Nintendo Does Sony, Better Than Sony

Fans of game consoles from the golden era of TV game appliances have been in for a treat over the past couple of years as a slew of official reboots of the stars of the past have reached the market. These so-called “classic” consoles closely follow the styling of the originals, but under the hood they pack modern hardware running an emulator to play a selection of games from ROM. Even better, with a bit of hacking they can run more than just the supplied emulator, people have managed to use them to emulate completely different consoles. Even then, it’s unexpected to find that a PlayStation emulator on a Super Nintendo Classic runs PlayStation games better than the same emulator built in to Sony’s own PlayStation Classic console.

The feat from [8 Bit Flashback] is achieved despite both machines having near-identical hardware specifications based upon the Allwinner R16 system-on-chip. The Nintendo provides smoother action and more responsive controls, making for a far superior gaming experience. How is this achieved? The most significant difference is that the SNES Classic had the RetroArch front end installed upon it, which may have lent some optimisations and tweaks to make the system more efficient.

Readers with an eye for unusual consoles may remember another Nintendo/Sony hybrid, the ill-fated early-1990s prototype SNES with a CD-ROM which was the first machine to bear the name “PlayStation” (or “Play Station” as it was sometimes styled, leading Sony marketeers to be hot on writers using a space between the words a few years later).

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PlayStation Classic Hacked Live On Stream

When Sony announced they planned to release their own classic/mini/plug-n-play system this year, many fans were filled with excitement at the chance to relive countless classic games from the 90s. However, once the actual list of titles were made public that excitement faded as reality set in. So many favorites like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon were left off the final PlayStation Classic list, no doubt due to the complexity of licensing agreements. That will all soon change now that [YifanLu] cracked the PlayStation Classic live on a Twitch stream thus laying the ground work for swapping-in a “more curated” list of classic PlayStation games.

Over the course of three days, [YifanLu] documented the process in real-time of cracking the PlayStation Classic’s security armed with little more than a keyboard. The crux of the hack came from fellow hacker [madmonkey]’s revelation that the firmware update files were signed with a key that had been mistakenly left behind on the device by Sony. Or as [YifanLu] stated, “One key is, ‘Hey am I Sony?’…The other key is saying, ‘Hey I am Sony.’ They distributed the key that identifies [themselves] uniquely and this key doesn’t expire for another 50 years or so.”

Once inside [YifanLu] was able to sideload a prototype image of a Crash Bandicoot over USB. He simply overwrote the first title on the list, Battle Arena Toshinden, and could launch the freshly injected game from the PlayStation Classic menu screen. The video below is from Day 3 of the PlayStation Classic hacking series, so skip to timecode (03:44:45) to see the results in action. For a bit more nuance there are another 15 hours or so of video to catch-up on [YifanLu]’s Twitch page. Here’s to everyone getting their favorite onto the PlayStation Classic in the near future.

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How The Sony PlayStation Was Hacked

Playgrounds were the comment sections of their day. Every weekday from exactly 1:17 PM until 1:43 PM there were swings to be swung, rumors to be spread, and debates to be settled by whomever was the loudest (some things never change). Allegiances were formed and battle lines were drawn based solely on what video game console you supported. It was this playground system that perpetuated the urban myths of the time.

For PlayStation fans there was the myth that you could save Aerith from her fate in Final Fantasy VII if you just cast the right spell, or the secret code in Tomb Raider that would let you see all of Lara Croft. There was the myth that no one could possibly copy a PlayStation game because all the bottoms of the discs were black. Even the very existence of the first PlayStation, the Super Nintendo PlayStation prototype, was an urban legend. The difference was that last one turned out to be true.

Let’s jump in and take a look at the cat and mouse game between modchip makers looking to defeat the original PlayStation’s copy protection, and Sony’s efforts to protect their castle.
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Even The PlayStation 2 Can’t Escape Java

Love it or hate it, you can’t deny that Java has a pretty impressive track record in terms of supported platforms. Available on everything from flip phones to DVD players, not to mention computers, Oracle once famously claimed that Java runs on three billion devices. An estimate that, in truth, is probably on the low side at this point. Especially when [Michael Kohn] keeps figuring out how to run it on increasingly esoteric devices.

[Michael] writes in to tell us that he’s added support for the PlayStation 2 console to Java Grinder, his software for taking Java code and turning it into a native binary for a variety of unexpected platforms. His previous conquests have included the TRS-80 and Atari 2600, so by comparison the PS2 is an almost tame addition to the list.

