freeBOOT gives the Xbox 360 JTAG hack new life

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There has been another development in the never-ending battle that is Microsoft trying to keep its gaming system closed to unauthorized use. Xbox-scene reports that a new hack called freeBOOT v0.01 allows the Xbox 360 to upgrade to the newer kernels, but allows the option of rebooting to an older kernel in order use the JTAG exploit and gain access to the hardware.

In case you missed it, the JTAG hack is a way to run homebrew code on an Xbox 360. Exploiting this hack makes it possible to boot a Linux kernel in about five seconds. We’ve long been fans of the homebrew work done with XBMC on the original Xbox and hope that advances like this will lead to that end. We want this because the older hardware cannot handle high definition content at full resolution but the Xbox 360 certainly can.

This exploit is still far from perfect. It currently requires that the Cygnos360 mod chip be installed on the system. A resistor also needs to be removed from the board to prevent accidental kernel updating. That being said, this is still progress. If you’re interested in step-by-step details, take a look at the text file instructions provided.

[Thanks wdfowty]

Parts: Unboxing the Bus Pirate

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For months we’ve used our Bus Pirate universal serial interface tool to demonstrate electronics parts, so it’s only appropriate that the Bus Pirate get it’s own parts post. We recently had a Bus Pirate preorder, and today we received the pre-production Bus Pirate prototype from Seeed Studio. This prototype was mailed just a few days before preorder 1 started to ship, so those packages should start arriving any day.

Follow along as we unbox the prototype Bus Pirate, and connect it to a debugger to determine the PIC24FJ64GA002-I/SO revision that shipped with this board. Use this post to share your own Bus Pirate unboxing experience. Pictures and discussion after the break.

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How-to: The Bus Pirate V2 with USB

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Update, Saturday July 4th, 2009: All preorders are closed.

The Bus Pirate is a universal serial interface tool, we use it to test new chips without writing any code. It currently supports most serial protocols, including 1-Wire, I2C, SPI, JTAG, asynchronous serial, MIDI, and more. We added some other features we frequently need, like pulse-width modulation, frequency measurement, voltage measurement, bus sniffers, pull-up resistors, and switchable 3.3volt and 5volt power supplies.

The new v2 family adds USB power and connectivity to the best Bus Pirate design yet. We also reduced the part count and cost wherever possible. If you want to get your hands on some Bus Pirate USB goodness, Seeed Studio has assembled hardware for $30 (including worldwide shipping).

Read about the new design after the break.

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How-to: Bus Pirate v1, improved universal serial interface

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We use the Bus Pirate to interface a new chip without writing code or designing a PCB. Based on your feedback, and our experience using the original Bus Pirate to demonstrate various parts, we updated the design with new features and cheaper components.

There’s also a firmware update for both Bus Pirate hardware versions, with bug fixes, and a PC AT keyboard decoder. Check out the new Hack a Day Bus Pirate page, and browse the Bus Pirate source code in our Google code SVN repository.

We cover the design updates and interface a digital to analog converter below.

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Bus Pirate firmware update (v.0c), JTAG and more

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Download: buspirate.v0c.zip

A few weeks ago we wrote about our Bus Pirate universal serial interface tool. We used the recent holiday to add some new features, like a JTAG programmer, macros, frequency measurement, and more. A major code reorganization makes everything easier to read and update.

Check out the a demonstration of the new features below. We’re compiling a roadmap and wish list, so share your ideas in the comments. You can also see how we used the Bus Pirate to read a smart card and test-drive an I2C crystal oscillator.

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Automatic JTAG Pinout Detection

Figuring out the JTAG pinout on a device turns out to be the most time consuming hardware portion of many hacks. [hunz] started a project called JTAG Finder to automatically detect the JTAG pinouts on arbitrary devices using an 8bit AVR ATmega16/32L microcontroller. Check out the slides (PDF) from the talk as they break down how one finds JTAG ports on an arbitrary device, with or without a pinout detection tool. [hunz] is looking for people to pick up the project where he left off.

Once you determine the correct pinout, you will need a JTAG cable: there are two main types, buffered and unbuffered, both of which I have soldered up and tested from these circuit diagrams (image of completed buffered cable here). The software most hardware people use today are the openwince JTAG Tools. To get the JTAG Tools to compile, grab the latest source directly from their CVS repository.

The last time we featured JTAG was with regards to Linksys devices, but the tools listed above can be applied to any device with JTAG.

Free your iPhone


I wasn’t going to post this – it’s a freakin phone after all. But I’ve gotten quite a few tips on it, and I’d like them to end. [George] made a concerted effort to hack the iPhone – and it paid off. After his crazy ebay auction that topped out at 99,999,999.99 last time I checked, he ended up trading his first phone for a Nissan 350z and a few more iPhones.
He documented his process, step by step – if you’ve got the skills, you can probably do it yourself. The soldering work is damn fine work – probably the hardest thing there is. The write up is a little hard to follow, so plan on taking some time to comprehend everything. (Blogging software isn’t the best way to organize how-tos, trust me on this.) My hats off to [George], he did some great work. – So, why didn’t I want to post it? All this work yielded one thing: carrier choice for the iPhone.

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