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December 27, 2011 // 6:11 pm - Following up on his previous confirmation, today Sony PlayStation Vita hacker wololo has made available a video below demonstrating the Half Byte Loader (HBL) running the Picodrive Sega Megadrive emulator with Sonic & Knuckles on PS Vita.

To quote: Update: One important clarification: This video shows HBL running on the latest firmware 1.510. The firmware update that happened today does not patch the exploit, unlike what some sites are saying.

A few days ago Japanese developer Teck4 posted a picture of a “hello world” running on the PS Vita through the PSP emulator. I contacted him immediately with some help from Mamosuke, and I soon got enough information to start working on porting Half Byte Loader to this exploit (note that Teck4 is also working on exploiting this vulnerability further, but I don’t know how far he’s been).

What you see in the video below is the game “Sonic & Knuckles” running in picodrive, a Megadrive emulator for the PSP.

Yes, I’m running an emulator inside a hacked emulator on the Vita, that’s kind of cool. There’s lots to say about this ongoing work, but first let me state that, for once, this HBL port is entirely my work, except for the underlying PSP exploit which is initially from Teck4. I’ve been testing other people’s work for a while, so it was about time I got back to coding myself

Now that my ego is satisfied, let’s move on to the details of the video below. I have good news, bad news, and ugly news. But first check the video below, the first usable hack on the PS vita, 10 days after the console is released

1. THE GOOD

This is technically HBL rising from the deads, running on the PS Vita, and loading the picodrive emulator. Usually I would show you the entire loading process, but you’ll understand that some of the things I do (in particular the exploit used) need to be kept under wraps until the whole thing is made public (if it is ever made public, read more below).

I hope however that given my reputation on the PSP scene this won’t be categorized as a fake, please understand that I can’t show much this time. Picodrive is one of the easiest homebrews to run on HBL for some reason, that’s why I’m using it in my test. People who’ve used HBL a lot in its early days will recognize the sound glitch, this is some 22kHz sound being played at 44kHz, or the other way around, I can never remember.

That’s because the PSP emulator is using PSP’s firmware 6.60, for which HBL’s syscall estimation code seems to be a bit useless. (I am still pending some reply from Teck4 to see if it would make sense to “officially” involve more hackers on this port, and see if we can fix those syscalls problems. For now, as far as I know I’m the only one who made it that far on the Vita, and I feel kind of lonely on this new hacking scene ^^).

Another good piece of news for me is that before HBL could run Homebrews so “smoothly” on the PSP, it took us several months (I can’t remember exactly, 3 month maybe before we got it running “ok-ish” ?), while here it took me 3 days to get it to a usable state. Clearly, we didn’t lie when we said HBL would be portable to new game exploits

So, that’s the good, I’ve proven to myself that it is possible to run HBL and actual homebrews on the Vita. With little effort, HBL could probably be improved to some extent on that exploit, and run a few useful homebrews.

2. The bad

There are slightly bad news too. One is the syscall estimation algorithm being busted, as I explained above. I discussed a bit with JJS, and it is probable that if a function is not imported by the game itself, we might not be able to use it at all. I’ll have a closer look (if I decide to dig further on this) to see if this can be improved, but that could greatly limit the amount of homebrews that can be played on this.

Another issue is that the time currently needed to load/run homebrews for the “end user” is a bit too long to my taste. In its current state, for now I don’t think this is (or will be, even if improved) very useful for the end user. Basically, if I want to run PSP homebrews for now, it’s way easier and cheaper to do so on a PSP, even on an unhacked one, through HBL.

So, the overall uselessness of this makes me wonder if it should be kept secret in order for other hackers to do some research on it, or if it should really be released. I wouldn’t like people to point fingers at me if Sony patches some security flaws after this exploit goes public… I won’t take that decision alone (since I’m not the only one knowing the exploit), obviously, and there’s still time until the US/EU release, but I’m seriously considering the options here.

