Mod Method, Which Is Best?, And Why Do People

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Mod Method, Which Is Best?, And Why Do People

Post by Corp Dwayne Hicks on Tue Mar 15, 2016 10:33 pm

Funny, when creating the forum there were a dozen ideas on what to rant about in this forum... but once it was created life got in the way and suddenly I had a hard time finding something to say. Just so you all know I won’t be winning any awards for my prose in this or any forum.

With that out of the way…

Something that has been on my mind for awhile is the never ending debate between people who choose or pick sides in the ongoing xbox “religious battles”: CHEAPMOD vs. MODCHIP vs TSOP vs EXPLOIT. All four options have their place in the scene and appeal to different people for different reasons.

Cheapmods have been around a very long time now and have proven themselves to be workhorses despite their diminutive size and price options. With Andy’s Cheapmod guide/schematics just about anyone can set one up with ease. Cheapmods were at risk for awhile... especially when the LFRAME had moved, but some smart people with the TIGHTMOD method worked around that allowing CHEAPMODS and LPC mods on what were then current motherboards. People who actually give Cheapmods a try and/or build one themselves don’t have many complaints. It’s a solid method for accomplishing the task of modding an xbox. It won’t have many (or any) of the bells and whistles of the current generation of modchips but then again not everyone needs all of those features.

One reason some people don’t like or respect “cheapmods” and people/sites that offer/sell them is the perception that buying one will not help to support the scene, this site or some other “worthy” section of the scene. That may be true to some extent as very few cheapmod sellers have ever finally supported the scene, and it’s related sites via advertising, promotion etc. However the cheapmod isn’t for everyone and some people (sales show a lot) prefer the extra features and gimmicks provided by some of the more robust modchip solutions on the market.

It’s a shame that Cheapmods are stigmatized in this manner. They are stigmatized in much the same way the Japanese cars were when they first entered the North American market. Perception (that these cars were cheap and bad for the country) at the time spoke louder than the reality which was Japan was entering the market and bringing some cheap cars that worked.

Cheapmods, as the name implies also suits a segment of the scene that doesn’t or simply can’t shell out the funds for a chip that cost on average now slightly less than the cost of a US priced Xbox.

TSOP can be that thrifty user’s best friend or worst nightmare depending on the results of their first TSOP Flash. What could be better than having a modded xbox that can run linux, homebrew, and backups without the cost and expense of a full modchip? Not much. However, for some venturing into TSOP land can cost the entry level modder on a budget more than they bargained for.

The process is easy enough simply connect a couple of points with solder (or other creative methods…) fire up some software and read a guide and follow the instructions. The entire process has been all laid out for the user. Read, read, and read some more.

For some people either due to ignorance, a mistake with the soldering iron or a solder splash, ESD’s or some other mishap fry or nuke their Tsop. At that point the entry level user is usually faced with a new xbox purchase or possible a used xbox purchase. (unless of course they are lucky enough to have someone else with a chip handy.. and experience enough to correct the situation without the need to another xbox purchase.)

With failed Tsops, and other methods that have failed.. people may end up parting out the TSOP damaged xbox to recoup as much $$$ as possible in the process.

However those cases are few and far between… and when a user is successful a TSOP flash will look and feel the same to the user in most circumstances while using the box. One drawback of a successful Tsop Flash is that the user has rendered their xbox unable to use LIVE, in my opinion one of this consoless biggest and best features and one that sets it over the other console competition.

Sure there are options for switches (on some boards) but for most people a TSOP flash is a one way ticket to not using Live.

The Tsop Flash, like other methods has an attached stigma due to many who have used the ease and lack of cost of the TSOP Flash as a lucrative way to bilk unsuspecting users out of money. Classic case is user “a” goes to installer “b” and has him mod his box for him. Installer “b” tell user “a” that he will mod the box, for 50$ and that the box will be able to have a large HD, play backups and warez, and run homebrew and emulators. Now that isn’t a bad deal for some people but some of these dealers also go over the line and suggest or downright lie that they have installed a “MODCHIP”. Clearly they haven’t. These fly by night clowns are still vultures circling the scene looking for unsuspecting or ignorant customers. Some even reside in our forums.

That’s not to say there aren’t deals out there in TSOP installer land. Many will do a TSOP for nothing or for a fair $30 US fee. (Considering their time and effort.. $30 is more than fair) People paying more for a TSOP ( I don’t care who the installer says he is..) are simply being ripped off.. Even if the installer educates the user beforehand as to what is entailed by going the Tsop route a fee of more than $30 for a Tsop Flash is ridiculous.

