QuickJump QuickGuide #5: Dark AleX, the life and times of a PSP homebrew hero

Dark AleX - Image 1So you’ve seen the tutorials, you’ve read the basics… We’ll make a side trip from all the technical (but noob-friendly) mumbo-jumbo, and slow down for a bit of a feature. Let’s sneak into a topic that’s a tad bit closer to our hearts: a “who’s who” QuickGuide on one of the PSP homebrew scene’s most celebrated developers. We know that he hardly needs any introduction, but are you sure you know him well enough? Join us as we take a look back at the life and times (so far!) of Dark AleX

Dark AleX - Image 1

So you’ve seen the tutorials, you’ve read the basics… We’ll make a side trip from all the technical (but noob-friendly) mumbo-jumbo, and slow down for a bit of a feature. Let’s sneak into a topic that’s a tad bit closer to our hearts: a “who’s who” QuickGuide on one of the PSP homebrew scene’s most celebrated developers, Dark AleX.

He’s been central to all the guides and tutorials we’ve been posting anyways. So now, before we go deeper into homebrew, let’s take a look back at the life and times (so far!) of Dark AleX.

We know that Dark AleX hardly needs any introduction, but are you sure you know him well enough?

Dark AleX - Image 1

So who’s Dark AleX anyway?

Dark AleX (DAX for short; sometimes just DA… also, sometimes D-A, Dark-AleX, Dark_AleX, and a whole slew of others) is a Spanish programmer well known for some hacks in the PSP homebrew community.

He first appeared on the scene circa mid-2005 with quite a bang, and through the years, he’s amassed so much popularity that he’s pretty much made his name a household term in the homebrew scene. And that popularity is rightly placed too. His sheer coding prowess and timely, reliable releases are giving Sony a run for their money. Notwithstanding, there’s even some talk of him working with Sony too.

See, DAX came in right about the same time that Noobz hit the scene, and ever since (well, until Fanjita sort of bid farewell) they’ve been chucking releases left, right, and center to circumvent pretty much every new firmware (or PSP model) that Sony would release.

He isn’t really part of Team Noobz, but he, Mathieulh, and a handful of others have collaborated with Noobz every now and then too. Collectively, DAX, Math, and the rest, have been more recently called Team M33, which has quite an interesting history – but we’ll get to that during the “Retirement” era.

For now, we hit the Time Machine – pun slightly intended!


Genesis: And God said, “Let there be light (or at least a proof of concept of).”

Now, DAX’s very first claim to fame would probably be when he first introduced his little project to the homebrew community. And back then, it all started with a simple proof of concept. Yes, my friends, even DAX had to start with a PoC. Oh to go back to the golden days of yore, when things were all innocent…

The Custom Firmware Proof of Concept is what started it all and brought DAX into the spotlight. He even posted his CFW PoC right here on our very own forums, and if you check out the thread (and the comments in the frontpage article), his “little PoC project” was unanimously well-received by the lot.

Visit: QJ.NET PSP development forum

Early civilization era: Rome wasn’t built in a day.

To say that Dark AleX contributed a lot to the scene may be quite an understatement. Most probably, some of you would know DAX for his more recent batch of releases – namely, the M33 custom firmwares.

PSP memstick - Image 1These hacks are the result of a very long, arduous (and still unfinished) battle with Sony’s official firmwares and motherboards. See, during the PSP’s infantile stages, Dark AleX was already there.

Through the course of the years, we’ve had DevHooks, eLoaders, HEN loaders, Open Editions, psardumpers, exploits, and so many other tools to date.

And when DAX released something, it was done in the swiftest (but definitely not shoddy) of fashions. Most of his updates dropped in right after Sony releases their OFW – it could range from a Day 0 release, maybe two days later, while some even proved to be (and in the case of PSP-3000s and the Slim TA-088 v3 mobo, still prove to be) quite an obstacle to overcome.

His accolades run thick as a whole encyclopedia’s spine. If you want to read up all about his (and other devs’) major milestones during this era of homebrew, you can check out the first part of the OFW/CFW database – QuickGuide #2.

For sake of finding some bookmark in DAX’s timeline, this early era seemed to end when Dark AleX announced his retirement from the scene, supposedly, for good…

Dark AleX - Image 1

The Dark Ages: Retirement (for the nth time) and miscellaneous controversy.

