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Apache Software

Xbox As A Server Farm Commodity Box 164

ballpoint writes: "Yahoo has this story suggesting the Xbox as a cheap platform for a web server, by packaging Apache as a game. The article was written by Adam Barr, an ex-Microsoft employee who previously suggested running Linux on the Xbox. I suppose there are still more 'games' for the Xbox in the pipeline." With all the talk about making Dreamcasts into rendering farms, perhaps that would be a good application as well.
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Xbox As A Server Farm Commodity Box

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Not only will the XGPU be modified (it will have an extra pipeline), but it will NOT use an AGP slot. It will rest directly on the mainboard and will NOT have to travel through an AGP bridge. The XGPU and CPU will both be directly accessing each other via the same high-speed memory with no buses in the middle. This eliminates a bottleneck possibility. You cannot put it in a pc. Also, the PIII has half the cache and an extra SSE unit. The ram is 200mhz of DDR.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Some posters write that MS would still make money because the Apache would have to be licensed. The games licensing goes as $x per game sold or y% of games sales price. How much is a game? $50 ??, then the license is at most $20 I would guess. Now look at the Xbox price (estimated) at $300 (with a $200 loss per box for MS), expecting the players to buy 10 or 20 games to work out to high profits. But instead I sell Xbox + 1 game (Apache) for $350, with NO further game sales to that Xbox. $350 apache server with $20 extra to MS over its original $300. Even with license fee to MS it works well for the server farm and bad for MS
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I hope XBox can use a mouse for some of its games (strategy, etc) The Super NES had a cool little mouse which was pretty useful for the few games that supported it. (Lord of the Rings, Mario Paint)
  • by pb ( 1020 )
    That would be a really cool app. Heck, having an sshable Linux install like the Cobalt Qube running on Xboxes would be awesome. Almost enough to make me buy one.

    And, obviously, if it could run Linux, then Linux could run apache. I suppose that just a web server would be good, but why think small? Use it for a cheap firewall or router. Run sendmail. Run RC5.

    And, obviously, make a beowulf cluster of these. :)
    pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [ncsu.edu].
  • by CaseyB ( 1105 )
    If the content on the site has anything to do with the Microsoft X-Box, prepare to have a pack of lawyers land on you very quickly.
  • As I have said many times, true render farms need loads of memory.
    I wouldn't want a render box with less than 1 gig of ram. Regardless of what renderer you are using, if you really need a render farm, you are going to have to spend money on MHZ and memory.
    I wish it could be different.
  • A 64x64 pixel block for a movie, unless the renderer has some amazing pre-processing, would require some majore bandwidth of propriatary data. No major studio will allow such a possibility. All 3-d data is considered intellectual property. Also, lets say you are rendering a little bitty block of Godzilla sqaushing a building. A bit of the foot, a bit of the building. Mostlikely all of the 3-d data for the foot and the building will need to be sent over. Also, the texture files need to be sent, and those textures, even if only some scale patches can be in the hundreds of megabytes.
    I don't see it happeneing. The money being spent for the little return is not worth it. It would be cheaper to spend the $200-500k on a render farm that you keep or even leasing systems for less.
  • And Microsoft wonders why Apache and Linux owns the web hosting market. That's the most horrific story I have heard all day.

    If Microsoft really wanted to own the web server arena what they would do is release a slimmed down version of Windows 2000 complete with development tools, Commerce server (and all that entails) and then price it low enough that you would be crazy not to use it. Limit it to one processor machines, and cut out nifty stuff like failover, but make it a fairly complete package. As it now stands I can afford the added cost of learning Linux and PostgreSQL and Zope, because I know that it is time invested in tools that I will be able to use over and over again royalty free. If Microsoft were to release a more useful set of tools for a reasonably low price I would be very tempted to rethink my strategy.

    They could then upsell to developers and businesses that needed the full version of the tools. As soon as your business got big enough for a dual processor machine, or failover, or even putting the database on a separate machine. Of course, at that point the company probably wouldn't feel nearly as bad about the cost of the full blown version of the tools.

  • Anyway, check ZDNet about Microsoft's murmuring about a Win XP "Blade Server" edition. Essentially a stripped down web server setup designed to compete with Linux/Unix that will no doubt have it's own specialized set of server hardware. MS has enough resources to keep this project seperate from the XBox (and keep the traditional Windows hardware OEMs happy).

    If Microsoft goes into the hardware business, especially the server hardware business, then you can bet your last nickel that the hardware OEMs will go on a media frenzy about how cool their new "Linux application servers" are. The last thing that the OEMs are going to allow is for Microsoft to undercut them in their fastest growing market. Since they won't be able to compete with Microsoft on price (MS gets Windows for free) they will have no choice but to use Linux to make up the difference.

    Linux servers made by folks that make inexpensive hardware for a living are very likely to be less expensive than the best that Microsoft can do.

    My guess is that the Blade Server edition will simply be a low-cost slimmed down version of Windows 2000. Of course, it will probably have very limited use, and it will still be more expensive than free. Microsoft can try and compete in the low cost arena, but my guess is that they haven't got a prayer. Linux is nearly a match for the best that Microsoft can throw at it in the server arena. A cut rate version of Windows would look positively anemic compared to what you get for free with Linux.

    Microsoft's only chance, in the web hosting arena, is to fold more features into the OS. Heck, I wouldn't personally even consider Microsoft for my web servers until it could touch the usefulness I get out of Linux, PostgreSQL, and Zope at a low basic price (and with nicer interfaces). Those tools may be harder to learn, but the knowledge pays for itself easily over time.

  • my thinkpad has been running pretty much 24/7 since I bought it last October.
  • They make money on the games. Games hardware is heavily subsidised.

