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Wii Want To Hack
December 30, 2007 9:56 AM   Subscribe

A presentation at the 24th Annual Chaos Communication Congress convention for hackers in Germany [previously mentioned in MeFi] revealed a proof of concept: the Nintendo Wii's Power PC "Broadway" chip has been completely hacked. (via OMGNintendo)
posted by ShawnStruck (22 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
This will allow the creation of homebrew on the Nintendo Wii. This hack requires the use of a mod chip to boot the disc, so there is no new piracy concerns. Nothing like what happened to the Dreamcast.

Given the unimpressive specifications of the Nintendo, this is a pretty neat hack, but pretty meh for homebrew. The most interesting aspect of the Wii is the controller, and those hacks have already been coming fast and furious.

Now if this information is used to uncover further weaknesses in the security architecture, this might become more interesting. Nintendo better hope the hardware designers didn't leave any debug code in the firmware.
posted by zabuni at 10:22 AM on December 30, 2007


zabuni, I don't see how this is pretty meh. I think it's a great step forward for Wii homebrew. Finally getting full access to the hardware in the raw state. The only concern I have is them patching it with system upgrades. Especially if they ever roll out their indie game dev service...

I'm skeptical, but there's been a lot of DS homebrew, and I don't think there's been as much on Nintendo's part in terms of locking people out as Sony on the PSP... The Wii might be different.

I'm sure someone will find a way to load a hack through some mechanism, something like the X-Box Bond hack. This kinda stuff just really tweaks me out, seeing what people can pull off on a hack like this. I just get envious and in awe. I do hope it leads to more indie/homebrew.
posted by symbioid at 11:55 AM on December 30, 2007


Hacking, yes, but the Wii, as a computing device, has somewhat more firepower than the original xbox, which can easily be picked up, and hacked to do most anything. The Wii has even less potential for cool and interesting software, as it is limited by having no hardware, and not having the bog standard x86 architecture that lent itself so well to hacking software for it.

The question becomes, why Wii homebrew? If it is to access the unique qualities of the Wii remote, then this is already achieved, as linked above. As a low cost MAME box/media center, the original xbox is much better situated, as it had a hard drive, and the x86 architecture.

psp homebrew came because sony sold a powerful small computing device below cost. Hacking it enabled you to turn a game system into a small powerful general purpose computer. DS hacking came about because Nintendo sold a low cost system with a large amount of unique features. The Wii console doesn't have a compelling reason for homebrew, only the controller does.

The Wii system itself is a previous generation console with no hard drive, a pittiance of flash memory, and one of the most innovative control schemes in video game history. Homebrew has already been successful with the control scheme.
posted by zabuni at 12:56 PM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've never understood the motivations to hack game systems and routers and such. I guess I'm not geek enough to get the point.
posted by jayzallme at 1:09 PM on December 30, 2007


The motivation, as I've seen it, is to make cool cheap commodity hardware do things one would normally need an expensive(r) computer to do. That, and piracy.

There wasn't, and still isn't, a set top box with all of the features of the Xbox Media Center. Mainly, because the MPAA would threaten to sue. Neither is there a device with the same price and feature set of a hacked PSP.
posted by zabuni at 1:29 PM on December 30, 2007


That, and piracy.

Well let's not kid ourselves, even though there is a large homebrew scene out there the primary reason most people mod their consoles is to play copies of copyrighted media. For the modder the homebrew becomes a nice side perk.

Granted there are plenty of modders out there that legally own everything they have copied...and have only done it to make their collection more manageable. But for the majority, I really think the larger part of the motivation is getting something for free that you would otherwise have to pay for. Of course just like anything of this nature, the more legal benifits of modding are encouraged on the boards which can create the perception that homebrew is the larger motivation (same goes with dvd-ripping, mp3s, cable decryption, sattelite FTA sites etc)
posted by samsara at 2:09 PM on December 30, 2007


> I guess I'm not geek enough to get the point.

You should be able to do whatever you want to with the hardware you own. I don't care if it's a subsidized phone or a subsidized game console -- you paid for it, it's yours. Nobody has the right to lock you out of your machine.

Cracks like these are important because they continue to demonstrate the principle that no security system can shield against attack by the legal owner of the hardware who has physical access to the device. You'd think this was obvious, but apparently it's not -- businesses continue to field business plans that require keeping hardware owners out of their own hardware.
posted by sdodd at 2:16 PM on December 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


Still, this kind of stuff is done for shits and giggles, not out of necessity. Businesses design these devices for a single purpose or a single set of purposes. I'm sure you earn your money like most others do. You wouldn't like it if you werent making as much due to others hacking their way out of paying you for your service or product.
posted by Student of Man at 2:35 PM on December 30, 2007


You wouldn't like it if you werent making as much due to others hacking their way out of paying you for your service or product.

I'd like a hack that could eliminate this tired and wrong argument. I paid for my xbox first. Then I put the mod chip in it. Nobody lost any money and I got to use the XBMC. Any hacking of a Wii requires you to buy one.

They may lose money because people play or use homebrew rather than their licensed games but there is no rule saying you have to buy more games once you buy the console.
posted by srboisvert at 2:45 PM on December 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


You'd think this was obvious, but apparently it's not -- businesses continue to field business plans that require keeping hardware owners out of their own hardware.

