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Xbox Hackers, Linux, the DMCA, And Modchips

timothy posted about 11 years ago | from the oh-my dept.

XBox (Games) 343

HardcoreGamer writes "The New York Times has a long article on Xbox hacking, why Microsoft hates it, and who does it (Google). 'Xbox hackers are exploiting Microsoft's business model, which is to sell Xbox hardware at a loss...' but Microsoft doesn't make the money back on software -- as it planned to -- if you decide to load up Xbox Linux. Where else can you get a PIII-733 with graphics and audio for $180? The reporter talked to the IDSA; Andrew Huang, author of 'Hacking the Xbox: An Introduction to Reverse Engineering'; a Manhattan exec who hacked his Xbox and said 'The reality is that if you could bypass Microsoft's operating system you would end up with a fairly powerful computer for less than $200;' and others. The article discusses the DMCA, modchips, the Xbox Linux Project and lots more. A good -- if long -- read. A shorter version of the story is at the International Herald Tribune. Best quote? 'Microsoft is a company passionate about innovation and creativity. We are also very committed to respect for others' intellectual property and we request the same respect applied to our innovations.'"

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Respect ? (5, Insightful)

theefer (467185) | about 11 years ago | (#6423504)

Since when is this word part of the capitalist vocabulary ? Doesn't seem to consistant with the ongoing lawsuits, FUD wars, hypocrisy, etc.

Exploiting other company's business model flaws is the basis of the world economy, so let's not be stupid, if they don't want flaws to be exploited, they've better not have flaws in the first place. Too bad, it's too late now.

Re:Respect ? (5, Interesting)

gilesjuk (604902) | about 11 years ago | (#6423562)

Indeed, they would encase the whole PCB in opaque resin or glue the case shut if they wanted the XBox to be a huge secret. They didn't and so they must live with their decision.

Sure the business model is sell for a loss and make back the money on licensing etc.., this just exposes how stupid that business model is. It's being tried on printers and printer ink now, the consumer is getting screwed. Sure printers are affordable, but heavy users of inkjets would sooner pay more for the printer and have cheaper ink.

Abolish Capitalism! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6423677)

Smash the State!
For a Free Humanity!

Re:Respect ? (5, Interesting)

mikewolf (671989) | about 11 years ago | (#6423716)

are you kidding?

this is the same business model that gaming systems have used for years.

it makes perfect sense for video games...

the hardware is expensive, but if you can sell it for cheaper you can triple or quadruple your game sales revenue...

don't think this is some new business strategy that MS through the years, this is standard practice, and it works for gaming systems (otherwise all of the gaming companies would be out of business by now)

it might not make sense for printers, but i'm not sure that i agree with your comment about the ink cartridges, b/c why couldn't you buy generic cartridges and circumvent giving the manufacturer any money back????

Re:Respect ? (0)

rnd() (118781) | about 11 years ago | (#6423797)

Because he would rather complain than figure out an honest and fair solution to his problems.

Re:Respect ? (2, Informative)

dook43 (660162) | about 11 years ago | (#6423570)

There's no flaws in the hardware design of the xbox. There are flaws in the savegame handling of 007: Agent Under Fire (and various other games, not Microsoft's fault) that allows unsigned Linux to be run. As for modchips, you can stick a xilinx PLC in between any parallel bus structure (read bunnie's book) and find out exactly what signals are being sent between the northbridge and the processor. Duplicate those signals, and voila! You have a hacked xbox. As bunnie mentions, however, as a parallel bus gets faster and faster it becomes more difficult to trap signals. Also, you could use a extremely high speed serial bus with undocumented protocols to avoid hacking (I'm seeing data pass by, but where is the start and the end of the bitstream). Something like this is probably better implemented via a custom set of serial-connected chips rather than sending the data between the processor and north bridge (nVidia SPP in this instance) until your fsb frequency can scale beyond 1GHZ+.

Re:Respect ? (3, Funny)

theefer (467185) | about 11 years ago | (#6423629)

It's not a technical flaw. It's a business flaw.

Re:Respect ? (4, Interesting)

alienw (585907) | about 11 years ago | (#6423632)

You do realize the xbox has a place for an LPC header inside? The only thing you have to do to get a modchip in there is to solder in a header into the provided holes and plug in an LPC FlashROM chip on a circuit board. I'd say that's a pretty big flaw.

Re:Respect ? (1)

Troed (102527) | about 11 years ago | (#6423714)

(... and ground D0. It works because it was designed to work that way)

Re:Respect ? (1)

byolinux (535260) | about 11 years ago | (#6423663)

There's also a flaw in MechAssault, which is published by... Microsoft... so it's not just 007.

Re:Respect ? (1)

Trigun (685027) | about 11 years ago | (#6423806)

Soderless/chipless X-box hack right here []

Flaw in dashboard, aslo published by Microsoft, and worse than any savegame hacks.

Re:Respect ? (2, Interesting)

Troed (102527) | about 11 years ago | (#6423695)

Hi. I am one of the Xbox hackers. There are lots of flaws both in the Xbox hardware and the software (in the proprietary chips as well as the BIOS).

