melonDS RSS https://melonds.kuribo64.net The latest news on melonDS. Opening your eyes to the world -- by Arisotura https://melonds.kuribo64.net/comments.php?id=160 Sun, 17 Apr 2022 13:54:47 +0000
I was thinking of implementing things like SoundEx and microphone support, but Generic said he was going to implement that, so I'm letting him having fun there. Instead, I went for improving camera emulation. After all, cameras are the main thing DSi-exclusive games make use of, so DSi emulation with no camera support just feels incomplete.

melonDS 0.9.4 already has some very basic camera emulation, but it basically just does the bare minimum to pass the camera init sequence, and then returns a fixed stripe pattern (which is basically just the picture data register returning a fixed value). Nothing exciting.

For example, you can open the DSi camera app and get to the actual camera part of it, but trying to take a picture will result in a system error. Reason for this is that the camera can be set to output at multiple resolutions. It has two modes of operation, named 'preview' and 'capture', which makes sense in applications like digital cameras: preview mode would provide a low-res preview of what the camera sees, that can be displayed on a built-in screen, while capture mode would provide a full-res picture that can be saved. The DSi camera lets you configure two contexts, each with their output resolution, image format, and various other options (for example, flipping the picture...).

So I first had to add support for these modes of operation. I first implemented the registers necessary to handle the camera mode/context switch. But, of course this wasn't enough. The stub in place for picture transfer assumed a resolution of 256x192, but in this case, the resolution is changed to 640x480. This also means that the DSi camera app expects more picture data to come, and it will softlock if there isn't enough data incoming.

This is where my camera test homebrew came in handy. I modified it so that I could do things like switching between the front and back cameras, switch between preview and capture modes, and even use the picture cropping feature to view different areas of the picture in 640x480 mode (as obviously it wouldn't fit onscreen). Doing this let me get a good grasp on how these features were supposed to work.

Then I felt confident implementing all that into melonDS.



This is a preexisting still picture, not actual camera input. But regardless, we have working camera emulation now, and this is half the battle. The other half would be reading picture data from sources like an actual camera, feeding it into the emulator, and integrating all that into the UI.

Taking a picture in the DSi camera app also works, and thanks to the SD folder-sync system, I can easily retrieve the resulting picture. For example, the original file, and the resulting DSi picture.

There is also still a bunch of tidbits to take care of, as far as camera emulation goes. For example, all details and edge cases pertaining to the picture transfer hardware. It's tricky to work with, because from my understanding, picture data is transferred from the camera on a per-scanline basis, but the transfer hardware holds it in a buffer which is limited to 512 words, and it has no idea what resolution the picture is. It just knows to trigger a DMA transfer every N scanlines (N being configured in CAM_CNT), but if these N scanlines amount to more data than the buffer can hold, you're going to get blank lines in your picture.

The DSi cameras themselves also have a looooot of low-level details, many of which don't matter in the case of melonDS. It's like for the DS wifi hardware: we have to deal with these things to some extent because we're doing low-level emulation, and the games/apps we emulate run on the bare metal, but a lot of it isn't useful to our emulator, and in most/all cases a lot of it is initialized to some generic settings and never touched again.

But hey, this looks like a pretty good start. If you're interested, you can check it out in the camera_betterer branch, atleast until we merge it.]]>
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melonDS has been acquired by Meta -- by Arisotura https://melonds.kuribo64.net/comments.php?id=159 Fri, 01 Apr 2022 21:53:41 +0000 EDIT - this post is an April Fools joke (in case that wasn't obvious)

A while ago we had an... unusual visit at the melonDS HQ: Mark Zuckerberg, no less. Zuck stated that he had always been a great fan of emulation, and that he loved our project greatly.

He offered us $324 million for the melonDS company, including both the HQ and the Melon Factory of Kuribo64.

An offer we could hardly refuse. Zuck is a very cool guy, and we greatly enjoyed the time spent in his company at the HQ. Plus, he's good at karaoke, so that will definitely make for some fun nights!

