The Not Quite USB-C Of Nintendo Switch Accessories

Historically gaming consoles are sold at little-to-no profit in order to entice customers with a low up-front price. The real profits roll in afterwards from sales of games and accessories. Seeking a slice of the latter, aftermarket accessory makers jump in with reverse-engineered compatible products at varying levels of “compatible”.

When the Nintendo Switch was released with a standard USB-C port for accessories, we had hoped those days of hit-or-miss reverse engineering were over, but reality fell short. Redditor [VECTORDRIVER] summarized a few parts of this story where Nintendo deviated from spec, and accessory makers still got things wrong.

Officially, Nintendo declared the Switch USB-C compliant. But as we’ve recently covered, USB-C is a big and complicated beast. Determined to find the root of their issues, confused consumers banded together on the internet to gather anecdotal evidence and speculate. One theory is that Nintendo’s official dock deviated from official USB-C dimensions in pursuit of a specific tactile feel; namely reducing tolerance on proper USB-C pin alignment and compensating with an internal mechanism. With Nintendo playing fast and loose with the specs, it makes developing properly functioning aftermarket accessories all the more difficult.

But that’s not the only way a company can slip up with their aftermarket dock. A teardown revealed Nyko didn’t use a dedicated chip to manage USB power delivery, choosing instead to implement it in software running on ATmega8. We can speculate on why (parts cost? time to market?) but more importantly we can read the actual voltage on its output pins which are too high. Every use becomes a risky game of “will this Switch tolerate above-spec voltage today?” We expect that as USB-C becomes more common, it would soon be cheapest and easiest to use a dedicated chip, eliminating the work of an independent implementation and risk of doing it wrong.

These are fairly typical early teething problems for a new complex technology on their road to ubiquity. Early USB keyboard and mice didn’t always work, and certain combination of early PCI-Express cards and motherboards caused damage. Hopefully USB-C problems — and memories of them — will fade in time as well.

[via Ars Technica]

[Main image source: iFixit Nintendo Switch Teardown]

Installing Android On Your Nintendo Switch, Because Why Not?

In a continuing trend of ‘but does it run Android?’, enterprising folk over at the XDA-Developers forum have found a way to get LineageOS (the successor to CyanogenMod) installed and running on the Nintendo Switch using Switchroot source code. Promising to release the necessary files to replicate this effort has obviously made other people at XDA-Developers forum as well as on Reddit rather excited.

As for the question of ‘why?’, one has to remember that internally the Nintendo Switch is an Nvidia Tegra X1-based system with a Maxwell GPU, making it definitely one of the nicer ARM-based portable systems out there if one wants to do some Android-based gaming. Even better, the entire Nvidia Shield TV-derived ROM runs from the SD card, so just popping out this SD card is sufficient to return to playing Switch games.

Currently a few nagging issues still have to be worked out with this ROM, such as touchscreen issues, sleep mode not working, auto-rotation not working as communication with the sensor needs to be figured out, and so on. This should make it clear that it won’t be a production ready piece of software, but definitely something that should be used at your own risk.

While it shouldn’t harm the Switch, one should probably not try it on a Switch one cares deeply about. Just in case.

Nintendo’s Cardboard Piano Becomes A Real Working Instrument

Nintendo’s LABO piano is a strange kind of instrument. Hewn out of cardboard and used in combination with some advanced software, it’s entirely passive, with all the sound generation and smarts coming from the Switch console which slots into the body. [Simon the Magpie] decided that this simply wouldn’t do, and set about turning the LABO piano into a real synthesizer (Youtube link, embedded below).

In order to pull off this feat, [Simon] sourced an OKAY synth kit– a basic monophonic synthesizer designed to fit inside a 3D printed case. Instead, here it’s built inside the LABO’s roomy cardboard housing. The keyboard is reinforced with duct tape and tweaked to accept those common and horrible red SPST buttons, and the front panel is fitted with control dials where the Switch would usually sit.

After some careful crafting, the piano is ready to rock. It’s not the most responsive instrument, with the flexible cardboard struggling to reliably trigger the installed buttons, but it does work. [Simon] performs a small instrumental piece over a drum track to demonstrate that you don’t need a Nintendo Switch to have fun with the LABO piano.

Expect to see similar builds on stage at chiptune shows in the next few years – at least until mold gets the better of them. There are other ways to hack the LABO piano, too. Video after the break.

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Easter Egg Turns Nintendo Switch Into A Development Platform

Like a lot of game developers [Amir Rajan] likes to put Easter Eggs into his creations. His latest Nintendo Switch title, A Dark Room, has a very peculiar one, though. Instead of a graphic or a Tetris game, [Amir] put a code editor and a Ruby interpreter in the game.

Ruby is a language that originated in Japan and is popular with Web developers, in particular. It has dynamic typing, garbage collection, and supports several different programming styles. We aren’t sure what you’d do with it on a Nintendo Switch, but any time we can program a gadget, it makes us happy.

