back to article Full Linux-on-PS4 hits Github

Ever since fail0verflow first told Chaos Computer Club Sony PS4 machines could be persuaded to run Linux, a fair amount of work has gone into replicating his demonstration. The problem for other PS4 hackers: to avoid take-downs and other sueballs from Sony, fail0verflow published only a Linux-to-PS4 port, leaving the rest of …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Puzzled

    What exactly is the objective for getting Linux to run on PS4? Is there a benefit?

    1. Allaun Silverfox

      Re: Puzzled

      Mostly so you can control your own hardware I would think. The idea that a machine you own would remain a mysterious black box can be very irritating. And you could set them up to do scientific work. Though it might be more economical to do GP-GPU setups.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Puzzled

        Back when the PS3 had Cell it was useful and cost effective for computation, as it provided more performance than contemporary CPUs (at least for certain HPC tasks) and predated APIs to program GPUs.

        Now that the PS4 contains a rather ordinary x86 chip and a midrange GPU by today's standards, it is no longer cost effective in any way to buy PS4s for computation. The only reason to run Linux on your PS4 is to say you can, there is no benefit to being able to do so as far as I can tell.

        1. Mephistro

          Re: Puzzled (@ DougS)

          "The only reason to run Linux on your PS4 is to say you can, there is no benefit to being able to do so..."

          Sorry to dissent, but being able to use a gaming console as a general use Linux computer has several clear advantages. At the very least, being able to double your kid's room console as a Linux PC will save you the need of purchasing a dedicated PC, so the kids can e.g. surf the web and do their homework in a safe(-ish) environment. Other uses include media center, graphics and sound editing...

          Not everything is HPC! :-)

          1. SteveK

            Re: Puzzled (@ DougS)

            At the very least, being able to double your kid's room console as a Linux PC will save you the need of purchasing a dedicated PC, so the kids can e.g. surf the web and do their homework in a safe(-ish) environment

            While I agree with your thinking, the fact it needs to use an exploit to work means that it won't be suitable as a proper tool/kids PC as the exploit will almost certainly get patched pretty soon.

            I'm not sure that "I couldn't do my homework until someone hacks the latest PS4 firmware" will get much sympathy.

            Yes, you could just not install firmware updates that block the exploit, but then,assuming Sony are consistent with how they handled firmware updates on the PS3, games and things like Netflix will refuse to work until you update the firmware, turning the machine back into a single-use box again.

            1. King Jack
              Thumb Up

              Re: Puzzled (@ DougS)

              If and when Sony block this, it will just fuel the creation of custom firmware which will allow the playing of back-ups. I look forward to the new arms race. IMO if the customer BUYS something, they should be free to mess about with it any way they see fit. Sony is free to ban network access as that part belongs to them.

              1. Planty Bronze badge
                FAIL

                "If and when Sony block this"

                Heads up for idiots:

                Sony patched this 18 months ago.... Sorry to break this news....

            2. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: Puzzled (@ DougS)

              "Yes, you could just not install firmware updates that block the exploit, but then,assuming Sony are consistent with how they handled firmware updates on the PS3, games and things like Netflix will refuse to work until you update the firmware, turning the machine back into a single-use box again."

              It should be worth noting that the article notes this is only confirmed working on a PS4 with firmware version 1.76. Last I checked, the PS4's most up to date firmware is version 3.15, released at the end of January. Now, if they can get this running on Sony's latest firmware, or even make it firmware-agnostic, then I'll be impressed.

            3. Cynic_999 Silver badge

              Re: Puzzled (@ DougS)

              I'm not convinced that using a PS4 as a Linux box is preferable to getting a cheap bit of hardware (e.g. Rasberry Pi). Where do you store the data (e.g. kid's homework) while the PS4 is being used as a gaming station? Or does the kid say, "COD ate my homework"?

              1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                Re: Puzzled (@ DougS)

                Can you point to a cheap bit of hardware that can match the performance of the PS4's CPU/GPU combo?

