Tom Vincent

Essays on hacking, travel and self-improvement

Xbox Modding

I’ve decided to end my turn in the Xbox modding scene. After 3 Xbox’s, I’m left with one that I’m happy with, here’s what happened.

  1. Bought a cheap Xbox, with 1 “S” controller, AV/Power & 1 game — San Andreas
  2. Before even starting to play the game, I dived straight into installing XBMC — it was only this that persuaded me to buy one in the first place!
  3. Naturally, I fall under this description: “first people didn’t want to buy games.. now they don’t want to buy modchips…” so a Softmod was the way to go! A softmod involves swapping the hard-drive out of the Xbox once it’s in an “unlocked” state, to install Linux/Exploits onto the drive. So you don’t have to do it again, almost all the homebrew applications allow you to FTP the drive. This was the guide I followed: ndure, totally n00b proof.
  4. So from there, it’s easy to pick and choose what homebrew you want on the Xbox. XBMC was by far the most developed and just awesome software to use (I must get round to donating…)

Not happy with ending it all there, I decided to buy another Xbox… Why? Because I wanted another controller.An Xbox on eBay is literally almost going for the same price as 1 controller! So I went for the daring approach and bought from a dodgy eBay listing. Unfortunately it came with 2, “Fat” controllers and to my surprise an ample amount of games.

I needed some funds to actually get an “S” controller I was so longing for, so I decided to sell all the games and 1 of the controllers (the other had a broken lead). I made all my money back (2 consoles worth) with the little amount I sold!

So the hunt was back on in finding a controller. In my typical luck, the second console I bought decided it wasn’t going to give up without a fight (I was just about to sell it) and decided to blow 2 resistors that control the power on and eject voltages — meaning it turned on and off by itself, with the drive bay opening randomly!

Not seeing the funny side, I had to have a go fixing it. This is microelectronics we’re talking about here… the resistors I had to fix would barely grip on the end of my tweezers! Nevertheless, I few days/weeks later, the fix… cough… bodge was complete. We decided on putting full size resistors on after the hell of trying to resolder the minute original ones. This was a challenge itself, first having to find some quality solder (non of this almost 100% lead stuff we had in our Woolworths soldering kit!) and then having to find the resistors — that was taken care of by a 80’s radio R.I.P.

Again, I went looking for a “S” controller and again, I bought a whole console package from a dodgy eBay listing. This time, it was a gem. A fully modded Xbox that contained a “Cheapmod” (later found to be an X-Pert LPC Lite), an RGB cable, 18 games and guess what, an “S” controller — a broken one at that. I must point out that none of this was mentioned in the listing (some gambles pay off), but I managed to get a £15 refund because of the broken controller, bringing down the total price to £10!!

It was not all happy news however. The second, “fixed” Xbox had now given up and began powering on/off like it had before. After all the torment of doing it the first time round, I gave up on it completely and will now be being sold as spares and repairs. Not quite content with the new Xbox, I decided to change the hard-drive with the less noisy one of the second (broken) one.

The challenge with that however, is to unlock both hard-drives for swapping into a different Xbox — as usually the hard-drive will only work within the Xbox it came in (because it’s matched and locked with the motherboard). Obviously, clever people have found ways round this and so it was quite easy for me to unlock both drives for replacement using XboxHDM (unfortunately still very buggy on the latest release, forcing me to get stressed for a further 2 days).

I had now got the Xbox I was happy with, although there was still a problem where game’s were not being aligned in the centre of the screen. After abit of research and playing around, I found the “PAL–60” option was incorrectly enabled in the original Xbox Dashboard, which was causing too much overscan on my TV.

So for a slightly overdrawn conclusion, I’ve had abit of a rollercoaster with modding Xbox’s but in the scheme of things, I’ve started from scratch and ended up with a nicely working Xbox, learnt loads of new skills while working with consoles/linux and soldering and even made a small amount of profit!

Now onto the next project!