Xbox Linux

Xbox Linux Released

Mark Hachman

The Xbox Linux Project said that the consortium had finalized a release of the Mandrake distribution, tailored for a "modded" Microsoft Xbox gaming console.

The distrubution consists of a 350-Mbyte download of Mandrake 9, which "corresponds" to a standard installation of the three-CD Mandrake distribution. It contains the graphical environments Gnome and KDE, as well as software packages such as, XMMS and Mozilla.

While modifying the Xbox to run Linux may seem like just a hobbyist effort, the creators say it also turns the $299 console into a PC-like device. The Mandrake OS preconfigures the Xbox for use with networking, as well.

According to the distribution's documentation, the ISO must be downloaded and burned onto a supported rewritable CD drive, although a list of those supported drives was not imediately apparent on the consortium's web site. Once the disc is inserted, the Xbox's hard disk must be set up or partitioned. Following that, the creators say, the Linux OS will start up from the hard drive, although the DVD must be inserted at boot time.

RELATED ARTICLES Build It: Home Linux Server Xbox Security Defeated GameCube vs. Xbox Microsoft Foils XBox Hackers Booting Linux also requires the Xbox to be "modded", with any one of a number of customized chips available from third parties, companies which Microsoft has attempted to shut down. The distribution also requires a USB mouse and adapter, which also require a modification to attach to the Xbox.

Michael Steil, one of the founders of the project, said that while any mod chip will work, the project hopes to boot Linux directly in future revisions.

"For our current distros, any mod will work, there won't be the slightest difference," Steil wrote in an email to ExtremeTech. "But if you look at the roadmap, you can also see that we're working on a replacement ROM that will boot Linux directly, eliminating the original MS ROM (as well as the possibility to play games). To be able to use this ROM (which is still in its early stages), you need a reprogrammable mod such as OpenXbox/BioXX (the Lik-Sang one) or Xodus/Matrix."

One known issue is that the display renders images at 640x480 resolution. meaning that users may have to scroll down or resize windows. The "eject" button also reboots the Xbox, instead of ejecting the disc. The Xbox Linux creators recommend using the "eject" command instead.

Copyright © 2002 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in ExtremeTech.

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