An Honest Reviews on the BlackBerry Z30, BlackBerry OS 10, and iOS

My Z30 finally arrived after placing my order yesterday. It came with 6 layers of inner packaging. Its like opening a Matryoshka doll, albeit differ in the packaging content :-P

Overall speaking I am very impressed with BBOS 10. Mind you that this is my first time trying out BBOS 10 and I'm already started to love it. Prior to that I already spent one whole week watching various features introduced in BBOS 10, so it is easier for me to make the transition. Believe me not, you wouldn't appreciate the creamy beauty of BBOS 10 until you lay your fingers on actually using it :)

As expected, the immediate things that I did after unboxing it was plugging it into a charger and let it update to 10.2.1.2977 from the stock 10.2.0.xxx. At that point I didn't really explore it nor syncing my data such as contacts to avoid possible issues during the update. Not that it will happen but let's play it safe since I am going to update it sooner or later anyways :-)

My BlackBerry Z30 general information

Coming from a long term iOS user (since the days of iPod Touch 1st gen in 2007), allow me to share some impressive findings in both software and hardware on the Z30 and how does it compared to the iOS. Mind you that I am not promoting how great BBOS is in comparison with iOS, but rather outlining the different user experience. Honestly speaking, it is very enticing for me to do that :-X Perhaps it is my love for the BlackBerry OS and the device itself.

Prior to that allow me to share some basic info. I had used my iPhone 4S for almost 3 years now and only started to get really interested about BlackBerry 3 weeks ago by purchasing a Bold 9900. Yes you heard me right, a quick switch from a three years old device to a Z30 in just 3 weeks. Okay in case you wonder, the main reason for the switch is finding a phone that had a great reception. I found that the reception on the iPhone is just okay and occasionally experienced bad call quality and the need to ask the other party to repeat a sentence, which is awkward and annoying. The Bold 9900 proved to have exceptional reception and despite my love for it, BBOS7 is not at the edge when it comes to modern apps multitasking and performance. Plus the apps on BBOS7 really showed its age when compared to modern application nowadays, especially the user interface.

By the way, I am never a fan of Android and the only Android device I ever owned personally is the nVidia Shield which I only used for days and later sold it after few months. Everyone has their own taste right? :-D

In a sense, this review might looks like a combinatorial reviews for both the BlackBerry Z30 smartphone and the BlackBerry OS 10, mixed with some bits of comparison with the iOS. In a sense, it is hard not to mention them together seeing that both of them are an ecosystem that forms the ultimate end user experience :)

Enough rambling already, let us start the review now.

Software




BlackBerry Hub

With all my social connections (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp), text messages, emails and notification now under one roof and is easily accessible and peekable regardless of where you are, it is not easy to say it is not the biggest highlight in BBOS 10. Besides, you also presented with a unify interface when composing post to various services without having to open up multiple apps in the background. Needless to say you have to do this on iOS. This really showed that the BlackBerry is the communication power-hub or shall I say the King of Communicator!



I have to highlight but the BlackBerry Hub only served as the hub for any messages that is addressed to you instead of being a social feed aggregator (think RSS Reader). It is unlike the Social Feeds that you might have accustomed to in BBOS 7. Think of it as the Messages app in BBOS 7.

Contacts Integration

Thanks to BlackBerry Link, I am able to synchronize all my contacts to my BlackBerry Z30, with a minor issue that my groups assigned in my OSX Contacts doesn't seemed to transferred to the BBOS 10. Perhaps it is due to the non standarized vCard format for the group fields, I do not know.

I like the way that the Contacts application is able get your contact information from various social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and doing a great job in linking them together. Plus you can even have a glance at a selected contact social updates and your recent communication activities with them. One minor note though, you would still have to fix those duplicated fields yourself in case the same field exist in your local and social sites information.







Pure Swipe-based User Interface

Frankly speaking I'm never a fan of swipe gesture and I always thought it's a gimmick. But after trying it for just 5 minutes, I started to wonder why doesn't anyone think of it long ages ago? I especially like the way that you are able to switch between applications just by swiping up from the bottom, instead of opening a control panel like those in iOS 7 and above.

Typing Experience

I have a confession to make, this must be the best virtual keyboard I had ever used, per se. I had tried both iOS and Android keyboard and always found them to be very cramped at times. The text prediction is very akin to Octopus Keyboard on Cydia, which is no longer supported in iOS 7. I especially like the ample spacing and the silver lined separator between each key row, which offers enough separation during typing. Pretty much like the actual physical keyboard on the Q10. I actually see a huge improvement on my typing speed and accuracy now. Bam bam bam!! They really nailed in on this one.

True Multitasking

The ability to open up to 8 active applications (which they advertised as Active Frames) simultaneously, now that's true multitasking. At first, I am having a little bit of concern about the limitation of only 8 applications running at the same time, but I soon realized that I didn't really need to open that many at a session. To be exact, you would have save yourselves from opening various social apps (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) that is already managed under BlackBerry Hub. Doing the math based on my 3 days usage until now, I found myself mostly using the Browser (duh!), SuperTube (YouTube player), and the music player. What's great about it is the BlackBerry Hub is running on headless (background) mode, so you save yourself an Active Frame already. Also, the limitation is necessary to prevent the device memory (RAM) from going full.

Flash Support on Browser

What more can I say, a desktop YouTube version on a large 5 inch screen? I'm satisfied.

