The Better N64 Joystick Repair

Today I’m going to describe the installation and review of replacement N64 joystick parts sold by Kitsch-Bent. As described by their website, these parts are made of polyoxymethylene plastic for durability, and I’m impressed with the quality. They look like OEM parts.

https://store.kitsch-bent.com/product/n64-joystick-gears

Why do N64 joysticks wear out? The answer is twofold. The bottom of the stick rides in a bowl and grinds the surface of the bowl away over time. That is the white powder you eventually see around the base of the joystick. As the bowl wears away, the joystick sinks lower into its assembly, and this causes the movement to feel sloppy. On top of that, the joystick slides inside slots to push gears around. The slots will eventually lose their shape causing joystick to have too much play.

Disassembly of the N64 controller is very easy. There are several Philips screws around the perimeter of the controller, plus two more screws in the expansion port. Once you are inside the controller, the next step is to move the trigger button from its home on the backside of the joystick assembly. Now, unplug the joystick from the main PCB and unscrew it from the shell. Finally, carefully remove the last screw from the joystick assembly. There is a spring inside the assembly pushing the joystick down into the bowl, and when the screw is released, pieces may go flying.

The inside of the joystick assembly may look complicated, but the mechanics are simple. As the joystick moves around, it pushes the gears, which turn optical encoder wheels. The optical encoders turn the analog movement into digital numbers used by the controller to determine how far the joystick has moved from its home position. This is the same technology used in older computer mice used. The 8-Bit Guy did a video on how mice work if you want to learn more.

Installing the new parts is straightforward. Remove the joystick, spring, and gears. Remove the old bowl. Transfer the optical wheels to the new bowl. Reverse the process to install the parts.

That’s it. Overall, I’m happy with these parts sold by Kitsch-Bent. At $1.15 for the bowl, $0.95 for the gearsets, and $1.05 for the thumbsticks, you can repair several joysticks for the same cost as one aftermarket replacement. Most repairs should only need new gears and maybe bowels. The longevity of the components is still unknown. I don’t play my Nintendo 64 daily as I did in 1996-1999, so I don’t expect the joysticks to wear out.

Have fun.
-Tony

Finding Capacitors for PlayStation 1 Power Supply

I recently decided to replace the electrolytic capacitors in the power supply of my original PlayStation. This is preventative maintenance because over time the fluid from the capacitors can leak out and cause corrosion to solder pads and traces on PCBs. My Life in Gaming’s “Analog Frontiers Part 2” video details of the risk and challenges around keeping older hardware from destroying itself.

Where is a good place to find capacitors? Amazon, eBay, Mouser, Digikey, and Newark are all common places to purchase electronic components. But Console5.com has made a name for itself by selling complete capacitor kits for hundreds of consoles, computers, arcade boards, and more. They have become the first place to stop when looking for capacitors for older consoles.

In my case, I needed a kit for a ETXNY209A1B power supply from an SCPH-7501 model PlayStation. This PSU had the following electrolytic capacitors:

IdentificationCapacitanceVoltage
C003120 μF200V
C102560 μF25V
C103560 μF25V
C104220 μF25V
C105220 μF25V

Console5 did not have a specific kit for my power supply, but the detailed information in their wiki allowed me to find a kit that would work. The ETXNY169A1B PSU kit had the same capacitors plus an extra 1 μF capacitor my PSU did not need. With capacitors in hand, the next step was to heat the soldering iron and remove the old caps. More on that later.

Have Fun.
-Tony

Thrustmaster T300 workaround for GT Sport

If you are wanting to get into racing on Gran Turismo Sport using a wheel, there is one important thing you need to know. GT Sport does not allow the player to adjust the wheels’ maximum rotation range like many other games. This isn’t a big issue in earlier versions of Gran Turismo if you use the popular Logitech G25 and G27 Driving Force™️ wheels. They have undocumented button combinations to manually set the maximum rotation. 

Gran Turismo Sport is different. The game is on PlayStation 4 and doesn’t support Logitech’s older wheels. The G29 Driving Force™️ is Logitech’s replacement and, sadly, doesn’t have the button combinations its older siblings have. If you use the G29 to place GT Sport you will be stuck using 900 degrees of rotation in many of the cars. 

