A ROM surprise

Two years ago, this post appeared on Reddit:

Satoru Okada, the guy who worked on the first game boy handhelds, shared a prototype Japanese rom which they used to test the game boy advance.

Tested by me on mgba and vba m, sadly the menus are written in Japanese so I don’t understand a thing.

I didn’t miss the opportunity, I immediately downloaded and put it aside, even if the name contained spelling errors (Bokojou Tengokou instead of Bokujou Tengoku). These things, you know, don’t last long, then the links start disappearing. In fact, aside from the fact that Zippyshare for some reason blocks all European users, that link is already dead.

I’m surprised, a 256 Mbit ROM (8 times larger than average) dating back 20 years???

Months pass and Bokojou Tengokou (Proto) (Japan).gba stands there “gathering dust” on the disc.

Until today, found it again, tried it and… the result left me really amazed, I didn’t think the GameBoy Advance could do things like that, I imagined it much more crude.

The ROM is available on Archive.org at the address: https://archive.org/details/BokojouTengokouProto or directly from here:

PS2: after 20 years one exploit is found, to run pirated games without modification.

Running pirated games on PS2 has always been possible, but it has never been within everyone’s reach.

With FreeMcBoot you can take advantage of a bug in the memory card management (fixed in the last slim PS2 production batch) to load games from USB or on hard disk (on PS2 “fat” first version). But you have to have a memory card created in a special way and at the time it was not easy. (At least: you paid a lot of money for the installation “service”)

Or with swap disks or action replay, but even so it’s not as easy as putting a disk in the drive.

Then there is modification via modchip. The chip alone costs very little (5 euro) but soldering 20 solder on the tiny pads of the motherboard is absolutely not within everyone’s reach. And so, a 5 euro chip with 100 euro of labor…

But now there is FreeDVDBoot: CTurt has found a way to run burned games without modification.

Creating a video DVD in a special way, you can insert an exploit in the DVD menu that allows foreign code to be executed.

So, the PS2 starts playing the DVD video (which works with homemade discs), then the menu contains “malicious” code that runs something else, homebrew, emulators, or even a commercial game.

As seen in the video, “Sony Computer Entertainment” is written at startup, but not “PlayStation 2” – because it is loaded as if it were a DVD movie

Like the exploit used 20 years ago on the Sega Dreamcast: the copied game pretended to be a MIL-CD (music format used only in Japan and only used by 4-5 albums in total), then played the full game.

There are currently no tools released to make the operation easy: the game must be set in a specific way with a special launcher, it doesn’t work with just any copy. For the launcher there is no source code but only the explanation of the operation: the programmer (who if I understand correctly works for Microsoft) doesn’t want to have anything to do with piracy and would like his work to be used only for homebrew.

I’m sure there will be someone else who will complete the work: ESR (the program used to load the burned games “disguised” as DVD movies) was published over 10 years ago, the only difference is that it was necessary to load it via FreeMcBoot (the “special” memory card), now you can load it more easily.

How does the Nintendo DS know when you change the time?

Summer time is back in effect from today, so I changed the time on the few devices that can’t adjust on their own via the Internet.

This includes the Nintendo DS, and seeing it sitting there on the shelf gathering dust reminded me of an episode that happened years ago: Pokémon Diamond could tell when you changed the time, even if the cartridge wasn’t inserted and there was no Internet connection! But how did he do that?

The solution they found is very simple: the internal clock remains at the same time, set in the factory, and when you set the time it is not actually changed, but simply the system takes note to add the difference. For example, “add 34599 seconds to the system time”.

So, games with time rewards like Pokémon or Animal Crossing just need to write somewhere in save file the difference between the “fake” and the “real” time: if it only changes by one second, it means that the user has changed it!

If you have a 3DS you can hack the system to always use the real date. After enabling homebrew (a bit complicated and laborious, if interested ask in the forum or in the comments, I leave here this guide), you can run ctr-no-timeoffset to set the difference between the two clocks to zero, and then set the internal time to the “correct” one via GodMode9.

