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Hardware

XBox Chip With Legal BIOS 359

Posted by timothy
from the keeping-legal dept.
Lours writes "OzXChip, an Australian company, has a new Xbox chip which comes preinstalled with the new (Cromwell Linux BIOS. Previous chips came without (or simplistic) BIOS for obvious legal and hardware-related (HD-key) reasons you had to go through a lot of manipulations in order to install a patched version of the original Microsoft BIOS or ask the vendor to do it which obviously he was not willing to do for free (when he was willing to). Since the new Cromwell BIOS is fully open source it can be shipped with the chip without any legal risks, gaining you a lot of time, sweat and money. Plus the chip has a very useful feature: by using software based on Andy Green's -- one of the maintainers of the XBox Linux project -- Raincoat, it lets you flash a new BIOS very easily: burn the BIOS file onto a blank CD, put it in the Xbox, boot and you are done. With such beasts there is not much left in the way of want-to-be Linux Xbox hackers who might have been affraid until now to have to deal with delicate hardware intricacies or reluctant to run the whole town for a vendor willing to mod their Xbox at the smallest fee. With important linux distributions also incoming (Debian and Mandrake are underway if not completed) it won't be long before everyone can write code for (and on!) the machine only a few minutes after receiving the chip in his mailbox. Hopefully we are going to see a zillion things running on the machine that Microsoft would only have dreamt of making (and selling)." Update: 01/23 16:07 GMT by T : The company's name is actually OzXChip, rather than OzChip (as originally rendered); thanks to reader Michael Muir for pointing this out.
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XBox Chip With Legal BIOS

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  • yes but (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23, 2003 @03:53AM (#5141581)
    will it still play games? and be easy to go back to the original bios?
    • Check the links (Score:4, Interesting)

      by thedji (561789) <{jd.dekciw} {ta} {lsalstod}> on Thursday January 23, 2003 @04:43AM (#5141694) Homepage
      In the article, there's a link to the pictures gallery [ozxchip.com].

      It has switch for "X-Box Live" compatibility ;)
      • Re:Check the links (Score:3, Informative)

        by hawkbug (94280)
        Yeah, but if you forget to turn that switch off for Xbox Live, bye bye online gaming for you. M$ automagically bans you for life if you login while using a modchip. This is the problem with having a central online system like M$ does. They have TOTAL control of who can and can't play online - this is why I like Sony's approach much better, it's a like playing most computer games online with your PC. It uses the "internet" rather than a closed network and central servers for absolutely everything.
    • Re:yes but (Score:3, Interesting)

      by aminorex (141494)
      Remove the chip. Is that easy? You have to tell me.

      But really, I can't imagine buying an X-Box to play games.
      It's a fraction of the machine my laptop is. As a
      PVR or a webserver it makes perfect sense, however.
      • Re:yes but (Score:5, Insightful)

        by op00to (219949) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @10:23AM (#5142755)
        It's a fraction of the machine my laptop is.
        I'm assuming your laptop has a kickass 3d card, a dvd drive, component out, kickass controllers (laptop keyboards BLOW for gaming), and almost no OS overhead. Don't fall into the (pretty closedminded) belief that the XBox is just another shitty msft project. The Xbox is as much a regular computer as the new BMW 7 series, which is built with similar off-the-shelf parts and a MSFT OS.
        • Really the 1/0 logic aint much difference to what's on a NForce Athlon board, only its a GTL+ bus NForce chipset rather than a EV6 bus NForce chipset
        • Re:yes but (Score:3, Insightful)

          by 2logic (640060)
          I'm assuming your laptop has a kickass 3d card, a dvd drive, component out, kickass controllers (laptop keyboards BLOW for gaming), and almost no OS overhead
          The XBox's GPU is derived from the nFORCE platform and is comparable (fill rate, etc.) to the GeForce 4. DVD drives are pretty much standard nowadays at on a laptop AND you don't need to buy a cheap remote to use it for movies! The controllers SUCK. They're way to big for any normal human being's hands and finally, the XBox uses the Win2K kernel. You think they changed anything in the code? I doubt it very much. Why do you think they opted for a PC architecture? They only had to change/add a few things : XFS for the hard drive's partition, the USB drivers for the controllers and IDE interface so no one (almost no one) would be able to change the HD.

          The XBox does have some advantages.
          First, it's closed hardware, so developers know what they are working on. They do not need to support 100 different video adapters and sound cards. They can optimize their code a lot more than for a PC game.

          Secondly, the audio/video components are nice. The component out is a nice feature for those that are mad about image quality (although component only reduces the bandwith used to transmit video). The optical audio also is nice. Having a game run with optical Dolby Digital 5.1 is really cool.

          Lastly, consoles output to a TV, not a computer screen. XBox games run at 640x480x32 because anything higher is useless on a TV monitor. When was the last time you played a game at such a low resolution on your computer? This fact gives the developers another chance to optimze their code and add more features since they have more memory to work with.

