The Nintendo DS family encompasses a dizzying array of portable game systems released over a span of 17 years. The original DS received several refreshes and special editions, and when the next generation 3DS came along, it spawned a whole new collection of spin-offs. But even among all those machines there’s a name that even Mario himself would never have heard of: the Nintendo DS ML.
In a recent video, [The Retro Future] says he discovered this oddball system selling for around $25 USD on Chinese shopping site Taobao and bought one so he could get a closer look at it. Externally the system looks quite a bit like the refreshed DS Lite, but it’s notably larger and the screens look quite dated. That was already a strong hint to its true identity, as was the placement of its various buttons and controls.
But it wasn’t until [The Retro Future] cracked the system open that he could truly confirm what he had on his hands. This was an original Nintendo DS, potentially a new old stock unit that had never been distributed, which was transplanted into a custom enclosure designed to look like one of the later upgraded models. As for what this seller meant by calling this chimera the DS ML is anyone’s guess, though one of the commenters on the video thought “Maybe Legal” had a nice ring to it.
Now assuming these really are brand new systems that were simply installed in fresh cases, $25 is arguably a good deal. So long as you aren’t concerned with playing the latest titles, anyway. But at the same time its a reminder that you get what you pay for when dealing with shady overseas sellers. It’s just as likely, perhaps even more so, that these were used systems that got spruced up to make a quick buck.
Fake components are everywhere. In fact there’s an excellent chance most of the people reading this site have received some fake parts over the years, even if they didn’t realize it at the time. When there’s fly by night companies willing to refurbish a nearly 20 year old Nintendo handheld for $25, what are the chances that Bosch actually made that $2 temperature sensor you just ordered on eBay?
After exploring a few random online shops one day, [David] (thanks for sending this in, by the way) ran across a very interesting chip. It’s a dual-core, RISC-V chip running at 400MHz. There’s 6 MB of SRAM on the CPU, and there’s 2MB for convolutional neural network acceleration. There is, apparently, WiFi on some versions. There are already SDKs available on GitHub, and a bare chip costs a dollar or two. Interested? Log in to Taobao, realize Taobao does pre-orders, and all this can be yours.
This is a preorder — because apparently you can do that as a seller on TaoBao, but the Sipeed M1 K210 is available as a ‘core’ board with 72 pins in a one-inch square package, a version with WiFi, or as a complete development board with an OV2640 camera, 2.4 inch LCD, microphone, and onboard USB. There are videos of this chip running a face detection routine. It found Obama.
Over the years we’ve seen a few RISC-V chips given development boards, and you can buy them right now. The HiFive 1 is an exceptionally powerful microcontroller with processing power that puts it right up against the Teensy (which is built around a Freescale chip), but it’s also fairly expensive. We’re not sure the Arduino Cinque (also RISC-V) ever made it to production, but again, expensive. The idea that a RISC-V microcontroller could be available for just a few dollars is very interesting, it even comes with SDKs and utilities to make the chip useful.
ESP8266-based development boards have proliferated rapidly. One favorite, the WEMOS Mini-D1 is frequently imitated and sold without any branding. As these boards continue to ship to hobbyists and retailers around the world, we thought it might be interesting to conduct a little experiment.
There are a few ESP8266 development boards available, and the most popular seem to be the NodeMCU ‘Amica’ board. Of course, there are dozens of other alternatives including the WiFiMCU, Sparkfun’s ESP8266 Thing, and Adafruit’s HUZZAH ESP8266. Given that, why is this review limited to the Mini D1 boards? Because the Mini D1 is the cheapest. Or was, until it was cloned.
We took a look at some of these ‘clone’ boards to figure out the differences, find out if they work as intended, and perhaps most importantly, are these clone boards shipped out reliably. What are the results? Check that out below.
For hardware aficionados and Makers, trips to Shenzhen’s Huaqiangbei have become something of a pilgrimage. While Huaqiangbei is a tremendous and still active resource, increasingly both Chinese and foreign hardware developers do their sourcing for components on TaoBao. The selection is vastly greater and with delivery times rarely over 48 hours and frequently under 24 hours for local purchases it fits in nicely with the high-speed pace of Shenzhen’s hardware ecosystem.
For overseas buyers, while the cost of Taobao is comparable to, or slightly less than AliExpress and Chinese online stores, the selection is again, many, many times the size. Learning how to effectively source parts from Taobao will be both entertaining and empowering.
We happened to be in Shanghai for Electronica trade fair this year and had a great time exploring heavy industrial gear and fantasizing about all the things we could do with it. However, we simply couldn’t ignore the fact that there was a whole city out there that we’re completely missing out on. So after less than a day of being surrounded by businesspeople and Miss Universe-dressed promoters, we decided to pack our bags and hit the streets.
The question was, where should we go? Finding interesting things in a city that keeps shapeshifting (the whole Shanghai skyline did not exist 20 years ago) can be a challenge. Fortunately, our friend [David Li] gave us a list: