Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Xbox Mod Adventure: Part 1

I used to do some more technical writing here (not necessarily technical, but at least an overview of things I worked on) and I'm going to try to get back to that a bit. I finally did a backlit GBA mod a while ago so I'll go over that soon, but we're going to take a look at the original Xbox first.

I've mentioned briefly before that the original Xbox was a pretty big turning point in my fandom of games. It's probably my favorite gaming console of all time. Like most, my first experience with the console was with Halo. When Halo 2 came out though? It was love. Then next year? It abruptly ended when the 360 came out. My torrid affair with the original Xbox lasted about a year and a half. I bought my first Xbox off of a good friend. He sold it to me for $5 in early 2005 because the DVD drive was shitty and he decided to shoot the power button off with an airsoft gun.

I went ahead and bought a new drive, and I was off to the races. The first two games I bought were the DOOM 3 collector's edition and Genma Onimusha. Up until I got a 360 for Christmas in 2006 I did little other than play Xbox. I got to be pretty fierce at Halo 2 and I bought and plowed through around 40 Xbox games in that time period. Xbox prices tanked fast since Microsoft dropped the console as quickly as they could when the 360 came out. Eventually, my Xbox ended up with an ex girlfriend some time in 2008 and wasn't seen again until 2011.

I made that awkward text requesting it back when I found a copy of Beyond Good & Evil. I didn't end up caring for the game, but it did reignite my love for the Xbox. All of my official controllers were gone and my HDD was filled with saves for Medal of Honor (I'm guessing her uncle had the system..). I purged the saves that weren't mine and comforted her. The DVD drive however, was bad again.

There are three common Xbox DVD drives and a fourth which possibly only shows up in refurb units. The one that this Xbox had was a Thompson. When my friend sold it to me, it had a Thompson as well. These drives are absolute shit. I replaced it with a Thompson because at the time, I believed you needed to replace it with the same drive. Not true. Thompsons are basically guaranteed to fail after a few years and investing in one is a bad choice. So, the Xbox went into what was (mostly) a state of rest.

About a year later, I came upon an Xbox in Goodwill for about $12, so I snagged it. The case was in good condition (no power button shot off with an airsoft gun) and I figured I could pull the DVD drive. Turns out I came upon a sort of uncommon drive.

Awh yeah baby, quote me more..

Before proceeding, let me discuss why we've come to this point of modding an Xbox. A friend of mine was looking for an N64, so I told him I'd keep an eye out. I didn't come across anything, then I had the thought of softmodding an extra Xbox I had and putting emulators on it for him. He found out his PS3's HDD was going out, so he offered to trade it for the Xbox. I sweetened the deal by saying I'd get a better DVD drive and pop a 500gb HDD in it. Great deal for me since I enjoy doing this kind of thing and there's honestly not a whole lot in the PS3 library that I'm dying to play. Today, that 500GB HDD got here so I wanted to get started.

That Xbox I got at Goodwill? I didn't use the motherboard because of how the hard drives are tied to the motherboard and all of my saves were on my old HDD. I simply swapped my old board into the new case and switched out the DVD drives. No problem, right?


That link up there with information about the Xbox goes into detail about the different motherboard revisions. The one my friend sold me is a 1.0 and the one I bought at Goodwill is a 1.6. So what, right?

Well that 1.6 motherboard that went into my 1.0 case, I just forgot about it. I never had another reason to plug it in or use it, so I didn't. I had no idea I colossally shot myself in the foot. I fired up my Xbox, made sure the Agent Under Fire Ndure exploit was on my memory card and pulled out the Xbox to be modded.

Speaking of which, praises be to Agent Under Fire.

Isis gon' be mad

Seriously, who the fuck coded this game so incompetently and how are they not blacklisted from the industry? Agent Under Fire is not only a game that's exploitable to softmod an Xbox, the PS2 version is exploitable as well to set up Free McBoot. Sort of a crappy game, but goddamn. Thank you likely unpaid EA intern for your hard work.

So, I plugged in the Xbox and hit the power button... nothing. Nothing at all. I thought maybe I just stuffed the components into the case and didn't hook everything up since I wouldn't need to use it.


Then I started thinking maybe there was something wrong with the power button. I tear apart my Xbox, hook the power button up to the other one.


Time to Google.

Well, it turns out that Xbox motherboard revisions 1.0-1.5 use the exact same case. Switch those fuckers out freely. 1.6 though? This is the only case that's different.

I fucked up a transistor because while the two cases are mostly the same, there's one critical difference that you would never even know about. That tiny piece of tin has fucked my shit up.

So, now I need to replace that transistor. It's all good though, I bought one for $1. Now I just have to wait and get ready to solder something really small.

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