          So, it is not closeminded to see the XBox as a PC, because it IS a PC. It simply provides a platform on which game developers can maximize their talent and not worry about compatibility issues and the like.

          I'm the first to admit that the games are nice, but I think it is closeminded to think that the XBox is an incredible innovation. It is not. It's a PC with just enough modifications to make it proprietary. It's like a Mac with crapy parts so that anyone can buy one. It's the Microsoft Way(tm).

  • by Linux Freak (18608) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @03:58AM (#5141589) Homepage
    > Hopefully we are going to see a zillion things running on the machine that Microsoft would only have dreamt of making (and selling)."

    I hope so too, but I thought the same thing when I picked up my Sony PS2 Linux kit. Not too many useful projects have come out of THAT yet. (All I really wanted was the ability to play mpeg video on my TV at a decent speed...but SDL hasn't been optimized yet, so that's not yet possible.)
    • by b0r1s (170449) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @04:13AM (#5141623) Homepage
      There's no good reason why a majority of the people would want this. There is a small minority who will do it just to show that it can be done, the rest either:

      1. Will buy an X-Box to play games and DVDs ONLY
      2. Will not buy an X-Box, but instead will buy a dedicated machine to do whatever you might want to hack into a linux-running X-Box


      Why? Because as a computing platform, the X-Box isn't that impressive, especially for $200. The graphics are nice, indeed, but you can buy a P4 tower from Dell for $400 [dell.com] these days, or a Tivo/PVR for a few hundred, a DVD player for $99 [vstore.com], you'd have to be really dedicated to mod a perfectly good X-Box (which voids the warranty).

      Yea, it's a nice hack for those who really want to see linux running on everything. For everyone else, another dedicated box is a better option.
      • People buy pcs just to play mame games. Or just to play divx movies. Or just to listen to mp3s. (i've considered a dedicated mp3 box for some time) For $200 and a set of speakers one could have a sound box thats cooler than the average mp3 player. (then again thats overkill and im just putting up an example, i dont know hoe good xbox's sound card is). $200 is dirt cheap for the amount of things it can possibly do.
        • Dude, the X-Box already IS a cool MP3 player. You can rip all your CDs onto the harddisk and play them through your sound system no problems. A lot of games let you use the ripped music in-game too. It's one of the coolest things about the box, certainly something that'd make me choose it over a PS or GC. You kinda get sick of the Tony Hawk music after the ten-zillionth time.
          • by warmcat (3545) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @06:03AM (#5141869)
            Not MP3.

            Proprietary WMA.

            And no way to get your existing MP3s into the box, or the ripped WMAs out of it. MS don't want you to do that, so you can't. No way to play video media other than DVD either.

            Only if you get either a hacked native BIOS, so you can run unsigned native apps, or you run Linux through cromwell or a hacked native BIOS, can you actually do what you want with the box you paid for.

            There are some amazing unsigned native apps out there, like XBMP, but they are made with warez-ed MS tools. All respect to them for the quality of the results, but it sits badly with me that they are made with MS libraries, spreading MS proprietary APIs, and prepping the programmers really only for continuing the dominance of MS OSes. I hope as Linux on the Xbox gets more mature they'll consider moving over.
            • Why? A lot of people who use Linux regularly don't have any particular problem with Microsoft (and i am one of those people). What's the big deal about WMA format? It sounds just fine to me, and what reason would anyone have to transfer those files off the X-Box? Certainly you have a right to do whatever you want with the hardware, and if someone hacks it so it can play external MP3s, copy off WMAs etc more power to them, but all i was saying that you don't have to go to those extremes if you don't want to. The way MS has it integrated is really sweet, particularly because of the ability to play the music in-game.
      • No good reason? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by fredistheking (464407) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @05:24AM (#5141783)
        Gee since It's half the price of the PC you are pricing, I WOULD consider that a great reason to buy an XBOX. Also, with the XBox media player you can watch SVCD/VCD/DIVX, etc. Try building a computer with TV out that will do that for any where near $200.

        --
        • Re:No good reason? (Score:2, Informative)

          by b0bby (201198)
          I built just such a box for about $250, which is about what you'd pay for an XBox + modchip. Athlon 850, plays everything just fine. If you shop carefully for components you can build a very powerful box for not much money.
        • Why bother? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by RatBastard (949)
          Why bother? As a console the XBox is a very impressive system. As a PC it's a piece of crap!
          1. Can you upgrade it? No. You can't.
          2. What happens when you hit the eject button on the DVD-ROM drive? The silly thing reboots.
          3. Does it support VGA/XVGA/SVGA? Nope.
          That's just the limitations coming out of the box! Then there is the cost and labor. After all is said and done the price jumps to about $300.00 not including labor and the chance of destrying your motherboard due to a botched solder job, probably jump the price to $400.00 to get some other guy to mod your box for you.

          Great. For $400.00 you have a computer that can never be upgraded, has to be attached to a TV and requires home-made adapters to get the mouse and keyboard to work. You can get a better deal at Wal Mart.

