Saturday, April 26, 2008

Splish Splash, I Was Taking a Bath (with my PSP)

By: Michael Kwan
We've seen a wide assortment of waterproof cases for just about every technological gizmo on the planet, but this bath bag for the PSP has got to be one of the most low-tech solutions I've seen to date. It doesn't have a clever silicon seal and it doesn't adhere to military standards for water resistance. Instead, it's a glorified zip-lock bag.

The Cyber Gadget Bag, available here, is a plastic bag that has been designed for the Sony PlayStation Portable. The idea is that you are still able to press the buttons and see the screen, but none of that wet stuff will get access to the valuable electronics housed within. With the exception of the funky cord and blue accent at the top, this just looks like another plastic bag.

The scary thing is that products like this have been made for cell phones for ages in Japan, so it's only a natural progression to include gaming devices into the mix as well. I wonder if it'd work for the DS. Would the touchscreen still be functional?

Things You'll Need

In this article, you will learn how to get a microcontroller to communicate with the PSP and how to use it to make an interface for gamepads and more. Although it won't work with existing games out of the box, you can write your own homebrew games that use these controllers.

If you're lucky enough to own a Sony PSP capable of running homebrew software, you may have tried out some of the countless emulators and ports of older games out there already. The bad thing is that you can't play all the old games in two-player mode. Finding a solution for this was actually my motivation to start with this hack. First, it had to avoid any hardware modifications on the PSP itself, because I don't like to open such an expensive device. Since the PSP already provides infrared and USB ports, this wasn't much of a problem. Secondly, it had to be cheap. Being a student, I was looking for a cheap solution, and so I chose infrared. Aside from IR being cheaper, USB-capable controllers are hard to get.

As the interface consists of parts you can get at most electronic part distributors and doesn't require any special equipment, this project can be handled even by people with little programming and/or soldering experience.
  • An ATMega8 microcontroller
  • A programmer for the AVR (for loading your program onto the microcontroller)
  • Two male SUB-D connectors (9-pin)
  • 13 resistors, 1000 Ohm
  • One resistor, 470 Ohm
  • One infrared diode
If you build your own power supply:
  • One LM7805 Voltage Regulator
  • One electrolytic capacitor, 10mF
  • Two ceramic capacitors, 100 nFm
  • One diode 1N4001
I also recommend downloading the ATMega8 Data Sheet ( because it provides useful information about the microcontroller.

To create the software for the AVR, I have used AVR-GCC, which is included in the WinAVR Package ( A programmer like the AVR-PG2 from Olimex ( will fit your needs. You can either buy them there or build your own one easily with the schematics available for download.

You will also need the newest version of the PSPSDK ( If you haven't already, you have to install Cygwin ( in order to run PSPSDK on Windows.

A Brief Tutorial in Wireless PSP Gaming

Putting together a tutorial on how to set up the wireless game modes of the games you'll be playing might help if some of your players have not gotten down with PSP WiFi networking. But, then again, it is not rocket science.

You should prepare a short handout that applies to all games or write this info on the whiteboard:
  • Make sure that you have the WLAN switch on the On position.
  • Make sure that you have the PSP set to Ad Hoc Mode rather than Infrastructure Mode. To set up Ad Hoc Mode, navigate to Settings Network Settings, click the X button, choose Ad Hoc Mode, click the X button, and set to Automatic (or Ch 1, Ch 6, or Ch 11, depending upon what you all agree on). Hit the X button to save the settings.
If the venue for your WiFi LAN party has its own wireless connection, you may want to check with the owner to find out which channel they are broadcasting on, so that you can set your party to another channel. This should help cut down on interference for all parties involved.

Since the decline of the arcade in the U.S., there has been a void of public community gaming in the same room. It could be pretty cool to get together once a month with total strangers in your community to throw the smack down on the PSP. You could meet new people, play new games, and really get the most of your PSP networking features. Some critics say that video games are a solitary pastime, but they can be a great way to meet new people and zap them over WiFi.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Free PSP Game Downloads

(Robert Dipper)
With the new slim PSP out in Stores, it is a great time to get free PSP game downloads. PSP game downloads are available on a variety of websites. So where can you get Free PSP Game Downloads?

