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Xbox Linux

Xbox Linux is a project that ported the Linux operating system to the Microsoft Xbox video game console. Because the Xbox uses a digital signature system to prevent the public from running unsigned code, one must either use a modchip, or a softmod. Originally, modchips were the only option. However, it was later demonstrated that the TSOP chip on which the Xbox's BIOS is held may be reflashed. This way, one may flash on the "cromwell" BIOS, which was developed legally by the Xbox Linux project. Catalyzed by a large cash prize for the first team to provide the possibility of booting Linux on an Xbox without the need of a hardware hack, numerous software-only hacks were also found. For example, a buffer overflow was found in the game "007: Agent Under Fire", allowing the booting of a Linux loader ("xbeboot") straight from a save game.

The Xbox is essentially just a PC, with a custom 733MHz Intel Mobile Celeron processor, an 8GB (user-accessible. Actual capacity is 10GB) hard drive, 64MB of RAM (although on all earlier boxes this is upgradable to 128MB), and 4 USB ports (The controller ports are actually USB 1.1 ports with a modified connector). These specifications are enough to run several readily available Linux distributions.

An Xbox with Linux installed can act as a full desktop computer with mouse and keyboard, a web/email box connected to a TV, a server, router or a node in a cluster. One can either dual-boot or use Linux only; in the latter case, one can replace both IDE devices. One can also connect the Xbox to a VGA monitor. A converter is needed to use keyboards/mice in the controller ports, however this is fairly easy to achieve because the Xbox uses the standard USB bus.

As of now only a few distributions (which one is not clear) of Linux will run on the 1.6 Xbox (the third newest version, including 1.6b). Xboxes with modchips and the Cromwell bios installed can run more distributions than with only a softmod. This is mainly due to complications due to the new video chip used in V1.6 Xboxes that was developed exclusively by Microsoft and which has no source code available at this time, which causes major overscan on all four sides of the screen when a different kernel than the original is loaded.

Website: Xbox Linux
Posted on May 31st, 2014
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