Part of why people can’t stop talking about Meltdown/Spectre is the fact that all the individual pieces have been sitting in plain sight for a long time. When everyone saw how it all came together last week, many people (and not even necessarily security focused people) smacked themselves on the forehead: “Why didn’t I see that earlier?” Speculative execution has caused headaches going way back. [Bruce Dawson] tells one such story he experienced back in 2005. (Warning: ads on page may autoplay video.)
It’s centered around Xbox 360’s custom PowerPC processor. Among the customization on this chip was the addition of an instruction designed to improve memory performance. This instruction was a hack that violated some memory consistency guarantees held by the basic design, so they knew up front it had to be used very carefully. Even worse: debugging problems in this area were a pain. When memory consistency goes wrong, the code visible in the debugger might not be the actual code that crashed.
Since we’re talking about the dark side of speculative execution, you can already guess how the story ends: no matter how carefully it was used, the special instruction continued to cause problems when speculatively executed outside the constrained conditions. Extensive testing proved that instructions that were not being executed were causing crashes. That feels more like superstition than engineering. As far as he can recall, it ended up being more trouble than it was worth and was never used in any shipped Xbox 360 titles.
[Main image source: AnandTech article on Xbox 360 hardware]
The Xbox 360 is a great console. But unfortunately, some units are quite susceptible to overheating, resulting in the horrifying red ring of death (or RROD for short!). Sometimes the damage is done, and you’re pretty much out of luck. But if it’s a two light RROD (indicating inadequate cooling), there’s something you can do to save it. It’s simple — just add a fan.
If your unit is showing the two light RROD, open up the Xbox and take a look at the main heat-sink. You’re probably going to have to re-seat it with new thermal paste due to heat overload. That’ll fix your problem for a bit, but it’s more than likely going to happen again.
[Doyle] did this and it solved the RROD — but checking temperatures, he saw that the chip still hit about 80C in less than 30 seconds of being on! So he decided to add an extra fan.
Continue reading “Adding A Fan Where Microsoft Should Have”
We love portable console builds, and this one by [Daniel Fürstauer] is no exception. It’s a beautifully hacked Xbox 360 slim into an aluminum briefcase — complete with a screen and a full audio system!
He started by gutting the Xbox 360 slim and throwing out pretty much all of the original enclosure, minus the disc drive cover. Now what he did next was completely for aesthetics, but freaking awesome. He actually took the motherboard out, taped off some of the important components, and spray painted the entire thing white! We’re not too sure what effect this will have on some of the components, but it seems to work, and gives it a really unique look underneath his Plexiglas enclosure.
He housed the rest of it (complete with custom cooling fans!) inside of one of those nice aluminum briefcases, complete with a widescreen LCD monitor, and computer speakers. He even fit the power supply inside — all you have to do is plug it in! There’s also room for at least one controller, whose holding spot doubles as space for the disc drive to eject. Continue reading “Xbox 360 Slim Gets Gutted and… Painted White?”
We’re not sure how scientific the following hack is, but it’s certainly interesting. Designer [Samuel Matson], interested in the correlation between gaming and stress, has pieced together a device that provides biofeedback during gameplay. He referenced this /r/gaming thread—which measured a player’s heart rate during a Halo session—as well as conducted his own tests that monitored the heart rate of gamers. After several iterations, [Samuel] had the above-pictured headset, which features the familiar and hackable pulse sensor placed by the earpiece.
The headset uses a TinyDuino and a Bluetooth TinyShield to communicate to the gamer’s computer in real time. He didn’t stop with simply monitoring heart rates, however; he integrated the signal into the game design. [Samuel] used indie-favorite game engine Unity3d to create a third-person shooter that reacts to the pulse sensor by raising the difficulty level when the player’s heart rate increases. It seems that his goal is to reduce or control stress among players, but we suspect inverting the model may be more effective: have the game cut you some slack when you’re stressed and present a challenge when you’re mellow.
It’s small, it’s blurry, but it’s working. Here’s a proof of concept for playing emulators on a Chromecast which uses the original Game Boy as an example.
This puts stars in our eyes about emulator hacks. We’d love to see this boiled down to smartphone and Chromecast as the two pieces of hardware, with the touchscreen as the gaming input.
Continue reading “How to play a Game Boy emulator on Chromecast”
With every generation of consoles, there comes a time when the price of a new box is cheap enough, and used machines are plentiful enough, that console hackers pull out all the stops before the next generation arrives. For the Xbox 360, that time is now, and with no PS1-like hardware revision on the horizon, it looks like [jhax01]’s custom Xbox 360 laptop might be the smallest Xbox casemod we’ll see for a very long time.
[jhax01] was inspired by the work of [Yung Jeezus] and [AllYourXboxNeeds]’ YouTube channels and decided to craft his own custom enclosure for an Xbox 360 slim. The case was made out of aluminum plate cut with a simple angle grinder and bent on a cheap 18″ Harbor Freight brake. Despite these extremely simple tools, [jhax01] managed to fabricate a case that’s right up there with the masters of Xbox laptop craftsmanship.
The CD drive was ditched along with plans for a second hard drive. The display’s enclosure and hinge comes from an ASUS Zenbook, hence this project’s eponym, the ZenBox. The panel from the display was discarded and replaced with one that would work with the LVDS converter [jhax] found, giving the laptop a resolution of 1366×768.
It’s an amazing piece of craftsmanship, and an impressively thin gaming console to boot. Throw in a battery, and we’d be more than happy to carry this one around with us.
Xbox 360 control for a toy heli
[Jason] leveraged the IR control libraries for Arduino to use an Xbox 360 controller to fly his Syma S107G helicopter.
Windows 7 running on Raspberry Pi
Why, oh god why? Well, the guys at Shackspace got their hands on a laser cutter that can only be driven with a Windows program. Their solution was to run Win7 on RPi as a virtual machine.
Twin-servos for your third hand
After growing tired of constantly flipping over the substrate being held with a third hand [Nidal] came up with a better way. He mounted his third hand on two servo motors so that it can be positioned with a joystick.
Depopulating SMD resistors
If you’ve ever tried to remove small surface mount resistors or capacitors with an iron you know it can be tricky. Take a look at the technique that [Scott] uses to remove the components.
Photographing the die of MSP430, Z80, PIC, and several other chips
Here’s the latest work from [Michail] on photographing the die of various chips. You may remember reading his previous post on decapping chips with boiling sulfuric acid.