Unfortunately, the cost of building an XBOX PC runs a little more than the cost of the XBOX. We need to factor in the cost of the mod chip, probably a hard drive, keyboard and mouse. Mod chips run anywhere from $40 to $80; the one we use in this review costs about $75. A USB keyboard and mouse usually run another $15. If you are going to be doing any clustering, you do not really need to invest in a keyboard/mouse at all. For most uses, the 8GB hard drive is sufficient enough, although upgrading to a 20GB drive might be in order for a larger Linux distribution.

Used and refurbished XBOXes range from $120 to $160. Used XBOXes are usually the way to go, since we will be soon voiding the warranty anyway to install the mod chip. When shopping for an XBOX to mod, older is sometimes better. Although the SmartXX mod chip works on all versions of the XBOX available, the newest version 1.6 XBOXes require a few extra wires to be soldered, even on the solderless install kit.

For our distributed computing ideas, we have an exciting analysis in store. We managed to round up 8 XBOXes with mod chips for this review. That only equates to 5.8GHz of distributed CPU power, 80GB of hard drive space, and just 512MB of memory. However, if our distributed computing project is successful, scaling to a much higher CPU clock might be very feasible. Finding an equivalent $1600 PC would be nearly impossible, but that assumes our distributed XBOX network actually behaves like a $1600 PC instead of 8 $150 PCs. It may be the case that network and disk latencies are too high for us to practically compute anything. There are also some issues on power consumption and noise. The XBOX is relatively quiet for a PC, unless you have a whole lot of them. Our lab recorded approximately 42dBA when our eight node XBOX cluster was on.

If you plan on just running your XBOX as a stand-alone PC, then costs like power become no issue. The XBOX consumes 100W at full load. For a 16-cluster node to operate for one hour, we need 1.6 kilowatt hours of power. If you pay 10 cents per kwh, that's about $1400 for one year of operation.

Index Putting it all Together
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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
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • KristopherKubicki - Saturday, November 13, 2004 - link

    Halz: what should it have been?

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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... :)
  • 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.
  • Halz - Thursday, November 11, 2004 - link

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