October 8, 2002 12:34 PM PDT

Xbox version of Linux finished

A hacker group specializing in software for Microsoft's Xbox announced late Monday the release of the first full version of Linux for the game console.

The Xbox Linux Project selected version 9 of French company MandrakeSoft's release of the open-source operating system.

The new Xbox version takes all the features of the PC version of Mandrake Linux 9--including the Gnome user interface, OpenOffice office software and the Mozilla Web browser--and adapts them to run on the Xbox. The software is available for download now.

"With Xbox Linux Mandrake, the Xbox gaming console is just as powerful as any comparable PC with Mandrake Linux 9," project organizers said in a statement. "It can be used for office applications, the Internet, e-mail, Linux games or even as a Web, file or database server."

The Xbox Linux Project is one of many efforts to produce homemade software that can run on the Xbox. The Microsoft game machine has inspired hackers from the day it was released, thanks partly to a design that uses common PC components such as a Pentium processor and Microsoft's DirectX graphics library.

To run, the homebrew software requires an Xbox outfitted with a "mod chip," a gray-market add-on that typically has to be soldered to the Xbox's main circuit board. Once installed, the chips shut down security systems built into the console, allowing it to run unauthorized software, legally and illegally copied game discs and import games.

While mod chips have proliferated for other game consoles, including Sony's PlayStation 2, Microsoft has been particularly zealous in fighting them, employing a variety of legal and technical maneuvers to limit their use.

Besides a mod chip, the Xbox version of Linux also requires a USB keyboard and mouse, connected to the Xbox using a homemade USB adapter.

 

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