PSP gamers have the same problems with buying PSP games, as do other users. Sometimes you do not know if the game will be worth buying and other times you simply cannot afford to try out the games first. Well, that is no longer an issue; you can get Free PSP Game Downloads of the Internet. If you have the memory available on your PSP and preferably a high-speed connection, then you can fulfill your need to try out the new games on the market.

The largest problem many face with PSP Games is that the games are expensive and can cost $29 to $49 per game. That may not sound like a lot to pay, until you consider that you do not know if you will like playing the game. Another issue is that many cannot find the games at the stores, and waste time not being able to play that new exciting game. Many of the newest and best games on the market take time before they come out, with some places having to wait longer than others.

Well, no more now with Free PSP Game Downloads you can try out that new game before it hits the shelves, and for free. That means you don´t have to spend a lot of cash for a game to see if you even like it. You will not be wasting money on something you may not play more than a couple of times. Also you will not be stuck with the game either, just simply erase it from your PSP.

You do have a few Options out there when it comes to Free PSP Game Downloads.

You can look into the Best Membership sites on the Internet where you will get great features such the ability to download more than just games but movies, music, themes and wallpapers for free. There is one catch though; many of these charge a membership fee.

Now, the fee can be relatively cheap and others costly, yet you do not have a bunch of other junk on your computer either. However, if you do want a membership for life and simply want to try Free PSP Game Downloads, then simply use your Search Engine and surf around.

There are free sites where you can find games to download. However, some of these will also download a lot of junk on your computer and even with high-speed Internet can take a long time. Now, if Membership is what you are looking for then you might want to know how they work. Well, the best sites to get Free PSP Game Downloads with membership have a onetime fee upfront and generally run the price of a game. With this paid membership, you are not getting charged monthly and getting a bunch of stuff you didn´t want in the first place.

You also get the satisfaction of trying out a multitude of games including the new releases and top games, while getting access to other downloads and support.

How do you use the site? You go and pay your membership fee, and then look through all of the great Free PSP Game Downloads and start having fun.

Tips in choosing a site? When looking for a good site, be sure to make sure it´s a one time fee and not monthly, yearly or whatever do not be suckered into a lifetime of paying dues. Make sure that the site has all of the best and new games for PSP´s on the market. The better the site, the better the download. Make sure your site has customer support and a secured payment feature. The most important way to find out about a site is to Search it online and see what you come up with.

Do not be suckered. Search around, check out forums, and ask questions. Knowing the facts is the best way to find Free PSP Game Downloads. So now you are informed, go have fun.

Find The Party Spot

First, find a good place to have the LAN party. I would suggest a cafe that serves espresso-based drinks, because they have places to sit with power outlets, and they also have drinks and restrooms. Plus, they are all over the place and not as likely to give you the bum's rush as coffee and donut shops that prefer quick turnover to customers who linger. I bet that there is not one place in the Western world without a Starbucks or independent coffee shop less than 10 miles away. Just look for a place with parking that is centrally located around town. If you have a cybercafe or gaming center, then the location is a no-brainer.

Another idea is to have the LAN party at a local public library. As long as you ask the librarians in advance, bring headphones, and keep it calm, a library would be a great place for a PSP LANfest. They are also smoke-free, open for all ages, and they don't have elevator music pumped over the speakers like some cafes. If you open the gaming to the public, however, you might have trouble keeping things quiet, so talk to the librarian about booking a private room for the event if holding a publicly advertised game is your plan.

First of all, talk to the manager of the place you've picked. Explain that you would like to have a small get-together of gamers who want to play PSP together. Let the manager know that you plan on ordering drinks or food, and she will most likely not have a problem with it. Give yourself about three weeks to plan before the party to get the word out. Give the manager a call a day before the party as a reminder, in case she forgot.

