back to article Hacker unshackles Kinect from Xbox

An amateur hacker claims to have freed Microsoft's Kinect from the Xbox, a feat that allows him to control the the just-released motion-tracking game device from his Windows PC. The claim was documented in two videos released over the weekend by a member of the Natural User Interface Group. In one, Kinect's motorized-tilt is …

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FAIL

Where on Earth do you start?

"Microsoft is none too amused by the tinkering of a device that it has spent years to ensure isn't easily tampered with"

They spent years attempting to "ensure" it is tamper proof and it is cracked before it is even widely available? That's priceless.

" (we will) continue to make advances in these types of safeguards"

Perhaps they need to "make advances" in totally different types of safeguards. These ones don't appear to be working very well at all.

"and work closely with law enforcement and product safety groups to keep Kinect tamper-resistant.”

Ummm, what exactly do "law enforcement groups" have to do with this? Yes, I know they are probably referring to the DMCA and this guy is ILLEGALLY BRAKING MAH ENCRYPTIONS!!! but for gods sake guys, get real. As the article says, courts in the US have already recognised jailbreaking as legal, and this is essentially what this guy is doing. Besides, who are they going to sue? From the NUI website "The NUI Group is a global research community" Do MS think that the DCMA applies to the entire planet perhaps? Probably.

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riiiight

so give enough stick and script kiddies will flock to the challenge. Then when it is in the open domain what will M$ do? Why bother in the first place?

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Headmaster

skiddies

Script kiddies won't rise to the challenge because they don't hack or reverse engineer anything, they simply run scripts or programs written by others which is why it's a derogatory term.

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What's the point?

Wholeheartedly agree. What's the point? Anyone buying this to use as a webcam at £130 would be clearly sectionable, and there's no software available to use the fancy IR sensors anyway. At most this is going to be something a few people do who most likely own the Kinect anyway, and just fancy trying it out on the PC.

For that matter, why do games companies still use Securom? Time and time again it's been proven that any game "protected" by it is hacked within minutes of release, usually in exactly the same way as the last. I suppose it prevents some casual copying, but who really copies disks these days? The only people who are doing it just burn a precracked image anyway.

I prefer the "product safety groups" bit - it's almost like they're trying to insunuate that "hacking" this device is somehow physically dangerous, as if it's going to explode in your face, or digitise you onto the gaming grid or something. Fucking Sark.

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Pint

Don't wind people up: U.S. law only good in the U,S.A.

MS, et al, know hackers are going to nobble their products.

Once again hackers demonstrate how good they are whilst MS loses face that they poor coders.

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Coffee/keyboard

Not really

The fact that someone has hacked the connect does not really reflect bad coding on Microsoft's part. If that was the case then, we could also assume that the programmers at Sony, Nintendo, Apple, etc. are equally bad programmers as several of their devices have also been hacked as easily.

The problem is that there is usually quite a lot of code, and as many people if not a lot more that are equally determined to crack the devices as the companies are to secure them. There are a lot of extremely talented individuals in the world and companies will always find there is someone better out there who doesn't share their goals and aspirations.

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Anonymous Coward

and that

"There are a lot of extremely talented individuals in the world and companies will always find there is someone better out there who doesn't share their goals and aspirations."

In a nutshell explains why big business has run the education system into the ground.

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Whats the problem

So, the market for this glorified web-cam is now potentially increased from xbox owners only to xbox and pc owners. As long as the hardware isn't cloned this is surely a good thing for microsoft.

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Thumb Up

They clearly sell it at a loss

and hope that they make up the difference in software licence fees. If hackers buy them at below cost and use them to do, whatever, without MS getting a cut then their business model goes out the window.

Serves them right. If you can't sell it for an honest price up front then you are doing it wrong.

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@Goat Jam

re: If you can't sell it for an honest price... etc...

Do you own a mobile phone?

Did it cost £500?

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No

They sell it at a profit AND they want profit from the software licence fees.

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Silver badge

Did it cost £500?

No it cost more then that, because it came with a 2 year contract that cost 30 a month so that would be 720. They don't just sell you the phone below cost and hope you will use it on their network.