          If you want to mod your XBox becuase it makes your inner nerd all giddy go ahead and do it. Have fun! If you are trying to turn an XBox into a cheap and crappy PC please save your money and time.

      • by stud9920 (236753) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @05:31AM (#5141801)
        Why? Because as a computing platform, the X-Box isn't that impressive, especially for $200. The graphics are nice, indeed, but you can buy a P4 tower from Dell for $400 [dell.com] these days,
        Maybe people don't want to shell out 400 bucks when 200 will do.
        Maybe people who buy that as a media player want to actually hear the media instead of the CPU/PSU/HDD fan.
        Maybe people don't want a monster beige tower in their living room, but just a moderately big black and green box.
        Maybe people don't want to pay for 300+ Watt current when 100 Watt will do.
      • It is precisely because it makes a great little dedicated box
        that I have 4 dedicated X-Boxes in my closet and one behind
        my TV. :)

      • Not to mention that Walmart already sell a bonafide PC already running Linux complete with 128Mb and 20Gb harddrive for $249. Not only is a proper PC, but it's faster and more useful too, seeing has it a keyboard, mouse, builtin ethernet, a modem and a array of standard ports to plug things into. It would make a perfect firewall or mail server.


        Frankly there is little point getting an XBox except as a toy, or unless you have a vested interested in breaking the encryption to sell games without a Microsoft tax.

    • by Delgul (515042) <.ln.retlifmapsenilno. .ta. .drareg.> on Thursday January 23, 2003 @04:24AM (#5141652) Homepage
      FYI, I already play accelerated video on my xbox using Debian and it runs just fine!!

      The first projects that are implementing a jukebox/settopbox especially for the xbox have already started...
    • Actually I was able to land a job at the gaming industry with the help of the knowledge I was able to build from the PS2 Linux Kit. While not imminently useful to you right now, maybe, but it might lead to a 'next cool game' some time later.

      And I think this is exactly one of the points Sony intended when the kit was released. It really takes some 6 months to fully handle all the details of the graphics system. I don't think this is the case with the XBox however. All the graphics are in a single chip with easy-to-use APIs.

      And furthermore, if the modded XBoxes will be running something MS would have only dreamt of, then they will be mad because they just lost profits.
    • If all you want is the ability to play mpeg video on your tv, you've picked the wrong tool. my $55 Apex DVD player from walmart plays mp3s, vcds, svcds, dvds, audiocds, and yes, raw mpeg files burned to a cdr.
  • by PasteEater (590893) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @03:59AM (#5141593)
    Sweet! And the "Matrix" chip that I ordered last week should be here tomarrow.

    In other news, I buy all of my Apple hardware the day before a Macworld Expo.
  • by raam (206445) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @04:01AM (#5141598) Homepage

    If you really want to get caught up in this addictive and fun hacking, check these sites for answers to all questions:

    www.xboxhacker.net

    www.xbox-scene.com

    #xbins on IRC

    By the way...the number of hacked xboxes surely runs into the thousands, if not more, and there are already enough robust applications to make it a full-fledged media device.
  • by AlphaHelix (117420) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @04:02AM (#5141601) Homepage
    What is this guy, a Lisp programmer?
    • Definitely not a Lisp programmer - the parentheses don't match up (the first character of the posting is an unclosed '(' (which a true Lisp hacker would never leave unbalanced)).

      He also doesn't nest his parenthesized comments nearly enough.
  • X-Box Killer apps (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jason1729 (561790) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @04:03AM (#5141603)
    2 of the best Killer apps for the X-Box I've heard of are the DivX player and the PVR. This chip will go a long way towards making it quick and easy to set those up.

    It's too bad MS doesn't jump on the bandwagon. If they produced PVR software and sold it for the price of a normal game, I'd happily buy an X-Box and that software. I'd also pay at least $20 for DivX player software for it.

    Jason
    ProfQuotes [profquotes.com]
    • Re:X-Box Killer apps (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23, 2003 @04:45AM (#5141697)
      2 of the best Killer apps for the X-Box I've heard of are the DivX player and the PVR.

      Yeah! And that killer app Mediaplayer is a MPLAYER + some other open source projects rip off! Read more about on MPlayer's HQ site [mplayerhq.hu]. There's talk about it somewhere on the frontpage. Xbox mediaplayer people shamelessly denied using open source code and DID NOT GIVE ANY CREDIT to whom it belongs. They were also violating GPL by not providing the source code.
      • No longer true. (Score:3, Informative)

        by Wakko Warner (324)
        The source code for xbplayer is now available, and has been for quite some time. Make sure you read up before posting something like this; everything seems to have been worked out for the most part between both parties.