Let’s be honest, you probably don’t have any desire to run a Java program on Sony’s nearly two decade old game system. But that’s OK. The documentation [Michael] has written up is fascinating anyway, covering specifics of the PS2’s rather unique hardware and quirks he ran into when developing on an emulator and deploying on real hardware. Even if you’ll never put the findings to practical use, it’s absolutely worth a read.

In the video after the break you can see the demo [Michael] came up with booting on a real PS2 to prove the software works. To really put his mark on it, he mentions he wrote and performed the demo’s songs and even drew some of the artwork on paper and scanned it into his computer.

We’ve previously covered his work getting Java running on the Sega Genesis, as well as the venerable 6502 CPU. Oh, and one time he encoded data onto a pancake. We like this guy’s style.

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Bluetooth Photo Booth Gets Vetting At Wedding

With just two weeks to go before his friends’ wedding, [gistnoesis] built a well-featured robotic photo booth. Using a Bluetooth PS3 controller, guests could move the camera around, take a picture, style it in one of several ways (or not), and print it out with a single button press.

The camera is mounted on a DIY 2-axis gimbal made from extruded aluminium and 3D-printed parts. It can be moved left/right with one joystick, and up/down with the other. [gistnoesis] set up a four-panel split-screen display that shows the live feed from the camera and a diagram for the controls. The third panel shows the styled picture. Guests could explore the camera roll on the fourth panel.

LINN uses two PCs running Lubuntu, one of which is dedicated to running an open-source neural style transfer program. After someone takes a picture, they can change the style to make it look like a Van Gogh or Picasso before printing it out. A handful of wedding attendees knew about some of the extra features, like manual exposure control and the five-second timer option, and the information spread gradually. Not only was LINN a great conversation piece, it inspired multi-generational collaboration.

Despite the assembled size, LINN packs up nicely into a couple of reusable shopping bags for transport (minus the TV, of course).  This vintage photo booth we saw a few years ago is more of a one-piece solution, although it isn’t as feature-rich.

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PS Vita Hacked To Accept Micro SD Instead Of Costly Memory Cards

Sony loves to have control of their own media formats: Beta, DAT, Minidisc, MemoryStick, Universal Media Disc, MemoryStick Micro, and more. When they released the PS Vita they used a format that was similar in shape to SD but not compatible. The higher capacity ones can be quite costly, However [thesixthaxis] Report there is a PS Vista Micro SD hack on the way.

PS Vita hacker [Yifan Lu]’s adapter replaces the 3G modem, allowing end users to plug a MicroSD card in its place.  And this means using standard MicroSD memory cards instead of Sony’s overpriced proprietary memory. This is the coolest PS Vita hack since  PS Vita’s Final Fantasy X.

Sounds like good news all round? Well, there are a few small caveats. In order to use the hack you need a 3G-capable Vita running HENkaku which means running firmware 3.60 or under. The adapter is still in prototype stage, but it’s available from the fully-funded Indiegogo campaign if you’re interested.

The Nintendo PlayStation: Finally Working

The Nintendo PlayStation is not a misnomer. Before the PS1, Sony teamed up with Nintendo to produce a video game console that used CD-ROMs as a distribution platform. These plans fell through, Sony went on to design the PS1, Nintendo the N64, but a few prototype ‘Nintendo PlayStations’ made it out into the wild. One of these unbelievably rare consoles was shipped to a company that eventually went into bankruptcy. The console was found when the contents of an office building were put up for auction, and last year, [Ben Heck] tore it apart.

It’s taken a year, but now this Nintendo PlayStation is finally working. This console now plays audio CDs and games written by homebrewers. The hardware lives, and a console once forgotten lives once more.

The last time [Ben Heck] took a look at the Nintendo PlayStation, the CD-ROM portion of the console was non-functional. The Super Nintendo was still functional, but for this prototype, the CD-ROM was completely self-contained and required a ‘boot cartridge’ of sorts to access anything on a CD. Somehow or another — [Ben] thinks it was a wonky cable or a dead cap — The CD-ROM came to life. Yes, jiggling a cable was the extent of the repair, after spending an inordinate amount of time reverse engineering the console.

With the CD-ROM working, [Ben] got audio playing and tried out of the few homebrew games for this PlayStation prototype. Super Boss Gaiden didn’t quite work because this game was designed to load in chunks. Another game written for this console, Magic Floor, was small enough to fit in the entirety of the CD-ROM’s buffer and loaded correctly. That doesn’t mean the game worked; there are some slight differences between the Nintendo PlayStation emulator and the actual hardware that now exists. [Ben] emailed the author of Magic Floor, and now, after a quarter-century, the Nintendo PlayStation works.

What’s next for the Nintendo PlayStation? Well, now the emulator for this system can correctly reflect the actual hardware, and hopefully the homebrewers can figure out how to write a game for this system.

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