Thursday, October 1, 2009

The hows and whys of hacking the PSP


By James Booth

As neat a device as the PSP is, why would you want to hack it? There are a multitude of reasons, but the most basic is that the PSP is capable of so much more than Sony has allowed. In this introductory article, I will show you the hows and whys of hacking the Sony PSP in Figure A.


Sony's mobile gaming platform the Playstation Portable, or PSP. (click for larger image)

What is hacking?

As many of you are aware, hacking can have many meanings, from illegally gaining access to a program, network, or IT infrastructure, to a crude attempt at chopping with a bladed object. In this particular instance, hacking refers to the modification of a program or device in order to give the user access to features that were otherwise unavailable.

Hacking can be physical, in that a physical modification can be made to one or more components that alter how the object functions. Or hacking can be software-based, where the operating system, a program, or feature is subverted via utilization of some utility or developer backdoor. In hacking the PSP, we will be using a combination of both methods.

Why hack the PSP?

By hacking the PSP you will be able to install customized firmware and utilize features of the device the common user otherwise could not. It's no secret that by hacking the PSP users can install pirated software, in fact, hacking is the only way this can be accomplished; but this article will not cover the use of illegal or pirated software on the PSP, nor will it provide information on how to obtain pirated software.

There is a real gray area regarding making copies of titles a person legally owns. Depending on where you live, it may or may not be a violation of the law to make backup copies. Any information gleaned from this article that may be used to create a backup is solely for informational purposes only.

One particular feature I've been able to utilize by hacking my PSP is to install a screenshot utility. Normally, there is no way to take a screenshot on the PSP, leaving you with no means of proving that awesome score to your friends, or capturing an image for an article or strategy guide.

Another utility I've made use of allows me to calibrate the analog stick of the PSP; a handy piece of software considering I'm rather hard on them. As they begin to drift I can recalibrate the stick to get a bit more life out of an analog stick that would otherwise need to be replaced.

Other utilities that can be loaded on the PSP are PIM (Personal Information Manager) organizers, e-book or PDF readers, a variety of user-created games, and other this-and-that programs or utilities. In fact, Sony has hindered the capabilities of the PSP quite dramatically by maintaining strict control over the commercially available software. But as in many fields, the user community has decided they want more from the device, and have taken steps to make that possible.