Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The full story on modding

I hate to be redundant, but now I'm finished with these mods. I want to review what happened for my own benefit.

Why did I want a modchip? I wanted to try Linux. I wanted to boot to the hard drive. I wanted to play some of the homebrew projects and use emulators for the systems I don't have anymore. I wanted to do so without swapping or using a computer. I guess being able to play backups and imports is a plus, but it's not that important.

Most importantly, I also wanted to see what else the PS2 could do since I'm losing interest in it (*gasp* go xbox!).

Anyway, since I try to find good deals, I ended up purchasing a "Matrix Infinity SE" chip from It was $30 + shipping, and claimed to have all these features (blah blah). After receiving it I realized it was only a clone of the actual "Matrix Infinity". Google research taught me that this clone would cease to function if the chip was ever flashed or the configuration changed. Oh well. It would allow me to do everything I wanted except boot to the hard drive (I think I could boot to the memory card with it though).

From there I began my first (full) PS2 disassembly. What a pain. I thought the XBox was annoying (I had replaced DVD-ROM assemblies before). didn't provide wiring diagrams as advertised, so I had to get them elsewhere. Then I realized that I didn't have the right wiring diagram. For some reason, 99% of the sites selling the Infinity SE provide the v5 diagram for the v7/v8 listing. Strange, but I eventually found the right one. With a trip to Radio Shack, I now had a 15w soldering iron and thin solder. Soldering wasn't too hard, but I have never attempted it on points this small before. So the project began.

Soldering to the BIOS chip is a pain. Its pins are so close together. I tried electrical tape in order to avoid shorting pins together. That didn't work, so I used a couple of razor blades to block solder from going to the other pins. That worked, but I really didn't have enough hands to do it efficiently. In the process, I accidently got extra solder on the end of a nearby capacitor (which at the time, I thought was a resistor).

Thinking I could get away with not using a desoldering wick, I tried to remove the extra solder with the iron itself. I don't remember what exactly happened, but the capacitor broke off and I ended up losing it in the carpet nearby (no, I was not doing this on the carpet, I was doing it on a table). I was pissed, but decided to keep going.

The last solder point I tried was in a tight space. It was surrounded by a capacitor, resistor, and a transistor. Unfortunately, this is before I realized that the tip that came with the iron was too thick. I ended up breaking off another capacitor (and ironically still losing it in the carpet), and I had excess solder in the area shorting things together. Back to Radio Shack.

I bought a desoldering wick and a thinner iron tip. I would visit the shack again shortly after for an iron holder (I burned an "M" in my forearm from the cheap holder that came with the iron). I cleaned up excess solder, and decided to try the PS2 without the capacitors (which I still thought were resistors).

Black screen. That was not a good sign. I immediately removed the modchip from the board and tried again. The PS2 Browser screen relieved my eyes. Alas, there was a problem. The unit would not read any DVD media. At least it read CD media. I figured I was lucky it worked at all after breaking parts off.

A week or so later, one of our room mates moved out and wanted to buy the computer I was letting him use. I know he didn't have any money, so I told him I'll just take his slim PS2 for it (I had about 8 computers so I wouldn't miss it). This would become my backup that I wouldn't mod.

I temporarily traded the slim for my other room mate's PS2 so I could figure out what the missing parts were. I took the resistance values of the capacitors that were missing and went to Radio Shack for parts again. After installing the resistors, my PS2 tried really hard to read those DVDs, but it just couldn't do it. After several multimeter reads on the stock resistors, I noticed the value would always rise to a certain point and then cap off. This is when I realised they were actually capacitors so I had wasted my time. I also blew the fan fuse by smashing one of the fan wires (so much reassembly leads to impatience). I gave up on PS2s for a while.

Another room mate had a modchip for his PSX that he never used. I figured I could run some stuff off my PSOne that was collecting dust, so I tried installing it. Unfortunately, it didn't work because it was made for the PSX, not the PSOne.

However, I forgot how much easier the Playstations were to take apart in comparison to the PS2s. The modchip was only 7 wires as well, compared to the 19 for the PS2. I bought the correct modchip for $6 and installed it. Needless to say, that was a walk in the park, and I was using "It Might be NES" in no time. The other chip I installed for a friend so it could play some Nintendo on his old PSX as well.