Throw a PSP WiFi LAN Party!

Use the PSP's built-in ad hoc wireless capabilities to have an on-the-fly LAN party with your PSP-wielding friends.

The PSP is one heck of a little game system that promises sci-fi-like, wireless multiplayer gaming and 3-D graphics that rival top video game consoles. It is now possible to have a networked wireless LAN game with friends without having to carry desktop PCs, string Ethernet all over some dank basement, and worry about some loser cheating by running an aim-bot (a cheat program that automatically aims for you) and ruining the fun. Alas, one of the problems facing many PSP gamers is that not that many of their friends have invested $250 USD (as of December 2005) for a PSP of their very own.

How cool would it be to throw your own public PSP wireless LAN party? With some minor planning and fliers, you could throw the nerd gaming event of the season!

Online Playing Game Play

Once you are connected and successfully playing an opponent, one thing you will notice is that there is a noticeable difference between playing with your friend sitting across your living room and playing with your friend in Bangladesh, who you are racing in Wipeout Pure over the Internet. Although you canwith only a modicum of workget the connection between your PSP, your computer, and the XLink Kai network up and running, once you are connected, you will most likely have trouble connecting to games or hosting games from time to time. Keep on trying.

Wipeout Pure connected nicely for me when I was testing this hack, but while Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade supports WiFi game play, I could never get it to successfully connect to any other players. I should clarify here: we were able to connect, but we couldn't see each other and, if we weren't headed in the same direction, the game froze, timed out, and we were disconnected.

Also, if you are connected and playing a game successfully, you are still going to encounter all the lag problems that you experience with any other online gaming system. The game will only run as fast as its slowest player. In Wipeout Pure, I would sometimes have a good normal race, whereas other times, as soon as the race started, I would find myself racing the ghosts of my opponents and no one would know whether they were winning or not until they finished the race. Several times, my PSP told me I was in first place, but when I jumped through the finish line, thinking I'd won, I suddenly was confronted with the information that I had finished third.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Quick recap of the online gaming basic steps

Here's a quick recap of the basic steps:
  1. Make sure that your PSP and your PSP's WLAN switch are both turned off.
  2. Turn on your PSP and change the network settings to Ad Hoc on Channel 1.
  3. Load the game you want to play, switch on the WLAN switch, and begin hosting a wireless game.
  4. On your computer, establish a computer-to-computer or ad hoc connection with the PSP.
  5. Launch Kai or Kaid. If you are on Mac OS X, launch Amaryllis after launching Kaid.
  6. Make sure you are successfully logged in to XLink Kai.
  7. Stop hosting the game on your PSP.
  8. Start hosting a new game or select a game in Kai/Amaryllis and try to join that game on your PSP.
If you are having trouble connecting, just go through these steps again, and refer to the online tutorials available via the XLink Kai forums ( If you switch games, you will have to close everything out and start over from the beginning, as each separate game broadcasts under a different ad hoc or computer-to-computer networked name. The people who are successfully logging in and playing are following the preceding steps to a tee, and starting over from the beginning anytime anything goes wrong.

How to Connect to XLink Kai?

Now that you have established a computer-to-computer network with your PSP, it's time to load XLink Kai.

On a PC, launch Kai, log in to your XLink Kai account, and check Kai's diagnostics to make sure that it is reading your PSP correctly.

On a Mac, first launch Kaid, then load Amaryllis and enter the login information to your XLink Kai account. Navigate to the consoles tab in Amaryllis and select the PSP console room.

Now, back on the PSP, you can at this point stop attempting to host the game that you used to connect the PSP to your computer. You may now begin hosting a new game on your PSP or try to join one of the games being shared out from your computer to your PSP via Kai or Amaryllis.

Enjoy playing online with others!

