Screenshot of the YouTube channel videos list, showing a number of videos like the ones described in this article.

[DiyOtaku] Gives Old Devices A New Life

Sometimes we get sent a tip that isn’t just a single article or video, but an entire blog or YouTube channel. Today’s channel, [Diy Otaku], is absolutely worth a watch if you want someone see giving a second life to legendary handheld devices, and our creator has been going at it for a while. A common theme in most of the videos so far – taking an old phone or a weathered gaming console, and improving upon them in a meaningful way, whether it’s lovingly restoring them, turning them into a gaming console for your off days, upgrading the battery, or repairing a common fault.

The hacks here are as detailed as they are respectful to the technology they work on. The recent video about putting a laptop touchpad into a game controller, for instance, has the creator caringly replace the controller’s epoxy blob heart with a Pro Micro while preserving the original board for all its graphite-covered pads. The touchpad is the same used in an earlier video to restore a GPD Micro PC with a broken touchpad, a device that you can see our hacker use in a later video running FreeCAD, helping them design a 18650 battery shell for a PSP about to receive a 6000 mAh battery upgrade.

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Ultra-Tiny Wii Uses Custom Parts And Looks Amazing

The Nintendo Wii was never a large console. Indeed, it was smaller than both the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and most consoles of previous generations, too. That’s not to say it couldn’t be smaller, though. [loopj] has built what is perhaps the smallest Wii yet, which measures roughly the same size as a deck of cards. The best bit? The housing is even to scale!

There’s no emulation jiggery-pokery here. This build uses an original Wii motherboard that’s been cut down to the bare basics. Measuring just 62 mm by 62 mm, it features the CPU, GPU, RAM, and flash memory, while most of the extraneous hardware has been eliminated. Power and data is provided to the board from a special Wii Power Strip PCB, while the Periphlex flex PCB handles breaking out controller interfaces. Indeed, the build is nicknamed Short Stack as it’s built from a number of specialist PCBs for builds like this one. It also uses two boards designed by [YveltalGriffin] — the fujiflex for HDMI video output and the nandFlex to handle the Wii’s NAND memory chip.

[loopj] also had to design two further PCBs specifically for this build. One handles power, the micro SD card, HDMI connector, and controller ports. Meanwhile, the second handles the power, reset, and sync buttons along with status LEDs. Another neat hack of [loopj]’s own devising is using TRRS connectors in place of the original bulky GameCube controller ports.

Ultimately, it’s volume is just 7.4% that of an original Nintendo Wii. It’s probably possible to go smaller, too, says [loopj], so don’t expect things to end here. We’ve seen some other great Wii mods before, too, like this excellent handheld design.

Yuzu And Citra Emulators Shut Down After Legal Pressure From Nintendo

In a move that came rather like a surprise to many, the company behind the well-known Switch and 3DS emulators Yuzu and Citra – Tropic Haze LLC – as reported by PC Gamer has shutdown both projects and associated websites as part of a US$2.4M settlement with Nintendo with a last message left on the Yuzu website. This comes in the wake of Nintendo suing Tropic Haze LLC over the Yuzu emulator, claiming that there’s ‘no lawful way to use Yuzu’, as it requires files extracted from a real Switch device to decrypt game files. Although Citra is not part of the lawsuit, it being made by the same developers seems to have resulted in it getting axed along with Yuzu as collateral damage.

What makes this issue so legally hairy is that even though an emulator by itself isn’t illegal, requiring proprietary firmware and keys already gets one into contested territory about the legality of dumping said files from a console, even if you own it. This was already an issue with the first Playstation emulators, which require the Playstation BIOS image to even boot, but left the emulator developers mostly untouchable. What seems to have set off Nintendo’s lawyers here would seem to be the way that the Yuzu developers leaned into the copyright infringement (often incorrectly called ‘piracy’) angle, giving Nintendo’s legal team enough exposed flesh to launch a ballistic legal strike.

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The Latest Advancements In Portable N64 Modding

[Chris Downing] has been in the mod scene a long time, and his 5th GeN64 Portable is his most modern portable Nintendo 64 yet. The new build has an improved form factor, makes smart use of 3D printing and CNC cutting, efficiently uses PCBs to reduce wiring, and incorporates a battery level indicator. That last feature is a real quality of life improvement, nicely complementing the ability to charge over USB-C.

