Putting it all Together

Modding the XBOX is really the simple part. We received a solderless SmartXX v2 from www.bmmods.com. These generally run for $75 if you get the solderless adaptor or $60 for the solder option. Other mod chips work well for installing a Linux distribution, but the SmartXX comes with an XBOX version of Debian (Xebian) and is the most mature chip for running a Linux distribution.

Opening up the XBOX and getting at the mainboard was fairly simple. The SmartXX comes with PDF manuals that demonstrate how to unscrew all of the components. Below, you can see the process in a few quick steps. Opening the XBOX just requires an Allen wrench.

Opening the XBOX

The next step is to remove the hard drive and DVD drive so that we can get at the D0 pin hole on the motherboard. This will allow us to put the XBOX into debug mode.

Removing the drives

Now, we have the SmartXX finally mounted correctly. If you look carefully at the image below, you can see the copper wire from the pin pad to the D0 lead that gives our mod chip all the magical power.

Inserting the mod chip
Click to enlarge.

Total time for our installation was about 15 minutes, although a solder option would probably take a little but more than a half hour. Adding the mod chip to the XBOX was far simpler than any of us had originally thought, and after doing the process just once with a solderless option, we feel like we could easily do the process again with a solder option. This would save us a bit of cash if we were considering distributing our XBOX on a massive scale.

The SmartXX

SmartXX is unique in that it actually runs its own copy of embedded Linux. Before the XBOX has a chance to bootstrap its own BIOS, the SmartXX kicks in and bootstraps itself. The SmartXX chip then opens to the menu displayed before. Our SmartXX chip contains 4MB of memory, which can be configured to run various BIOS images to bootstrap the XBOX again. We can save multiple BIOSes in the built-in memory or revert back to the original Microsoft BIOS included with the XBOX. Below, you can see the BIOS and configuration chooser below.

Click to enlarge.

Inside the SmartXX configuration, we can actually specify and then terminal into the XBOX to configure options via a command line interface instead. We can also specify the default location of where the XBOX should boot; just another step while verifying our install went OK.

Click to enlarge.

Costs Advantages and Drawbacks of the Design
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  • 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).
  • 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...
  • 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
  • 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?

  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Marlin1975 - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

  • Marlin1975 - Wednesday, November 10, 2004 - link

    Page 6 has HOME instead of page 7 link

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