Introduction

A few weeks ago, we started investigating the possibility of putting Linux on an XBOX. We played with some ideas in our heads, a render farm, a cheap office computer or a distributed crypto platform, just to start. The idea required a little bit of elbow grease, a mod chip, Linux and a bunch of free time.

All XBOXes are locked into only booting the Microsoft BIOS. That is, if you buy a new XBOX, it's basic IO does not let you do all that much, except read DVDs, and XBOX games that have special keys encoded into them. A mod chip is a computer chip with another BIOS that physically overrides the Microsoft BIOS. Since the chip is now in charge of how the XBOX should bootstrap itself, it will allow the XBOX to recognize more discs and operations than for what the XBOX is specifically designed. Thus, backup games or entire operating systems can be loaded onto the XBOX hard drive and run from there.

People have been modifying their XBOXes to run Linux for a long time now. The main factor behind the XBOX modification scene sprung from some extremely gray markets that began selling mod chips for backup games. However, after several years now, the XBOX Linux community has grown very stable. XBOX runs on virtually off-the-shelf components; ergo, porting Linux to the XBOX was a no-brainer after the BIOS issue was resolved. Microsoft dropped the price of XBOXes a few months ago and BMMods approached us about the possibility of checking out Linux on an XBOX. With refurbed and used XBOXes as cheap as they have ever been right now, the stage was set for us to abuse as much XBOX as possible.




Click to enlarge.


The goal today is to see if we can modify an XBOX successfully to do something useful that we can't do for the cost of the modification (aside from play XBOX). We will look at a media center, a basic PC and finally, a lot at the possibility of setting our XBOXes up in some sort of cluster, with detailed steps all along the way.

Costs
POST A COMMENT

30 Comments

View All Comments

  • ukDave - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    Yes the xbox has a PS1 emulator, only one that i know of. Its called "PCSXbox". Good place for emulator info: http://xport.xbox-scene.com/ , obviosuly a subsection of xbox-scene.

    And before anyone asks, no there are none for the PS2 (nor will there ever be).
    Reply
  • ukDave - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    I'm not 100% sure about the SmartXX, as i have the well known Xecuter 2.3b chip which has DIP switches mountable on the outsode of the xbox so that youc an disable it in order to play X-Box live and whatnot.

    From what i've just read over on the forums at xbox-scene, SmartXX is fully X-BoX Live compliant. You simply (as you say Kris) boot back into the MS BIOS. This can be done by turning the xbox on by pressing the EJECT button. To enable the modchip, turn on with the POWER button. (source: http://forums.xbox-scene.com/index.php?showtopic=3...

    SmartXX section of the forums: http://forums.xbox-scene.com/index.php?showforum=6...
    Reply
  • ksherman - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    #3, you said there is mulators for n64 and down. Is there an emulator for PSone games? would love to be able to play FF7 again Reply
  • KristopherKubicki - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    Jeff7181: I think with the SmartXX chip you can actually boot back into the normal MS BIOS and have no problems with X-Link and such. If you install Linux on the last 2 unpartitioned GB of your 10GB drive, your XBOX should basically have no idea that the machine is modded at all.

    LotoBak, ukDave, am I correct on that statement?

    Kristopher
    Reply
  • ukDave - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    Oh and Jeff, i believe many mod chips have the facility to simply turn them off with a flick of a switch, so you can continue to use XBOX Live. But as LotoBak says, there is the free X-Link service available too. Reply
  • ukDave - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    http://www.xbox-scene.com is really the only place to go for XBOX related discussion, tutorials, really anything you need to know that isn't covered in this article.

    I bought a bodged XBOX mod from someone in the UK, got it professionally fixed and re-modded. It now has a 120GB disk for all my games, its connected to my LAN. With the excellent XBMC i can play literally any media file from any PC over the network, be it standard files such as MP3's or AVI's, or images such as .bins/cue's.

    Well worth looking into if you have an XBOX that is currently un-modded.

    Also, /me wants 8 XBOX's :D Although, those 'leccy costs, eek!
    Reply
  • Jeff7181 - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    I've been thinking about modding mine to use to play video over the network... but I don't want to lose normal Xbox (and Xbox Live) functionality. Wish that was covered here, but I guess it's not really a "mod your Xbox" article as much as it's a "mod an Xbox to make a cheap PC" article. Reply
  • LotoBak - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    Nice guys... besides your linking problem

    Knowing a little more about the xbox scene a few things your might consider...

    1) Mods go for as cheap as 10USD retail.
    2) Software exploiting the xbox is always an option which results in a 'free' modchip
    3) http://tutorials.xbox-scene.com to learn about most anything
    4) XBMC dvd menu support is comming!
    5) XBMC irc channel on irc.efnet.info #xbmc
    6) Online gaming is free through Xlink www.teamxlink.com
    7) Emulators for n64 and 'down' are available
    8) This is the cheapest htpc with 480p 720 and 1080i available
    9) xbmc supports many formats
    Audio : wav, aac, ac3, mp3, flac, ra, vorbis
    Video : ogg avi mkv rm, mov containers
    Codec : xivd, divx, mpeg2, mpeg1, quicktime, realvideo and realaudio (limited) and many others. The video engine is based apon mplayer open source project

    Networking :
    Shares :Supports ccx, samba (windows file sharing), and replaytv shares.
    Streaming : Supports a multitude of video and audio streaming formats. webradio is included which has a 'channel' browser for online shoutcast streams. There is also a apple movie trailer browser.

    Scripting :
    XBMC has python scripting language implimented so its open to many possibilities

    XBMC does have some rough edges but it is maturing quickly. If you are interested in contributing to the project check out www.xboxmediacenter.com and the 'XBMC' project on sourceforge

    Feel free to ask questions about xbox stuff here... ill watch it for a while
    Reply
  • Marlin1975 - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    http://www.anandtech.com/linux/showdoc.aspx?i=2271... Reply
  • Marlin1975 - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    Page 6 has HOME instead of page 7 link Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now