Alpha

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Revision as of 20:17, 18 May 2020 by Alpha (talk | contribs) (Peripherals)
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Alpha
G5alphakit.png
Apple PowerMac G5
Introduced October 2003
Discontinued June 2005
CPU Dual PowerPC 970/970fx 2.0GHz
Motherboard 630-4848
Memory 512MB (2x256) DDR 400MHz PC3200
Storage 160GB SATA 7200RPM Seagate ST3160023AS
Graphics ATI Radeon 9800 Pro (Alpha 1)
ATI Radeon X800 XT (Alpha 2)
Networking Intel Pro/100+ 100Mbps PCI 741462-010
Earliest known recovery 0198
Earliest leaked recovery 0615 (remote)
Latest known recovery 1640
Latest leaked recovery 1529
BootROM 5.1.4f0

The Alpha Xenon Development Kit (XeDK) was an Apple PowerMac G5 running an early version of the XDK software that was sent to early developers for the Xenon console. The earliest evidence of the Alpha XeDK was around October 2003 when they first started arriving on Microsoft's Redmond campus.

The Alpha XeDK was replaced by the near-final Beta XeDK console after which, leftover PowerMac G5's were resold to full time Microsoft employees.


History

Some of the earliest documentation of the Alpha XeDK dates back to October 2003 when Xerox contractor Michael Hanscom shared a picture of a truckload of PowerMac G5s arriving on Microsoft's Redmond campus. Hanscom was later fired for posting the photos to his online blog.[1]

The Alpha XeDK was used for development of early Xbox 360 titles including Crackdown, Condemned, Kameo and Full Auto. Development of these titles was later moved to Beta hardware and eventually, final XDK hardware before being released.

The Alpha XeDK was used for all demos at E3 2005. Even though the final case design was being shown, all of the locked kiosk cabinets contained the PowerMac G5 Alpha XeDKs and wired controllers due to the lack of RF board.

When Microsoft moved all development to the Beta XeDK, the Alpha XeDKs were resold to full time Microsoft employees for $300 USD with a limit of 1 per employee. Although these kits all had the Microsoft Game Studios stickers on them, most were wiped and reinstalled with Mac OS X for personal use.

Hardware

Specifications

The Alpha XeDK hardware is a standard Apple PowerMac G5 PCI-X or PCI-X 2 A1047 model with an upgraded video card and an additional Intel Pro100+ network card installed.

ATI Radeon 9800 Pro Mac Edition

The A1047 PCI-X model uses an earlier Dual-Processor (DP) PowerPC 970 2.0GHz CPU configuration. PCI-X 2 Alpha XeDKs assembled after June 2004 used a Dual-Processor (DP) PowerPC 970fx 2.0GHz CPU configuration that was identical but with a 90nm manufacturing process (an upgrade from the 130nm process used in the previous 970 model).

Out of 8 possible PC3200 memory slots, 2 memory slots are populated with 256MB DIMMS for a total of 512MB of DDR RAM.

ATI Radeon X800 XT Mac Edition

The graphics card is the only difference between an Alpha 1 and Alpha 2 XeDKs. The Alpha 1 configuration uses an R300 based ATI Radeon 9800 Pro 128MB and is not supported by later recoveries. The R420 based ATI Radeon X800 XT was sent out to developers in order to update to Alpha 2. The X800 XT features double the VRAM of the previous R300 based card and is required to run later recoveries. Both cards are AGP based Mac-edition cards.

An Intel Pro100+ PCI networking card is installed in the top slot of the PowerMac G5 to handle networking for the XDK (the PowerMac G5's internal networking port is not recognized by the XDK software).

A stock 160GB Seagate SATA 7200RPM provided by Apple is used to hold the XDK recovery and any game builds.

Original Alpha XeDKs have a serial number starting with "XB", merely a coincidence as XB just denotes the assembly plant as Elk Grove.

Peripherals

The Alpha XeDK came with the following peripherals:

  • Regional power cord for Apple PowerMac G5 for each of the following regions:
    1. North America/Japan
    2. United Kingdom
    3. Europe
    4. Australia
  • 2x Original Xbox S controllers
  • 2x USB controller dongles
  • USB hub
  • DVI->Video adapter (supports S-video and RCA)
  • DVI->HDTV adapter
  • Copy of Microsoft Visual Studio .Net Pro 2003, English Edition

The following optional (and un-needed) peripherals were also included:

  • Keyboard/Mouse
  • FireWire/IEEE 1394 cable
  • Apple PowerMac G5 setup guide
  • Apple PowerMac G5 software restore disc
  • DVI->VGA adapter
  • RJ-11 phone cable
  • Apple PowerMac G5 AirPort antenna
  • Xbox Communicator

The Alpha XeDK supports up to 4 connected controllers. If more than one controller is being used then a USB hub is required. A single controller can be connected to the Alpha XeDK without a hub but multiple controllers need to be connected to a hub in order to be recognized. The USB hub must be bus-powered and can not use an external power brick.

Software

The hard drive is an Apple Partition Map formatted drive with a 10MB HFS partition at the beginning dedicated for booting. The OpenFirmware BIOS on the PowerMac can only load .elf files from an HFS partition. Two files are present on the 10MB XeBoot partition; a 1MB ELF file called xboxroma.bin and a CHRP boot file called XEBOOT that is used by OpenFirmware to automatically load the xboxroma.bin file.

The rest of the drive is FATX formatted.

Kernel debugging is supported by use of the front FireWire/IEEE 1394 port and a PC running windbg.

Software support for the Alpha XeDK was discontinued starting June 2005. All further XDK recoveries and SDKs were for Beta development only.[2]

Alpha 1

Alpha 1 XeDKs were the original version of the Alpha XeDK. The only difference from the Alpha 2 kit was the older R300 based ATI Radeon 9800 Pro graphics card with only 128MB of video memory.

