“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.

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.

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!

Encrypted drive attack hints at original Xbox hacking

[Thice] discovered a vulnerability in encrypted portable storage a few years ago. He’s just pointing about the exploit now. He mentions that he notified manufacturers long ago and we’d guess the wait to publish is to give them a chance to patch the exploit.

He calls it the Plug-Over Attack and for those who were involved with original Xbox hacking, this technique will sound very familiar. The Xbox used hard drive keys to lock the device when not in use. When you booted up the console it checked the hardware signature to make sure it was talking to the right motherboard. But if you booted up the device, then swapped the IDE cable over to a computer without cutting the power you could access the drive without having the password.

This attack is pretty much the same thing. Plug in a drive, unlock it on the victim system the normal way, then replug into the attacking system. In the image above you can see that a USB hub will work for this, but you can also use a hacked USB cable that patches a second jack into the power rail. For some reason the encryption system isn’t able to lock itself when the USB enumerates on the new system, only when power is cycled. Some of them have a timer which watches for drive idle but that still doesn’t protect from this exploit.

UnoJoy makes your Arduino play well with Xbox 360 or PS3

We’ve seen Arduino-based game controllers before, but the UnoJoy project wants to make it easy for you to plug them into a gaming console.

The project is targeted at the Arduino UNO. Why only that hardware… isn’t Arduino universal? Well yes, but in this case the bootloader needs to be overwritten so that the Arduino will enumerate as an approved controller on your game system. Here the device is being put into DFU mode in preparation for flashing.

Once that part’s done it’s time to get to work on your own hardware interface. The UnoJoy library provides all of the hooks you need to push controller data to the game console, it’s up to you to use the Arduino IDE to decide when these events happen. This would be a great opportunity to make the Pinball Stop controllers work with the Xbox Live Arcade games. Or take a look after the break to see [Alan Chatham] using the library to control Gran Turismo as if it were an NES Power Pad game.

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Computer control for your Xbox controller

This wiring nightmare lets [H. Smeitink] map all the buttons from an Xbox 360 controller to his PC. It gives him the ability to push control input from his PC to the console. But it goes a step further than that because it actually acts as a pass-through device. He connected a wired controller to the computer and uses a program he wrote to translate those inputs and send them to the hacked controller.

The software is written in C#. It’s got a recording function that lets him save the keypress data from the wired controller while it’s sent to the Xbox in real time. When he finds a combination that he uses frequently he plucks out those commands, sets them up as a macro, and assigns one of the buttons to execute it. The controller hack uses one transistor for each button, and a PIC 18F4550 which controls them and provides USB connectivity with the PC.

This isn’t one nice package like some integrated rapid-fire and macro solutions we’ve seen. But it certainly opens up a lot more possibilities. See for yourself in the clip after the break.

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