    But if they are using commodity hardware then why not port Linux and use this heavily subsidised hardware for something more useful.

    Want a *really* cheap web server farm? Supercomputer? Go by 500 Xboxes and load Linux/Apache/Beowulf. Clean out your local computer store.

    Boy, I could see Dell/Compaq being pissed.
  • Don't be ridiculous.

    With hardware this cheap, the machines are disposable. You don't fix them, you throw them away and put ina new one. You also don't put the critical stuff on a single system, you build redundancy into your network so that is a box fails, nobody notices.

  • how many do we need to buy to drive M$ out of business?

    It doesn't matter how many we buy - if there's one thing MS is good at, it's business - they'd be foolish to bet their core business on a game console. Sure - we could make them lose a signifigant ammount of capital - but the number of consoles produced will likely be VERY carefully balanced against the licensing fees they've already collested from prospective developers.

  • It's time that the PC market as a whole take a good look at what Microsoft is doing.

    Microsoft wants open source and Linux gone! They have said so in every medium I know. They want to control their strangle-hold on IP and will change the hardware to do so. How does this affect you? The thing that threatens Microsoft's loss leader business model is use of the xbox as a way to run cheap Intel/AMD compatible (no fees to MS) software. Even in the Xboxes design MS is gearing up for a legal battle, before their product ships! The xbox will die if Linux is ported quickly and many people buy xboxes as cheap free software compatible PCs.

    Notice I mentioned Intel and AMD. That would not be the case once xbox takes over PC markets with their MS bastard son OS USB keyboards and mice. Their will be no more AMD. Come to think of it, anyone who makes hardware for PCs will have to cut a deal with MS or file for bankruptcy. We know MS office or Exchange server for xbox is not far behind the games. If xbox succeeds as a console, it will succeed as a PC all of you will be out of a job! Ho hum an unfortunate casualty in the war against open source software. To bad you little hardware PC guys couldn't do something about it. Oh wait there might be this one thing...

    Make damn sure that Linux is ported to the Xbox in a matter of weeks!!!!!

    Put some techs on it the week it comes out. If you have anyone on your staff who knows Linux get em on it right away. Coordinate with other commodity HW manufactures. Get Linux on a DVD. Get Linux on the Hard drive. Make a distro. Make a HOWTO and get it up on linuxdoc.org. If not I will have to go back to making excuses for MS (on the enterprise xbox of course) and you will have to go to social security.

  • Look I don't know who moderated me as troll in the above post, but it dosn't make sense. Here are Slashdot's tips for karma improvment...

    Post intelligently: I didn't think I grunted much!
    Post calmly: I am worried but calm.
    If you can't be deep, be funny: Not much room for that.
    Read Slashdot regularly: I do that
    Post Early: as soon as I can say somthing intelligent
    Post often:Thats what this is.
    Stay on topic: Apache==free software on xbox (close enough.)
    Be original:I gleened info from other posters and drew an original conclusion
    Read it before you post:Did that to.
    Log in as a registered user:Did that.

    I can understand how this post might not get any moderation, but troll. I think I scared someone!

  • Look I don't know who moderated me as troll in the above post, but it dosn't make sense. Here are Slashdot's tips for karma improvment...

    Post intelligently: I didn't think I grunted much!
    Post calmly: I am worried but calm.
    If you can't be deep, be funny: Not much room for that.
    Read Slashdot regularly: I do that
    Post Early: as soon as I can say somthing intelligent
    Post often:Thats what this is.
    Stay on topic: Apache==free software on xbox (close enough.)
    Be original:I gleened info from other posters and drew an original conclusion
    Read it before you post:Did that to.
    Log in as a registered user:Did that.

    I can understand how this post might not get any moderation, but troll? I think I scared someone!

  • by Gray ( 5042 )
    The hardware isn't the cost in the web game, it's bandwidth and after that, administrators.. If all the computer in the server farm where free, it wouldn't really change the bottom line that much.. Still gotta pay for the bandwidth, still gotta pay the admins..
  • Make the next bit game for the gameboy.

    Make it "networked" such that every day or so you attach the gameboy to a modem and syncronize your game with a server.

    Have it do processing in the background.

    Now you have harnessed the computing power of all the 7-15 year-olds.
  • They're reportedly using nonflashable roms for the bios and stripped down win2k kernel. So it's likey you can't boot linux on it until somone figures out how to make kind of a loadlin+freebios binary or even a new rom for it.

    So don't buy one expecting running linux on on it.

    wolf at you sir!
  • The fact that you can't plug any old PC USB peripheral into the Xbox as a controller is a *good* thing. The best thing that consoles have over a PC is that they are pretty much *fixed hardware platforms*. The last thing you want is to be in a situation where you've got to download patches and drivers for your USB peripherals and then have them fucking up on your favourite game.

    The other thing to note is that a USB port is a very bad port to use on the front of a console. Obviously you need something which fits use in the living room.
  • But don't expect me to fly in 'em (Or sail in any of their battleships.)

    M$ is a terrorists's best friend.

    Closed hardware, closed software and an inferior crash-prone attitude where your life is acceptable colateral damage. I see very little difference between the regard for others as evidenced by either Bill Gates and his crew and Tim McVeigh and his clique and Sadam Hussein and his rabble and...

    The vultures of history are unfortunately replete to satiation with the carrion such disdain for others engenders.

    I pity his kids when they try to get any allowance of the ol' man.
  • by Kope ( 11702 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @10:23AM (#295663)

    The author shows his ignorance by comparing raw storage cost with a network storage device. While the network storage device certainly is more expensive per gig, it also likely supports every RAID level imaginable, with multiple hardware redundancies. I would imagine that it probably supports fibre either out of the box or with a reasonable add-on. And it likely does a doze other things "correctly" from an enterprise computing point of view.

