We've moved!

TechKnack.blogspot.com has officially moved to TechKnack.net. You should be redirected in 3-5 seconds. Thank you.

June 18, 2008

XBox Project, Phase 3: Softmodding

Add this post to Del.icio.us. Del.icio.us (0 saved)

Softmodding the XBox, provided you have the right tools, is as easy as installing a program in Windows. Run the given installer, following the step-by-step, and hope everything goes right. Usually it does, until something isn't clearly explained, and then you have to troubleshoot it. Although the key phrase there is "having the right tools".

First things first, you must have the right game and a good walkthrough. There are three games that are exploitable; I used MechAssault, which has to have a disc number of MS02301L. You can get this off of eBay for $20-25 with the disc number explicitly listed; you may be able to get it for less if you can spot it without the number being mentioned. I've also heard of people getting it for $3 or so from a local GameStop, so there's a decent profit to be made if you get it that way. Though I could have used LifeHacker's guide, I ended up using chunkhead's guides at afterdawn.com. The advantage is that he provides a downloadable package containing the AR software and prefab game exploit softmod installers (a lot of guides I found gave you a softmod exploit that you had to insert into a gamesave. Even more pointed you to the #xbins IRC channel, which sends you to an FTP server, which I found most unhelpful. These are pre-built). Check out how to use a USB drive as a memory card to get the softmod installer onto your USB drive; be sure to read through the thread, not just the first post, if you run into problems with the AR software. When you have the files ready, head over to his softmod guide. The screenshots in the second guide don't exactly match the software from the first guide, but they're similar enough that you should be able to figure things out.

Getting the exploits is simple enough: download the zip archive provided at the guide. However, for the sake of completeness, I will describe my experiences while following the LifeHacker guide. First, you must log on to an IRC channel, #xbins, on the Efnet servers. I used Mibbit.com, a web-based IRC client, to sign on to one of the two available Efnet servers. Once there, every guide out there says to PM the bot with the !list command (run "/msg xbins !list"). However, the channel message itself says to !list in-channel to get the FTP login details. Once that's done, the bot PMs you the FTP server and login details, and away you go. I used FileZilla to connect. This worked fine, until I tried to download a file, at which point I would start getting "access denied to user" errors. No matter what I tried, no matter what settings I used, this would always happen. Of course, you have to re-receive the login details after each connection, successful or not. Oh, and if you !list too fast, the bot will kick or ban you from the channel. So you can imagine how frustrating it can be. Yes, there are desirous files on that FTP server that are not provided by chunkhead's guide (such as DVD2XBox, LinksBoks, and other apps), but I found that you can find them on the various torrent sites. And, of course, XBMC you can actually download from T3CH's website.

Now, before you can start moving gamesaves around, you have to format the USB drive with the XBox; simply plug it into your hybrid cable, plug that into the XBox, turn the XBox on. Navigate to Memory on the dashboard. You'll get an error saying either that the memory card was formatted (I got this for my 1GB), or that the memory card may be damaged (I got this for my 4GB). If it says that it's damaged, it may recognize it a second time (unplug the USB drive and plug it back in; worked with my 4GB). Once that's done, it should show up to the side of the main "hard drive" memory source. Move the USB drive to the computer with the AR software on it.

Now, about the Action Replay software, and working with a USB drive. First thing you may want to know is that this probably won't work with wine on linux; I couldn't make it work, anyway. The first afterdawn.com guide contains the AR 1.31 installer and a 1.40 upgrade. Run them in that order. Then follow the directions for using USBView.exe to get your Vendor ID and Product ID, and put those into the appropriate file. Now, you have to understand, the contents of this file specify what devices the AR software looks for as a valid Memory Card. However, it won't work until the drivers are updated to look for them. Simply editing the file won't do it; you have to install the file. Chunkhead's guide has screenshots for Vista, but I floundered around for forever trying to get it to work under XP. After you've edited the file, open the device manager and identify your flash drive. Right click it, select "Update driver...". If it asks you to connect to the internet, select "No, not this time" and click Next. On the next page, select "Install from a list or specific location", then Next. This is the part where I kept getting hung up; do NOT tell the wizard to search in the AR directory for the file! Instead, select "Don't search. I will choose the driver to install", then Next. On the next page, click the "Have Disk..." button, browse to the AR file you edited, and click OK. In the drivers list, a new item will appear that is obviously not your standard computer stuff; select that and click Next. The wizard should then copy and install the necessary stuff. Fire up AR, and you should be good to go; simply drag the appropriate files from your Desktop to the "Memory Card" column, and AR should copy it over to the drive.

Once the files are on the USB drive, move the drive over to the XBox again. Navigate back to memory in your dashboard, and select the "memory card". For each item, press the D-Pad to the right, and you should have the option to Copy the gamesave (took me a while to figure that out, too). Selecting Copy will then give you the choice of where to copy it to, just go with the hard drive. Once both files are saved, load your game and run the exploit.

While in the SID (Softmod Installer Deluxe), make sure you perform all necessary backups. If you feel the need to look at the file system (for example, to make sure your eeprom.bin is backed up), there is a file manager available on the main menu. Otherwise, just follow chunkhead's guide as closely as possible. When you're done, you should be able to boot to your dashboard of choice; mine is UnleashX, though I'm hoping to replace it with XBMC at some point.

When my softmod install was finished, I didn't have an E:\Apps directory, like everyone said I should have. It's safe to simply create this directory through FTP and move your apps into it. XBMC comes in two flavors; the stable version 2.0.1, and the latest SVN build. While the latest build may have more features, I'm finding that I prefer the older stable version, because it allows me to switch back to UnleashX, amongst other reasons (why was this feature taken out??). The latest version of DVD2XBox (0.7.8) doesn't work on my system; it just hangs on the splash screen. I downloaded 0.7.6, and it works great (you can get it from the torrents). I've also downloaded LinksBoks, but haven't gotten around to properly testing it out yet.

So this concludes my hectic softmodding week. As a supplement, I plan on installing DD-WRT onto a Linksys router that I've recently bought and turning it into a bridge so the XBox can go in the living room, under the TV. So much for a weekend project, eh?

No comments: