The build was in part inspired by a Microsoft creation: a large fridge in the shape of an Xbox Series X. However, [Michael] wanted to go further, maintaining the gaming functionality and more faithfully recreating details like the divot on the top of the console.
The first step was to build a big wooden frame, with wooden panels screwed on to create the basic form of the console. Creating the lovely curved and perforated top was done by 3D printing a series of pieces that were all glued together to emulate the feature on the real console itself. The back was also given fake giant ports that look just like the real thing.
The real hack is inside, though. The Xbox hardware itself just sits inside the frame on a little shelf. There’s a handful of servo motors set up to press the real console’s buttons when the corresponding buttons are pressed on the giant Xbox itself. It goes a long way to making the build feel “real” to the user.
RAM upgrades for the original XBox have been a popular mod — you could relatively easily bump your RAM from 64MB to 128MB. While it wouldn’t give you any benefit in most games written to expect 64MB, it does help with emulators, game development, and running alternative OSes like Linux. The XBox PCB always had footprints for extra RAM chips, so RAM upgrades were simple – just get some new RAM ICs and solder them onto the board. However, in the hardware revision 1.6, these footprints were removed, and RAM upgrades on v1.6 were always considered impossible.
[Prehistoricman] brings a mod that makes RAM upgrades on v1.6 possible using an old trick from the early days of home computers. He’s stacking new RAM chips on top of the old ones and soldering them on in parallel. The overwhelming majority of the RAM lines are shared between chips, which is what makes this mod possible – all you need to connect to the extra chips is magnet wire for extra RAM chip select lines, which are, thankfully, still available on the board. He shares a tutorial with plenty of illustrations, so it should be easier for you to perform this mod, in case you’re stuck with a newer console that doesn’t have the RAM chip footprints left onboard.
The original Xbox might be old hardware, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth messing with. Wonder what it takes to softmod an original Xbox? Modding is essentially jailbreaking, and softmodding is doing it using an entirely software-driven process, with no need to crack open the case or mess with electronics.
Don’t let that fool you into thinking the process requires nothing more than pressing a button; it’s actually quite involved, but more accessible now that [ezContents] has published a comprehensive walkthrough for softmodding an original Xbox, complete with loads of screenshots and photos.
The process uses a softmodding tool but that’s only the first step. Making the magic happen comes from installing a carefully crafted save file to the console, booting with an exploited game disk, and then installing software that the manufacturer doesn’t want on the hardware, via a process that the manufacturer doesn’t want to happen. Considering that, it’s expected to have to jump through a few hoops.
With the recent release of Microsoft Flight Simulator on the Xbox Series X|S there’s never been a better time to get a flight stick for the console, and as you might imagine, there are a number of third party manufacturers who would love to sell you one. But where’s the fun in that?
If you’ve got a fairly well tuned 3D printer, you can print out and assemble this joystick by [Akaki Kuumeri] that snaps right onto the Xbox’s controller. Brilliantly designed to leverage the ability of 3D printers to produce compliant mechanisms, or flextures, you don’t even need any springs or fasteners to complete assembly.
The free version of Thingiverse only lets you move the controller’s right analog stick, but if you’re willing to drop $30 USD on the complete version, the joystick includes additional levers that connect to the controller’s face and shoulder buttons for more immersive control. There’s even a throttle that snaps onto the left side of the controller, though it’s optional if you’d rather save the print time.
If you want to learn more about the idea behind the joystick, [Akaki] is all too happy to walk you through the finer parts of the design in the video below. But the short version is the use of a flextures in the base of the joystick opened up the space he needed to run the mechanical linkages for all the other buttons.
The original Xbox was well-known for being based on basic PC hardware, and among developers, well known for having just 64 megabytes of RAM which even at the time wasn’t a lot to be working with. In a recent podcast, [Todd Howard] of Bethesda related an anecdote from the era, claiming that Morrowind occasionally invisibly rebooted the Xbox without user’s knowledge in order to free up RAM. [Modern Vintage Gamer] wanted to determine if this was true or not, and began an investigation.
The investigation begins with the aid of an Xbox Development Kit. Noting that the original anecdote mentioned the reboots occurring during the loading process, the devkit Xbox was soft rebooted after executing a load. Rather than going back to the title screen of the game, it kicked straight back into the loading screen and brought up the last save game instead. This suggested that the game was indeed capable of rebooting in the midst of the loading routine.
[Modern Vintage Gamer] had a hunch that this was being achieved with the use of a routine called XLaunchNew Image, a piece of the Xbox API that could be used to soft-reboot the console and start an executable. Upon decompiling Morrowind, a call was found that fit the bill. Further analysis showed that the game was indeed calling XLaunchNewImage upon loading and launching a new game, and was confirmed by finding an *.ini file that contained flags to enable this behaviour.
Presumably, the reason for this behaviour was that it was simpler to boot the game fresh when loading a save, rather than trying to unload all the game assets in memory from the current game. It’s a neat trick that likely made the development team’s lives much easier once they implemented it.
Perhaps the greatest convenience feature of modern consoles is the wireless controller. Eliminating the risk of tripping over cords and enabling play in all manner of poorly ergonomic positions, they added huge comfort to the console gaming experience. [ismell] was no fan of the Dreamcast’s original controller, and the cable was too short to boot. It was time to bring the 360 Wireless controller to Sega’s swansong.
Early attempts by [ismell] involved a Windows computer acting as a USB host for the 360 controller, which would then send out commands back to the Dreamcast via a Cypress EZ-USB FX2 microcontroller. If this sounds esoteric and messy, that’s because it is. It was also too slow to reliably work, as the Dreamcast’s Maple controller bus expects updates every millisecond, else it considers the controller disconnected.
Instead, a dedicated USB host was needed to speak to the 360 controller and also the Dreamcast. [ismell] landed on the MicroZed 7010, a System on Chip that also packs an FPGA on board. With Petalinux running on the board, it interfaces with the Xbox 360 USB wireless controller interface, and then sends the data out over a custom “network” driver that sends packets to the Dreamcast over the Maple bus.
Many a gamer has found that after a few years of racing around the track or sending demons back from whence they came, the analog sticks on their trusty controller can start to drift around. Many times it’s a fairly minor problem, something you might only notice if you were really keeping an eye out for it, but it can definitely be annoying. Those handy with a soldering iron might just swap out the sticks for replacements once it gets to that point, but [Taylor Burley] wondered how difficult it would be to recalibrate the ailing sticks instead.
To be clear, [Taylor] acknowledges this approach is overkill. It would be cheaper and easier to just replace the drifting stick with a new one. Even if you take into account that new sticks might not be as high quality as the originals and could give up the ghost faster, this probably isn’t worth the effort. But that doesn’t mean it’s not an interesting hack.
In the video after the break, [Taylor] starts by explaining how stick drift occurs in the first place. Each axis of the stick is physically connected to the wiper of a potentiometer, so for 10K pots, the stick’s center point should correspond to a resistance of 5K. He then goes on to measure the resistance in a bad joystick, and sure enough, the center resistance is off by several hundred Ohms.
To fix this, he comes up with a simple circuit that places additional potentiometers between the wipers. With two joysticks and two adjustment pots per axis, that makes eight little adjustment wheels that need to be fiddled with to get the center points calibrated properly. In this case [Taylor] uses a controller diagnostic tool for the Xbox to quantify the impact his adjustments are making so he can dial it in perfectly, but the idea is the same no matter who’s logo is on the box.