back to article Here's your Linux-booting PS4, says fail0verflow

There's a long way to go before it becomes an “anyone can do this” hack, but games console tinkerers fail0verflow have replicated their PlayStation 3 work, getting Linux to run on Sony's PlayStation 4. However, as they told the Chaos Communication Conference in Germany, their work is only useful on an older PS4, because the …

  1. John Robson Silver badge

    loss leader...

    I know they try to make money on the games rather than the hardware, but why not release a Linux "game" that will reboot the machine to linux - then you can sell it (and the hardware) to the HPC guys and home enthusiasts...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: loss leader...

      They did with the PS3 and look at the furore that caused.

      Sony were practically saying Linux WAS a door into piracy.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: loss leader...

      You answered your own question - they try to make money out of games. If your linuxing you're not paying them. This of course makes you realise the games are designed to extract money from you - and they will be.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: loss leader...

        Hence the idea of paying for the linux "game"

        1. Midnight

          Re: loss leader...

          Hence the idea of paying for the linux "game"

          ...Which could be used to start other "games", including copies of other very expensive games which Sony and their licensees would prefer that you had paid a lot of money for. Even if that didn't lead to a drop in sales, it would make it more difficult to convince third parties to pay their way into the PS4 catalogue.

          "And for an entirely reasonable license fee, you will be able to distribute games which run on our console."

          "Uh huh. And what will stop people from just making copies of our discs and distributing them for free over the Internet, meaning that we get exactly nothing in return for our substantial investment?"

          "We put a little note in the login prompt for PSLinux which asks them nicely not to do that."

          "Thank you. We'll be in touch."

          The only way to avoid this would be to fence off parts of the hardware so that they could not be accessed unless a properly blessed disc has been inserted, and that's about as likely to work as giving national governments secure back doors into cryptography.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: loss leader...

      Hardly anyone wants Linux on a PS4; what many want however is "free" games....and this is a good start towards that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: loss leader...

        > is "free" games....and this is a good start towards that.

        Wow what a late 90s attitude. Too bad with virtually every decent selling title doing so due to the online component Sony has quite a bit of control over this outside the barrier of simply pirating a blue ray disc. My bets are today both them and Microsoft get most of their profit off the monthly online gaming fees as opposed to game sales themselves due to 3rd parties being able to make or break systems (see Nintendo).

    4. DanJB

      Re: loss leader...

      My first guess would be that whatever virtualisation system they used (Might have to be custom built for the architecture?) Would open them up to any number of exploits that could then be used to run code outside of that game sandbox. A lot of video game system exploits begin with a badly coded game being used to run arbitrary code. Giving people a space where they can run their own code straight from a console in a Linux "game" would likely not end well...

      1. Lucasjkr

        Re: loss leader...

        I doubt that this is running through a virtualization layer - if anything, that would be even more complicated. Besides, Linux and NetBSD have been ported to run on just about every architecture out there.

    5. jeffdyer

      Re: loss leader...

      Because they need to sell more than one "game" per console to make any money.

  2. King Jack
    Happy

    Great News

    Anything that give the consumer control of their hardware is fine by me, it should be illegal to lock things up. Sony likes to remove things (look at the PS3) maybe someone will hack a media station and PS3 compatibility on the PS4.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Great News

      SImply not possible without rewriting the game.

      PS4 CPU side of the CPGPU is not powerful enough to emulate a Cell. The Cell is more powerful than the CPU side of the PS4 chip, in fact the Cell used to be used by the GPU for some calculations.

      Just buy TLoU and Uncharted collection

      BTW I suspect MS are rewriting game engines for their back compatability.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Great News

        BTW you can download a media player for the PS4, from the PS Store, which allows you to play content from a server.DLNA

        I'd also tend to agree that the PS3 architecture is so different from the PS4 and that games exploited the way the PS3 architecture worked to the Nth degree thus making emulation difficult especially if you also want performance.

      2. xyzw

        Re: Great News

        I'd like to be a bit more precise: The CELL was not "used by the GPU".

        The CELL SPEs were used, among other things, to process geometry because the RSX was REALLY poor in term of vertex shader processing (mostly, <shortcut> because of the way it was fetching vertexes </shortcut>).

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: Great News (xyzw)

          Thanks for the clarification, I was not sure how to explain as I am not a systems architect. but I did notice the CELL RSX connection was a higher speed bus than normal.

          Then you read about NDi and GG optimisation which makes their games look so good, then Ubisoft engineers playing with cloth simulators *

          * http://gdcvault.com/play/1020939/Efficient-Usage-of-Compute-Shaders

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Great News

      It was always going to be easier to attack the PS4 with a *NIX based OS than the fundamentally more secure Hypervisor / Hybid Microkernel / Windows based model of the Xbox One.