What’s interesting about builds like this is that it’s all about the execution. The basic parts required to mod a classic games console into a portable unit are pretty well understood, and off-the-shelf modules like button assemblies exist to make the job far easier than it was back in the day when all had to be done from scratch. We’ve admired [Chris Downing]’s previous builds, and what differentiates one mod from another really comes down to layout and execution, and that’s where the 5th GeN64 Portable shines. Continue reading “The Latest Advancements In Portable N64 Modding”

Mapping The Nintendo Switch PCB

As electronics have advanced, they’ve not only gotten more powerful but smaller as well. This size is great for portability and speed but can make things like repair more inaccessible to those of us with only a simple soldering iron. Even simply figuring out what modern PCBs do is beyond most of our abilities due to the shrinking sizes. Thankfully, however, [μSoldering] has spent their career around state-of-the-art soldering equipment working on intricate PCBs with tiny surface-mount components and was just the person to document a complete netlist of the Nintendo Switch through meticulous testing, a special camera, and the use of a lot of very small wires.

The first part of reverse-engineering the Switch is to generate images of the PCBs. These images are taken at an astonishing 6,000 PPI and as a result are incredibly large files. But with that level of detail the process starts to come together. A special piece of software is used from there that allows point-and-click on the images to start to piece the puzzle together, and with an idea of where everything goes the build moves into the physical world.

[μSoldering] removes all of the parts on the PCBs with hot air and then meticulously wires them back up using a custom PCB that allows each connection to be wired up and checked one-by-one. With everything working the way it is meant to, a completed netlist documenting every single connection on the Switch hardware can finally be assembled.

The final documentation includes over two thousand photos and almost as many individual wires with over 30,000 solder joints. It’s an impressive body of work that [μSoldering] hopes will help others working with this hardware while at the same time keeping their specialized skills up-to-date. We also have fairly extensive documentation about some of the Switch’s on-board chips as well, further expanding our body of knowledge on how these gaming consoles work and how they’re put together.

Running UNIX On A Nintendo Entertainment System

Who wouldn’t want to run a UNIX-like operating system on their NES or Famicom? Although there’s arguably no practical reason for doing so, [decrazyo] has cobbled together a working port of Little Unix (LUnix), which was originally written for the Commodore 64 and 128 by [Daniel Dallmann]. The impetus for this project was initially curiosity, but when [decrazyo] saw that someone had already written a UNIX-like OS for the 6502 processor, it seemed apparent that the NES was too similar to the C64 to not port it.

Much of this is relatively straightforward, as the 6502 MPU in the C64 is nearly identical to the Ricoh 2A03 in the NES, with the latter missing the binary-coded decimal support, which is not a crucial feature. The only significant roadblock was the lack of RAM in the NES. The console has a mere 2 KB of RAM and 2 KB of VRAM, which made it look anemic even next to the C64. Here, a Japan-only accessory came to the rescue: the Famicom Disk System (FDS), which is a proprietary floppy disk-based system that slots into the bottom of the Famicom and was used for games as well as storing saves back in the day.

By using a Famicom with FDS, it was possible to gain an additional 32 kB provided by the FDS, making the userspace utilities available in the shell. The fruits of this labor work well enough that he could also pop it up on an EverDrive cartridge that supports FDS ROMs and boot it up on an unmodified NES. Whether this is cooler than the NES-OS, which we covered previously, is up for debate.

Incidentally, [Maciej Witkowiak] seems to have resumed development on LUnix, with a new release in 2023, so maybe UNIX-on-6502 may see a revival after a few decades of little happening.

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Arduino Provides No Fuss SNES-To-USB Conversion

Even for those of us who are fans of retrocomputing, it’s fair to say that not everyone plays their old-school games on real old-school hardware. The originals are now fragile and expensive, and emulators are good enough that if the gaming experience is all you’re after there’s little point in spending all that cash.

There’s one place in which the originals sometimes have the edge though, the classic controllers are the personal interface with the game. So when [Dome] found a SNES controller in an Akibahara shop, of course he picked it up. How to make it talk to a PC? Tuck an Arduino Pro Micro inside it, of course!

What we like about this project is that instead of ripping out the original electronics it instead hooks the Arduino board onto the original serial interface. We might have made a Nintendo socket to USB box to keep the original cable, but either way, the SNES (technically Super Famicom, because it’s a Japanese market unit) original stays true to its roots. The Arduino polls the clock line at the speed of the console, reads the result, and translates it to a USB interface for the computer. There’s a full run-down of the code and how it was made, should you wish to try.

Of course, if you don’t always have a PC handy, you could also put the whole computer in the controller.