Prepare Your Computer for Online PSP Gaming

Now that your PSP is eagerly awaiting other PSP players, it's time to get your computer to make the Internet connection. Remember, your computer must be getting its Internet connection via Ethernet, since your wireless card will not be able to both receive and send the signal to both your broadband network and your PSP. Make sure that everything is running smoothly as far as the Internet goes on your computer. Assuming that it is, you need to set up a computer-to-computer or ad hoc network over WiFi between your computer and the PSP. If you are on Windows or Linux, make sure that the settings for your wireless connection are set to ad hoc. On Mac OS X, all you need to do is click on the AirPort signal icon in the menu bar, and under Computer-to-Computer Networks, you will see an oddly named computer starting with PSP_,. This is your PSP, which is currently broadcasting, searching to host a multiplayer game. Select the PSP from the list to create a computer-to-computer network between your computer and the PSP.

Set up your PSP for Internet Gaming

This step universally applies, no matter what type of computer you are running.

Make sure that the wireless switch on your PSP is turned off and that your PSP is also turned off. Turn on your PSP. Go to Settings Network Settings and click the X button. Select Ad Hoc Mode and hit the X button. You will be prompted to select a channel. Choose Channel 1 and hit the X button, and then hit the X button again to save these settings.

You could leave the channel set to automatic and everything would still work, and you would most likely find yourself able to play with other people running their PSPs on other channels. However, it's been my own experience, as well as the experience of others online, that playing via Channel 1 works better on the PSP.

Next, load the WiFi-capable game that you would like to play and switch the PSP's wireless switch into the On position. Navigate to a point in the game where you can host a wireless network game. This will differ according to which game you choose to play, so refer to the documentation that came with your game. Once you have started hosting a game, the LED that indicates there is WiFi activity should begin actively flashing. Your PSP is waiting for others to join from the Internet. This is where your computer comes into play.

The Way PSP Internet Gaming Works

Your computer connects to your DSL/cable modem via the wired Ethernet connection. Your computer, running XLink Kai, routes the Internet connection coming from its Ethernet port and shares it out via your 802.11b-compatible wireless card. You create a computer-to-computer network between your computer and your PSP, and XLink Kai does all the heavy lifting of convincing your PSP that the games connecting over the Internet and streaming forth from your computer are actually only local PSPs trying to play a friendly game. The procedure described in this hack is the general setup that you will follow, no matter which platform you are using.

The XLink Kai forums have tutorials for using XLink Kai on nearly every platform out there to play PSP games wirelessly over the Internet ( For this hack, I will walk you through the step-by-step process of connecting via Mac OS X, which is one of the more complicated setups. If you are on one of the other platforms, for the most part, the same steps listed here will work for your platform; however, you won't have the added step of installing and running Amaryllis in the mix. I recommend that you read through the entire hack before beginning, since taking the steps in the right order is important.

Things Needed for PSP Internet Gaming

Here's what you'll need:
  • Your PSP.
  • High-speed Internet connection (DSL or cable).
  • A computer running Linux (x86, MIPS, or PPC), Windows (98/98se/ 2000/ME/XP), or Macintosh OS X (10.3 or newer) hooked into your high-speed Internet connection via Ethernet.
  • An 802.11b-compatible WiFi card in your computer that is also compatible with XLink Kai (a list of compatible cards can be found here:, or an 802. 11b-compatible router capable of running XLink Kai.
  • A free registered account with XLink Kai ( and a downloaded copy of XLink Kai Evolution for your platform.
  • The free Amaryllis ( from Nullriver Software, the makers of PSPWare (Amaryllis is only required if you are running Mac OS X).

Sunday, April 6, 2008

More tips

This tips should work with various games, but there are many games that don't work this way. Although I have tried again and again, I haven't been able to get a group game of Lumines going successfully. The connection starts, but then one or the other machine times out. Maybe it needs very precise timing, or maybe it isn't possible. However, I've given up on it, because I figured out another trick: just because you cannot join a WiFi game using only one UMD disk doesn't mean that you cannot all share one UMD disk.

