Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Gamecube LED mod

I've been wanting to do the LED mod for the longest time and now that it's finally reading week, my chance has come. I'm going to go ahead and finally change that cool orange-coloured LED to a COOLER green-coloured LED.. Thanks to all the tutorials and pictures on how to do it, I know exactly what to do and what I need to do it. So I suppose this will be yet another tutorial, with a few added comments.

1) To open the Gamecube, you'll need the 4.5mm gamebit and a screwdriver which you can put the bit on. I got my gamebit from eBay for $5 and a 77 piece screwdriver set from Canadian Tire for $13. OR you can try making one using a spare bic pen and a lighter.
2) A 3mm, 3~4V LED of your choice. I bought 20 x GREEN LEDs of 3000 MCD from eBay as well, for $0.01. They seem just as bright, if not, SLIGHTLY brighter than the original orange LED that comes with the Gamecube. You may buy even brighter LEDs if you wish, just make sure you don't blind yourself..
3) A soldering iron. You can easily find one at Radio Shack or Canadian Tire, or simply just borrow a friend's, which is what I did.
4) A small pair of pliers. You'll need it to extract and insert the LED. Or, if you're confident, you can try using your fingers, at least to extract the orange LED.
5) Most importantly, some confidence. If you don't feel comfortable messing with your Gamecube, don't. I can't be held responsible if your Gamecube stops working after you mod it, or if you accidentally burn or shock yourself, or if your Gamecube dies or decides to run away to escape your devious plans...

You should be able to do this mod without a desoldering tool and without solder. I did. One more thing to note before you start is the warranty from Nintendo on the Gamecube. I believe it's 60 days after you purchase it. So if you do any kind of modding on your Gamecube during this 60 day period, Nintendo's not going to hate you.. No, they'll just void your warranty!! If you're passed the 60 days, then the warranty is over, so no need to worry about it.

Step 1) Turn over the Gamecube so it's upside down. Take your gamebit screwdriver and unscrew the four screws out from the bottom of the Gamecube. Once the four screws are out, carefully flip the Gamecube right side up again and lift up the top casing. Unlike what's pictured below, you should ALWAYS have a clean uncluttered workspace.

Step 2) You should see the orange LED now. For a better view, you can unclip the panel so it folds down. Note the diode direction (the triangle shaped symbol which, in this situation, is saying: electricity flows from right (positive) to left (negative)). Take your replacement LED and and bend the legs 90 degrees so you get the same shape as the oranged LED. MAKE SURE that the negative lead (shorter leg/flat side on LED) is it's left leg.

Step 3) The trick is 'not' to use a small tip (since we're working with a 3mm LED on such a small circuit board), which is what I originally thought, but a standard sized soldering iron tip is big enough to melt the two solder points at once, which is what we want. Plug in your soldering iron and let it warm up. Unclip the controller panel so you have acess to the solder points. With one hand, grab the orange LED with your pliers (or fingers). With your other hand, take your soldering iron and place it in between the two solder points so it melts them both simultaneously. After a few seconds, u should be able to feel the looseness of the LED so just pull and slide it out. Remove the soldering iron and make sure that two solder points didn't join. If they did, you're going to have to melt the solder again and separate them. If you don't separate the points and you turn on your Gamecube, you'll short circuit the board and probably fry it....

Step 4) Now that the original orange LED is out, you can insert your replacement LED. Most pliers have a wire cutter on them. Use it to shorten the bended LED leads to match the length of the orange LED leads, now that you've extracted it. Make note of which lead is positive and negative again since you'll be cutting the leads to be equal length now. You don't want to integrate a diode into a circuit the wrong way. Again, with one hand, hold the replacement LED with a pair of pliers and push the leads against the solder points from under the board. With your other hand, melt the solder points simultaneously using the soldering iron. Your push of the LED legs should penetrate the melted solder. Don't push too hard or you'll go too far. Ensure that the LED is in the proper position and that it is inserted as straight as possible. Once again, check that the solder points didn't join.

Step 5) Clip the front panel up again and check that the LED is not crooked. The flat side of the LED should be on the left side when you look straight at it. Put the cover back on and YOU'RE DONE!

Plug in your Gamecube and prepared to be awed. Turn it on and you'll be staring at it for a few minutes. At least I did. Here are some before and after shots.

Of course, I gave so much detail because this tutorial is aimed towards those who have little or no experience with circuitry and soldering. When you become more experienced, all this becomes second nature, and you can sum this tutorial up into 3 words: "replace the LED". I am no where near that level of experience. The last time I soldered something was more than 2 years ago, in high school... Yes, our 'team' built an OOPIC robot, which eventually ran into the wall too hard one time and killed itself.... RIP.

In the future, when I have time, maybe I'll do the controller port LED mod, where light beams out of the controller ports. Currently, the XBOX is the most moddable console in terms of 'looks' modding and 'mod chip' modding. Hopefully I can make enough money in the summer for an XBOX, but I still love my Gamecube.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

my thoughts on MMORPGs

MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role playing games) have been around for a really long time. Ever since advent of powerful servers that are able to stay up and running for weeks, if not months, and the arrival of affordable broadband internet to homes all across the world, MMORPG activity has skyrocketed. They suck gamers into virtual worlds where you can kill monsters, level up, take on side-quests and interact with everyone else logged into the virtual world.

The experience is quite satisfying I must say. I used to play an MMORPG called Ragnarok, which is defined as "a time prophosied when the world shall be ripped apart and the gods shall die". Of course, the game had NOTHING to do with the end of the world. In fact, mostly all MMORPGs don't have a concrete story to them. They are meant to to be played.. well, forever, if that were possible, bringing you, the gamer, a unique experience, each time you played it.

Big name MMORPGs like EverQuest, Lineage, Final Fantasy XI, etc. require massive servers that keep the virtual world running and that that isn't cheap... most MMORPG developers require you to pay a monthly fee to play on the server. After the open (and thus, free) beta for Ragnarok ended, it started costing money to play). Being the poor jobless boy that I am, I minimized my expenses by playing on cracked servers. Alternatives like the Xeno and Trinity servers for Ragnarok hosted by people who had a really fast computer and were able to spare some of their bandwidth. Being the free servers that they were, the instability of the administation was always an issue, unlike if you paid for the real thing. What that simply meant was that: I spent hours and hours of my life on now non-existent characterS that eventually felt the wrath of the "rm -rf" command. OK whatever, it's the experience that matters.

I just thought I'd share some of my thoughts on MMORPGs after seeing WoW available for download from a BT site along with it's ability for alternative servers and after watching a funny video (open link in windows media player), made by the editors and writers, people who work at GameSpot.com. As like all others who (are playing / have played) World of Warcraft, they basically say: "we no longer have control of our lives because of WoW..." Good think I'm not hooked... anymore.