Friday, January 09, 2009

Modding the Gamcube with the Xeno Modchip

Well i know the Nintendo Gamecube isn't the most popular console of the sixth generation, but they certainly weren't bad in my books. Not forgetting that my precious little cube was a 21st birthday present and was actually my first ever console that i completely owned (apposed from 50/50 with my brother). The graphic design and game play of most of the cubes games tantalized my more traditional/cartoon style of gaming taste. Paper Mario: thousand year door is definitely one of my top five favorite games. And the gameboy add on certainly helped its longevity.

Games are getting harder to find and a few of my disks aren't looking the healthiest, it's time for a mod. The mod community was only built very late in the Gamecubes life so there isn't a massive amount of chips to choose from, but they are still floating around if you try hard enough.

After a lot of searching and extended use of the Way Back Machine (most of the sites were dead) i found the cheapest ($15 AU), simplest mod was the Xeno 2.0 chip. An easy 6 solder points, a small amount of pulling apart, and a smaller amount of risk made it perfect.

The Xeno chip (the way I understand it) is basically an extended firmware replacement for the cubes DVD drive, like most of the mods for the Wii and the Xbox 360. Other cube mods like the Viper and the Qoob chips replace the systems firmware or OS and can give a whole stack of other features, which I didn't really want to dive into or pay for (I just want to run backups).

Above is the bottom of the cubes 8cm DVD drive with the placement of a Xeno chip.

Here is the bottom of my drive, I've just touched up the contacts with solder and marked them. I was working with a pair of electronics magnifying goggles and it still wasn't too easy for my shaky hands. I dont get to do this as often as i used to, so concentration was at a maximum.




Here is a small amount of fine wire on the points (please excuse my soldering, i was a little more jittery than usual). This basically makes the bridge between the chip and the contact and saves trying to use stupid amounts of solder to try and jump the distance.

And finally the chip installed. Again, don't look to closely at my soldering, its rough but its good enough (my Dad would be frowning).


All back together, on the right of the fan you can see the status light glowing green on the chip. It glows red when the chip is doing its thing like working around DRE (Disk Read Errors).

I was also running a full sized DVD to test it. My cube didn't like the SONY 8cm Mini DVD's i bought, gets into the game ok but had a few DRE's on the way. 12cm Imation DVD-R's work flawlessly so i think the next task is to either mod the case to take the larger disks or source out a Team Xecutor case thats built to take the larger disks.

So the mod works fine, but unfortunately their was one slight problem. Xeno made two versions 1.0 and 2.0, and unfortunately the supplier i used sent me the 1.0 version (they both look identical and the only way to tell the difference is to install it). Version 2.0 gives multi game disk support and a little more DRE control from what I've read.

After a few emails describing what i was missing to the supplier, they agreed to send a replacement in the form of a Qoob SX. I wasn't aiming for that kind of chip but I'll gladly try it out (the fact that it was free was a sweetener). So ill have another post in a week or so with the Qoob SX install. Its a little more involved and should be fun. Hopefully it fixes the DRE problems i had with the SONY's i bought.

Until then, LONG LIVE THE CUBE!

Update 27/1/09 - I've received the new qoob chip, post to come soon.

Update 18/5/09 - Still not qoob'ed. Soon (ish)