      1. joeldillon

        Re: Great News

        How is a 'hybrid microkernel' more secure? Everything that runs in supervisor mode in Linux runs in supervisor mode in Windows, too (and more on the desktop, though I'm guessing the xbox doesn't have GDI and window management in its kernel).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Great News

          "How is a 'hybrid microkernel' more secure?"

          It would potentially have a much smaller attack surface than a non microkernel based OS for a start.

          However the major security advantage of the Xbox One is the "Host OS" - a micro hypervisor type environment.

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge
            Trollface

            Re: Great News

            Nice buzzword bingo. Because there's no piracy on Windows 10, amirite?

            Now do pop off to YouTube or something.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Great News

        History proves otherwise.

        As someone who has owned and chipped consoles since day one, Sony consoles have ALWAYS been more difficult to crack than the MS offering.

        Wii? 5 wires.

        PS2, 20 wires

        Xbox, 10 wires

        Ps3 50 wires

        Xbox 360 no wires, just flash the DVD drive (admittedly, a bit harder now but still easier than a PS3)

        PS4/XB1 no confirmed hacks out in the wild.

  3. MJI Silver badge

    Achievement??

    Go away it is TROPHY not achievement

  4. Christian Berger

    Wrong security model

    The whole idea behind the "security" of such a games console is that people cannot pirate games or sell games without a license. That's the whole idea about all of this.

    There are 2 people who want to break your security system. The first is people who want to pirate games, the other is people who want to have control over their hardware, for example to run Linux on it. Experience has shown that it's the second group you have to worry about.

    The PS3 has the ingenious idea of just keeping the second group happy. You could run Linux on it right from the start. That's why the second group was pacified so it wouldn't look at your security systems. So even a trivial system was good enough to defend against the first group. Then however the PS3 slim came which removed the capability to run Linux. This angered the second group to find ways to regain their right... which lead to exploits... which lead to pirated games.

    I know managers and executives at that level rarely think things through, but they should know by now who their enemies are. Declaring your customers to be your enemies is not a viable long term business strategy, though in the mid term it might work. Just look at BluRay sales, which only took off after you could rip those disks, or DVD sales which did the same (though a bit delayed as hard disk sizes had to increase first), or online music sales after the DRM was lifted.

    1. boltar Silver badge

      Re: Wrong security model

      "Then however the PS3 slim came which removed the capability to run Linux"

      Actually it was disabled from OS update 3.21 onwards on any PS3. So if you had an older machine you didn't *have* to update but of course later games would refuse to run unless you did. I don't know if that was Sony mandated or just laziness on the part of the game devs but either way you had the choice of running linux or playing all games but not both.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wrong security model

        People seem to have forgotten that the reason Sony pulled the plug on PS3 Linux was because someone posted a hack of the Linux build to gain control of the console that Sony couldn't work around - so, ultimately, I don't think one can blame Sony for it, but rather the hackers.

        To quote Grumpy Cat: 'This is why we can't have nice things'.

        1. boltar Silver badge

          Re: Wrong security model

          "so, ultimately, I don't think one can blame Sony for it, but rather the hackers."

          One can accuse the hackers of being naive in not forseeing the possible consequences, but the blame lies squarely at the door of Sony. So what if people gained full control of the *machine they paid for*? Its not like there was going to be a sudden huge market in unlicensed linux games that would rob poor Sony of the massive percentages they got from mainstream game sales. For starters the number of people who would even install linux on a PS3 was probably measured in a fraction of a percent of total owners and writing a game is no mean feat anyway.

          No, sorry, it was just sour grapes from Sony , taking away their ball and not letting anyone else play with it.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Wrong security model

            Boltar -

            The point was that Linux was installed by default on PS3s, but then hacked to allow access to the *rest* of the PS3 OS and hence play pirated games. Ultimately the PS3 was a subsidised games console they sold at a loss (yes, stupid them, but still), and so having a way to play pirate games on any PS3 was disastrous. for those who were genuinely using the PS3 Linux for parallel programming etc, they could keep Linux by not upgrading the OS. For those who still wanted to play games, they had to drop Linux. It was an unfortunate choice, but ultimately one forced by the hackers.

            We should be applauding Sony for wanting to offer Linux in the first place, and demonising the hackers who ruined it for everyone, instead of creating an environment where no manufacturer of anything is ever going to want to offer anyone the option to tinker for themselves ever again - which is where the freetard attitude leads us...