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Mobile Phone

The answers to your questions are:

Yes and yes

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@Tom

That was kind of my point - the phone usually costs next to nothing because you're locked in to using it with a particular network (at least for the duration of the contact.) In the case of consoles or console add on hardware, you're locked in to using that hardware how the manufacturer wants, or buying only software which has paid a royalty to the console maker, in exchange for it costing next to nothing (in real terms.)

As it happens, I don't think that this device being cracked serves much potential other than cool points for the hacker, it's certainly interesting but I can't see any use for it.

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Anonymous Coward

Reply to post: @Tom

"As it happens, I don't think that this device being cracked serves much potential other than cool points for the hacker, it's certainly interesting but I can't see any use for it."

Really? I can think of one big use for these if they can be easily accessed from the internet...

See "http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/04/16/secret_student_pics/" for an example idea.

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I agree with Goat Jam

And to Fraser, yes I own a mobile phone and yes it cost as much as a new laptop (which is ridiculous), but it is the cell phone service provider's game and in order to get an unlocked phone that can be used (almost) anywhere you have to pay the price. The nice thing about it is I am not held hostage for things like ring-tones and applications, which I can (and do) create for myself.

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@Stephen

You are held hostage, you have to pay a randsom in order to get your phone freed from a network. The only difference is that they let you move to a different provider for a fee, whereas console hardware manufacturers don't let you. My point is that both seem to be a basically fair way of selling a product, assuming that you understand the cost model prior to purchse.

As an aside - I've never paid more than about £20 above the cost of my monthly contract for a phone (even smartphones) what's with people spending hundreds on them?

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FAIL

oooh, a title

“continue to make advances in these types of safeguards and work closely with law enforcement and product safety groups to keep Kinect tamper-resistant.”

Why do Microsoft think they can stop you from changing something just because they made it? If I buy a car, I can change the wheels, rip out all the airbags (not wise, but it can be done) and even change or alter the engine and no car manufacturer 'comes after you'. Why should a piec of hardware you bought be any different?

MS et al should really get a grip on how the real world works.

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Sir

M$ are also missing a trick here. If people are interested enough to break into these devices, then there is another market. They would do better to facilitate modders etc. instead of alienating them.

Oh right, it's about control, not market forces or freedom. Bummer.

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exhasut pipes

Actually, slooth, that's not true.

In the 70s there was a spate of prosecutions by car companies of aftermarket exhast pipe manufacturers.

You see, they claimed to have copyright in the design plans for the exhaust pipes, which was being illegally infringed by aftermarket manufacturers.

Still, its total madness. When I buy anything, I reserve the right to fark with it. Its a fundamental property right. They sold it, I bought it, its mine.

The only way M$ can legitimately do this is to lend you the kinect hardware like an ISP lends you a router.

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Anonymous Coward

Not exactly the same...

The difference there is that these companies were copying a protected product and selling it for profit, or that's the gist of the story from what I read in your comment.

That's a completely different kettle of fish from buying a piece of hardware and messing around with it in the privacy of your own home.

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Pirate

Markets..

"If people are interested enough to break into these devices, then there is another market"

You're right in principle, but it isn't the PC gaming market which is probably what has Microsoft worried.

But yeah I really don't like the approach some companies take if you want to use something for some other thing that maybe they didn't think of - see you in court! *patent what you did*

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@Not exactly the same. Sorry, actually yes.

The car manufacturers of the period tried to exploit the law so as to be able to claim that all spare parts produced by patten part manufacturers which could be used to replace any original parts on your car if they were for the same purpose however different they were otherwise were in fact illegal. Yes some pattern parts were exact copies of the originals - so what. If I buy a computer from Asus and decide to change their screen card for something from MSI - that's my business. Otherwise the original manufacturer is claiming that he is entitled to control your property in perpetuityl

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Alert

It seems they have reconsidered the definition of hacking.

The latest news is that MS have back-pedalled a bit, and accessing the device from a non Xbox is apparently not hacking. Lovely quote from MS on the adafruit.com blog.

Adafruit response.. Bounty is now $3000. And people are talking about setting up a donation process to get it even bigger.

Wild guess here, but it sounds more like an over enthusiastic PR/Legal employee got his knickers in a twist at the thought of "teh l77t Hax0rs" taking over a kinect, and using it to declare global thermonuclear war. And MS are desperately trying to distance themselves from this twit.

