i just got a new Sony PSP, way cool, and I found a great web site about hacking the PSP. On the site they say that it’s totally legal, but is it? Should I do it? Oh, and what is homebrew?
Let’s start with the easy question: it’s definitely not illegal to hack your PSP, whether that means you want to take a diamond-tipped drill and put small holes in the screen or whether you want to push it in directions that the developers didn’t intend, even running programs not officially endorsed by Sony Corporation for the Playstation Portable (PSP). It’s your PSP, after all.
There are limits to this freedom, however. You couldn’t pull the “operating system” off the PSP, decompile it to some sort of source code (e.g., a human-readable programming language) then either profit from it or post it to the Internet. That’d be a violation of trade secrets, copyright, and, probably, patents owned by and licensed by Sony too.
With that out of the way, let’s tackle the more important question: is it a good idea to hack your PSP?
In my opinion, no, it’s not a good idea. Unlike many devices, the PSP has a bad habit of freezing up into an unrecoverable state if it’s hacked incorrectly or maliciously, a term that the PSP hackers call “bricking” to refer to the device being about as useful as a brick when that happens. Scary given that you’ve probably spent $200 or more on the unit.
Don’t get me wrong. I am delighted that there are hackers out there who are pulling the PSP apart and figuring out other ways to expand it, and it’s darn cool that there are free games and other software available on the Internet for the brave PSP users who are willing to go beyond the narrow confines of Sony’s Official and Endorsed Use of the Playstation Portable. More power to them – in fact, I wish Sony supported them in their efforts and it’s a bit baffling to me that they have to operate under the proverbial radar.
But when I think of my trusty airplane companion and try to balance the fun and cool factor of downloading a game someone on the ‘net wrote for the PSP against the requirement that my PSP stay at an earlier firmware version, one that probably prohibits me from playing most of the recent games released from Sony and its partners, and the fact that ending up with a “bricked” PSP is a greater than zero percent chance and, well, I haven’t risked it yet.
You will need to make up your own mind in this situation, obviously, and I am hoping that some of these PSP hackers can pop onto the site and add some thoughts about risk and reward, about how they manage to run home-made (“homebrew” is a synonym) games on their PSP and also keep it ready to play the latest commercial titles, and whether they’ve ever bricked a Playstation Portable of their own.
Good luck to you. Be careful out there!
Note: This Q&A was written by Drew “flyboy” Crouch of the AskDaveTaylor editorial team.