Monday, November 28, 2005

COTS only on 360

Well it look like MS has really put up a few hurdles to hacking the XBox 360. Not that many in the educational realm would be hacking consoles anyway to put educational content on them (not worth the time or the effort). But Engadget has posted some of the protective measures that are in place. I think that in the end, to make any educational use of these machines, the COTS model will have to be used - unless there is some way that there are non-gaming commercial applications that can be used. On the other hand, the older generation X-Boxes may be a hackers paradise - and at maybe $100 they could make very reasonable classroom computers, especially considering that they are built for TV friendly resolutions. Here is some of the mumbo-jumbo that has been put on. The scary thing (in terms of DRM and Secure Computing) is that these technologies may be on all computers in the future - changing our general purpose machines into specialized terminals. If that happens, you can see Linux and other non MS OSes become far more popular.

  • The flash is encrypted with a per-box key
  • The key is stored inside the CPU
  • The boot ROM is stored inside the CPU
  • Also inside the CPU is a hypervisor that verifies the running state of the kernel, making sure there is no modification (RAM checksums), else the Xbox 360 panics and blows up!
  • The CPU contains RAM inside of it to store the checksums
  • All interrupt/exception handling is done by the hypervisor
  • All code runs in kernel mode
  • The emulator for first generation games can be updated via an official Microsoft download burned to CD by the user, though the CDs’ content will be encrypted and signed with public key cryptography. The boot ROM is stored inside the CPU.
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