On more practical terms: this means lots of new exciting developments for melonDS.

For example, one of the new ideas is selling NFTs of the best melonDS screenshots. That is an obvious one, but not the only one at all.

There are also many possibilities opened by Metaverse integration: melonDS could be made compatible with game cartridges you would buy in the Metaverse, and you would then get to enjoy your favorite DS classics in VR. Who wouldn't love that?

melonDS will also become smarter, for an enhanced user experience. We are thinking about keeping a database of games, so melonDS can detect which game it is running, and offer ads related to that game. That is a start, but with AI we might be able to take this even further and offer the most relevant ads an emulator has ever offered.

Harnessing the power of a cloud could let us determine for you what the best emulator settings are, so you never ever have to mess with settings again.

There are many more ideas, which you will discover as we progress throughout this. We also have new fresh ideas for this website. Like, seriously, Kuriblog? Acmlmboard? Come on, this is 2022. We need some damn modern, Javascript-powered software, like Discourse for example.

This is going to be a goddamn revolution.

I am going to remain in charge of melonDS, but we will be under Zuck's direction. You will hear more from him soon. Stay tuned!]]>
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melonDS 0.9.4 is out! -- by Arisotura https://melonds.kuribo64.net/comments.php?id=158 Tue, 08 Mar 2022 12:26:58 +0000
It has been numbered this way because 1.0 is going to be a milestone release: we want to get local multiplayer stable for 1.0.

Anyway, what's new in melonDS 0.9.4? A bunch of improvements that should make things easier for the average end user.


Most notably, in DS mode, melonDS no longer requires you to obtain BIOS/firmware files. You can always supply these if you have them around, for a more accurate experience, but if you don't, melonDS will default to using DraStic's FreeBIOS clones. Similarly, a barebones firmware with default configuration data will be generated.

However, for now, DSi mode still requires you to provide BIOS/firmware/NAND dumps. We are studying ways to get around this requirement, but it's going to take us some work.

There is also a new dialog for firmware settings, which allows you to override the firmware settings with your own. This is intended for when using the default internal firmware, but it can also override the settings in an external firmware, and it even works in DSi mode.


DLDI support has also been upgraded: it is now possible to have melonDS generate a SD image for DLDI on its own, and it is also possible to have said SD image synced to a folder on your computer. This means that you can place files in that folder and they will show up in the emulated DLDI SD card, and conversely, any changes made to the emulated SD card will be reflected to the folder on your hard drive.

While this has been tested extensively, we still recommend that you keep a backup of any folder you intend to use with this, just in case. You can also set your DLDI SD card to be read-only if you don't need it to be writable.

All of this is also supported for the DSi SD card in DSi mode.


Support for ARM9 PU exceptions in interpreter mode has been added. For commercial games, this doesn't mean a lot, other than making certain crashes work like on hardware. But this may definitely come in handy for homebrew developers, as that means exception handlers will work as they should.


We have added a much requested feature: custom paths for saves, savestates and cheat files. The default behavior is that melonDS will place these files alongside your ROMs as it has always done, but you can specify paths where you want these files to be placed if you don't want them to pollute your ROM directory.

In the same vein, the File menu has been revamped to hopefully make the process of loading ROMs more intuitive. This post already talks about it in detail, so read it if you have any doubts.


Generic has been working on properly supporting wifi power saving. This is probably not perfect yet, but it should fix the weird issues you can encounter in Pokémon games when communications are enabled.


We also have some new fun features: Github user 2jun0 made a RAM search dialog, which may come in handy to those who want to make cheat codes. Rayyan also made a new dialog for changing the emulated battery level, which may come in handy to homebrew developers and such, and he's been remaking the input config dialog to be all fancy.


And, as usual, there's a bunch of little fixes and additions we aren't covering here, but you can find them all in this release's changelog on the downloads page (or on Github).