The majority of the games available for the PSP don't actively access the disk during game play (this is how this multiplayer hack works in the first place). Rather, the individual boards are loaded into the PSP's memory and then the disk goes unused until you progress to the next level, need to save, or unlock some new cut scene. So, why not share the game among multiple PSPs?

This trick will work with most board/level-based games. Just before writing this hack, I successfully tried it with both Lumines and DarkStalkers.

Here's how it works:
  1. Load up the game in your PSP and start a single-player game.
  2. As soon as it starts, hit the Start button and pause the game.
  3. Eject your UMD disk, select No, and hit the X button when the PSP asks whether you want to quit the game. The game will return to the pause screen.
  4. Hand your UMD disk to your friend, so that she can load up a single-player game.
  5. Once it loads for your friend, have her hit Start, pause the game, and eject the UMD disk, passing it on to another friend.
  6. Once everybody is ready to go, unpause and begin playing.
With Lumines, you can have a contest between all the players to see who lasts the longest. After a while, the music in the background will stop playing, but the game will continue. In Wipeout Pure, you can see who finishes the agreed-upon race first. In DarkStalkers, you can see who beats his opponent first. Think about all the different group games and tournaments you could have without the WiFi connectivity, but by sharing a single UMD disk.

The best part about this trick is that once you reach time to switch boards, usually the game just hangs, waiting for the UMD. Retrieve the disk from your friend, load up the next board, hit Pause, and then start passing the disk around. You have hours of shared gaming ahead of you. Have fun!

Sharing Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix

First things first: make sure that you and your friend(s) have the WLAN switch on the bottom-left corner of your PSPs switched on. Assuming that you are playing host to the game, start up Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix. Once you click through all the beginning bits and load any saved profiles you may want to use, select WiFi Play from the game menu wheel.

Next, select Host Game as you would for any normal WiFi game, and set your server settings per your liking. Then, hit the X key to begin hosting. You will have to wait while the board you selected loads in server mode.

Once it has finished loading, your character will enter Free Skate Mode. Eject your disk, choose No, and hit the X button when the PSP asks whether you want to quit the game. You will return to Free Skate Mode. Make sure you leave the drive door open for now.

Continue free skating as your friend puts the UMD in her PSP and clicks through all the beginning bits. Your friend will select WiFi Play from the game menu wheel, choose Join Game, and select your game from the menu. Once your friend's PSP screen reads "Status: Joining game…," your PSP's screen will have an overlay reading that your friend is joining the game (see Figure 4-2) and, in all likelihood, your free skate will freeze. When this happens, have your friend eject the UMD disk and pass it back to you.

Put the UMD back in your PSP and wait until the screen begins moving again, still with the notification of your friend joining. Now, eject the UMD again and pass it quickly back to your friend. After she reinserts the UMD disk into her machine, the loading screen should appear on the second PSP, while you continue to free skate
If you didn't do all of these steps quickly enough, the connection will time out and you will receive a notification that your friend failed to connect. Your friend's board will still load, however, and inform her that the connection was lost. You can both continue to free skate, or your friend can return to the game's WiFi screen and try the joining process again.

If you do everything quickly enough, you will both be free skating together and can begin playing. I have both PSPs running the game, connected in a WiFi game, and the tray is still open on the host machine.

Depending upon whether you simply free skate, change games, or change boards, you may have to switch several more times after this initial connection is established. You may also try to connect a third PSP by repeating the steps between the PSP hosting the game and this third PSP.

This entire process can take five minutes each time you try, so this little trick, while cool, isn't really a long-term solution for multiplayer WiFi gaming. If you like the game that you are joining in on, you may want to invest in your own copy to prevent this delayed setup process from becoming aggravating over time.

Share one UMD disk between multiple PSPs in an ad hoc multiplayer WiFi game

You've just bought a brand new PSP and so has your best friend. You are both eager to play head-to-head, using the PSP's wireless gaming capabilities. Unfortunately, you and your friend have differing tastes in games and, as a result, you don't have two copies of any one game between the both of you. Before you run out to rent or buy a duplicate game from your combined lists, try this little method to trick your PlayStation Portables into thinking that you have two copies of your game.

