Nintendo Dual Screen (DS): a Basic Guide to Getting the FUN Out of Your DS

The Nintendo DS has been popular ever since it first came out, selling millions world wide. The games are great and very inexpensive, can play Gameboy Advanced (GBA) games, non-arguably the top feature is built-in wireless WiFi. Able to connect to surrounding DS’s and to the Internet to give it the versatility to be one of the best handhelds.
Many people argue that the PSP is superior to the DS in every way. I’m not here to put down any other system, or to rank the DS, nor am I here to comment on any other system (that will come in later posts). This is just a guide to getting the most out of your DS.

If your reading this post, then probably you’ve either got a DS and have never heard of homebrew, or turning your DS into a ‘Multi-tasking-super-wonder-of-the-gaming-world’, or you have heard about it, but just don’t know the do’s and don’ts, or just how to get started. Or you don’t have a DS and are thinking about getting one, just searching for a reason to shell out that 129 bucks (then some more for games). I’m not typing this to get you to buy any thing, or to quit using any thing, just trying to keep you informed so you can make the decision.

Overview

Many, DS users and non-DS users alike, are fully aware of “HomeBrew”, but several do not know exactly what are how to use them. While others are using them every day, and still others know nothing about them. They still use their DS’s for nothing but games, and Pictochat. While I can’t resist Pictochat in a random restaurant, or just opening up the DS to download a mini game from some person in the arcade to go head-to-head in an all out battle to obtain dominance in the gamming world, I still can’t pass the opportunity to use my DS to do all my other meaningless tasks. Every thing from PDA (keeping track of my notes, to-do lists, phone #’s, etc…), to surfing the Internet (yes, on the DS), listening to my favorite radio station (sure, I can get a pen with radio built in, but why carry an extra device?), or even watch movies.

Basic Need-To-Know

Some things to keep in your head start with homebrew. HomeBrew is a term to describe programs that wasn’t made by a company to be mass produced and sold to the public. For example, a game that some one wrote for fun, or for a learning experience and hands it out to others for either their enjoyment, or their feedback. HomeBrew can range from games, to programs, to operating systems for computers. I’m not sure why, but the term ‘HomeBrew’ has been reserved for games and gaming systems in most areas, even tho the same principle is applied to many other things. HomeBrew has been around for many many years and has had a huge spike when the Nintendo DS appeared on the screen. While GBA was out, people all over the world wrote homebrew games and applications that were distrubuted across the Internet, and now those homebrew are transported to the DS with little to no alterations. In order to get those and any other homebrew to function on your DS, you’ll need a few items. An adapter that can accept some type of memory stick, or one that has the memory built in, access to a computer, and access to the homebrew, or the Internet to download any of the hundreds upon hundreds of homebrew available. Slot 1 is the DS game slot on top of your DS, with slot 2 being the GBA slot on the bottom. A Pass Card is a slot 1 device that tells the handhold how to read the adapter in slot 2. The adapter is the device that holds the memory. The memory is the memory that holds the homebrew. SD memory sticks are the sticks of memory that are normally used for mobile phones, cameras, and most PDA’s. They range from 64 MBs to 2GB’s, in 3 different sizes. Normal SD has been around the longest, and more common; Mini SD was the next generation being smaller and faster; Micro SD are the newest being less than half the size of the Normal, and quite a be faster. There are also adapters to fit Micros into Mini’s and/or Normals, and adapters for Mini’s into Normals. A card reader is just that, a device to read a memory card (like the SD’s) to a computer. Either via USB, Fire wire, or an internal card added, or built in. Several all-in-one printers come with a card reader built in.

Also read: Getting the best out of your games with these cheats!

— GETTING STARTED —

Hardware

HomeBrew is possible due to a device called an adapter. An adapter is just the holder of the memory that is able to plug into your gaming system. There are several types of adapters:

Slot 1: An adapter that fits into the top slot of your DS. It does leave your bottom slot open for other devices, such as extra ram, or a rumble pack, but you have to purchase those separately, meaning more money to shell out. Of all the slot 1 adapters out there, only 2 are worth getting as of this posting. The G6 comes with up to 512 MB built on memory. More memory cannot be added, but they have some of the best software you can find, and the best compatibility with the homebrew that can be put on there. The M3 uses either Compact Flash memory (which is slow and large, not worth getting), or the SD cards. The SD cards can range from 64 MB, to 4 GB giving you a choice of space and/or price that best fits your situation. The SD cards can also be used mobile phones, cameras, and most PDA’s making them versatile. The only penalty of slot 1 adapters are the fact that to run the Internet browser you have to purchase a ram pack for the GBA slot.

