The AnandTech Linux XBOX PC Experiment

The idea of building a Xbox Linux cluster is not just ironic, it is cool too. Taking something designed by Linux’s arch enemy and making it work with the ‘other OS’ is just classic.

Then to make things even more complicated, to experiment to see if a Linux cluster could be built out of them. Sounds nuts, but I figure if they were able to get Linux to work on them in the first place, building a cluster ought to be a piece of cake.

A few weeks ago, we started investigating the possibility of putting Linux on an XBOX. We played with some ideas in our heads, a render farm, a cheap office computer or a distributed crypto platform, just to start. The idea required a little bit of elbow grease, a mod chip, Linux and a bunch of free time.

All XBOXes are locked into only booting the Microsoft BIOS. That is, if you buy a new XBOX, it’s basic IO does not let you do all that much, except read DVDs, and XBOX games that have special keys encoded into them. A mod chip is a computer chip with another BIOS that physically overrides the Microsoft BIOS. Since the chip is now in charge of how the XBOX should bootstrap itself, it will allow the XBOX to recognize more discs and operations than for what the XBOX is specifically designed. Thus, backup games or entire operating systems can be loaded onto the XBOX hard drive and run from there.