    Yeah, the X-toy beats it in terms of raw storgage costs, but what level of support will Microsoft give you if your X-box goes up in flames? I've used a number of different network storage devices that had support available that rivals Sun -- if you box goes down you can have an engineer on-site fixing it in a matter of a few hours.

    While the x-toy might make a fine web-server for a very low end, low volume site, it wouldn't handle anything that really takes a beating. Morevoer, any IS manager who puts anything close to mission critical on such a machine would be fired within minutes of such a decision being discovered. And deservidly so!!

    The x-toy is going to be cheap hardware, good for some toy uses, but no company (and certainly no IS manager) who knows computing is going to ever do anything of real significance on this machine. It simply isn't designed to be the kind of durable, dependable, servicable, supportable, supported hardware that companies demand. The days of running your company on your kids Apple IIc (or its modern day equivilant - the X-toy) are over.

  • If Microsoft goes into the hardware business ...

    Right on, they won't.

    My view is that Blade Server, if done correctly, could be a decent idea. Get rid of SMB and RPC (can it be done without breaking the admin tools?), make it netbootable, make it cheaper, etc.

    I knew I guy involved in setting up a webfarm on NT4. Horrors of horrors as he somehow hacked the boxes to boot from a read-only network OS install while still using a ram disk to handle all the registry and filesystem writes that NT demands to end up with a totally unsupported configuration that costs $500/box (significant sum when whe are talking about cheap PCs clustered). Anyway, MS's current product line is totally uncompetitive in this market.
  • The Atari & Activision case has no bearing. Atari (and other platform makers of the day) wanted to produce ALL products for their machines.

    +Activision ships a 2600 game.
    +Atari claims they can't do that without a licence - Negotiations proceed, Atari wants too much money.
    +They go to court - Activision wins.

    Why? Because US law is clear that you can't require licenced software for your hardware - doesn't matter if it's a PC or a game console. You can't just wave your hands and pretend that this doesn't apply to Sony or Microsoft.

    Not to mention that half of the garbage in the pre-crash flood was from Atari itself (and it's horrid inventory control didn't help either).

    I pointed out that game licences are still common in the industry for other very good reasons. Perhaps, as you argue, this is the state of highest economic goodness. But that doesn't make it the law.
  • Just one point. Commerce Server is actually pretty specialized application server platform. It's not really a "shopping cart in a box". You would want to run it on a fairly beefy SMP machine.

    I suspect Microsoft is looking at their Hotmail conversion and then thinking "How could we make a conversion at this scale realistic for a 3rd party", meaning that the primary impedement isn't the database software/hardware (Hotmail still runs on a Sun E10K/Oracle instalation) or the application/application server, it's the administrative flexibility and software cost of the clustered webfarm.
  • I thought about that, but I think it would come under the interoperability clause, if you could crack the protection in the first place.

    And yes, I'm aware of DeCSS, but IMO that was poor legal reasoning, and also not as clear of a case as "interoperability" (People wanted a Disc licenced by the MPAA to run a drive licenced by the MPAA with software not licenced by the MPAA. Now if someone wanted to make "ReCSS" to make copy-protected DVD disk without paying the MPAA tax, that would probably win over.)

  • by IntlHarvester ( 11985 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @11:26AM (#295668) Journal
    They can use the legal precident of the video game consoles to back the actions up in court....

    I think you are blowing hot air -- there are no such legal standards. In fact, just the opposite: Sega sued Accolade (?) for actually including a "Sega(tm)" logo in a unlicenced game. Accolade won because it turned out the console wouldn't boot unless the game contained that bitmap, so breaking copyright was necessary for interoperability.

    As Atari versus Activision proved, there is no way a console company can required 3rd parties to obtain a licence to produce software, in the US.

    However, licencing has become common for a few reasons:
    1) Forcing 3rd parties to licence is legal in Japan, a big market. (This plus Nintendo's US patented cart slot pretty much required 3rd parties to deal with Nintendo.)
    2) Game systems have gotten so complex hardware-wise that it's useful to be on the official dev program and get the docs and SDKs.
    3) Game systems can use crypto keys to autheniticate media. The first system to do this was the Atari 7800, BTW, but apparently MS will also be implementing this in the XBox.
  • I thought Microsoft has announced that there will be some sort of crypto verification in the bootcode of the thing to prevent people from running non-approved software. (If they didn't, their game licencing plan will just be bypassed.)

    I believe the quote was "If someone gets Linux running on the XBox, there's a job waiting at Microsoft for them."

    Anyway, check ZDNet about Microsoft's murmuring about a Win XP "Blade Server" edition. Essentially a stripped down web server setup designed to compete with Linux/Unix that will no doubt have it's own specialized set of server hardware. MS has enough resources to keep this project seperate from the XBox (and keep the traditional Windows hardware OEMs happy).
  • A banana-shaped screwdriver? The only way this makes sense is that the shafts in the case the screws are accessable from are curved. I think Home Depot sells a flexible shaft for extending drill or screwdriver bits into wall voids. If they don't, I know that any decent electrical supply vendor does.

    More clever would be to design a custom screwdriver bit *and* a curved shaft. It still wouldn't prevent a determined hacker with a flex-shaft drill bit from drilling it out completely, but it'd be a mofo to put back together..

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @10:16AM (#295671)
    Is it possible for MS to lock the hardware to prevent alternative OS images from running on it? Obviously there's a limit as to how much they can prevent the determined screwdriver and soldering iron weilding hardware hacker from subverting the hardware, but I'm thinking of some kind of integrated componentry that would power the machine off or otherwise cripple it unless an MS-approved OS or application was running on it.