Re:Respect ? (2, Insightful)

Sespindola (542253) | about 11 years ago | (#6423576)


IANAL, but it seems to me that the lobbying efforts that companies throughout the world are making in order to save their tecnically inept asses, is sending "fair use" down the drain.

Imagine you buy a Ford, and is stops in the middle of nowhere. And you can't even touch the engine because it could be seen as "modding" it.

Hold on people, we are about to face some rough corporate times.

A more realistic way of putting it, perhaps: (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6423656)

'Microsoft is a company passionate about making money. We are also very committed to forcing others to respect our desire to make money.'

Microsoft-speak is very easy to decode as long as you realize all instances of the word "innovation" mean something wholly other.

MS Needs To Use Their Engineers, Not Lawyers (1)

reallocate (142797) | about 11 years ago | (#6423661)

Thanks for the half-baked economic theory. Where were you when the rest of us were in Econ 101?

This has nothing to do with a "business model" (a vacuous phrase if ever there was one). And it doesn't have anything to do with Microsoft's intellectual property rights.

MS would have a valid point about IP rights if they were selling a book containing the source listings for the X-Box. But, they aren't. The physical manifestation of that code in the X-Box hardware is real property ("real" as in "real estate"), not intellectual property. It's the same for Bill Gate's house. The architect's blueprints are intellectual property, but the house is real property.

So, if MS wants people to stop running some other OS on the X-Box, they should look to their engineers, not their lawyers.

Re:Respect ? (1)

ruiner13 (527499) | about 11 years ago | (#6423702)

Agreed. If Ford decided to start selling the Exploder (Explorer to you) at a big loss for $1000 each hoping to make the money up on broken part replacements and gasoline, and I buy one and buy someone elses gasoline and parts, what would they be able to do? Nothing. Just sit there and take a loss. That is why virtually no business outside of the computer world does this. All I can think of off the top of my head are Ink Jet printers, XBox, and razor blades. Ink Jet printer makers and Microsoft seem to be quick to use the DMCA to stifle competition. I don't think Gillette or Bic would start suing people for making razor blades that happened to fit their razor handle. They'd probably try to make their blades better so no one would want to use the cometitions, or they change their business model.

NKGMFDGDF (-1, Troll)

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heh (5, Interesting)

Wibla (677432) | about 11 years ago | (#6423506)

"We are also very committed to respect for others' intellectual property and we request the same respect applied to our innovations.'" Yea, we've seen some _Very_ good examples of that in the past...

Re:heh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6423514)

they have respect for it. They just buy the companies out and use their technology in house. I guess the BSD portions of the code are a problem area for this statement, but none of that is proven.

Re:heh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6423524)

I guess the BSD portions of the code are a problem area for this statement
Nope. Why should it be?

Re:heh (1)

capnjack41 (560306) | about 11 years ago | (#6423589)

What's their innovation? Letting you play games on PC's, only with really really big controllers?

Re:heh (1)

mrseigen (518390) | about 11 years ago | (#6423664)

No, buying FASA Interactive and driving them into the ground. I am still waiting for a Shadowrun game.

Re:heh (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6423649)

"We are also very committed to respect for others' intellectual property and we request the same respect applied to our innovations.'" Yea, we've seen some _Very_ good examples of that in the past...
I am wondering what they think is so innovative about the X-Box? It's just a PC with chip developed by Intel, a motherboard and graphics processor developed by NVidia and piss-poor security developed by god-knows-who. It is the cheapest possible way for them to get into the market. I honestly can't think of a single thing they've done that could be labelled "innovative".

8====D (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6423508)

i have a penis!!!!

long article? (1, Troll)

squarefish (561836) | about 11 years ago | (#6423512)

you obviously don't read the NY Times very often. many of their articles are 5-6 times that length or longer.

Re:long article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6423522)


Re:long article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6423765)

well, nopass:nopass isn't working anymore so how's anybody supposed to get access?

Not Completely Valid (4, Insightful)

grimani (215677) | about 11 years ago | (#6423515)

I think the P3-733 for 180 comparison is not completely valid.

The XBox is not really extensible like a regular PC. How many PCI slots do you have? How many USB/FireWire ports? As a console, many 'regular' features unnecessary for a console that we take for granted are not included.

This kinda limits the usefulness of the XBox.

It's kinda like those deals on the Dell server machines you can get with some creative configuration and coupon applications.

Sure, you get for $300 a full powered server machine...but it has no AGP slot. So much for gaming...

Are there updated drivers for the XBox video card available at all?

Limited RAM (3, Insightful)

gilesjuk (604902) | about 11 years ago | (#6423545)

64MB is a problem too, yes you can solder on another 64MB if you're skilled enough. But that's a lowly amount of RAM by modern standards.

I like my AGPless dell server (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6423641)

Sure the dual ported pci Geforce4 is a bit slow for games, especally when driving both monitors.

But for ee cad and software development they work great.
Also the ULTA SCSI 320 15K RPM drive helps out quite a bit.