Notifications

BBOS 10.2.1 definitely comes with tons of customization options such as unique ring tones per application and per person natively. In fact I spent almost 30 minutes trying to put those ring tones and notifications alert that I downloaded aeons ago in good use. Sadly the LED color is not customizable but thanks to Hub++ or BeBuzz, you can do it too!

Note that iOS also features customizable ring tones and alerts per contact. If I am not mistaken, it used to be impossible until iOS 6 came along.





Android App Compatible

I have heard people that used to side load Android application by going through complicated process but thanks to Amazon App Store, installing an Android application has never been easier. Granted not all apps are there such as QuizUp. Even if the application work, the performance would be subpar since it is running on emulator mode, which means some performance impact when translating between different instruction sets. I have read that applications that uses Google API framework will refuse to work and you will know it when you see the Crash dialog during launch.

Do note that not all the Android applications on Google Play Store are available on the Amazon App Store. I am not aware of how Amazon App Store reviews and distribute the apps. Frankly, I doubt that I would use this feature since I am not accustomed to Android application myself. It is a plus knowing that I have it just beside my reach though for those unknown moments :=)

Bedside Mode

I use my smartphone as my waking alarm and place it very close to my bed. Call me paranoid but I often turn off my Wi-Fi switch manually. With bedside mode activated, you are only alerted when you received any incoming calls. If I am not mistaken, all the Wi-Fi and the notifications are suppressed and shut down while this mode is active.

iOS 7 also introduces this feature and is schedulable. You'll see a moon icon at the right side of the status bar when activated.

Notification & Profile

The profile selection in BBOS 10 is similar to that of BBOS 7. Though seemingly lacking, I always have the option to purchase the Profiler app on BlackBerry World which offers smart profile activation and customization. Imagine a profile that is automatically switched based on your schedule or geolocation. :-D

iOS, until now, still does not support multiple profiles aside from the silent profile.




Device Monitor

An application that monitors your device information such as battery consumption, CPU usage, memory and storage and provide a great detail of information in the form of graph up to the last 48 hours.

This is what the device monitor shows when I open the following 7 applications as shown in the Active Frames: 1) Music, 2) Device Monitor, 3) FeedMinder, 4) SuperTube, 5) BlackBerry World, 6) Contacts, and 7) BBM. Due to the lack of applications on BlackBerry World you will see that even 10 GB sounds a lot for me to utilize.





Hardware

5 inch Super AMOLED Display

Compared to IPhone 4S meekly 3.5 inch screen, this screen is simply huge. The color gamut is quite what I expected since I had used PS Vita first generation which uses similar technology. It's not too overly saturated compared to some display I saw on Samsung phone. The screen is definitely less brighter than LED or LCD counterpart but hey, it's more power efficient.

2,880 mAH Battery Capacity

The 2,880 mAH battery capacity definitely sweep iPhone 4S to dust. It only took roughly 5 hours to fully charge from 5%. Although it only reported 11 hours of battery time remaining after the full charge, it usually last longer than that. I can attest to more than 15 hours of battery life, which included 6 hours of my sleep time with bedside mode activated.




Stereo Speakers

My first time to enjoy any smartphone having dual speakers. Although they are located at the back unlike the nVidia Shield tablet, it still sounded clear and boomy when lie flat on the surface. Definitely a step up from iPhone and great for table conference call.

Ergonomics

Weight. Although 170g might seemed heavy compared to other similar sized smartphones with lesser weight, I felt that the overall weight is well spread and distributed. The curved edge also lies comfortably when you hold it on one hand. No complaints on the ergonomics here. You just got to hold it to feel it and ignore those numbers on the technical sheet.

FM Radio

The ability to listen to local radio simply by plugging in any headset (be to act as the antenna is a huge plus for those occasion without any Internet access. Oh and you can play the sound through speaker instead of the headset.



Some Gripes I Felt About Z30 and BBOS 10

Low Earpiece Volume

Despite cranking the volume to the maximum during a phone call over carrier network, it still sounded very low compared to my Bold 9900 or the iPhone. This is in consistent and matches the reports posted by many users on CrackBerry here,  I'm not sure whether it is due to the OS update that causes it as I never tried 10.2.0 straight out of the box. It is rumored that the next 10.3 update will be rolled out to target this issue by the means of software boost.


Display

Sporting a 5 inch display with only a 720p display (or 295 PPI), I find that the text are not as crisp as I would have expected when compared to a 3.5 inch Phone 4S with resolution of 960x640 at 326 ppi. This is forgiving when you are reading articles since it is likely that you would switch to Reader mode anyways with a customizable font size tweaked to your preference. But it's a different story if you were to visit a forum with tons of navigation and links. Then again, this is not a big issue for me since I can still make up the text and will zoom in to click on the links anyways.


Poor Gaming Performance

Despite the Z30 having a quad core graphic processor chip under the hood, I found that most games are still subpar in the gaming department. I am not a huge fan in mobile games, but in all the games that I tried such as Run in Crowd and Despicable Me, I would see a sudden frame drop at random interval. As a fair comparison, these games run perfectly smooth on my iPhone 4S which is released 2 years before the Z30. Then again, gaming is never the reason why I chose BlackBerry :-) It is only a plus.

Alarm

This might comes as a surprise but you can only set a single alarm in the default Clock application. Fortunately this is nothing that a third party application cannot solve.
You can only set one alarm.

