Getting the Xbox EEPROM serial reader working on v1.6 machines

I recently picked up an Xbox I wanted to softmod and was having trouble doing the HDD swap – I was really only interested in opening the machine up to function as a media player and to copy all my purchased games to the HDD because I’m lazy (:P) so I wanted to softmod the machine. Someone mentioned I could give the Xbox serial reader solution a whirl – the kit contains a 2-prong probe that sits in socket pins 13 and 14, an alligator clip to connect to the shielding to get a GND connection and a little IC attached to an RS232/serial port connection.

The only problem with this is that v1.6 Xboxes act a bit funny when you use it! The Xbox fan speeds up something crazy and the machine turns itself off when you power it on with the serial socket connected to the serial port. After doing some research on Whirlpool, it turns out you have a very small window to read the machine’s EEPROM with your machine, you just have to be fast. Thanks to Ads79 for the info!

Disclaimer

You mod your machine at your own risk. Myself nor anyone else is responsible for YOU modding YOUR Xbox. If your machine doesn’t work as a result of this, don’t blame me – you do this mod at your own risk.

Using my WinXP machine turned off, I inserted the serial device into the serial socket and connected the probes and ground clip to the Xbox, but with the Xbox powered off, and turned on the PC, installed and loaded/configured PonyProg. Here’s where you have to be tricky!

With PonyProg open, disconnect the serial device from the PC and turn on the Xbox and let it load past the flubber sequence. With your mouse hovered over the “Read EEPROM” icon, connect the serial device to your PC, hit the icon as soon as it’s connected (the Xbox’s fan will speed up!), and you should be able to get it read before the machine powers off. You have a window of perhaps 3-6 seconds.

Save the EEPROM binary image, then proceed to softmod your machine (or recover your machine if it’s dead) via your preferred method.

Easy as that.

Seasonal gaming habits and associations

This one’s a little left-of-center, but I thought I’d post it anyhows.

I’ve found over the years that, just as musos will track periods of time in their lives or historical phases by the music associated therewith, I have begun over the years to do the same thing with video games. I see this happening on two levels, micro (annual seasons/events) and macro (periods of time).

The most recent/up-coming example of Micro Gaming Associations (let’s give it a fancy acronym – MiGA – yeah!) would be Easter. And it’s a completely irrational.

Back in March 1993, my brothers and I pooled our resources and sold off our Sega Master System, all our controllers (bar one or two we left behind, came in handy for 1-button games like Sonic or Sonic 2 on the Mega Drive) and all our games in order to pool the $300 for a Sega Mega Drive (original model, without the serial port though) pack that included Sonic 1 and vouchers to get Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle (boo!) and Columns (uber). I’ll leave the full, drawn-out story for a later post, but suffice to say we picked one up and come Easter, we had a Mega Drive, and it was the greatest thing to ever happen in the history of the universe to my pre-pubescent brain.

So, I still remember clearly on the morning of Good Friday, after partaking in copius amounts of hot cross buns (yum), I jumped in front of the telly and played – of all things – Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker. It was an awesome game in 1993, and while it’s probably a bit on the rubbish side, is still a lot of fun today. If you’re irrational like myself.

So, for the last couple of years I’ve gone to the habit of digging out Moonwalker and give the game a crack around Easter time because of the association with the season – in fact, if you check out my 10 April 2009 gaming session gallery, you’ll find a few pics from the first stage of Moonwalker πŸ™‚ The same thing may happen this weekend πŸ˜€

Thus, when Easter comes around, you can count on me firing up the old 16-bit beast and having a crack at Moonwalker. But what about other seasons? Let’s have a think…

MiGA list:

  • Seasons –
    • Summer: Shenmue (Dreamcast), Asuka 120% Limited (Saturn), Wonderboy in Monster World (Mega Drive), Sonic 2 (Master System)
    • Autumn: Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker (Sega Mega Drive), Super Mario All-Stars (SNES), Donkey Kong Country (SNES), Secret of Mana (SNES), Sonic 2 (Sega Mega Drive), Skies of Arcadia (Dreamcast), Ico (Playstation 2)
    • Winter: Phantasy Star 4 (Mega Drive), Rocket Knight Adventures (Mega Drive), Ghostbusters (Mega Drive), TMNT: The Hyperstone Heist (Mega Drive), Zelda: A Link To The Past (SNES), Super Metroid (SNES), Dragon Force (Saturn), Magic Knight Rayearth (Saturn), Vampire Savior (Saturn), Saturn Bomberman (Saturn), Sonic 1 (Master System)
    • Spring: Road Avenger (Mega CD), Sonic CD (Mega CD), Thuderhawk (Mega CD), Marvel Super Heroes vs Street Fighter (Sega Saturn), Panzer Dragoon (Saturn), Panzer Dragoon Saga (Saturn), Mortal Kombat (Mega Drive), Street Fighter 2: Special Championship Edition (Mega Drive)
  • Holidays –
    • Christmas: Shenmue (Dreamcast), NiGHTS (Saturn), Virtua Fighter 2 (Saturn), Story of Thor (Mega Drive), Sonic 2 (Master System)
    • Easter: Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker (Mega Drive), Golden Axe 2 (Mega Drive), Sonic 2 (Mega Drive)