                As for where to store the data, USB sticks are a dime a dozen.

          2. 1Rafayal

            Re: Puzzled (@ DougS)

            Installing a Linux gives you access to all the emulators you could ever need, something very attractive to gamers.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Puzzled (@ DougS)

            Very much is a good cause.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Puzzled

          Any, the age old myth from the bedroom experts that the PS4 has an off the shelf GPU.

          PS4 is very removed from PC architecture, removing all the legacy busses and bridges that constrained PCs for years. Most importantly, the GPU and CPU are on the same die, sharing the same 8GB of insanely quick GDDR5, there is no external bus between the CPU and GPU, unlike your PC.

          This makes PC comparisons worthless and extremely naive..

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Puzzled

            "Any, the age old myth from the bedroom experts that the PS4 has an off the shelf GPU."

            It IS an OTS system, with some minor adjustments. AMD has been selling their APU CPU/GPU combos for years before the PS4 came along, and GDDR5 was nothing new, either. Thing is, GDDR has a graphics-oriented performance optimization which is why it isn't used with standard DDR memory channels. Both the PS4 and Xbox One are customized to some extent, but neither really use cutting-edge hardware (that still belongs to the realm of gaming PCs) that could be considered novel or revolutionary. Even the PS3's Cell architecture got leapfrogged early into its working life with the GPGPU push culminating with the release of OpenCL.

          2. TeeCee Gold badge

            Re: Puzzled

            So it's a slightly non-standard PC then? Maybe a Mac comparison would be better.

            Note that CPU/GPU shared memory setups have been common on low-end PCs for years, although having both on the same die is a recent thing in the x86 world (AMD APUs and now the Intel Haswells playing catchup). Having only 8Gb to satisfy both seems a little low in this days and age.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Puzzled

          8 Core CPU at 2.5GHz with actually quite good floating-point performance (the FPU is significantly upgraded over a standard Jaguar core) as well as 1280 compute cores on a 256-bit GDDR5 bus at 5.5GHz, and all for around US$399? Not cost effective for computation? You cannot be serious.

          You simply cannot build an equivalently powerful Linux box for twice that much! It is still a very 'useful and cost effective' proposition for computation, as well as a bargain desktop PC if Linux can be installed and if a fully hardware accelerated graphics driver can be written. Those are the big 'ifs' at this stage, but the value proposition here is potentially very large.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Puzzled

            I'm actually quite piqued by this from an engineering signal analysis point of view. The biggest impediment to doing FFT on cuda is getting the data in and out of the card fast enough. If this thing's got the lot on-chip and you can get data in/out of the box at USB3 speeds then I can see serious use for this in the engineering community.

      2. Deltics
        Coat

        Re: Puzzled

        So where are all the hacks for running Linux on your smart TV ? Your fridge ? Your washing machine ? Your [insert any device you "own" with embedded firmware that limits you to using the device for the manufacturers intended purpose which does not include general purpose computing] ?

        If this is a question of "principle" and "rights" then these should be out there too, right ? How very dare I be prevented from using my Bendix Twintub to do whatever the hell I want and be forced to use it only for doing laundry!

        .

        imho it takes a special kind of person ("special" as in "needs") to buy something and then complain that it doesn't do what something else they could have bought instead can do and set about making that "right".

        You want a general purpose computer... ? Go buy one.

        You wanted a general purpose computer but bought a games console instead ? See previous suggestion.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Puzzled

          "So where are all the hacks for running Linux on your smart TV ? Your fridge ? Your washing machine ? Your [insert any device you "own" with embedded firmware that limits you to using the device for the manufacturers intended purpose which does not include general purpose computing] ?"

          The smart TVs are definitely being worked on. The justification being support gets dropped and the internal software goes obsolete well ahead of its time. Thing is, this software are usually made by security-savvy companies like Samsung and LG who tend to sign their code and employ lockout mechanisms, so progress is there but very very slow.

