In what I’m calling a stroke of insanity, I picked up a Nintendo DS Lite last week. I saw one of the hard to find candy-apple red ones in Target and I decided I needed it. My reasoning was that it would be a good time killer when we’re up at the hospital with my father-in-law. Turns out its one of the best things I’ve ever purchased, time killing or other wise. It’s an awesome little device. The screens are bright and clear, the games look good, they’re simple and fun and most important, it’s very hackable.


I’ve had the thing for less than a week now and I’ve already ordered the parts, received said parts and installed a hacked DS cartridge with it’s own OS and custom software. It’s called the R4DS and it’s about $30. Essentially it’s a MicroSD card reader, which just happens to be the exact same size as a NDS cartridge. I also bought a 2G MicroSD card from NewEgg for $8. Considering homebrew games are about 500k, it should take me a good long while to fill this thing up. And man, there are some pretty awesome homebrew games out there. Every classic game (Tetris, Breakout, Invaders, etc) has a homebrew equivalent, as well as really cool things like StillAliveDS which is a DS take on Valve’s Portal. Or Pocket Physics, which is, well, a physics engine along the lines of Crayon Physics. There’s web browsers that take advantage of the DSs WiFi capabilities, IM/IRC chat programs with on-screen keyboards, all sorts of cool stuff.


The best part is that since it’s all self contained and self-executing on the card, it’s non-destructive to the DS itself. It’s not flashing the bios or rewriting the firmware or anything. So, when you’re done playing homebrew games or surfing the web, you just pop the cartridge out and put in whatever normal game cartridge you want to play next.

It’s very cool and I’m glad that I bought the DS and even more happy with my R4 cartridge and would urge anyone with a DS to pick one up. $30 won’t break the bank and opens up so many possibilities with the device that it’s silly not to get one.

I think the only thing left is to customize the DS itself. I considered laser etching, but that’s kind of a one time thing. If it gets screwed up, you’re out of luck. We do however, have a vinyl cutter/sticker maker here at the office. It can cut designs down to a millimeter thickness and as large as 48″x however long the paper is. I think I might mock up a design and cut it out of vinyl. That way, I can customize it without damaging the DS. It’s the tough kind of outdoor/sign vinyl, so it doesn’t fade or peel, but it’s removable in a pinch. We use it to make signs for glass office doors.

If anyone has an DS and wants to know a good place to order an R4 from, you can’t beat They’re one of the only places I found that are based here in the US (New Jersey) and I ordered mine on Wednesday morning and had it by Thursday afternoon.

Just thought I’d share. I’m off to find more homebrew games for this thing.

Matt out.