Monsuco's Blog

Thursday, January 26, 2006



Well, I have decided to purchase a second Xbox (an original, not a 360) and run Xbox-Linux on it. If anyone has done this before, I would of course appreciate their help. I have been curious in Linux for a while. Running it on an Xbox should work, but there is one thing to note about the Xbox, it has very weak hardware by today's standards. It has the following specs:
64 MB of RAM that is built into the motherboard
8 GB of hard drive space (newer models come with 10 GB, but the extra 2 GB is normally not used)
Pentium 3 processor
DVD Drive with a modified power supply(some are fairly picky about running CD-Rs, CD-RWs, DVD-Rs, or DVD-RW's)
An Ethernet port for use with LAN games or Live.
4 USB 1.1 ports (the controller ports may not look a thing like USB ports at first glance, but take a closer look, they are simply modified to look different and they have one extra wire.)

I know that there is a version of Linux called Damn Small Linux that has very low system requirements. Here are the requirements that DSL needs to run:
8 MB RAM to run at all, 16 to run without having to immediately draw from the hard disk virtual memory to run the OS. (To put this in perspective, the new version of Windows, Vista, is expected to need 512 to run without immediately using virtual memory.)
50 MB of HD space (I know Windows usually can take anywhere from 500-2,000 MB hard drive space)
A compatible processor, almost any Intel or AMD runs well.
A CD drive is normally required, but I will use a flash stick instead.

Now, MS didn't want you to be able to run Linux on your box, so they put a mix between ROM and Flash that runs at startup that prevents your Xbox from running anything that isn't either:
1. Music
2. Games that have been digitally signed by MS
3. DVDs

A Linux installer is non of these. Thus, there are two ways to put Linux on a box:
1. The first method is the hardware method. With it, you solder a mod chip onto the motherboard that allows the Xbox to run any unsigned code. This method is legal, but you can do illegal things, such as copying games that you rented or were lent to you onto your hard drive. The biggest advantage of "hardmodding" to run Linux is you can add more hard drive space on to the box. I don't know how to solder, so I won't use this method.
2. The second method is the software method. Although you can't run a Linux installer CD ad bootup due to the unsigned code ban, some of MS's games allowed you to save your profile to a memory card. A memory card was basically a modified flash drive. The controller it plugged into used a modified USB hub to split the connection. With some games, most notably Mech Assault, MS forgot to stop the games from loading and executing unsigned code. The box sees games as safe, so it will run code from them. You can take a copy of Mech Assault and either by modifying a controller into being flash drive compatible, or by purchasing a MS Xbox USB adapter for use with the Phantisy Star Online Keyboard, you can put a "save game" on a flash drive that is really a Linux installer. When mech assault sees it, it will mistake the executable code for a save game and run it. This method is called a "Softmod" because no modifying of the Xbox is needed. I will use this method. Also, you can still use the Xbox for games, but it will no longer run on Xbox live which can detect and ban modified Xboxes. It is also legal. The only problem is, I cannot replace the hard drive.

I plan on buying an old Xbox, 4 USB adapters (or maybe one with a hub if it is cheaper, or if it is cheaper, four controllers and four USB extending cords and I will make my own.), I may not be able to use my regular flash drives, so I may need to buy a new one of those as well, a USB mouse (or if cheaper, a regular, 3 button ball mouse with a USB adapter), and a PSO keyboard.

Any tips would be appreciated.

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