Xbox hacker and EFF Pioneer Award winner Andrew “bunnie” Huang has waded into the Aaron Swartz controversy, making his ebook Hacking the Xbox free to highlight the important role tinkerers and explorers play. The book, which details Huang’s exploits of the original Xbox console, and subsequent legal battle with Microsoft, was first published in 2003, and had a troubled release with the first publisher pulling out at the last minute over fears of courtroom reprisals.
It’s that arduous legal process that has motivated bunnie to release the free ebook in association with No Starch Press. Swartz, who committed suicide in January, was the target of a lawsuit around computer hacking, and faced a potential $1m in fines and up to 35 years in prison.
“Without the right to tinker and explore, we risk becoming enslaved by technology; and the more we exercise the right to hack, the harder it will be to take that right away” Andrew “bunnie” Huang
The threat of the lawsuit was widely believed to have contributed in no small part to Swartz’s suicide, though the US Attorney strongly denies pressuring the code expert. For Huang, the issue is made particularly personal by the involvement of MIT, accused of hanging Swartz out to dry in the courts, and something he himself had experience of when Microsoft took issue with his console hacking.
“In this book, you will find the story of when I was an MIT graduate student, extracting security keys from the original Microsoft Xbox” Huang writes. “You’ll also read about the crushing disappointment of receiving a letter from MIT legal repudiating any association with my work, effectively leaving me on my own to face Microsoft.”
Physical copies of Hacking the Xbox remain on sale, but the free ebook can be downloaded in PDF format. Huang suggests the EFF, Demand Progress, and GiveWell as suitable donation recipients should readers want to reward his generosity.