Xbox mod-chips still on the menu

Home brew? Nah

Last week we reported on Xbox mod-chip group Enigmah's decision to withdraw its product from the market, citing a consultation with lawyers as its reason for pulling back from the legally delicate area of console modification.

However, it transpires that Enigmah hasn't cancelled its mod-chip plans after all, and the team has merely renamed to "X-ecuter" in order to launch a new chip. This is significantly easier to fit than previous efforts – so easy, in fact, that anyone with a basic knowledge of soldering could do it (unlike previous Xbox chips or the PS2 Messiah chip, which required precision micro-soldering equipment to fit).

So what are we to make of the statement about consultation with lawyers on the team's old site?

After speaking to lawyers we feel that we must not do this project anymore.

There are many other chips and methods for guys to play with anyway so have fun and good luck to everyone out there.

PS: The software guys of enigmah team will still be doing free software titles for everyone - and as far as we know china is making enigmah chips for you to buy - just not us any more.

According to one source, is nothing more than a PR stunt aimed at gathering some press attention – and at turning down the legal heat from Microsoft, at least for long enough to get their new chip out to market.

More worrying for Microsoft than the resurfacing of this particular mod project is the claim that no mod chip at all is required to play pirate games on the Xbox.

A number of our sources have pointed out that in fact, what most Xbox chips in development do is to replace the standard retail Xbox BIOS (the chip on the motherboard which tells the Xbox how to behave when it is powered on or rebooted) with a hacked version of the BIOS found in Xbox development kits – which, of course, will happily boot gold discs, copied DVDs and games from all regions.

This requires no hardware modification to the console – someone with the appropriate equipment can open up the machine, alter the BIOS program in a procedure known as "flashing", and voila – one "chipped" Xbox, except with no chip.

Unlike chipping PS2s, this process is innately illegal since it requires the use of a modified version of Microsoft's BIOS program and the encryption keys held within it, thus constituting a breach of copyright. However, legal issues aside, this loophole in the Xbox's security is a headache for Microsoft and, indeed, for any publisher or developer working on the system. So far, the relative expense of chipping a PS2 (it can cost upwards of £100 to install a Messiah chip) has kept the number of chipped machines to a minimum; however, should Xbox modifications become as cheap and simple as PSone modifications were at the height of that console’s success, a similar level of chipping and hence piracy can be expected.

One source slammed claims of the Xbox mod chip makers to merely support the 'homebrew' software scene. "There are some major differences (with) the Dreamcast homebrew development scene.

"Firstly, nothing illegal such as a modchip is required to boot homebrew on the Dreamcast. Secondly, the Dreamcast scene self-reversed much of the system so that they could use 100% legal tools, and Sega have unofficially condoned it... The Xbox scene is just using pirated/leaked Microsoft development kits. It is genuinely pathetic. That is not homebrew console developing. It's mere piracy."

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