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Cobra Blackfin (Incomplete) Review

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Cobra Blackfin (Incomplete) Review

Post by PixelButts »


So I purchased a Blackfin as soon as it was available somewhere other than Taobao.

Spent about 3 hours trying to set it up accordingly to ensure I know what I can do with it without tampering with it.
For the sake of making things easier I'll be calling things specific names - Card Emulator: CardEMU, Blackfin Dongle: Fin, Bluetooth Dongle: BTDongle

I'm trying to locate a Vita with 3.57 or below FW to be able to actually test more things.

As a reminder, piracy is bad, and this is not a guide to pirate Vita games. If you want that then discuss it somewhere else.

Here's a list of important notes
-FW 3.57 or lower is required, I cannot stress this enough (Until it supports 3.60, STAY ON 3.57 OR LOWER)
-PSTVs will not work with this
-the Slim Vita game card cover will not stay closed, as it will eject the CardEMU due to the shape being too big for the rectangular slot on the bottom side of the cover (fat lacks this issue)
-software side can be a bit finnicky with communication (software and manual are on their site)
-make sure you don't use USB3.0 ports (unless it's a laptop then you're fine - my desktop had issues with it, so that's why I say this)
-make sure it's updated in firmware (as of now I have not found out how to update the card emulator, only the fin itself)
-bluetooth dongle is nice but ensure it's also not using a USB3.0
-authentication of carts is picky, but it's simple. Just be sure you have the blackfin server running (local is fine)
-don't use special characters in filenames or it will not be able to write to the CardEMU

So what is the blackfin and what is it not?
The blackfin is
-a Vita card emulator
-a P2P tool that relies on actual carts being purchased and used to operate accordingly - thus throwing away the concept of piracy due to it being very limited
-a way of making backups for PS Vita game cards (encryption is still there but the way it handles it is strange - will look into it)

The blackfin is not
-an all in once solution to pirate
-does not allow pirating since it still requires game cards to work (unless a surplus of them are available)

So how does it work?

The CardEMU is the main focus here for the Vita communications. When inserted it will allow the BTDongle to communicate with certain data, then transmits said data to the Fin. The main thing it looks for is Authentication data for the game cards.

Once a card has been authenticated via the CardEMU and BTDongle communication, you then have the ability to dump the card to an iso using the Fin. Once you have what you need dumped, you take the CardEMU and insert a MicroSD card (preferably 4gb at minimum) into it. Once done, insert the CardEMU into the Fin and you will have the choice to format it (which is needed before writing to it). Once formatted accordingly you can write your game iso to it, and multiple if you decide to.

Once written you then take it out of the Fin and power on your Vita, you can move over to the CardEMU tab of the blackfin software. Hit connect and it will start trying to use the BTDongle to connect to the CardEMU. At this time while it's scanning, insert the card into the Vita (yes, it should not be in before scanning). Once in, it will connect and show a list of available games on the CardEMU and what game cards are available on the server you're connected to (there are multiple, local, and even custom).

Once your list is completely loaded you can pick one you wish to launch, and it will launch on the Vita (presumably with using the appropriate license from the card on the server, hence why real game cards are still required). The software is simple, but is not the most visually pleasing. I expect it to improve over time.

I'm sorry I can't actually show it working, but I don't have a system that can actually boot a game as it should (Testkits cant play retail games, and my other systems are on 3.60)

My verdict as of right now - Updated as of July 23, 2016 at 5:40am
Presentation - 8/10 (it does this well admittedly)
Ease of use - 4/10 (software is trash but it works if you're very careful with a very particular setup. Works most of the time)
Functionality (hardware) - 3/10 (must use the usb cable that came with it. power draw is important and length can make the software crash due to lack of power. CardEMU can effectively become useless and break from normal use)
Functionality (software) - 5/10 (it is quite picky it crashes and can reset authentication - luckily if it doesn't crash you don't have to reauthenticate when you re-open the software)
Build quality - 2/10 (the plastic feels cheap and flexible, but that's to be expected if you ask me. Just don't abuse it and you'll be fine. You can miss the card reader port if you don't angle your card properly, so watch out. The CardEMU feels flimsy and cheap, so be careful if you have nails. Points also deducted for the CardEMU being an issue on the Slim Vita with the game card cover)
Servers - ?/10 (I have read that the server stuff works)

Overall (for now - not counting server) - 4.8/10 (Please do not buy this til they fix the quality)

