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NES (Games) Nintendo Security Games Hardware Technology

Hackers Unlock NES Classic, Upload New Games Via USB Cable (arstechnica.com) 86

Just because Nintendo doesn't officially let their tiny replica NES receive new games doesn't mean hackers won't find a way to add their own. This week, hackers in Japan and Russia figured out soft-mod solutions to adding new games to the NES Classic, meaning you don't need to grab a screwdriver or a soldering iron to mod your own console. Ars Technica reports: According to the whiz kids at Reddit's NESClassicMods community, the solution won't work until you've created a save file in Super Mario Bros' first slot. (Chances are, you've already done this just by playing the game, since creating game saves is so easy with this system.) Once you've done that, connect your NES Classic Edition to a computer via a micro-USB cable, then boot the NES in "FEL" mode. This is done by holding down the system's reset button while pushing down the power button from a powered-off state. While you're booting, you should also run a "sunxi-FEL" interface on your computer. (An open-source version of compatible "USBBoot" software can be found here.) The rest of the steps land firmly in "operate at your own risk" territory, as they require copying your NES Classic's internal data to your computer, then modifying and adding files via an application made by hackers. Doing so, by the way, includes the dubious step of supplying your own ROM files, which you may have either dumped from your own cartridges or downloaded from other Internet users. One tool linked from that Reddit community, however, comes with two open-source NES ROMs that are in the legal free-and-clear to upload to your hardware. Once you've added your own game files, which should also include custom JPGs that will appear in the NES Classic's "box art" GUI, you'll have to repack the hardware's kernel, then fully flash the hardware yourself. Do all of those steps correctly, and you'll see every single game you've added appear in the slick, default interface.
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Hackers Unlock NES Classic, Upload New Games Via USB Cable

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  • Nice (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Good job. You probably don't want to update it with any official Nintendo firmware update after that.

    • And safe to bet that the next batch Nintendo ships won't be vulnerable, better get me one now! :)

      • Re: Nice (Score:5, Informative)

        by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Saturday January 07, 2017 @09:19AM (#53623131) Journal

        Or just build a RetroPie and you don't have to worry about this. Rasberry Pi + 2 USB game pads + RetroPie boot ROM + torrent of 6000+ ROMs that you can load as you please over WiFi and you've got every NES game, every SNES game, every Genesis game, every TurboGrafix 16 game, every atari game, every N64 game, etc. Cost about $80. My four year old and I have been having a blast playing TMNT IV, Bubble Bobble, Golden Axe, etc.

        • Got one of those (PI 3b) for Christmas and that's what I did with it. Works really well for NES and SNES. N64 is hit or miss and nothing works past that console, but it's a fun project. Haven't tried other brand consoles yet.

          • What would be a neat hard hack IMO is to buy a NES classic, gut its motherboard, and put a Pi 3B in it instead with multiple console emulators and enough SD card space for all of the complete GoodSet rom collections (i.e. GoodNES, GoodSNES, GoodGen, GoodN64, etc) available on torrent sites (64GB would be plenty.) That basically makes the NES classic a $60 shell for the rpi, which isn't a bad deal considering that really ugly looking ones made of 3d printer filament will cost you roughly $30 in materials, as

        • by Duds ( 100634 )

          They're different things, I don't even think the're competitors.

          You can certainly do what you suggest, I did. Let's not pretend however that everyone in the real world can get hold of the roms, that knows how to edit a config file in nano when the sound doesn't go down hdmi properly or that is comfortable with copying via samba and flashing SD cards.

          The Mini NES is for those people but also is just such a gorgeous device in itself and one people just "get" that it's for different people. I own one because

          • Of course, and I suspect this was largely your point, those people are also not the people who are reflashing the NES.

            1. Yes. I think assembling a RetroPie is easier than the instructions for reflashing the NES. You can even buy complete kits off Amazon where all you need to do is snap the Pi into a case.

            2. I'm also posting on slashdot, which used to be a website for l33t computer h4xx0r types who would have no problem doing any of this. I didn't think I would need to qualify who the audience for comment was to my audience, I also forgot this is slashdot, where everyone is a pedantic nitwit.

  • Surprising. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Saturday January 07, 2017 @08:54AM (#53623087) Journal
    It looks like Nintendo did their own, slightly quirky, thing in terms of how the ROMs are stored; but the procedure otherwise uses the same tools you use to manipulate Allwinner SoCs over USB. Since this console is just a cut-down Allwinner board, that isn't a surprise; but (as we know from dealing with cellphones and some tablets from the more obnoxious vendors) the ability to lock the bootloader so that it flatly refuses to do anything with an unsigned payload is a pretty standard feature. Some vendors don't turn it on; or allow it to be turned off; but the hardware is generally capable of it.

    Given Nintendo's historical opposition to basically anything they don't explicitly allow happening on their consoles, it seems like a real surprise that this one cheerfully accepts being reflashed with a modified system image. Does Nintendo just not care in this case? Are they doing console lockdown almost as retro as the games being emulated?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Edit: I did some poking around; and (to my surprise) the 'R16' Allwinner SoC(apparently a relabled A33) does appear to be one of the parts cheap enough to not feature efuse key storage and some sort of 'secure boot' support. It does have crypto acceleration; but doesn't appear to have any provision for preboot signature/hash verification. Their various slightly more expensive parts do mention these features, so it's not something they don't offer; but apparently Nintendo didn't figure that it was worth the
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Given Nintendo's historical opposition to basically anything they don't explicitly allow happening on their consoles, it seems like a real surprise that this one cheerfully accepts being reflashed with a modified system image. Does Nintendo just not care in this case? Are they doing console lockdown almost as retro as the games being emulated?

      Nintendo wants to sell consoles. Usually you do that by offering a locked down platform with anti-piracy features developers want to develop for, so they make games and users buy it for the games. In this case the games are already written. Who is going to start writing new games for the Nintendo Classic? Nobody. So why should Nintendo try to get between you and your favorite non-included classic? I'm pretty sure this means you'll quickly see "every game under the sun" classic boxes for sale on eBay. Which

      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        Who is going to start writing new games for the Nintendo Classic?

        Probably the same people who are still writing new games for the original NES in the first place: KHAN Games, Retrotainment, Rainwarrior, and the like.

  • They could have easily charged $100 if it had every NES game on there. To get any money all for games that old would/should be like manna from Heaven to the companies that own the IP.
    • They don't have the legal right to do that. They don't own the copyright on most games

      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        DeplorableCodeMonkey was suggesting that Nintendo license said games from said companies.

        But I agree with you that this wouldn't be practical. When Virtual Console was first announced, GoldenEye and Tetris were listed as examples of games that would be impractical to license. The NES doesn't have GoldenEye, but James Bond Jr. would have the same practical problems.

  • What is the internal capacity? Is there only enough for roughly 30 NES games or does it have enough space for 300? How about 3000?

    Does it support all the mappers or only a few specific ones? (MMC3, VRC2, etc)

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