    Such a lock might fall short of someone really talented, but the vast majority of dilettantes looking for a low budget server box (including people who want farms) may be totally stuck with a games-only machine.
  • Because US law is clear that you can't require licenced software for your hardware

    Be careful, the Activision decision was a long time ago. In October 1998, clever/evil developers were given a new weapon. All you need is for the pathway to some vital IO system (preferably an input device, such a disk or CD) to flow through crypto/scrambling hardware. Then any software that, say, wants to read from the CD, must either be linked with a licensed library, or be a DMCA-violating "piracy tool."

  • by sith ( 15384 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @09:50AM (#295673)
    I'm not sure I see why you wouldn't want just run linux on the thing. Remote administration would be far easier - if you could come up with an install that didn't need any console input you would never need to create drivers for keyboard/mouse/video in linux, and beyond that its just an intel chip anyway so you don't need to do any major kernel hacking. If you're thinking of using these to sell web hosting, wouldn't it make a lot more sense to have an OS that will allow full remote configuration and access, instead of hacking a stripped down OS up to functionallity? Who knows how "broken" the version of win2k on Xbox is, but I'm guessing it wont be just a matter of running an apache installer, so why not use the time getting linux/bsd booting on it instead of a single app?

    Eh, we know both will happen in the end anyway..
  • Now if only Valve would port Half-Life or Dynamix would produce a Tribes 2 dedicated server port! What a lovely dedicated server these $300 boxes would be!
  • I've used a number of different network storage devices that had support available that rivals Sun...

    You've just labeled yourself a "tiny grasshopper" - EMC's support organization is light-years ahead of Sun's. In fact, Sun probably has the cruddiest support of any major unix vendor; their "platinum" contracts are about equal to "bronze" contracts from other vendors. I've had 3 EMC Field Engineers on site 24/7 with a cheaper support contract than I had with Sun with wich I only got 1 FE onsite 40 hrs/week.

  • if we can figure out how to recover our cost in buying one of these - eg. by being able to run linux/apache or even just for salvage parts - we could buy these things in mass, which has two desireable outcomes. we break even (or maybe even make a few $) and

    1. M$ looses money (i saw $200 somewhere) on each one.

    2. if M$ can't keep up with the (artificial) demand, paying customers (ie customers who are also going to buy games) won't be able to get there hands on them

    how many do we need to buy to drive M$ out of business?

    [ this reminds me of milo's cornering of the cotton market in catch 22 - he agreed to buy the entire crop at a fixed price, but the demand fell so that he was selling below cost, allowing the farmers to buy it from him and sell it right back at the higher fixed cost - but then i'm on a tangent ;]

    we probably also need to make enough noise to prevent the game companies from seeing the huge demand and actually believing that the platform (as opposed to the cheap hardware) is popular.

  • True, if nothing else it would make a great entertainment centre. With that processor it could play DivX as well.

    Naturally it would take some hacking first, so at least I would wait until the price dropped a bit before getting one.
  • In addition somewone could come up with a bootable disk that would let anyone make the Xbox a working Linux system without touching the HD , at first. This mini distro would be tuned for the X box and give the user a much more powerful experience comparably. I think that this could be the Linux advocacy platform of choice.Think about how easy it would be for you to throw a disk on your friend XBox and show 'em what it can do. - Just a thought
  • You might be able to get customers to buy into it if you can properly defend your position (pass along savings to customers, large amount of clustering and redundancy of machines for the same $$$, etc.). On the other hand, what about the High Site-to-Server sites? (ie. we'll put 2700 websites for a user and each one gets miniscule amount of traffic).

    In that case, the sites are often either low or no cost (so the Customer is less likely to complain, especially if you can be cost competitive). Also, in those cases the customer is less likely to actually see the physical site. If they query the machine then it would still probably be Linux (or BSD) running on x86. Perhaps they might not recognize the distribution (or else they might, in which case they either will think its cool, or a terrible idea).

    But it doesn't necessarily follow that its a bad move to use them as web servers. Heck, what about for the burgeoning home market? Suddenly everyone and his brother is getting a Cable Modem or a DSL line. More and more kids now a days are experimenting with Linux, webs servers, etc. While the idea of cheap, and most likely non-secure, boxes in proliferation is a bit scary, I can see the market for a 'Linux X-Box setup kit' that includes a pre-compiled version of Linux (and some standard utils on a DVD/CD), perhaps a plug converter if the USB port has a different shape (assuming the Protocol changes are reverse engineered), and perhaps a partition utility for dual booting. Suddenly your game console could host your web-site (or you could develope games on it, transfer them to your PC w/CD-R, and pass them to your friends). It would be verry funny if the X-Box became what the Indrema aspired to :)
  • And you're going to type with....


  • Just put them behind a load-balancer.

    This is a pretty common way to scale webserving to 'n' machines, while allowing machines to fail.

    Or you could use two (or more) of them with
    failover. Something where one takes over the
    mac address of the other on failure.

    or... Imagine a beow... nah...
  • What if they had those little penguin logo stickers on them?

    Now compare your impression against little windows logos... :-)
  • The only problem with this is that it'll affect that small group of people who'll by a game and then play for the next 12 hours, hit pause, let it sit until we get up the next day, and then play for another 10-12 hours.
    Yeah, so it's a small segment, the problem is, a lot of these folks are the early adopters, too.
  • So if you got Linux on your xbox without booting the Windows code, would you be entitled to the Windows refund?

    Cool geek factor aside, it seems ironic, if not silly, that someone would want to buy one of these to run Linux. The Linux user's classic apology for using Windows is that it's for games, so I don't see why you'd bother running Linux on a box designed for games.