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Alert

Good grief

"Microsoft is none too amused by the tinkering of a device that it has spent years to ensure isn't easily tampered with"

I have to wonder aloud how long this Kinect system has been 'ready for play', but if they *only* held it back to get the DRM right. Just how scared are they of 3rd party controllers??

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WTF?

DMCA applies?

I don't see how the DMCA can apply, what copyright will be breached by the control of a peripheral input device??

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Anonymous Coward

RE: DMCA applies?

It applies to prevent publishing of how to do it along with a handy software utility that takes all the work out of doing so...I think.

They would of course be shooting themselves in the foot. Not that that ever stopped them.

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Pirate

Hell yeah!

I see no reason for a piece of hardware, that one buys with his own hard-earned cash, to be only usable with what Redmond decides it can. If a toy can have serious uses, so it will.

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Pirate

Re: Hell yeah!

They're pissed because they would charge 10 times as much for an almost identical product aimed at business customers.

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Pint

MS playing catch up again

Can't say it bothers me much, I do own a 360 for playing Fallout games, but watching MS pathetic attempts to play catch-up yet again, with all the major industry bods is priceless, in this case Nintendo with their Wii. Sorry, but the cute family games market was cornered by Nintendo yonks ago. The PS3 and 360 are seen as big lad's toys, full of "shootin' 'N' lootin' " type games, an image that MS PR cultivated and now they want to shake it off!

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Not quite...

MS realised that the Wii controller was a step change in how people can control games.

The Kinect will be used for other games, eventually, including "big lad's" games. Imagine playing a FPS with it, it'll be a big change to get used to but will be a lot of fun. I can also imagine it just being a step down the road, although I can't yet imagine what the next step will be...

As for the article: Good news about the search for a hack. It could be VERY useful in grown-up scenarios. Even something as simple as controlling your HTPC with a few gestures. This tech is wasted on a games console!

This is just like the PS3: an incredibly powerful piece of kit... just for playing games? Nah, lets buy a ****-load of them and make a supercomputer!

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Anonymous Coward

"Imagine playing a FPS with it, it'll be a big change to get used to but will be a lot of fun."

really?

Can't see it myself. If I wanted to stand around waving pretend guns at people, why would I need a games console?

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Not quite not quite...

Sadly, there likely won't ever be an FPS for Kinect. It's just not accurate enough to detect your fingers, hence no trigger. Of course, it does have voice detect, so you could always shout "BANG" or "PEW-PEW-PEW". (If anyone ever does this I may never stop laughing.)

Then there's the aiming. Hold your arms in front of you, as if you were holding an assualt rifle. Now move your front hand left and right WITHOUT moving or re-angling your rear hand. Doesn't make any sense does it? How does the software cope with this, bearing in mind that when pretending to hold a gun, your hands are NEVER in the correct alignment. Much as MS would never admit it, the aiming just wouldn't work properly.

Then there's the other controls. How do you walk, run and strafe? Actually doing so requires far too much space, not to mention the fact the the "world" (i.e. the TV) would then move in the opposite direction. Running on the spot would just be stupid, and doesn't really solve strafing. Remeber, all of the games annouced for Kinect so far are on rails, with good reason.

Lets take another example of "big lad's" games - racing games. I've seen someone else breathlessley imagining the possibilities of Forza with Kinect. I'd be inclined to disagree.

1. You have to stand up, an instant fail for any racing game.

2. There are no sensible controls for the pedals, and no controls for any other actions at all.

3. Most steering wheel and pedal kits fail because they cannot be mounted securely to a surface, making the game VERY hard to control. This obviously suffers from this.

4. The "wheel" is totally weightless, leading to a complete loss of any tactile feedback.

5. You have to spend valuable (for pro racing) brain cycles remembering to keep your hands at a fairly fixed radius, and at an exact 9-3 position.

6. Because of the limitations of the controller, you have a maximum (comfortable) steering lock of 90 degrees, resulting in twitchy, oversensitive controls.. That's right, you need more elbows.

7. It makes you look like a total clunge.

7 was just for fun. But quite seriously, this could easily be the single worst racing control scheme ever, and I don't see the FPS one stacking up any better. And it really does make you look a TOTAL clunge.