$700 for a dual capable xeon with ultra scsi 320, gigbit either and pci-x still seems like a value, Its aufwully big though.

uhm... (2, Insightful)

FunkyELF (609131) | about 11 years ago | (#6423699)

No PCI slots, why would you need one? You have ethernet and audio. Why would anyone upgrade their video drivers for linux anyway...anyone actually play tuxracer? USB has 4, all of the controllers are misshaped USB controllers. All you need is one adapter and a hub and you're all set.

Ok, so you can't upgrade the RAM, but it has all a 733MHz needs. You think all this limits the usefulness of the XBox...I think its the best thing that ever happened to linux, no hardware compatability issues for xboxlinux because everyone that runs it has the same hardware. Its cheaper than web_tv. People are in the process of turning the xbox into a PVR. I would rather use my xbox on the TV than any other device, its perfect for it...almost like it was made for it or something.

Might be partly valid (1)

MickLinux (579158) | about 11 years ago | (#6423706)

Just looking at this, I can think of something I'd like to do, and it might work.

Suppose I wanted to set up a Virtual Linux server? What I might do is buy one DELL server, 4-5 XBoxes,2 ethernet boxes, and one copy of 007, allowing a modless Linux reboot. That would be a serious system, and expandable, too.

Although 65 MB of RAM isn't a lot, if you don't have a lot of processing to do, then it might be just fine.

Moreover, Microsoft said that they're more focused on mod chips. That being the case, it looks like the modless hack might not be such a bad idea.

My big question, though, would be whether XBOX Linux is up to the task. For example, is there an XBOX GCC? are all the ports well mapped? Ideally, is there an XBOX Debian?

Re:Not Completely Valid (1, Insightful)

jakupovic (258719) | about 11 years ago | (#6423717)

Lest you forget ...
"Some advocates, however, say that while software piracy is illegal and morally offensive, the mere act of modifying hardware should not be illegal. "The most important dimension of this debate from our view is that
people should have the right to tinker with the stuff that they own, " said Fred von Lohmann, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil-liberties group in San Francisco."

Re:Not Completely Valid (4, Informative)

dackroyd (468778) | about 11 years ago | (#6423776)

How many USB/FireWire ports?

Four USB ports. The Xbox controllers are USB devices, just with a different connector. The Xbox-Linux people sell usb-Xbox convertors.

Sure, you get for $300 a full powered server machine...but it has no AGP slot. So much for gaming...

Ex-squeeze me ? It's an nForce motherboard with a builtin GeForce 3 type card (Geforce 3 + a bit extra). So yeah you can't upgrade it to the latest card, but it's more powerful for graphics than 80% of the PCs in use for games today.

Are there updated drivers for the XBox video card available at all?

I believe the standard nVidia linux drivers just work on the XBox.

I would read it.. (0, Offtopic)

miketang16 (585602) | about 11 years ago | (#6423517)

But I'm just a little too lazy to even fill in those few forms. It has to be, click, BAM... story... =)

Re:I would read it.. (2)

billbaggins (156118) | about 11 years ago | (#6423540)

If I'm not greatly mistaken, that's what the (Google [] ) link is for. Try it out, see if it works.

fairly powerful computer for less than $200 (3, Informative)

period3 (94751) | about 11 years ago | (#6423519)

Here []

Re:fairly powerful computer for less than $200 (5, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | about 11 years ago | (#6423551)

Don't troll.

The fact of the matter is that an XBox has
TV-out and excellent graphics and sound cababilities.

Walmart machines do not.

People want to use the XBox as a multimedia center for their living room. A quote from another article related to this one (I refuse to read NYT) said something along the lines of, "the XBox looks excellent next to a TV in your living room, it's more silent than a typical PC, and its small form-factor make it perfect. Not exactly what Bill Gates had envisioned."

Re:fairly powerful computer for less than $200 (2, Informative)

Ian Jefferies (605678) | about 11 years ago | (#6423612)

People want to use the XBox as a multimedia center for their living room. A quote from another article related to this one (I refuse to read NYT) said something along the lines of, "the XBox looks excellent next to a TV in your living room, it's more silent than a typical PC, and its small form-factor make it perfect. Not exactly what Bill Gates had envisioned."

The quote was also in the NYT article, it's from Michael Steil of the Xbox Linux Project.

That the XBox has a small form factor, looks good next to a TV, and doesn't make much noise, is exactly what you want from a device you're going to put near a television. I'm sure Bill Gates saw the device exactly that way.

What wasn't envisioned was the Linux part.


Re:fairly powerful computer for less than $200 (1)

geeber (520231) | about 11 years ago | (#6423665)

Parent doesn't strike me as a troll. The fact is that the XBox is being described as a computer in the NYT times article. A computer is a general purpose machine. In terms of general purpose use, the Walmart machine is propably a better computer, not to mention more powerful (twice as much RAM, heftier CPU). Since the article claims that the XBox is cheapier than a PC, this seems like a statement that bears correcting.