No Smart Contacts

The Contacts application is incapable to create smart groups that can automatically group contacts together based on some filter criteria such as company names. Then again, iOS also does not have it. Though you can easily install some third party contacts application in the iOS to get over it or simply create those smart groups yourself on OSX, I have yet to find any contact application on BlackBerry World that offer this feature.

Shameful Application Selection

I am sure you had read it many times already, but believe me, the BlackBerry World is still at its infancy stage and you can't really blame the limited app selection since it launches late behind Apple Store, Google Play Store, or Windows Marketplace. The main reason is less developers are likely to developed or port their apps on BlackBerry World given the small number of target users. Fortunately I only use my BlackBerry Z30 as the communication hub and leaves all the entertainment needs to my iPhone while I am on the go. Though the game selection is laughable, you can still find some decent titles, but don't expect to see blockbuster titles in the foreseeable future.

In case if you are wondering, there is NO video streaming client application on BlackBerry World. That means I can't access my video server hosted on my Desktop whenever I want to enjoy my personal video collection on the couch. Funny that no developers are offering this application since video streaming client is almost a necessity for any smartphone. If they did, they would definitely earn a huge chunk of money out of it even if it is a paid app. At this point I definitely miss the highly acclaimed Air Video player available on the iOS which I used every night on my iPhone 4S. Even if you search around for other similar video streaming client you simply couldn't find any. Yes, no XBMC or Air Stream. Well there is actually an application called XBMC on the BlackBerry World but that is a bogus. This is a huge shame since I can't enjoy watching my videos on the gorgeous 5 inch AMOLED display. Glad there is YouTube, but that doesn't really what I want is it? :-P





Video Reviews

There is a guy that goes by the username of ' ' that published a 4 part series of comparing how fast you can perform various daily task between BlackBerry OS and iOS. Some might sound silly such as setting up the alarm. But believe me, it is these little bits that count at the end of the day, and that shows just how BlackBerry developers think of user experience. 

Recommended Applications

<stay tuned for more information>

Final Remarks

I believe focusing on end user experience is necessary for BlackBerry to survive and remain competitive in the smartphone competition between iOS and Android seeing that they are the latecomers in this game and the number of blockbuster applications on the BlackBerry World are something to be embarrassed at and shed away many potential users already, especially those coming from iOS or Android. Aren't those guys spoilt, myself included. 

I am both amazed and impressed for them to continue developing their BlackBerry product despite the reported financial lost. They are definitely daring to address this challenge and develop their own platform from the scratch instead of relying on existing platform for distributing their apps. 

Ultimately, if  you set aside all those gaming and entertainment apps and just focuses on the productivity and communication needs, you will start to appreciate BlackBerry, just as I did. 

P/S: I am a coveted BlackBerry fans now, though I still have the love for iOS :-D

Rambling of An Apple Fan Towards Apple Marketing Choices

In the days of Steve Jobs, buying an iDevices (iPhone and iPad) used to be very easy and straightforward thanks to the binary choices presented. This may surprise you, but most users typically do not want to be offered with a lot of choice, they want to be lock down and just buy things that are offered. Ask yourselves whether this is true. As the saying goes, "with choices comes responsibility". In this context, that means you would have to go through tons of research (be it written or video reviews) and outlining each and every decision before fork out your hard, cold cash. Granted, iDevices are never cheap to begin with, and never will. With the hefty price that you paid though, you earn yourself a social stature in a higher hierarchy, or such is the stereotype of spotting anyone with an iDevices.

The Switch of Apple Marketing Scheme

Let us now look at how Apple marketing scheme for iDevices had since changes during the days of the late Steve Jobs from the introduction of the first generation iPhone in June 29, 2007 to the iPhone 4S in October 14, 2011. Note that Steve Job was still working on the design decision on the iPhone 4S though do not have the opportunity to present it.

It used to be only two choices when it comes to purchasing an iDevice. Want to make a phone call, there is iPhone. No? Well there is iPad. No fuzziness what-so-ever.

Purchasing Route

Say you are going for iPhone, the things that you only need to consider next are also plain simple, which are colors (black/white) and capacity (16, 32, 64GB). The same decision goes for iPad as well.

No brainer purchasing decision for iPhone 4S.

Ever since Tim Cook became the CEO of Apple, things had changed rather substantially. Not to be blunt but he had changed, or should I say diversify the product lineup. This is clearly seen with the introduction of iPad Mini and the screen size options for iPhone 6.

iPhone 6 selection options.

iPhone

Now when you are up to purchase an iPhone, you now has another factor to consider on top of the aforementioned factors: screen size. In particular, you now have the option to choose between 4.7 inch for iPhone 6 or 5.6 inch for the iPhone 6 Plus. Though the number differences might seemed minute, its actually a day and night difference when you compare them side by side.

In the aspect of color, you now have three colors to choose from instead of the binary black and white, which are silver, space gray, and gold.

Personally I do not think that the launching of Touch ID is entirely necessary and justified for purchase, for most people anyways. Though the technology that is used to implement it might seemed revolutionary, apps rarely utilize it. Seriously, just count how many times you used it. It is just not that necessary. Even if Touch ID can be used for making payment, it would take ages for my country, or any developing country to have it widely deployed and practiced by people. Needless to say, such an impressive piece of technology marvel comes at a price, literally, that's the price tag that you are going to pay for the latest iDevices, and that is pretty much substantial to an already premium product. As it is true for all retail product, most of the money actually goes towards the research and marketing.

iPad

9.7 inch remains the standard screen size for iPad from the first generation iPad released in April 3, 2010 to the latest iPad Air in November 1, 2013. Well that is partially true, until its little brother, the iPad mini which featured 7.9 inch is introduced two years ago in November 2, 2012. With the introduction of iPhone 6 Plus I don't see much reason to purchase an iPad Mini now if you already had an iPad.





