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Business 2.0: Hacking the Xbox

Apr 11, 2003, 13:00 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Erick Schonfeld)

"It is not too difficult to imagine the ultimate digital entertainment appliance: something with the versatility and storage capacity of a PC, but connected to your TV and stereo so that you can enjoy all of your digital photos, music, and videos from the comfort of your living room. And all for less than $200. Pipe dream? Such an appliance already exists. It's called the Xbox. But these features are not available from Microsoft. Rather, they're the work of a group of enterprising open-source hackers who are showing Microsoft what the Xbox's full potential truly is.

"The Xbox, of course, is Microsoft's popular but money-losing videogame machine. It comes with a small 8-gigabyte hard drive, RCA jacks to connect it to a TV, an Ethernet networking port, and other PC-like components. It's sold as a videogame console, but it can also double as a DVD player. Still, the Xbox can be so much more.

"That's where the Xbox hackers come in. Apparently, most of them modify the console in order to play bootleg games or those classic games (Centipede, for example) made for older systems such as Atari. Other hackers have loaded Xbox consoles with the Linux operating system (you have to love the irony of that) and clustered them together in cheap server farms. But the most interesting Xbox hacks transform it into a digital media center, enabling it to share files with regular PCs, display digital photos, or play digital music and video files..."

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