        - A.P.
  • XBox Live (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DJayC (595440) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @04:03AM (#5141604)
    How does this change the problem with playing XBox Live with a modded XBox? I would like to mod my box to play around with a lot of the homebrew apps, but I really don't want to get my XBox's MAC address banned from XBox Live, as I really do like the service. This is assuming that Microsoft really does check for modded XBox hardware. Does this advancement help the situation?
    • Re:XBox Live (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Osty (16825) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @04:08AM (#5141610)

      How does this change the problem with playing XBox Live with a modded XBox? I would like to mod my box to play around with a lot of the homebrew apps, but I really don't want to get my XBox's MAC address banned from XBox Live, as I really do like the service. This is assuming that Microsoft really does check for modded XBox hardware. Does this advancement help the situation?

      Easy solution: buy a second XBox. No, really. There are a number of used/refurb XBoxes around if you look. The infamous "Disk is Dirty or Damaged" error (DDoDE) made for a lot of replaced XBoxes. If you look around at your local used game shops, I'm sure they have a couple used for a good price (or refurbished for a bit more money). Play XBox Live on your current working XBox, waste your time hacking around with Linux on the refurb.

    • Re:XBox Live (Score:2, Informative)

      by sirsnork (530512)
      Well you install a switch on the side so you can switch between BIOS chips. So whenever you want to use xbox live just flick the switch and run on the original BIOS
    • How does this change the problem with playing XBox Live with a modded XBox?

      You can use Gamespy Arcade [gamespyarcade.com] and a tunnel program [gamespyarcade.com] to play quite a few online games for free, even with a modchip. I wouldn't pay for a service like that to play games when I can play them for free...
  • by trotski (592530) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @04:04AM (#5141606)
    So I buy an X-BOX, buy the chip, and then install a linux based bios.... on what amounts to a shitty celeron based machine? I don't know... seems kind of weird.

    I'd rather get a good machine, install linux... and NOT pay microsoft 300 bucks for sub-standard equipment.

    I'm gussing most people who do this sort of thing are the types who would love to see Microsoft fall... if that is the case, don't give them your money.... no matter how cool your modded X-BOX will be.
    • by FS1 (636716) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @04:11AM (#5141617)
      Actually microsoft loses money everytime someone purchases an xbox. So just buy the machine use it for a media box or whatever just don't buy any games, and microsoft will lose about $50 on you.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23, 2003 @04:19AM (#5141637)
        That's not true. An XBox sold is better than an XBox shelved.
        • by lingqi (577227) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @05:51AM (#5141839) Journal
          On the other hand, maybe if the demand wanes then they will just not produce so many?

          But that's really stupid to be talking about it anyway - because there are 8.2 million Xboxes out there. I don't care how big you think the potential X-box mod-to-run-linux-only crowd is, you have to admit that percentage wise it is statistically neglegable and would have absolutely no impact on microsoft financially whatsoever.

          Microsoft can just hire one less Booth-babe in the next trade-show to make back all the money that they ever lost to the "buy box but not games" crowd. Don't dwell on this too much.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        It's not like Bill Gates writes out a $50 check everytime someone buys a XBox.

        What people can't seem to grok is that's an average based on aggregate costs and sales predictions.

        A large portion of the "loss" is $million in sunk costs like advertising, R&D, game development and so on. That money is already spent. Everytime an XBox is sold, MS makes a little of it back.
      • The more consoles they can claim they've sold, whether or not people are buying games for them, the more leverage they have in the console market. At least in the short term. Right now the name of the game is differentiating your console with single-platform games. The more single-platform games there are, the higher the likelihood that someone will buy your console because of a single game. So if Microsoft can convince game developers to target only the X-Box (Because of the high sales numbers) the'll gain more of a foothold in the market. Keep an eye on the game adverts and note which ones are targetted only for the X-Box or the Playstation 2 and which will run on all platforms. That'll give you a good idea of who's winning the console wars.
    • So I buy an X-BOX, buy the chip, and then install a linux based bios.... on what amounts to a shitty celeron based machine? I don't know... seems kind of weird. I'd rather get a good machine, install linux... and NOT pay microsoft 300 bucks for sub-standard equipment. I'm gussing most people who do this sort of thing are the types who would love to see Microsoft fall... if that is the case, don't give them your money.... no matter how cool your modded X-BOX will be I think you missed the point. Like everyone in the business, MS loses money on each console they sell. The business plan is to get it back in games.

      Someone who buys an XBox and mods it to a computer gets a great deal. The equipment may not be state of the art, but it has been significantly subsidied by MS and is thus cheaper than regular hardware with similar performance. It also follows that they are not 'giving' their money to MS, quite the contrary. MS will have to give more money to the hardware vendors. Tor
    • So I buy an X-BOX, buy the chip, and then install a linux based bios.... on what amounts to a shitty celeron based machine? I don't know... seems kind of weird.

      When the machine first came out it was pretty good hardware for the price, and MS may well have been losing money on every unit sold.

      By now though I'd bet that component prices have dropped enough that MS is making a profit on them.

