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Hacking The Xbox

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A presentation I gave many moons ago to my local Linux Users Group on how to hack the original Microsoft Xbox. Mostly of historical interest today but maybe you ran across a cheap used Xbox at a …

A presentation I gave many moons ago to my local Linux Users Group on how to hack the original Microsoft Xbox. Mostly of historical interest today but maybe you ran across a cheap used Xbox at a garage sale somewhere and want to be able to do something neat with it.

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  • 1. Hacking the Xbox By Donald Burr <dburr@sblug.com>
  • 2. What We’ll Discuss
    • What is an Xbox?
    • What can you do with a hacked Xbox?
      • Upgrade hard drive
      • Back up games onto hard drive
      • Emulators
      • Media players/media center
      • Linux
    • How to hack the Xbox
      • Hardware vs. software hacks
    • Running Linux on a hacked Xbox
  • 3. What is an Xbox?
    • Video game console marketed by Microsoft
      • Introduced in Fall 2001.
    • Basically an embedded PC.
      • Pentium III Celeron @ 733 MHz
      • 64 MB DDR RAM
      • 8 GB hard drive
      • DVD-ROM drive
      • 10/100 Ethernet
      • 4 x USB 1.1 ports
      • NVIDIA NV2X custom graphics chip (Roughly equivalent to a GeForce 3 MX)
      • OS based on Windows 2000
    • You get all of this for $150 ($110 or lower if used)
  • 4. Opening the Xbox
  • 5. The Innards Exposed!
  • 6. The motherboard itself
  • 7. Backside of motherboard
  • 8. Why do you need to hack it?
    • If it’s basically like a PC, then why can’t you just toss in a Linux disk or whatever?
    • It’s because of the Microsoft BIOS (TSOP)
      • It will only run “signed” software
        • Public key cryptography
    • You need to get around this in order to run third party (“unsigned” software)
      • Unless you have the Microsoft Xbox SDK, which can generate signed code…
  • 9. What can you do with a hacked Xbox?
    • Play games made for other regions (Europe, Japan, etc.)
    • Play DVD’s made for other regions (Region-Free DVD player)
    • Back up games onto the internal HD and play them from the HD
      • No more lost/broken game CD’s
      • Doesn’t work with Xbox Live games – you still need the original CD for those
  • 10. More hacked Xbox tricks
    • Emulators
      • Atari, C-64, Arcade machines (MAME), PlayStation, ADAM, Apple ][, N64, SNES, GameBoy, and many, many, many more
    • Media Players and Media Center
      • Xbox Media Center (XBMC)
      • Plays audio and video file formats
      • Network aware (can stream content from a server)
    • And, of course, you can run Linux on it!
    • More applications being made every day
  • 11. Caveat Hacker!!! (The Disclaimer of Doom)
    • Strictly speaking, hacking/modding your Xbox is ILLEGAL
      • Thanks to that lovely piece of legislation we know and love (NOT!), the DMCA
      • The Xbox BIOS can be seen as a “digital encryption device”
        • And according to the DMCA, circumventing such a device is illegal
    • That having been said, I have NOT heard of any cases where individuals were prosecuted
      • Microsoft has gone after some companies that sell mod chips, however no individuals who have bought modchips have been prosecuted.
  • 12. More Disclaimers
    • Neither I, nor SBLUG, can or will be held responsible if you screw up, destroy, or maim yourself or your Xbox
      • Remember, you ARE voiding your warranty!
    • Nor can we be held responsible if anyone takes legal action against you
      • However, both we and the Xbox community think that this is highly unlikely.
  • 13. Fight for your Rights!
    • This is an excellent example of “Fair Use” and why we should fight to protect our Fair Use rights.
    • See the EFF for more info and to get involved
      • http://www.eff.org/
    • Another VERY IMPORTANT new law that WILL affect things like this – The INDUCE Act
      • So important, it deserves its own slide
  • 14. The INDUCE Act
    • This all stems from the Sony v. Universal Supreme Court decision ruled in 1984
      • Universal sued Sony over the Betamax VCR – because it could be used to copy/pirate movies
      • Sony argued that VCR’s have legitimate uses and so shouldn’t be banned
      • The Supreme Court agreed in this landmark decision
    • However, this ruling is now being threatened by Big Media
  • 15. How does this affect me?
    • It’s a matter of legal precedent
      • The Betamax decision set the precedent that allowed the development of other digital devices
        • iPods
        • TiVO/ReplayTV
        • CD and DVD burners
        • Computers
        • And yes, hacked Xboxen too…
      • Big Media doesn’t like this!