          As for other home appliances, that's generally tinker territory so you have to look into real hobbyist boards to learn more about what's happening there.

          1. sisk

            Re: Puzzled

            So where are all the hacks for running Linux on your smart TV ? Your fridge ? Your washing machine ?

            Smart TVs, at least some of them and maybe even most of them, already run Linux*. As does any internet connected fridge. (Don't ask why. I'm still trying to figure out why internet connected fridges EXIST, let along why they run Linux). As for washing machines, I've yet to see one that has an actual OS at all.

            Your [insert any device you "own" with embedded firmware that limits you to using the device for the manufacturers intended purpose which does not include general purpose computing] ?

            I've heard about someone getting Linux onto a programmable coffee maker, but I remain skeptical about that one. I'm fairly certain the toasters are a joke and I know the dead badger is, though it's one that I quite enjoy to this day.

            *That's Linux as in "Android is Linux". In other words, just the kernel and no GNU. For that matter there are smart TVs that run a fork of Android.

    2. kryptylomese

      Re: Puzzled

      Well why not?

      We will have to wait and see how useful it will actually be but it is certainly nice (for those who have bought a PS4) to have the option!

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Puzzled

        I 'd rather have the ability to play games.

        Cheap PC and Linux on it would be better for normal tasks.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Puzzled

          Want the Linux too for exactly the same things. It's a heaven for us, the whole world needs it.

      2. Deltics

        Re: Puzzled

        You said "nice" when I think you meant "pointless".

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Puzzled

      The hope of piracy for cheapskates, same as PS3 Linux.

      Nobody was interested in Linux there. Anyone that used it will know it was a total turd that took ages to boot, and had very limited memory to run apps, Firefox was unusable under ps3 Linux.

      It's stupidity quick computational abilities were it's only use, but no person that bought a ps3 for gaming (and thus setting their career destiny to burger flipping) would even know where to begin with that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Puzzled

        Everybody around the entire world is totally interested in Linux within the Ps4.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Puzzled

      Repurpose it to run Steam?

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Puzzled

        "Repurpose it to run Steam?"

        A thought, but I think it needs some better specs to be better suited to the job. And I'm not going to continue the joke, as I'm pretty sure a 2015-spec device like this should be readily able to handle a game that is by now eight years old. Perhaps it's time to refresh the joke with something more modern, like perhaps "Caffeine".

        What I'd be curious to know is some more meat-and-potatoes stats: such as how well such a converted PS4 would handle itself under say a 1080p or 4K H.265 encoding load, say to provide a benchmark.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Puzzled

      Because you can.

      Good enough reason for me - giving Sony the proverbial middle finger is just an unexpected bonus.

      1. DrXym Silver badge

        Re: Puzzled

        "Good enough reason for me - giving Sony the proverbial middle finger is just an unexpected bonus."

        Yes because buying Sony's hardware and potentially bricking it is really sticking it to them.

    6. DrXym Silver badge

      Re: Puzzled

      I suspect the main reason someone wants Linux is so they can work on exploiting the hardware even further, looking for a class break, ripping firmware out etc.

    7. sisk

      Re: Puzzled

      I can see two reasons. First and foremost there's a camp of Linux geeks who want to see Linux running on everything from toasters to dead badgers. If you give those guys a device they'll hack Linux onto it just because they can, whether it makes sense to do so or not.

      Second, and more real-worldly practical, if you can put Linux on a console then you can use it as a PC as well as a gaming console. Which effectively means that you have two devices with widely differing capabilities in one box. Which, I think, is pretty useful.

    8. John Sanders
      Trollface

      Re: Puzzled

      Exactly, now that you can run Ubuntu binaries on Windows why would you want to run Linux on anything.

      1. sisk

        Re: Puzzled

        Exactly, now that you can run Ubuntu binaries on Windows why would you want to run Linux on anything.

