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XBox (Games) Software Linux

Free60 Project Aims for Linux on Xbox 360 511

BlueMoon writes "The Free60 Project wiki and developers mailinglist has been launched. The project aims to port open source operating systems like GNU/Linux and Darwin to the Microsoft Xbox 360 gaming console. The site already contains some interesting details about the Xbox 360 security: per-box key stored on CPU, boot ROM will be on CPU too and a hypervisor verifies the running state of the kernel."
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Free60 Project Aims for Linux on Xbox 360

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  • *click* (Score:5, Funny)

    by NightDragon ( 732139 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @01:09PM (#14124229)
    *Starts the "Time-to-360-hacked" Stopwatch....*
  • os x? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jest3r ( 458429 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @01:10PM (#14124240)
    Being a triple core 3.2GHz PowerPC it would be cool to get OS X running on the XBOX 360.
    • Re:os x? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cbreaker ( 561297 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @04:15PM (#14125045) Journal
      The Xbox 360 CPU cores are very simple and a full G5 processor should be able to outperform the Xbox in any real world applications.
  • My Thoughts Exactly (Score:3, Interesting)

    by slashbob22 ( 918040 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @01:14PM (#14124259)
    This goes extremely well with my solution to the overheating problem:

    I suggest that correct this problem that you transform your "XBox" into the form it should have originally been in:

    1) Buy MicroATX case (with powersupply)
    2) Rip apart XBox
    3) Rebuild your computer. err XBox.

    Done Right? []

    and I suppose:
    4) Install Linux and stop buying those ridiculously priced games.
    • So, buy an extremely expensive piece of propreitary hardware, an extra pc case, a bunch of modding tools, spend hours of your time moving the pieces from one to the other and getting the OS tweaked just right... to not waste money on overpriced games.... dude, just go out and buy a computer, seriously.
      • Because it's there (Score:5, Interesting)

        by CustomDesigned ( 250089 ) <> on Sunday November 27, 2005 @01:33PM (#14124381) Homepage Journal
        Why are you climbing this mountain?

        An Indian Psycologist (whose name went something like Sikh Sent Mahalia - but I'm sure I totally mangled it, and can't lay my hands on the book) identified the necessary components of "flow" as skills, rules, goals, and feedback. For any activity, whether work or play, if you lack the skill, or if the activity is too easy or too hard, you are frustrated and unhappy. If you can't discern the rules (or meta rules), you are frustrated and unhappy. If there is no goal, you are frustrated and unhappy. If there is no feedback on your progress, you are frustrated and unhappy.

        Sports like football have all the components (for those with the skill), and there is "flow". Putting linux on machines designed to prevent that very thing is like a game of football for geeks. It requires skill (is not too easy), but has been and probably can be done (is not too hard). The rules are those of logic and electronics. The goal is clear, and there is feedback along the way as you (carefully arrange to) see evidence of the system running your code further and further along in the boot process.

        It can get frustrating if there is a lack of feedback - you can't find a visible bit to twiddle to show the code has gotten to a specific point.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 27, 2005 @01:29PM (#14124357)
      4) Install Linux and stop buying those ridiculously priced games... you can play Tux Racer. Oh Oh Oh, what about bzFlag? Linux can play games, honest!

      • bzflag happens to be my favorite game, you insensitive clod !
        yes, I love nethack too.
    • 4) Install Linux and stop buying those ridiculously priced games.

      Yep, who needs good games anyway? Much more fun to play a poorly done version of some 10 year old PC game.
  • by Hymer ( 856453 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @01:18PM (#14124287)
    ...until that overheating problem is solved...
  • Not too quick! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 27, 2005 @01:19PM (#14124293)
    If they're too quick at crackin the new box, microsoft will patch the other xboxes they'll be making. I'd imagine that's one of the reasons they released so few at this time. The other major one being that they didn't wanna get slapped with too many lawsuits concerning house fires.
  • Hypervisor (Score:5, Informative)

