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Xbox goes under the knife

Fiddling with the console's insides

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Xbox Roundup People just will not stop tinkering with their Xboxes! We're all in favour of course, with reservations (the ones that stop us getting sued) so here's a little round-up of things people are speculating on, and some things people have actually done.

The first thing we discovered was Icrontic’s articles on disassembly and modification. Icrontic speculates on the possibility of upgrading the Xbox's hard disk and getting hold of its contents using a desktop PC. Now, while a lot of people have speculated on the file system used in Xbox, we have our own theory...

If you were Microsoft, and you wanted to avoid exactly the kind of thing sites like Icrontic are proposing, you wouldn't just opt for some unusual file system, you'd encrypt it. So the chances are, the Xbox hard disk uses FAT32 just as most standard computers, but that it uses proprietary encryption. In other words, encryption that would have to be reverse-engineered (without doubt illegally) in order to gain access to the files. This would be a useful way to block professional emulation too. After all, if you can't emulate Xbox without breaking the law, you're screwed.

Anyway, aside from the hard disk, Icrontic comments on the missing RAM modules, which could indeed be soldered on. But the gains would be negligible with every Xbox game developed for 64MB, and the danger to the Xbox involved would dissuade all but the most skilled.

Icrontic also wants to modify the Xbox front panel for some sort of USB hub, and as Anandtech noted during its journey into the Xbox hardware, there is a way to put the Xbox into debug mode and presumably enter whatever BIOS set-up screens the console harbours. Furthermore, Icrontic managed to improve speeds ripping music to the hard disk by replacing the fairly cheap ATA33 cable.

Aside from that, GameSpy has jumped in with its contribution to the Xbox networking arena. After XboxGW used Linux to good effect as a simplistic Ethernet bridge, GameSpy decided some sort of GameSpy Arcade tie-in was a good plan, and it has whipped up a tool which does much the same thing, called GameSpy Tunnel. The venerable matchmaker notes that players will almost certainly need a broadband connection at their disposal to reap the benefits of Halo's multiplayer modes, but at least it's not as fiddly as the VPN connection from the other week.

The best place to see the insides of the Xbox (which have been everywhere recently) remains HardOCP, whose Xbox Spread Eagle feature touches all the bases. ®

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