14th July 2006: I’ve updated this article with some information on what could be an even easier and more cost-effective way to achieve this effect. Scroll down.
Here’s a guide to what you need to easily be able to run homebrew software like DSLinux on your Nintendo DS or DS Lite. Some things to know:
- Yes, this could also be used to let you run pirated software too, but I can’t endorse that.
- I’m fully aware that this isn’t the only way to run homebrew software on your DS, but this is the way I did it, and it works brilliantly for me. Your milage may vary.
You Will Need…
I’d promised someone pictures showing exactly how big and chunky this kind of hardware is. Shown above is:
- A red pen. You don’t need one of these, but I put one on the blurry photograph for a size-comparison.
- A PassKey2 device like the one shown in the upper-right. Mine is branded “PassCard 3”. Older PassKeys required that you plugged a legitimately-bought game into their top port, but these new ones just plug straight into your Nintendo DS’s “DS” game port. It’s purpose is to make the DS think that a Nintendo-endorsed game is in the device, allowing it to run any code it feels like. Modern ones are needed for the later-version DS’s, including the DS Lite.
- An M3 Perfect. This is the most recent incarnation of what was the GBA Movie Player. It’s a card reader (mine reads SD Cards, but there’s also a CF version available) that plugs into your DS’s chunky retro Game Boy Advance slot.
- A flash memory card to put in your M3. Mine, of course, is an SD card. DSLinux weighs in at about 12MB, and games vary in size anywhere up to about 64MB. The more you can fit on your card, the better – particularly if you’re planning on carrying movies or music around with you and using your DS as a glorified MP3 or video player.
You will also need:
- A PC running Windows. Use a virtual PC at your own risk.
- The means to write whatever kind of flash card (e.g. SD card) you get, like a USB reader/writer. You might be able to get away with using your digital camera and some kind of link lead, but don’t count on it: a cheap SD reader/writer can be found for under a tenner.
- The latest M3 Game Manager software.
You Will Do…
The PassCard goes into the DS slot, the flash card goes into the M3, and the M3 goes into the GBA slot, as shown in the picture, above. I’m using a DS Lite, and the M3 sticks out a little way, enough to be unsightly, but not problematic. The DS is upside-down, in case you’re confused. The small blue thing on the right of the M3 (at the top of the DS) is the tip of the SD card. Push gently against it to eject it.
Put the memory card into your PC’s reader, and run the M3 Game Manager software you installed. Select the media type you’re using, when prompted. Navigate to the memory card. Then just click the “Write NDS” button choose the Nintendo DS ROM you want to write. How many you can fit on at once depends on the capacity of the card. The M3 Perfect can handle CF cards up to 1GB and SD cards up to 2GB for the CF and SD varieties of M3, respectively.
Here’s how the DS Lite looks with the M3 Perfect cartridge dangling out of it. Apparently it protudes less on the DS Phat.
Update: 14th July 2006: There May Be An Easier Way…
A friend has just let me know about the NinjaPass. The plain old NinjaPass Media Launcher is just a PassKey2, by the look of things, but the NinjaPass DS Flash is both a PassKey2 (like the PassCard, above) and a flashable memory card (like the M3 Perfect and it’s accompanying memory card). It’s a single-card solution that you copy your ROMs to, put into the NDS slot on your DS Phat or DS Lite, and it just works.
Of course, I’ve not tried the NinjaPass for myself, so your milage may vary. Read some reviews first.