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Hacking the Xbox: An Introduction to Reverse Engineering

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This hands-on guide to hacking begins with step-by-step tutorials on hardware modifications that teach basic hacking techniques as well as essential reverse engineering skills. The book progresses into a discussion of the Xbox security mechanisms and other advanced hacking topics, with an emphasis on educating the readers on the important subjects of computer security and reverse engineering. Hacking the Xbox includes numerous practical guides, such as where to get hacking gear, soldering techniques, debugging ...

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Overview

This hands-on guide to hacking begins with step-by-step tutorials on hardware modifications that teach basic hacking techniques as well as essential reverse engineering skills. The book progresses into a discussion of the Xbox security mechanisms and other advanced hacking topics, with an emphasis on educating the readers on the important subjects of computer security and reverse engineering. Hacking the Xbox includes numerous practical guides, such as where to get hacking gear, soldering techniques, debugging tips and an Xbox hardware reference guide.

Hacking the Xbox also confronts the social and political issues facing today's hacker by looking forward and discussing the impact of today's legal challenges on legitimate reverse engineering activities. The book includes a chapter written by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) about the rights and responsibilities of hackers, and concludes by discussing the latest trends and vulnerabilities in secure PC platforms.

This hands-on guide to hacking Microsoft's powerful video games console starts with step-by-step tutorials on hardware modification that teach basic hacking techniques as well as essential reverse engineering skills.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
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.

From The Critics

Reverse engineering, the not so gentle art of figuring out how something works by taking it apart, has been practiced by hardware oriented geeks and tinkerers for as long as anyone can remember. It’s the way Wozniak learned to build the first Apple, and it’s the way many of today’s young engineers are learning about hardware engineering.

While many engineers believe that reverse engineering is a protected right, The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) makes unauthorized access to intellectual property illegal, including certain types of reverse engineering. This controversial book, “Hacking the Xbox”: An Introduction to Reverse Engineering” by Andrew “bunnie” Huang, tackles the thorny issue of reverse engineering head on by showing readers how to hack their Xbox ™. Originally self-published, “Hacking the Xbox” has already become a cult classic, selling thousands of copies through the author’s website in just a couple of months. Now with the full support of No Starch Press (the only publisher willing to take the risk), “Hacking the Xbox” is getting the distribution and exposure it needs to make it a major bestseller.

“No Starch Press distinguished itself as the only publisher with the courage to accept the book without any suggestion of censorship or caveats,” says Huang. Even with the possibility of litigation under the DMCA, No Starch Press publisher Bill Pollock explains why his company is publishing this controversial book: “This is about freedom of speech and our First Amendment rights. It’s also about the way people learn. It’s the way I’ve been learning about hardware since I was 10 years old, when I took apart my first telephone.”

With an estimated 8 million units sold, Microsoft’s Xbox video game system is the second most popular gaming console on the market today. The Xbox is, at its core, nothing more than an inexpensive PC with extra pieces tacked on to prevent you from using it as such. With a bit of know how, the help of “Hacking the Xbox”, and some elbow grease, the Xbox can be turned into a working PC, media player, or web server.

Using the Xbox as a teaching tool, Huang introduces novice hackers to basic hacking techniques such as reverse engineering and debugging. “Hacking the Xbox” also covers Xbox security mechanisms and other advanced hacking topics of interest to more seasoned hackers. A chapter written by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) rounds out the book with a discussion of the rights and responsibilities of hackers. The book also includes numerous practical guides, such as where to get hacking gear, how to use soldering techniques, debugging tips, and an Xbox hardware reference guide, which make “Hacking the Xbox” truly a handbook for a new generation of hackers. So pick up a screwdriver and start hacking!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew “bunnie” Huang has an extensive background in electronics systems engineering and received a PhD in Electrical Engineering from MIT. His experience includes work in digital design, reverse engineering, embedded systems design and programming, board fabrication and assembly, java/C/assembly programming, analog design, computer architecture, high speed interconnect and signal integrity, applied cryptography and systems security, and systems engineering.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593270292
  • Publisher: No Starch Press San Francisco, CA
  • Publication date: 7/28/2003
  • Edition description: Unlimited ed.
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 9.04 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew "bunnie" Huang lives in Kalamazoo, MI.

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Table of Contents

Prologue : README.1ST 1
Ch. 1 Voiding the Warranty 15
Ch. 2 Thinking Inside the Box 31
Ch. 3 Installing a Blue LED 53
Ch. 4 Building a USB Adapter 67
Ch. 5 Replacing a Broken Power Supply 73
Ch. 6 The Best Xbox Game: Security Hacking 89
Ch. 7 A Brief Primer on Security 101
Ch. 8 Reverse Engineering Xbox Security 119
Ch. 9 Sneaking in the Back Door 137
Ch. 10 More Hardware Projects 151
Ch. 11 Developing Software for the Xbox 161
Ch. 12 Caveat Hacker 173
Ch. 13 Onward! 193
App. A Where to Get Your Hacking Gear 207
App. B Soldering Techniques 211
App. C Getting into PCB Layout 223
App. D Getting Started with FPGAs 237
App. E Debugging: Hints and Tips 247
App. F Xbox Hardware Reference 257
Index 267
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2006

    Definatly a buy for hardware hackers

    This is verry usefull info for hardware hackers and even those who want to mod an original xbox.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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