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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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Why they call it a Hot Shoe

Posted 2009.08.13 10.18 in Photography, Pointless Blather by Stephanie

I never really thought about it before – but the bit where a flash attaches to the top of a camera? They call that the Hot Shoe. It’s one of those things that you just sort of accept. Like apertures and diopters and f-stops – they’re just words and you learn the words and that’s that.

Camera's Hot Shoe

The Hot Shoe

But in fact there’s a reason that they call it a “hot shoe” – as opposed to just “shoe”, for example.

I discovered this while playing with an external flash. The bottom (“foot”) of the flash has little metal contacts that connect to the contacts on the camera’s hot shoe. When you push the shutter release, a connection is made internally that tells the flash to fire. So far, so good.

What makes it “hot” is that on some / many flashes, the entire electrical charge goes through there! Honestly, I never would have guessed that. I just figured there’d be a small, low-voltage signal that triggered the flash to fire. Nope! When the flash is charged, there could be 250 volts or more, waiting around the big pin in the foot of the flash.

Remember when I said I was playing with a flash? The flash had been charged up but then I opened it and took the batteries out. And at one point, the way I was holding it, my hand happened to be touching the “foot” when a finger brushed against one of the battery contacts (the ground contact of course).

Buh-ZAPPPPPP!

It bit me! Before that moment, I simply never would have imagined that a flash would run the full charge down and out the foot, into the camera, then back up into the flash.

That’s why they call it a “hot shoe”!

Flash Foot