For all of MS's waxing lyrical about this being the most revolutionary controller EVA, I really can't see it. It looks fun, for a little while, but I'll be VERY surprised if Kinect ever gets any real adoption, or support. In 12 months time it'll likely be all but forgotten. If MS were a bit more confident of it's sucess, of course, they would charge more like it's market value (about £40, I reckon) and re-coup the money through the high volumne of software sales they will make, right? I mean, it's not like they started to think that no-one would buy any other games for it, and they better grab all the cash up front, right?

Whatever you think about the "Kinect = EyeToy" argument, you can't really argue with the fact that they are setting out to do the same thing. Both intend to let you control a game with your whole body. Sony eventually realised that without buttons you loose direct, instant control, you loose tactile response, and most importantly, you loose the ability to navigate menus sensibly. You talk about gestures, but how long do you really think you'd control your computer by waving your whole arms about like a lunatic? Almost every succesful invention and innovation ever created takes a task, and allows you to do it whilst exerting less physical effort.

This is nothing like the PS3 - it's not at all powerful, or revolutionary, or even new really, (does bolting a couple of over the counter components onto an existing product count as new these days?) but has been put to a reasonably clever use fulfilling a single small niche. In fact the only bit of your comment I do agree with is that it's probably better for doing other things than playing games.

P.S. - I hope I'm wrong, because I care not for silly manafacturer loyalties. If this is good, I'll buy one, no questions. I just can't see how they will overcome such vast and obvious limitations in any kind of sensible fashion.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not quite not quite...

I agree.

It seems to me that Kinect is virtual reality without the virtual reality.

"move around like you're in the game" they say, but not too much or you will stub your toe on something.

Though I do find it interesting that next years hot new "games" are going to end up closely resembling something out of 1984. I don't want my television forcing me to exercise.

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FAIL

What's Kinect?

is it like a PS2 Eye Toy?

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Someone upvoted that comment?

It's not much like a PS2 Eye Toy, technically. Or even a PS3 Eye.

It's a motorised camera / microphone unit that also provides depth information with IR. The depth information is the key differentiator and what makes it unique. There's an interesting YouTube video showing a room using Kinect through IR goggles. The room is filled with dots of IR light.

The reason Microsoft don't want people to hack it is that they likely sell it for a loss. Robotics engineers, for example, would probably love to put one of these on their devices, as the current commercial alternatives cost a lot more. Microsoft would effectively be subsidising them :)

I'm not sure how well that would work though, after reports that Kinect really only works 6ft+ from the camera (and the previously mentioned YouTube video confirms that the dots only start at about this distance away).

It will be interesting to see how much of the depth calculations and gesture recognition are performed in the device and how much on the CPU/GPU of the Xbox360.

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Not so sure.

Well now - a steam train and a diesel electric don't really share a lot of components or build techniques, for example. Beacuse they both set out to achieve the same goal, they are both trains. From that standpoint at least, this is "a type of EyeToy" - it aims to allow you to control games with your whole body. Telling consumers otherwise is misleading, as when they get it home and try it, they'll realise they're bobbing about in much the same way they were with their old EyeToy - it just works better.

From a technical standpoint, it does work totally differently, seemingly not really even using the webcam component for most stuff, instead relying on the IR bits. I'd have to say I don't expect MS are selling this at anywhere near a loss. The mic is no different to the PS mic, and although decent, is not an expensive component. The motorised angling is also not going to be expensive to set up, when the product is designed from the ground up at least. The webcam itself is almost of no value at all these days. The IR would have certainly cost R&D a fair bit to get calibrated and working correctly, but the components? IR emmitters and recievers cost virtually nothing, hence why they are used in remote controls so widely.

I think the cost is partly to cover MS's R&D for this, because like it or not, others will make similar kit using their designs - it's just a matter of time really. I suspect the other part of the price tag is to try and protect against the probability of customers buying one, then never buying any games for whatever reason, much like what happened with the EyeToy. Of course the reason why no-one bought any EyeToy games was because few were ever developed, and the main reason developers quoted for this, was that you can't set up working control schemes for most games which will work inside a living room. Kinect does not really change this.