    by jurt1235 ( 834677 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @01:20PM (#14124300) Homepage
    Assuming that the hypervisor technology in the xbox360 is really the IBM hypervisor, than the linux community could have access to the patents involved in this technology, making it a lot easier (as in really tough job to in just a bit less realy tough job) to get linux running on the xbox. Maybe it is possible to run it in a VM under xbox windows (I guess internally in microsoft this might be called xwindows).
    • Re:Hypervisor (Score:5, Informative)

      by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot,kadin&xoxy,net> on Sunday November 27, 2005 @02:14PM (#14124555) Homepage Journal
      I just read through the site and I don't think there's any evidence to show that the hypervisor that it's being speculated is used by the x360 is the same one that's been developed by IBM. The IBM one I believe is designed for large scale use on big iron, providing abstraction and security services to virtual machines; the xBox one is just to monitor the kernel for modifications and checksum the RAM against stored values in the processor. They seem so different in scope that I'm not sure it's a good assumption to think that they're the same thing, or that the MS one isn't just something they cooked up in-house. There doesn't seem to be any strong evidence that they're the same, and the Slashdot article link just seems to be something the author pulled out of Google.

      Also, if you read on the Free60 documentation site, it's apparent that the factoids being discussed, including the only mention of the hypervisor, are being attributed to "someone on the IRC" -- not exactly a reputable source.
  • by caffeinemessiah ( 918089 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @01:21PM (#14124310) Journal
    ...because a lot of good came out of the original Xbox being hacked. I'm sure there are a lot of high-perf researchers on a shoestring who are eyeing the price on the basic Xbox 360. Even without a hard disk, a small memory card should be enough to house a basic computation/communications infrastructure, and with the retail price on the basic 360, you should be able to string a bunch of them together to get decent computing power at a price even lower than a low-end Beowulf. I understand that the obvious application of hacking the 360 is so that you can play pirated games, but I for one am eagerly waiting to see what comes out of this project, and the PS3-hack that is soon to be.
    • by interiot ( 50685 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @02:28PM (#14124616) Homepage
      Simply adding support for extra codecs, and better/configurable upscaling of DVD or 720p content would be a wonderful place to start. Though the PS3 supposedly has more horsepower and 1080p output, so it may be preferable for use as a software scaler.
    • From what I've been able to find, the XBox360 CPU is a modified PPC chip. But I would assume that a lot of its performance comes from specialized graphics chipsets (like any good gaming rig). While it's possible to do general purpose computations on graphics cards, I don't think it's trivial.

      So for high performance computing, I don't see how networking a bunch of XBoxen together is going to deliver anything that couldn't be achieved by networking a bunch of beige boxes. With a custom-built solution, you
  • Source (Score:5, Interesting)

    by morcheeba ( 260908 ) * on Sunday November 27, 2005 @01:21PM (#14124311) Journal
    Interesting source of the information: I met someone on the IRC the other day who told me the following...

    The biggest thing I wonder about in "The key is stored inside the CPU". This adds cost, but it is possible []. It means that to execute your own code, the serial number must be determined so that a replacement flash chip can be properly encrypted. I'm betting it's pretty hard to find this number out without taking apart the processor.
    • Re:Source (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It could add cost, but perhaps not.

      IIRC, there's an extention to the JTAG specification for in-system programming of devices, such as programmable logic or flash memory.

      I don't think it would be too cheap to store the unique per-console key in a few bits of flash memory in the chip die. Then all CPUs would be identical, and during the normal testing phase they could program the flash. And God knows we have flash memory technology issues down these days.

      There's other ways too; fuseable links to make it perma
    • Re:Source (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bbrack ( 842686 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @02:20PM (#14124584)
      Electrically programmable fuses make this very simple - when the part is tested at wafer/multiprobe, you simply blow in the ID when you are blowing in all your repair solutions - I can guarantee IBM is blowing an ID into the parts anyway for general yield/return tracking purposes.

      This ID can probably be accessed through the JTAG port, or accessed internally - the data is going to be in a certain format (Lot #, wafer #, x coord, y coord, or something similar) that would be easy to verify...

      You could also make it so reading the id from one place and writing it to another was part of the reset sequence on the chip...

