One wire and the FTA (was: Re: [plug] xbox)

Harry harrymc at
Thu Apr 29 11:29:12 WST 2004

On Thu, 29 Apr 2004 08:20:36 +0800 Scott Middleton <scott at> wrote:

> I don't think it is legal to mod them anymore (in Australia). As far as
> i am aware the only way to have a Linux only Xbox is to solder on 1 wire
> to 2 points. Which may be considered Mod'ing. So i would check on the
> legality. You can run Linux using the save game hack but in the case of
> a power cycle it wont boot into Linux.
> Yes i know you can get it mod'ed at the local mod shop and i really
> don't know why they are allowed but it still doesn't mean its legal.
> Especially if you are going to on-sell possibly illegal machines to
> clients.

I could be behind on the latest situation but I still thought it was ok to
install a mod yourself but not to sell a kit to someone to install.

Jeremy will know.

If the mod is now a wire to two points then I'm presuming that anyone
who provides a paying service to install the mod could request that
you supply your own wire :-P



Seriously tho', the move to push US DMCA laws into Australia under the
FTA is going to undermine legitimate mods to a piece of hardware to
use it for another purpose _completely_unrelated_ to the misuse of
game, movie, music copyright. Applying a device to an alternative use
(and reverse engineering systems and protocols to allow interface to
them) is a very innovative aspect of how Australian technologists
get the job done (preaching to the converted on this list of course :)

I'm already preparing for how to evaluate when I need to decline work
if it requires some interface to closed proprietary (read expensive)
systems and processes. "I'm sorry, you may well have invested $200M
in this plant and we can both see that a small modification will
push a 5% productivity improvement straight to your bottom line but
it is illegal for me to investigate how this system works even before
I propose engineering changes." The law will apply equally to a mining
company or a business with 100 video jukeboxes.

This is the aspect of the IP provisions in the FTA that our major
exporters haven't twigged to; possibly because they don't see what
the freedom to reverse engineer gives them. 

The government gives a little a nudge and wink and says "ah but we have
put clauses and provisions in place so we can _legislate_ to allow for
exceptions". There are two aspects to this. The first is that the
government (by passing legislation to align our IP law with the US) will
be taking away facilities for innovation. It will then decide what it
will give back. (Just a reminder here that we elect these people to look
after our interests not take away legal commercial opportunity).

And secondly, if the government stalls resolution of native title law,
with all of the implications for both mining and agriculture, how much
importance will be afforded to the small voice of a technologist who
needs to modify an instrument, process, plant, or machine to realise
production gains for those very same exporters ?

Having access to a large market is irrelevant if we can't compete with
production costs in Argentina or Chile.

This is not a rant. It's pretty grim. The negotiation suits have no idea
what we do and the difference we make. "Just a bunch of geeks who want to
play DVDs on their home brew computer boxes."

If you think the reverse engineering issues might affect a company
that you are associated with, tell them so, or CC this email to them.
You have my permission.

On the original topic:

I suspect the XBox would be a reliable machine to sit in a corner and just
run, The benefit it has is a large R&D budget and engineering changes
that optimise the cost and reliability as millions of units are produced.

The downside of continuous engineering improvement is that cost
optimisation can mean trimming the spec on components. PLUGs XBox is
rock solid but next years machine might not sustain 24/7 operation.
I really don't know how you choose for reliability when expected product
deployment times are so short. 


Are you a computer angel?

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