      If you think that you can buy one and make MS lose money ... you're probably wrong.
    • by Longinus (601448) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @05:29AM (#5141796) Homepage
      Just to clarify, the XBox only costs 200 dollars and comes with a Pentium III 733 MHz, not a Celeron. Any way you cut it, its a good price for the amount of hardware you're getting. Although it was more trouble for me than what this new BIOS will allow, I now use my XBox (with a 100GB harddrive) as a omni-emulator that allows me to play NES, SNES, Gensis, MAME, etc on my TV, as well as a media player so I can easily watch my DivX movies on my TV. In the future I plan on messing around with Linux and experimenting with PVR options (oh yeah, I own a couple XBox exclusive games, but that's really just a bonus to the real reasons I bought it). All in all, its been one of the best 200 bucks I've ever spent for the amount of stuff I can do with it.
  • Wow! (Score:2, Funny)

    Wow!!! And without spending a bazillion gajillion years [theneoproject.com] of CPU time!

    Hmmm... I wonder which one took/will take more effort...

  • ooh (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23, 2003 @04:10AM (#5141614)
    Wow yeah now you'll be able to run all kinds of fun stuff that a high end pc will be able to run on a low res tv set and celeron. The joy is overwhelming.
  • Since the new Cromwell BIOS is fully open source it can be shipped with the chip without any legal risks, gaining you a lot of time, sweat and money.

    Open Source or non-Open Source, this seems to run afoul of the DMCA anyway, at least here in the USA. So there still *are* legal risks...

    • Open Source or non-Open Source, this seems to run afoul of the DMCA anyway, at least here in the USA. So there still *are* legal risks...

      Humming the tune I heard at the Stones concert last night is probably a violation of the DMCA, if anyone has a digital microphone turned on anywhere in earshot. For that matter, the people letting their friends listen in over their cell phones during the concert were probably in violation of the DMCA.

      It is a law that virtually everyone is in violatino of all of the time, and deserves to be ignored in everyday life, fought in the courts, and ultimately repealed if we can ever get a less-than-utterly corrupt congress elected to office.
  • by warmcat (3545) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @04:14AM (#5141624)
    There are two big reasons why this is interesting.

    1) Because modchips can now ship with a fully legal clean BIOS, it is very hard for MS to suppress or chill their development any more. Cromwell, the Linux booting BIOS, is only capable to boot Linux, there can be no copyright-based complaints. Ozxchips have made a micro-distro (~2MB ISO) which boots and reflashes the BIOS. In the future, I expect mods with multiple BIOSes in one flash, with Cromwell used to manage and reflash the other parts, but being itself read-only/protected.

    2) Because Cromwell can boot off the Linux install CDs, perform the install and then subsequently boot direct into Linux, the increased availability of the BIOS suggests that more people will be encouraged to try Linux. And considering these are mainly kids who otherwise face a sterile, uncreative and useless relationship with games on the Xbox, that's a good thing. Again, in the future we can expect Cromwell to be a static feature of mods, the option to boot into Linux always being available.

    You've been able to run Linux on the Xbox for some time now, this doesn't really change that. What's different is that you can now run Linux without using any MS code in the BIOS, whereas before Linux required the use of a hacked native BIOS to get it started. So the big difference is that you can run Linux without any copyright infringement.

    That has ramifications for the MS trend to try to suppress modchips.
    • Copyright infringement? How can I be infringing on someone's
      right to copy when I'm just using the device I paid for in the
      manner I see fit? I mean, it's my own property. I'm not
      distributing copies of anything. Where is the copyright
      infringement?

      Don't let the pigs rape the language.
      • Reusing Microsoft's copyrighted BIOS code and patching it to mod the box is a copyright infringement. A 'clean' BIOS that uses no MS code doesn't face this problem.

        It has nothing to do with how you use the device you bought, and everything to do with hacking someone else's copyrighted code.

        This is a good developement for those who want to legally use alternate BIOSes on their XBox.
      • No, but when other vendors ship hacked versions of the Xbox BIOS to support their mod chips, then they are infringing on copyright, and hence MS tries to shut them down.

        You could hack your own Xbox's BIOS all you want and its not infringement. When others supply mod chips that do this and then distribute them, they can be silenced.
  • xbox live? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mewphobia (630153)
    on this page [ozxchip.com] it says
    #Disable switch compatibility (XBox Live compatibility)
    does this mean we can play on xbox live with modded xboxen?
  • Gains (Score:5, Funny)

    by 0x20 (546659) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @04:19AM (#5141636) Homepage
    gaining you a lot of time, sweat and money

    Well, one of those things I have plenty of, but I could always use more of the other two.
  • ugh (Score:5, Funny)

    by gatesh8r (182908) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @04:20AM (#5141638)
    So someone went, did an Open-Source BIOS to replace the main functions of a gaming console expecting to make a General-Purpose PC all because it runs on the x86 arch with a modified GF3? Feh:


    "Yeah! Check this out! I'm uber-l33t because I hax0r3d my X-Box just like my Dreamcast -- Oh hold on a sec... *nervous laughter* uh, that wasn't Halo you saw; that was uh... ah... The Torque Engine! Yeah! I'm working on a FPS for my Linux-enhaned X-Box that I modded. Oh the Dreamcast? I ended up putting NetBSD on it, but it's been slashdotted ever since I put the URL in my sig."

