers sites, including a BIOS-update for the mainboard. Keep on checking the device-manager as you update for any still open questionmarks. I ran into one I couldn’t figure out at first. Then I discovered that it was a special function of the Intel-CPU that I don’t plan to use but installed the driver anyways to get rid of the open thing. Further on, it would be best to let the system run all of its Windows-updates. Of course also get your favourite anti-virus-tool and an unzip-program. To get things going for our purposes, I also collected a bunch of links to (all free) software you’ll need for the upcoming steps:

-    XBMC Media Center (here)
-    Steam (here)
-    DS4 To XInput Wrapper (here)
-    Steam Launcher Addon (here)
-    Prismatik (if you have a Lightpack) (here)
-    Prismatik-Addon for XBMC (if you have a Lightpack) (here)

Additionally you should get a Bluetooth-USB-dongle and stick it in one of the ports, I use one from Hama, but others should work fine too if they meet certain requirements. We will need it for the wireless connection to the DualShock 4-Controller. Oh, and you need one of these controllers as well, naturally. Ok, let’s continue! Firstly, you should install XBMC as well as Steam. If needed, you should also get a Steam-account. Even if you only have non-Steam-games, you’ll need one of those since we are going to launch ALL games through that program. Then unzip the files of the DS4 To XInput Wrapper and make a shortcut of the .exe to your desktop. Set your controller into pairing-mode (for that hold the PS-Button and the Share-Button for a few seconds until the lightbar starts to blink). Now, rightclick on the Bluetooth-symbol and add the device. Now start the .exe of the DS4 To XInput Wrapper. The Controller should work now and in the options you can activate “Enable touchpad at start”. With that you can use the fancy touchpad as a mouse. Might come in handy when navigating menues. I also recommend setting all the color-sliders to the left to power off the lightbar and save energy. If you want to activate the touchpad manually you can do so by pressing L2, R2 and the touchpad-button together. L1 functions now as left mousebutton, R1 the right one. To deactivate the touchpad, only hold L2 and the touchpad-button together.

Now you can launch XBMC and navigate to System --> Addons. There, choose add from zip-file and select your downloaded Steam Launcher addon-file. If there occurs a problem you can also unzip the Steam Launcher addon under windows and put that new folder in the addon-folder of XBMC manually. The addon itself should already have the right path to your steam-exe in it. If not, simply add it in the settings. Now, you can launch Steam from within XBMC in Big picture mode any time you want. Pretty neat, huh? And of course, it will switch right back to the media center, whenever you quit steam. If you have a Lightpack, then now is the time to install Prismatik and the Prismatik-Addon for XMBC (same procedure as above). In Prismatik itself, you have to copy the device’s API key (including the brackets!) and paste it into the addon, so that the addon can communicate with the light-bars.

Next, we want to get rid of the password-login in Windows 8 at startup. To realize that, use the key-combo Windows+R from the Win 8 Desktop to get into the Run-command. Now type “control userpasswords2” (without the quotes of course) and press Enter. Then choose your User-account. De-select the option “Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer “, then type in your password and accept with OK. From now on you will be auto-logged-in, which will make your steam-machine even more console-like. To polish it even more, we of course want to boot directly into XBMC when turning on the system, without even seeing the Windows-Desktop. To accomplish that, we have to prepare a batch-file first. Don’t worry if you got a big Metal Gear Solid-questionmark on your head now, I’ll explain what you have to do. First, open a new File in the Editor-program from Windows. In here we want to add all programs we need to start when the machine boots. For me, that is of course XBMC, then the DS4 To XInput Wrapper (so I can navigate with my gamepad) and the Prismatik-program for the Lightpack. In the end, the file should look like this:

@echo off
start "" "C:\Program Files (x86)\Prismatik\Prismatik.exe"
start "" "C:\DS4Tool 1.2.2\ScpServer.exe"
start "" "C:\Program Files (x86)\XBMC\XBMC.exe"

Important is, that you start with the first line and then adding one line of code for each program, starting with start “” and then the path to the .exe of said program. Of course your paths may be different and you will have to adjust the lines accordingly. If you don’t have a Lightpack you obviously won’t need the second line of code. When you are finished, simply save the file for example as startup.txt to your Desktop. Now, right click on it and rename it to “startup.bat”, et voila: it now is a batch-file. Now save the exact path to that file somewhere, you will need that in a bit (it should look something like “C:\Users\...\startup.bat”). Now press Windows button + R again and this time, we type “gpedit.msc”, followed by Enter. In the new window on the left side, navigate into User Configuration --> Administrative Templates --> System and open “Custom User Interface”. In the new window, select Enabled and paste the path to your startup.bat into the textbox on the left down corner. Hit apply and restart your machine. It now boots directly into XBMC, from where you can switch to Steam and back again. From within the XBMC-menu you are also able to shutdown the system. If you need to access Windows again, simply exit XBMC and on the black screen, use Ctrl+Alt+Del to start the task-manager. There, open a new task and enter “explorer.exe”. Now the Windows-GUI will start and you can use your Totally-Awesome-Do-It-Yourself-Steam-Machine-Which-Also-Plays-Other-Media like a normal PC again.

That’s it! Now you could prepare your Steam-library with your installed games (you can add non-Steam Games via the plus-sign under the Games list) and change the skin of XBMC as you please. Do you have any questions? Feel free to ask them in the comments!

See you at my next article! Greetings,

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