This method also incurs the wrath of those who defend the scene and it’s contributors since people providing this service also make little or no effort (nor need to.. this is just an observation) to help promote and keep key parts of the scene up and running (through support via advertising, sponsorship, etc)

2 methods: both work well enough... both have pros and cons but for those that might have made a few well placed purchases before their mod attempts.. they might be in luck and can do it for free.

For these adventuresome people we have the SOFTMOD/EXPLOITS. Many exists Dashboard/Font/Music etc.. pros and cons to each methods. An exceptional amount of work, trial and error testing and man hours have gone into this method with incredible results. With little more than Time.. a memory card, a retail game (specific ones) and a usb adapter or usb pen drive people can accomplete the seemingly impossible soft modding an xbox without ever cracking open the case and voiding that precious warranty (which is actually a retarded thing to say.. because by definition.. this method violates the warranty agreement that ships with every xbox at the time of sale. Note: any effort to modifiy the hardware or software on an xbox constitutes a violation of the purchase/user agreement and effectively renders the xbox warranty void))

Sounds too good to be true? For many it was and still is. It’s not terribly difficult to accomplish a successful mod. If the user was fortunate to to have all the prerequisite parts and software at hand the cost would be Zero. Otherwise you could easily spend 30-80$ doing this “free” method. Furthermore despite the numerous methods in this category, when a fatal file error or mis-write or power outage occurs the results could leave the owner with a useless xbox that can’t be easily recovered without the use of what was earlier thought to be an expensive method; the modchip.

If people thought TSOP and Cheapmods vendors/installers didn’t support the scene, just imagine what people think of the exploiters:

“people too cheap for a cheapmod”

“first people didn’t want to buy games.. now they don’t want to buy modchips..”

“cheap bastard pirate kiddies finally got what they wanted..”

…all of which is heard daily in chat-rooms, forums, and online in voice chats in lobbies.

People forget the work that went into perfecting this method. (especially during a time when people said that it was virtually impossible to accomplish)

The discovery of the original flaws, and the time and persistence of key people to time and again check, attempt, fail, and re-attempt until we could “safely” mod an xbox without opening up a case and doing it manually. Some of these people are now part of bigger projects.. like Linux on Xbox.. and/or some now work for or are running/participating in modchip teams.

Exploits also brought with them an influx of new people into the scene. People who were unwilling or unable to do the physical mods or pay the prices associated with them. For some this was and still is viewed as a huge negative on the scene as a whole. I’m personally not thrilled that the Exploits were released to the public… but it did usher in a new era in modding for the xbox scene. In some respect.. it was a revitalization with all the fresh blood and fresh ideas then being bantered about.

It also was a huge step forward into moving the scene out of the underground and baby steps into the mainstream. (whether that is a good or bad thing.. is a topic worthy of another thread at another time.) With that exposure even more people are now coming in with new ideas... fresh perspectives... and a renewed vigor that can only be a good thing over-all. (imo)

It also helped to wake up the teams responsible for developing the modchips that drive this scene. New advancements, ideas, and options are brewing and new teams are appearing with each new season.

Competition and the fight to get attention has at times made the XS News Page a war ground, something some would prefer to not see. However... what those same people don’t understand is that without some of the emotion, drama, and fury that we see from the giants as they clash, mock, attack each other with words, XS would suffer. Their attackes which usually start in their pre-releases on their own pages.. then become reported news on XS, which in turn makes the XS News Page the Front lines of the battle that ensues. The battle.. when you remove the drama and innuendo’s, are just a simple old fashion battle to gain attention and market share, without which the XS News page would simply be a list of software releases and updates (which would satisfy some people just fine..)

We’ve watched the number of visitors and the simple truth is that a lot more people love that competitiveness and hostility they sometimes have for each other, and love seeing it play itself out on the news page week in and week out. People check more often with things get heated. When the teams are quiet people check in less often, (this is an over-simplification but it is statistically true for the most part.. both with the news page.. and even in the forums.)

Back to the topic at hand. (don’t want to get too side tracked with the modchip wars)

We’ve covered all the bases but we’ve left the big boys out, the Modchips.

A lot of options are available. Ranging from 15$-70$ and even more with the add-on goodies. All of the established chip companies will provide you with a chip that complies with the minimal needs of all users in the scene. People with more selective needs or a penchant for gimmicks will steer toward one of the bigger Chip teams and their bag of features.