I have also yet to find a “good” way to install and run homebrews. I thought I had found a convenient way, but it didn’t work as expected. I’ll dig more on that, but it seems the PSP filesystem, as seen through the emulator on the vita, is a bit tricky and sneaky...

The ugly

There is, however, far worse than the little concerns above. What concerns me to a great extent is that I realized today that Sony can potentially spy everything we do with the content manager. Today I was forced to update my PS Vita to the new firmware. The content manager refuses to run if its PC client is not connected to the internet, and it refuses to run if the console doesn’t have the latest firmware.

This means not only that Sony can force you to update your Vita firmware whenever they feel like it (something they never dared to do on the PSP or the PS3), but also that every time you copy a file from or to your Vita, some information is possibly sent to Sony’s servers. I half joked about me copying my adult movies to the Vita and Sony knowing about it, but it really concerns me that Sony is spying on the files I have on my hard drive just because I bought one of there gadgets.

I’m thinking here that the upcoming hacks for the PS Vita will involve lots of legal fights. It seems to me that unless Sony can prove they are not spying on their users, it is potentially illegal to require the tool to be connected while the content manager is running. Something as big as CarrierIQ could happen to them if their customers are willing to take it to court at some point (that’s an official call to network engineers would would like to analyze what’s going on when the content manager is connected to the Intern...).

Incidentally, this is also means that Sony could be already aware of the hack and the techniques we’ve been using to trigger it, assuming they take a close look at the interactions between users’ PC and the Vita.

Anyways, despite these massive concerns, I’m proud to announce that I got some homebrew to run on the Vita 10 days after its release… as said before by BlackFire, it’s like “posting a sticker on a fortress”. Not very useful, but a message to Sony that we’re around




Video: Picodrive Sega Megadrive Emulator Demo via HBL on PS Vita

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#141 - A2theC - January 16, 2012 // 2:54 pm
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New system, same routine.

#140 - valid93 - January 16, 2012 // 12:37 pm
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Thanks

#139 - PS4 News - January 16, 2012 // 12:33 pm
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Cheers for the news GrandpaHomer, I have now promoted it to the main page and +Rep for submitting it!

#138 - GrandpaHomer - January 16, 2012 // 2:36 am
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Following up on the previous PlayStation Vita System Software updates, today Sony of Japan has released PS Vita version 1.52 Firmware update.

Download: PS Vita 1.52 Firmware Update (JPN)

As usual, the Sony PlayStation Vita 1.52 Firmware update is a mandatory install. According to Andriasang.com the PS Vita update is simply another small bug fix.

To quote: "A number of Vita owners are saying via Twitter and blogs and so-forth that the update fixes a version 1.51 bug where the 3G system would not recognize your SIM card."

So far I'm unaware of any visible changes in the system or settings, however, this article will be updated as a change log becomes available on Sony's official PS Vita Web site.

System software version 1.52 for PlayStation Vita Update:

  • From January 16, 2012, began to update the system software version 1.52.

To become available and some features of the PlayStation Network features, updates the system software of PS Vita (Update) is required. PS Vita also system software, by updating, adding and security can be enhanced many features. Please use the update to the latest version.

The main features in system software update version 1.52:

  • The software system has improved the operational stability.

Finally, wololo reports (wololo.net/wagic/2012/01/16/forced-firmware-update-1-52-for-the-ps-vita/#more-3875), to quote: "Mamosuke confirmed to me today that Teck4's exploit for the PSP Emulator in the vita is still working on 1.52.

Note that it doesn't guarantee 100% that some of the techniques used to get HBL to work on top of this exploit haven't been patched, as I haven't tested myself. But for now I'm confident. I might update to test that, at some point."

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#137 - PS4 News - January 10, 2012 // 9:18 pm
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Today PS Vita hacker wololo has made available a Half Byte Loader (HBL) development FAQ for those interested in progress thus far on Sony's PlayStation Vita handheld console.

Also below he states that he has ported HBL for Teck4's exploit successfully and updated to EU/US versions.

