opensource

Running homebrew and open-source software on your Wii, using the Twilight Hack and the Homebrew Channel

Wii

I've been owning a Nintendo Wii for quite a while now, but so far only played an occasional game of tennis or the like. Over the holidays I got The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which is a really nice game in itself. What is even more interesting though, is that this game allows you to run homebrew software on your Wii.

What you usually want to do, is to use the so-called Twilight Hack to install the Homebrew Channel on your Wii (you'll need an SD card and the Twilight Princess game for this). Once the process has finished you won't need the game anymore though.

So, here's a quick tutorial on how to install the Homebrew Channel. I basically followed the Setting up your Wii for Homebrew HOWTO from wiibrew.org.

Requirements

An SD card max. 2GB in size (not an SDHC card!), an SD card reader in your PC or laptop, and the Twilight Princess game (which you must play at least once).

Backup

First, you'll want to backup your Twilight Princess save games (if any). For that, we format the SD card (it needs a FAT16/FAT32) filesystem.

 $ mkfs.vfat /dev/mmcblk0p1 (you may need to change "mmcblk0p1" to whatever fits your setup)

Now insert the SD card into the Wii, start the Wii, go to Wii Options --> Data Management --> Save Data --> Wii and copy your Twilight Princess save games onto the SD card. Then, poweroff, remove the SD card, insert it into your laptop/PC and copy the save games to a safe place.

 $ mount -t vfat /dev/mmcblk0p1 /mnt
 $ mv /mnt/private ~/zelda_savegames

Twilight Hack and Homebrew Channel

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Next up: download the Twilight Hack and Homebrew Channel, and put the files on the SD card:

 $ wget http://hbc.hackmii.com/dist/twilight-hack-v0.1-beta1.zip
 $ unzip twilight-hack-v0.1-beta1.zip
 $ cp -r private /mnt
 $ wget http://hbc.hackmii.com/dist/the_homebrew_channel-1.0.1.tar.gz
 $ tar xfvz the_homebrew_channel-1.0.1.tar.gz
 $ cp the_homebrew_channel-1.0.1/boot.dol /mnt
 $ umount /mnt

Now remove the SD card, insert it into the Wii and power-up the Wii. Go to Wii Options --> Data Management --> Save Data --> Wii, delete the Wii Twilight Princess save games, then copy the "Twilight Hack" save game from the SD card onto the Wii (you need to select the correct one for your region).

Quit the menu, start Twilight Princess, load the "Twilight Hack" savegame and finally talk to the person in front of you (do not perform any other actions, or the Wii may crash!). Follow the remaining instructions on the screen and you're done. You now have an additional channel named Homebrew Channel where all your homebrew programs/games (and your own Free Software programs you may write/port) will appear.

Installing homebrew software

So far, there are no real applications in the Homebrew Channel, you need to put all the homebrew software you want on the SD card. There's a huuuge list of applications and games to choose from, many of them Free Software with source code, some however are binary-only.

Basically, you put each application in a sub-directory of apps/ on the SD card, the most important file in every sub-directory is always boot.dol. If you have a boot.elf file instead, you'll probably need to convert it using the ELF to DOL converter.

Restoring Twilight Princess save games

You may now want to restore your Twilight Princess save games onto the Wii, you no longer need the "Twilight Hack" save game. Put your ~/zelda_savegames directory on the SD card and name it private/ again. Insert the SD card into the Wii and copy the save games on the Wii (similar procedure as above).

Have fun with homebrew software on your Wii, or even better write your own software or port existing Linux applications/games!

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