Xbox 360 Homebrew Progress

Every locked piece of hardware has a community of people trying to break into it.  It’s just the way of things.  It looks like the Xbox 360’s time may be approaching:

Just to be clear, the timing attack will allow you to downgrade to 2.0.1888. You can then upgrade to 4532 & run the KK sploit and obtain your CPU keys.

(From xbox-scene.com).

Remember TCPA?  This was the computer industry’s attempt at coming up with a completely locked down system, where there would be a “trusted” known secure environment within which to run code.

The original Xbox protection was basically a TCPA test case, and the Xbox 360 protection was a refresh of that.  TCPA involved a chain of trust from the CPU to the firmware to the kernel to the drivers, so that the system could guarantee that the execution environment hadn’t been tampered with.

In my opinion, rather than marketing this as a way for content providers to ensure that their DRM wasn’t hacked (which is bad for consumers – nobody likes DRM), they should have marketed this as a way of ensuring that gamers weren’t cheating.

Today, thanks to the secure environment that 360 games run within, we know that if someone has an Xbox Live Achievement, it’s because they earned it.  We also know that if someone is kicking our butts at Call of Duty 3, it’s because they’re better than us, not because they’re using an auto-aim hack.

This is what we stand to lose once hacked 360’s are online.

I’m all for hacked Xbox’s.  It’s powerful hardware and I think it would make a great web server or media server, and since Microsoft is now allegedly making a profit on each box sold, it wouldn’t hurt them any if I bought a 2nd Xbox just to use for homebrew, but I don’t like the idea of hacked Xbox’s on Live.

So given that this is about to become a reality *anyway*, here’s a thought.  Microsoft themselves should sell hacked Xbox’s.

Create a custom “hackable” 360 that doesn’t have any restrictions on running 3rd party software, other than that this new box can’t go on Xbox Live.  Let users port Linux to it, run homebrew games and media tools.  Just keep it from being a platform for cheaters.

I wonder how big the market for something like this would be, and how far it would go towards shutting down the hackers.  The true hackers say they’re not doing it to cheat or pirate games, they’re doing it to unlock the potential of the hardware.  If that potential was available unlocked, I guess we’d see if they meant it.

(Interesting note – One of the original Xbox hackers, bunnie, has a company which is producing some a gadget named Chumby.  He’s been posting some views into the manufacturing process in China on his blog; it’s very interesting reading (scroll down a few entries)).