After the Open Edition (OE) series of custom firmwares, Dark AleX announced his retirement from the PSP scene on July 2007. Naturally, lots of people were in agony to lose such a hero – but was this the end of the line? Of course not.

Not long after DAX bade farewell, a team of Russian coders picked up the loose slack and released CFW v3.51 M33. It was actually received with mixed sentiment. A whole bunch of people embraced the new custom firmware, but an unfortunate handful of others were a bit too stingy, since they didn’t want to trust this “new upstart team of noob Russian coders.”

Well, the ungrateful flamers were eventually proven wrong, because eventually, come the release of CFW 3.71 M33 and Despertar Cementerio some two months later, Dark AleX revealed himself to be the leader of Team M33.


OE - Image 1Meanwhile, year 2007 was also a rough time for the scene, with Dark AleX being involved in some controversy. Though we’d rather not want to go into the nittty gritty details of this Dark Age of sorts, it does deserve a mention, if only at least for posteritiy’s sake, and as a wink to some of our readers who’ve been with us long enough. Here’s a toast of reminiscence.

There was that whole drama of the leaked OE source code release by the infamous Team Wildcard. They caused quite a stir and that pretty much sprang a whole series of cracks within the homebrew community, and even dragged certain other websites into the drama.

Even today, the issue seems to have resurfaced more recently with the whole Miriam controversy. But anyways, talk about an elephant in the room – let’s just leave it at that and move on.


So, the drama of 2007 left quite a lingering bitter aftertaste, but eventually things went back to normal. DAX actually said that the CFW 3.71 (and the complementary Kernel Addon) would be their final release. But that was proven moot, care of the latter releases.

After 3.71, their deal was only to release custom firmwares for OFWs which had substantial changes. Sony released OFW 3.72 and 3.73, but DAX and Mathieulh said those didn’t have any critical changes enough to warrant a CFW release.

Come the end of 2007, 3.80 came out, and after another hiatus (and letting the homebrew scene to simmer down a little after the whole 2007 drama), DAX and Math came up with CFW 3.80 M33.

Dark AleX - Image 1

Age of Enlightenment: when the CFW M33 series takes flight!

The golden age of custom firmwares came when Dark AleX eventually released the M33 series. CFW 3.80 M33 got quite a lot of revisions, each of them seeing substantial additions and changes.

The 1.50 Kernel addon, Popsloader, and Despertar Cementerio have also likewise seen accompanying updates with most CFW releases during 2008, moving up from 3.80, 3.90, 4.xx, and eventually, the current 5.xx series.

It was also around this time (around 3.90 development time) when DAX introduced the Time Machine, which finally unlocked the 1.50 Kernel (and then some) on the Slim. As of now, the most up-to-date CFW is the PSP CFW 5.00 M33-6, which gave birth to his latest project, the new LEDA tool.

We’d love to go into more detail on this homeboom – err, homebrew boom, rather – but it’s something we’ve already covered quite recently. If you want all those technical details for most of DAX’s M33 CFW releases during this time, you can refer to the second OFW/CFW database – QuickGuide #3.

PSP Homebrew Dictionary - Image 1

The cold war: PSP-3000 and the curse of the Slim TA-088 v3 mother board.

While pretty much every single custom firmware and PSP model today has their own methods to circumvent Sony’s security measures, there are currently two instances where DAX and the rest of the PSP community seems to be thwarted.

As of writing, the PSP-3000 and a certain specific PSP Slim motherboard are as of yet unhackable. The GripShift exploit from MaTiAz and Freeplay are seeing some developments, and it’s even gotten the attention of Fanjita and Noobz, so much so that they seem to be coming back out of retirement.

We don’t know if and when Dark AleX will eventually partake in the PSP-3000 hacking festivities by releasing something, but all we can do now is wait. It’s best not to rush things of course. The battle with Sony is far from over, and as established time and time again, from where we started up until where we’ve gotten now, it’s been proven: Rome wasn’t built in a day.

The current CFW M33-6 seems stable enough at the moment, so right now, we’re just waiting for Sony’s next move too. On the outset, it looks like a stalemate with DAX having about waaaay over a dozen wins, and Sony, just two.

Will Sony release a new firmware and will DAX be able to slap its behind with a CFW release? What about that fabled PSP2/PSP-4000?

In a previous feature of DAX, fellow blogger Jerico likened Dark AleX to none other than Kratos – with Sony being Zeus. For all intents and purposes, the analogy still feels relevant. DAX will remain to be our god of war – our homebrew hero!

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