  • by SensitiveMale (155605) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @04:21AM (#5141643)
    when the next 'leaked' halloween memo states that the original Xbox strategy was

    (1) to test different types of security and see which ones were easily hacked

    (2) to test different types of licensing agreements for their real hardware push into the living rooms of America

    (3) to find a way to willing have people buy ms boxes to replace the failed WebTV fiasco

    (4) to use open source people to boost the sales of Xbox above Sony's PS2s.
  • Besides the "kewl" factor, what is the point of ever modifying an Xbox? Games that once ran on the Xbox will not longer run. TuxRacer is fun, but come on.
  • That's great for aussie, but I fear that this stuff will never leave the southern emisphere because I can easily figure out gangs of M$ lawyers ready to rumble as soon as a company try to sell it outside Australia.
  • x-anything (Score:5, Informative)

    by ianmalcm (591345) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @04:27AM (#5141664)
    Yes the $100k prize was awarded, search for the /. story.

    You'll never play xbox live online with a modded box. Theyre attitude makes sense: a service population with 5% cheaters will make 60% of normal gamers shy away from playing. Many people stopped playing CS because cheating is so prevalent.

    As for killer apps, the XBMP - Xbox Media Player now in v2.2 is the ultimate app that is continually updated. DVD/mp3/ogg/m3u playlist/divx support, and the features keep getting better. Plus streaming support. right now, Xbox is the most cost effective media center available. Plus it has some great tech support in the dev scene. And Dreamix is a WIP PVR to complete the media center ideal

    • The original BIOS of the machine is untouched. It is disabled through what amounts to a jumper. The instructions show that you can use an SPST switch to select between the two.

      So there would be nothing to identify this to XBox Live as anything other than a dead-stock XBox.

      That's part of what makes this hack so appealing.
  • by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Thursday January 23, 2003 @04:30AM (#5141670) Homepage
    MS makes money on the Xbox one way, and one way only: Games. The Xbox itself is sold at a loss, but the profit gained from selling games evens this out.

    Now, a marginal group hacking Linux on the Xbox doesn't really matter, but what if someone wanted to buy 10000 Xboxes to build a super-cheap rendering cluster?

    If doing this becomes easy enough MS isn't going to sell the Xbox for a loss forever...
    • by nmg196 (184961) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @05:59AM (#5141862)
      > The Xbox itself is sold at a loss

      No no no! Why do people always believe what they want to belive.

      This is an urban myth. MS does *not* lose money on the sale of an XBox. It has lost money *so far* when incorporating all the development costs, but it doesn't lose more money each time someone buys one - it makes a small amount of the already lost/spent money back. The cost of the box easily covers the production cost of the unit and also incorporates a small profit for both MS and the retailer/distributor. Admittedly it probably makes more money out of the games, but buying loads of XBoxen will not send MS off into Chapter 11.
  • by jeanjean83 (624273) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @04:32AM (#5141674)
    What's the fun part in running anything on an x-box? Have you forgotten that it's made by microsoft? It's like saying that it's cool to run programs in windows, which it obviously isn't. Stop the madness!
    • by terrencefw (605681) <slashdot@@@jamesholden...net> on Thursday January 23, 2003 @04:51AM (#5141713) Homepage
      What's the fun part in running anything on an x-box? Have you forgotten that it's made by microsoft? It's like saying that it's cool to run programs in windows, which it obviously isn't. Stop the madness!

      Well, that's exactly the point: It's made by Microsoft. They can shut us out of their software with their "screw-yew" EULAs, but they've tried to shut us out of the hardware as well, and the xbox modders have proved that they can't do that, neither technologically or legally. Bet they've got their best monkeys scratching their heads to work out how to close their platform legally, but when it comes down to it, it's hardware, I've bought it, not licensed it and I can do what I damn well like with it. If I want to hack my fridge to run Linux, then I will. Same goes for the Xbox, and there's not a damn thing they can do about it.

    • What's the fun part in running anything on an x-box? Have you forgotten that it's made by microsoft? It's like saying that it's cool to run programs in windows, which it obviously isn't. Stop the madness!

      Oh, grow up!

      Running Linux on XBox is like playing MP3's on a toaster oven, or using the Internet to see if there is sufficient Mountain Dew in the Soda Machine down the hall. It's what geeks DO, fercrissake!

      Your anti-MS kneejerk concerns about "what's cool" make you sound like some high school kid looking to his peer group to decide what music to listen to or what sneakers to wear. MS does make some "cool" things, and not everything Linux is automatically and necessarily "cool."

      Please understand that the world is not all Jedi versus Sith.

