Many legendary engineers got their start with a soldering iron, taking apart and assembling radios, phones, and computers. In those halcyon days, many devices even came with schematics! Nowadays, neither the manufacturers nor the law are quite so friendly. But one current device is especially splendid for hardware hacking: Microsoft’s Xbox.
Almost a PC, this sub-$200 device can be made to do anything from running Linux to serving as a complete media center. And the reverse-engineering skills you learn with it are incredibly useful in all manner of (licit) pursuits. That’s where Hacking the Xbox comes in.
Andrew “Bunny” Huang introduces the ideas and techniques you need to decipher just about any device and walks through several common Xbox mods, taking all the intimidation out of hardware hacking. (Well, almost all. You do want to read the guest chapter full of legal advice on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.)
You’ll start by learning how to “read” a circuit board (Huang answers some of those questions you’ve always wondered about, e.g., why do some circuit board traces seem to meander aimlessly?) Then, you’ll get to work, starting simple (replacing the LED with a cool blue one), and working your way up to the big Kahuna: Xbox security.
Huang’s incredibly useful appendices tell you where to get your gear (some electronics distributors are friendlier than others) and offer practical introductions to soldering, PCB layout, FPGAs, and hardware debugging.
One major publisher backed away from this book for fear of the legal issues. Seems a shame. Whether you plan to void your Xbox warranty or not, this stuff’s just plain fascinating. Bill Camarda
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks for Dummies, Second Edition.