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Mods Keep The WaveBird Kicking In The Switch Era

Nintendo made some questionable decisions during the early 2000’s, but developing the WaveBird certainly wasn’t one of them. Years before wireless controllers were the standard on home game consoles, the WaveBird gave GameCube owners a glimpse into the future. It managed to deliver lag-free gaming without resorting to easily-blocked infrared, and had a battery life and range long enough that there was really no downside to cutting the cord aside from the lack of rumble support.

In fact, the WaveBird was such a good controller that some fans just can’t put the thing down even in 2019. [Bill Paxton] loves his so much that he decided to modify it so he could use it on Nintendo’s latest money printing machine, the Switch, without having to fiddle with any adapters. While he was at it, he decided to fix the only serious drawback of the controller and hack in some rumble motors; arguably making his re-imagined WaveBird superior in just about every way to the original.

It might be counter-intuitive, but the trick here is that [Bill] actually took the internals from a standard wired GameCube controller and fitted it all into the case for the WaveBird. That’s how he got the rumble support back, but where does the signature wireless capability come from?

For that, he took apart a “GBros. Wireless Adapter” from 8BitDo. This gadget is intended to let you use your existing GameCube controllers on the Switch wirelessly, so all he had to do was shove its PCB inside the controller and wire it directly to the pads on the controller’s board. Thankfully, the WaveBird was rather husky to begin with, so there’s enough space inside to add all the extra hardware without much fuss.

Between modifications like this and efforts to reverse engineer the controller’s wireless protocol, hackers aren’t about to let this revolutionary accessory go gently into that good night. You might see a GameCube slaughtered for a meme, but WaveBirds never die.

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Farming Items With RasPi-Modified Joycons

The Pokémon games have delighted legions of Nintendo gamers over the years, and show no signs of slowing down any time soon. Despite its popularity, there are certain aspects of the games that are unarguably about simply grinding your way to success. For [Mori Bellamy], this simply wouldn’t do – yet their thirst for gold bottlecaps was insatiable. What to do? Automate it, of course.

The first step was to hack the Joycons from the Nintendo Switch. A DG333A analog switch IC was hooked up to the buttons inside, and controlled by the GPIO pins of a Raspberry PI. The joystick was then controlled with an MCP4725 DAC, allowing the system to fully emulate control inputs to the console.

With the console now under control by the Raspberry Pi, the next step was to add intelligence. Google’s Tesseract OCR platform was combined with a helping of Python code. This allows the script to read dialog boxes from the game, and use this data to determine which buttons to press to farm items.

[Mori] has provided the code on GitHub for others to use, noting that it should be generalizable to other games with a little work. Fundamentally, the underlying hardware could readily be repurposed to other controllers, too. There’s plenty of other ways to automate the drudgery of gaming, even if you have to use a touch screen. Video after the break.

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Eight Player GameCube Adapter Is Ready For Smash

With the release of Smash Ultimate fast approaching for the Nintendo Switch, [Patrick Hess] wanted to get ahead of the game and make sure his squad had the equipment they’d need. Namely, support for the GameCube controllers that serious Smash Bros players demand. But it wasn’t enough to have one or two of them hooked up, or even four. Not even six GameCube controllers could satiate his desire. No, he needed to have support for eight simultaneous GameCube controllers, and he wanted to look good doing it too.

Enter his meticulously designed eight player GameCube to USB adapter. Made out of dual official Nintendo GameCube to USB adapters (intended for the Wii U) merged together in a 3D printed case, the final result looks like something that could earn the coveted Nintendo Seal of Approval. Or at least, something that might pop up on the import sites in the next month or two for a few bucks.

[Patrick] started the project by recreating the official adapter PCBs and their housings in 3D using a pair of calipers. After a couple of test prints to make sure he had all the dimensions right, he could then move on to designing his final enclosure knowing he had accurate data to model around.

In addition to the two adapter boards, there’s also a four port USB hub inside the device’s case. Each adapter has two USB leads, here shortened to fit inside the case, which connect up to the hub. The integrated hub allows connecting all eight GameCube controllers through only a single USB connection. All controllers worked as expected during intense testing on the Wii U’s version of Smash Bros, though at this point [Patrick] can only assume it will work when the Switch version is released.

If there’s a downside to this project, it’s that the design for the 3D printed case is so intricate that [Patrick] was only able to print it on a machine that supported water-soluble PVA supports. A somewhat tall order for the average hacker; it would be interesting to see if somebody could make a second pass on the enclosure that is geared more towards printability than aesthetics.

While the design of the GameCube controller remains somewhat controversial after all these years, there’s no denying it retains an impressive following. Whether turning them into USB devices, shrinking them to preposterously small dimensions, or just finding increasingly creative ways to use them on Nintendo’s latest console, hackers are definitely in love with the gonzo little controller that’s now pushing 20 years old.