Max Media Dock

Was at the store today, and I came across the Max Media Dock by Datel. I had seen these before, but I hadn’t paid too much attention to them. I’m not really interested in using my DS as a media player. But, something caught my eye — the box said that it supported playing “shareware (homebrew) games”. Now this was new — a NoPass device, along with a CF adapter, readily available in a major nationwide retailer.

Now, after playing with it for a little while, it does seem to be a bit limited. There is no memory on the slot 2 adapter, so playing GBA homebrew games on it is a no-go — Datel claims on it’s website that the device is perfect for running GBA games, it’s quite obvious that it’s not up to the task once you play with it. I even found an online petition asking Datel to support this feature. I’m gonna give everyone that’s waiting for that to happen a tip — it’s not going to happen.

Another issue is that a lot of DS homebrew doesn’t seem to support the device fully either. Emulators seem to have problems (though, I’m willing to accept blame for that as well), and DS Linux doesn’t work either (though there is a note saying that the GBA Media Player version might work). Another issue is that when I attempted to run FlashMe, it gave me an ominous warning saying that my firmware was unknown — even though I had downloaded a v7/DS Lite compatible version. Still investigating that one, it may just be that my firmware version is newer.

On the good side — it has a built in USB 2.0 port, so updating the content is as easy as turning off the DS, plugging in the cable, and dropping files onto the drive. When done, simply unmount the drive, unplug the cable, and turn the DS back on. If the cable could be left plugged in, it would make a very workable dev environment. But, even still, it’s much better than what I had to go through in the GBA days.

Also, another good thing for development is that since it is a CF device with a real filesystem (well, as real as FAT16 can be) on it, you can leave your assets on the drive, and simply update the NDS file — much better than having to transfer all of your asset data over and over again like you would have to if you were using a flash cart on the GBA.

Another downside is that time between turning on the DS and actually getting your program launched is quite long — you have the regular DS startup screen, the Datel startup screen, possibly another Datel startup screen if you install the latest version of the Media Player software, and then you have to tap on the screen to start your program. Some of this can be shortened if you name your program bootme.nds, but doing so also removes the possibility of running other programs until you rename/remove that file. It would be nice if the firmware on the Datel card could be hacked to get rid of it’s startup screen — which, along with FlashMe (assuming it works, of course) would save a lot of time.

Overall, it’s not too bad of a device — it’s now possible to go down the street to your nearest store (Best Buy and Wal-Mart both list the item for sale — others probably do as well), and pickup something that will allow you to play (some) homebrew games on your DS, along with some media player functionality as well. Of course, advanced users (like myself, for example) would probably prefer something along the lines of a SuperCard Lite, but even as nice of a solution as that is, in some ways, it’s not as developer friendly as the Max Media Dock (no USB port, for example).

Oh, and one more thing — even though the software on the included CD is for Windows only, you can use the device on an OS X machine (and presumably a Linux and *BSD one — anything that can mount a FAT16 filesystem over USB). So, this is a nice workable solution for doing DS dev work on a Mac.

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