I woke early, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, almost bursting at the seams with excitement for the purple bundle of joy that I was about to receive: the Nintendo Gamecube. What a fantastic device it would be! I can picture myself grinning now - orange juice in one hand, flamboyant purple controller in the other, playing such exciting titles as Super Monkey Ball and Luigi’s Mansion. I knew my father would fulfill my Gamecube wish, and, on my recommendation, not purchase an Xbox for my younger brother instead. This would be the best Christmas ever!!
I flung on my housecoat and charged from my dreary basement room to the family room upstairs. My family was already awake, standing around the Christmas tree, which shone and sparkled as beautifully as the water in Wave Race: Blue Storm. After a scrumptious breakfast of hot pancakes and 100% Pure Maple Syrup, we began exchanging gifts. Present after present, we tore through the “standard” gifts that most people receive – a new shirt, a book, candies. I don’t want to downplay the sentimental value of a new pair of socks, but when you know that a purple cube of joy is lurking in an upcoming gift, you can have a hard time acting surprised about a new pair of woolly foot coverings.
Finally, my brother and I narrowed the gift pile down to two gifts, with both of our names on them. The larger gift was clearly the Gamecube – although for some odd reason, my father had removed it from its cubic box and re-packaged it in a longer, flatter, more rectangular box. The smaller was a DVD case-shaped gift – obviously the game. With a poorly played game of rock-paper-scissors, it was decided that my brother would open the large package and I would open the small one. At the same time, we tore off the Santa Claus wrapping paper. The game was Halo. This wasn’t out for Gamecube, was it? I looked up. My brother, orange juice in hand and grin on face, sat facing me with a Microsoft Xbox on his lap.
If you’ve ever got a shitty gift when you expected something great, you know how I felt. The Xbox was a ridiculous console – it was huge and heavy, there was only about two playable games out for it, and the controllers were horrible. I managed to contain my disappointment that Christmas morning, and even managed to say “great!” when asked how this year’s Christmas went. Oh well.. at least it wasn’t a Sony Playstation 2!
After playing Halo a couple times, I was slightly less disappointed and even secretly pleased that we got an Xbox instead of a Gamecube. The controllers were easy to adjust to, and although the console was huge, we didn’t move it around a lot anyways. I bought a Gamecube a few weeks later, only to find that I never played it anyways. Today, it’s collecting dust in a cabinet, only played when young cousins come to visit. The only two good games (in my opinion, hehe) are the Super Monkey Ball games
My discovery of Xbox-Scene was the result of a Google search that coincided with an impulsive interest in computer case modding (read: cutting out a very bad acrylic window and plugging in one cold cathode). The case modding section captured my attention, and I slowly learned how to “case mod” an Xbox, picking up tips and tricks along the way. I put some LEDs in an S-Controller (tip #1 – Don’t buy LEDs at Radio Shack!), cleared the stock Xbox jewel (tip #2 – Don’t screw your jewel onto your case!), and got a fancy-looking chrome skin (tip #3 – You might feel satisfied with a skin, but in the end, paintjobs take the cake). I won’t get into every case mod I’ve done. In August I was made a moderator in just the case modding section – which was great, because it was and still is my personal favorite section.
Case modding is a lot of fun, but there’s only so much you can do with it in terms of the functionality of the Xbox. Modchips had always intrigued me, but I had always been far too terrified to install one, based on the number of “help!” threads in each section. What I didn’t realize was that if everyone who successfully installed a chip posted an “I’m done!” thread, they would greatly outnumber the help threads. In #xbox-scene on efnet, I was the only XS moderator without a modchip, and I received a couple jokes about that – all in good fun, of course. However, English class was the chance that I finally received to mod my box.
An I-Search essay is one of those dumb concept essays that more and more students are writing in High School – an essay to build your research and writing skills by letting you pick a topic of your choice, research it, do something about it, then write an essay about it. You’re allowed to write using “I” and “you”. The whole thing is fairly informal. And what’s a better excuse to install a modchip than for an English class?