I dunno, MS might manage to do a bit more with this, but they will have to push - developers are unlikely to flock forward to develop for Kinect of their own free will, as its a massive risk until proven, something which the launch has in no way done. I can't really forgive the launch titles for Kinect - simply because Microsoft own their very own games studio! If that's the best they can manage, or they're not willing to donate more resources for such a "pivotal" launch, then why am I supposed to have any confidence?

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Team America - World Police

Fuck yeah!

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Gold badge
FAIL

I don't get it.

Why do MS give a stuff?

For every Kinect hacked and attached to something else they sell an extra Kinect. If someone wants to play Xbox games they still have to buy an Xbox, regardless of whether a Kinect can or cannot be connected to a PC.

Now it's entirely possible that Xbox games are being hack to run on PC hardware, I don't know, but if so, the presence or not of Kinect isn't going to change this and the sort of people who do this sort of thing aren't going to give a flying f*** that the Kinect hack ain't legit.

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See other post

Re: Selling it at a loss

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Dunno, but I can guess...

I guess it's like the PS3: They subsidise it, and make their money back in the games. If it's hacked to work on the PC, they won't make their money back, so they make a loss on each one sold for a purpose other than intended.

That said: Tough shit Microsoft (and Sony)

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Exactly.

MS aren't losing any competitive advantage, as it's still their hardware and no-one's going to port this to the PS3. It will be used by a minority of researchers and hobbyists to experiment with various cool, silly and often downright pointless ideas. And on PCs running Windows, to boot.

Let it be.

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Linux

Me Confused(tm)

I do not understand why MS cares what do I do, or where do I plug a physical device I buy, it is not that I can copy it and upload on the web.

At the end of the day it is like the regular Xbox console controller that actually has a driver for windows, this translates on more controllers sold.

If I'm a competitor (Sony) I won't have any problem taking it apart anyway.

So then... what is it? MS want to charge developers for allowing Kinect on PC games or what?

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Sales

I think that the reason Microsoft are concerned is that they are selling Kinect at a loss and hope to make the money back on software purchases.

If everyone goes out and buys a Kinect and hacks it to connect to their computer, they won't be buying any software.

Personally I can't wait for this to be included in the Linux kernel so we can all use them.

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Jobs Horns

Title is loading ████████████ 99%

I find this funny writing a device driver is hardly tampering, would you call using a 3rd party driver for your wireless card because the manufacturer doesn't put one out for windows 7 tampering? I certainly wouldn't.

Microsoft make money on the hardware they should have made windows drivers for all their hardware, but they seam to only be half arsed with it, for example they make drivers for the 360 usb and wireless pad, but they dont make ones for the chatpad you use with the same pad.

Its in microsoft's interest's to make things like this seamless and support from hardware from pc to xbox and visa versa but they are dropping the ball. The fact that people are putting up rewards for people to make 3rd party drivers just shows that people want them and MS are just failing to meet that demand. They can be as unhappy as they like but while they fail to meet customer demand things like that will happen.

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If you bye something its yours.

To take apart until it breaks.

I wonder if Microsoft would give a shit if this guy posted a video of a failed attempt?

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Silver badge
Pint

The reason they hate it?

Quite agree it's yours, the hardware is sold and the company makes money, where's the problem?

The truth is almost all hardware is, initially anyway, sold at a loss, hoping to claw back money through licenses on the software and games that run on that hardware. You buy EyeToy, Wii controller, Kinnect, etc, hack it and use it on a PC, they don't get your money for the software on that console.

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Troll

if my memory serve my correctly, ....

... didn't MS promise that the Kinect would be available for both the Xbox and PC (Windows)? Why worry about cracking it when the Windows driver is on its way? (note, the cracker is running it on _Windows_). In fact the API to program for the Kinect is expected to come out _someday_ (hopefully soon).

any way, I really am looking forward to homebrew programs for the Kinect.

Hummmmm... makes me wander how will the Japanese eroge maker Illusion going to react to the Kinect on the PC ;-)

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WTF?

Deep in the bowels of redmond

Some developers look at each other and say wtf, tamperproof wasn't on the spec sheet.

And why would it be? Oh noes someone can use my input device.

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Go

Can we have the PS3 argument again?

You aren't allowed to jailbreak stuff because it kills babies.

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