  • Those sound like lowball prices from the bottom-feeders that Pricewatch tends to attract. I'm not saying that you can't find good deals through companies on Pricewatch (I use it for pricing, but only in combination with ResellerRatings), but you probably don't want to buy from the absolute cheapest vendor you find. This will end up driving the cost of the configuration you quoted past $300, possibly by a considerable amount.

    As an example, consider my recent hardware upgrade. I looked up the parts I bought where I bought them, and then checked Pricewatch for the absolute lowest prices on the same items. For a 1.0-GHz Athlon (200-MHz FSB), Biostar M7MIA, and IBM Deskstar 75GXP 30GB (I bought the 45GB model, but it was no longer listed), the place where I bought them [tcwo.com] has those items at $425. The cheapest prices on Pricewatch for the same items added up to $390. That's not much of a difference, but that's only for three components (I bought the DDR memory for the motherboard from another vendor [crucial.com] and used the other parts that I already had). Factor in the other bits that you need for a complete system and the disparity can only increase.

    In any case, with the quantities Microsoft will be buying, I'm reasonably sure they can get better prices than you or I can get. They're also not likely to charge themselves the "Windows tax" (otherwise known as "license fee") that they charge other computer makers.

  • Use it for a cheap firewall or router."

    Sorry... The unit's only got one ethernet-port. Can't route or firewall anything... :-(

    What if you use one of those USB-Ethernet adapters? It's only 10 Mbps, but that's enough for most WAN connections. There's probably more processor overhead in those adapters than in, say, a 3C905C...but then maybe that P!!!-733 wouldn't be such overkill at all if you end up doing this. :-)

    (Yes, this assumes that someone figures out how to hook ordinary USB devices into an Xbox, since it's been hinted that some goofball connector might be used to prevent this.)

  • It has standard IDE components, right? just swap the cables, and it'll boot from the hard drive.
  • With a price point at about $300US, its unlikely many people will be buying them to strip the 8GB drive. I imagine MS isn't too worried about hardware hackers (there aren't enough around, really). A few people will buy them to do something other than play games, but most won't. There'll be a story about people doing other things with them, and MS will get some free advertising.

    Why would they bother spending money to stop the drive from booting when it would be so simple to burn a bootloader "game"? It doesn't solve anything, from MS's point of view, to do so.
  • They are taking hits on the price because they want to make money on the software/licensing side of things. Also, I would like to see how long it takes somebody to hack up the drivers for the video card and dvd player. I would guess pretty long because they documentation for that stuff will probably not becoming out of Redmond anytime soon. I am not saying it won't be possible but Micro$oft will make it as hard as they possibly can.
  • Bah! Kope is showing his ignorance by posting this blather.

    Consider Hotmail's web hosting infrastructure - a number of Sun Enterprise systems providing file storage, with a boatload of x86 boxen running the http daemons.

    If you were Hotmail's IS manager, and you swapped that around so that you were using $300 consoles for the front-end servers (instead of $2000 servers), politics aside you'd be getting a nice promotion.

    Nobody in his right mind deploys a single machine for a mission-critical application - doesn't matter how fast it gets fixed, when it's down your business is down.

    The solution is to use a heap of cheap, redundant boxes. (Think RAID, but for servers). Once you're using that model, the type of machine is irrelevant - as long as it's cheap and you can afford to lose a few, you win.

  • ...and then it hits you, google really know's what they're doin.... Buyin lots of cheap machines as opposed to buying a few expensive ones
  • Yeah, cause I need my command line to look all spiffy in 3D!

  • Why not port Linux to the Xbox?
    Unless of course it's already PC hardware. But I am guessing that it's only a matter of time before someone has it worked out.

    Melbourne, Australia
    ICQ 19255837

  • Stop babbling.

    It has components. It has to be cheap. Components have drivers. Reinventing the wheel costs money.

    Microsoft is not going to (re)invent MS-Ethernet, MS-DVD, MS-AGP. They'd be losing more money than they already are (--> www.billparish.com --).

    Consoles are a suicidal market anyway.

    Do you see people making a proprietary film type supported by afew companies which only works with certain types of projectors?

    Movie theatres would go out of business.

    Besides they already had Linux running on it. NT351 would boot but the oh-so-special microkernel refused to boot.

    I really hate it when people spout speculative ZDNet-style blather like this.

    Christ technical commentary IS NOT creative writing.
  • And they wonder why they lose money....

    And then they blame it on pirates?

    Bah every pirate I ever met wanted something in exchange and I didn't have it. So I found some clips and then I bought the disc (which I would have anyway for the vid quality and the backup (I'm constantly deleting stuff), it's just that anime translations suck when they come from corpses.)

  • Both have been ported.
  • You're missing the point. Whether or not MS makes all the games for the X-box or drags licensing fees out of third parties is irrelevant; if not enough games are sold, MS won't make its negative console margin back.
  • by TheReverand ( 95620 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @09:46AM (#295698) Homepage
    My favorite level is 'holes and hackers'. I just love patching my security holes before 1377 k7dd7ez come in and 0wn m3.
  • Lets see here....

    ...Adam Barr, an ex-Microsoft employee...

    ...suggested running Linux on the Xbox...

    Yep, I under stand the ex-Microsoft part more than ever now.
  • The first thing I thought when I heard about the xbox was that it'd make a great desktop linux workstation - at a really cheap price. The icing on the cake is that it's probably a money loss-leader for the manufacturer. Boo hoo.
  • It's probably to prevent the opposite: taking large cheap PC harddrives are putting them in your TiVo. I don't think TiVo would care if you bought more of their units so you can have just the hard drive. TiVo makes money on each sale.
  • by Fjord ( 99230 )
    X-box isn't the release name, is it? I thought it was just the "working name", like Chicago.
  • they may try to license the hardware but my bet is that if it ever went to court it would be tossed out. You buy the box you can do whatever you want with it. About the only thing they can do is void the warrenty.

