melonDS RSS http://melonds.kuribo64.net The latest news on melonDS. Chaos ahead -- by Arisotura http://melonds.kuribo64.net/comments.php?id=113 Mon, 16 Mar 2020 10:00:33 +0000
I guess that within the current situation, I owe you a post to keep you informed on things.


We're envisioning FLTK for a new UI, but I have yet to give it a try and see whether it would be a good fit for melonDS given how it works.

Motivation is at a low here though.

But, to give you an idea what to expect: given the scope of what we are developing, we're aiming straight for a 0.9 release.


The IRL situation isn't helping things. You might be aware of the coronavirus. We at the Melon Factory of Kuribo64 are fine for now, but the pandemic is growing, and with it, a set of heavy consequences.

After underestimating the virus for a while, France is finally taking confinment measures.

That may slow things down regarding the plans I have IRL, like, my attempts at getting a decent job.

What worries me more than the coronavirus, though, is the ongoing economical crisis. Markets are crashing and I guess it's not a good thing. It all seems abstract for now, but sure enough, in a while we will begin seeing concrete effects to this. Like, I don't think this is the best time for getting a job, but it's also going to be a mediocre time in general for the smallest and most vulnerable.

So, I'm keeping a close eye on all that. Worst case would mean I'd have to take immediate action to avoid going bankrupt and ending up homeless. Probably ending up in some squat.]]>
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well, shit -- by Arisotura http://melonds.kuribo64.net/comments.php?id=112 Tue, 25 Feb 2020 00:45:10 +0000
Except then I need to properly design my basic blocks (AR code list parser thing, AR engine, etc) so that they can be interconnected nicely.

Which is where I began thinking about the kind of interface I would need for entering cheat codes.

And...

Uh oh.

libui doesn't support the kind of controls I want to use.

Generic has been thinking of a kickass debugger UI and running into the same issue.

So... it's time to take a decision here.

We haven't taken a decision yet. Basically we need a good UI toolkit, that, ideally, is lightweight yet well-featured, modular (so you don't need to embed a complete behemoth if you aren't using everything), uses native UI controls, supports drawing areas and OpenGL...

This is going to be another great moment of 'fuck technology'.

If you have any ideas that aren't Qt, your input is welcome.]]>
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By popular request -- by Arisotura http://melonds.kuribo64.net/comments.php?id=111 Sat, 15 Feb 2020 12:13:14 +0000

You guess.


I'm not forgetting about the OpenGL work that was started, either, but I really needed to work on something new to get some motivation back and not let melonDS die.

Also, our comrades RSDuck/Generic and Chagall have been working on some pretty rad shit too. We're coordinating to unite all that nicely for an epic release eventually.]]>
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New melonDS feature: GBA connectivity -- by Chagall http://melonds.kuribo64.net/comments.php?id=110 Tue, 28 Jan 2020 23:12:11 +0000
This feature is mostly used in DS games to grant bonuses to players who own specific GBA titles. For example, inserting a GBA Ace Attorney game and launching the DS version will unlock all cases in the remake. Some games go further and read/write save data from/to the GBA cartridge (as in Pokémon games), or in one case polls its I/O port (Lunar Knights/Boktai DS).

All these features are now integrated in the master branch of the melonDS git repository. As far as I'm aware, this makes melonDS the first emulator to support solar sensor emulation in Lunar Knights. The video below demonstrates using the Solar Sensor item in Boktai DS with Bokura no Taiyou in the GBA slot.



Of course, you can also send your pocket monsters from GBA to DS, as demonstrated in this video:



As on real hardware, the GBA save file is modified during migration as the Pokémon are moved to the DS game:



Thanks to endrift of mGBA for the solar sensor emulation code that I used as a primary reference, and to DeSmuME authors for the GBA cartridge Flash save read/write logic that helped a lot with supporting the Pokémon games. Martin Korth's GBATEK document was also a great general reference.

