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Thursday, September 4, 2008


In the PSP, Sony has engineered a true marvel of technology. Combining amazingly powerful
data and media processing capabilities with a slim, long-life, portable form factor, Sony has literally
started the next generation of media on-the-go. Competitors such as Apple, Creative,
iRiver and many others are sure to latch onto the ability to have any type of media, anywhere
you go. Add into the equation the power of built-in wireless Internet access, and any number of
productivity and media applications, coupled with the high-resolution screen, and the PSP
truly becomes a one-stop device.
Unfortunately, Sony has limited the capabilities of the PSP by letting only humongous game
companies write applications for it, and letting it play only limited (yet omnipresent) music and
media formats with no chance for the grass roots developers, now called “hackers,” to write
powerful applications and build an industry around the PSP. Many companies have done this
before, and hackers have always found a way around it. In this book we’ll make the PSP do a
lot of the stuff we know it can do.

What you need to hack

For the majority of these hacks, any PSP will do. There have been many firmware revisions
(also called “system software” revisions) for the PSP. The first PSP, released only in Japan, was
version 1.0. The U.S. PSP launched with version 1.5. Updates have been released—versions
1.51, 1.52, and 2.0, among others.
The only sections that are truly affected by firmware versions are the programming chapters,
and the ability to run “homebrew” applications that you download from the Internet. There
have been hundreds, if not thousands of homebrew applications released, ranging from simple
console applications to neat games to PDA-like applications to old game system and Linux
PSP firmware 1.0 allowed you to run these homebrew applications without any modification. PSP
firmware 1.5 attempted to lock out homebrew applications (apparently, Sony doesn’t want you
running software on your PSP from which they get no royalities). Hackers got around this limitation
with a few “exploits” that let you run the homebrew software on the U.S. PSPs, which
shipped with only firmware 1.5.

With a firmware update feature built into the PSP, Sony quickly released a “System Software
Update” (version 1.51) that was supposed to “increase the security of the PSP operating system.”
This was code for “we’re gonna stop the hackers with this update.” The update appeared
to have foiled anybody’s attempt to launch homebrew applications from then on until some
genius hackers were able to take advantage of an exploit in Sony’s PSP operating system and
downgrade a version 2.0 PSP to version 1.5. Other attempts have been made to re-enable
homebrew applications to run on firmware versions 2.01 and beyond, but as of the writing of
this book that had not been completed successfully.
It’s always a good idea to update your PSP manually instead of using the built-in update feature.
This way, you get to keep the EBOOT.PBP, which is the application that updates your PSP. Should
you need that EBOOT again, you will have access to it—otherwise you can’t “roll back” should
you need to. This is a good practice to get into for any hardware platform you are hacking: only
update when you need to, and always have a backup!
Of course, over one million PSPs have been sold with the 1.5 firmware, so chances are your
PSP came with that version. (You learn how to check your firmware version in Chapter 19,
“Running Homebrew Applications.) You can also find version 1.5 PSPs in stores that sell used
equipment, such as GameStop, EB Games, eBay, and many others. If your PSP came with or
you have upgraded to firmware 2.0, which includes a host of new features as well as an official
Sony Web browser, you can still downgrade that device to 1.5 using the hack in Chapter 16,
“Reverting from a 2.0 PSP to a 1.5 PSP.”
Either way, you can enjoy all of the hacks in this book, except the programming hacks, with
any version of a PSP. Of course, if you want to program the PSP, I recommend getting a version
that can run the hacks, because it’s a lot of fun (then again, I’m a software developer).
Another item you should have handy is a USB cable to connect your PSP to your computer
(these are usually mini-USB to full-size USB cables, available from any computer or electronics
store). The only way to get data on your PSP effectively is through the USB port on the top of
the device. Of course, you could use a Memory Stick reader connected to your computer, but
the USB cable is much, much easier.