For those wanting to get right into it, they can order a chip, screen, lights, and whip out a soldering iron, lead free solder and flux and go to town on their Xbox motherboards and come out of it with a box that can do just about anything offered or whispered in this scene. For those who prefer to not hold a soldering iron or don’t have the nerves or steady hands they can settle for (and pay more for) a current solderless solution from almost all of the current chip companies. Some work better than others. It will never replace the best methods of installing a chip like Wire or Pin-header methods but in a pinch they can produce excellent and lasting results.

Like any other method it's all about the user, the instructions/guides, and tools at hand and his/her capacity and patience to use both effectively.

No one will, or can really accuse most of the modchip teams of not supporting the scene. (there are a few notable exception like teams that steal code, other teams that release unready files/program to hurt other teams, while others still go the extra step to directly or indirectly support cloning efforts of cloners to their competitor products)

Directly, modchip teams supply chips for contests, samples for review and inspection, and inside/preview info so that we can keep abreast of the situation and keep you the other members better informed. Then there is the indirect financial support that comes from dealers that sell these chips. That is money that keeps sites like this one running. That is an important contribution to the scene. Directly we support over 120000 members, and many times that in guests. We also work hard to keep site downtime to a minimum and further support the scene and homebrew and other project devs by hosting free of charge their xbox dev related sites. Allowing them to spend their time on focusing on their dev projects.. and not worrying about where or how they will find/get reliable hosting.

Modchips and the funds provided through their advertising are an important part of the support structure for this site. It’s not completely supporting it, as it only makes up part of the financial equation but it does help. No other method of modding has such a direct link to the viability of sites like this one.

So, I’ve spent 10 minutes of your time and expunged on the qualities of all of the available methods for modding an xbox and what have I accomplished?

Maybe nothing.

Maybe though, I’ve given you a glimpse into some of the politics of the scene.. (not just this site.. but the scene as a whole)

People are passionate and that shows online. They pick sides even when at times maybe they shouldn’t or are better off in the long run keeping thoughts and opinions to themselves. The camp mentality for PC, MAC and Linux types are just as apparent in the scene between Tsop Flashers, Exploits, and Tradition and modern Chippers. Even just the modchip people are divided along similar lines. Xecuter, OxZodus, EB, Ankarah, Smartxx, and others.

We are all here (well most of us anyway) to take full advantage of this little black box that Billy brought to the masses. Let’s not forget that and have some fun. By all means, like, even love the guys who made your chip. It doesn’t mean your chip or for that matter your method of modding your box was or is better than the decisions made by the next guy.


This wouldn’t be an  article if it didn’t have my opinion up front, honest and in your face.

TSOP method in my opinion while serving as a cheap method, can at times sacrifices one of the best reasons to have an xbox which is to access the growing community on Xbox Live. A method that sacrifices features instead of adding features does not appeal to me personally in the long run. It’s also something I discourage customers and friends from doing. I also believe that people opting to have a TSOP flash done are either ill informed and/or short sighted. Maybe “they” don’t want LIVE or care about having the onboard flashrom stock but people down the road might when they try to offload what will then be an ancient xbox.. Why do something that limits options and removes features, and could potentially (but rarely) fries a box on it’s first attempt?

CHEAPMODS method, is still a rock solid option. For those who like to role up their sleeves and get dirty and dig into the archives, and go old school this is still a great method for modding and learning about the scene and what it has to offer you. The sense of accomplishment is equal to those buying a modern chip without the costs associated with it.

EXPLOIT method, the only method close to “free” to mod an xbox with. When done right a cheap user will get 99% of the modding functionality out of their units. If issues occur later chances are they will opt for one of the other methods to fix it. I’ve always said it, and it bears repeating that a vast majority of exploit users eventually become modchip users, either through mishaps during the install of the exploits, the perceived clumsiness of the method, or the fact that a full chip provides the absolute maximum number of options to the user.

MODCHIP method, whether it is a Wire install, a Pin-Header Install, or a Solderless screw down solution you really can’t go to far wrong with the chip available today. A lot of chips, a lot of options so none of you need to feel pigeon-holed into buying just the one popular chip. Take your time, read, read some more, then buy a chip from a reputable dealer (preferably one of our XS sponsors)

[Shameless plug] Support the Chip Devs as they are the ones doing a lot of the leg work to stay ahead of MS and their anti-mod methods. Support the Scene, buy a T-Shirt. Help us stay around during the next console cycle. Further support the forum by clicking on all those less than annoying ads you see along the sides of the News Page and at the top of the Forums.

Money after all makes the world go around. (and pays for the Webspace and bandwidth for VintageTechRepairs, and 10-15 scene related sites we host)
Corp Dwayne Hicks

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