Anyway, here's some pics and a (poorly done) video.
Last edited by PixelButts on Sat Jul 23, 2016 12:43 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: Cobra Blackfin Review

Post by yifanlu »

I think your review is incomplete and therefore it's unfair to give a score right now. The biggest issue emuonpsp (the Japanese reviewer) had was that it simply just didn't work most of the time. Games fail to authenticate, dumping doesn't work sometimes, not enough games on the server, etc. Until you address these issues, it's not really a review.
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Re: Cobra Blackfin Review

Post by PixelButts »

Working on finding a sub 3.60 Vita to actually use it, so that much is incomplete til I find one. So I do plan to add and revise this once I finally get one.

As for the authentication, I find that a little strange. The only time it ever failed to authenticate was on the fat vita with 3.60. The authentication works with the Testkit (albeit it's weird how to go about it, since it powers on, then authenticates, but can also authenticate when powering off).
The dumping seems to work so far as long as it's been authenticated, so haven't had an issue there yet (it just takes a while...)
Writing to the CardEMU was the only real issue I had with the device due to filenames being only normal characters (I have not tried Japanese characters yet).

The server threw me off a little bit as that seemed to be the stem of the issues when trying to authenticate and work accordingly. It seems to be the program that makes the BTDongle work with the card, even though it *should* work without the server application running. But when connected to the blackfin American server it had some issues connecting to the devices.

I honestly haven't run into any issues except for being unable to play anything (because testkit and 3.60 vita), and the BTDongle failing to connect to the CardEMU (which I'm guessing is due to the testkit card slot being a bit "loose" and losing contact with something. The fat just cant use it since it's 3.60)

Also do you have a link to the review from emuonpsp? I wish to read it.

I'll update things accordingly as time progresses. Sorry bout that!
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Re: Cobra Blackfin (Incomplete) Review

Post by yifanlu » ... -blackfin/

I think most people are interested in compatibility and without a good server on their side with a lot of games, that's not possible. I've heard from others that games they want to play are just not available.
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Re: Cobra Blackfin (Incomplete) Review

Post by PixelButts »

Took the time to work out a deal for a Vita (and some other stuff) that can actually play the games once written to the CardEMU, and also took the time to see if I could make a reliable setup for this thing.

My results are as follows
-Keep the devices in clear and close proximity
-Use the retail or Test Vita (test being less reliable it would seem) to authenticate when prompted (3.60 works for this even if it claims it fails - which will be a point to discuss)

I also decided to look into these
-Does it even need the CardEMU to begin with (again another point to discuss here)
-The output isos and what does and doesn't work and why
-Iso dump comparison from different carts of the same game
-Are the contents encrypted

So let's address the first point "Keep the devices in clear and close proximity"
So this I learned pretty quick. The signal for the device is bad. Pretty bad. So bad it's about a foot and a half away from me for it to detect and connect easily. The results are it authenticates and doesn't lose it's connection to the CardEMU and BTDongle at all (but if obstructed it is lost). I don't like that particular part as my setup is awful for this. But it works better now from what I can tell.

Second point "Use the retail or Test Vita to authenticate when prompted"
So here's the fun part. When I discovered my Testkit could authenticate it, it made me a bit excited, but I also learned that my 3.60 Vita can also authenticate, but in a different, less obvious way.
From what I gathered - if it's in a Vita on 3.60, you can use the setup above, have the card inserted, waiting for authentication, then power down the Vita, and it will authenticate 90% and say it has an error authenticating. What's weird here is that it still successfully authenticates and reads the card, allowing you to dump it on the software end of things. Now I may not be an expert on how this works, but anything that errors at 90%, but still turns out the exact same as something that succeeds at 100% means that there's something else going on there. I've come to the conclusion that even though it errors at 90%, it already knew what the card was and how to read its contents without needing authentication at all, but might be calling some simple info just to ensure it's correct. I don't know why it would need it, but that brings up the question of is the CardEMU needed for the authentication (answer is no since we have a homebrew method to do this stuff). But in the end, it can still authenticate games with 3.60, but booting them once written to the card is another story.