    "One World, one Web, one Program" - Microsoft promotional ad

  • - Glad I bought a PS2 with mostly standard USB (but I'll still buy an XBox anyway {Go Apache!})

    PS2 has an ilink port on it which is _firewire_ not usb
  • sure enough, guess i havent been paying much attention to it lately...
  • anyone who designes a gaming console that cant withstand "a couple of hours" turned on is an idiot. as for ps and ps2, they can go weeks turned on just fine (ours is often playing the SSX opening demo for days before someone realizes they left it on).

    ever play ff7 in one sitting? (beginning to end).
  • Generally this is true that Microsoft likes to "extend" protocols in in-compatible ways. However the USB protocol used in the XBox is the standard version, all Microsoft has done is changed the plugs and sockets that it uses.
  • Crash? MS "optimized" hardware, I can't belive it!

    Red Hat and Debian run my "complex" general purpose cyrix mediaGX boxes just fine. 98 on the other hand has BSoD fits every other day. Surely, the Xbox will not run as well under either. I have my doubts about the Xbox running Linux at all and kind of wonder why anyone would bother.

    More power to the folks who work on this, but this one is not for me. There are so many platforms to work with that are less encumbered and do really cool things. If MS treats its hardware specs like software specs, this box will be be different and broken every year.

  • The BIOS of my Athalon mobo sees LILO as a boot sector virus. I'm not sure what it would do if I let it because I turned the machine off and disabled the stupid check. A protective feature that could not be turned off would be an easy way to implement what you fear.

    That being said, I have no idea if MS plans this.

  • And the Xbox is just the foot in the door. There is little which needs to be done to make the Xbox a complete PC.

    There is no reason to assume Micros**t will not control the consumer PC market within 5 years.


  • by Dark Paladin ( 116525 ) <jhummel@johnhu m m e l.net> on Thursday April 12, 2001 @10:56AM (#295713) Homepage

    Don't forget that the X-Box is suppose to come with a hard drive - not that it will boot to it, but that's the idea.

    It should be interesting to see someone come up with an X-Box for Linux that:

    1. Boots from a CD/DVD only (like just Lilo on the CD that points to the hard drive.
    2. Stores kernel/Apache/etc on the hard drive.
    3. Can use aptget or rpm to update itself.

    With those, X-Box could be a cheap, powerful PC system. Will Microsoft let it happen? Maybe...maybe not. They would stand to lose if it could, because it would remove the $$$ they make from game licenses. Though they could justify it by hoping that with high sales, game developers would see the demand for X-Box "computers", and develop more games for that platform.

    Of course, I could be wrong.
    John "Dark Paladin" Hummel

  • by egarland ( 120202 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @10:09AM (#295716)
    Most consoles have heavy security mechanisims to make sure the machine will only play software that is properly licenced and that the manufacturer is getting a cut of the profits on. Only developer units can run unsigned titles. The regular customer units can not run arbitrary programs. That's how they can sell the hardware at a loss. They get make money on every piece of software that is allowed to run on the box.

    The X-Box may share a lot of architecture with PC's but this definitely not going to be a PC. It's a console and it will have standard console restrictions on what it can do. There were easy ways around this on the Dreamcast. There won't be on the X-Box.

    It'll be interesting to see if Microsoft will try to start with the X-Box as a video game console and slowly migrate the closed harware platform to be in the mainstream business PC's space. This could be their answer to the Linux threat. A closed PC hardware platform that only runs Microsoft approved software. They can use the legal precident of the video game consoles to back the actions up in court....

    Think about it.

  • This really opens up lots of posibilities. I think that having apache on an xbox is a great idea, but I don't think it is the best thing you could do with an xbox by a long shot. The hardware in one is more than what is in my computer now by a very wide margin. If linux was customized for it there would be endless possibilities. Everything could be compiled for pentium III's making sure that everything is making as much use of the processor as possible, put on an ISO that runs as a game to boot up linux, and off you go. Clustering would easily become a possibility. Auto detection of other xboxes on the network wouldn't be hard at all, and they could automatically turn themselves into a cluster, eighther for redundancy or speed. The difficulty I have seen is that when people are trying to install netBSD or linux on dreamcasts, everything is left up to them. If only ISO's were distributed with everything already on them, it would be so much easier. I don't know if the xbox is made to not take CDR's though. Render farms, emulation, fileservers, mp3 players dvd players, diviX players, the possibilites are vast, and all the while you are screwing microsoft because they are selling them at such a loss. Beautiful!
  • I seem to remember M$ pulled a stunt with Windows NT 4.0 Workstation that limited the number of listens you can post to the IP stack. People were pissed that they couldn't effectively run Apache on that OS and I believe a patch came forth some time later. What is to stop M$ from doing the same thing in the xBox? I mean, you only need about 4 listen buffers to effectively play a game on the net. Apache needs many more, especially if the server is getting bogged down, the listen is not returned until Apache enters the response phase. I suppose this could be worked around with some data movement immediately as a packet arrives.

    Now, what would be a cool "game" is a Perl port with an interactive workbench. Teach them kiddies some Perl.

  • No shortage of inflammatory criticsim on slashdot, huh? Especially from morons who have no clue what they are talking about.

