|Homebrew. A ROM that [is] created by unoffical programmers and loads to video game flash cards. Most homebrew [programs] are free. Homebrew ROMs can be games, applications, image viewers, drawing applications, text editors and more.|
|— Urban Dictionary|
Homebrew is an assortment of various programs that run on a computers and various game systems. These programs are fan-created games and applications that have effects on their respective systems. Homebrew programs for the Nintendo DS have spiked within the last few years, and certain programs, such as Moonshell have rivaled the options available from even large-scale companies, and put dents into their sales.
Introduction to Homebrew
Exploring the world of DS homebrew can be confusing at first. There are many terms used in the community which a newbie won't understand, along with many confusing programs and techniques to use them.
You may be wondering how you obtain these programs, as there aren't any gamepaks available in stores or online. What these are, are downloadable files -usually found in a .nds format- that can be run on a Nintendo DS. To do this, you must own what is a known as a flashcart (also known as a flashcard). It is basically a DS gamepak that has a small slot in the rear end of it. There are several manufacturers of these cards, and all are different, usually with their ups and downs. The following names link to the websites of the card manufactures:
- *The R4 is a good card, but there have been so many copies and cheap knock-offs, it's unsafe to buy one anywhere.
- note: Most of these cards were later upgraded for use on the DSi, which disabled many of the cards created for the original DS and the DS lite. They are often followed by an "i" if they are compatible with a DSi (e.g. DSTTi, R4i, etc).
After purchasing one of these chips, you need to acquire a microSD card. This is the same type of memory card which is found in most cell phones, and in some cameras. Note that it is a microSD card, and not a miniSD card. You will also need a card reader, something that you place your card in, which plugs into your computer's USB port. It allows to to add and remove files from your microSD card. When coupled with the card, it is essentially a memory stick.
After that, you can take your card, place it onto your computer, and add these said files. The card then goes into the flashcart, which plugs into slot 1 on your DS. Once you boot up the DS, you can run the game as you would normally, but once loaded you will see a list of your various programs, which you can then execute. After that, it's the same as playing a normal game.
Here is a list of applications which are very useful, and will change the way you look at your DS. Most of them are found in .zip or .rar files. To open them, I recommend using winRar, which can be downloaded for Windows here, and for Mac OS X here. Many of the zipped up files come with a folder in addition to the .nds file. Usually, you will want to take the folder, and place it onto the root (card's main directory (i.e. not a sub-folder)) of the microSD card.
Useful Applications Program Download Description Moonshell Version 1.71 Multimedia player. Can play videos in .dpg and music in .mp3 formats. Moonshell 2 Version 2.05
Multimedia player. Can play videos in .dpg and music in .mp3, .ogg, .WAV, .m4a, .aac, .wma, and .mid formats. Views images in .jpg, .gif (non-layered), and .png formats. Custom skinner included. Morning Timer Version 1.0 Elaborate clock/timer. Has many useful settings, and can set up to eight alarms at once. Can play music in .mp3 format. NDSMail Version 0.60 E-mail manager. Allows to you read and send e-mails from various accounts. Only recommended for those who are familiar with wireless Internet set-ups, etc. Requires Wi-Fi. DSOrganize Version 3.2 All-purpose organizer/daily planner. Comes with an Internet browser. Has several other various tools, including a library of several homebrew games that can be downloaded. Enhanced with Wi-Fi. Image Viewer Version 0.6 An image viewer which can load files in .IPK format. Comes with converter. Images must be converted on a computer before being viewed on a NDS system. BeUp Live Version 0.5 An MSN client. Allows to you log into your MSN account, and send/receive messages. Also supports avatars. Several unsorted bugs. DSAIM 0.03 An AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) client. Allows to you log into your AIM account, and send/receive messages. Also supports avatars. Several unsorted bugs. untested DSTwitter Version 1.5 A Twitter client. Allows you to use Twitter on your DS. Contains support for multiple languages. untested File Browser Unknown Version A file browser. Allows users to edit file found within their microSD card. Allows coping, deletion. Useful for manipulating .sav (save) files. untested DSBible Version 2.5 A Holy Bible. Includes the King James, World English Bible, Basic English, and Louis II Versions. Requires a flashcart that can execute large files. DS Dictionary Version 1.0 A dictionary application. Requires a flashcart that can execute large files. DSe Notepad Version 0.99 A notebook. Useful for jotting down quite pieces of info. Comes with full QWERTY keyboard and support for handwritten notes. DSCompress Version 0.99 File compressor. Takes files found on your DS and turns them into a .zip file. DS Weather Report Version 0.5 A weather viewer for the NDS. Usefule for checking the weather on the go. Contains support for multiple countries. Wi-Fi connection required. untested
Here are some applications which are just for fun. Although not quite games, they can and will keep you entertained for hours on end.
Useful Applications Program Download Description DSCube Version 1.0 A 2X2 Rubix Cube. Nice, full 3D app. Fun for hours... Chuck Norris Facts DS Version 0.7 A list of several Chuck Norris facts. Darkstar Unknown Version A multi-purpose program which contains a painting application and several games, including Minesweeper and Tic Tac Toe. Magic the Gathering Card Viewer Version 1.0 A magic the Gathering card viewer. untested DSMetronome Version 1.0 A drum set application. untested Mario paint Composer Paratroopa Version A music composer. Uses Mario-themed sprites.
Here are all of the known Zelda programs. Some of them are for cataloging past files and books, and others are games. Keep in mind that many people start working on these programs, and never quite complete them, especially when it comes to massive-sized Zelda games.
Zelda-Related Programs Program Download Description Valiant Zelda Comics Archive Beta 0.1 Archive of the Legend of Zelda Valiant Comics that were released in the early '90s. Created by yours truly. Requires a flashcart that can execute large files. Twilight Princess E3 Image Gallery Version 1.0 Images and their descriptions that appeared in the E3 2005 demo for Twilight Princess. The Moblin's Magic Spear Version 1.0 An adaption of the The Legend of Zelda book The Moblin's Magic Spear.
There has often been debate over what is or isn't legal when it comes to flashcarts. People seem to like to insert their own opinions as facts, so I'm going to break it down for you.
It is LEGAL to use DS Adapters to:
- Use homebrew applications, including homebrew-games, internet-browsing applications, and may other amazing pieces of software available (both for free and for money) to convert your Nintendo DS into a wide variety of useful tools!
- Play MP3s of songs you already own (much in the same fashion as iTunes etc. where you can download/purchase tracks and own them).
- Play movies (in .dpg format) that you already own and convert yourself.
- Play backup versions of games you already own i.e. consolidate your 20 game collection onto one card for ease of transportation.
It is ILLEGAL to use DS Adapters to:
- Play backup versions of games that you do NOT already own (i.e. play a game on an adapter, that you do not own the original of).
- Play pirated or copyrighted MP3s or Movies that you do not own or have bought. 
- Legal Issues for DS Adapters, Nds-gear.co.uk.
- Nintendo DS Homebrew Help Forums, GBATemp.net.
- Nintendo DS Homebrew News & Updates, ndshb.com.