Back to the PS2 after two successful mods on Playstations...

Much browsing led me to another modchip called the DMS4 E.Z.I. Lite. Solderless! I found one on Ebay, and eagerly awaited to put it in my room mate's PS2. I finally was able to, but it black screened. I removed it, and his PS2 wouldn't play DVDs anymore. Frustrated, I inspected the laser lens. The plastic around it was melted. However, I do know that he would leave his PS2 on for days or weeks at a time. Maybe the modchip just tipped it off the edge. I put the laser from my broken PS2 in it and it worked fine (unmodded). Close inspection of the modchip DSP clip proved that it was broken. I traded my room mate back and decided to think of my next move.

I bought a PS2 motherboard off Ebay in attempt to replace my broken one. Unfortunately, it had blown fuses and didn't work at all. I even replaced one of the main fuses, but it just blew. This left my original board with yet another bad part. Thankfully, the seller allowed me to return it. However, I'm still waiting for my refund.

Hopes fading but not gone, I bought another motherboard and another working PS2 off ebay. This way, I'd have a PS2 without extra solder (for the DMS4) and had a good laser in case I wasn't able to fix my original PS2. Thankfully, it worked as the seller had promised, although it was missing a screw and a couple support pads. I think one of the screws was the wrong type as well. No big deal though.

The PS2 worked great, but the motherboard was the wrong version (v9); it had a different reset/eject cable plug. It's funny that all three of these PS2s are version 8's, which is supposed to be the rarest. One of them did have a gapped BIOS though (my room mate's). Anyway, I couldn't return it because I couldn't test it.

This was getting ridiculous, so I bought new BIOS and DSP clips for my DMS4 modchip. I installed it in my working PS2. It would let me disable the chip, but it wouldn't boot "Beats of Rage" or any of my emulators. Some googling taught me that the DSP clip may not be making full contact. I took extreme care in remove the DSP clip in order not to break it. Once removed, I bent the pins on it slightly outward with a razor blade. Reinstallation and success!

One thing I have to note is that the DMS4 E.Z.I. is an extremely tight fit. The backside of the DSP clip is pushed down by the ground plate. The eject PCB is also pushed down by the ground plate. I'm sure the BIOS clip is clinched in as well, but I'm not sure. This fit lead me to taping the wires down to the board as flat as possible. I also recommend putting 1 layer of thin electrical tape over the actual modchip. Do NOT put tape over any white connectors on the modchip or the eject PCB. I didn't trust the ground loop, so I soldered the ground wire in (which isn't hard, solder to the same ground in the regular DMS4 diagram). If you ever plan on installing an E.Z.I., be sure to read through the DMS forums first.

I really like the options on the chip. However, if I had to mod again, I would get the DMS4 Pro (solder type). Then I could load ToxicOS which has more features than ToxicBIOS.

At this point I was left with one good modded PS2, one slim PS2, and one half-working PS2. My room mate traded the slim PS2 because he says that the PS2 I gave back to him was skipping on DVDs. I watched a movie on it without a problem, but it did seem to start up a little slow. I just figured I could sell it, because now I want to mod a slim PS2!

So now I had 1 good modded PS2, 1 working PS2, a half-working PS2, and a v9 PS2 motherboard. I figured I might as well remove parts from the v9 motherboard in attempt to fix my original PS2.

I marked the capcitors with a sharpie so I wouldn't mess up the orientation when soldering them into the board. Desoldering the capacitors didn't really work, so I had to break them off carefully as not to lose them. I put them on tape so I wouldn't lose them. However, soldering them directly to the other board was going to be next to impossible with the equipment I had. Instead, I soldered short wires to the capacitors and soldered the wires to the board. Much easier. I covered the capacitors with tape to prevent shorts.

The smoke test was definitely smoke free. It still wouldn't read DVDs, so I tried adjusting the DVD laser voltage. No dice. I figured the DVD portion of the laser was shot, so I put the original laser back in the PS2. It worked 100%, and there was no slow startup. Needless to say I was happy. I went back and replaced the fan fuse as well, and decided to resolder in the Matrix Infinity SE modchip. Since at this point I knew what I was doing, I was successful my first try.

