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Exciting World of Flash Carts

Posted 2010.01.20 13.13 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

A few weeks ago I posted about poking around inside a Nintendo DSi – I took mine apart and had a peek inside, and was looking for any info out there on hacks or mods for it. I was more thinking about hardware hacks, but most of the ‘hacking’ people have been doing appears to be in terms of running homebrew apps and games and stuff.

Anyhow, so eventually I learned about ‘Flash Carts’, although this isn’t actual news to anyone who’s been a gamer any time in the last 10 years I’m sure.

These things are neat though – one of the things I wanted to do with my DSi was to be able to copy some of my games onto an SD card and then I’d have my favorite games in there all the time. Most DS games are less than 64MB in size, and with a 4GB SD card you can fit a whole lot of games. But Nintendo doesn’t let you do that. For one thing you can’t copy the game data off the game card, and then even if you could, the DSi won’t run games from the SD card.

So back to the Flash Carts – in olden times, these were a dedicated cartridge that had a flashable memory chip (i.e. instead of a factory-burned ROM it was an EEPROM that could be burned, erased, rewritten, etc.) and with special hardware you could copy a game file onto it, or if it had lots of memory you could copy a few game files onto it.

Nowadays they have Flash Carts that themselves have a micro-SD slot, so you can put any size micro-SD card into it and have almost unlimited storage space. I got one of them, an “Acekard 2i” and a 4GB micro-SD card.

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Nintendo DSi

Posted 2009.12.31 20.50 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

As I usually spend New Years alone, it has become a bit of a tradition for me to buy myself a new toy that I can disassemble on the 31st of December. In the past, it has frequently been something in the Amateur Radio genre, but this year I opted to do a Nintendo DSi.

I’m not much of a gamer, and I pretty much suck at almost all video games. I’ve had a DS for a while but the only game I was really happy with was the crossword game. Then I gave my DS to my mum so she could play that brain age thing. Anyhow, so I decided to get the DSi so I could take it apart. I like electronic gizmos. I like taking them apart. I like hacking them or breaking them or just finding out how they work.

The DSi has been around for a while now – feels like a year or so. But there’s very, very little info out there about hacking it. Really there’s just one site that has no news, just aggregates info from gaming sites. I don’t want cheat codes or that sort of thing, I want to mess with the hardware. It’s got 256MB of Flash storage, 16MB of RAM, and a 32-bit ARM processor at 133MHz. With the built-in WiFi and dual screens and SDHC expansionality, there’s more than enough oomph in there to run Linux, among other things… (Remember the Zipit?)

There’s no info that I could find about the software – is the DSi operating system a complete customized Nintendo thing? Or maybe the GUI is Nintendo but there’s something else under the hood? The CPU is supposedly custom made for Nintendo so that might preclude it doing other things…

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