I bought a Wii U

Thanks to a GameStop clearance sale, I bought a Wii U, 32gb version.

Technically, it’s used, but, and I didn’t expect that, GameStop did a good job of refurbishing it. The GamePad was absolutely perfect, without a single scratch, and a transparent skin was applied to the console itself, probably to hide any scratches. In the end it was as if it had been new, except for the manual, replaced with 2 photocopied sheets.

One thing immediately caught my eye… or rather, my ear: surround sound. Thanks to the many speakers on the gamepad, that are combined with the already existing audio, the sound effects of the menu are exceptional! Yes, not many games use three-dimensional sound, but the background music in the menu is exceptionally engaging!

Although aesthetically it looks like a “Wii HD”, it’s actually very different. Here, Nintendo’s marketing has been a match: I’ve always snubbed it “because 350 euros for playing the Wii in HD is too much”. In fact there are many innovations, although not very well implemented. (For example, the pad is switched on to consume battery power even when you don’t need it, like when you watch a movie on Netflix… what’s the point?)

In particular, Nintendo has decided to close all the bugs in the Wii by removing all possible entry routes for hackers.

Compared to the old model:

  • the possibility of making a backup copy of game saves on an SD card has been removed. If the console breaks down, all your saves are lost forever. This is to prevent the console from being hacked with a corrupt save. But at what price…
  • The photo channel and audio player has been removed. The old Wii photo channel was made very well, ideal for a “slide show event”, with background music. But, perhaps, hackers could have found some exploits in libJPEG and then “better take it all out, for security”.
  • The possibility to transfer Mii from and to Wiimote has been removed. Even here, maybe they were afraid of some exploits, but I transferred my Mii between two Wii and also in Dolphin thanks to this feature and now there is an easy way to bring them on the new console …
  • Almost all channels with content from the internet, such as “Rate my Mii”, weather, news, horoscope, polls, have been removed. Maybe everything was grouped together inside Miiverse, which I could never try because it was closed years ago.
  • the Bluray player remains “wasted”, to save 3 euros of patents MPEG and h264, you can not play DVD movies or Bluray “because everyone has a DVD player at home”. I don’t know about you, but I never had a DVD/Bluray player at home. If they put a player on the eShop for 20 euros it could have been interesting.

…and in the end everything was useless thanks to the presence of exploits in the browser (and that’s why there is no browser on the Switch) or in the DS emulator of the Virtual Console (also absent on the Switch)

Hunting the Wumpus

Reading the ebook about computing in the 60s and 70s, I learned about the HP 2100, a computer that could serve up to 32 users at the same time.

This computer did not have screens, but wrote everything on this kind of “printer+keyboard”, a teletype.

Everything that should appear on the screen, was instead printed on paper by the teletype, that could be far, connected by phone.

This computer was very expensive, around $100k, so it was reserved for academic, military or business users. Of course, when someone is bored, will play games. This is a game that it’s still possible to play today, by writing

telnet mickey.publicvm.com

your PC will connect to this HP 2100 simulator and will let you play to this “pre-historical” games (a note: in some Windows versions, the telnet command is not preinstalled)

How does it work? First of all, imagine being in a cave with 20 rooms, all interconnected. This is a drawing from the original programmer:In a room could be a deadly pit, some huge bats that will bring you somewhere else at random, or the Wumpus. If the monster is inside that room, it could be startled and run in an adjacent cave (75% chance) or it could eat us (25%).

When the teletype prints out our adventure, you should image the map:

Of course, for today standards this is unplayable, but it’s interesting to see how computer games were played 45 years ago.

I did a gameplay video:

Or you could play this javascript version: https://osric.com/wumpus/

In California Games I can’t use the keyboard, what to do?