Re:fairly powerful computer for less than $200 (1)

dcstimm (556797) | about 11 years ago | (#6423554)

but that doesnt have a geforce 3 in it... and its ugly, a xbox computer is pretty damn sexy if you ask me...

Re:fairly powerful computer for less than $200 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6423726)

Are there 3D drivers for it yet? Last time i checked it was a 2d video card as far as linux goes.
Might as well be a cheapo intergrated walmart video card.

Re:fairly powerful computer for less than $200 (1)

geeber (520231) | about 11 years ago | (#6423580)

Does anybody else find it funny that the first sentence in the description of the computer, sold on Walmart's website, reads

"Note: Linux operating systems may not be compatible with some dial-up Internet services, such as AOL or Wal-Mart Connect."

Hilarious! You can't by a Walmart computer over the internet with a Walmart computer.

Re:fairly powerful computer for less than $200 (1)

Foogle (35117) | about 11 years ago | (#6423591)

Sure you can. You just can't connect to the Internet using Walmart's ISP.

*sigh* (3, Informative)

tom taylor (610506) | about 11 years ago | (#6423523)

Where else can you get a PIII-733 with graphics and audio for $180?
Oh man, not another thread where we have to go through and total up the components until someone believes that PC prices have actually dropped since the X-box came out! Come on, someone get the calculator out :)

Re:*sigh* (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6423615)

Ok, build me a $180 computer.

It must have at least:
5.1 channel surround sound audio
GeForce 3 graphics
8/10 GB HD
4 USB ports
TV out and support for HDTV
Ethernet jack
1 controller
2 games

I'll ignore the other parts of a computer (such as the power supply) as I'm sure you'll factor those into your equation.

Now, assuming you can find a machine with all of those components for $180, let me know how well it plays games, DVDs, etc. Will it play games with the graphical qualities of Halo, JSRF, or Brute Force? Will I be able to hear such games in 5.1 surround sound? Can I watch DVDs on this machine with my HDTV (after some hacks to enable progressive-scan)? Will the machine be able to pump out DTS surround signals to my reciever like the XBOX can?

I'm not saying you can't build a decent media computer for cheap, but I hardly think you should discount the power and capabilities (both before and after hacking) of the XBOX.

Re:*sigh* (2, Insightful)

FunkyELF (609131) | about 11 years ago | (#6423751)

Agreed...I love my xbox. I love streaming divx from my PC to my xbox in the living room. I love playing emulators on it. I love borrowing games for 10 minutes and ripping them to the 120Gb HD that I put in it. I love how jealous everyone is of my xbox. I think its an awesome bargan for all of that, but everyone is saying $180 without including the price of the modchipo. Also....I don't think this graphics issue is completely valid for one reason alone. Yes is has awesome graphics on the TV but you have to realize that it is running at TV resolution. I'm sure my Geforce2 Ultra would kick its ass in comparable games if I ran it at 640x480 (which AFAIK is more than TV)

Re:*sigh* (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6423792)

When connected to a standard-definition TV set, the XBOX renders the graphics at either 640x480 or 720x480. The machine can do either, and it's up to the software programmers to choose.

However, the fact that it supports high-def modes, up to 1080i (again, depending on the software [game] that supports it and that you have a display device [HDTV] that supports it), makes it a fairly good graphical powerhouse.

Sure, a new Radeon would look so much sharper running at 1600x1200 with 16xFSAA, but we're talking consoles (and apparently ecenomics) here.

We're not hacking. (5, Funny)

mikeophile (647318) | about 11 years ago | (#6423526)

We're embracing and extending the XBox.

Re:We're not hacking. (1)

borgdows (599861) | about 11 years ago | (#6423607)

When are you planning to launch the 3rd phase (eliminate) ? =)

Slashdot (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6423527)

..where stealing is ok as long as it's not GPL'd.

Huh? (3, Insightful)

Realistic_Dragon (655151) | about 11 years ago | (#6423529)

I thought that the XBox selling costs covered variable costs (ie the parts in the box), and so even if it doesn't entirley cover the fixed costs (ie the factory) at low volume it will do eventually when enough units have been shipped has been reached?

If this is the case then XBox Linux helps MS by raising the volumes (not to mention giving them better sales figures to lie about to their game makers).

If of course they are selling below variable cost then well, count me in for loads of the things - I have no problems attempting to bankrupt the swine who injected cash into SCO to prolong their litigation.

Re:Huh? (2, Interesting)

provolt (54870) | about 11 years ago | (#6423601)

If of course they are selling below variable cost then well, count me in for loads of the things - I have no problems attempting to bankrupt the swine who injected cash into SCO to prolong their litigation.

While I agree that MS isn't my favorite company, I'm pretty sure that them selling a couple thousand XBoxes at a loss is not going to bankrupt Microsoft. The fact is most people buy games and MS makes some money. A bunch of people running linux on XBox won't change those numbers. If it was going to, they would raise the price or stop seling the XBox. You can say whatever you want to about MS (I think they suck), but they understand business and they know how to make a buck.