Final Thought

To be honest I kind of feel dismayed with the way that Apple is trying to diversify their products to catch up with the market trend. Put it this way, surely more options certainly brings no harm but I certainly would not want it to end up with those different diversity such as those of Android devices. Think of those 4, 5, 5.2, 5.5, 6, 6.x... inch of screen sizes. Looking at the highly anticipated upcoming October 16 Apple Event which would be held on 16 October at its headquarters in Cupertino, California, I would hit the ceiling if Apple actually announced a 10 inch+ iPad aside from the specs bump for their iPads lineup  :-P

[Tutorial] Custom Upgrade BlackBerry OS 7.1 Walkthrough

So I just purchased a BlackBerry Bold 9900 first released back in 2011. Many, I am sure you do, ask why purchase such legacy device while I could purchase a smartphone sporting quad-core processor, gigabytes of memory, Super AMOLED screen, HD resolution, LTE network connectivity, 1080p camera/video recording quality camera available. Well the answer is pretty obvious and common, I want to try out their touted physical keyboard and landline-like voice quality. Most importantly, it is cheap and serve as an adapting window before trying out the next flagship, the Blackberry Q20 or Blackberry Classic (alias) that is simply an improved version of the Bold 9900 in many aspects. There is no reason to purchase Bold 9900 after Q20 is announced, hopefully release sometime in November if the rumor are to be believed. I won't become a laughing stock by purchasing it now, since many Bold users still complains and even hold their purchase on Q10, especially the lack of a dedicated top panel for answering/rejecting calls, accessing BB menu, back buttons, and optical trackpad.

Of course, this is only going to be my communication device for text messaging, voice call, replying emails, and nothing else. Well perhaps browsing some website and social feeds occasionally. For anything else, I had my iPhone covered. This might shock you but the Bold 9900 makes a return in North America just recently back in June.

There are mainly two reasons as to why I dived into writing this tutorial to custom upgrade BB OS:
1. Most tutorials are outdated.
2. I faced intermittent carrier signal quality dropped despite staying on average coverage area, which is not what I expected from a BB.

So some information about my network carrier, DiGi in Malaysia. Though it might not matters to you.

Several notes about Blackberry OS before diving into the steps:

  • The latest Blackberry OS release is OS 7.1.1098 from O2 carrier in United Kingdom. The last denominator is the revision on this release and differs from each carrier. I recommend using 7.1.923 from NTT Docomo (Japan) as reported by many as being a stable OS with fast signal lock.
  • The OS itself is built upon Java Virtual Machine and applications are developed using Java language. You can't expect Android or iOS quality like apps on BB. It is simply business.
Why bother upgrading BBOS yourself when you can simply use Blackberry Desktop Software?
The main reason is the latest revision available when using this approach is 7.1.74x which has a non-working Blackberry App World. Although there is a workaround for this by simply download the latest App World .jad files from website such as xxx, I had issues with my carrier resulting in intermittent signal drop between 1 to 3 bars, and sometimes, SOS with no signal at all!

Now let's take a look at your recipe:
- BlackBerry OS (Operating System) downloadable from BlackBerry official website. Simply google with keywords such as "your carrier/telco name + blackberry os". For example, 'digi blackberry os' and the correct software download link here. It is usually bundle with package name such as 9900AllLang_PBr.7.1.0_rel2930_PL5.1.0.701_A7.1.0.1098_O2_UK.exe'. The red highlighted text denotes the revision number for the release. In this case, it is revision 1098 for OS 7.1.0.


* The installation directory for each revision is located under:
C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\Research In Motion\Shared\Loader Files

- BlackBerry Desktop Software to backup your core files such as calendars, contacts, messages, and etcetera. Note that it does not backup any third party applications, i.e. those applications that does not came with the release such as LinkedIn, Tune-In Radio, etc. It is available in both Windows and Mac.

BBSAK (BlackBerry Swiss Army Knife) to backup your third party applications downloaded from Blackberry World. Unfortunately you will need a Windows OS for this.

* It is recommended to use a Windows OS natively (no virtual machine) to proceed with this tutorial to avoid complications while flashing the ROM or uploading the OS image. Most people, myself included  stuck during 'Uploading ROM Image' phase.
* Make sure you installed all the recipes properly before proceeding.

So now that the recipe is ready, let's go through it step-by-step:

* The whole process will took around 20 minutes.

1. Open BlackBerry Desktop Software and backup your essential stuffs such as contacts, BBM chat messages, calendars, tasks, etc. You can choose to backup everything but there might be some problem in case the upgraded OS cannot read. Well if you're simply changing between revisions of the same major release such as 7.1 there should be no problem restoring a full backup since the differences between revisions are usually minor patches.

2. Open BBSAK and use it to backup your third party apps.

3. With your BlackBerry device still connected, click Wipe All button to erase everything on your BB device.

During this process you will see a LED red flash followed by the booting process page, with 'Error 507 Reload Software' around 3/4 of the progress bar.