For those curious to try this new feature as soon as possible, another bit of news is the addition of continuous integration to the melonDS git repository, which generates binaries for Windows and Linux from the master branch. If you have a GitHub account, head over to the Workflows page, select the newest build for your platform, and download the artifact shown on the page. We don't have a way to provide the latest build to users who are not logged into GitHub yet, but the latest build for Windows at this time is available here.

To load a GBA title, either drag and drop a .gba file over melonDS, use the "Open ROM..." menu and select the "GBA ROM" file type, or, if you happen to use the command-line interface, add the path to the GBA ROM file as an extra argument following that of the DS one. Note that if the DS is on while a GBA cartridge is inserted, it will usually not be recognized in-game (as on real hardware). Either load the GBA cartridge before booting the system, or reset afterwards.

Solar sensor level is bound by default to the left (4) and right (6) keypad arrow keys, but can be rebound in the settings. Note that it is only active while a valid Boktai cartridge is inserted.

I hope everyone enjoys this new feature. melonDS is moving forwards at a good pace, so it's a great time to get involved if you are interested in improving DS emulation.]]>
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Sorry for the silence lately -- by Arisotura http://melonds.kuribo64.net/comments.php?id=109 Fri, 17 Jan 2020 14:53:18 +0000
Well, if you know me, you know that:

* I tend to only be able to focus on one big thing at once
* I am a trans girl

About the second point, I'm wanting to 'finish' my transition. There isn't a specific point where a gender transition can be considered finished; when your transition is finished depends on your criteria.

For me, that means I'm currently putting together the paperwork to get my name changed. Not the most difficult part, but anything involving paperwork tends to drain my energy, so you guess how that goes.

And it's not over, next comes getting my gender marker changed, and that one is more difficult (surprise).

Finishing my transition also means a few other things, like finally working on my voice or taking some time to figure out my style and build a better wardrobe.

There's also the whole bit where my job ends in about one month, and for now I don't quite know what I'll do next.


Sorry for the lack of activity wrt melonDS, but hopefully that will pick up again soon.

I began adapting the 4xBRZ filter shader to the OpenGL renderer a while ago, which is giving decent results, but I need to finish it (namely adding the 3D layer to it). I'm experimenting with ways to filter the 2D elements when the 3D layer is being upscaled.]]>
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melonDS wishes you a merry Christmas! -- by Arisotura http://melonds.kuribo64.net/comments.php?id=108 Sun, 22 Dec 2019 15:42:59 +0000
We're also past melonDS's third birthday. Time flies, it's crazy.

So what's new on that front? Well, not a lot, alas. I want to improve the OpenGL renderer, but for now, I started working on things, hit a roadblock as to how to do certain things, and, surprise, lost motivation. So until I get that back, there won't be a whole lot happening.

Also, Christmas might be more or less of a shitshow, as I'm trying to make it to my hometown to see my family whom I haven't seen in ages. I'm eagerly waiting for that, but it's not going to be that simple. Remember the general strike from Dec 5? Lo and behold, it's still going, and the train I had booked was cancelled due to it. I booked a bus instead, which is going to be a lot of fun (11-hour trip during the night, in conditions where I can hardly sleep). Besides, the crazy Macron government is indirectly pushing these bus drivers to drive as long as possible without rest (mostly to make up for the strike), by passing a bill to remove the requirement for breaks every 2h, thus completely disregarding security for the sake of profit. So, if I happen to die in a bus crash, you know who to blame.

Anyway, back to OpenGL. So, what I wanted to do:

1. Taking care of dual-screen 3D, and more generally any case where display capture is used. Currently, 3D frames that go through display capture end up downscaled back to 256x192, obviously because they need to fit in VRAM, and anything that uses them expects them to be that resolution.