If you try to run California Games (1987) in DOSBox o in other emulators like IBMulator or PCem, you will see that the keyboard doesn’t work at all, so you can’t play as you couldn’t pass the “enter your name” screen.

That’s because this particular game supports only standard (at the time) keyboards, not extended keyboards. (Right now all the keyboards we use are extended)

MS-DOS, since version 5.0, has a command to insert in config.sys to simulate a standard keyboard with an extended keyboard:


With this, the game will recognize your keyboard. Video (I totally suck at this game):

Be careful: a “standard” keyboard doesn’t have the function keys (F1, F2, and so on), so if you insert this command in the config.sys you could have problems with other games/programs. If that’s the case, it’s better to create a boot disk only for California Games (that already has a big memory bug, it won’t start if too much standard memory is available)

If you use DOSBox instead of a full PC emulator, you have to boot from that DOS in order to let it see the command. Assuming you have a working install of DOS 5.0 or higher on c: , you have to run it with:

boot -l c

Coin Crypt

Cryptocoins! No, Coin Crypt it’s a 4-5 years old game, that I got as a gift on Steam a few years ago.

How does it work: without a tutorial, you’re on a Pacific island, on the ruins of an ancient coin-based civilization. Soon, you have to understand that some coins can be used for attacks, other for defense, some of them heal, and some… have just a monetary value: so you have to prepare a strategy, don’t waste coins on weak monsters (no coins = game over), spend them in donations, and so on.

If you have an Xbox controller the interface it’s very easy, you OK with the right trigger, you choose the coins with the buttons shown on screen. If, like me, you use a Dualshock 4, either you have already got muscle memory about the different buttons (X = square, A = X, and so on), either you’re going to suffer a bit.

Technically the game is easy: there are three random levels, a final boss, and victory! Basically, it all depends on your luck/patience/strategy/choices.

The more you play, the more coins you can spend to unlock other characters, with many different personalities. For example, the ghost will find more coins, but will lose them on the road; the monkey will use all the coins in the hand during a battle, it can be a good thing, but also a disaster.

As a game, it’s easy to learn, but hard to master: in order to fully completing it you need a lot of patience and time. If like me, you have small patience and less time… after a few game overs, you’re going to be bored.

There’s also a daily challenge, all the players try the same world with the same character, competing for the highest score.

About crypto coins in coin crypt… during a game, you can find a computer. If you spend a coin on it you can mine a crypto coin… with a value, like almost in the real value, totally volatile and unpredictable, as it changes randomly at the beginning of the level.

I let a Japanese play Majiang

On the Japanese gaming consoles there are hundres of games about Majiang (or Mahjong, 麻雀, 麻将, マージャン, according where it’s played). The game it’s totally different to the “Mahjong” we know in the west, that “puzzle/find couples”, but it’s some kind of poker, I never understood the rules.

I always wanted to play this game, but I was unable to learn the rules, so I asked to a Japanese friend to play to Mahjong Fight Club DS – Wi Fi Taiou for Nintendo DS ed I recorded the gameplay:

Unfortunately, I didn’t record mic input, it would have been much more interesting…

No Super Mario Run on rooted phones

Finally, after waiting for months, Super Mario Run is available on Android too! (A totally inexplicable delay – being programmed with Unity, compiling a version for Android it is a matter of a few hours!!!)

I go now to install it! Play Store can’t find it. Strange. I search it from my computer, and I got his:

What does it mean that the app is not compatible with any of my devices???

I have an horrible feeling… maybe they got the same brilliant idea of Pokémon GO and then block the app on rooted phones? The game doesn’t really have online multiplayer, just racing against “ghosts”, and everyone could potentionally cheat via a MITM attack or a cracked APK.

Ok, maybe it’s just a simple check before the installation, just download the APK from some other shady store and it will work, right?

No, as soon it can see that your phone is tampered, it exits immediately!

WTF!!! 💩💩💩💩💩💩💩