Third point "Does it even need the CardEMU to begin with"
This was an interesting one. What I realized was if the device can fail authentication, then still be able to use the inserted game as if it succeeded, then the Fin had the ability to read what the card was in the first place, and merely only needed basic info from one file (maybe param.sfo since that contains all that it really needs to my knowledge. I can be horribly wrong here, but this is what comes to mind). To add to this oddity, if it can read these cards, but merely just needs some simple info before authorizing a dump, then the way the Fin works software side doesn't even need an authentication to begin with, and a simple rewrite of the software that handles the operation could just remove the authentication step to begin with. Obviously the CardEMU is needed to hold the written games to the microSD card, but for authenticating, it doesn't need much based off what I've seen.

Fourth point "The output isos and what does and doesn't work and why"
I did notice an interesting thing with one game I have to test. Senran Kagura Estival Versus (it's actually fun, go buy it if you haven't yet) requires 3.55 at minimum (which as many in the homebrew parts know is not a FW you would want) but my testkit has 3.30, so it can't boot the game with success as a normal card. Now that's fine and all but if I can authenticate with it then there isn't an issue right? Well not quite. It will authenticate, but it wasn't able to dump card for some reason after being authenticated (just failed once it began). So perhaps when it checks the simple info for the game name, if the system FW is below what is expected it may mess with how the card gets read? I'm not sure but authentication with the 3.60 system resulted with no issue at all.
I'll check what's happening on a smaller scale when i remember how to use wireshark

Fifth point "Iso dump comparison from different carts of the same game"
So I don't know the rules about posting hex editor screenshots comparing data, so if I could get some pointers on what could be posted that would help.
Anyway, there's 2 copies of Gravity Rush I have and dumped. In the output dumps I checked to see how much is different and in fact there's only 2 spots that have any changes. Near the beginning and near the end of the output iso. Not like single bytes but full chunks that are different (only a couple lines). So every iso of every dump is in fact unique. I do know what one of these chunks are, but I don't know what the other chunk is.

Sixth point "Are the contents encrypted"
Yes but I have some concerns here. I already know I typed paragraphs of some info I know minimal things about, but here's where I need to say I just don't know.
Once you get your iso dump, you can load some software and extract the contents. The output shows that the content is encrypted, but I do think there's more going on than that since some bits are unencrypted (again I'm probably horribly wrong). Not just from that, but the way it's handling the data while I monitor it seems to imply it may be able to decrypt it as well.
Again, I don't know here, but this is my best guess here.

I need to learn more just to be sure, but there's a lot of this device that can be exploited already for sure, I just don't know whether that will happen (I mean if the news of those warez releases shows anything the answer is yes, but I don't know if that was their doing o the device that made it decrypted).

I'll update this as I go. I probably look like a fool for half of this post, if not all of it. But I'm trying and thats what counts to me.
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Re: Cobra Blackfin (Incomplete) Review

Post by PixelButts »

Another update (will be editing the main post)

As of right now I have tried 9 different game cards with a new desktop setup.

All games worked for authentication and dumping so far
-Gravity Rush (2 copies - they are not 1:1 as well)
-Dead or Alive 5 Plus
-Senran Kagura Estival Versus
-Rayman Origins
-Sonic All-Star Racing Transformed
-Spy Hunter
-Jak and Daxter Collection
-Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

I've also learned that you should only use the supplied usb mini cable, and no longer cable. It seems to not get enough power if you use any longer cable than the supplied one.

Overall I have had a success rate for first try authentication of about 75%. 25% takes 2 or more tries with or without restarting the Blackfin software.

Dump rate has been slightly lower. 65% on the first try.
20% on the second after deauthentication.
15% on restarting the software, reupdating firmware, and reauthenticating the cards.

The software is infested with bugs, so much so that it bluescreened my second tower 2 times so far (gave some error of Kernel_Security_[something]_[something] - i should have recorded the output of it). I've considered keeping a bug tracking list for the software to help improve the software, but I'm not sure if it would be of use or relevance to the people making said software.

So do be warned, the software is really bad, hence why I'm now updating the post.
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Joined: Fri Apr 22, 2016 4:12 am

Re: Cobra Blackfin (Incomplete) Review

Post by PixelButts »

Someone is a little upset right now because the card emulator is the cheapest thing I've ever seen, and based on how much pressure is on the micro SD card it will read and write to it. The more you use it the more it comes apart and the looser the micro SD card will be (as if it wasn't loose enough already), which eventually has the following happen. From normal wear this has fallen apart (and the corner on one has broken).

To anyone that ever goes into manufacturing - dont make it too cheap.
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