Desktop Performance

There are several routes that we can take if we are just interested in converting our XBOX into a desktop. Our first option is to just boot the XBOX via the Xebian LiveCD bundled with the SmartXX mod chip. Xebian is a modified Debian LiveCD that comes with Freevo, Mozilla, GCC and a few other goodies. Choosing the Linux CD option in the SmartXX Linux boot brings us to this screen shortly before automatically launching X:

  Welcome to the : Xebian                
  Version :      
  Author : Edgar Hucek (
  Hostname : xbox.localdomain.local     
  Linux Ver. : 2.4.26                    

The first time that we ran Xebian without the Ethernet connected, the XBOX actually hung when we launched Mozilla. There is not much denying it - the XBOX PC is not any sort of workstation replacement. Performance benchmarks are not going to be very good at all, particularly compared with some other hardware solutions available today. However, for $200 bucks, the total system cost packs a "little" bit of a punch. For reference, we benchmarked a few small utilities here, just to show a point of reference on performance. Obviously, some of these systems use CPUs that cost more than the entire XBOX PC. Don't expect the XBOX PC to win any awards, but notice how well it performs for the price.

After running Xebian, we blew away the hard disk and installed a stripped down copy of SUSE 9.1 without the X window system. SUSE runs on the 2.6 kernel while Xebian runs on 2.4. Installing SUSE 9.1 was not very difficult; we cannibalized most of the modules and dependencies from Xebian and then essentially merged SUSE into the Xebian install. This gets a little messy, but provides us with a somewhat uniform platform for comparing our other benchmark machines. We compiled gzip from scratch using GCC 3.4.2 on both configurations. Below, you can see the machine gzip the same 700MB file that we use for our other gzip tests.

xbox:/mnt# time gzip 01.wav -c >/dev/null

Gzip 1.2.4 (GCC 3.3.3)

We also decided to encode an MP3. Below, you can see the command that we used to encode the MP3, and playtime multiplier is listed in the graph.

# lame sample.wav -b 192 -m s -h - >/dev/null

lame 3.96.1 (GCC 3.3.3)

We can see from here that the performance is a tad faster running the OS from the hard drive rather than the LiveCD. Xebian lags heavily to do much of anything, including just email. Xebian does not come with an office suite, although when we installed Open Office, we had a bit of difficulty using it effectively. Running a local install onto the hard drive was significantly faster and recommended instead of running the Xebian CD.

Keep in mind, the system and video card share the same memory; tasks like Mozilla are incredibly slow, since we are taxing the system memory and the video memory at the same time. If you plan on running X on this type of system, you may be better off grabbing a minimal desktop like Blackbox or something that does not rely as heavily on video memory.

The Test and Initialization XBMC
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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: , 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:

    SmartXX section of the forums:
  • 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 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) to learn about most anything
    4) XBMC dvd menu support is comming!
    5) XBMC irc channel on #xbmc
    6) Online gaming is free through Xlink
    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 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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