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dgenerate avatar 8:15 AM on 10.19.2007
Are you getting the most out of your DS?



The Nintendo DS is a sweet little machine. It can handle 2D and 3D graphics, has 2 screens; one which is touch-sensitive. The Lite version of the handheld fits easily into your pockets (unless you're emo, in which case your pants are probably too tight to even fit your hands in your pockets). All this potential, and what do 95% of us do? Play commercial games on the bus, and then put it away. What if you could use the sexy little funbox as a video player, audio player, SNES and NES emulator, and play commercial ROMs on it, as well as much, much more? What if you could do all this without ever opening, flashing, soldering etc. . . your DS? It's as simple as inserting a special cartrige into the Slot-1 cartrige slot! Read on to find out all about how to go about turning your Nintendo DS into a very versatile tool! I'll list some information about what it is, how it works, and what my favorite programs are for it!

So what is this IT we're talking about?
The R4DS is a special cartrige that will allow you to load files off of a microSD memory card. It comes with a popular media player called Moonshell which will allow you to watch videos, view images, and play music files. (There are several other similar cartriges out there, the R4 is simply the one I picked up, and so it is the one I will mention here)

R4DS Homepage | DS Flash Cart Reviews
- Runs clean ROMs from the MicroSD directly, so there's no need to patch any ROMs first
- Supports trimmed ROMs to save space on the MicroSD card
- Supports multiple ROMs
- Uses MicroSD cards which allows up to 4gb of storage
- Exactly the same size as an original DS cart
- The R4 doesn't require the DS to be flashed
- R4 operating system and firmware are easily updateable via files on the MicroSD card
- Built in moonshell to play music
- Supports homebrew support without any patching
- Allows booting to slot 2


Moonshell: Homepage | Tutorial



Moonshell is a simple OS-like application that handles several forms of media. When you first boot into moonshell, you will see a directory listing, showing the contents of the memory card that is currently inserted in the R4 cartridge. You can open text files, view images, watch videos, and play audio files. Here are the supported file types:

Video: DPG video files.
Audio: MP3 / OGG / MOD / SPC / MDX(no PCM)/ GBS / HES / NSF / XM / MIDI / low bit rate AAC
Images: non-progressive JPEG / BMP / GIF / PNG images

To view videos, you're going to have to convert the video file you want to watch into a DPG (DS MPEG). It's kind of a pain in the ass, but if you want to watch videos on your DS, this is how you have to do it. Moonshell comes with a set of tools that will allow you to convert your files into DPG. Once that is done, just drop 'em on your memory card. The moonshell tutorial contains a section on how to convert and watch videos.

ROMS
Once your R4 is set up, not only can you launch Moonshell to do all that neat stuff with your media files, you can also load Nintendo DS ROMs. The R4 has an impressive compatibility with commercial ROMs, and will even run WiFi multiplayer. It can play almost any game perfectly, but there is an issue in certain games with download play (Mario Kart DS, Super Mario 64, New Super Mario Bros.)
I think I need to add a little note here: Don't pirate DS games! Although if you do pirate DS games, all Nintendo will say is: "Oh, that's ok, we don't need your money anymore, WE'RE RICH BITCH!"

With that aside, you might be thinking: "Why have an R4 if you're not going to pirate games for it?" There are tons of other features I will list that the R4 can handle, but in terms of playing commercial ROMs, there is the benefit of not having to bring multiple game cartriges with you when you go out with your DS. Just load up the flash cart with the games you want to bring! You can download imports, or games you simply cannot seem to find at retail (or at an online store). Another great thing we can do is play homebrew software!

What's Homebrew? Wikipedia: Homebrew (video games)
Homebrew is basically user-created software. All homebrew for the DS will come with a .nds file. This is the file that you need to launch from the R4DS(kind of like a .exe file on a PC) There is plenty of homebrew software for the DS out there. Everything from games, to email clients, to emulators. Read on to find out about the stuff I am currently running, or am planning on checking out very soon.

SNEmulDS Homepage
SNES Emulator for the DS. The emulator isn't perfect, but the newest release fixed my major problem: the option to scale the SNES image to fit the DS screen. (it uised to clip the top & bottom) All there is to it is dropping SNEmulDS.nds and your SNES ROMs onto the memory card and launch SNEmulDS. I have had limited problems with my game freezing, but I have just upgraded to the new 0.6a version, so we will see if that continues.

nesDS Homepage
This is a port of the PocketNES emulator for the GBA. It seems to work perfectly for me. Not much else to say: it's a NES emulator that runs on your DS. Simply drop the nesDS.nds file and some ROMs onto your memory card and launch nesDS.

ScummVM DS: Homepage
So you like those old school point-and-clicks eh? Well you are going to LOVE this.



"ScummVM is an interpreter that allows you to play many point and click adventure games from the 80s and 90s on modern computers. I didn't write ScummVM, that honour goes to the ScummVM team. ScummVM runs games from Lucasarts that were created using the SCUMM system (hence the name) but it has also been expanded to run games from many other developers too. ScummVM is written in portable C++ and has been ported to many differnet platforms, and I have made a port of it to the DS. This means that you can play all these classic games on the DS with full sound."

AmplituDS Homepage



If you have never played Amplitude for PS2, then just go do it. Harmonix made it, it had sweet music, and took the rhythm game to a whole new level. (Harmonix: creators of Guitar Hero and now Rock Band). AmplituDS is a project that is currently in it's third release, and still being developped. It is basically a recreation of the original Amplitude, but for the DS! It has completely original graphics and music, but everything in the game is based off Amplitude. If it was a commercial game I would criticise it more, but for a homebrew game it is pretty damn sweet. Check it out!

Stuff I have yet to try out:
Here is a list of stuff that I have either not tried, or haven't used enough to make a good judgement on. Everything on this list comes from "Best of DS Homebrew" lists around the web, so it is very likely good software.

DSOrganize Homepage
An organizer for your DS! Create to-do lists, set events in your calendar, use the file browser to launch other apps, use the calculator, day planner, address book, IRC and web browser!

NDSMail Homepage



This is an eMail client for your DS. It supports the following features:
POP3/SMTP mail server support
RSS/ATOM feed support
simple HTML viewer
multiple account support
SSL support
Settings and Mails are saved to XML files

So do you have an R4? Well you should! There is just so much cool stuff out there for it! This isn't even a complete list, just a few things that I found that were interesting. How do you get one? Order online, find one on Craigslist, or find a "guy who knows a guy". I got mine for $40 CAD, and a 2GB microSD card for $35 CAD. Great investment for what I got. If you have any favorite homebrew apps, leave a note in the comments!

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