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Nintendo has intentionally crippled the DS browser


I do not understand why companies intentionally disable products that they release. Like right after college, I bought a very used Ford Mustang convertible, which looked fun and sporty while sitting still but revealed its true identity whenever you tried to step on the gas. See it was one of the Mustang models equipped with a tiny 4-cylinder engine. The archetype of American muscle cars was neutered by putting in a 4-cylinder engine for the sake of squeezing a bit of extra fuel economy.

I feel like Nintendo has done something similar with their Opera browser for the DS handheld. They've turned what could have been a fun little Web platform into something horribly crippled. And we're not talking an accidental crippling -- no this was done with full knowledge from the manufacturer. Just like my crippled Ford Mustang.

Nintendo has configured the browser so that, before it starts up, it pings a certain (Nintendo-owned) Web address. Thus, it only works with those Wi-Fi hotspots that are either completely open or have been specially configured to allow this start-up ping.

This means, for example, that I cannot use the DS browser from my favorite bakery, Panera Bread. Because the Panera hotspots, while free, do require that you go through a terms-of-service screen first. You have to click thru that page before it lets you onto the Internet. Since the DS browser doesn't even start up unless it can first ping the special Nintendo site, you're never going to be able to launch it from a hotspot like Panera's.

It also means there's a huge number of hotels where you won't be able to use the DS browser. Many hotels and motels use Wi-Fi providers like Golden Tree Communications, which like Panera require you to click a terms-of-service agreement before getting onto the Internet.

Nintendo has partnered with one major hotspot provider, Wayport, which competes in the hotel Wi-Fi space against Golden Tree. Wayport is also the hotspot provider of choice for McDonald's restaurants. Thus, instead of the normal fee for using the McDonald's hotspot, I was able to surf it for free using my DS.

This deal seems mostly aimed at drumming up interest in Wayport's services because, when I tested it out at McDonald's, I'm fairly certain I was the only person in the restaurant using the wireless service. I took a photo of News.com's mobile site from the DS browser:

ds.jpg

I just cannot understand though why Nintendo is limiting the utility of their Web browser by making it incapable of running in so many hotspots. The Sony PSP's Web browser works fine on similar hotspots. It's rather ironic since, in most things, Nintendo has been eating Sony's lunch the past year. But when it comes to handheld browsers, they've fallen behind.

That's too bad because it really is a good browser implementation. It runs basic JavaScript commands, it seems to support a fairly good portion of the CSS standards, and when you turn off images it loads pages pretty quickly. I browsed the News.com and Google.com mobile offerings, and everything was snappy and rendered without any problems. Google Maps was a bit confusing, but eventually I figured it out. And the mobile version of Gmail worked just fine on the DS. The touch-screen keyboard is a bit tedious, but that's the only real downside I saw.

Oh well, you knew eventually Nintendo's run would have to end. They had to stumble sooner or later, and intentionally crippling the DS browser is one big stumble in my opinion.

32 comments
exoticken
exoticken

Currently there are quite a few people working on homebrew items for the DS. Including a new browser. check out hackaday.com , kotaku.com , and GBAtemp.net there are some interesting ideas flowing around out there. BTW I am currently writing this on my DS Lite. Even with it's limitations I think it's a step in the right direction. Oh and I want to say hello my name is Ken aka exotiken aka K-Dog. I just joined your site, and like what I've seen so far.

NOW LEFT TR
NOW LEFT TR

Why use a DS to browse the web anyway?

nacapo
nacapo

If you get a gaming console, you get closed source software. Games are closed source. Or perhaps you could tell me how to get a decent open source game (or even browser) for the DS?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I don't know squat about game systems, but I had one of those used 4-banger Mustang hatchbacks. I knew it was a four, but I was hoping for decent mileage. I was as disappointed in it's performance as a fuel economy car as you were with it's sports performance. The stupid hatchback struts wouldn't stay up; I had to carry a 2 x 4 to keep it open. Those cars sucked like 15-amp Oreck.

RexWorld
RexWorld

So am I just completely wrong in thinking that Nintendo's DS browser has been crippled because it only works in a sub-set of available hotspots?

nacapo
nacapo

Because you can bring the DS anywhere, and thus access the web from anywhere. Mobile browsing is one of the fastest growing areas these days.

RexWorld
RexWorld

That was the biggest tragedy of all. They crippled the car trying to make it fuel efficient, but it was too damn heavy so the poor 4-banger couldn't deliver good mileage.

abonnema
abonnema

Hi Rex, If DS is pinging a web-address like www.fake.com, you might be able to redirect the IP address to one that always works, like 127.0.0.1. Of course, if it is pinging the address directly (not using a dns-entry), I am not sure you can circumvent it. Guus.

MadestroITSolutions
MadestroITSolutions

I don't think Nintendo would purposely "cripple" the browser. On the other hand I can't believe they would miss such a simple fact. There must be a business reason behind it. Like you mentioned they probably have an agreement with the Internet Service companies that do not give you trouble. In any event, if enough people complaint I am sure they will fix it.

Packratt
Packratt

I agree that it's utterly frustrating that, as I live in a large city, while being surrounded by multitudes of open wifi hotspots I can't use the DS wifi features just because none of the spots are a McHotspot. Sorry, I'm not that eager to try out the DS browser as to pay for it and be forced to sit in a crummy McVommits too. Don't get me wrong, I like the DS, just loathe it's supposed wi-fi capabilities that don't even support WPA or WPA2, which I use at home.