There are ways to address that for the common use cases, though. As long as a captured frame isn't accessed by the CPU, it is possible to bypass VRAM entirely and instead use something like an OpenGL texture, without causing any visible problems. Sure, it's not too accurate to how the DS works, but neither is the general idea of upscaling. I am fine with this as long as we keep the accurate pathway (basically, the software renderer).

Anyway, the issue there is that I have to envision all the possible use cases. And for example, one possibility is to capture to a VRAM bank, with capture blending set to blend between the frame being rendered and a previous frame sitting in a VRAM bank (which may be the same bank we are capturing to).

I could always start with a simple use case (like dual-screen 3D). The issue is that I always feel the need to envision the whole scope of the project, all the use cases etc, because I fear that if I start building something for one use case, it may later prove unsuitable for other uses cases, and cause me to have to start again from scratch.

So, while simple display capture can be implemented as a simple colorbuffer copy, any case that relies on blending will need more work. I will need to think of a workaround for the case where we read and write to the same VRAM bank, because doing so is a no-no in OpenGL.

Oh well.

2. Add filtering to 2D elements. This is less simple than it sounds, due to how layer compositing is handled in OpenGL mode. I thought about adding something simple first, basically, linear filtering. But a clear issue is how to handle borders between 2D and 3D. Keeping them pixelated is the easiest way but also the least nice one. The more obvious choice would be to smoothly fade from one to the other, but due to them being distinct layers with specific blending rules, it's easier said than done. I'll have to experiment there, but filtering on 2D elements is something I definitely want to pull off. I plan on adding other filters, like xBRZ. Those would do wonders on a game like NSMB, for example.

Oh well, we'll find ways.

Other improvements would be adding texture filtering and fixing some rendering bugs, nothing big.

Also, we need to push the JIT some more. The JIT beta seems to have gotten much less traction than I anticipated.]]>
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JIT beta builds and introducing myself -- by Generic aka RSDuck http://melonds.kuribo64.net/comments.php?id=107 Sat, 07 Dec 2019 00:20:22 +0000
As Arisotura has stated in her last post, there's now another head working on melonDS. I'm Generic on IRC and RSDuck on Github.

For some reason I started messing with DeSmuME a bit more than a year ago, trying to write a JIT recompiler targetting ARM64, to improve performance on the Switch. After many struggles something working came to be, but it missed it's original goal of being fast for several reasons (see the link if you're interested).

After recovering from the disappointment I put my hopes into melonDS, but since it lacked any JIT compiler (besides the abandoned attempt by Arisotura herself) I wanted to start with a x64 recompiler. Skip forward a bit and the JIT started take on form. After taking everything apart and putting things more cleanly back together around the beginning of last summer things only got better, with most instructions being recompiled and the opening of the pull request on Github, which later got merged.

At this time the ARM64 backend was started this time avoiding my previous mistakes. With autumn it reached a similar level of completion as the x64 backend while both backends received some optimisations. Until this point we were catching up to DeSmuME but at this point started to surpass it. Here is where I want to thank all developers of open source emlulators whose dynarec I was eable to look into and especially the developers of the JIT of Dolphin. We're not only using their code emitter but they also gave me some great advice on IRC!

With some further optimisations of the 2D GPU emulation using ARM NEON instructions, most 2D games already run at fullspeed on the Switch, while most 3D games run at fullspeed with overclocking. The ARM64 JIT and the GPU optimisations are currently located in my own fork and are distributed by me in binary form on Gbatemp in an admittedly chaotic way.

I am very grateful to Arisotura for creating the emulator in the first place, as well as trusting in me and my work. For the future the already mentioned GPU optimisations are my current focus. I'm currently rewriting the old ARM NEON optimisations to be more clean and adding some additional ones which hopefully increase the performance a bit more. The logical step following would be a NEON 3D GPU backend. I have some more plans lying around, e.g. there is still one major JIT optimisation we're missing out on (fastmem).

So but now enough storytelling, here are the builds:

Note:

These builds are my JIT branch (generic_jit) merged with master into a separate branch.

