Wow look at that version number! Its creaping up toward the one year mark. For good or bad, I still like this job.
Its a long story about how I came to own an Xboxyou know, the Microsoft game console. To cut that narative short, Vbxtras, an online software store that specializes in developer software, offered a free Xbox with the purchase of a Microsoft MSDN Universal subscription. Since I buy MSDN Universal every year, this seemed like a no-brainer. Little did I know how this no-brainer would show me how little brains I have when it comes to games.
The last time I played any computer games was in the late eighties. My kids enjoyed the Kings Quest series and I bought them all. Most of those games ran on the IBM PCjr (remember the jr?) which, I thought, was a great game machine for the time. Hey, what did I know!? I could run those games using one of those old joy sticks that actually had a stick, and the user interface was incredibly simple so simple even I could play! Well, welcome to the new millenium! The Xbox runs a stripped down version of the Windows 2000 kernal with an awesome video system, however, there is no keyboard or mouse. The old PCjr joy stick had the stick and two buttons (one more than a regular PC joy stick). The Xbox has a controller with two knobs called thumb sticks (similar to the single stick on my old joy stick) plus eight buttons, a directional pad and two triggers! Ive had this thing for a week and I just found the triggers. And you can connect four of these controllers to one Xbox. Oh, one more thingthe Xbox has an ethernet port. So far I have determined that this port has no purpose whatsoever untill you spend an additional $50. Then you can connect to something called Xbox Live.
When you open your Xbox, you find only the most basic instructions on paper. The Quick Start Guide shows how to connect the three cablespower, the game controller and one for composit video and sound to the television. It then details the use of the two buttons on the front of the box one is power and other opens the CD/DVD drive. Along with this one sheet of paper is a DVD-style box that contains one DVD and two game instruction books. The DVD contains the two games and preview videos of several other titles. The two games are Sega GT2002 and Jet Set Radio Future both published by Sega. [Gee, I thought, Sega made their own game consoles... Oh, well!] Ill now tell you everything I know about the two games that come with the Xbox.
GT2002 is a racing game. There are menus where you select (maybe buy?) a car and maybe some other stuff. Once you have a car, you can race somehow. In Jet Set Radio Future, you select a character. From the instruction book, I think the game takes place in Tokyo. Thats it. Thats all I know. I need to RTFM1. While actually using the game box, the menus in GT2002 are as far as Ive gotten. I find the user interface so obscure that I have not been able to get far enought that I can actually start either game. All those buttons and levers undoubtedly have a purpose but they change with each game I think. Maybe I need a kid to show me how all this works.
So, youre probably wondering why I bothered with this thing at all. Well Im beginning to wonder myself! Ever since the Microsoft first annouced the Xbox, pundits have prediced that it would be the most hacked device ever. While I think the I-Opener is the most hacked device, an entire industry seems to be growing to allow owners to make their Xbox do things that Microsoft never intended. Most of the actual companies selling mod chips and other devices seem to be in Britan or Europe but the chips themselves are engineered in the Orient. There are all sorts of mod chips for the Xbox to make it do all sorts of cool things like run Linux, pretend to be other game consoles, or play other DVDs. All of this involves running unsigned code. You may be familiar with signed device drivers for Windows XP. The maker of the program has digitally signed the program to help ensure that its safe. In the case of the Xbox, only games signed in a manner recognized by the Xbox are allowed to run. Mod chips bypass this step so other code can run. After reading a few web sites and message boards it looks like Microsoft is doing what it can to squelch the mod chip industry. However, there is already at least one Linux distribution for the Xbox, a computer that is supposed to only run games authorized games.
So, my next step is to research the easiest way to run Linux on the Xbox. In the meantime maybe I can learn how to play a game. Hey this might be fun!
For you Linux fans, I would like to point out that this column was written using both Word 2002 and Open Office Writer interchangably. I have Open Office 1.0 installed on Red Hat 8 and its pretty cool. Plus I use Samba to copy files back and forth between Linux and Windows. Ill have more on Open Office and Red Hat 8 next month. In the meantime, get out and enjoy all this wonderful snow!