4. Click the Load OS buttons in BBSAK and you will asked to select which OS to install. You might see multiple OS'es when you installed multiple revisions.

5. Follow the wizard, select the items to installed, and wait.

* If you are stuck in 'Uploading RAM image' during this step, you are probably ignoring my advice and using Virtual Machine to proceed. I experienced this when using Parallel Desktop and solved it when natively install using a Windows OS.

6. Once it is complete your BB device will restart and enjoy your newly installed OS. Hopefully seeing a more stable carrier signal reception. :)

Advanced Reading

How to Install Hybrid OS

Long story short, simply grab a release such as Berrylicio.us release candidate, extract, and replace all the files in the recommended BB OS Loader folder.

A more lengthly and detailed explanation can be found here > How to Install Hybrid BB OS

Troubleshooting

1. The process stuck when trying to 'Upload ROM image'.
Install on a native Windows OS.

2. App Loader cannot find anything to install.
Delete all the vendors.xml files. They are located in two places:

For 64-bit Windows OS:
- C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\Research In Motion\AppLoader\
- C:\Users\<Your Username>\AppData\Roaming\Research In Motion\BlackBerry\Loader XML\

FAQ

What is hybrid OS?
Since the files for the OS is modifiable, some people took the liberty to modify some kernel files for faster signal locking. I had tried out the Berrylicious.us RC (Release Candidate) 15 and 22 with OS 7.1.923 and 7.1.1098 respectively but simply could not noticed any differences.

Why switch to hybrid OS over official OS?
Some noticeably experienced faster signal locking, more stable mobile hotspot activation, better battery life. Though it all depends on your network carrier. Trust me, selecting the right base OS and the right hybrid OS can be a huge hassle and time waster, and I simply cannot tell the differences between hybrid or official release on my carrier.

Links









Installing and Running DOSBox on PS Vita (PSP Emulator) on TN-V8 Exploit

I missed DOS games. And luckily PS Vita has an emulator ported from DOSBox allowing you run DOS game on the go.

There are many builds of DOSBox for PSP available, with the immediate search showing the following versions (DD/MM/YY)

03/08/08, 26/07/08, 07/06/08, 25/06/08, 02/01/08, 29/01/08, 26/11/07



However, I noticed that not all builds will work on the PSP emulator in PS Vita exploited using TN-V.

Perhaps I should rephrase, all the builds will run fine without selecting core=dynamic options. Unfortunately, this option is essential and a MUST to run the game smoothly while other options such as simple and normal is not enough. From my testing thus far, the only build that work fine with core=dynamic option is a build from 26/11/07.

Enough with the introduction, let's get started to install DOSBox on your PSP.

First, grab a build of DOSBox from a list here and install it on your PSP. I highly recommend to download the build from 26/11/07 here.

* Follow my previous tutorial on how to install homebrew on PSP here if you do not know how to do so.

Next, launch DOSBox and make sure you do not encounter any error such as 'bus error', 'inst error', or 'data error'. As mentioned, these error will only occur if you select core=dynamic options in other builds except 2007 ones here.

Error image

A successful launch will look similar to the screenshot below:
Success image

You may have noticed now that there is no on-screen keyboard to enter any input. So what is the way to do that? Well, the most common way is to create a dosbox.conf file and insert the commands that you want to input in the [autoexec] section.

Following shows a fresh standard dosbox.conf:

* The bolded text is the most commonly tweak settings.

[sdl]
# fullscreen -- Start dosbox directly in fullscreen.
# fulldouble -- Use double buffering in fullscreen.
# fullresolution -- What resolution to use for fullscreen: original or fixed size (e.g. 1024x768).
# windowresolution -- Scale the window to this size IF the output device supports hardware scaling.
# output -- What to use for output: surface,overlay,opengl,openglnb,ddraw.
# autolock -- Mouse will automatically lock, if you click on the screen.
# sensitiviy -- Mouse sensitivity.
# waitonerror -- Wait before closing the console if dosbox has an error.
# priority -- Priority levels for dosbox: lowest,lower,normal,higher,highest,pause (when not focussed).
#   Second entry behind the comma is for when dosbox is not focused/minimized.
# mapperfile -- File used to load/save the key/event mappings from.
# usescancodes -- Avoid usage of symkeys, might not work on all operating systems.

fullscreen=true
fulldouble=false
fullresolution=original
windowresolution=original
output=surface
autolock=true
sensitivity=35
waitonerror=true
INPUTMAP up up 
INPUTMAP right right 
INPUTMAP down down 
INPUTMAP left left 
INPUTMAP triangle d 
INPUTMAP square lshift
INPUTMAP cross lctrl
INPUTMAP circle laltpriority=higher,normal
mapperfile=mapper.txt
usescancodes=true
keyhint=true

[dosbox]
# language -- Select another language file.
# memsize -- Amount of memory dosbox has in megabytes.
# machine -- The type of machine tries to emulate:hercules,cga,tandy,pcjr,vga.
# captures -- Directory where things like wave,midi,screenshot get captured.

language=
machine=vga
captures=capture
memsize=10

[render]
# frameskip -- How many frames dosbox skips before drawing one.
# aspect -- Do aspect correction, if your output method doesn't support scaling this can slow things down!.
# scaler -- Scaler used to enlarge/enhance low resolution modes.
# Supported are none,normal2x,normal3x,advmame2x,advmame3x,hq2x,hq3x,
# 2xsai,super2xsai,supereagle,advinterp2x,advinterp3x,
# tv2x,tv3x,rgb2x,rgb3x,scan2x,scan3x.