      WRT getting the serialid out of the processor, you should be able to read it out through a simple JTAG instruction
      • Re:Source (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Helvick ( 657730 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @03:12PM (#14124786) Homepage Journal
        You're missing the point here - this is supposedly a Trusted Computing architecture. The locks on this are not something as trivial as a serial number that is hard to track down. The core has a cryptographic component that provides for hardware based key management and secure crypto functions. That module will never export its unique private key(s) because the hardware design doesn't provide any instructions that allow that to happen. Good luck attacking it that way, it might be possible if they stuffed up the design but I doubt it.
        Furthermore if it follows the MS TC model then the CPU's crypto store will also have MS X-Box boot and app signing Root certs. All code, especially the boot process will have to be signed by something that will pass a check against those Root Certs. At a guess I'd say they have more than one of each type and they can be revoked via firmware (ie over XBox live, or via code distributed in games) just in case their primary leaks. Finding buffer overflows or figuring out how to code the instructions for an alternative boot firmware wont help unless you can figure out how to sign the code you feed into CPU. If the hardware design is properly secure then that will require breaking a strong crypto system equivalent to that used in X.509 certs in order to compromise those MS owned signing keys. This is a much much harder problem than compromising the original X-Box (which only used software based crypto so it could be subverted by replacing the boot code) or the PSP (which seems to rely on no secure execution model at all). MS certainly know how this should be done, the question is did they actually try to do it and if so did they succeed. That is the main reason I'm interested in this X-Box 360 hacking attempt, it's success will show how serious MS actually are about extreme DRM.
        My guess on that is that the answer is very interested indeed, if they can successfully implement a popular consumer device with a hard TC architecture then there are a lot of people out there who will want them to share it with them - the Cellular Telco's in particular love this stuff and will happily get into bed with MS if they can sell them a proven TC architecture that is resistant to attack.
  • First step! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Libor Vanek ( 248963 ) <> on Sunday November 27, 2005 @01:23PM (#14124317) Homepage
    I already know 1st step "HowTo run Linux on your XBox 360" - it's:

    1, Attach your XBox on a string so it can be c00l enough ;-)
  • by Sigmund Dali ( 925077 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @01:24PM (#14124323)
    I've long thought that the only reason MS decided to go with the smaller laptop drives is their drastically reduced capacity. Does the lure of piracy decrease with the size of the Hard Drive? I'll admit that on my modded XBox, I prefer to rip all of my *legit* games to the HD, just for easy access. Anybody else think the same way?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Someone actually tried connecting a standard SATA drive to the 360.. it connects just fine, but the xbox doesn't recognize it without the right data on the disk. It's only time before someone finds out what the xbox looks for, makes a tool to convert your sata disk, and then have 350GB of hard drive space to play with :)
    • by Turmio ( 29215 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @02:20PM (#14124587) Homepage
      The Xbox360 HD is basically a standard SATA laptop HD covered with a fancy casing. If a modchip for the system is eventually developed, I'm pretty damn sure that compared to that feat, it's a piece of cake to build an adapter that lets you use any hard disk with a SATA connector with Xbox360. Sure you can't fit a 500GB 3.5" drive inside the case but who cares if it must sit next to the case if it works?
    • I've long thought that the only reason MS decided to go with the smaller laptop drives is their drastically reduced capacity.

      That doesn't really make any sense. More likely: heat, power consumption, shock resistance, noise, and physical size. Especially heat/power/size, which are critical for a "console" game; just look at the problems with the overheating power adapters...

  • Good idea (Score:5, Funny)

    by GroeFaZ ( 850443 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @01:38PM (#14124399)
    because game consoles, too, want to be free.
  • by Sumocide ( 114549 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @01:44PM (#14124429)
  • by koan ( 80826 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @01:45PM (#14124432)
    To cracking the Trusted Computing hardware.
  • Question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GroeFaZ ( 850443 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @01:45PM (#14124433)
    As other posters have noted, game consoles share the distinctive trait of standardized, special-purpose hardware, on which a general-purpose Linux OS is installed. But even the best game consoles make for pretty poor PCs if you just look at the specs, so it seems to me that this is more of a proof-of-concept and the sheer devilish joy of seeing Tux on an Xbox.