Re:Huh? (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 11 years ago | (#6423728)

It was my impression that the XBox costs MS $320 to produce (all costs). I could find no breakdown of the costs, but at any rate, MS has been trying to lower the manufacturing costs by selecting a second manufacturer [] . The article would make it seem that the factory costs were variable if they went to a second manufacturer.

As for parts costs, MS does have some leeway with their suppliers. As CPU prices drop, MS could possibly negotiate for a better price from Intel, but they've already pissed off nVidia [] .

You are right that more XBox sales would help MS with bragging rights with game makers. The latest MS financial reports [] probably have undermined any clout that might have had. The XBox division lost $180 million last year and $348 million this year. Game makers know that MS needs them and not the other way around. What I don't know is what kind of terms MS gives game makers. It can't be all that lucrative as hordes of game makers have not released games for XBox. At E3, MS announced many new titles but most of them were from companies owned by MS.

Bottom line is that MS cannot continue on it's course without lossing a ton of money. Hacking the XBox only hurts their bottom line further.

What about... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6423530)

Digital Millennium Copyright Act
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Creativity? (4, Insightful)

DragonMagic (170846) | about 11 years ago | (#6423535)


They're all for innovation and creativity... but you should respect their own...

Yet you can't innovate or create new items with their hardware that you PURCHASE, because they won't respect YOUR innovation and creativity.

Sounds like they want their cake and to eat it, too.

Re:Creativity? (2, Interesting)

mrBoB (63135) | about 11 years ago | (#6423563)

No no... remember that EULA you read and agreed to before opening the box? They are just licensing the right to _use_ the Xbox to you! BAH.

Re:Creativity? [OT] (1)

Pyrometer (106089) | about 11 years ago | (#6423671)

Sounds like they want their cake and to eat it, too

I am fucking sick of hearing this stupid saying (who knows the roots of it?). If I buy a cake what the fuck else am I going to do with it ... keep it on display for some ants to get a free feed ... OFF COURSE I AM GOING TO EAT IT!

Ahhhh that feels better ... another day ... another rant completley unreleated to the topic ... my job as a /. boob is done for another day :)

only compelling reason to buy one... (1)

another misanthrope (688068) | about 11 years ago | (#6423536)

...for me is the the features that the hacks offer. I don't own one but I've been looking into the hacks after learning about them. Streaming video and music over ethernet, dvds, vcds, not to mention the standard xbox offerings. I still haven't made the plunge but I'm strongly considering cleaning some space for one next to the big TV. Now if MS looses money on me (I will buy games, but probably only a few) that just makes it even sweeter!

If they are committed to other's innovation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6423543)

...tell them to stop messing things up with their SCO endeavours!

I get it now. (2, Insightful)

Rosyna (80334) | about 11 years ago | (#6423544)

Microsoft is pressing charges against people that blatently point out their flawed business plan. When other companies sell "at a loss" it does mean they actually lose money, just that they don't get enough profit from it to make it worth it.

And you know because it's MS they've never be able to fix all the exploitable (security) holes in the XBox.

Umm @ Wal-Mart? (3, Interesting)

nurb432 (527695) | about 11 years ago | (#6423556)

You can get a whitebox for $200... Perhaps not *quite* as powerful, but close enough.. AND you get ports.. and no silly mods needed to run what ever you want..

Re:Umm @ Wal-Mart? (1)

AdEbh (468372) | about 11 years ago | (#6423753)

What about all those countries that don't have WalMart (thank god!)?

As the article said computers are more expensive in Europe and other places. That's where the difference between the price of an XBox & a white clone makes the XBox a tempting choice.

- Alex

Re:Umm @ Wal-Mart? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 11 years ago | (#6423786)

Ah but you will be assimilated... why resist? Eventually there will only be 3 companies left standing .. Microsoft, Wal-mart and TimeWarner.. Heh.

whatever, it is for the ability to say you did it (5, Insightful)

AssFace (118098) | about 11 years ago | (#6423557)

To claim that they are doing it for price is a bit off. The people do it so that they can feel in some way they have gotten away with something. They are told that they shouldn't, then they do, and they gain bragging rights. They gain a tiny amount of control in a world that has little of it for the average perosn - they are briefly a David to the Goliath of Microsoft. The money isn't an issue.

True, to get a PIII 733, a NVidia graphics card, etc etc for $200 is a good deal at first glance I suppose.
Were I in the States, I could go to pricewatch and order me up some parts.
PIII 733 by itself is $67, you figure you still need a motherboard and case, that is easily another $80 at least, and then you need the graphics card...

But looking again, you can get a PIII 1G and the motherboard as a combo for $65.
You can get a case for about $30. You can get the video card for about $80.
So a better system for cheaper... and the thing is, that is only if you are still looking for the PIII, if you stepped up to an Athlon XP, you would then get far more processing power, and you would only be spending a little more.

Granted, that doesn't help you if you have no clue how to put together a system, and you only have $200... but I have a feeling the type of person willing to hack a perfectly good game system, and then run Linux on it, is going to be able to put together a computer system on their own.