            1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
              Thumb Down

              Re: Wrong security model

              where no manufacturer of anything is ever going to want to offer anyone the option to tinker for themselves ever again

              Only in environments where the goal is to win a captive market, the initial hit is free, or nearly so, and the business model absolutely depends on a subsequent revenue stream from said captive market.

              If your statement was true, there would be no PC games at all. Pointing at "freetardism" as the reason for disempowerment, hardware locking and suppressive legal manoeuvers is just setting up a strawman.

              In the business model we have here "customers" are basically revenue cattle who have little control over what they "consume" and who accept the concomitant risks: security risks due to vulnerable cloud infrastructure and unfixed problems with their gear, risks of seeing their system being "discontinued" with no recourse at any time (possibly taking the "content" with it), risks of seeing their system destroyed or rendered inoperable as the "War on IP Infringement" rages and risks of getting few "add-ons", if not advertisements, that they do not want at their expense.

              Luckily one can still chose to say "no" to this kind of bullshit, but seeing the utter disgrace that the "mobile device" market it, maybe not for much longer. Some people are ok for this, but then again, some people are okay for paying taxes for which they get shit healthcare and large mansions for parliamentarians. To each his own.

              1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

                Re: Wrong security model @DAM

                Upvoted for all but "... some people are okay for paying taxes for which they get shit healthcare and large mansions for parliamentarians."

                First, I don't know what "shit healthcare" you are talking about, but if you mean access to GPs* (especially in England and Wales), then blame the recent successive Ministers for Heath, who have deliberately made the system worse for their own reasons. Also, you need to address the attitude in the medical profession - being a GP is, for some reason I cannot understand, a second-class option**.

                Secondly, what other funding scheme do you want? From previous postings you seem to very much in love with the Libertarian "all taxes are evil; the free market will sort it all out" model. Since it can easily be empirically shown that such a system (such as the USA's clusterfuck of a healthcare "system") is a guaranteed way to drag down public health to third-world country (hence not tax-funded either) levels, then what system do you propose, and why?

                OK - off-topic, but you brought your opinions about sensible heath-care funding into this :-) So, sort-of on topic: I don't understand computer gaming. The most complicated game I ever play on the computer is Spider Solitaire, but the Kerbal Space Mission thing that some folks have mentioned on rocketry threads here looks interesting, but I can't see a case for spending money on time-wasting stuff for the computer - it's a tool. However, I am certainly all for people having control of the things they own, so good on fail0verflow for working on this.

                * I'm assuming this is is the case because, overall, hospital care is of a very high standard in the whole of the UK. Outpatients' services and A&E are creaking a bit, but this is due to the problems listed above, which come down to government policy decisions over the last 35 years. Paying out of your pocket wouldn't make them any better (how many private A&E/outpatient services do you know of? Very few, because there is no money in it.)

                ** On the whole, if I was starting yet another career and decided to go into medicine, I'd be quite happy to consider being a GP. I don't see their work-load as being particularly onerous compared to hospital doctors, and their pay is at least on a par with hospital doctors of the same experience. The relevant factors - for me - would be the differences in team-working (to this day I still miss the team-work experienced when I was a nurse), and whether generalisation would suit me better than specialisation. However, ask a proto-doctor what they want to be when they grow up, almost none say "GP", and this is strengthened throughout their training. If we want to increase the number of GPs (whatever the payment method), we need to address the culture in medical schools.

        2. Roo
          Windows

          Re: Wrong security model

          "People seem to have forgotten that the reason Sony pulled the plug on PS3 Linux was because someone posted a hack of the Linux build to gain control of the console that Sony couldn't work around - so, ultimately, I don't think one can blame Sony for it, but rather the hackers."

          That was 100% Sony's fault from start to finish, from the poor engineering effort to pulling the plug on a legit feature that customers paid for and wanted (granted, not all customers !).

          In essence Sony is punishing their customers for their poor engineering and business model.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Wrong security model

            "That was 100% Sony's fault from start to finish, from the poor engineering effort to pulling the plug on a legit feature that customers paid for"

            When this originally happened there was a massive flamewar here on el reg with people moaning about all the people that would be affected by Sony removing OtherOS in a firmware update and it turned out that most of the people declaring it was the end of the world and Sony would burn in hell for what they had done A: had no idea what the OtherOS option allowed (restricted access to run a limited Linux environment) B: had no idea what they would do with OtherOS if they had to come up with a reason why they needed it C: had no idea why you would actually want to use Linux on a PS3 opposed to commodity hardware. The few people that used OtherOS for anything but a nice toy to say "look guys I can runs linux too" were a few places that had built PS3 clusters to get their hands on affordable Cell hardware.. and those clusters had already been built and they had no reason to update the firmware and lose the OtherOS option. So the end result is: People made a massive noise about it but in reality no one gave two shits about it.

