Tag Archives: handhelds


NDS for handheld computing?

I’ve got a bit of an itch again these days to find a good handheld computer that I can write software for. I have a couple PalmOS things, but developing for PalmOS is not great, from what I can tell.

I happened to be playing around with my Nintendo DS these days, too, and thought, hey, maybe it’s a decent little platform. It does have some things going for it.

However, it’s not really that hot, and there’s considerable difficulty in developing for it, or even getting to the point where you can run what you write. There’s that homebrew excitement associated with it, but that’s not really that valuable to me.

Anyway, I did some research on what I might do if I did try to get homebrew development going on the DS, and I figured I’d blog it in case someone might care. This isn’t going to be a substitute for your own research, but maybe some good pointers for where to start. It can be a bit difficult to figure this stuff out, partly because of the intersection with the cartridge piracy crowd (the same hardware tech is needed for both piracy and homebrew).

[Here’s a link to Wikipedia’s Nintendo DS Homebrew entry. I should have looked there earlier; that is probably a better starting place than anything mentioned in this post.]

I think what I’d do is get a Supercard Lite/MicroSD, a Passcard 3, and an SD card.

The nice things about that combo are:

  • doesn’t stick out of the case (the Supercard is a GBA cart, but made to fit just like that dummy cart does on the Lite)
  • adds 32MB RAM (which may not be useful in general, but is useful for DSLinux)
  • seems to be well-supported in terms of development tools/libraries, including DSLinux.
  • uses standard flash memory

The bad thing is that it needs the three pieces, which makes it more complex and costly (about $100)

There are a few “Slot 1” solutions, I think Supercard DS (One) looks like the best one there. Again, uses MicroSD for flash, but is more straightforward and cheaper. Just doesn’t give you the extra RAM. (People say that it’s impossible to extend the RAM with a Slot 1 solution). The DS-Xtreme looks kinda good, partly because it seems to have good support from the designers. But it’s pretty new, and it only has the built-in flash, and it doesn’t have the RAM.

Anyway, like I said, I’m probably not going to act on any of this, so the quality of my research may reflect a lack of investment.

One thing I found out today that’s pretty cool is that it seems like the homebrew development environments support an OpenGL-alike interface for graphics. I was also impressed by all the work that’s going on to support homebrew on the various consoles. It’s a weird pursuit, in a way, but also kinda neat.

Here are some links that seem useful:

Unrelated to DS, here’s one of the handheld Linux boxes out there that’s pretty cool. Far better hardware than a DS, except maybe in 3D, and Linux is completely supported by the manufacturer. ‘course, it costs $400.