In the end, I think the monetary reasons for hacking are non-existant, aside from those bad at math.
It is the fun factor and the thumb-your-nose-at-MS factor.

Form Factor (3, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | about 11 years ago | (#6423579)

its a bit more then 'because I can'.

The Xbox is designed to 'fit in' to the entertainment center..

Getting a pc small enough to 'fit in' would cost more then the average white box..

And if its JUST for use for video/dvd.. why bother with building something that sticks out like a sore thumb anyway

Re:Form Factor (1)

AssFace (118098) | about 11 years ago | (#6423602)

There are plenty of form factor cases out there that are half the size of an XBox - and they will hold a P4 and more.

It isn't like the XBox burns DVDs - the players are cheap these days.

The money aspect just doesn't cut it in the end - if you wanted a faster, better, small, DVD playing Linux box, then get the Ice Cube off of thinkgeek, throw in an HD, your DVD player, and whatever graphics card you want.

Sure instead of $180 it will cose about $380 - but it will be newer and faster.

If you are using the agrument that the XBox looks better, then your design sense is interesting at best.

Re:Form Factor (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 11 years ago | (#6423676)

My premise was cost.. i know you can get small PCs.. Just not at the cost of a prebuilt Xbox.

Hell you can get them even smaller if you want to pay the price..

And why do you need 'better,faster' if what you have does the job? In my cast it would just be to play audio and movies.. i could care less about gaming.

For this reason ive not got one yet.. what i have now works.. when it breaks ill get something else..

Not pushing microsoft stuff, but it is cheap, compact.. and does the job..

Re:Form Factor (2, Informative)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | about 11 years ago | (#6423768)

But XBox isn't a quality DVD player either. But then, there aren't any really good DVD player programs as they only read the DVD's progressive flags, they just weave or bob. Weave often gives you combing, and bob simply blurs the image on a bad flag or a video sourced image.

For $200 one can get a real DVD player that reads 3:2 pull-down cadence and fixes it in real time. Or for $80 you can get a real interlaced DVD player that can at least read problem discs better and have better MPEG decoding.

I did build an HTPC too. There are a lot of good looking computer cases, some are even indistinguishable from standard consumer A/V hardware. Sure, they cost more, but it's well worth it. Besides, I don't like the XBox appearance, but the same goes for most consoles, except maybe the upcomming "PSX".

Re:whatever, it is for the ability to say you did (2, Interesting)

bucky0 (229117) | about 11 years ago | (#6423584)

That situation sounds good, except you need to throw in a DVD drive and a harddrive. Also, whatever motherboard you have is going to be pretty old and not have an ethernet controller or decent sound. You'll probably need a scan converter to hook your vga output to your monitor too.

I think it's silly for people to spend so much effort on a non-upgradable box(except the HD) but the money issue is there, and they want to, so let them play :)

Re:whatever, it is for the ability to say you did (2, Insightful)

Sheetrock (152993) | about 11 years ago | (#6423592)

Then, there's also the point that a good number of people who are buying it for hackery purposes are also going to go and buy X-Box licensed games. Why not; you've got the console anyway and geeks like games.

This hard-nosed approach is a clever marketing move to play you X-Box hackers for rubes, I think. Not that it's like it's a bad thing to be taken advantage of this way; X-Box has a superior lineup of games and better hardware than the other systems out there anyway.

Re:whatever, it is for the ability to say you did (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6423604)

As the quote on the last page of the article says, the Xbox is also quieter and smaller than a PC, which makes it ideal for a living room media player. Obviously the Xbox must have some convenience advantages over a PC or MS wouldn't be selling them in the first place.

Re:whatever, it is for the ability to say you did (1)

imnoteddy (568836) | about 11 years ago | (#6423725)

But looking again, you can get a PIII 1G and the motherboard as a combo for $65. You can get a case for about $30. You can get the video card for about $80. So a better system for cheaper

You left out the CD/DVD reader - which the XBOX has - that pushes your homebrew box over the $200 mark.

Re:whatever, it is for the ability to say you did (1)

aardwolf204 (630780) | about 11 years ago | (#6423785)

Less you forget, you'll need:

Hard Disk $32
Memory: $22
DVD-ROM: $29
K & M: $10

Add that to your:

P3 733: $67
P3 Mobo: $25
Video: $44
Case&PSU: $22

Total: $251

Compare that to an Xbox at $180 or even just for fun, an Mini-ATX nForce2 IGP (Integrated Geforce Video, TV Out, Sound, NIC) + an Athlon XP 1700 for $125 and you've got yourself an even better box for less.

Why hassle with an XBox? (3, Insightful)

Greyjack (24290) | about 11 years ago | (#6423572)

If all you want is a cheap PC, just get this [] instead. Useable PC for $200, including keyboard, mouse, & speakers. Hell, they'll even ship you one with Linux (Lycoris) on it for the same price.

Granted, it doesn't quite have the same graphics horsepower, but hey, it's cheap!

Reality Czech (4, Insightful)

Asprin (545477) | about 11 years ago | (#6423573)

They are requesting respect for their innovations, huh?