It’s a bit illogical and extremely inconsistent, but I thought I’d share anyhows πŸ™‚

So what about Macro Gaming Associations (MaGA to keep things going) – for the purpose of my ranting and raving, I’ll use these to define where particular games emphasised or are representational of a period of years or within a particular generation of game systems. This one’s still a bit hazy/inconsistent compared to the former which I’ve spent more time thinking about, so bear with me for this more randomised list. Note that like the above, these are representational of my personal bias, hence why some systems/games aren’t represented and why some games that may have come out in other periods are represented out of date. Where games represent the period and were ported to numerous systems, I’ve placed them in favoured order of association. Thus, if a game came out on the C64 and arcade but I spent more time playing the C64 version, that gets preference, even if the arcade original was much better.

  • Decades –
    • 1980s: Asteroids (Atari 2600), Pitfall (Atari 2600), Enduro (Atari 2600), R-Type (Commodore 64, arcade), TMNT (Commodore 64 [platformer], arcade), International Karate (Commodore 64), The Last Ninja (Commodore 64), Bad Dudes vs Dragon Ninja (Commodore 64, Amiga 500, arcade), Wizball (Commodore 64), Combat School (Commodore 64), The Great Giana Sisters (Commodore 64), Bruce Lee (Commodore 64), Outrun (Commodore 64, arcade), Afterburner 2 (Commodore 64, deluxe hyrdraulic arcade cabinet), Wonderboy (Commodore 64), Space Invaders (cocktail arcade cabinet), China Gate (arcade)
    • 1990s: Wing Commander (DOS), Space Quest 3 (DOS), Warcraft 2 (DOS), Police Quest 2 (DOS), Double Dragon 2 (NES), Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES), The Flinstones (NES), Advanced D&D Collection series (Commodore 64, DOS), Sonic 1-2 (Master System, Mega Drive), Wonderboy 1-3 (Sega Master System), Alex Kidd in Miracle World/Shinobi World (Sega Master System), Sonic 3 + Knucles (Sega Mega Drive), Gunstar Heroes (Mega Drive), Story of Thor (Mega Drive), Phantasy Star 2/4 (Mega Drive), Super Mario World (SNES), The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES), Secret of Mana (SNES), Panzer Dragoon Saga (Saturn), NiGHTS (Saturn), Guardian Heroes (Saturn), Saturn Bomberman (Saturn), Virtua Fighter 2 (Saturn), Sonic Adventure (Dreamcast), Soul Calibur (Dreamcast), Daytona 8-way linkup (arcade), Last Bronx (arcade, Saturn), Sega Rally 2 (arcade), X-Men vs Street Fighter (arcade, Saturn), Dead or Alive (arcade, Saturn), House of the Dead 2 (arcade, Dreamcast), Street Fighter 2/CE/HF/Super/Super Turbo (arcade), Metal Slug (arcade, Saturn), King of Fighters ’96 (arcade, Saturn), Crazy Taxi (arcade, Dreamcast)
    • 2000s: Shenmue 1-2 (Dreamcast), Dead or Alive 2 (Dreamcast, arcade, Playstation 2), Skies of Arcadia (Dreamcast), Chu Chu Rocket (Dreamcast), Powerstone 2 (Dreamcast), Gauntlet Legends (Dreamcast), Ico (Playstation 2), Kingdom Hearts (Playstation), Viewtiful Joe (Gamecube), Tales of Phantasia (Gamecube), The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker (Gamecube), Panzer Dragoon Orta (XBox)
  • Generations (in order of preference/emphasised experience) –
    • 8-bit: Atari 2600, Commodore 64, NES
    • 16-bit: Mega Drive, SNES, DOS
    • 32-bit: Saturn
    • 128-bit: Dreamcast, Gamecube, Playstation 2, XBox

Like I said, irrational, huh?

I think a special point needs to be made on the inclusion of the PS2 and the whole 128-bit gen note above – it’s actually all to Wifey’s credit that I had a big love of the PS2 in the last generation, as I was irrationally opposed to it on principle (being a bit of a Sega fanboy :P), but it garnered quite the soft spot in the end. It was also the first time I’d been in a financial position to actually get use of all the consoles in a single generation, so it’s quite interesting in that respect.

To be honest, I think I like the first list based on MiGA better than the second, as I feel like I’m making more of a randomised, generated list of games tied to extremely large swaths of time with the MaGA list, and the former seems more personal in its choices… but then again, when I think back on time periods, those are the games that stand out, at least at the moment I’m writing up this post.

I’ll have a thorough chuckle if either of these concepts get picked up anywhere else, or how many people throw on the rose-tinted glasses and look back on their classic games like this. I suspect I’m not the only one, but at the same time I don’t think I have my finger on the pulse in any way.

Anywho, I hope you enjoyed that long-winded return to retro gaming blogging. I promise I’ll start getting back into regular posting from now on!