Linux on an Xbox?!
Linux never ceases to amaze – one minute it’s powering netbooks and media centers, the next its running on an Xbox 360!
While Linux was commonly run on the original Xbox, it is surprising to learn that it can be used to run homebrew applications and games on an Xbox 360 – although it isn’t without its problems. Basically, anyone wanting to run Linux on their 360 needs a device that hasn’t been connected to the web since 2009.
So what are the real benefits of running Linux on an Xbox 360? Does it affect your warranty, and what happens to Xbox LIVE?
Linux and Xbox (XBMC)
Before we find out the details about running Linux on Xbox 360 consoles, let’s take a brief look at the history of running Linux on consoles such as the original Xbox and the PlayStation 3.
As the original Xbox was basically a PC in a box - powered by a Celeron processor and with 10GB of hard disk space - the gaming devices made excellent Linux boxes and various builds were available. Most popular was probably the Xbox Media Center, which has since forked into the XBMC media centre distribution and is a popular choice for home theatres.
Meanwhile the PlayStation 3 was a popular target for Linux hackers as a means to prove the flexibility of Linux, and many PS3 consoles around the world were capable of running Linux until an update from Sony put this potential piracy risk out of reach.
Which brings us neatly to the Xbox 360…
Linux on Xbox 360 with the Free60 Project
The Free60 project (free60.org) aims to port Linux and related open source systems to Xbox 360 devices, and has so far seen some success. However it should be noted that there are a couple of caveats.
• Only Xbox 360s that have not had the August 2009 update from Microsoft (see below) can run the combination of Linux and Homebrew operating system code
• Xbox 360s without the update must also have a hardware modification added, which requires the bridging of 3 points on the Xbox 360 motherboard. Full details about this can be found at free60.org.
Like the PlayStation 3, the Xbox 360 received an update in August 2009 that made a few changes to the system, notably how the bootloader detects the operating system so that only the official Microsoft Xbox 360 OS would boot. As such later Xbox 360s and those with the update on cannot run Linux.
Things to Consider
If your Xbox 360 hasn’t received the update and you’re prepared to make the hardware modification referred to above, you should consider the following:
- Making the hardware mod will invalidate your warranty
- You will need to download various operating system builds and search for initial boot loaders, and these are not available via free60.org.
- You will be unable to access Xbox LIVE; indeed, attempts to connect will result in your account being closed.
For the best possible outcome, you should get your hands on a second Xbox 360 (via eBay, for instance) and keep your main console intact.
Full information and details on the project and how you can get started can be found at free60.org.