Homebrew on the Wii

This post is pretty long. No matter if it’s in Portuguese or English, it’s very difficult to me to write a short blog or forum post, because there’s always more to say. This post is, however, “lightweight lecture” – at least, I’ve written it to be like this. 🙂

I got a Wii for more than a year. I bought it not because I like to play games (I’m not a fan of video-games in any way), but because I found interesting the way data is input to the system – not only keys, but also gestures.

In fact, a Wii is not a really good product if you want to have an all-in-one device that apart from playing games, also act as a media center and allows you to browse the ‘net. Something that is further delineated with the lack of HD output – the Wii only does PAL (576i) or NTSC (486i) resolution, through a normal RCA A/V cable, or the optional (bought separately) composite cable that also only allows 480p. With my old CRT TV set, this wasn’t much of a difference, but now with a HD TV it’s highly noticeable, specially when you’re near the screen and on moving images.

Apart from the lack of HD, which doesn’t bother me much, when it comes to media the Wii is pretty poor, as I said. The nearest thing to a media player is the Photo Channel, which allows you to view photos from an SD card (yes, because although the Wii has two USB connectors, they aren’t used for anything than for connecting a microphone in certain games, and for charging devices), and to play AAC (not even MP3!) music while viewing slide shows. It is also supposed to support AVI Motion-JPEG files, but from the various I encoded I could never get one to work.

The Wii has also some downloadable channels, from the Wii Shop Channel. The most interesting is the Internet Channel, which is nothing but Opera 9.30 (a pretty old version) for embedded devices, on a GUI optimized for the Wii. It supports CSS (wow!), JavaScript (wow!) and Flash 8 (again, pretty outdated), and YouTube videos have pretty poor image and sound quality. Also, some more complex sites don’t load because of lack of memory, and the Wii says “Out of memory!”. It sometimes makes me remember the old computers with MS-DOS, but with a nice interface.

I think I can stop saying bad things about the Wii now. Oh, but I forgot about one thing. Since the System Menu (the “OS” the Wii) verison 4.0, all the releases have had the purpose of fixing exploits that allowed the installation of homebrew and the ability of running unsigned code on the Wii. This homebrew that exists for the Wii, apart from the piracy software (that allows you to load pirated games), is developed by honest people that do harmless software. However, Nintendo keeps only seeing the “black part” of homebrew and keeps on blocking the exploits. With the latest version of System Menu, 4.3, installation of the Homebrew Channel (a channel that is installed on the Wii using the HackMii installer) is only possible if you have certain specific games – previous bugs on System Menu 4.0, 4.1 and, recently, 4.2 that allowed hacking by simply inserting a SD card have been fixed.

To have a better idea of what I’m talking about I suggest you visit WiiBrew, a site made by honest independent developers that only want to unleash the potential of the hardware they bought. On that site, you won’t find piracy homebrew, exactly because people there are honest (well, most of them – at the end, this is the internet). Installing homebrew allows you to do much more with the Wii – it still doesn’t bring HD video, but it allows you to run, amongst many other things, a complete media center, WiiMC.

I don’t have homebrew installed on my Wii – yet. Some time ago, when System Menu 4.3 came out, I didn’t know about Homebrew and ended up updating the software of the Wii. Now, the only way to get Homebrew running is to use certain games, as I said. I already ordered one of these games and I hope it arrives ASAP. Now, lets just hope that the installation of Homebrew is successful and that I don’t end up with a brick – yes, because these things of hacking always involve certain risks.

And you? Do you own a Wii (certainly no, and don’t go for it unless you really want a cheap gaming console and Homebrew)? Did you know about Homebrew? Waiting for your comments 😉


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