Friday, September 07, 2007

Xbox mod saga

This was written Sept 7, 2007. It describes my XBox modification project -

I initially had trouble getting the save-game file on to the memory card. In fact, that was probably the most trouble I had during the entire project. Turns out, the USB memory card reader was not a straight-forward, simple USB memory card reader. Neither Windows XP, nor OpenSUSE 10.2, was able to properly detect and read the card-reader.

I explored a bit online, and determined the reader was a Datel 'Action Replay' device. In order to read from & write to the card, I needed to download and install some piece of software, I think called 'Max XBox'. I could then use that software to interact with the memory card.

After that was figured out, the rest was pretty easy.

My 'Platinum Hits' version of 007: Agent Under Fire worked fine for the mod. Here I ran into some minor roadblocks, though:
* IF the save-game file for the mod is loaded directly from the card, instead of being loaded from the Xbox's hard drive, then as soon as you try to load the file the Xbox crashes, and displays an error, and instructions to call Customer Service. This is avoided by simply copying the file from the card to the Xbox hdd, and then loading it from there.
* OK, having learned that, it took me a while to figure out HOW to copy the file from the memory card to the hard drive. It wasn't intuitive at all.
* From what I've read online, with either Splinter Cell or Mechassault you can boot the game, load the save-file, and proceed with the soft-mod. With 007:AUF, you must first start a game, and then you can quit the game and load the save-file.

OK, so now I've managed to copy the file to the Xbox hdd, and loaded it into the system. At this point things were looking very cool. I backed up the eeprom.bin file, and installed the UnleashX dashboard. I finished up the mod with no more issues, and nothing else that was memorable.

Once everything was working, I started having a lot of fun. I've copied to the hard drive:
* Mrs. DrillerX - homebrew version of Dreamcast's Mr. Driller. It's OK, but not nearly as good as the commercial, DC version.
* Mameox - Haven't got this working yet.
* Descent - looks like a real port of the great old DOS game, but hangs each time I try to load it.
* DVD2XPLAY - DVD player for the Xbox that plays all region DVDs, and doesn't require the DVD Playback Kit/remote.
* Asteroids - a pretty bad homebrew Asteroids for the Xbox.
* JumpNBumpX - No idea what this. I thought it was going to be a clone of the old arcade game Bump 'N Jump. Turns out it was some platformer, I think, but I'm using an old, cheap, low-quality 13" TV and I couldn't really make out squat.

So I left the above alone for a night or two, and then Wednesday night I disassembled the system and swapped out the original 8Gb hard drive for an
80Gb drive I salvaged from a broken Maxtor OneTouch. After swapping the drives, my data was all present on the new, larger drive, but for reasons I don't understand the system now booted to the original MS Dashboard again. I uninstalled the softmod, and reinstalled it, and everything returned to normal.

The last thing I did was rip my GTA:Vice City to the hard drive, to improve loading times, and test out a Wiggles DVD that wouldn't play on the unmodded Xbox. The unmodded system complained that the disc was an incompatible region. In reality, I believe the disc has no region encoding at all on it. The newly modified Xbox plays the Wiggles DVD just fine.

So, I'm having a blast with the system and the mod.

My immediate plans are to try and get MAME working on it and copy a lot of my ROMs over to the drive. I may also investigate why Descent hangs at start, as I always liked Descent. And, I want to install Xbox Media Center to the system, and some DVDs and CDs. Of course, I'll probably need to replace the 80G drive with something closer to 300Gb sooner or later, if I do all that.

I was disappointed that I had to ruin a couple of labels on the bottom of the console to open it up, but other than that things went great.

Enormous Thanks to LucidDefender over at Digital Press for his advice/guidance/help, and the Scenyx website and community for the various information and software that was absolutely necessary for this project.

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