RexWorld
RexWorld

I hope you're right about them fixing it if enough people complain. Thing is, it's a hardware solution because the browser comes on a cartridge just like any DS game. So the "fix" if any would probably mean you'd have to buy a new version of the browser. I doubt this cartridge can be flashed to upgrade the software.

NaughtyMonkey
NaughtyMonkey

my son is pissed because I refuse to downgrade security to make his Wii work.

NOW LEFT TR
NOW LEFT TR

so even without a connection as a cell it could & can be a very good browser!

RexWorld
RexWorld

You're rignt, mobile phones are probably the bigger market. But I'm one of the few people who doesn't like carrying a cellphone (or the monthly service fees that go with it). What I like about the DS browser is that the service is free, plus I tend to carry the DS around more than I carry my cell phone.

MadestroITSolutions
MadestroITSolutions

I don't know much about these devices but it would suck if that is the case, lol...

n.stockwell
n.stockwell

Not that I doubt it, but for future reference I would be interested to see where you got that information. From what I understand of WPA and WPA2 the difference is that WPA2 mandates AES which implies a change of hardware from WEP's algorithm of RC4 to work. Therefore, on the original Wii unless Nintendo gave it the hardware to use AES but for whatever reason did not provide the software with the Wii to use it you can only use WPA if you allow an update which we are assuming exists out of common sense.

MadestroITSolutions
MadestroITSolutions

I bought a Wii for my kids and was able to set it up just fine with my existing security. I use WAP at home. UPDATE: disregard this post. I just read above that you have the original version which doesn't support it. There must be an update. Open your network temporarily and allow it to connect to the site. They probably have an automatic download with latest software.

me
me

your son shouldn't be pissed, the wii works with wpa and other wireless standards. or you'll have to get a usb ethernet adapter for ?15 and hardwire the puppy!

NaughtyMonkey
NaughtyMonkey

on wiring my house with ethernet for a child to play one of his games. and go online with it. Mine doesn't support WPA2, it doesn't really bother me. I don't want it online.

n.stockwell
n.stockwell

The Wii you received was probably just a early release of the finished product. My Wii was in the first batch and I didn't update it until I connected it to the Internet through my Linksys WRT54G v5. I did wrestle with the rumors that it didn't support anything but WEP, but I found out to my surprise it supported AES. I've checked with both Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wii#Online_connectivity) and Nintendo (http://www.nintendo.com/consumer/systems/wii/en_na/onlineWirelessRouterChoose.jsp) and both maintain that support is available for WPA2 and do not note any deviations from that support. They do, however, say the Wii is incompatible with some APs and Nintendo lists the models on their support site (http://www.nintendo.com/consumer/systems/wii/en_na/onlineWirelessRouterIncompatible.jsp). You may have not noticed but I did mention that in addition to wireless, the Wii does support wired connections through an adapter (http://www.nintendo.com/consumer/systems/wii/en_na/onlineWiredTS.jsp) which you can either order from Nintendo or buy from Best Buy for about $25.00. You - or more likely your son - can always call Nintendo and see if they can help you. Their technical support staff is very good.

Packratt
Packratt

It's probably a matter of incompatibility between the Wii and any give router/wap's implementation of WPA2. I do know that the DS does not support WPA or WPA2, again annoying, and it tends to be picky about what wireless devices it does work with, so I would imagine that the Wii faces similar difficulties by way of product support/compatibility.

NaughtyMonkey
NaughtyMonkey

I wouldn't think multiple would say it didn't unless it was true. Maybe it was a pre-release update, but some still had the older function. I don't know, I don't play games and don't keep up with them. Even if mine supported WPA2 with AES, depending on what ports it used I probably wouldn't let it connect anyway. Like I said, I won mine before they were released. If anyone knows about when AES started being supported and if there is an update to make the older models support it I would be interested to hear.

n.stockwell
n.stockwell

I have a Wii and am using AES on my access point. We got it the first day it was released in America, so the Wii has always supported AES. Nintendo also has an USB dongle that can allow the Wii to be connected to your wired network.

NaughtyMonkey
NaughtyMonkey

I wouldn't feel comfortable about using TKIP, I prefer AES.

Big Ole Jack
Big Ole Jack

If you mean having to open so many ports on your firewall that it starts looking like Finlandia Swiss Cheese just to play games over the internet, then I agree with you in every respect. No game is worth compromising your security for.

NaughtyMonkey
NaughtyMonkey

about buying things when they first come out. Do they have a software update that I can get or is it a hardware change. Honestly, i don't pay much attention to video games, don't have the time.

NaughtyMonkey
NaughtyMonkey

but I didn't know it would work with TKIP. Still don't want to lower my security though. I actually won this Wii, otherwise I wouldn't have got one until this Christmas. I usually hold off to let the bugs get worked out and any needed updates.

Packratt
Packratt

I have been able to get the Wii to use WPA TKIP, but not WPA2 AES. Also, I've noticed that the old beta browser on the Wii supported proxy cache authentication for the content filter I put up to protect the kiddies, but the new browser doesn't. That was frustrating as well.