        • They want to control what content you can get, and how you can use it
        • This would effectively stifle technical innovation and Open Source projects under a mass of legal red tape
    • Fight the Power!!!
  • 16. Hacking the Xbox
    • Two methods
      • Software hacking
      • Hardware hacking
    • Which one you use depends on several factors
      • Vintage of your Xbox
      • Your skills at soldering
      • Availability of software hacks/exploits
      • How daring you are
  • 17. Software hacking
    • The easiest hacking method
    • Requires no additional tools (except for the software that the exploit needs). No disassembly required.
    • Typical hacker stuff – exploiting vulnerabilities, buffer overflows, etc. in software (games) to get the Xbox to run your own code
    • Problem is, with the latest OS upgrades (esp. Xbox Live!), they have patched a lot of these vulnerabilities.
      • So they only work with older/unpatched Xboxes and software.
      • You’ll have to resort to hardware hacking instead…
  • 18. Some example software exploits
    • Splinter Cell save-game exploit
    • MechAssault Audio Exploit
    • Bert + Ernie Font Exploit
    • Many more
  • 19. Hardware hacking
    • Works where software hacking doesn’t
    • Hardware hacking requires a “mod chip”
    • Mod chips available for all Xbox versions
      • Even those where software hacking doesn’t work
    • Some assembly required
    • Requires you to open the Xbox
      • Hence voids your warranty.
    • Some soldering is required for new Xboxes
    • Special precautions required when using Xbox Live
  • 20. Some terminology
    • TSOP
      • The Xbox’s built in BIOS
      • Does not allow third party/unsigned software to run
    • LPC
      • Low Pin Count – a sort of “bus” that mod chips hook into
    • D0 pin
      • A pin on the motherboard that is used by a mod chip to “interrupt” the normal booting of the Xbox, to insert its own BIOS in place of the standard Xbox TSOP BIOS.
  • 21. How it Works
    • Normally the Xbox runs the code in TSOP when it is turned on
    • Mod chip triggers the D0 line, interrupts the normal boot, and runs the code on the mod chip
    • Mod chip contains a flash memory chip that you can flash your own BIOSes on
      • 1 MB = 4 x 256K BIOSes
    • Mod chip allows you to select from any of these BIOSes, or boot the standard Xbox TSOP.
  • 22. Types of BIOSes
    • TSOP
      • Original Microsoft BIOS on motherboard
      • Only runs signed code
      • Required for Xbox Live
        • Live checks BIOS checksum when logging in
        • If it doesn’t match, your Xbox is BANNED from Live
        • You can buy an EEPROM code that can un-ban your Xbox, but that is a risky proposition
  • 23. More BIOSes
    • EvoX BIOS
      • A hacked version of the Microsoft BIOS (TSOP)
      • Removes the encryption check
        • Allows signed and unsigned code to run
      • Lets you play standard Xbox games as well as other software (Linux, emulators, Media Center, etc.)
      • WILL NOT work with Xbox Live (fails the checksum test)
        • You WILL get banned!!!
  • 24. Yet Another BIOS
    • “Cromwell” BIOS
      • Completely engineered from scratch
      • More or less like a standard PC BIOS
      • Will NOT run standard Xbox software, signed or unsigned
      • Used for booting and running Linux ONLY
      • Only use if you intend to dedicate your Xbox to Linux
  • 25. Mod chips
    • There are many mod chips out there
      • Xecutor
      • Xenium
      • Chameleon
      • SmartXX
      • X-Chip
      • And a whole bunch of others
  • 26. I went with the Xenium
    • Xenium ICE is my recommendation
      • Solderless (unless you have a 1.6 Xbox)
      • No DIP switches – everything is software programmable
      • 1 MB BIOS chip
        • Allows you to flash up to 4 x 256K BIOSes
      • Easy to use, menu driven interface
      • Software protection against accidental “bad flashes”
      • Only mod chip out there now that works with v1.6 Xboxes
  • 27. What you get Solderless kit LED display connector Pin header for motherboard Mod chip USB port converter LED display
  • 28. How to install it
    • You have to download the instructions!!
