The Amibox Project
Linux and a Larger hard disk.
At this point, I made something that may have been a mistake? I wanted to try running the GentooX Linux distribution from ShallaX. http://gentoox.shallax.com/ And so I downloaded the professional edition and burned the “sparkle.iso” file to a CD. A soft-mod TSOP writable XBox can boot this disk and the install process offers to install the BIOS for us, which is great.
The download includes instructions from Shallax (Thomas Pedley) himself, and it’s straight forwards to do, but there was one sticking point for me. My XBox controller was not an original controller, but a compatible after-market. This controller is incompatible with the GentooX installer, which offers you five seconds to select an option on it’s boot menu. What I had to do is this..
- Boot to softmod dashboard and select Launch DVD/CD
- Remove the after-market controller (it must be removed for this to work)
- Plug in a legitimate keyboard with a USB adapter.
- Use keyboard to select the appropriate option.
The TSOP now flashed, and GentooX now booting from the stock hard disk (loopback partition), it was time to remove that disk and replace it with a 250GB SATA drive. This step is entirely optional, but I wanted the larger capacity and potential speed increase. So, at this point I swapped in the new hard disk, and began the installation again, this time ignoring the TSOP flashing part as that’s already done. This time I also selected to install GentooX to a native hard-disk partition for better performance.
In order to connect this SATA drive to the IDE cable from the XBox, I used an IDE to SATA converter purchased from ebay. If you’re doing the same, many of these converters are not entirely compatible – look for one with two side-by-side capactitors on the top. If you do end up with an incompatible adapter, it may not be time to give up with it, but instead, you can try replacing the stock 40-wire IDE cable with an 80-wire IDE cable which has been reported to work in many cases.
At this point however, I hit a problem.
Unfortunately, I am far less experienced with Gentoo based Linux distributions than I am with Debian based distributions, and I was unable to install anything. I suspect that due to the latest release of GentooX being 2009, that it’s out of date, or the repository broken, but I was unable to set the clock (having removed the clock capacitor), and unable to get anything in the portage package manager to work.
What I did to get around this problem was to then remove GentooX and install XDSL instead.
So why did I even mention the GentooX installation here?! Well, once GentooX is installed the TSOP is flashed and you can boot the XDSL installer right from CD/DVD which is what I did. The usual means of installing XDSL is to install it from Soft-Mod which has very different instructions, and not having done this myself, I could not share that experience with you.
This does leave me in a bit of a spot, because my XDSL distribution is loaded by the GentooX loader, which adds a 5-second delay to the start up process. Now I could put my original XBox bios backup onto a CD, and use an option from the GentooX loader to flash it back to the TSOP, restore the original soft-modded hard disk, and start the installation process over using XDSL first, instead of the GentooX loader. This however, seems like a lot of to-do for very little gain, and so I decided to put up with it as-is.