My current result is 2 good modded PS2s and 1 half working PS2. The one that isn't fully functioning is my room mate's old one with it's original laser. All it needs is a new laser and it should be good to go.

Good thing this is fun for me; sounds frustrating, doesn't it?

Review of Costs:

Matrix Infinity SE $30
15W Soldering Iron $8
Thin Solder $4
Soldering Tips $8
Soldering holder $13
v8 Motherboard (used) $30
v9 Motherboard (used) $22
DMS4 Lite E.Z.I (used) $48
DMS4 E.Z.I. clips $28
Resistors $6
PS2 v8 w/ network adapter (used) $80

Total: $277

Potential refunds:

Bad v8 board $20
PS2 with Matrix Infinity SE $200

Estimated Total: $57

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

PS2 and PS2 Slimline modifications

I've learned a lot my ruining my original PS2. I haven't broken any pieces off modifying a couple of PSX's, and those were a success. A 15w soldering iron is a necessity, and purchasing a new tip per couple of projects is definitely helpful.

Anyway, after learning that a slim PS2 can have a hard drive added to it, I became a bit more interested in it. I do have one, but it's just my backup if I ruin what I've got...which I did. I've been thinking today that the PS2 network adapter should be the perfect size to hold a 2.5" hard drive. I'd be more comfortable getting it to fit in there than inside the slim PS2. However, I learned that the PS2 has to be modded for the hard drive to function properly.

I had to buy a new v8 PS2, and I'm waiting for new parts so I can add my DMS4 EZI to it. I think the original DSP clip was broken, and I made it worse trying to get it to work. Since I bought it used, this should be no surprise.

If I have to, I'll put that Matrix Infinity SE clone in the slim PSTwo. It's my understanding that you need a modchip in order to get HDLoader to work (needs to be flashed). I wonder if HDAdvance will work? The only problem is that the Matrix clone can't be reflashed or it gets screwed up apparently. Hmmm. I'm under the impression I can still add Elfs to it though, so maybe I won't need ToxicOS. *shrug*.

If anything, I'd love to get Linux on the PS2 just to screw around.

So many ideas, so little time.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

RE4 Finished

Finally, I completed the regular game. The final boss would probably be difficult without a rocket launcher. To my surprise, I get more content? Apparently, I can play as Ada now. Hmmm...

Anyway, after experiencing the full game, I understand why it was rated a 10 or close to it from game reviewers. I did find myself just wanting to get it over with after a point, but I couldn't give up. Maybe I will be motivated enough to play the Ada side game.

I give it a 9.9 because it is an excellent game, but I would not purchase a Gamecube just to play it.

Hey Capcom, "See you next!"

Thursday, August 04, 2005

More on Resident Evil 4

Capcom officially pissed me off today. When Leon goes back to the sewer, this familiar tail comes through the ceiling and attacks. 100% stolen from Aliens. When I actually faced the creature, it was essentially an Alien with the "newborn"'s head from "Alien Ressurection". What more? If you fail to dodge the tail, it goes through you and picks you up (psst. Think "Aliens" & "Aliens vs Predator") Grrrr. At least the portrayed it with Alien strength; it beat me down well. Aliens are not allowed to be stolen in my book. An AVP rendition of this game would actually be sweet...

The game is getting more difficult; I don't know where these select "whiners" blame the game for being easy. To me it seems to vary in difficulty, which is good.

I believe this game also gets ranked highly because of its immediate accessibility and deviation from the original storyline. I remember playing the original for about 10 minutes and just being pissed off. RE4 sucks you in, even if you are getting spanked. That's a good sign; the previous installments require a dedicated player. That's not me; I don't care for the genre much.

Why complain about the deviation from the Umbrella+Zombie story? Only Megaman can use the same story for 20 games and get away with it. If you want a story, play Final Fantasy. Most storys, especially in video games, revolve around the cliche premise of bad-guy-or-group-bent-on-domination meets good-guy-that-will-save-the-day and most of the time a unexpectedly-expected-relationship in the middle.