Slot 2: An adapter that fits into the bottom slot of your DS or into any GBA. Cannot add a rumble pack (but some Slot 2 adapters come with one built in), has built in ram, but you have to have some type of pass card in slot one. Increases the money you have to pay, but the ram being built in allows you to run the web browser programs which you can’t do on slot 1 adapters. You can choose between an adapter that has memory built on, or a card that accepts memory sticks (see Slot 1 description). The only penalty is that Slot 2 adapters must use a pass card (see Basic Need-to-Know description), but make up for it if you plan to use the web browser. The only adapters worth looking at for slot 2 (at the time of this typing) are the M3, and the SuperCard which both types uses SD memory sticks.

Instruction
Any adapter you get will come with a disc of software and information of how to use it. So I wont go into deep detail, just a basic sum-them-up type of thing. Plug the memory part of your adapter to the computer, drag-and-drop a few files from the CD to the device. Drag-and-drop your choice of homebrew making sure the homebrew is a .nds file (a pure file as it is referred to). Unplug the memory part and plug it up to your DS, turn the power on, start your homebrew like a normal game, and enjoy. That’s it! That’s all there is to using it to it’s fullest potential. The programs that come on the disc are upgradable, meaning you can go to their website and download the latest and greatest, then use that instead of the software on the disc. There are some files out there that require to be patched. Usually the adapter will come with that software on the disc. Just open the software, choose the file that has to be patched, and click start or patch. A few seconds later and you have a .nds file. Again, your adapter will come with the instructions.

HomeBrew
There are several different types of homebrew running around. The majority of them are made by gamers/programmers who just do it for fun, or because they want that piece of software for the DS. There are homebrew out there that are illegal, and I’m not going to support them. Nintendo has created and licensed hundreds of games for the DS, which any copy of those games you use with out their permission (usually purchasing the product with a receipt) is illegal. With that said, I use those illegal copies all the time …. kinda. I like to download a game and play it before I buy it. Let’s face it, a lot of games are not worth buying, and with out testing them, the only two ways to know which ones are worth it, are to watch videos of someone playing it, and/or to play it yourself. So I download a game, and play it for demo purposes. If I like the game, I’ll pick up a legal copy, if I don’t, then I don’t. There are still hundreds of perfectly legal games out and a bout that are much more interesting, and useful than the games. Personally I have DSLinux installed on mine. A perfectly legal, and free homebrew that puts a linux operating system on my handhold, allowing me to do most things I can do on a laptop with out carrying around a six pound case that is just awkward to use while walking. Don’t get me wrong, the DS isn’t for every situation, but neither is the laptop. The laptop is just that, a ‘lap’top, while the DS is just a very quick boot up, use, put away type of device. I think I got off subject …….. yup … I’m off subject, let’s continue with homebrew!

If you like Macintosh (I know I do), then the MiniVMac might interest you. A homebrew that puts Mac 7.5 OS onto the DS. I’m not sure if it’s legal or not, but I doubt Macintosh cares, since it is 7.5, and Mac is coming out 10.5 (I think) for normal computers shortly. DSOrganize is another homebrew turning your DS into a PDA with touch screen and every thing! Several drawing homebrew are about, imagine a touch screen paint brush pro! A program for Voice over IP, allowing you to use your DS as a telephone to other DS’s that are connected to WiFi. Several chat homebrew including AIM, MSN, IRC and others. One of my favorites is DSBasic, programming in Basic on your DS while on the move, then connect it to your PC, and keep working, or complie and run! There are just to many to list here, but they range from the tiniest of programs like a demo of a 3d ball, to VNC software allowing your DS to take control of your home/office computer and controlling it as if you were sitting at your computer. Best thing to do is go to google and type in DS HomeBrew.

Ending

Well, I guess I lied to you. This wasn’t much of a guide at all, just a lot of my ramblings clumped together with no real direction. Basically to get your DS a powerhouse, just get some type of memory adapter (google m3, or SuperCard), then put homebrew of your choice on there, and your set to go. If it is an adapter that fits into slot 2, make sure you get a slot one passkey type of device. If it requires, you’ll need a memory stick. If it requires a memory stick, you’ll need a reader (most packages come with a USB card reader. The homebrew can be downloaded from all over the Internet, again just google DS homebrew, or DS download. Read some forums and they will tell you all about their preferences, and how to get the software etc…