        I know you're trolling, but I feel like this is a question worth answering anyway.

        The ability to run Ubuntu binaries on Windows doesn't have any impact whatsoever on the factors that drove me to choose Linux. The biggest factor is that Windows doesn't give me the level of control over my system that Linux does. No matter how much you tweak it or deactivate services there are still blackboxes running in the background doing who-knows-what and taking up system resources to do it. On Linux I can (and do) know exactly what everything running in the background is doing. If I don't approve of one of those things or don't feel that it's worth the system resources it's taking up, I can get rid of it. It's also really telling that Windows takes up 16gb of hard drive space all by itself whereas you can easily get a fully functional modern desktop in under 4gb with Linux. Adding Ubuntu compatibility to Windows doesn't change that.

        The other big factor is that I usually build my own PCs. Unlike when you buy prebuilt machines Windows represents an extra cost when you're building one yourself. That really hasn't changed. I still can't legally download Windows for free, and moving my current install to my new computer is a huge advantage when you're upgrading to a new machine with Linux.

        Plus I've been running Linux as my primary OS for somewhere over a decade. At this point I'd need a pretty compelling reason to switch back to Windows. Being able to run stuff I already run doesn't cut it for that.

        And at the most basic, just as Linux isn't for everyone, neither is Windows. Over the years I've come to the conclusion that Windows is not for me. I can run it proficiently (and have to for work), but for what I do and how I use my computer Linux is just a better choice.

  2. Dave 126 Silver badge

    I seem to recall that the PS4 is more or less a standard x64 PC and GPU, but with a bit of AMD's shared memory gubbins or something...

    I have read Linux users lambasting AMD on forums for not releasing great graphics drivers, I don't know what the current state of affairs is in this regard.

    1. asdf

      > Linux users lambasting AMD on forums for not releasing great graphics drivers

      Maybe so but considering their main hardware competition in the open source world is nouveau their drivers could be a whole lot worse.

    2. sisk
      Meh

      I don't know what the current state of affairs is in this regard.

      It's not, at least not as far as I can tell. Certainly my graphics performance on Mint 17 beats out my wife's on similar (not exactly the same, but pretty close) hardware running Windows 10. If AMD's drivers are in some way sub-par then they still shine by comparison to the train wreck of NVidia's drivers.

    3. John Sanders
      Linux

      AMD Drivers in Linux

      FYI: The next generation of AMD drivers for Linux (amdgpu) performs quite nicely. Also the old open source ones (radeonsi) has made lots of improvements lately and will probably reach OpenGL 4.3 via Mesa this summer.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Nothing like a PC, not even remotely similar. The only people thinking that are plebs that don't understand hardware architecture designs.

      PS4 has significant changes that mean you can't compare the APU to similar components in a PC.

      Almost all the comments here are from wannabe experts copy and pasting things they read somewhere else.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When the PS3 (not PS4) first came out Sony actually marketed the fact it could run Linux but then merrily went on to completely remove the ability. Typical shitty Sony behaviour

    I do hope these folks manage to crack the console wide open and keep ahead of Sony's patching efforts.

    1. Tachikoma

      then merrily went on to completely remove the ability. Typical shitty Sony behaviour

      Actually, you can thank GeoHot for Sony removing Linux, it wasn't a bait and switch, it was a (heavy handed) security fix:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Hotz#PlayStation_3_security

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        And in so doing they drew attention to the fact, making the situation worse by making more people determined to crack the PS3.

      2. asdf

        > it wasn't a bait and switch

        yes it was after the EU wouldn't give them them the lower PC tariff rate which was the only reason they did it in the first place.

      3. sisk

        GeoHot gave them an excuse, nothing more. His crack never posed the security risks Sony claimed it did. All it did was allow Linux to fully utilize the hardware. Since it did not affect game mode it couldn't have possibly been used to pirate games. In fact I'm fairly certain than had they not yanked OtherOS entirely over it - and thus given the Linux hackers a reason to look for exploits - there still wouldn't be pirated games on the PS3.