To quote: I managed to port HBL to the US version of Teck4′s exploit in exactly 45 minutes (including writing the savedata exploit and the binary loader), which is a new personal record, thanks to the scripts included in HBL's repository, and also to the fact that the different versions of the game are internally fairly similar (which is to be expected because technically the game is supposed to be the same, just translated, but I seem to recall it wasn't that easy for the Hotshots golf exploit)

I also updated the EU/US versions of this HBL port to get the tweaks I worked on for the past weeks in order to get a fair amount of homebrews to work.

The next step for me is to write a bit of documentation on how to use all this, and then patiently wait. As far as a release is concerned... well check the FAQ I wrote yesterday.

I could spend time polishing this port of HBL for the Vita, improve compatibility, and I might do it, but since there's a high risk this gets used by only a small amount of people before it gets patched, I'll probably leave it in its current state for now. It's probably not worth working too much on the details if nobody ends up using it. Of course if by some sort of miracle this doesn't get patched immediately by Sony, I'll update it accordingly.

Now let's all wait (I'm probably more excited than anybody else about this release, really...)

A FAQ for HBL on the Vita

We've seen through Teck4′s exploit that PSP exploits run flawlessly on the PSP emulator of the Vita. I've spent the past 3 weeks working on leveraging Teck4′s exploit and port HBL to it. I've been receiving lots of questions (probably from people who haven't used HBL back when it was the only possible way to play homebrews on the PSP Go) and will try to answer them here.

What is HBL?

HBL stands for "Half Byte Loader". This is a homebrew loader for the PSP, which was written initially by m0skit0, then improved and maintained by a bunch of devs including myself (those two links are good old memories, when HBL wasn't loading a single homebrew properly). It basically allows to run fanmade games, emulators, etc on the PSP. We've found that it can run on the PS Vita through the PSP emulator.

Will this allow to run PSP backups (isos)?

Although in theory that would be possible, HBL only has access to the PSP "user mode" which is fairly limited. Practically, all teams who have tried to create an iso loader in user mode on the PSP have failed so far.

Will this allow to run PS Vita game backups?

No

Does this give us access to the Vita hardware (touch screen, etc)?

No. HBL accesses the hardware through the PSP emulator, and therefore only has access to what is mapped to the PSP controls. It also only has access to 32MB of ram, etc

Does this give us possibilities to hack the vita further?

Most likely, not. HBL is stuck in user mode, in a sandboxed emulator. To get access to Vita information, we would need first to get kernel access in the emulator (through a psp kernel exploit), and then find other exploits in the emulator/OS itself to break away from the sandbox (which, if the Vita OS is as secure as I think it is, is close to impossible)

But will it give us more horsepower than the psp? Can we expect emulators to run faster, etc?

This still needs to be investigated deeper, but from what I've seen, not really. Memory stick access is definitely faster on the vita (Wagic loads between 5 and 10 times faster on the vita than on a psp go), but the rest seems to follow the psp limitations (as one would expect from an emulator)

Will this be made public?

Yes. Teck4 (who found the exploit) and I agreed to making this public at some point.

When will this be made public?

Some time after the Vita is released worldwide.

I heard Sony can patch this very easily as soon as it's made public?

Yes. Since this uses a vulnerability in a PSP game, as soon as they know which game it is, Sony can remove the game from the PS Store. Once they do that, they can patch the Vita firmware to reject the "malicious" files (either by preventing them from being copied through the content manager assistant, or by patching the PSP emulator, or by patching the PSP game, etc). At that point, people who don't already have the game on their console won't be able to use HBL. Also, people who do have HBL will need to never upgrade their firmware, will have to use some tools such as OpenCMA in order to copy files to the vita, and will be locked out of the PS Store as long as they want to use homebrews.

So shouldn't you keep this under wraps instead?

Meh, it's not like anything is really secret here besides the name of the game. It's already pretty sure this is not useful for hacking the vita further, so even if it gets patched I don't think we will lose "too much".

