taiHEN and taiHENkaku released: dawn of the CFW dream for the PS Vita
The day has come everyone! The KOTH challenge has been broken and so Team Molecule have finally updated HENkaku to the last stage… and what a stage it is. This is possibly not only Yifan Lu’s dream, but everyone else’s dream as well. TaiHEN (a custom firmware framework) and taiHENkaku have been announced and released for users on PS Vita firmware 3.60, however they are still in beta stage so be wary that not everything might be working until they go for a stable release. As of now, Yifan recommends that normal users stay on HENkaku R6 and I can confirm that stuff like PSN Spoofing isn’t working yet. But now let’s take a look a what taiHEN and taiHENkaku are, shall we?
What is taiHEN?
taiHEN is the name given by Team Molecule to their framework on which the new version of HENkaku runs. It is built to be a way for developers to create system patches to modify functions on the PS Vita or, in layman’s terms, it is a way to load plugins at the system level like you were used to on the PSP allowing you to change/add function to your console. taiHEN is NOT a new exploit and the entire system of HENkaku has been ported to this new taiHEN which is why the new version is named taiHENkaku. The other great thing about taiHEN is that it is firmware agnostic, as Yifan Lu explains on his blog, meaning that it is not dependent on any specific firmware version allowing it to be ported to other firmware versions should anyone find an exploit on newer firmware versions. I need to reiterate that this does not mean that taiHEN/taiHENkaku run on newer firmwares, you need to stay on 3.60 for now. It just makes it easier to get taiHENkaku to run on those firmware if someone finds an entry point. According to Yifan Lu the possibilies that taiHEN allows for are endless:
In addition to adding hooks to the kernel, taiHEN also allows hooking system applications and games. Add elements to LiveArea? Enable more options in Settings? Cheats in games? The possibilities are endless.(…)
What is taiHENkaku?
Now we get to the fun part (and the one you guys care about the most) which is the next version of HENkaku, taiHENkaku. As stated in the last paragraph, taiHENkaku is the new version of our favorite “homebrew loader” ported to this new framework that Team Molecule have been working on since the original HENkaku release. While it does turn HENkaku into a fully-fledged custom firmware, currently it is in beta state and I said in the opening paragraph of this article, I do not recommend that you update right away since stuff like PSN Spoofing does not work… yet. Yifan has promised that it will be fixed in the coming days, but in his own words, this is the reason for the beta release of taiHENkaku:
It is currently in an unstable state. Some features such as PSN spoofing do not currently work. I hope to resolve the issues in the upcoming days. Meanwhile, I hope that developers can start writing plugins immediately while I iron out the issues. Again, the beta is only recommended for developers making plugins and is of no benefit currently for regular users.
This is mostly a developer release so that people like Rinnegatamante and BeatPlay can looking into the porting of their popular works rinCheat and Better Amphetamin Plugin onto this new framework so that we can get rid of that pesky limitation that plugins had of only running on dumped games. Everyone will be getting plugins now! I personally can’t wait to blast some overclocking on my legit PSN games. Here are the major changes that come with the introduction of taiHENkaku:
- Loading compressed FSELFs are supported now
- VitaShell is updated to 1.42 with a brand new HENkaku configuration menu that allows user configuration of PSN version spoofing. (Note at the time of writing, VitaShell has not been updated yet. I will push an update as soon as it is out.)
- Unsafe homebrew is disabled by default This change means that some of your homebrew will not launch immediately. Before you panic, go into molecularShell, press Start, enter the HENkaku configuration menu and choose to enable unsafe homebrew. You also need to do this to use system and kernel plugins. More information on this change can be found here. (Note, this feature is disabled in the beta currently because the VitaShell configuration options is not out yet. It will be enabled as soon as that’s done.)
The last bit is my favorite. I have been on record pushing for some security on these hacks/homebrew applications to stop people from going around bricking other people’s PS Vita consoles for fun and hopefully this will also help. In theory, with the plugin system in place, you shouldn’t ever need to turn on unsafe homebrew since most changes at the system level can be done from that, so if an application asks you for unsafe mode, read carefully what it does so that you don’t brick your own console.
Vita Development Wiki and the Plugin SDK
With the release of taiHEN and taiHENkaku also come two new things: the plugin SDK and the Vita Development Wiki. I’m gonna let Yifan Lu speak for me on this one, since he can put it better than I could ever paraphrase:
Davee did a wonderful job implementing SDK support for user and kernel plugins. The changes are not in the mainline yet, so please help us test it. You need the new toolchain updates to build taiHEN and your own plugins.
This brings me to the last point. For the kernel, there needs to be a lot of reverse engineering to figure out all the functionalities exported by the kernel. We at molecule have done a lot of work in the past few years but we have not even covered 10% of what the kernel exports. This was the prize given to those who completed the KOTH challenge and now it is released for the public. It contains just about everything that molecule has discovered and reversed about the Vita since 2012 and includes a lot of low level information about the system. It is a good place to start for anyone who wishes to get into Vita hacking: wiki.henkaku.xyz.
What’s next for HENkaku?
This is the sad part of the announcement, but honestly the one I was expecting: there is no next. With this major breakthrough release, Team Molecule is retiring from the PS Vita scene. They will continue to support taiHENkaku with bugfixes but expect no more updates, this is the final version. They will continue to look into hacking the lowest levels of the Vita hardware, but there will be no more user-focused content made by them. I want to quote a few things Yifan had to say:
All this is due to the gracious work done by my friends in molecule: Davee, Proxima, and xyz. I am extremely lucky to have worked with such talented individuals and they have my sincere thanks. All our releases have been made with a level of polish and professionalism unparalleled by anyone else in the console hacking scene because of them.
I want to thank the community for the encouragement and support and I want to thank Sony for building the Vita and making it secure. Finally, I want to thank everyone who participated in the KOTH challenge and proved to me that there is indeed still interest in hacking the Vita. I know that we leave the scene in good hands!
What else can I say? Without these guys, we would not have a Vita scene. They have done more than we could ever have asked of them, they have given us all we could ever want and dream of. I want to use this last paragraph to ask something of you guys, the readers:
I want to ask you guys is to tweet Yifan and Davee (unfortunately xyz and proxima do not have a Twitter that I know of) and thank them for all they have done. I am going to do just that as soon as I’m done publishing this and I would be grateful if all of you did the same. I won’t point a gun at your head and tell you to do it, but remember that without these guys, there would be no Vita scene. If you do not know their handles, they are @yifanlu @DaveeFTW.
If you want you are a user looking to beta test HENkaku or a developer that wants to start working on the new framework all you need to do to update your version of HENkaku is visit http://beta.henkaku.xyz. Rememeber that for now taiHENkaku is mostly only for developers and we will report when the final, user-friendly version is released. If you are a developer you should also visit this page where Team Molecule gets you up to speed on everything about developing for taiHENkaku.