Enjoy!


melonDS 0.9.4, Windows x64
melonDS 0.9.4, Linux x64
melonDS 0.9.4, Linux ARM64
melonDS 0.9.4, macOS x64
melonDS 0.9.4, macOS ARM64
melonDS 0.9.4, macOS universal]]>
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Server move complete! -- by Arisotura https://melonds.kuribo64.net/comments.php?id=157 Thu, 13 Jan 2022 17:21:37 +0000
Everything seems to be working smoothly now, but let us know asap if anything goes wrong.

There are also some further changes planned, like setting up HTTPS.]]>
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Custom path support has been merged -- by Arisotura https://melonds.kuribo64.net/comments.php?id=156 Sun, 09 Jan 2022 19:07:22 +0000
This also comes with some extra features. For comparison, the File menu in melonDS 0.9.3, and the new File menu:


First of all, the 'Open ROM inside archive' option has been merged with 'Open ROM', to declutter the menu and make things more intuitive. The file picker dialog just lets you pick either a ROM file or an archive, and in the latter case, it asks you which file you want to open from the archive.

When opening a ROM from an archive, the recent ROM menu remembers the archive file but also which ROM you picked inside it. Similarly, you can now pass a ROM inside an archive to the command line, like so:

melonDS path/to/archive.zip|dupermario.nds

As I wanted to make the GBA ROM/addon feature more obvious, it has been decoupled from the regular 'Open ROM' feature. Previously, you had to open your GBA ROM before opening your NDS ROM, but it wasn't obvious at all that the feature existed or how it worked. Now, the separate menus should make this more obvious.

The way DS ROMs are handled has been revamped in a similar fashion. Basically:

* 'Open ROM' loads a DS ROM and starts running it, resetting emulation if another ROM was loaded previously, basically retaining its existing behavior.

* Under the DS slot section, 'Insert cart' will load a DS ROM, and that's it. Just like inserting a cartridge in a DS. The current cart, if any, will be ejected prior. This makes it possible to hotswap carts while running a game or the DS/DSi menu. Similarly, you guess what 'Eject cart' is for.

* The GBA slot section works in much the same way. You can choose to either insert a ROM cart, mimicking the presence of a GBA game cart for the DS games that can sense that, or insert an add-on cart, like for example the memory expansion cart which the DS browser uses. Note that melonDS does not support running GBA games.

* Resetting emulation does not reload the currently loaded carts (as you would probably expect, but it did that before). Stopping emulation keeps the carts inserted, until they're ejected or something else is loaded.

That should be it for the differences in functionality.

Other than that, a lot of the old ROM handling code has been bulldozed, resulting in code that is much cleaner and easier to deal with. Means nothing for the end user, but it makes life easier for us as well as anyone who wants to port melonDS.

Anyway, we encourage you to provide feedback about these changes! I want the UI to be feature-rich without being too galaxy-brain or unintuitive, and that is challenging at times.]]>
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The path to success -- by Arisotura https://melonds.kuribo64.net/comments.php?id=155 Wed, 22 Dec 2021 15:55:53 +0000
[path settings dialog in the making]

This is what I'm currently working on. It's been a popular request for a while: customizable paths for things like save files, savestates, ... As of now, melonDS takes the easy route and dumps these files alongside the current ROM, but not everybody wants that.

And, well, implementing this whole thing raises a bunch of issues. This is also why it can be difficult for me to get things done: I will try to envision the scope of the task at hand, then begin seeing related things that need to be done, more or less drifting away from the original task, and at the end I have too many ideas and I don't know where to start.

This is one of these occurences. I had tried to make plans of what I wanted for the custom paths feature, but, surprise, the actual implementation is going to be different. The state of the melonDS codebase doesn't help, either, sometimes. I mean, it certainly could be worse, but some parts could definitely use a refactor.

ROM loading is a prime example. When I first built the melonDS core, it was pretty simple, and all it had to do was load a ROM from a given file, load the associated save file, and start emulating. So the original NDSCart::LoadROM() function did just that.