No iso, no access to the vita internals, and Sony will patch it as soon as it's out, so basically it's useless?

Yes and No. Technically, a hacked PSP is way cheaper and will allow you to do more than that. But this is, as I write these lines, the only way to run unsigned code on the Vita, which in itself makes it a great achievement (and it's always cool to show your friends that your Vita can run Mario, and theirs can't). Also, it didn't take too much time to adapt since most of the code was already available from our past work in the psp scene. It would have been even more useless to say "oh yeah, interesting, we can run psp exploits on the vita" and not do anything with it.

How do you copy/install homebrews to the ps vita, since it cannot be mounted as a regular usb drive?

This will be explained when HBL is released.

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#136 - Bartholomy - January 9, 2012 // 8:37 pm
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Awesome, thanks

#135 - smokyyuwe - January 9, 2012 // 8:20 pm
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Virtuous Flame released an update to his Open CMA tool a few days ago. Open CMA allows you to connect your playstation Vita to your PC through the Content Manager without needing to be connected to the internet. This is useful if you need to transfer some files while away from your network, or simply if like me you don’t see why it should be required to be connected to the internet when you transfer files between two pieces of hardware you own.

This update (revision 3) patches the PC side of the content manager further, preventing it from auto updating. Without this patch, Sony’s driver is silently updating itself whenever it’s connected to the internet even if you were using open CMA so far, which makes this r3 an important update.

Download source: wololo.net/downloads/index.php/download/1252

Source: wololo.net/wagic/2012/01/10/virtuous-flames-open-cma-r3-released/

#134 - Bartholomy - January 9, 2012 // 6:40 pm
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Superb. I hope to see more and more about PSVITA hacking

#133 - NTA - January 9, 2012 // 5:26 pm
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>_> at 0:41 I usually die of don't jump or duck. I don't see how that's possible.

Sucks that gpsp doesn't work yet. Really looking forward to that

#132 - PS4 News - January 9, 2012 // 5:08 pm
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Today PlayStation Vita hacker wololo has shared a video (below) demonstrating several PSP homebrew applications and emulators running on PS Vita using their Half-Byte Loader (HBL).

To quote: In the past days I stabilized HBL for Teck4's exploit and got some major homebrews to work.

In the video below I'm showing a few homebrews running on the PS Vita. I also included Picodrive again to show that fixing the sound issue is relatively easy as it is just a setting in the emulator. Check the video below.

You can see in this video snes9xTYL (super nes emulator), Bookr (pdf reader), CSPSP, T.O.M.E. (text mode rpg), EmuMaster (game boy emulator), Zombie Crisis (FPS), Wagic (which loads about 10 times faster than on a real PSP, this talks for the improved access speed of this new memory stick format), cavestory (platform/adventure), Picodrive (sega genesis emulator), Spider solitaire, ScummVM (point-and-click adventure), Daedalus (N64 emulator, this is not DaedalusX64), FCEU-PSP (Nes emulator). Those are more or less the homebrews I recommended to HBL users back when HBL was big.

Missing from this video is (unfortunately) gpsp which I couldn't get to run on the Vita, while it ran fine on the PSP. What I could see is that the emulator is more sensitive than the PSP when a thread that's currently not running crashes. I think (not sure) that gpsp somehow crashes HBL.

On the PSP it usually means that once you quit gpsp, HBL crashes. On the vita it seems to crash as soon as gpsp does “something wrong” to hbl, which is roughly as soon as it loads.

I got major homebrews to work, and now I'll focus on reporting this to the EU and US version, which both need to be brought up to speed with these latest changes.

From what I could see, syscall estimation basically doesn't work (which is what JJS discovered a while ago when porting HBL to 6.60), which will limit the amount of homebrews that can be played with this exploit, but as you can see on the video, I got a few good ones to run already

A message to haters who say I'm reusing other people's work from the PSP scene and not contributing anything new: ask yourself who made it so easy to port HBL to new game exploits in the first place.



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