January 2, 2003 1:47 PM PST
Lindows CEO funds Xbox hacking contest
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The revelation was made in a posting earlier this week on the Xbox Linux Project site at SourceForge, a site for collaborative development of open-source software projects. Robertson disclosed his identity as the person funding the contest and extended the deadline.
Robertson confirmed the SourceForge posting in an interview Thursday with CNET News.com, saying he funded the contest not for business goals but to promote open access to technology. "There is no business justification; that's not why I did it," he said. "I did it because I thought people should have the choice to run the software they want on the hardware of their choice...I don't think when you buy a car, they should be able to tell you what brand of gas to put in it."
Robertson said Microsoft's efforts to close off the Xbox are particularly alarming because the game machine is based on the same type of Intel processors used in PCs. Restricting access to the processor sets a dangerous precedent, he said, particularly as Microsoft moves forward with its Palladium project to boost the security of PCs by linking future versions of the Windows operating system with Intel and Advanced Micro Devices processors.
"I think the Xbox sets a dangerous precedent," he said. "I think there's a battle here try to pull this open Intel architecture into a closed world--that's where Microsoft wants this to head."
The project was announced last July with prizes of $100,000 each for the first developer to accomplish two goals. The first challenge was to get Linux running on an Xbox, a goal that has already been met by several developers. The project team expects to divvy up that prize money among several hackers this month, according to the site.
The second challenge, to run Linux on an Xbox with no hardware modifications, has been more of a struggle. To date, hackers wanting to run unauthorized software on the Xbox have needed a console outfitted with a "mod chip," gray-market add-ons that defeat security measures built into the machine. Microsoft has used a variety of legal, technical and other measures to defeat mod chips.
Running software without a mod chip could require hackers to crack the Xbox's built-in software to the point where it could be booted from a homemade disc, as hackers managed to do with Sega's now-defunct Dreamcast console.
Both Xbox Linux contests originally were set to expire last Monday, but Robertson extended the deadline for the second part to encourage development projects. "Michael Robertson has decided to extend the deadline for part B for another year," according to the SourceForge posting. "We are already preparing new open-analysis tools. Any experienced hacker is welcome to join the effort."
Robertson first came to prominence several years ago as founder of digital music site MP3.com. After selling the site, he started Lindows, which aims to sell a streamlined version of Linux for the average PC user.
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