IIRC, the whole idea was to take existing off-the-shelf PC parts that used an existing PC architecture and put them in a box that could easily mass produced with a very short time-to-market and an OS that allowed existing developers to leverage their existing skills.

Hmmm... That sounds familiar... now where have I heard that before?

Oh, of course! That's what made BG a gazillionaire in the first place! []

I'm not against MS wanting to control a closed platform they developed, but I am insulted by their insistance that this is an IP issue. It's not an IP issue, it's a PP (physical property) issue. If they don't like people voiding the warranties on their hardware, they should have made their CDs spin backwards like Nintendo.

Re:Reality Czech (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 11 years ago | (#6423730)

Well what I think that Microsoft doesn't get. That other people in retail do get. People want to find new ways of using any product beyond the ordinary specifications. This why people use screwdrivers as a file, or as a lever, although this may break the screwdriver, people will try it anyways because they dont want to pay for an other tool for a small job. Computer and software are tools just like a screwdriver. This fact is why a lot of people are stopping from using Microsoft products and switching to Linux, It is cheaper and you can do things beyond the normal spec. This is true with the X box and with Windows. Sometimes you will have to let your customers make do stupid things with your product in the chance they can do something ingenious.

Microsoft at it again. (4, Funny)

Penguin2212 (173380) | about 11 years ago | (#6423577)

"Microsoft is a company passionate about innovation and creativity. We are also very committed to respect for others' intellectual property and we request the same respect applied to our innovations."

My response to quote, "How long have you worked for Microsoft?"

let's see.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6423590)

> to respect for others' intellectual property and we request the same respect applied to our innovations.

Every version of winders I have installed on *my* computers walked all over the boot record. This is respect? I had no interest in hacking one of these, but after an asine statement (yes, it is double plus good) like this, I believe I will look into doing so.

Microsoft's business model is flawed. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6423598)

Microsoft's (and other console makers) business model depends on the stupidity (if lack of technical ability can be classified as such) of the average end user.

Give them the razor, sell them the blades. -- Only good so long as the customer is unable to figure out how to package cheap blades into a compatible shaving receptacle. From there it's no profit for Gillete.

So, where's the loss? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6423600)

All evidence I've seen regarding Microsoft 'losing money on the X-Box' is related to dolts who think they can go to and figure out what an X-Box costs to produce.

Hey - jackasses - you're not Microsoft, and you're not purchasing millions of bits of hardware at a time. You aren't getting bulk discounts. You aren't making deals.

Anyone have any actual evidence that Microsoft loses money on each X-Box?

"My friend's second cousin's husband's acquaintance works for.." isn't evidence.

Re:So, where's the loss? (2, Insightful)

Troed (102527) | about 11 years ago | (#6423705)

Yes. People who _work_ with analyzing these kind of things say that Microsoft lost money on the xbox back when it was $299. Parts have gotten cheaper (but not by much since they're special made now when they're old). Best estimates say that MS is still losing ~$100 on every Xbox.

You could probably dig up a few links yourself if you're really interested.

(There's also a popular myth saying _everything_ loses money on the hardware and gain it back on the software. It's wrong. Sony and Nintendo are both making money on the hardware as well)

Solution for Bill Gates (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6423608)

Microsoft must include a clause in the Xbox "EULA" that when purchased you _must_ buy 3 Xbox games at full price in order to ensure M$FT gets its profit.

Oh is that a buisness model? (2, Insightful)

CrazyJim0 (324487) | about 11 years ago | (#6423610)

Sounds like a monopoly trying to flood the market with cheaper goods to kill off the competition.

Its actually the #1 reason monopolies should be controlled.

Is anyone awake out there, or have we lost our rights?

DMCA does not outlaw modschips (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6423617)

If the PRIMARY purpose of modchips is to install linux (not circumvent copyright protection of games) then the DMCA is not violated.

All you need to rent your right to make modchips is money for a good attorney.

Who needs a modchip? (2, Informative)

Trigun (685027) | about 11 years ago | (#6423784)

From Full Disclosure:
Clickable link [] e/ 2003-July/010895.html

For an unknown reason this check is not performed on the audio (.wav) and font (.xtf) files. Unfourtunately for Microsoft there exists an exploitable integer underflow vulnerabilitiy within the font file loader which can be exploited with a malformed font file. When the XTF header is processed the dashboards reads a 4 byte blocksize field from the font file. This is expected to represent the size of some datablock including the 4 bytes of the size field itself. The blocksize is then allocated and the sizefield is copied into the beginning of the buffer. This is already a possible overflow bug when the field contains the values 0..3. Due to memory alignment this is not exploitable. But then the blocksize is decreased by 4 because the dashboard wants to read the rest of the block into memory. Obviously values of 0..3 will underflow when decreased by 4 and this results in the dashboard wanting to read up to ~4 gigabytes of data from the font file in a f.e. 3 bytes buffer.
Because the XBOX malloc()/free() implementation is also storing control information inbound and is similiar to the Windows 2000/XP heap allocators this bug is exploitable and allows execution of arbitrary code. The attached proof of concept code shows that exploiting is possible with offsets that are equal on all dashboards and XBOX versions known.