Thankfully, there is another wheel that solves this problem. Thrustmaster, the company behind detailed flight simulator controls, sells the T300 RS race wheel for PS4 owners. While the wheel features 1080 degrees of rotation, it also has a MODE button. Holding the button and pressing left or right on the D-pad allows you to change the max rotation from 1080 degrees down to 270 degrees. Thrustmaster even documents this feature on the support site http://ts.thrustmaster.com/faqs/eng/thr_eng_00155.pdf. This effectively recreates the features racers of the G25 and G27 used in Gran Turismo 5 & 6 for the PlayStation 3. 

There was an important note in that support document, “This tip will not function properly in some games (such as GRAN TURISMO®) which adjust or modify the angle of rotation at startup or the restart of each race, according to the type of car being used.” That statement is true with GT Sport. Every time the game is in control of your car (auto-drive in the pits, rolling starts, pausing/unpausing the game, etc.) Gran Turismo Sport will reset the T300 RS’s max rotation back to 900 degrees in most cases. Once you are in control of the car you can use the button combinations to reset the rotation setting.

That is the important tip to remember. When you are in control the of the car you can change the T300 TS max rotation using the MODE button combinations and it will not change until the next time the game take control.

I hope you found this post interesting. 

Have fun. 
-Tony 

Better GT Sport Community Content Search

I’ve been playing Gran Turismo Sport since it launched in 2017. One of the new features that Polyphony Digital added to the series was the ability to create and share decals and liveries for cars, helmets, and race suits. Car customization is not new in racing games; the Forza series was doing this in the Xbox 360 generation, and I remember Top Gear Rally for the Nintendo 64 gave players the ability to customize the paint scheme of the cars. It’s cool to see some of the content players are uploading to Gran Turismo and even cooler that you can download the liveries/decals and apply them to your own vehicles.

However, there is one fatal flaw with GT Sport with the community content: the search is TERRIBLE. I think the search shows “popular content” (like the top 100 overall) then you apply filters to that list. When you show “by date” the date range is only 3-7 days at a time. There’s no way to search for a specific livery across the years of content.

Thankfully, M_Anony from the GT Planet forums created a search engine for the content and it… is… great.

The features are bare with only a search box to type in your search term and a drop-down to pick a specific car. Ultimately, what more do you need? M_Anony also has search engines for decals, helmets, race suites, and replays.

If you are playing Gran Turismo Sport and want a better way to find community content, be sure to check out M_Anony‘s search engine.

Have Fun.
-Tony

Mario and the PS3 Collide

I knew it was only a matter of time and now I am proud to say that SNES gaming works on the PS3, again. One coder by the name of eiz compiled the Snes9x emulator for the PS3. Another coder, squarepusher2, has taken the source code and worked to improve it. As of writing, Squarepusher2’s 4.2.1 build plays most games with no issues. Both NTSC and PAL roms are supported. Things such as a GUI still need to be address and loading freezestates hasn’t been implemented, but those are not the highest priority. Even with only two people working on this project the progress has been phenomenal. I can’t to see what comes out next.

Eiz’s source code: http://github.com/eiz/ps3_snes9x

Squarepusher2’s build and source: http://www.ps3news.com/forums/ps3-hacks/snes9x-super-nintendo-emulator-ps3-port-arrives-112925-19.html#post311837

PlayStation 3 Jailbreaking is Here

The PS3 flew the coup

A lot can be said for the security features built into the PlayStation 3. It took almost four years for enthusiasts to find a way to run unapproved code on the PlayStation without the use of the “Other OS” feature. Sony quickly removed Other OS after hackers used it to gain low-level access to the system. Now there is a way new way to “jailbreak” the PS3 and run applications. All that is involved is a programmable USB device and source code. Other people have taken the code and ported it to devices so you can use your android phone or Linux PIM. Someone even managed to port the code to the TI-84 calculator. If working with DIY components and code isn’t your sort of thing, complete USB packages can be purchased from resellers online. Eventually all of this could lead to a homebrew community as large as the PSP with lots apps and mods. Personally, I’m waiting for the emulators to be ported over so I can get some SNES action.

Steps for jailbreaking a PS3 using a calculator after the break.
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