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
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  • TimPope - Thursday, May 12, 2005 - link

    not bad information but i would have liked to see some kind of real world performance using openmosix.. a single x box on its own as a pc is slow but stick 2-4 together using open mosix could make a reasonably good machine and still be pretty cheap Reply
  • Halz - Wednesday, November 17, 2004 - link

    The rule followed in the article for the -j option, "number of proccessors + 1", overlooked the logical proccessors of the Xeon's Hyperthreading.. -j should have then been something around 5 instead of 3 Reply
  • Halz - Wednesday, November 17, 2004 - link

    Simply compiling on the Opteron and Xeon with the same number of threads as the full cluster would have illustraighted a difference.

    More testing should have gone into finding how many threads was the ideal number for the given platforms.
    Reply
  • artifex - Saturday, November 13, 2004 - link

    Aikouka, can't you just use one of those "HD Loader" type programs WITHOUT a modchip?
    I'd be all for modding my PS/2 if I thought I could actually do something useful with it, like stream audio/video from a PC or a ReplayTV or something.
    Reply
  • KristopherKubicki - Saturday, November 13, 2004 - link

    Halz: what should it have been?

    Kristopher
    Reply
  • Aikouka - Thursday, November 11, 2004 - link

    23, yes, you can still do just about anything. I know with the software mod that I use, I've been having problems getting the original MS Dash to load up, but I've gotten around that using other programs for the original dashboard's functionality (dvd etc).

    You know, you can also replace the HDD with just a software mod, and it's not that hard. So, if you don't want to hardware mod and want more space, you can still put in a bigger HDD. As much as some people don't like the XBOX, in my opinion, it's probably the best console to mod.

    24, 2) Modchips also allow hdd loading if you have the PS2 HDD (using HDDLoader.) Also, it lets the warez'ers download and play games on the PS2 that they don't really own.
    Reply
  • artifex - Thursday, November 11, 2004 - link

    1) what we really need is a usb-based tv tuner that actually works. That would be excellent for adding functionality both to XBoxen as cheap PVRs (though I'd still just use XBMC to stream from my ReplayTV, most of the time), but also would be great for iMacs. I'm sure if someone came up with a decent open architecture design, the community would come up with drivers for both types of systems.

    2) what are modchips for PS2s useful for, other than playing import games? Especially with the new PS2s having no drive (is there still a header on the new board style to add one back?)

    3) did I miss the obligatory dnetc test? You gotta do that, you know.
    Reply
  • Booty - Thursday, November 11, 2004 - link

    I don't even own an Xbox, but reading this article has me reaching for my wallet...

    But first, I want to get this straight - I can mod the Xbox and still use XLink, right? I doubt I'd get a Live subscription anyway, but it'd be nice to have that option possible.

    Ideally I'd like to throw a bigger hard drive in there and then run XBMC, without losing the normal XBox capabilities.

    So if I can do that, I'm goin' to the store this weekend... :)
    Reply
  • Halz - Thursday, November 11, 2004 - link

    The compile options for the Opteron and Xeon were starving the CPUs; the number of jobs (-j) was no where near optimal. Reply
  • Halz - Thursday, November 11, 2004 - link

    Reply

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