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June 9, 2006

Filed under: gaming»software»homebrew

D(rum) S(equencer)

Last night I finally got around to installing homebrew support on my old DS. Now I've got the DS Lite as a game machine, and the original DS as a music sequencer using NitroTracker. I'm loading files from the GBA Media Player (Lik-Sang), which uses cheap compact flash and is itself pretty inexpensive. A lot of homebrew supports access to the FAT32 on the GBAMP, so that's a gig of space on my DS for samples and songs if I wanted.

Here's the process I used to get everything up and running:

  1. Reflashed the firmware on the GBAMP to support homebrew (both .gba and .nds) using this firmware hack.
  2. Installed WiFiMe drivers on my laptop. WiFiMe is basically a PassMe device delivered over 802.11 to the DS, and it tells the handheld to load DS code from the GBA slot. You have to have a special chipset for the driver to work--I picked one up cheap from NewEgg about a year ago, and set up my laptop to use the hacked drivers (which can't use any of the normal networking functions) only when it's in the second PCMCIA slot. In the first slot, it's a regular network card. You can also use the drivers to capture and trade the downloadable demos, like having your own store kiosk.
  3. Using WiFiMe, I booted FlashMe, upgrading the DS firmware to run unsigned code from the GBA slot automatically. Once that's done, the DS will run homebrew on its own, without having to keep a PassMe plugged in or the laptop handy. It's not entirely clear to what extent this interferes with online games--and you can't install it using the 802.11 method on newer models, because Nintendo updated the firmware to stop WiFiMe. These are good reasons to find an old model to use for your homebrew. If you decide to try it on the newer firmware versions anyway, you'll have to buy a PassMe2 to get around Nintedo's changes, and it complicates the process quite a bit.
  4. Finally, installed the Mighty Max bootloader on the flash card, along with Nitrotracker, DSLinux, and a bunch of other toys. The bootloader brings up a menu for browsing through different programs--without it, the GBAMP can only run the file currently named _BOOT_MP.NDS.

If you try to do this with a DS Lite, you have to be careful, because it's much easier to touch the wrong contact during the flash upgrade and brick the whole machine. But on the other hand, at least you're not masochistically struggling against Sony the whole time, as with PSP homebrew. Nintendo seems to have taken steps to prevent this, but it looks like a half-hearted effort at best.

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