  • Going Overboard (Score:4, Insightful)

    by evilviper (135110) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @04:33AM (#5141677) Journal
    People are going a little overboard with the XBox modding. Sure, have fun, do something new with it, but for the same price, you can get a faster PC, with expansion slots where you can plug in any device you might want, and less expensive than xbox accessories.

    Then, you'll be supporting the PC industry, instead of a Monopoly that makes propritary, overpriced, devices.
    • Re:Going Overboard (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Cryptnotic (154382) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @06:21AM (#5141906) Homepage
      Try building a PC with TV out, audio out, dvd-rom drive, ethernet, and a game controller for $200. Oh yeah, see if you can make it look sort of cool too. And I want it to look cool next to my TV. And I don't want to spend more than 2 hours on it (the time it would take to mod and set up a hacked Xbox).

      • I totally agree. I guess the moderators are smoking some good sticky nuggets today to give the parent so many points.

        Cost IS an issue here. It's literally impossible to match the Xbox feature for feature for $200 or less. It's cheap because Microsoft mass produced them and got massive discounts on the hardware. Once again, for those of you with ADD, you CANNOT build a pc with all the features the Xbox has for anywhere near the same price.
      • So where is this mythical "cool looking" Xbox then? Those things are the ugliest pieces of plastic crap I have ever seen. And they're huge. And they're SO noisy. Give me a shuttle PC any day, small, quiet and sexy.
  • by grimani (215677) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @04:58AM (#5141725)
    Flashing a BIOS is *not* supposed to be an easy one step process, and there's a reason for it.

    I can just see it now:

    1) Linux hacker goes home with new hotly anticipated Starcraft: Ghost (published by Microsoft), which he stood in line for 10 hours to buy.

    2) Linux hacker pops new game into XBox.

    3) New UberSafeDisc protection on Starcraft: Ghost flashes replacement BIOS, replaces it with code for original XBox BIOS, then disables future flashing...

    • by warmcat (3545) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @05:28AM (#5141792)
      This is a good point.

      However, some information: on the Xbox, the motherboard flash containing the BIOS is not writeable by default. You have to take out the motherboard and short out a couple of links with solder before it can be written. So MS cannot trash or update the original BIOS.

      Most commercial modchips feature a write protect line which you physically have to switch to allow writes to the mod flash. Even those that don't are externally reprogrammable from a PC printer port. So this is no kind of crisis.

      What is more possible to imagine in the future though are new games linked with a new version of the MS libraries which seek out and shit on assets on the HDD that MS don't approve of.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 23, 2003 @05:16AM (#5141762)
    The question that plagues my mind is whether or not the X-Box (the console itself that is) losses money for Microsoft. I heard, from several [zdnet.co.uk] sources [wired.com], that the company loses ~$100 on the hardware of the actual console. This of course makes a "1337" incentive for any Linux hacker to take down the man and get cheap hardware.

    But with the depreciation of hardware over time, does it still cost them? Thoughts appreciated. -MMT

    • All of you have to stop shi##ing on the myth ... some guy that used to work in the XBox now has a book out ... and was recently on the screensavers ... and has made it publicly aware that Microsoft is selling the XBox for a loss.

      Now he wasn't specific as to whether Microsoft is amortizing the cost of development into the price of production of the units in order to have a year end loss, and thereby claim a tax refund (wow that was a long sentence ... but wait I am not done yet) or has a production/distrution costs larger than the sale cost.

      Now I have to get back to playing Splinter Cell ... damn that is the best game
  • What is the goal? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zebtron (160283) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @05:28AM (#5141793) Homepage
    I am waiting for a "real" X-Box.

    I would be very happy if I could get an X-box to be a 'good file player' that could play DVD, VCD, and everything else I play on my PC (QT, AVI, DIVX, VOB, blah blah... I admit, a big bag), and some basic network functionality without compromising the ability to play legal X-box games.

    Within the community, we seem to have several counter-productive lines of progression.

    There are the folks that want to play around with their X-box and add functionality (the most interesting and productive pursuit) and the people who want to buy a M$-subsidized device and use it for Linux-only purposes.

    Realistically, the latter are better served to craft their own boxes w/o M$ at all (we all know what has happenned w/ HW prices).

    Does it make any sense to buy an X-box and use it as a Linux box? It did months ago, but, with the way the market is progressing, you will gain far less in HW $ than you get is SW time...

    I am all for EXTENDING the abilities of the X-Box, but you get much beyond that and it ends up being a gesture motivated not my innovation, but by spite for M$.

    -Z
    M$ XP user (3 PCs) w/ a SUN Solaris, MacOS, and a lil TiVo on the SDA LAN.
  • Okay kids. Face it. You got the XBox to play the XBox games. But, now all yer Linuxgeeky friends are hounding your about supporting M$, so you're doin the old "No.. ummm I got it so... um... I can hack it! Yeah! k-rad k00l d00d!"

