Newest PlayStation Exploit Skips The Disc

Last month we brought you word of tonyhax, a clever exploit for the original Sony PlayStation that leveraged a buffer overflow in several of the games from the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series to load arbitrary code from a specially prepared memory card. But now [Bradlin] has taken that idea a step further and developed a software exploit for Sony’s iconic console that doesn’t need to be triggered from a game.

The exploit is considerably more complex this time around, but [Bradlin] does an excellent job of breaking it down for those who want the gritty details. The short version is that missing boundary checks in the PlayStation’s built-in memory card handling routines mean a carefully formatted “block” on the memory card can get the console to execute a small 128 byte payload. That’s not a lot of room to work with, but it ends up being just enough to load up additional code stored elsewhere on the memory card and really kick things off.

Unlike tonyhax, which was designed specifically to allow the user to swap their retail Tony Hawk disc with a game burned to a CD-R, [Bradlin]’s FreePSXBoot is presented as more of a generic loader. As of right now, it doesn’t allow you to actually play burned games, although its inevitable that somebody will connect those last few dots soon.

If you want to check out the progress so far, all you need is wire a PlayStation memory card up to an Arduino, write the provided image to it, and stick it in the slot. [Bradlin] says the exploit doesn’t work 100% of the time (something else that will surely be addressed in future releases), but it shouldn’t take too many attempts before you’re greeted with the flashing screen that proves Sony’s 27 year old console has now truly been bested.

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PlayStation 3 Controller Dualshock 3

Digital PlayStation 3 Purchases May Only Live As Long As Your PRAM Battery Without Sony Servers

Word of Sony shutting down PlayStation storefront servers for PS3 this summer spread like wildfire on the internet Monday. The discourse in comment sections were filled with anti-DRM rhetoric and renewed pledges of physical-only game collections, because without content servers to connect to, your digital PS3 purchases will eventually become unplayable. Even if legitimate purchases are installed to the console’s hard drive before Sony “flips the switch”, they may only live on as long as the internal clock stays in sync. Which is why this guide to replace a PS3 PRAM battery written by [Andrew] has renewed importance. After a battery replacement the internal clock needs to be reset and this requires validation from the PlayStation network (you know, the one that’s soon to be shut down).

Game preservationist group [Does it play?] drove home the impact of such a business decision by Sony on Twitter. The thread is quick to point out that even if users are quick to re-download all of their purchases to a PS3 system before the purported July 2nd deadline, those games will eventually become unplayable if the system clock becomes desynchronized. Replacing the PRAM battery and reconnecting to the PlayStation Network prior to Sony shuttering their servers should buy the user some more playtime. However, without any further changes to Sony’s licensing policy little else can be done physically to ensure those digital PS3 games will work in perpetuity.

Sony isn’t the only one to have drawn the ire of digital rights advocates in regards to terminating their online services. Nintendo shuttered the DSI-Shop in 2017 and Microsoft turned off access to the original Xbox LIVE servers in 2010. The big three console makers have all let their consumers down by removing the ability to reacquire purchases in some way, but the fact that so many PS3 exclusives were only ever available digitally just further exacerbates issues with digital rights. Dropping in a fresh coin-cell may not be the permanent solution everyone is looking for at the moment, but it couldn’t hurt to re-familiarize yourself with the Cell processor.

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VGA Without The Hassle, From Your PlayStation One

The original Sony PlayStation was a nifty console for its day; that grey box may have only had a 33 MHz MIPS processor and 4 MB of RAM, but for the early to mid 1990s its games were some of the best to be had. From the days when it would have sat under a family TV with a composite video or RF connection, you might expect that the PlayStation would require some form of converter box to drive a higher quality monitor. As [Wesk] found out though, present on the PS1 mainboard are all the required H and V sync as well as RGB video signals to drive a VGA monitor at 15 kHz.

It’s a wallow in the past for anyone who spent the 1990s using their SMD soldering skills to install modchips in PS1s, but it’s pleasing to find that those sync lines aren’t only available from tricky-to-solder IC pins, instead they appear on handy pads. Along with RGB lines from the normal video output they’re brought out via lightweight co-ax to a VGA socket that sits in a 3D printed bracket in the space where a removed system link port would have been. A small trim of the internal shield is requited to clear the new socket, leaving the VGA port on the back of the reassembled console looking for all the world as though it was installed in the Sony factory. Given how simple this mod turned out to be and the sharpness of the resulting image, it’s surprising that this wasn’t tried back in the day. Perhaps we were all too busy playing Wipeout.

While you’re idly rekindling your interest in a PS1, should you buy one then perhaps you’ll need a modchip.

Thanks [John] for the tip.

Sony’s Electric Car Now Road Testing In Austria

The Consumer Electronics Show was not typically a place for concept cars, and Sony aren’t known as a major automaker. However, times change, and the electric transport revolution has changed much. At the famous trade show, Sony shocked many by revealing its Vision-S concept — a running, driving, prototype electric car.