It makes total financial sense when you see the amount of piracy that goes on a PC versus a console. It's almost an order of magnitude. PC developers have been abandoning the platform in mass because of the better returns a console can get, even with console maker taking a cut off the top.

Not that I condemn homebrew. I fully believe you should do whatever the hell you want to do with your hardware. Yes, one can believe in copyright, and the right to hack hardware. Even though that most people use homebrew abilities to pirate.

Still, this is all tangential to the topic at hand. The Wii can already be modded, in fact the hack requires a mod chip for the disc to be read for homebrew. This in fact allows for things besides piracy, which the previous Wii hacks, and the current 360 hacks only allow. I really don't care if someone hacks their Wii to play Divx movies, I just really don't see the point.
posted by zabuni at 3:38 PM on December 30, 2007



srboisvert, I believe you can do whatever you please with you own hardware, tinkering is irresistible to some personality types. But my argument is not wrong as others have said hacking is mostly used for piracy. But if you want to play 3,000 full NES games on your xbox thats fine with me.
posted by Student of Man at 4:05 PM on December 30, 2007


> The motivation, as I've seen it, is to make cool cheap commodity hardware do things one would normally need an expensive(r) computer to do. That, and piracy.

I can't speak to the motivations of anybody hacking consoles these days, but folks used to hack the Playstation so that they could play games from other regions -- not exactly piracy when the games were purchased through greymarket exporters (usually storefront retailers in Japan who also took online orders from the States) rather than pirated.
posted by ardgedee at 4:43 PM on December 30, 2007



I can't speak to the motivations of anybody hacking consoles these days, but folks used to hack the Playstation so that they could play games from other regions -- not exactly piracy when the games were purchased through greymarket exporters (usually storefront retailers in Japan who also took online orders from the States) rather than pirated.


That as well, but that reason has faded over time. The ps3 is region free, as far as games are concerned. The 360 is not, but the current hack for the 360 doesn't allow the playing of games from other regions. The Wii is the only console where that would be a concern.
posted by zabuni at 5:12 PM on December 30, 2007


I've never understood the motivations to hack game systems and routers and such. I guess I'm not geek enough to get the point.

OK, lemme break it down for you.

See this? It costs about $50. With a new firmware, you can make it as powerful as one of these, which cost about $800.

Not satisfied? Ok. See this? You can get them refurbished for $25. With one of those, you can throw this software on it and it can do more (MUCH more) than what one of these can do. And those cost $450. And you can't play original arcade games on those, or watch YouTube videos, or any of that fun stuff.

I cannot WAIT for someone to start porting XBMC to this puppy.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:14 PM on December 30, 2007 [4 favorites]


I fail to see how the Wii has less potential for homebrew than the Xbox did. Linux has extensive PowerPC support, there are two USB 2.0 ports on the back, an SD card reader, integrated wireless and Bluetooth support, and a native mouse equivalent that blows away navigating menus with the Xbox controller. An XBMC port or copy with support for USB hard drives and a Bluetooth keyboard would blow away most media center pc's on the market.
posted by Benjy at 5:29 PM on December 30, 2007


The question becomes, why Wii homebrew?

Because I own a Wii, and I'd love to see some homebrew for it. I don't own an XBox 360 or a PS3, nor do I plan to. That's why. Each to their own.

Personally, what I've love to see most is some hack that would allow you to use the Wii to play video that isn't in the completely fucked-up MJPEG format. If this hack some time in the future would allow me to play DivX on my Wii, I would be a very happy boy.
posted by Jimbob at 8:37 PM on December 30, 2007


There wasn't, and still isn't, a set top box with all of the features of the Xbox Media Center.

I am --><-- this goddamn close to buying an Xbox to set up XBMC. I have scoured the intertubes for an off-the-shelf product that comes close, and there ain't one.

The only thing that holds me back is that my precious, precious dollars must be saved for a new laptop.
posted by middleclasstool at 9:21 PM on December 30, 2007


It makes total financial sense when you see the amount of piracy that goes on a PC versus a console. It's almost an order of magnitude. PC developers have been abandoning the platform in mass because of the better returns a console can get, even with console maker taking a cut off the top.

Developers have been moving to consoles because there is only one hardware configuration you have to deal with and you don't have to felatiate Microsoft in order to develop for Direct X.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:30 PM on December 30, 2007


fellate.
posted by stenseng at 12:26 PM on December 31, 2007


I'm super-excited about this - all I've wanted to do since I got my Wii was use it to watch DVDs and play abandonware. Media Center uses would be even better.
posted by god hates math at 1:07 PM on December 31, 2007


I used xbmc a ways back, and nothing compares to it yet. But having said that I am very pleased with Network Media Tank, and its progress. Working on adding some features myself, and it plays all 1080p materials nicely.
posted by lundman at 5:16 PM on December 31, 2007


It strikes me that a modded Wii would be just about the perfect small, silent frontend for a PC based media centre. Store everything on your PC and stream it to the Wii for playback. Or attach a huge external USB drive for the storage. Certainly no-one would complain if XBMC got ported to something smaller and quieter than the Xbox.

I wonder if the current efforts on porting XBMC to linux could be made to run on a PowerPC linux on the Wii?

Incidentally, I find it amusing that the increased efforts in tying down the 360 managed to lock out homebrew but failed in stopping the one thing they really cared about in piracy.
posted by markr at 5:27 PM on December 31, 2007


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