    Put this in your pipe and smoke it: http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-311875.html?t ag=rltdnws [cnet.com]

    Here's the key excerpt from that article:

    Although it is removing the ten-user limit, Microsoft said last Friday that NT Server is still the best bet for running Web servers and that it will introduce a "compelling upgrade" for Workstation users that want to migrate to NT Server.

  • I believe the quote was "If someone gets Linux running on the XBox, there's a job waiting at Microsoft for them."

    Well, getting "Linux running on the XBox" can be seen as a collaborative effort of everyone who has worked on every piece of software which eventually makes it into the XBox-linux distribution.

    I wonder how many people are contributors to the linux kernel alone? Microsoft had better get ready to open another wing...


  • Well, that would be great. I am sure that if they only change the USB protocol there would be kernel patches for making USB devices work. But what if they actually change the shape of the USB connectors on the Xbox? There goes the idea of using normal USB devices...

  • by Lord Ender ( 156273 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @10:29AM (#295730) Homepage
    Which raises a good questoin.
    When the version of Apache that you have on your Xbox DVD is found to have a huge security hole, what DO you DO?

    How do you patch the whole? DVD is read only.

  • From pricewatch [pricewatch.com]:

    p3 733 = $117.

    64 MB pc100 SDRAM = $15.

    DVD drive = $40.


    Now, lets add some accessories:

    10GB IDE harddrive = $63

    10/100 NIC = $5

    motherboard/fan/cpu combo = $173 (subtract the price of the processor above)

    Mini- Mid-tower case = $8

    New total:$304 for everything but the case.

    No coding required, do a fresh install of your favorite (FreeBSD) Linux distro, and you're good to go for the same price... I like my way better.

  • my keyboard at my desk, i'd plan on ssh'ing into it

  • To me that seems like a no (or at least hardly) win situation. If there is an easy install, be it Apache on XP or Apache on Linux, you can throw on the XBox then it becomes tempting to use XBoxen as servers. If enough people do this M$ loses $ since they'll get no follow on income from game licenses. If they raise the price of the hardware then they price themselves out of the game market.

    The only way to not get thier bacon fried is either pray no-one notices what a nice little server the XBox would make (fat chance), somehow cripple the HW so it can't run as a server (internal timer that powers off every X hours or so) or provide a cheap server at a similar price point (a'la WinXP Blade install).

    It'll be interesting to see how they deal with this.

    The Bastard.

    If you don't have anything nice to say, say it often.

  • by smack_attack ( 171144 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @09:47AM (#295738) Homepage
    Now I feel good about buying xboxlinux.com a year ago, I knew this was going to happen :)

  • Hmmm nice firewall or router with only on Ethernet interface.
  • Netcraft web server hardware survey, January 2002: 30% - XBox 30% - PS2 30% - GameCube 5% - Game Boy Advance 5% - x86, UltraSPARC and other obsolete platforms
  • Stop babbling. It has components. It has to be cheap. Components have drivers.

    It's not that absurd for Microsoft to twiddle with things to make the components not quite 100% standard. As a Real World example, TiVo actually did this with a number of units -- they got locked drives for some of the units that require a special sequence to be sent at powerup. Presumably, the rationale was to prevent people from buying TiVos (with part of the hardware cost being subsidized by TiVo) and stuffing the drive into their PC, instead.

    If TiVo could afford to do something like that, I can't imagine Microsoft not being able to look into similar options, especially in the console market -- a market where locking out unlicensed third-parties is the way to make money.

  • Typical Windows boot (narrated by Tron's Master Control Program) :

    MCP: Hello Operating system. Please identify yourself.
    OS: Good afternoon MCP, my name is "Bill".
    MCP: Greetings Bill. You may execute.

    Typical Linux boot:

    MCP: Hello Operating system. Please identify yourself.
    OS: glibc ownz j00. Pheer the kernel!
    MCP: Greetings intruder. You may go to hell. (system shutdown)

    How hard can it be ?
  • These things are so packed together, they probably start resetting themeselves after a couple hours, usually at the end of the 10th level too.

    No, they won't get too hot, but the question is can MS keep them cool enough without inserting a fan that sounds like a jet engine when you boot the thing up.
  • And a N64 console as my workstation.

    Wonder if you could use the graphics card on the xbox for anything useful.

  • From what I read, even though it has USB ports, they've been M$-ified to not accept standard USB devices - wouldn't want any licensing fees to escape, now would we?

    I've heard two answers to the "Will it have a keyboard/mouse?" queston: Yes, but it will be a proprietary keyboard, and No, we are making a game machine.

    I'd have to think if they are serious about gaming, especially FPS and RTS gaming, that a keyboard/mouse setup would be mandatory, no?

    - Glad I bought a PS2 with mostly standard USB (but I'll still buy an XBox anyway {Go Apache!})

  • but will it support wine?

    can we expect this? "linuxgames - proudly powered by by xbox.."

  • Microsoft does not appear to be implementing any software safeguards or eeproms or roms that will attempt to detect and prevent any non-Microsoft programs from executing. Or Maybe, I am wrong and their plan is to detect ip packets being routed around microsoft.com, causing the much hyped MS WinXbox kernel to launch an eMail around the default gateway pointed to microsoft.com. I don't know what they'll do to prevent the subjugation of their system. I am all talk today.

    Does anyone have a URL for a page that discusses any of their software that may try to do this?

    ahhhhh... haha

    Please remove BOOGERS when sending me eMail. Thankyou...

  • by Beowulf_Boy ( 239340 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @10:09AM (#295761)
    If these things will overheat?
    I know playstations get awful hot,
    kind of like laptops, they aren't meant to run 24/7/365.25
    I have a p75 as my server sitting under my steps in my room, it has no fans, and is cold to the touch, the heatsink is barely luke warm.
    These things are so packed together, they probably start resetting themeselves after a couple hours, usually at the end of the 10th level too.
  • by Neumann ( 240442 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @10:40AM (#295762)
    on OSOpinion.