        It's really quite simple. The first link in the chain that leads to pirated games on a console is always an exploit used to install Linux. Don't give the Linux guys a reason to hack the platform and they'll never find an exploit for the less talented w4r3z dud3z.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          All we need is a Ps4 with Linux on it to run office softwares, Linux softwares, Linux updates to the Ps4, and to search online and browse via Linux, download drivers, not just one Linux OS but lots of other variations we desire. We really are bound to computing and our beloved Ps4 and our soul mate Linux. We have nothing else in this world. Nobody's requiring a pirated game, but lots of emulators for older forgotten video game systems, a tribute to the entire world and scientific softwares to make our kids at the Ps4 bright and welcome to the future world. Where the truth bound Linux is an OpenSource and the Ps4 once bought is certainly inside our home. I wish Sony provides a version too, along with the rest of the world and anybody who's willing to help with affection to the Linux world and Gaming. Why hate one another when we can love one another and hold our hands together.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      PS3 at launch

      Sony also advertised that it had a PS2 emulator, something that was also silently dropped in later iterations.

      1. asdf

        Re: PS3 at launch

        >Sony also advertised that it had a PS2 emulator, something that was also silently dropped in later iterations.

        From what I understand that was actually a hardware emulator which was basically a PS2 built into the fatty launch PS3s which is part of why they were so expensive on launch and so well fat. Later cheaper console releases dropped the hardware to reduce cost. There is a whole lot to hold Sony's feet to the fire on over the years (like they have invented just about every one of the most draconian DRM systems on media ever) but this one may get a pass as the market spoke.

  4. x 7

    seems the equivalent of putting the engine from a Ford Escort into a Mini.....totally pointless

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Escort and Mini

      Well I suppose a BDA is better than a A series, well even a XFlow will produce more power

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      "totally pointless"

      But very likely educational and informative for the person doing it, and thus worth doing. What are warranties for anyway if not voiding?

    3. Rinsey

      I worked in a garage when I was 16 (£1.50/hour) and one of the mechanics put the engine from an Austin 1600 into a Mini. The point there was ridiculous speed from that car. Shame it only had a 4 speed gearbox...

      1. PhilipN

        one of the mechanics put the engine from an Austin 1600 into a Mini

        Where?

        1. x 7

          Re: one of the mechanics put the engine from an Austin 1600 into a Mini

          "Where?"

          there was a 1500A+ engine which should have just slotted in. There was also a 1750 E-series from the Allegro and Maxi which may have fitted......the thought of the twin carb version of that in a Mini is interesting. How would you stop the beast though? The brakes would have to be as big as the wheels!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: one of the mechanics put the engine from an Austin 1600 into a Mini

            Hayabusa engines seem to be commonly retro-fitted into them. Also fairly insane. ;)

            1. Vic

              Re: one of the mechanics put the engine from an Austin 1600 into a Mini

              Hayabusa engines seem to be commonly retro-fitted into them

              Have you seen the Radical SR8? Two Hayabusa engines put together to make a V8...

              Vic.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > "Shame it only had a 4 speed gearbox."

        On the contrary, I think it was probably a blessing. ;-)

  5. J. R. Hartley

    Choose your destiny, bitch.

    Incoming firmware update:

    1) play online

    2) use Linux

    ...Bitch

  6. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Finally a reason to maybe consider buying a PS4

    Because, face it, gaming on actual PCs is still the dog's bollocks.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Meh

      Re: Finally a reason to maybe consider buying a PS4

      That only applies to twitch games.

      Serious games like Chess and Go work just fine on PCs.