Of course, as melonDS evolved, other concerns arose.

For example, archive support was added. In this case, the ROM isn't accessible as a regular file, instead we get a memory buffer with the ROM's contents. So this means a second NDSCart::LoadROM() function was added, that loads a ROM from a memory buffer. A tad redundant.

Another fun thing is DSi support. On the DS, you can't hotswap cartridges, because there's no hardware support for it, so we didn't have to account for this possibility. However, things are different with the DSi: for example, you can insert and eject carts while in the DSi menu and it detects that. So it's something we need to take in account too. And as of now, melonDS has no provision for ejecting the current cart, nor for loading a new cart without resetting emulation.

And other fun assorted details. Basically, the ROM loading system is due for some refactoring, and I'm working on it. Then, once all this is sorted out, I guess I can actually implement custom paths.

The melonDS team wishes you a merry Christmas and a happy new year and all!]]>
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Little status update -- by Arisotura https://melonds.kuribo64.net/comments.php?id=154 Sun, 28 Nov 2021 13:23:35 +0000
First of all, I'm having a rough time these days. It's a mix of your typical winter depression and other things, family-related. I'm not going to go over these things in public.

Next, I'm setting up a new server that will eventually replace the server Kuribo64 runs on. More modern, better specs, more secure, all you want. I will keep you informed about this, as there will be a downtime whenever I get round to migrating everything to the new server. There will also be some additions, like proper HTTPS.

Finally, happy birthday Generic! The melonDS HQ will bring you your melon-cake tonight.

-

Even if I'm not posting here, you can follow me on Twitter for smaller melonDS updates (but also a lot of other bullshit). The other team members are also working on cool things, even if they might not be as talkative as me.]]>
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New DSi BIOS/NAND/firmware dumper -- by Arisotura https://melonds.kuribo64.net/comments.php?id=153 Mon, 08 Nov 2021 09:50:41 +0000
This dumper is also a tad smarter: it will warn you if the data required for proper augmented BIOS dumps has been altered. By the way, the dumps should now be correct-- there was a bug in the previous dumper, where some of augmented bits were read from wrong addresses, although these particular bits don't seem to be important.

The NAND is dumped with a 'nocash footer' (small data block holding the eMMC CID and console ID, required for decryption) added at 0xFF800.

The dumper will place the dumped files in a folder named dsidump, rather than dumping them in your SD card's root.

You can get it here: DSi dumper

I will also redesign the downloads page as to feature a tools section with this, among others.]]>
https://melonds.kuribo64.net/comments.php?id=153
Happy birthday, melonDS! -- by Arisotura https://melonds.kuribo64.net/comments.php?id=152 Thu, 04 Nov 2021 20:08:15 +0000
Speaking of, I would have loved to provide a birthday release, but the tight timings and usual factors (real-life shito, ADHD, ...) didn't let this happen for this time. However, depending on how development and testing goes... we will keep you informed, as usual :)

As I said in the last post, we're in the process of making melonDS less obtuse for the average emu user, and while we're at it, there are some more popular-request features we may throw in for the next release. One would be configurable paths for save files and such -- I have some ideas for a clean system for these. I also want to add an interface for modifying user settings, among other fun things.

1.0 may not come in the near future, though. One of the requirements for it is getting local multiplayer stable. melonDS is largely known as 'the wifi emulator', so it's lame that local multiplayer is still this finicky. I have already explained why it's hard to emulate, so instead of going in detail over that, I will simply state that Generic is working on getting it stable. He also working on addressing the shortcomings of our OpenGL renderer, like the lack of proper upscaling in dual-screen 3D scenarios.

I'm also going to give you an occasion to know more about melonDS and the little team behind it!

The melonDS repo was actually created in May 2016. Why did it take until November to see any real work on it? One of the reasons was that I moved out of my parents' home in June that same year. It's been a rocky adventure to say the least, but I don't regret any of it. melonDS, having existed within this timeframe, is also part of this whole adventure of self-discovery for me.