Xbox 360 retail and beta Krypton controllers are not supported on Alpha 1 recoveries. Only Original Xbox controllers with a USB-A adapter can be used to control an Alpha XeDK running an Alpha 1 recovery.

The R300 based Alpha 1 video cards were phased out during Fall 2004 and were no longer supported after February 2005. They can not be used to install or boot an Alpha 2 recovery.[3] If an Alpha 1 XeDK is remotely updated to an Alpha 2 recovery without upgrading the graphics card then the user will be presented with an error message on startup.

Alpha 2

Alpha 2 XeDKs were upgraded versions of the Alpha 1 XeDKs with R420 based ATI Radeon X800 XTs installed. These cards were sometimes just referred to as "256MB video cards" within Microsoft's internal documentation.

The Alpha 2 video cards were sent out to developers starting on October and November of 2004. The R420 based video card became mandatory from February 2005 onwards.[3]

In May of 2005, developers were able to use the full 512MB of system memory with the intention of 256MB being dedicated for the graphics processor. If developers exceeded their graphics 256MB limit then extra resources were stored within the AGP card's VRAM.

Known Recoveries

0198 - Seen running on a Alpha XeDK named "stentorian"
0338 - April 2004
0417 - Mentioned in the 0615 remote recovery. Possibly the last 32 bit kernel.
0418 - Mentioned in the 0615 remote recovery file as the first recovery with a 64 bit kernel
0431 - May 2004 - Kernel used in the Microsoft Giano framework
0511 - Mentioned in the 0615 remote recovery
0520 - Mentioned in the 0615 remote recovery
0530 - Mentioned in the 0615 remote recovery
0615 - Remote recovery leaked by MATTRiCK
0634 - July 2004
0731 - August 2004
0834 - September 2004
0930 - October 2004
1029 - November 2004 - Running on Syclopse's Alpha XeDK
1141 - December 2004
1242 - February 2005 - First recovery that removed support for R300 Alpha 1 based video cards
1332 - March 2005 - Introduces XInput and Xbox Live Marketplace/Quick Chat/Leaderboard/Session API
1434 - April 2005 - Recovery used to build the leaked FullAuto build
1529 - Internal nightly build. Includes Original Xbox emulation and retail "Blades" dashboard.
1538 - May 2005 - XDK Linker exclusively exports only XEX files in this recovery
1640 - June 2005

FAQ

Did the Alpha XeDK have a special BootROM or OpenFirmware version?

No, although the Alpha XeDKs shipped with an earlier BootROM version between 5.0.7f0 and 5.1.4f0. The BootROM is the stock ROM provided from Apple and does not have any special modifications.

The Alpha XeDK operating system will run on any BootROM version and has been tested up to 5.1.8f7. Any claims that .elf support was removed in later BootROMs are false and there is no evidence to support it.

Were the Alpha XeDKs liquid cooled?

No, the dual processor 2.0GHz PCI-X and PCI-X 2 PowerMac G5 models from Apple were all air-cooled. Only higher clocked 2.5Ghz/2.7GHz PCI-X/PCI-X 2 models and later dual/quad-core PCIe models were liquid cooled.

Any claims that the Alpha XeDKs were liquid cooled or that buyers "need to check for liquid residue from liquid cooling leaks" are false.

What controllers work with an Alpha XeDK?

Alpha 1 recoveries require a wired Original Xbox controller with a USB-A adapter. Xbox 360 retail/krypton controllers will not work.

Alpha 2 recoveries require either a wired Original Xbox controller w/ USB-A adapter or a wire Xbox 360 retail/krypton controller. A wireless controller with a play and charge kit will not work.

The 1529 recovery also supports wireless Xbox 360 controllers by using a PC Xbox 360 USB Wireless Receiver.

Is a network card required for the Alpha XeDK to operate?

A network card is not required for the Alpha XeDK to boot and operate although many features such as remote debugging and Xenon Neighborhood will not work.

Is there a foolproof way to identify whether an Alpha XeDK is fake?

No. All parts used in the Alpha XeDK are off the shelf and any labels can easily be recreated. There is no custom Microsoft-specific hardware in the machine.

Can the Alpha XeDK connect to Xbox Live or Partner Net (PNET)?

Similar to the Beta XeDKs, the Alpha XeDK used a pre-production version of Xbox Live that is no longer active.

Can the Alpha XeDK run original Xbox games?

The full emulator seems to be present on the 1529 recovery although with some graphics limitations such as the lack of anti-aliasing and textures being limited to 2048.

Can the Alpha XeDK run Xbox 360 games?

The Alpha XeDK can not run XEX2 based applications. Even applications designed for the Alpha XeDK may not run on your specific recovery due to the rapid changes the that kernel went through.

Is there an SDK for the Alpha XeDK?

Every version of the Alpha XeDK software has a matching SDK.

Does the Alpha XeDK have a retail dashboard?

Yes and no. Similar to Beta XeDKs, the 1529 Alpha XeDK recovery has a full version of the early "blades" dashboard although many features do not work due to the lack of Xbox Live connectivity.

Most Alpha XeDK recoveries do not feature a retail dashboard at all.

Is there a remote/ISO recovery for the Alpha XeDK?

Every version of the Alpha XeDK software had a matching ISO and remote recovery.

References

  1. Bishop, Todd. "Microsoft fires worker over weblog." Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 29 Oct 2003, https://www.seattlepi.com/business/article/Microsoft-fires-worker-over-weblog-1128373.php
  2. XDK Release Notes, Microsoft, 06 July 2005
  3. 3.0 3.1 XDK Release Notes, Microsoft, 16 Feburary 2005

Gallery