      1. Mephistro
        Happy

        Re: Finally a reason to maybe consider buying a PS4 (@ Big John)

        Ehemm... "The dog's bollock's" ~="Kicks butts"

        You're welcome. ;-)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Finally a reason to maybe consider buying a PS4 (@ Big John)

          You may want to file away that referring to something in terms of male genitalia can be considered a negative in America (as in "That's balls!" when something isn't right). So your description of "Dog's bollocks" was misconstrued as something a dog would urinate on.

    2. John Sanders
      Meh

      Re: Finally a reason to maybe consider buying a PS4

      The only real issue with gaming on the PC is the lack of titles from certain genres that only see console releases.

      My last console was a PS2, I found the PS3 obnoxious, not at all that powerful and the games expensive, never bothered with another console again after I learnt that you could copy the disks to the HD of the console but not play without the disk.

      Also on the PC you can mod the games to your heart's content.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Finally a reason to maybe consider buying a PS4

        Ps2 became a hit just because they ran the Custom Firmware. Whatever one says or thinks, this is true.

    3. Mephistro

      Re: Finally a reason to maybe consider buying a PS4 (@ Destroy All Monsters)

      "...gaming on actual PCs is still the dog's bollocks."

      I'm quite puzzled at the downvotes your comment received. That PC gaming is far better than console gaming in most respects is self evident to anybody who has used both. Would any of the downvoters care to elaborate?

      Or perhaps it's just a misunderstanding caused by differences between Leftpondian and Rightpondian dialects.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Linux on PS4

    Total waste.

    Also who cares if the PS4 is OTS or not. The fact remains...its still AMD. Which proves that even Sony can fall for the AMD value myth.

    It pains me to say it, but AMD hasnt produced anything exciting since the K6-II. The K7 is where things started going south.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Linux on PS4

      Not so, Netburst was a sack of shite and Intel couldn't compete properly (see court case and fine) until they released Core in 2006; K10 was where it went south for AMD.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Linux on PS4

        I figured AMD really went south when they bought ATI and forced both of them into the perception of lower quality.

    2. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

      Re: Linux on PS4

      > but AMD hasnt produced anything exciting since the K6-II.

      Wot? Phenom!

    3. Jonathan 27 Silver badge

      Yeah...

      That's idiotic, who else could have put the equivalent of a mid-range discrete GPU on the same chip as a x86 CPU equivalent to the one in the PS4?

      Oh right, no one. And your idea that AMD hasn't done anything interesting since the K6-II is just as stupid. AMD lead Intel in performance from the launch of the Athlon until the launch of the Core 2.

      Maybe next time you should mention some of the stupid things AMD has done recently, like selling the same "high-end" chip series for 4 years despite it not even being competitive at launch. Or how they've now lost the lead they had on Intel in iGPUs.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yeah...

        I said exciting. Not interesting.

        Quite a lot of AMD kit is interesting...until you buy it.

        The phenom was ok...I had one for a short while as a stop gap.

        I tend to judge processors based on their usability years after launch. For example I consider the Core 2 Q6600 to still be viable today even in a gaming machine. Theres no Amd CPU from that period that I consider to still be worthwhile.

        Hell my two main machines use older Intel stuff (i5-2400 and Xeon X5690).

        The 5690 is 7+ years old and still a beast. The i5 is 3 generations old.

        Neither machine is sluggish / and both machines are very cheap to maintain. Ive never been able to do the same for AMD kit.

        Hands up if anyone is still running a 7 year old AMD CPU.

        1. Vic

          Re: Yeah...

          Hands up if anyone is still running a 7 year old AMD CPU

          /proc/cpuinfo tells me my processor is model name : AMD Athlon(tm) 64 Processor 3200+

          According to Wikipedia, that dates from September 2003...

          It's plenty for what I'm doing with it.

          Vic.

        2. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Yeah...

          "Hands up if anyone is still running a 7 year old AMD CPU."

          Me!

          I use a laptop that has an old Athlon 64 X2. May not win any speed awards, but with the RAM maxed out, it gets its kicked for office-related work. It can still handle Chromium and LibreOffice with few complaints.