Of course, I also have to thank the rest of the team, and everyone else who got involved, for sticking around and helping make melonDS what it is today. I mean, I have quite a bunch of old projects, and none of them have lasted as long as melonDS has. These projects all fell to my ADHD, and melonDS would likely have met a similar fate without the team and without the emulation community in general. So, thank you all!

Self-discovery can surprise you, in fun or less fun ways. When I moved out, I first thought I was going to lead a normal life, graduate, get girls, all that. Well, so much for that. I would never have predicted what has happened to me, but again, zero regret.

So yeah, I come with all sorts of quirks, fun and less fun. Now, as I'm taking care of the last bits of my transition, there isn't much to say about it anymore, and I have already mentioned ADHD a billion times, so I'm going to mention something more fun:

[melonDS but written in pretty colors]

Heh.

There is probably a lot more to say, and from the other team members too. Thus, I'm opening 'ask us anything' threads:

On our board
On reddit

In either of these threads, you can ask questions of your interest to any (or all) of the melonDS team members, be it about melonDS itself, the development process, our relationship to the project, or anything about ourselves.

You will need an account on either of these two sites, but registering an account on our board is quick and easy.

Enjoy!]]>
https://melonds.kuribo64.net/comments.php?id=152
Little update on what's going on -- by Arisotura https://melonds.kuribo64.net/comments.php?id=151 Mon, 18 Oct 2021 00:17:04 +0000
The focus for the next release is basically on making melonDS less obtuse to the average user. One of the biggest parts of this is removing the requirement for external BIOS and firmware files.

We started the work in that direction by merging some relevant pull requests, making melonDS able to fall back to the DraStic FreeBIOS and a generated firmware for DS mode. There are still some issues we need to take care of in one way or another, namely:

* We need to either force direct boot, or include some small bootloader inside the replacement BIOS/firmware. The easiest route is to force direct boot.

* The original BIOS includes the Blowfish key required to decrypt the secure area in encrypted ROMs. Lacking the key would make it impossible to support encrypted ROMs, but including it is muddy waters from a legal standpoint.

* A notable exception is that some of the encrypted ROMs, like those found in VC titles, contain the data for Blowfish crypto. It could be possible to make melonDS take advantage of it, but not all ROM dumps out there contain that (it's not normally readable in retail cartridges).

All in all, it seems pretty manageable on the DS side. Things get more rocky on the DSi side:

* As the NUS is still online, it is in theory possible to build a DSi NAND from scratch, though it needs to be studied closer. Some of the contents, like font files, would have to be replicated in free variants. The NAND bootloader would not be terribly difficult to replicate.

* There are several more crypto keys found in the DSi BIOS. While it is still possible to load DSi ROMs without requiring any key from the BIOS (provided the secure area is decrypted, which it generally is), I'm not sure about things like DSiWare.

* There is also the fun part of replicating the DSi BIOS. It has more SWI functions (namely, SHA1 and RSA functions, how fun) and also some fun bugs and shit.

It's nothing insurmontable, but it needs more work.

Another part I'm currently working on is making melonDS's DLDI support less obtuse. For now, DLDI support requires the user to provide a raw SD card image, which isn't very convenient.

Well, you might have read about my latest fatfs adventures. I decided to take this further: basically coding a system that will take a given folder on the host filesystem, create a FAT image from that, and then keep the two in sync. For now, it seems to work reasonably well, but it's going to need some intensive testing before being merged.

There are also some tidbits left: integrating this feature into the UI, making it configurable without being overly complex, ensuring the ROM being loaded is present in the DLDI volume and passing its path to libnds's argv system, adding a read-only mode that will preserve the host folder from any modification, ...

We're working on all these fun features, but it takes time. Especially if you're anything like me, dealing with ADHD (it took me over one hour to write this post). I'm also dealing with some minor real life shito, finalizing details of my transition, social programs to help me find a job adapted to me, etc... nothing bad, though.]]>
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