    But is it not possible to modify a distro for specifically that set of hardware that comes with, say, the Xbox 360? Would the gain in performance not be equal to that of games software written for that set of hardware?
    • Re:Question (Score:5, Funny)

      by Slashcrap ( 869349 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @02:06PM (#14124528)
      But even the best game consoles make for pretty poor PCs if you just look at the specs, so it seems to me that this is more of a proof-of-concept and the sheer devilish joy of seeing Tux on an Xbox.

      3 x 3.2Ghz Power PC CPUs, 512MB memory, high-end GPU, 20GB HDD & wireless.

      I see what you mean. It's hardly worth bothering with really is it?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 27, 2005 @01:46PM (#14124438)
    Hello fellow slashdotters, I've been reading slashdot for several years but this is ourageous.
    As the Executive Sales Manager for Microsoft XBox 360 I don't see this as news but a direct
    illegal action against the Microsoft corporation. Hacking the XBox hardware which the machine was
    not originally intended for will be further looked into by the FBI and CIA as it is considered a
    hostile Terrorist action against the United States of America's privatly owned enterprises. We
    have the governments full support to fight this Communist plague and any attempt to interfere or
    hinder this investigation will result in an immediate hostile response.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 27, 2005 @02:00PM (#14124497)
    microsoft don't care if you run linux on the xbox. they wont loose that much money. (i know that currently they loose a bit on each xbox they sell, but the more they sell, the more they can push manufacturing costs down).

    when 360.0 is cracked, they'll learn how it was done, and make 360.1 more secure. same when people crack 360.1 etc. all the xbox linux code will be open source so they can have a good look at the methods used.

    this is all good practice for them so that oneday they'll be able to make a computer that will only run windows and signed code. then they'll claim that anyone not using their secure platform must be a hacker or software/music pirate. then they lobby the .gov. then they have no competitors.
    • by nurb432 ( 527695 )
      You run linux and not buy any games..

      Remember they are gambling on game sales to make a profit on these things.
  • TCPA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by marcosdumay ( 620877 ) <marcosdumay@[ ] ['gma' in gap]> on Sunday November 27, 2005 @02:32PM (#14124631) Homepage Journal

    This is (as far as I know) the very first Trusted Computing platform that we can put our hands on. Very, very interesting. And it is well done (no obvious flaws).

    If somebody can break that, we may be safe! That or they may build a more secure one, but we'll be safe for more time anyway.

  • FAQ (Score:5, Funny)

    by Paradise Pete ( 33184 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @03:36PM (#14124889) Journal
    Pretty good FAQ [] on that site:

    Q: Have you guys modded the Xbox360 yet?
    A: No, not yet.

  • Don't shut it down (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Midnight Warrior ( 32619 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @03:44PM (#14124927) Homepage

    Everyone expects that Microsoft would want to shut such a site down. Believe it or not, if the Trusted Computing Machine paradigm is to really take hold, Microsoft is going to have to wait it out. Lots of companies have worked on other tamper-proof technology. If this platform can withstand a very large portion of that attack, then they will have a reputation to be proud of - from a security perspective.

    Bruce Schneier [] reminds us of several attributes in his book Secrets and Lies.

    • Tamper proof hardware through zeroization techniques (no evidence thus far), but may involve destruction when a critical chip is removed.
    • Revocation of privilege to participate. If the hypervisor detects trouble, it fails to a safe position.
    • "Only the key is secret" (and only for so long). Call this a free update CD every XBox360 owner must run after two years from launch - this is a valid application with new Microsoft keys.
    • Compromise in one section does not compromise the whole unit (defense in depth)
    • Assume something like the James Bond 007 game save buffer overflow will happen again, and the damage should require everyone to purchase this game to continue running non-standard code - during which time the bug will be patched in the new distribution discs.
    • Fiercly litigate anyone that builds disc reading/writing technology for the XBox 360, specifically targetting hardware vendors.
    • Develop a method by which an honest enthusiast can work in a sandbox that does anything. They'll never be entirely happy, but it will keep all but the most zealous enthusiasts at bay. Make this disk cost, oh, say $150 to cover the lost profit, or $40 per year per console. Call this a bizaare toy for the sophisticated adult, and the cost should make it a disincentive to commercial distribution of competitive products.