frameskip=0
aspect=false
scaler=normal2x

[cpu]
# core -- CPU Core used in emulation: normal,simple,dynamic,auto.
#    auto switches from normal to dynamic if appropriate.
# cycles -- Amount of instructions dosbox tries to emulate each millisecond.
# Setting this value too high results in sound dropouts and lags.
# You can also let DOSBox guess the correct value by setting it to max.
# The default setting (auto) switches to max if appropriate.
# cycleup   -- Amount of cycles to increase/decrease with keycombo.
# cycledown    Setting it lower than 100 will be a percentage.

core=dynamic
cycles=sync
cycleup=2500
cycledown=400
autocycle=true
mincycles=600
maxcycles=3000

[mixer]
# nosound -- Enable silent mode, sound is still emulated though.
# rate -- Mixer sample rate, setting any devices higher than this will
#    probably lower their sound quality.
# blocksize -- Mixer block size, larger blocks might help sound stuttering
#    but sound will also be more lagged.
# prebuffer -- How many milliseconds of data to keep on top of the blocksize.

nosound=false
rate=22050
blocksize=2048
prebuffer=10

[midi]
# mpu401 -- Type of MPU-401 to emulate: none, uart or intelligent.
# device -- Device that will receive the MIDI data from MPU-401.
# This can be default,alsa,oss,win32,coreaudio,none.
# config -- Special configuration options for the device. In Windows put
# the id of the device you want to use. See README for details.

mpu401=intelligent
device=default
config=

[sblaster]
# sbtype -- Type of sblaster to emulate:none,sb1,sb2,sbpro1,sbpro2,sb16.
# sbbase,irq,dma,hdma -- The IO/IRQ/DMA/High DMA address of the soundblaster.
# mixer -- Allow the soundblaster mixer to modify the dosbox mixer.
# oplmode -- Type of OPL emulation: auto,cms,opl2,dualopl2,opl3.
#  On auto the mode is determined by sblaster type.
#  All OPL modes are 'Adlib', except for CMS.
# oplrate -- Sample rate of OPL music emulation.

sbtype=sb16
sbbase=220
irq=7
dma=1
hdma=5
mixer=true
oplmode=auto
oplrate=22050

[gus]
# gus -- Enable the Gravis Ultrasound emulation.
# gusbase,irq1,irq2,dma1,dma2 -- The IO/IRQ/DMA addresses of the 
#  Gravis Ultrasound. (Same IRQ's and DMA's are OK.)
# gusrate -- Sample rate of Ultrasound emulation.
# ultradir -- Path to Ultrasound directory.  In this directory
#   there should be a MIDI directory that contains
#   the patch files for GUS playback.  Patch sets used
#   with Timidity should work fine.

gus=true
gusrate=22050
gusbase=240
irq1=5
irq2=5
dma1=3
dma2=3
ultradir=C:\ULTRASND

[speaker]
# pcspeaker -- Enable PC-Speaker emulation.
# pcrate -- Sample rate of the PC-Speaker sound generation.
# tandy -- Enable Tandy Sound System emulation (off,on,auto).
# For auto Tandysound emulation is present only if machine is set to tandy.
# tandyrate -- Sample rate of the Tandy 3-Voice generation.
# disney -- Enable Disney Sound Source emulation.

pcspeaker=true
pcrate=22050
tandy=auto
tandyrate=22050
disney=true

[joystick]
# joysticktype -- Type of joystick to emulate: auto (default), none,
#  2axis (supports two joysticks), 4axis,
#  fcs (Thrustmaster), ch (CH Flightstick).
#  none disables joystick emulation.
#  auto chooses emulation depending on real joystick(s).
# timed -- enable timed intervals for axis. (false is old style behaviour).
# autofire -- continuously fires as long as you keep the button pressed.
# swap34 -- swap the 3rd and the 4th axis. can be useful for certain joysticks.
# buttonwrap -- enable button wrapping at the number of emulated buttons.

joysticktype=2axis
timed=false
autofire=false
swap34=false
buttonwrap=true

[serial]
# serial1-4 -- set type of device connected to com port.
#    Can be disabled, dummy, modem, nullmodem, directserial.
#    Additional parameters must be in the same line in the form of
#    parameter:value. Parameter for all types is irq.
#    for directserial: realport (required), rxdelay (optional).
#    for modem: listenport (optional).
#    for nullmodem: server, rxdelay, txdelay, telnet, usedtr,
#    transparent, port, inhsocket (all optional).
#    Example: serial1=modem listenport:5000

serial1=dummy
serial2=dummy
serial3=disabled
serial4=disabled

[dos]
# xms -- Enable XMS support.
# ems -- Enable EMS support.
# umb -- Enable UMB support.
# keyboardlayout -- Language code of the keyboard layout (or none).

xms=true
ems=true
umb=true
keyboardlayout=none

[ipx]
# ipx -- Enable ipx over UDP/IP emulation.

ipx=false

[autoexec]
# Lines in this section will be run at startup.
SYSOPT clock 333

This config file is used to tweak the DOSBox emulator environment such as CPU type, CPU speed, memory, sound. Fortunately, the default settings works fine without the need for any modification.

