“Hacking the Xbox” Released for Free in Honor of [Aaron Swartz]

Hacking the Xbox Cover

[Bunnie], the hardware hacker who first hacked into the original Xbox while at MIT, is releasing his book on the subject for free. The book was originally released in 2003, and delves into both the technical and legal aspects of hacking into the console.

The book is being released along with an open letter from [Bunnie]. He discusses the issues he faced with MIT legal and copyright law when working on the project, and explains that the book is being released to honor [Aaron Swartz]. [Swartz] committed suicide in January following aggressive prosecution by the US government.

The book is a great read on practical applications of hardware hacking. It starts off with simple hacks: installing a blue LED, building a USB adapter for the device’s controller ports, and replacing the power supply. The rest of the book goes over how the security on the device was compromised, and the legal implications of pulling off the hack.

[Bunnie]’s open letter is worth a read, it explains the legal bullying that hackers deal with from a first hand prospective. The book itself is a fantastic primer on hardware hacking, and with this release anyone who hasn’t read it should grab the free PDF.

[Ben Heck] builds his smallest 360 laptop ever

[Ben Heck] is no stranger to building Xbox 360 laptops. Over the years he’s built dozens, but for this week’s episode of The Ben Heck Show he’s throwing down the gauntlet and building the smallest Xbox laptop ever.

The latest and greatest Xbox laptop build is based around the newest and smallest  $199 4 Gig Xbox. A few compromises had to be made to turn this console into a laptop, though: The power that would have gone to a Kinect was repurposed to power the very thin 15.6″ LED LCD, while the port that would power a hard drive was used to drive a perfboard stereo amplifier. You can check out the official [Ben Heck] blog post here.

The final build is extremely compact and much smaller than [Ben Heck]’s previous Xbox laptop builds. At just 2.125″ thick and 16 ” wide and 9 ” long, it’s quite possibly the smallest Xbox that’s possible to build. Without a new hardware revision from Microsoft (which seems unlikely at this point), this is probably the smallest an Xbox 360 laptop can be. We tip our hat to [Ben], and wish him luck in the next season of The Ben Heck Show.

Traffic lights tell you when your Xbox Live friends are gaming

It sounds like [Andrew] is trying to build a Pavlovian response into his behavior when it comes to online gaming. He wants to make sure he doesn’t miss out when all his friends are online, so he built this traffic signal to monitor Xbox Live activity. It will illuminate the lights, and drive the meters differently based on which of his friends are currently online. When the light’s green, he drops everything a grabs a controller.

The base of the light is a black project box. Inside you’ll find the Arduino compatible chip which drives the device mounted on a piece of protoboard. A WIZnet W5100 adds network connectivity at the low price of around $25. There is one problem with the setup. The API which [Andrew] found doesn’t use any authentication. This means that he can only see the public status of his friends; anyone who has set their online status set to private will always register as ‘online’. If you know of an existing Xbox Live API that would solve this issue we’d love to hear from you in the comments.

GameGun makes Call of Duty more immersive

In an effort to improve his Call of Duty gaming experience, Reddit user [Harbingerx81] built a custom controller out of an Airsoft gun. Not only does this gun feature all the buttons and joysticks normally found on a stock xbox controller, it’s also loaded up with accelerometers and gyros so his on-screen character points his gun wherever [Harbingerx] points his gun.

From the imgur album, we can see that [Harbingerx] modded an Airsoft gun with a few buttons, d-pads, and switches optimized for Call of Duty. What really gets us is the clever use of accelerometers and a gun-mounted HDMI display (with a wireless HDMI adapter) to provide a home-made virtual reality setup for one of the most popular games.

Building this controller/display wasn’t cheap – it cost [Harbingerx] upwards of $600. A good price, we’re thinking, since the Oculus Rift will be north of $300 along with the added cost of a gun-shaped xbox controller.

humanoid Robot Kinects with its enviroment

[Malte Ahlers] from Germany, After having completed a PhD in neurobiology, decided to build a human sized humanoid robot torso. [Malte] has an interest in robotics and wanted to  show case some of his skills.The project is still in its early development but as you will see in the video he has achieved a nice build so far.

A1 consists of a Human sized torso with two arms, each with five (or six, including the gripper) axes of rotation, which have been based on the robolink joints from German company igus.de. The joints are tendon driven by stepper motors with a planetary gear head attached. Using an experimental controller which he has built, [Malte] can monitor the position of the axis by monitoring the encoders embedded in the joints.

The A1 torso features a head with two degrees of freedom, which is equipped with a Microsoft Kinect sensor and two Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 cameras. With this functionality the head can spatially ”see” and ”hear”. The head also has speakers for voice output, which can be accompanied by an animated gesture on the LCD screen lip movements for example. The hands feature a simple gripping tool based on FESTO FinGripper finger to allow the picking up of misc items.

Building an autonomous robot from an Xbox 360 controller

Wow, it’s amazing what [Carl] was able to build using an Xbox 360 control PCB as the base for his robot. His forum posts just touches the surface of the build, but he linked to a PDF file which has the full details.

This build basically attaches sensors and replacement motors to the controller board… and that is it! Some distance sensors are connected to the analog inputs for the left and right trigger. The whiskers use a couple of leaf switches soldered to controller button pads. The motors are geared replacements that use the same connectors as the rumble motors did.

The idea is that the controller is connected to a PC via the wireless radio it has on the PCB. Once the connection is made the PC software can read from all of the sensors and drive the motors accordingly. It would also be really easy to use a single-board solution like the RPi to do away with the need for a remote PC. But this is a fantastic start, and an approach which we had never before considered. See some video of the little guy getting around the room after the break.

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Bricking a Seagate drive while trying to make it work in an Xbox 360

If you’re looking to replace the hard drive in your Xbox 360 without just buying an official unit, you may be out of luck. There is a tool which will let you do it if you are using aWestern Digital drive as the replacement. But if your new drive is a Seagate this tool will not work. [Darth Circuit] set out to make his Seagate work in the Xbox 360, but his manual changes ended up bricking the drive because of just one little error.

The tool that does this with WD drives is called HddHackr. [Darth] started his quest by finding out what the program actually does. In order to stand in for the original drive the new one must have the same model number, serial number, LBA, and firmware revision. Once these values are changed in a binary file it is written to the drive at a specific location. He changed these values on the drive itself, and got pretty far. That is until he tried a new command which ended up locking him out of the drive. Right now it’s pretty much a brick but we hope someone can pick up where he left off and turn this work into something useful for others. Good luck!