I set out to do my research, and narrowed down my choice of modchip between the current Xecuter chip (2.2’s I believe?) and the Chameleon 1.3. I poured over feature lists, install guides, tutorials, forum posts, and IRC conversations, absorbing information like a sponge. I read Andrew ‘bunnie’ Huang’s “Hacking the Xbox” from cover to cover, although I didn’t understand a lot of the advanced concepts and terminology. I finally chose the Chameleon for these reasons:
- Xecuter was more popular in sales, therefore it would make me cooler if I owned a chip that fewer people owned
- Chameleon had a cooler sounding name (in my opinion)
I ordered a Chameleon from a user in BST for $40 US, with a solderless adapter included. A steal of a deal at the time! When it arrived, I eagerly opened the package, admiring the picture of a Chameleon on the back of the suave-looking black chip. I grabbed my Torx screwdrivers and got to work on the case. Installing a chip with a solderless adapter felt too easy. I felt like I was cheating. It was done so fast! I put everything back together, and turned on the Xbox.
Damnit. Damnit, damnit, hell, ass. This was the frag that everyone was talking about, the one that nobody wanted. I re-adjusted and re-aligned like a madman, screwing and unscrewing the adapter until the threads in the case got stripped and I had to find a newer, thicker, longer screw. I quadruple-checked my d0 point. I plugged in the Chameleon forwards and backwards, just to see if it would work. I even quicksoldered it to my motherboard to see if it would work! Nothing. I e-mailed the seller and he told me that the chip was not flashed with Cromwell – bullshit. The chips leave the distributors flashed with Cromwell. The chip was dead until I could get my hands on a programmer to get Cromwell or something else on the chip.
I ordered a programmer from a trusted seller – one with a reputation (thanks NoRe ). I bought a backup Chameleon chip too, just in case. This was turning into an expensive English essay. The new Cham came in a few days, and I installed it without any problems! I set the non-working one aside with the programmer, and didn’t even attempt to fix it. I later mailed the chip away to a pro to see if he could fix it, and he told me it was unfixable, unflashable, and completely worthless. It was a non-working, broken chip. I sent a strongly worded e-mail to the seller, telling him he was dishonest and a liar. I did not ask for a refund. I did, however, tell him that if he ever posted in Buy & Sell again, I would post my experience with him in his thread. He did not reply to the e-mail.
But I got the modchip working, and it’s fantastic. I installed a 160Gb hard drive, emulators, other programs. My friends, all PS2 owners, slowly started purchasing Xboxes, and slowly came to me for modchips. Each time I installed a modchip, I got a better technical understanding of what I was doing to install it, and why I was doing it. Oh, the essay. My teacher admitted that he understood nothing at all, but he saw the work that went into it, and gave me a great mark.
Lessons Learned on the Internet
What’s the point of this long post? I don’t really know. It’s quite a boring story when you look at it.. Brahm wants Gamecube, gets Xbox, likes Xbox, installs modchip. Perhaps it’s to convince people who are sitting on the fence about getting a modchip that “hey, they’re not that bad” or “hey, if that dummy can do it, maybe I can!”. Perhaps it’s to keep HSD company in the currently-dead editorials section (more like deaditorials ehehe). Think of your own reasons! That said, there are a couple of tips that I’d like to pass on to people who are new to the scene, and want to be successful in Xbox modding and on the forums. Morals of the story, if you will.
- Read, read, research. If you don’t know where to look, ask, but don’t ask someone to write a complete guide for you. Everything you need to know about everything is floating around the site. There are great guides written for “newbs” and advanced users as well.
- If you do have to ask a question, people are willing to help. You just have to know how to ask. Don’t make demands. Ask focused questions and provide good information for people to work with.
- Work on ONE project at a time, unless you’re an all-knowing Xbox king. Make sure something is done & working before moving on to the next project. Take your time doing your projects, and make sure you do a good job!
- Type coherently. Don’t use excessive emoticons or internet shorthand. I don’t really care if people say “lol” every once in a while, but trying to decipher a post whr evry wrd is abbrv is vry dfficlt!! I’m not joking though – good form in your writing will make you appear more mature, and less like a 13-year-old kid on AIM. Spell-checking is always good when typing longer posts like this one
- Have good communication when buying and selling online. Check your references. Read the rules to see what’s allowed to be traded and what’s not allowed to be traded. Don’t get banned over something dumb.
- Just like in real life, no one likes jerks. Be nice!