There are several important things to note:
- You CANNOT allocate more than 10MB of memory. Anything larger than that will cause a permanent blank screen when launching DOSBox. Fortunately the CPU speed matters most compared to the memory size.

- You can only use the core=dynamic option with the 2007 build. Having this option set with other build will result in exception error such as 'bus error', 'inst error', or 'data error', like the figure below:
- DOSBox on PS Vita do not have any on-screen virtual keyboard. The most convenience way is map the button input from PS Vita to the keyboard in DOSBox using the INPUTMAP.

- Any command that you typed in [autoexec] section will be executed when launching DOSBox. Usually commands like mount and INPUTMAPPER are put here.

Following show a series of commands that I want DOSBox to execute upon launch. Assuming that I had MARIO.EXE placed in ms0:/dosbox/. In particular, it will mount my ms0:/dosbox as the C: drive. Go to C: drive. And then execute MARIO.EXE game.

[autoexec]
mount c ms0:/dosbox
c:
mario.exe

As you joyfully bashing the buttons, you will find that none of the buttons that you pressed works. The reason is simple, we haven't map our buttons to the keyboard in DOSBox yet! To do this, we are going to use the INPUTMAP command placed in [autoexec] section.


Mapping the Inputs (PS Vita Buttons <-> DOSBox Keyboard)

The command syntax to map button using INPUTMAP is as follows
INPUTMAP <PS Vita Button> <Keyboard Button>

In particular, the command INPUTMAP square lshift will map the Square button of your PS Vita to the keyboard button Left Shift in DOSBox.


[autoexec]

INPUTMAP up up 
INPUTMAP right right 
INPUTMAP down down 
INPUTMAP left left 
INPUTMAP triangle d 
INPUTMAP square lshift
INPUTMAP cross lctrl
INPUTMAP circle lalt


mount c ms0:/dosbox
c:
mario.exe



Now launching DOSBox again and the input still does not work. This is a very fatal common mistake that people made. Don't mistaken me. The mapping is correct. However, we didn't really 'tell' the game to use the mapping.

The correct way to do is to execute the game using the INPUTMAP EXEC command rather than launching the game directly.

[autoexec]

INPUTMAP up up 
INPUTMAP right right 
INPUTMAP down down 
INPUTMAP left left 
INPUTMAP triangle d 
INPUTMAP square lshift
INPUTMAP cross lctrl
INPUTMAP circle lalt


mount c ms0:/dosbox
c:
INPUTMAP EXEC mario.exe


Now you may noticed that every time I want to change the game I have to modify the dosbox.conf files, which is practically inconvenient and unaccessible when you are on the go without any computer nearby. Luckily people had thought of it and created a program called DosBox Navigator. This program is essentially a file browser allowing you to browse and open any files within its root folder.

To start, grab a copy of DosBox Navigator here and extract the contents somewhere on your PS Vita memory stick. For convenience I simply put it on ms0:/dosbox/doscore

The executable for DosNavigator is DN.COM. So we will have to modify our dosbox.conf accordingly.
[autoexec]
mount c ms0:/dosbox/doscore
c:
dn.com

This will launch DosNavigator every time we launch the DosBox application.

Creating Different Input Key Profile for Each Game

Now another question arise, we will have to create a different input profile for different games since not every game will use the same key binding. For instance, some game will require additional key such as WSAD for movement instead of the arrow key.

The solution to this is to create a .bat file (batch file) for each game. For example, I will have a .bat file for Mario and another one for Prince of Persia. These .bat file shall contain all the commands for INPUTMAP and mount point for launching the game.

mario.bat - For running Mario
@ECHO ON
INPUTMAP up up
INPUTMAP right right
INPUTMAP down down
INPUTMAP left left
INPUTMAP triangle d
INPUTMAP square lshift
INPUTMAP cross lctrl
INPUTMAP circle lalt
mount c ms0:/dosbox/game/mario
c:
INPUTMAP exec mario.exe


prince.bat - For running Prince of Persia 1
@ECHO ON
INPUTMAP up up
INPUTMAP right right
INPUTMAP down down
INPUTMAP left left
INPUTMAP triangle down
INPUTMAP square lshift
INPUTMAP cross up
INPUTMAP circle circle
INPUTMAP start enter
INPUTMAP select esc
mount c ms0:/dosbox/game/pop1
c:
INPUTMAP exec prince

Using DosNavigator, I can then simply open these .bat file and they should launch the game for me using the right input map as defined in the .bat file.

FAQ

Q: Can I run legacy windows such as Windows 95 on DOSBox for PSP?
A: I had tried but encounter 'Out of Memory' error since I couldn't allocate more than 10 MB in any of the DOSBox for PSP build that I tried.

Q: Can I allocate more than 10MB of memory for DOSBox?
A: No. Allocating any memory greater than that will result in a permanent blank screen on DOSBox. Don't worry though 10MB is enough to run most of the DOS games. The only thing matter is the CPU speed, which the 333MHz on PSP is capable to handle.




A Complete Tutorial to Install Homebrew on PS Vita (PSP) on TN-V8 Exploit

Following my successful attempt to exploit my PS Vita using NumBlast game, I shall now share my experience of installing home-brew (commonly known as emulators) on PS Vita in the form of pictorial.

First thing first, download some homebrews from a sea of home brew listed here.

Extract the home-brew and paste it in following structure in the exact manner. In other words, the folder name PSP and GAME must be CAPITALIZED. I start by creating it in my exploit game saves folder.