The JIT recompiler has to be enabled in Settings -> Emulation. The default maximum block size is 10, this is a very conservative number, as I don't know of any game which breaks with high maximum block size. If you experience any bugs which can't be reproduced with JIT disabled, please try lowering the maximum block size and disabling one or both of the options Literal Optimisations and Branch Optimisations and let me know. Though there already has been some testing through people building from source themselves and the semiofficial Switch builds, both uncovered some bugs.

melonDS 0.8.3 JIT beta for x64 Windows
melonDS 0.8.3 JIT beta for x64 Linux
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Status update II -- by Arisotura http://melonds.kuribo64.net/comments.php?id=106 Thu, 05 Dec 2019 22:34:34 +0000

First of all, things have been a bit shitshow-y, and involved a few bursts of depression, but, finally, it's there, I have my apartment now. I'm not quite finished settling here, but that's a big relief for now. Plus, the place is fairly nice! Except for the wall sockets being upside-down, but, eh.


Next, I'm being sucky at delivering a JIT beta. Thing is, unlike the DSi branch which was hacked together by me, the JIT branch is Generic's work, so I will need to take a while and get familiar with it.

In the meantime, I figured I would let Generic handle things himself. I gave him access to this blog and all, so he will be able to post a beta build, which he said he would do tomorrow.

I figure the best way to work with this long-term is to work as a duo. I'm less skilled on things like fast CPU emulation, and more skilled on other parts of emulation, so other people like Generic can complement me nicely there and together we can deliver an excellent product.

And, holy fucking shit, reconciling the JIT and DSi branches is something I'm totally looking forward to. At this point, the DSi branch already has several conflicts with the master branch (it's based off 0.8.1, so yeah), and, no idea about the JIT branch.


Immediately tho, I'm going to improve the OpenGL renderer. This means reorganizing some of the code so it's easier to work with, fixing some longstanding issues like the case of dual-screen 3D, and adding some filtering.

You can follow the progress in the appropriately named blackmagic_II branch.


Hell, even writing this post is taking me forever.


Also, today's Dec 5, and it's the general strike day. Seeing how successful it was, if they manage to keep going at this rate (and they totally intend to keep going), president Macron is going to have a hard time. But, this also means that certain things may be delayed, or whatever, so we'll see.]]>
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Status update -- by Arisotura http://melonds.kuribo64.net/comments.php?id=105 Sun, 17 Nov 2019 10:28:33 +0000

Couple things though.


On melonDS, things are going to be mostly on hold until I manage to get a proper apartment and am all settled in and all. But, two things. First, Generic said that the JIT branch is ready for a beta release, so I'll be doing that. Second, as a next direction to take the project, I'm thinking about adding support for AR cheat codes.

I'll also be trying to fix the remaining issues with the OpenGL renderer, but some are going to be tricky. Also, things related to this renderer: I need to come up with a not-too-hacky solution for dual-screen 3D and upscaling, and to add support for filtering in OpenGL mode (including xBRZ or something of that ilk).


But, blegh. The apartment. I visited one a while ago, now I'm going to have to put together the paperwork and hope it isn't too late. There are other apartments I can try, but, hey, I liked that one. So, here's hoping.


Oh also, this is Nov 17, birthday of the yellow vest movement. French protest movement that started one year ago, was originally against a gas tax raise but turned radical and against precarity in general, which seems to be a common theme these days (thinking about Hong Kong, Chile, ...). Despite the fact that the movement as it is will not bring revolution, it seems to want to never end... (what kind of protest movement lasts one whole year?)

But we can see that it's having an effect on protests in general, they turn more radical now. Like recently, a student from Lyon set himself on fire out of despair after being thrown into precarity. Had that happened two years ago for example, nobody would have cared, it'd just have been "another depressive sicko attempts suicide, film at eleven". But instead, this sparked several student-led protests and blockades, including one that broke into the Ministère de l'Enseignement Supérieur.