    One of the points brought up [osopinion.com] about using the XBox for apache server farms was the commercial appearance. Imagine you are walking through a potential webhosting location that you are considering to host you new online business and you see your pages being served up by XBoxes. How fast would you be out of there?

    Someone doing this would be a prime candidate for both fuckedcompany.com and the top 100 dumbest dot com moments.
  • by Bonker ( 243350 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @10:15AM (#295764)
    As consoles and other 'consumer' technology gets more and more complex, software and firmware become more and more real a problem. For example, my VCR never has any logic problems, but my APEX DVD player will occasionally fail to start a next chapter, or will garble the sound and video. It's MPEG2 drivers have apparently crashed, and the machine has to be powercycled to start running again.

    Being that the Xbox is going to use a Pentium 3 processor, a piece of silicon that we *know* has at least a few minor bugs, and M$ software, I think we can be assured of having at least an occasional crash. Possibly, especially under heavy load as a webserver, this will be more often than corresponding Linux or BSD crashes, making it unsuitable for use as a webserver.
  • 1 Most companies lose money on the hardware and recoup the money by charging for the games. This is not Microsoft's plan.

    2Micsoft's principal concern is strategic, if the playstation becomes the internet appliace then it becomes a platform competitor.

    3The Xbox will probably sell to retailers at about $220. That is probably enough to meet cost of manufacture. The reason Microsoft will make a net loss in the initial years is the enormous amount of advertising they plan.

    All in all the X-Box is a good thing for the video games sector. The marketing tactics of Sega, Sony et. al. are more scumbagish than anything Microsoft has ever been accused of. Produce a game for Sega and they demand a royalty from you of $10 for access to their platform.

    Microsoft is not playing to win here, they are playing to disrupt the industry and break an incumbent monopoly. Putting Linux on Xbox would not upset Microsoft one little bit

    The server farm idea is cute but idiotic. The cost of hardware is only part of the cost of a server farm. By the time X-box comes out $300 will not be the sweat spot of price performance. A dedicated design would be much easier to install and maintain.

  • by JediTrainer ( 314273 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @10:40AM (#295782)
    It doesn't look like it's terribly hard [slashdot.org] to get a certificate AS Microsoft.

    Good luck getting certificates revoked on a console box :)
  • by 3am ( 314579 ) on Thursday April 12, 2001 @09:49AM (#295783) Homepage
    Microsoft is interested in profits. Their angle on the XBox is that they will make money in the games and licensing fees, i presume.

    If, after 2 months, MS finds that everyone's buying the hardware (at negative margins for MS) and not buying any software (and using Apache, nonetheless) - they'll do something to block this practice, or raise the prices to the point where this will become profitable.

    the second will not happen either, as MS will be very disinclined to make inroads into the server for fear of anti-trust legislation (okay, OS, software, hardware... that'd do it...) and industry alliances with vendors who pre-package windows.

    great idea, but like napster, has a critical mass beyond which it will become it's own worst enemy.
  • One's killer app depends on one's needs. I don't really care much about Apache: on a modern Pentium, I can saturate any kind of bandwidth I can afford easily. I do care about supercomputing, however.

    In any case, is the Xbox competitive for general purpose applications, be they Apache or supercomputing? I kind of doubt it. Paying $300 for a 733MHz Pentium with 64M of memory, an 8G hard drive, and almost no ports isn't all that great a deal anymore. By the time the Xbox will be widely available, it will likely be a completely uninteresting deal. In addition, the form factor may turn out to be not all that convenient for building server farms (server room space is very costly, in particular when co-locating).

    The Xbox is mostly about convenience: having a stable, uniform hardware platform makes writing games easier. It is also about low cost of entry: assuming the Xbox meets a price target of $300, you can't get $300 PCs, but you will be able to get something that's twice as fast for twice the money. For server farms, aggregate performance matters, not cost of entry. Its performance and features, on the other hand, seem greatly overhyped to me.

  • Microsoft has attempted to ensure a market monopoly on xbox peripherals by de-commoditizing [opensource.org] USB protocols.

    This is a common Microsoft tactic that is rarely successful.

    Open Source engineers with enough time and motivation could easily backward engineer the bastardized MS USB protocol. A kernal hack could implement a driver to translate standardized USB communications into MS USB communications and vice versa. Having accomplished this task there would be no impediment to using mice, keyboards or even USB printers with the XBox.

    Of course someone would still need to write an xbox driver for XFREE86 and Linux successful takes over the box.

  • now... with all the recent developments in the netbsd port to dreamcast i was thinking of doing a linux port when then the x box comes out this fall (pre-order this summer, thinking of calling it xlinux). This is completely different then the dreamcast port, which as some people have posted on slashdot seems a little well... pointless. But think about the possiblities of the xbox... where talking a 733 mhtz processor with 64 meg ram and a 8-10 gig harddrive, not to mention its specially designed video card and dvd player. We're not talking a game console here people, we're talking a computer. And at that a very cheap computer (last i heard x-box was going to be around $300, as microsoft takes a $200 hit per box that they'll write off on their taxes), so it makes alot of sense to get something useful on it (as opposed to whatever version of windows they're going to put on it... windows gc??? hell you'll probably be able to dual boot it with that harddrive...) like linux. Of course, if someone could build an xbox game player into xlinux... ;-).
  • Hey take this article and combine it with this one http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=01/04/08/003624 7 Wammo: XBox = Low cost radio station, music server.

The solution of this problem is trivial and is left as an exercise for the reader.