          I also have a similar CPU in an HP mini-PC. It's currently in mothballs but I have used it in the past as a TV computer. I think I'll take it back out of mothballs once I check the RAM in it and get a fresh Mint image.

    4. luoanzu

      Re: Linux on PS4

      I'm going to share some engineering knowledge about why AMD is vastly superior for consoles and why their hardware was chosen. This is very well known by engineers who work with these things. In very simple English, AMD is the very best manufacturer for high performing, low level graphics API gaming. When the "operating system" steps out of the way and drivers are a non-factor, AMD hardware outperforms Nvidia hardware and Nvidia has a lot of work to do before their hardware will be competitive in this market. AMD is generally thought of to have excellent hardware engineers and very bad software engineers because their drivers are bad on "high-level" APIs but extremely fast on "low level" APIs. I'll explain what that means here... Between a graphics card and a game exists two layers of software: (1) hardware driver, (2) graphics processing API. Drivers are not magic and are things we're mostly familiar with but the graphics processing API might be a new terminology for you so I will briefly explain what it is. An API can be for something called DirectX 10 or it can be for something called OpenGL 3.1, these are different graphics related APIs. An API is the final interface between a game's actual code and the driver. Drivers are written to support very specific versions of graphics APIs. While a single driver from a graphics card manufacturer might support DirectX 11 really well, it might also have very poor support for OpenGL. The story of what an API is gets more complicated when we factor in the difference between "high" and "low" level API. A game written for a "high level" API requires the driver to be very intricately programmed. A game written for a "low level" API requires the game to be intricately detailed to directly use and manage hardware resources and the driver to be a simple pipeline right to the raw hardware. AMD's hardware engineering is superior to Nvidia's for a low level API, so their hardware will be chosen for gaming consoles. AMD software drivers for a platform like Windows DirectX 9, 10, or 11 is inferior to Nvidia's, so they do not outperform Nvidia on high level APIs. DirectX12 and Vulkan are low level APIs, and AMD outperforms Nvidia on those as expected.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Linux on PS4

        I'm going to share some engineering knowledge about ...

        References please.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Linux on PS4

          Well, here's an interesting thing to consider. Graphics depend a lot on floating-point math, but an interesting trend has been emerging in AMD vs. nVidia regarding that. AMD cards can handle double-precision floating point with only a modest performance penalty compared to nVidia where performance pretty much chops directly in half. Plus current DX12 benchmarks show AMD's R9 290x performing comparably to the nVidia GTX Titan X, which is about twice the price.

          1. mics39

            Re: Linux on PS4

            Who knows, at this rate we might see sanctioned Linux on Xbox before Sony gives in.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Linux on PS4

              Exactly. Microsoft is brilliant and they are not someone who'd hurt the needs of kids and they know how to love one another. Arent you noticing what all Microsoft xbox one is giving to everybody. Linux is going to be provided, I'm sure of that. I consider good men, the men who are divine and allows love to happen.

      2. John Sanders

        Re: Linux on PS4

        Ergo the Tegra disaster.

  8. Herby

    Why??

    Because it is there.

    Others have done similar experiments:

    http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/When-bugs-fly-Auto-geek-hits-highway-for-2498201.php

  9. megadeaf

    let there be light

    Add keyboard, add mouse and maybe even dare i say a printer. Turn a toy into something useful when you bored of that game make your own. Consoles killed a couple of generations of programmers :)

  10. juice Silver badge

    It's a fun experiment...

    But these days, it does seem a bit redundant.

    Getting Linux running on the PS3 was interesting at the time, as it was pretty powerful for the price in some number-crunching scenarios, thanks to the Cell architecture. But Moore's law had already marched on a fair amount by the time Sony withdrew support for Linux, thanks in no small part to the rise of the GPU as a device for massively parallel processing.