    And as for people saying M$ is losing money on every unit sold, what if everyone went out and bought an XBox, just to mod it? You know what would happen? "XBox is now the most popular gaming console in the world, according to an indepenent poll. Game developers everywhere are dropping or delaying support for other systems in order to take advantage of this hot market." Now, how was M$ losing money?

    Seems like your doing the old "Yeah, you should have seen the look on his face when I stopped his fist with my head..."
  • For out-of-the-box Linux, there's no power greater than X.
  • Why to hack XBox? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MegaFur (79453) <wyrd0&komy,zzn,com> on Thursday January 23, 2003 @07:16AM (#5142045) Journal
    Alright, first: I don't even own an XBox, I don't know if I ever will.

    So why should people bother? Is it a waste of their time to spend so much effort tinkering on XBox when MS clearly does not want them to?

    Of course it isn't. Firstly, no one should ever discourage a geek from playing (attempting to hack or modify hardware or software). It's the single most important aspect of it all: the thrill of seeing what you can do with what you've got. Can I tweak it so it goes a little faster? Can I tweak so it sounds a little clearer? Can I take this fridge and make it act as a firewall? :-D That's the whole damn point: to play. to try to augment and modify hardware and software simply to see if it can be done.

    GEEK-SPOK: Why have you been staring at the internals of that mountain of database code for the past two days? That's not our deptartment.
    GEEK-KIRK: [dopey voice] Because it's there.

    Of course, that's not the *only* reason to hack. Another is: We Hate Microsoft. And why wouldn't we? They try to lock us out of the software, and their not satisfied with that, now they want to lock us out of the hardware as well. *Naturally* hackers will try to hack it.

    And what's so bad about that? I think some of the naysayers hear lack imagination. Think of XBox hacking as a big, community-based R&D project--because it is. Just like all R&D projects, we're not exactly sure what will come out of it. But I, for one, am curious to find out.

    Although getting Linux up and running on XBox is still a bit tricksy today, that doesn't necessarily mean it will be difficult tomorrow. This latest innovation means that more hackers will be able to play.

    It's conceivable that, at some future point, Linux-on-XBox may be as easy as inserting a CD (after having purchased the appropriate *type* of XBox from the store). Once the hardware is openned up, anything is possible. Myself, I'm looking forward to the prosepct of a "MAME distribution" for "Linux On XBox". Of course, you'd have to download all the romsets from somewhere else. ;-)

    I know people have managed to get MAME up and running on XBox already, but that's what I'm getting at--as I understand it, it's still a bit involved right now. But as all this XBox hacking moves forward, it may one day be simple enough for everybody--or at least simple enough for the average geek.

    Most important reason to hack the XBox: if the xboxhackers don't hack it to figure out how it works and let the masses know, who will?

    P.S. I obviously wrote this strange, long post all at once w/o any proofing or anything. If the ideas or grammar offend anyone, all I can say is: oops, my bad.
  • by p3d0 (42270) on Thursday January 23, 2003 @10:00AM (#5142621)
    I'm sorry, this is one of the most confusing submissions I have ever read. Almost every sentence is a run-on sentence, and phrases like "gaining you a lot of time, sweat and money" make me wonder just why I would want to gain a lot of sweat.

    Writing is like coding: keep it simple. Spend some time on it, and have pity on your poor readers. There's more to writing than just spelling and grammar.

    (My appologies if you are not a native English speaker---your spelling and grammar are good enough that it's hard to tell.)

  • Microsofts sole purpose for selling the XBox (Like other console vendors) is to make profit off of software sold on the system. To sell software on the system, you need to be a licensed developer, which means you need to pay huge sums of money to Microsoft. When you sell a game on the XBox, Microsoft gets a nice cut.

    If this chip is indeed legal, and allows anyone to run software other than officially licensed Microsoft XBox software, the XBox will be discontinued and left behind. There will be no reason for XBox owners to buy official software because they can be happy with running various Linux distros or homebrewed games instead. The console industry is NOTHING LIKE the PC industry, and this was Microsofts biggest flaw. They need to make systems so devoid of PC-like architecture that someting like this wouldn't be possible.

    With any luck, XBox2 will look and run nothing like a PC, everything will be 100% proprietary, non-Intel, etc.

  • I'm wondering if such efforts exist out there for hacking the PS2. If not, why not, and why not on the same scale as the X-Box? Is it JUST the Microsoft angle that makes the X-Box such a target? Sony could be considered to be a market dominator along the Microsoft line. Is it the fact the X-Box ships with a hard drive and network card perhaps, and the PS2 doesn't? I'm wondering if PS2 hacking efforts will start showing up once the network adaptor catches on and the unit gets a hard drive.

    I mean if all you're using it for is as a media player or an emulator I suppose it's easier to code for a unit that's essentially a PC. But wouldn't the PS2 be more of a challenge? And in that, I think the end result would be a LOT more impressive (that's not to say the the X-Box efforts are not impressive!).

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