MS has been convicted for IP theft in France (4, Interesting)

Homology (639438) | about 11 years ago | (#6423620)

If MS respected other companies IP so much, why the following : (

As an example, the condemnation by the Commercial Court of Nanterre, France, on 27th September 2001 of Microsoft Corp. to a penalty of 3 million francs in damages and interest, for violation of intellectual property (piracy, to use the unfortunate term that your firm commonly uses in its publicity).

The link is to an english translation of the response by the Peruean congressman Edgar Villanueva to US pressure to abandon open source plans.

Respect for their innovations.. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6423625)

Fine Fine .. we won't copy Microsoft Bob.


Best quote, indeed. (2, Insightful)

HisMother (413313) | about 11 years ago | (#6423631)

> Microsoft is a company passionate about innovation and creativity
Yep, sure. As long as their customers aren't being innovative or creative, they're cool. Big Bro... I mean Microsoft retains that right for himself alone.

Just because... (2, Troll)

twoslice (457793) | about 11 years ago | (#6423633)

That is where we want to go today!

Huh? (1)

BasharTeg (71923) | about 11 years ago | (#6423636)

"Where else can you get a PIII-733 with graphics and audio for $180?"

Right here:

Google hacks Xboxs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6423639)

"The New York Times has a long article on Xbox hacking, why Microsoft hates it, and who does it (Google)"

So now they're saying Google hacks Xboxs.. isn't that a bit of a sideline from the search engine business, or perhaps they're replacing their cheap PC farms with even cheaper Xbox farms ;-)

windows on the xbox? (3, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 11 years ago | (#6423647)

It might sound stupid, but has anyone tried putting windows on the Xbox? I realize running linux is a slap in the face to Bill Gates, but wouldn't running his own OS be much more useful to the majority of people? The only reason i can think of for not doing this is the limited RAM on the Xbox. It'd be interesting even to see a proof of concept.

please don't flame

interesting.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6423650)

Well, if microsoft doesn't take legal action soon... bu the time a linux cd is being sold, it will be too late....

I beleive it is stated within the copyright laws... it's a form of neglect... if you don't use them, you lose them.

i know where (1)

b17bmbr (608864) | about 11 years ago | (#6423669)

Where else can you get a PIII-733 with graphics and audio for $180?

um, i don't know, ebay?

Repercussions for Xbox Live (4, Informative)

vjzuylen (91983) | about 11 years ago | (#6423708)

The EFF's Fred von Lohmann made an interesting point in the article:

"Others will say that this is about piracy and all that, but they forget that the principle of tinkering with the stuff that you own was the principle on which the entire personal computer industry was founded," he added. "This is basic business and basic science in the technology world and we think that this right to tinker, this freedom to tinker, remains legally protected."

While I certainly believe in the right to tinker with an Xbox you paid for and use by yourself, I see a shady area when it comes to interaction with other (unmodified) Xboxes - like on Xbox Live. I'm talking about cheating here, but I think the same can be applied to use of compromised software in an online environment.

Online PC games have been plagued by cheating players since day one, because of the ease with which their client software can be modified. Xbox Live does not have this problem yet (so far cheaters have been exploiting existing flaws in Xbox games), but I fear this will not last for much longer if easy, modchip-less Xbox hacks become commonplace.

Which brings me to my point: just how far should your right to tinker extend? What if it interferes with my enjoyment of the product? Especially since I paid for the product too, and I'm using it for its intended purposes while you're not?

This is one of the main concerns of many Xbox Live users like myself, and I haven't seen this issue addressed properly by either the media or the Xbox hackers. Can anyone enlighten me? How do Xbox hackers feel about this matter? Are they taking it into consideration?

The Xbox runs off a celeron processor (2, Informative)

kungfujew (682569) | about 11 years ago | (#6423756)

According to Linux Journal, the xbox runs off a celeron processor. I also highly doubt microsoft is still taking a loss on manufacturing these things... the cost of hardware has been halfed since microsoft first introduced the system.

Microsoft Losing Profit on Xbox's (1, Insightful)

UnkyHerb (12862) | about 11 years ago | (#6423780)

Everyone always complains how Microsoft loses money on their xbox's and how their plan was to make the money off of the software. That's great but who cares what was in their plan, it's hardware, I'll do what I want with it. If they aren't making money, then maybe they should charge $500 for a box and make even less money. Who really cares what their plan is?

Again I say, "Innovation"? (2, Troll)

Trolling4Dollars (627073) | about 11 years ago | (#6423816)

Microsoft sure has a funny way of looking at innovation. The original meaning of innovation is to take something that already exists and to find a new use for it. This is NOT what Microsoft does. They take something that already exists and use it in exactly the same way that someone else does or plans to and then renames it. (cough! Indrema) They've done this over and over, yet they claim to innovate. If they had it their way, they'd claim they invented the GUI too...
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