            >In essence Sony is punishing their customers for their poor engineering and business model.

            There was a toy feature called OtherOS which was seen as harmless. Someone came along and showed that it wasn't harmless and could have allowed stuff that would (if you believe that piracy makes much of a difference) hurt Sony's bottom line i.e. sales of games. They considered the 0.000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001% of PS3 users that would instantly explode the moment the OS update was pushed out and guessed it was a simple fix for a major problem that would affect almost no one. So instead of constantly playing cat and mouse fixing issues with the OtherOS feature they removed it. I suspect someone's boss was a little bit less pissed off about the whole thing when they suggested "It's not worth the effort, let's just remove it for fucks sake".

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Wrong security model

            >In essence Sony is punishing their customers for their poor engineering and business model.

            Exactly this. It was pretty funny how quickly Sony lost interest in the OtherOS functionality when it became clear their attempt to get the lower PC tariffs instead of the higher console tariffs were a no go. Its a good thing I guess their competition in the console space for the most part is nearly as anti consumer (both Microsoft and especially Nintendo, who deny fair use self backup is even valid in the US).

  5. DanJB

    Typo?

    "There's a long way to go before it becomes an “anyone can do this” hack, but games console tinkerers fail0verflow have replicated their PlayStation 2 work, getting Linux to run on Sony's PlayStation 4."

    Shouldn't that be Playstation 3 in the first sentence? Or did they work on breaking into the PS2 way back when as well?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Typo?

      PS2.

      IIRC you needed a certain buggy game to break it, but then you had a handy network media player and C64 et al emulator. The only bit of PS2 hardware that was lacking was that that it didn't have USB 2 ports, so couldn't play AVI files from a memory stick.

      1. DanJB

        Re: Typo?

        Didn't realise Fail0verflow had been around that long, quite an impressive group all in all.

        Edit:- Although it looks like the article has been updated now

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Typo?

        Ps2? FreeMCboot Dave... p0wn3d memory card, complete control of the system to do what you like, from the internal hd or streamed off the net or indeed off the two usb ports on the front beneath the funny shaped stuff on my phatty ps2 across the room.

        Funny game exploit as I remember it was the wii, with wheelie breakers loading a corrupt savegave...

        Got a ps4 from santa, played the 5 games in the pack, usual 3rd person perspective shooters with no innovation and god of war remastered is exactly the same as the ps3 version so a big let down. Haven't let it update the dash, will be prodding it with pointy sticks out of curiosity when I get time...

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Typo?

          The Wii was exploited via games until LetterBomb appeared, which exploited the Wii's internal messaging system. By that point, though, the Wii was getting long in the tooth, and while it's a nice thing for retro gaming (load up some emulators from the Homebrew Channel, hook it up to an old CRT TV, and cue the nostalgia), the novelty tends to wear off before long, especially once you try to more sophisticated stuff.

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: Typo?

            They've also decided not to make their Wii U-mode exploit public until there was sufficient interest in the homebrew community to get Linux running on it in Wii mode hacked to use all three cores, the result being that there wasn't and pirates are still flailing round three years later.

            Which is a shame as Kodi modified to use the GamePad as a dual purpose remote/player would be a great media centre.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: Typo?

              "Which is a shame as Kodi modified to use the GamePad as a dual purpose remote/player would be a great media centre."

              Hmm...then again, you have to wonder if the Wii U has the grunt work to handle Kodi properly, especially at high resolutions, hi-gamut, and/or H.265 encoding. It's like with WiiMC: strictly an SD affair and known to chug when it encounters more complex H.264 video.

              1. Dan 55 Silver badge

                Re: Typo?

                It can decode hi-res YouTube streams and display them on two different screens with different resolutions, one of them sent over WiFi to the GamePad, so it's not as sluggish you'd think.

                My Android devices can't cope with H.265, so it's a common problem.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Typo?

      There was even an official HDD and Network add on kit for original PS2 that provided Linux.

  6. chrismeggs

    PS4?

    I am personally incensed that I am unable to boot this on my Hollerith! V M? I don't think so!

  7. joed

    so what

    Who would bother with PS4 (or Xbox). Crappy hardware and locked garden variety OS. Sure, nice achievement but impractical.

    The only conclusion is not to support/buy locked platforms - if I pay for, I better own it

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: so what

      Just because you pay rent or leases doesn't mean you own whatever you rent or lease. And by the EULA's, what you get doesn't necessarily constitute a sale, even under exhaustion clauses. IOW, monkey with the software that's require for the hardware to run, and be prepared to end up with a brick.

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