    For the record, I have no interest in playing on a 360, much less compromizing one, but if Microsoft can apply the above principles, then they will have a reputation and platform other non-gaming industries can embrace. Even Sony couldn't buy that with money. I do, however, have my doubts that Microsoft has focused on security robustness because their first and formost motto should be "It's all about the gaming experience." Fail that and the thing dies anyway.

  • The name (Score:3, Funny)

    by FLAGGR ( 800770 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @03:58PM (#14124972)
    Free60? That's pretty cool. What are the other consoles going to get for a name? "Open Source Revolution", uh.. "PS3 Linux"?
  • Let's get hacking. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aqws ( 932918 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @03:58PM (#14124976) Journal
    I don't see why there isn't a lot more enthusiasm behind this project, only 100 posts so far, and hald of them saying why hacking the X-box 360 isn't that important. I thought this site is for nerds, the type of people who would love to get there hands dirty with this type of stuff. How can there be so much exitment about the x-boxs release, not as much exitment about greatly expanding what you can do with your X-box. First off, this allows gamers a much, much larger variety of games... I might end up playing Frespace to this thing. Anything you would be able to do with a PC you could do with an X-box 360 if linux is ported to it. I intend for my next PC to be an X-box 360, microsoft gets the hardware at a reduced cost, and that reduced cost is not only carried over onto you, but is improved upon, microsoft loses $130 for each xbox sold. This is no minimalistic PC, it's much better than my current one. When the security is cracked for linux, it won't be long until mac os X or any of the BSDs are ported to. Plus, it only runs $300 for a base unit. Alright anough dealing with these non-nerds, why aren't you linux experts hacking away at this thing? Think of the boon in linux developers when all these computer users get a taste of linux, because it will so vastly improves there console. Whos' going to care about the X-box when the PS3 comes? The faster it is ported, the more people who will be exposed to Linux, and end up developing it and making it better. Plus, the sooner I get my PC. How can you turn down this challenge? I wish they would have another one of those contests, were that guy got $100,000 for getting linux on the first x-box without a hardware change.
  • by kyashan ( 919683 ) <> on Sunday November 27, 2005 @03:59PM (#14124980) Homepage
    Those that have a system with the HD and intend to keep it standing vertically, may want to think twice about that.
    It was very easy for me to kill a devkit as it fell laterally while the console was on.
    I can't imagine the retail system being less sensitive to that, as it's only normal for an HD to get damaged that way.
    The problem is that the thing is meant to stand up, but it's light and it doesn't have a wide base.

    Watch out.
  • You see.. they're taking a $129 loss on every x360 sold.. the reason is that they KNOW we're going to put Linux on it.. and the moment we do you KNOW some well meaning twit will port Gentoo to it.
    Now if these buggers over heat and die regularly what do you think GENTOO is going to do to it with all that compiling?!?!

    It's going to set fire to houses and KILL PEOPLE!!
    Then MS can sit back and let the marketing dogs of war loose, and Linux will be branded as the child killing OS for ever and a day.

    so.. which of you genius Judas will be nailing Tux to a dead tree first??
  • by bhav2007 ( 895955 ) <<bhav2007> <at> <>> on Sunday November 27, 2005 @05:42PM (#14125334)
    I bet there is some group within M$ whose job has been specifically to prevent Linux from running on the xbox 360. They better cross their fingers
  • by richdun ( 672214 ) on Sunday November 27, 2005 @10:16PM (#14126138)
    No new Slashdot main stories for 9 hours and counting...
  • by merc ( 115854 ) <> on Sunday November 27, 2005 @10:50PM (#14126240) Homepage
    going through slashdot withdrawl symptoms...!!!


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