Leapfrog DIDJ

Since we first mentioned the Leapfrog DIDJ, a lot has happened. A number of avid readers of Hack a Day teamed up with a couple hackers experienced with the DIDJ, and have managed to make some huge progress into making a linux based game console on the cheap. For all the readers who missed out on the last sale on Woot, its about time for a second chance.

The team working over at the HackerFoundry forum have managed to gain serial console access, map the file system, create a fake update server, and are almost at a point where replacing the stock OS and firmware can be done with software alone. They have also designed and tested a homebrew cartridge with a slot for a microSD card and breakouts for expansion and debugging.

Right now they are looking for someone with experience snooping USB protocols to figure out how the device communicates to the computer, as well as anyone who is interesting in just testing or playing around with what they have done so far. There are a number of tutorials and walk-throughs on the eLinux wiki. Its amazing how far this group has come in just two months.

48 thoughts on “Leapfrog DIDJ

  1. Yeah, quite the coincidence… >_>

    Woot linked to this page in their item “description”.

    If anyone’s looking to hack this thing, they have a pretty good deal on it. New for 15 bucks plus 5 for shipping, where it retails for like 70 in stores.

  2. @AndrewNeo: They all communicate privately, this is also a business.

    Reversing data from USB would be easier from software. It’s crazy easy from Linux or NT, it’s been done a lot before.

  3. Awesome, thanks for the update on this! I was quite disappointed when I barely missed the first didj sale you guys pointed out, but this time I’m in for sure and excited to see what comes from it.

    Speaking of ultra-bargain components with potential just begging to be explored, I suggest people check out http://www.goldmine-elec-products.com and http://www.dealextreme.com

    The Electronic Goldmine in particular has some very tantalizing offers. Does anyone know of other good sources for cheap parts like these?

  4. I can’t find this item on sale anywhere to the UK except Amazon for 150GBP! Sounds like someone could make a killing buying a few of these off Woot and selling them on ebay to buyers in europe…

  5. You guys did not miss out on the last one. the Rovio is a piece of crap. I had always felt bad for the guys that bought that turdpile for $300.00 retail. It’s worth $50.00 and an annoying purchase at $99.00

    They don’t work worth a damn, the company has abandoned the product, Oh and they are not windows 7 compatible. Oh and they work for about 8 minutes off the charging base, enough to drive around the room for a little bit before you need to charge it again. Weee!

    Get one of http://www.trossenrobotics.com/roboard-rb-100.aspx those and some metal+wifi card + servos and make one that is 800X better and can run all day long AND not have a super crappy XGA 20lux only video camera.

    Many times hacking a piece of crap to save $20.00US is not worth the effort. I am betting that this leapfrog heap of junk will lack the power to even run a gameboy emulator. Remember, every 5-10 dirt cheap items you buy to hack, you could have bought some real hackable gear and actually made progress and or something really cool.

  6. as an american wooter, i’m seriously wondering if maybe we should get together and send these to our international friends. I would absolutely buy 3 and ship them over to EU (or wherever) for cost+shipping….

  7. @afex

    That would be really helpful. You can get in touch with me using thom at thom dot mobi. I wanted to get involved with these things the last time round but was unable to find one at a reasonable cost.

  8. Looks like a hoot for a cheapie hacking project.
    I’m tempted to get one just to hack on a little myself!


    If you seriously want to hack a gaming console to do more serious and better gaming I suggest looking into the Dingoo A320 and it’s awesome Dingux Linux variant.

    There is a great community with lots of support from crazy-but-helpful enthusiasts.


    and on IRC: freenode #dingoo-scene

  9. I bought one but now what? It looks like the only advance (so far) that is pretty solid is the making of the CART’s. Not sure if i should beg to buy a CART from someone, or maybe wait for a software hack.

  10. There is a reason that they do not ship outside the US. You might find yourselves on a list that you don’t want to be on if these are shipped overseas. Not hatin’, just sayin’.

  11. @cubfan300 — I somewhat doubt these things are on the export ban list. There are better microcontrollers in a PS3 or XBox that could be more easily militarized by the Libyans, and they’d be far easier to get.

  12. I got mine in the last round. Since I didn’t have access to custom pcb making stuff, I improvised by soldering an old floppy ribbon cable to the board. The cable lined up perfectly, aside from a few extra leads, which I just cut off. I left the plug on the other side of the ribbon, so now I have all the cart pins external with something to stick jumpers into. Now I can connect my FTDI to the Didj in a non-permanant way, since I use it for other purposes as well. I also can connect my SD breakout from sparkfun with just a few jumpers. I got serial working, but I haven’t done anything else as I’ve been trying to finish my other project first. I would have added my ribbon cable trick to the wiki, but there are already several more elegant solutions, but if anybody’s looking for a quick, cheap way to get those cart pins out then this will do the trick.

  13. @NatureTM

    That sounds awesome, i like the way you did it.. i have plenty of old floppy ribbon cables.

    So with a blank SD, what happens? I’m guessing you have to put stuff on it, or does it then kick into Linux? (or is it not that simple yet?)

  14. It might be worth noting that it is almost impossible to completely brick a Didj.
    No matter what, you can always set it to boot from the Uart.
    The only true way to brick a Didj is to physically damage it in some way.

  15. @jabbyjim, there is currently work being done to create an SD driver, which will make it possible to boot off of, and of course access files from. But as far as plug and play with the Didj as is, its not there.

  16. @j9
    >There are better microcontrollers in a PS3 or >XBox

    Those would be microprocessors.

    >that could be more easily militarized by the >Libyans, and they’d be far easier to get.

    Do you mean by removing the processors and using them in the WMD’s? Because I think that would be pretty difficult.. and I’m not sure why they would bother trying to get their code to run on a PS3 or Xbox360 when they could get some fast x86 hardware without all that code signing bollocks..

  17. You have to get this thing running a linux distro with a gui. It would seriously be the cheapest computing platform in the world. Think of it a 25$ computer.

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