Dec 5 is going to be the general strike, too. I first thought that would be lame, as most of these attempts were a while back, but, now, within the different context, this looks like it's going to be quite something. May also cause some trouble on my end, but, we'll see.

Anyway, happy birthday to the yellow vests. I've been following the movement closely, and even taking part in it, as it gave me hope when I was at the worst of depression, so this means a lot to me.]]>
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When things turn out unexpectedly simple -- by Arisotura http://melonds.kuribo64.net/comments.php?id=104 Sun, 20 Oct 2019 10:02:42 +0000
Shows that taking a break does wonders.

Just yesterday, I idly looked at that bug again. Reproduced the freeze, then pressed F11 (debug key printing some status to the console) a few times to see if I could see a pattern. The ARM9 seemed to exhibit typical 'idle thread' behavior; the ARM7 however, seemed to get stuck in a loop. A quick glance at my IDB of the firmware code confirmed this:

AES wait routine

If you aren't fluent in ARM assembly, this function waits for the AES engine to finish whatever crypto operation it is doing, by checking the busy flag in AES_CNT.

But, in our case, the ARM7 got stuck inside this because, somehow, said busy flag remained set forever.

Some logging of AES operations shown that, while loading the game, the firmware would start a decrypt operation with a block count of zero. melonDSi didn't check for that case, and instead waited for data input that would never come (heh), causing the busy flag to remain set forever. You guess how this goes.

After quickly fixing this bug, I tried loading a cart game again. It still froze on a white screen, but the logs showed it was getting further. In particular:

UNIMPLEMENTED ARM9 NDMA3 START MODE 04, 04100010->021153A0 LEN=1 BLK=1 CNT=A4044000

That meant the game was actually booting, and attempting to load its data, using NDMA ('new DMA' implemented in the DSi) for whatever reason. NDMA start mode 04 is for cart slot DMA, which is triggered every time a data word is transferred from the cart.

This was quickly taken care of, too. A bunch of the NDMA start modes mirror those of 'old' DS DMA, so I just hooked those into the functions responsible for taking care of DS DMA. The only one that needs more extensive checking is GXFIFO mode, since it has a maximum block length of 112 words, I'm not sure how that interacts with the block subdivision system of NDMA.

Anyway, with this, I was finally able to boot DSi-enabled games.

Nothing terribly exciting to show tho. After all, most of the DSi-enhanced games out there don't have much extra features other than making use of the DSi cameras, so we have to do something to emulate them.

Loading DSi ROMs is also a bit finicky as they have to be one specific way for it to work (right now, with the DSi-specific data encrypted). And, some of the ROM dumps out there lack the DSi-specific data, so it would be good to add some verification and warn the user if their ROM is a bad dump.


Speaking of which, I am thinking of the ways I can make this evolve, now that it's atleast working to some extent. Namely:

* lowering the entry barrier, that is, upgrading dsidumper to dump all the required material in one go

* getting rid of some of the required files. boot2_7/9.bin can be sourced from the NAND directly, provided I can find a way to derive the required decryption keys. initmem7/9.bin could be made optional, the required data can also be sourced from certain particular BIOS dumps (the ones that NO$GBA requires) (and dsidumper could also be upgraded to produce such augmented BIOS dumps). Not sure about aeskeys.bin.

* rewriting the trainwreck that is the SD/MMC controller code. As an example, Flipnote Studio tends to softlock while saving due to bugs in that code. It was written mainly to get things working, and it shows, but now that we know that things are working, we can afford to rewrite it cleanly. Some other DSi parts (AES engine, ...) could use some cleanup, but they aren't as bad.

* adding features such as cameras and wifi connectivity

* ability to direct-boot DSi games, and work out something for DSiware

* the holy grail, eventually, merging all that back into regular melonDS]]>
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