    These days, "consumer" hardware is very much a commodity. Android-based USB-powered thumbsticks can be picked up for less than 15 quid - or, if you want to build something for scientific purposes, for the same price as a PS4, you could pick up ten Raspberry Pis and slap them together into a cluster.

    Or you could nip onto Ebay and pick up a OEM small-form-factor PC; at a glance, there's plenty of multi-core, 3ghz machines with 8GB of ram available for less than a third of the price of a PS4[*]

    And with all of the above, you don't have to worry about the functionality vanishing if/when Sony patches the exploit.

    It's still an interesting experiment, but it's definitely of limited use in the real world!

    [*] This is exactly what I did a while ago; said box fits comfortably under the TV and does a good job of running Windows 10 with Kodi, Steam, iTunes and a few other bits and pieces. Plus, it's all controllable from my phone - including the TV itself!

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: It's a fun experiment...

      But what about something performance-intensive, like a game or perhaps media encoding at high-def (1080+) or latest codecs (HEVC)? Most of those tiny PCs use Intel Atom-class CPUs that are known to be a bit skimpy on the power (IOW, it may have to answer, "But can it run Crysis?" in the negative) whereas we know the APU in the PS4 has to be able to crank out SOME level of performance in order to play games like Fallout 4. I'd like to see some comparisons about its number-crunching performance.

      1. juice Silver badge

        Re: It's a fun experiment...

        Performance-intensive stuff: most of this comes down to the GPU these days. The Pi itself is a key example of this; the fairly underpowered ARM chip (at least in the original iteration) relied heavily on the Broadcom GPU.

        A fairly quick glance online shows the PS4 GPU to be roughly equivalent to a Radeon 7850 (http://wccftech.com/playstation-4-vs-xbox-one-vs-pc-ultimate-gpu-benchmark/). These look to be available for around 75 quid online, and come with 2GB of dedicated ram.

        Admittedly, there's something of an apples/oranges comparison here, since I'm looking at second-hand prices. Then too, the PS4's custom-tuned architecture may well have some speed advantages - though conversely, GPU performance under linux is still generally behind that of Windows, and that's even assuming a hack like this is able to get access to all the hardware, and that drivers are available to take advantage of it.

        Still, for around £150, you can get a quad-core machine with 8GB of ram, 2GB of dedicated GPU ram and a GPU equivalent to the PS4. And generally, that'll include a Windows 7 licence which can be upgraded to Windows 10 or junked and replaced with Linux.

        And then you can spend the rest in the pub ;)

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: It's a fun experiment...

          Media encoding was, is, and will be for some time forward remain a CPU- rather than GPU-intensive job due to the potentially-divergent process of motion estimation as well as the need for good memory throughput. So I'm looking for something that has a good CPU at a decent price, and last I checked, none of the mini-PCs on offer have an octo-core CPU, let alone one with at least decent floating-point performance needed to do media work with any proper speed.

  11. lorisarvendu
    Happy

    Why? Why not?

    Why are you all trying to justify why you would want to run linux on a PS4? It's just throwing up straw men for the critics to burn down.

    Why would we do this? Because we're geeks, it's fun, and it's what we do. That's the only explanation needed, and it's the most important explanation in the world.

    Oh and to the guy who commented on gamers ending up flipping burgers, we bought my son an Xbox 360 in 2010 and he hardly came out of his bedroom for 5 years. Now he's 18 and he's got an apprenticeship with a major UK pharmaceutical company. He's pulling down £15k for working in their IT dept, stroking the mainframe, which is good because he would be hopeless at flipping burgers.

  12. nullnonce
    Devil

    W00t. Finally I have a reason to get one, if it checks out.

    But its a bit late in the product cycle... so need to check the competition carefully.

    How does the compute capacity of a PS4 compare to modern 1RU servers? Mac minis? In its own rack it may be quite effective for running KVM, etc. Are Sony still selling them under cost (NOT!)

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022