[+]  [PSP]
[|-] [GAME]
	[+] [Homebrew Title 1]
	[|-] EBOOT.PBP
	[|-] Any other files from the extracted homebrew
	[+] [Homebrew Title 2]
	[|-] EBOOT.PBP
	[|-] Any other files from the extracted homebrew

[] denotes folder.

Several things to note:
  • It is possible to put MULTIPLE homebrew under the same directory.
  • Each Homebrew folder must have a EBOOT.PBP or FBOOT.PBP file directly underneath it. They must not placed in nested folders. These are the main binary executables for PSP. You may think of it as .EXE in Windows.

For example, say I'm going to install both gpSP (GBA emulator) and SNES9xTYL (SNES emulator).




For convenience, I moved the two extracted folders into my NumBlast Exploit Game Saves/PSP/GAME. Make sure that the folder directly level below contains EBOOT.PBP or FBOOT.PBP. These CANNOT be placed in nested folder such as /PSP/GAME/gpSP/gpSP/EBOOT.PBP


Verify that EBOOT.PBP is indeed located below the folder gpSP.


Do the same for Snes9x.




Go to the root folder, i.e. PSP, and compress it using your favorite compressor such as WinRAR or WinZIP.




Caution: The compressed file must be named INSTALL.ZIP (all CAPITALIZED) and using the 'Store' compression mode. Double check that it is not named as INSTALL.ZIP.ZIP. To verify, if you're in Windows, go to Control Panel > Folder Option and select Show all known file extensions. You won't have this mistake if you manually type the Archive name as INSTALL.ZIP like shown in the screenshot above.

Copy INSTALL.ZIP to your exploit game saves folder.



Open up OpenCMA and transfer the game saves to your PS Vita. When asked to overwrite, select YES.




Launch your exploit game, in my case, NumBlast, wait for XMB, and select the memory card. You should see it at the top of the list. Note that it will only show a randomly selected homebrew title in the archive file instead of showing all of them.



You cannot launch it by pressing the Circle button since it is still in Archive. Press Triangle button and select Install from the menu.



It might take a while if your archive contains lots of homebrews.



Note: By pressing install, PSP will extract all the contents into your memory stick. To be exact, they will be stored in the following path:

ms0:/PSP/GAME/YOUR HOMEBREW TITLE




Upon finished extracting the archive, PSP will prompt you to delete the archive. Simply select YES as there is no need to keep it.






Note that the newly installed homebrew will not show up immediately on your memory stick. The reason is it is not refreshed yet.



To force a memory stick content refresh, navigate to any menu such as Saved Data Utility and go to view Memory Stick again. The newly installed homebrew will show up there.






Installing PSP/PSX ISOs

Installing PSP ISOs is also done in similar way. In other words, you will placed the GAME.ISO into the exploited game saves folder and transfer it to your PS Vita using OpenCMA. After that launch your exploited game, wait for XMB to launch, go to memory card and press the Triangle button to install. Unlike homebrew, the installation will moved them to ms0:/ISO instead of ms0:/PSP/GAME.

Recommended Homebrew to Install

If you are into Retro gaming like I do, the following homebrews (or I should say emulator) should get you started:
GBA: gpSP
GB/GBC: MasterBoy
SNES: snes9xTYL

Refer here for a list of emulators for download across all generations thus far.


If emulators alone does not satisfy your crave of hunger, visit here for a huge list of homebrews, plugins, and even XMB themes to install.



FAQ

Q: How should I install PSP ISOs?
A: Installing PSP ISOs is also done in similar way as shown above. Pressing Install, however, will moved them to ms0:/ISO instead of ms0:/PSP/GAME.

Q: How should I add more data after installing the homebrew. For example, I had installed the gpSP homebrew (GBA emulator) for PSP and I want to transfer ROMs to it.
A: There are two ways to do this.

Method 1: FTP Access

The most straightforward and less hassle way is to simply access your PSP memory stick using FTP server. TN-V8 already has a FTP server built-in. Simply enable it to launch the FTP server. Then use your favorite FTP client such as FileZilla or WinSCP to access.




After you had login to your PSP via FTP, go to /PSP/GAME/gpSP/ and simply place your ROMs into the ROMs folder.

Note that the file transfer is averaging between 700KB - 1.5MB per second. So this might not be the ideal choice if you want to transfer any large file for more than 500 MB. If you are patient enough, by all means, go ahead. But make sure you disable Energy Saving or Screen Lockout since PSP is default to enter standby mode after 10 minutes, which will break the FTP file transfer. Else, resort to Method 2 below.




Method 2: Copy the files you want to transfer into your Exploit GameSaves and transfer them via OpenCMA.

This method is only suggested if the files that you are going to transfer is really huge such as those exceeding 500MB. The reason is FTP transfer is painfully slow, averaging in around 700KB - 1.5MB per second.



After transferring the files to your PS Vita using OpenCMA, they will be found in your exploit game saves in ms0:/PSP/GAME/SAVEDATA/GAME_TITLE_EXPLOIT. You will then need to move it around using file browser manager such as the famous PSP Filer homebrew (the latest one being 6.6)


Alternatively, you could also try to move things around using FTP access. However, I failed to moved any ISO files from the GameSaves into /ISO folder using FTP.






Q: Could you recommend a list of homebrew to download?
Refer to the Section: Recommeded Homebrews for a list.