      • http://www.xbox-scene.com/
    • For V1.0-1.5
      • Remove solder from LPC points (if v1.0)
      • Install rivets (optional)
      • Seat solderless adapter
      • Insert D0 wire into D0 point
      • Seat Xenium chip on solderless adapter
    • Installation for v1.6 Xboxes is a bit more involved, and requires soldering
  • 29. Installing on a v1.6 Xbox
    • Rebuild the LPC port (if you have a V1.6 Xbox)
    • Install the pin header in the LPC port
    • Seat the Xenium chip on the pin header
    • Solder wire from D0 point on motherboard on D0 point on Xenium
  • 30. The LPC port
  • 31. Rebuilding the LPC port
  • 32. Installing Xenium and D0 wire
  • 33. Modchip Installed… Now What?
    • Time to go software hunting!
    • Go to EFnet IRC channel #xbins
      • Good EFnet server – irc.umich.edu port 6667
    • /msg xbins !list
    • Follow the directions
    • Bookmark that IRC site
      • You WILL need to go back there and do the “/msg xbins !list” if you want to FTP stuff in the future
  • 34. What should I get?
    • EvoX hacked BIOS
    • Slayer’s EvoX Install Disk
      • The “Knoppix” of Xbox modders
      • One disk that contains the “best of the best” in Xbox software
      • Makes it very easy to install
    • A Linux distribution
      • GentooX is easiest to install
      • Xebian takes a bit more effort to install
  • 35. First, install the BIOS
    • Boot your newly modded Xbox
      • Xenium OS menu should appear
      • If nothing happens, or the Xbox light flashes red, check your connections!
    • Now we need to find a way to get the BIOS file onto the Xbox
      • Xenium OS has a built in FTP server
        • FTP the BIOS file onto the internal hard drive
      • Or you can burn a CD or DVD with the BIOS file on it
      • Or, easiest yet, whip out your USB pen drive!
    • Use the Xenium menu to add an entry for the new BIOS
      • Might as well add an entry for the default BIOS (TSOP) too
  • 36. Slayers EvoX Install
    • Burn it to a CD or DVD
    • Boot your modded Xbox with the hacked BIOS, with this disk in the drive
    • Follow the on screen prompts
    • If you want to upgrade your Xbox’s hard drive, do this now!!
      • SAVE YOUR ORIGINAL HARD DRIVE – you may need it!
  • 37. It’s time for some demos! First, the non-Linux software (but it’s still Open Source!)
  • 38. Installing Linux
    • Get the Linux BIOS file onto the Xbox (same procedure as with getting the EvoX BIOS on there)
    • Burn the install disk
    • Boot install disk using the Linux BIOS
    • Follow the directions
    • If you can’t see the screen, you can continue the install by SSH’ing into the box
  • 39. About Keyboards and Mice
    • If you intend to use your Xbox as a Linux console, you will need an adapter to plug in a USB keyboard and mouse.
    • Xenium ICE kit comes with one
    • Also one is available from Microsoft for free (+$6.95 shipping/handling)
    • Xbox controller can be used as a mouse-like device, but it’s not good for fine grained cursor control.
    • If you’d rather use a PC monitor instead of a TV, there are Xbox VGA converter boxes.
      • Check here – http://www.lik-sang.com/
  • 40. And now some Linux demos Cool things you can do with Linux on an Xbox
  • 41. Some Final Notes
    • Xboxen tend to be rather picky about the burned media that they can read
      • Some Xboxes don’t work with CD-R’s, but work fine with CD-RW’s
      • There are even some Xboxes that work with only specific brands of media
      • If CD media doesn’t work, try DVD media.
        • Use –RW’s to avoid burning through blank disks
        • Forget about –RAM, no Xbox will support it
    • If your burn doesn’t seem to work, keep trying!
  • 42. For More Information
    • Xbox Scene
      • http://www.xbox-scene.com/
      • The mother of all sites - you can get EVERYTHING here
        • Including links for purchasing modchips and downloading software
        • Great FAQs and forums too
    • Linux on Xbox (in general)
      • http://www.xbox-linux.org/
    • GentooX
      • http://gentoox.shallax.com/
    • Xebian
      • http://www.xbox-linux.org/Xebian
  • 43. More Resources
    • Microsoft USB Keyboard Adapter
      • http://www.xbox.com/pso2/keyboardadapter.htm
    • Lik Sang – source of other Xbox accessories, including VGA adapters
      • http://www.lik-sang.com/
    • EFF – fight for your rights!
      • http://www.eff.org/
    • The INDUCE Act – Fight the Evil!
      • http://www.savebetamax.org/
    • Feel free to e-mail me
      • [email_address]
  • 44. The End Thanks for coming!