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Xbox Hackers, Linux, the DMCA, And Modchips 343

Posted by timothy
from the oh-my dept.
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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Xbox Hackers, Linux, the DMCA, And Modchips

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  • heh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Wibla (677432) on Saturday July 12, 2003 @10:26AM (#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...
  • Umm @ Wal-Mart? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday July 12, 2003 @10:39AM (#6423556) Homepage Journal
    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:Respect ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gilesjuk (604902) <giles.jones@nOspam.zen.co.uk> on Saturday July 12, 2003 @10:40AM (#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.
  • Re:Creativity? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mrBoB (63135) on Saturday July 12, 2003 @10:40AM (#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.
  • by bucky0 (229117) on Saturday July 12, 2003 @10:46AM (#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 :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 12, 2003 @10:52AM (#6423600)
    All evidence I've seen regarding Microsoft 'losing money on the X-Box' is related to dolts who think they can go to pricewatch.com 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:Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by provolt (54870) on Saturday July 12, 2003 @10:52AM (#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.

  • by Homology (639438) on Saturday July 12, 2003 @10:58AM (#6423620)
    If MS respected other companies IP so much, why the following : (http://www.gnu.org.pe/resmseng.html)

    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.

  • Re:Respect ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by alienw (585907) <alienw@slashdot.gmail@com> on Saturday July 12, 2003 @11:02AM (#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.
  • windows on the xbox? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Saturday July 12, 2003 @11:08AM (#6423647) Journal
    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

  • Re:Respect ? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Troed (102527) on Saturday July 12, 2003 @11:20AM (#6423695) Homepage Journal
    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 ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mikewolf (671989) on Saturday July 12, 2003 @11:27AM (#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:Umm @ Wal-Mart? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Saturday July 12, 2003 @12:53PM (#6424090) Homepage Journal
    I bought a used 500MHz Xeon workstation for $200, with 256k RAM, Firewire, USB, SuperIO, actual PCI slots, even three ISA slots for my legacy tasks, etc, in a better looking, albiet much larger, package, and the performance likekly easily nukes XBox. No reason to futz with mods and other crap.
  • Re:Respect ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Waffle Iron (339739) on Saturday July 12, 2003 @02:06PM (#6424371)
    does anyone seriously believe that enough people are going to buy an XBox and use it for non gaming purposes to actually hurt M$ financially ?.

    Probably not. But they're worried that the broad availability of hacks around their XBox restriction technologies will allow widespread copying of games. That's a valid concern, but they would have been better off selling a box that was not usable as a PC.

    Making it a PC attracts far more interest in hacking the box, which makes the circumvention methods much more easily available. This also makes it much more difficult to justify squashing the hackers on legal grounds because the small minority of people running Linux have an arguably valid reason to hack the box.

  • by cait56 (677299) on Saturday July 12, 2003 @02:24PM (#6424452) Homepage

    There are really three distinct issues here:

    • Selling of modded X-Boxes is clearly an abuse of Microsoft's Trademark.
    • Modding the X-Box to bypass game security is clearly a violation of the DMCA. Even if you are running unauthorized third-party games rather than illegal copies, you are still using Microsoft's Intellectual Property contrary to the software lisence that was granted with the sale of the unit.
    • On the other hand, even if disrupts Microsoft's business plans, you have the right to throw your X-Box into th trash. If you have th right to throw it away, you have the right to salvage the parts. My hunch is that if you can turn an X-Box into a Linux box without using Microsoft ROMs that you have merely salvaged parts that you owned anyway. That's completely legit, especially if you are essentially just enabling the PC industry standard parts.
  • by snoopyjd (665929) on Saturday July 12, 2003 @06:24PM (#6425264)
    It seems to me that their strategy was to lower the price of the XBox to encourage more people to buy it, and it doesn't seem like they are losing money on the actual hardware (marketing, R&D, and other accounting matters may likely show a loss). Additionally, it seems like they have been trying to keep this debate going in the media and on the internet.

    Therefore, by giving their hardware praise and talking about how inexpensive it is I think a lot of people are unwittingly playing right into MS's hand. When people see these comments they are likely to buy the product and use it however they see fit, but will probably buy a few games, and maybe participate in on-line gaming. This is exactly what Bill is looking for.

    Of course such forward thinking and creative marketing may not have occurred to MS, but then again they did build a corporate empire based on a decision to lose money on their sales of DOS to IBM thereby encouraging millions of other users to lock themselves into their products. But then again I could be another MS spy sent to discourage people from hacking the Xboxes.
  • by Mulletproof (513805) on Saturday July 12, 2003 @07:08PM (#6425388) Homepage Journal
    "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"

    As self righteous [slashdot.org] as hackers can be over the XBox-Linux debacle, I don't know of a company in the world that slit their own throats like these fools expect MS to. I'm sorry, these people simply aren't living in reality [maxconsole.com].

    I've said it before and I'll say it again-- when a company has so much to lose by allowing the competition access to their product only a stoned idiot would consider this a good thing for their business, yet we have plenty of absolute fucking idiots crying that they somehow have a right to force MS into Linux compatibility when that God given right to Linux never existed. "It's a sad day for Microsoft" only because somebody got smacked upside the head with a reality check.

    Look, I like the hacks as much as the next guy. I'll be using it just to play the import Yukikaze [aquasystem.co.jp] (Movie; Cripes this game looks hot), but it just bugs the shit out of me when people insist on pushing their own little open source fantasies in places where reality simply doesn't allow for them.

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