Far from a simple mockup to show off in-car entertainment or new fancy cameras, Sony’s entry into the automotive world is surprisingly complete. Recently, the Japanese tech giant has been spotted testing the vehicle on the road in Austria, raising questions about the future of the project. Let’s dive in to what Sony has shown off, and what it means for the potential of the Vision-S.

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Official Teardown Gives Unexpected Look Into PS5

With Sony and Microsoft still a month away from the public release of their next-generation game consoles, you’d expect technical details of their respective systems to still be under a veil of secrecy. But both companies look to be taking things a bit differently this generation, as it becomes increasingly clear that modern consumers are interested in what makes their devices tick. Today, Sony really threw down the gauntlet by beating the tech media to the punch and posting their own in-depth teardown on the new PlayStation 5.

Unsurprisingly, the video after the break is almost entirely in Japanese. But even if you don’t know the language, there’s plenty of interesting details to be had. For one thing, the heatsink and fan that cools the PS5’s AMD CPU and GPU are collectively so massive that they appear to take up most of the console’s internal volume.

In fact, the heatsink itself is so large that the motherboard is actually mounted to it instead of the other way around. So if you want to take out the board, you have to unbolt it from the heatsink and remove it first. In the process you’ll expose the unique liquid metal thermal compound that Sony apparently developed specifically for this application. Good luck to you if any dust gets in that expensive-looking goop.

It’s also interesting to note that, unlike the previous two generations of Sony consoles, the PS5 has no discrete hard drive. Instead, onboard flash with a custom controller is used to provide 825 GB of storage for software. Hopefully Sony has put the requisite amount of R&D into their wear leveling, as a shot flash chip will mean a whole new motherboard. That said, gamers with extensive collections will be happy to see there appears to be an expansion bay where you can install your own M.2 drive.

Between this and the recent PS4 assembly line tour, it’s refreshing to see a company like Sony be a bit more transparent. After years of adversarial treatment from the tech giants, we’d almost forgotten that the customer is supposed to be king. Continue reading “Official Teardown Gives Unexpected Look Into PS5”

Robots With A Delicate Touch Assemble PlayStation 4

Sony’s video game division is gearing up for their upcoming PlayStation 5, pushing its predecessor PlayStation 4 off the spotlit pedestal. One effect of this change is Sony ever so slightly relaxing secrecy surrounding the PS4, allowing [Nikkei Asian Review] inside a PlayStation 4 final assembly line.

This article was written to support Sony and PlayStation branding for a general audience, thus technical details are few and far in between. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise given how details of mass production can be a competitive advantage and usually kept as trade secrets by people who knew to keep their mouths shut. Even so, we get a few interesting details accompanied by many quality pictures. Giving us a glimpse into an area that was formerly off-limits to many Sony employees never mind external cameras.

The quoted engineers are proud of their success coaxing robots to assemble soft and flexible objects, and rightly so. Generally speaking robots have a hard time handling non-rigid objects, but this team has found ways to let their robots handle the trickier parts of PS4 assembly. Pick up wiring bundles and flat ribbon cables, then plug them into circuit board connectors with appropriate force. Today’s automated process is the result of a lot of engineers continually evolving and refining the system. The assembly machines are covered with signs of those minds at work. From sharpie markers designating positive and negative travel directions for an axis, to reminders written on Post-It notes, to assembly jig parts showing the distinct layer lines of 3D printing.

We love seeing the result of all that hard work, but lament the many interesting stories still untold. We would have loved a video showing the robots in action. For that, the record holder is still Valve who provided an awesome look at the assembly of the Steam Controller that included a timelapse of the assembly line itself being assembled. If you missed that the first time, around, go watch it right now!

At least we know how to start with the foundations: everything we see on this PS4 assembly line is bolted to an aluminum extrusion big or small. These building blocks are useful whether we are building a personal project or a video console final assembly line, so we’ve looked into how they are made and how to combine them with 3D printing for ultimate versatility.

[via Adafruit]

Classic Leica Film Camera Turns Digital

While there’s still a market for older analog devices such as vinyl records, clocks, and vacuum-tube-powered radio transmitters, a large fraction of these things have become largely digital over the years. There is a certain feel to older devices though which some prefer over their newer, digital counterparts. This is true of the camera world as well, where some still take pictures on film and develop in darkrooms, but if this is too much of a hassle, yet you still appreciate older analog cameras, then this Leica film camera converted to digital might just attract your focus.

This modification comes in two varieties for users with slightly different preferences. One uses a Sony NEX-5 sensor which clips onto the camera and preserves almost all of the inner workings, and the aesthetic, of the original. This sensor isn’t full-frame though, so if that’s a requirement the second option is one with an A7 sensor which requires extensive camera modification (but still preserves the original rangefinder, an almost $700 part even today). Each one has taken care of all of the new digital workings without a screen, with the original film advance, shutters, and other HIDs of their time modified for the new digital world.

The finish of these cameras is exceptional, with every detail considered. The plans aren’t open source, but we have a hard time taking issue with that for the artistry this particular build. This is a modification done to a lot of cameras, but seldom with so much attention paid to the “feel” of the original camera.

Thanks to [Johannes] for the tip!