Shortly after the North American release of the PSP, several different sites and online forums began simultaneously reporting that people could play multiplayer ad hoc games among multiple Playstation Portables using only one UMD disk. Here's the basic procedure:
  1. Load up an ad hoc multiplayer game on your PSP.
  2. Eject the UMD disk.
  3. The PSP will ask "Are you sure you want to quit this game?" Quickly select No and hit the X button.
  4. Hand the disk to your friend.
  5. Your friend puts the UMD disk in her PSP, loads up the game, and connects to the ad hoc multiplayer game you started.
  6. Now, either both PSPs will freeze (if this happens, proceed to the next set of steps) or you both will start playing.
Alternately, you can at this point start again from step 2 to invite yet another friend to play.

If both PSPs froze at step 6, then it's time to troubleshoot the swap by doing some more swapping:
  1. Your friend ejects the UMD disk and selects not to quit the game.
  2. You put the UMD disk back in your PSP.
  3. You both start playing. If, yet again, both PSPs freeze at this point, return to step 1 but reverse who gets the disk. Rinse, repeat.
Unfortunately, this trick only works in certain games, and can be slightly different depending on the game you are using. It's mostly a matter of timing, trial, and error.

To give you an idea of how it works, I'm going to walk you through sharing one Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix UMD between two PSPs.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Notepad/Portable Office Documents in PSP

The lack of notepad and office capability of the PSP is admittedly the weak point of its PDA possibilities. However, this is mostly due to the lack of any sort of quick text-entry device. Mac users can easily export PowerPoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets, and Word documents to PDF and then convert to JPEG for viewing through the photo capabilities of the PSP (if you're on Windows or Linux, you can do the same with Adobe Acrobat or GhostScript, or use the free OpenOffice to open the documents and then generate your PDF). Word documents can be converted to plain text files that are readable by the browser.

Unfortunately, none of these solutions allows you to edit your documents while you are on the go. If you have Internet access and a PSP with Version 2.0 firmware, however, you will find that you can use your PSP to edit most of the popular types of online blogs, wikis, and other editable sites, so if you need to jot down some notes, why not log in to your blogging platform of choice (I use WordPress) via the PSP and save your notes as drafts on the site? You can access these later and flesh out your hastily scrawled notes that you banged out on the PSP's primitive text-entry system. If you want, you can easily configure such software to allow you to view and edit things, but keep the rest of the world from seeing anything.

If you are running Version 1.5 of the firmware, there is a homebrew solution called "Notepad for the PSP"

To-Do List in PSP

A to-do list isn't very useful unless you can cross off items as you accomplish them, so while you could set up a to-do list as a single JPEG image, this wouldn't prove very useful. The only way it might work would be to create a separate image file for each item on your to-do list, and save these all in a single To Do folder in the PHOTO folder of your Memory Stick. Then, as you complete each item on the list, you simply have to select that image from the list and hit the Triangle button to pull up the control panel on the right side of the screen. Select Delete and erase the image.

In addition to this makeshift to-do list, you can always use the browser method to access a to-do list over the Internet or locally on your Memory Stick, although a generic todo.txt file wouldn't be editable.

For a full-featured to-do list (and more), check out Backpack ( Backpack lets you set up a workspace that you can fill with to-dos, notes, and reminders for free.

Calendar in PSP

The PSP displays both date and time in the upper-right corner of its screen, so you can use it to keep track of the time. However, to qualify as an actual PDA, the PSP needs to support a full calendar. As with the address book functionality, you are facing the same choices when setting up a calendar on the PSP: you can either reproduce your own calendar in JPEG form available via the Photo menu, use an online calendar service via a web browser or access a local text or HTML calendar on your PSP, or use one of the homebrew calendar options. WinPSPortal has a very basic calendar, and while the JavaScript PSP Homebrew Portal also has a calendar, it didn't work for me during testing.