Are these complainers mad that these enemies actually chase you? Dodge your shots? Work in groups? Apologies to those it does not bode well with, but this makes for much more interesting confrontations. Zombies are pansies.

I don't care for Ashley much either, but I'm glad she moves out of the way when there is trouble. Before complaining, just remember that she could be way more helpless. If you arm your gun, she ducks or cringes. That is so much better than following you around blindly.

That's my 2000 cents.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Doom 3 for XBox

Doom will always have nostalgia with me. It was the first FPS I actually ever enjoyed (and I didn't enjoy another until Aliens vs Predator). I remember it being the "greatest" game because it was "bloody". Pre-teens are all over that. Ever notice that violent games seem to get higher ratings? Think "God of War" and "Resident Evil 4".

Not that I'm one to argue. If Halo had any gore it would make it more fun. Imagine body parts flying everywhere when hit with a rocket launcher, or eyeballs blowing out the back of the head when sniped. It's not that the gore is a good thing, but it opens up a new realm of trash talking.

Anyway, I saw my roommate playing Doom 3. It looked semi-freaky and the graphics were great, so I purchased it. My girlfriend got to play it before me!

I finally got into the game myself several hours later. The detailed environments are immediately noticeable. ID did an outstanding job in that department. I was a bit disappointed at some of the jerky cut scenes, and the bald guy's head wsn't very round. Looking down doesn't show legs or feet or anything either; it's as though your character is floating.

Just like the old Dooms, enemies will come out of nowhere. However, this time they are not blocky-graphics, they actually take dimensional form. This is a strong point and makes the game very enjoyable.

We'll see how I feel as I progress through the levels.

Monday, August 01, 2005

PS2 and XBox repairs

Playstation 2

I made the mistake of trying to modify my PS2. Playing backups wasn't really important to me; I just wanted to boot directly to the hard drive so I wouldn't need any CD/DVD to start it up. Playing games off the hard drive is drastically better than from disc, so it seemed worth it.

I've soldered plenty of times before, but never on such a small scale before. I was able to solder everything okay, but my own clumsiness resulted in a couple of broken and lost resistors on the PS2 board. Not a big deal, I'll just trade an extra computer I have for a new one.

I'm amazed that engineers make things that are difficult to take apart like this. The PS2 has dozens of screws, 2 metal grounding/heatsink plates, and puzzlish plastics. None of this matters for something as simple as cleaning the laser lense (about 1 dozen screws), but getting underneath the mainboard is another story.

Anyway, I borrowed a friends PS2 to try a solderless modchip on. That gave me nothing but a black screen, so I removed it. From there, the PS2 would not play DVDs. I swapped out the reader assembly with my broken PS2, and it seemed to be back to normal. I still can't get the original assembly for it to play anything but CDs. Strange. It just seems the PS2 is way too delicate.


After learning that the XBox had two screws underneath stickers, getting the top off is an easy process. The DVD drive can be removed with 2 more screws. Nice and simple if you have torq screwdrivers.

I had a friend's XBox that suffered from Disc errors. With my help, we purchased a Thompson replacement drive from Ebay. Taking off the cover, unplugging the old drive, plugging in the new one, and reassembling the XBox took less than 5 minutes. It worked "good as new". This ease is not available for the PS2.

Another friend had a DVD drive that would freeze during games. One day, he kept getting "Call Support" messages, and he couldn't even get into a Live Halo 2 game without it kicking him out.

I had a spare DVD drive, but seemling how I burned about $50 to get it working (bad ebay sale; it wasn't working, and I had to buy a new lens), I didn't want to give it to him for my original quote of $40. It worked, but I really wanted to keep it.

While I had his old drive out, I noticed it was a Samsung, which is supposedly the best XBox drive. I took the top off (4 screws), and immediately noticed the lense looked like someone had finger smugded it. I cleaned it off with some fingernail polish remover (rubbing alcohol was not available) and tried it again. Worked great! Now I'm wishing that I tried that with the bad drive from Ebay. The lense looked clean though.