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Operating Systems PlayStation (Games) Sony Unix BSD Games

PlayStation 4 Will Be Running Modified FreeBSD 457

Posted by samzenpus
from the under-the-hood dept.
jones_supa writes "This discovery comes nicely alongside the celebration of FreeBSD's 20th birthday, for all the UNIX nerds. The operating system powering the PlayStation 4 is Orbis OS, which is a Sony spin of FreeBSD 9.0. It's not a huge surprise FreeBSD is being used over Linux, in part due to the more liberal licensing. The PlayStation 4 is x86-64 based now rather than Cell-based, which makes it easier to use FreeBSD. BSDs in general currently lack manufacturer supported full-feature AMD graphics driver, which leads to the conclusion that Sony and AMD have likely co-developed a discrete driver for the PS4. Some pictures of the development kit boot loader (GRUB) have been published too."
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PlayStation 4 Will Be Running Modified FreeBSD

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  • Sony Hackstation (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Neo-Rio-101 (700494) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @11:06PM (#44089033)

    So how trivial will it be to slurp the OS out onto a AMD card enabled PC and have our own "HackStation4"?
    Or... how would one modify FreeBSD to run PS4 software?

    I'm sure there'll be encryption up the wazoo anyway... and potentially software could specifically check that the graphics chip is not some off-the-shelf AMD card... ...but it begs the question.

    • You would have to write a wrapper around the FreeBSD driver apis for Linux (this may already exist).

      But the driver is probably specific to the card in the PS4, not a general purpose driver.

      • You would have to write a wrapper around the FreeBSD driver apis for Linux (this may already exist).

        Why? You could just run FreeBSD on that PC instead of Linux.

        • by Shavano (2541114)
          It would be a shim between the FreeBSD you would run on the system and the already-existing Linux driver you want to use to control the card.
          • So how trivial will it be to slurp the OS out onto a AMD card enabled PC and have our own "HackStation4"?

            I'm assuming they meant using an AMD based PC because the drivers already in the PS4 OS might be compatible (which is not particularly likely). Alternatively if you want NVIDIA, they already have an official driver for FreeBSD that you could try hacking into Orbis. Neither case requires a custom Linux-FreeBSD shim.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      But why? When the PS3's came out with its cell processor, it was very unique and unlike any other processor available. The AMD processor in the Playstation 3 (and XBox One) is just a garden-variety commodity part.
      • by idunham (2852899)

        But why? When the PS3's came out with its cell processor, it was very unique and unlike any other processor available. The AMD processor in the Playstation 3 (and XBox One) is just a garden-variety commodity part.

        You just answered yourself. If you already have an AMD system, why not run Orbis on it, getting access to the games written for the PS4? Some might prefer to not get a second computer potentially with less but faster RAM.

        • by bondsbw (888959)

          The PS4 is a loss leader. You might want to put Orbis on another system, but given that Orbis is specifically tuned for the PS4 hardware and hacking it to work on another much more costly system will likely lead to nothing of great value, in the end such a project will be just for the sake of a hobby.

          I would go the other way, trying to get better hardware for cheap and putting a full OS on it.

        • by exomondo (1725132)

          If you already have an AMD system, why not run Orbis on it, getting access to the games written for the PS4?

          Because Orbis and the PS4 games are written for a very specific hardware configuration, not just any AMD system. It's a lot easier to optimize and squeeze performance out of a system when you know how much RAM you have, how much cache you have, what your bus speeds are, what your latencies are, number of shader processors, number of CPU cores, etc... and write software specifically to that configuration.

      • My guess is they're wondering how easy it would be to pirate PS4 games on PC hardware.
      • by ikaruga (2725453)
        He is talking about the opposite process, akin of the Hackintosh project, i.e., running the PS4 OS and games/apps on your standard PC.
      • Re:Sony Hackstation (Score:4, Informative)

        by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Monday June 24, 2013 @07:20AM (#44090713) Journal

        Because its not? Its a custom APU using GDDR 5 and most likely a baked in ARM DRM chip which AMD bought about a year ago. this thing is about as different from that AMD Hexacore and HD4850 I have in my desktop as my desktop is to a PS2.

        The ONLY thing they have in common with an AMD desktop is they both run X86, that's it, you can't even BUY a Jaguar chip yet, not a single product other than the PS4 and XB1 has been announced using it and with AMD being a fabless company you can bet for the next year to year and a half won't nobody else will be getting jaguar chips. The jag is NOT like the Thuban, Bulldozer, or Piledriver, its actually based on the BOBCAT which is a VERY stripped down and streamlined chip designed for netbooks originally, it has a CPU that is frankly weaker than an Athlon 1 of the same MHz that is tightly coupled to a GCN GPU that is designed to take up the load,with the ultimate goal to be have the GPU replace the FP unit and to have the GPU and CPU truly work as a single unit.

        So its really not like just grabbing a COTS chip like they did with the Celeron in the original Xbox, which I might add to this very day is the ONLY game console of that generation that does NOT have a functional emulator yet, so if it really was just that simple it would have been done with the Xbox, with the Jag I honestly doubt even the fastest i7 would be able to perfectly emulate the arch, its just too different from a stock x86. You are talking about 4 modules with each having two "kinda sorta" core designed to do integer and some common multimedia tasks connected VERY tightly with a GPU to do the rest and all of it with 8GB of fast as hell GDDR 5, and if I'm right an ARM DRM core designed specifically just for locking it all down...yeah i don't see this one getting copied or emulated anytime soon.

    • by MrDoh! (71235)
      Hmm, wondering that myself. Some sort of wrapper to fool the OS that it IS a certain type of gfx card. Dunno how many things it checks to prove it's running on real PS4 hardware, but certainly interesting. Wonder how long till it's hacked.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The first Xbox ran on an Intel Celeron. No one has the Xbox OS running on a PC or vice-versa. The CPU is just a little part of the whole package that is a computer. Hell, the 360, Wii and Gamecube are all on fairly typical Power processors; at least not far from COTS chips.

      Mac computers, on the other hand, are just like Windows computers running standard UEFI instead of BIOS.

    • Re:Sony Hackstation (Score:4, Informative)

      by Shavano (2541114) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @11:51PM (#44089259)

      So how trivial will it be to slurp the OS out onto a AMD card enabled PC and have our own "HackStation4"? Or... how would one modify FreeBSD to run PS4 software?

      I'm sure there'll be encryption up the wazoo anyway... and potentially software could specifically check that the graphics chip is not some off-the-shelf AMD card... ...but it begs the question.

      I don't think you know what that phrase means. So here you go: https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/begging-the-question [yourlogicalfallacyis.com]

      • Not So Fast. [wikipedia.org]

        Really, I'm right there with you on this modern usage, I find it particularly irritating because it is not just a new usage it is basically the exact opposite of the historical meaning. But language changes no matter how much we might wish it to stay the same.

    • by batkiwi (137781)

      If you do that you can run the dash. Yay.

      That doesn't make you magically able to run games.

    • by mysidia (191772) on Monday June 24, 2013 @12:23AM (#44089421)

      So how trivial will it be to slurp the OS out onto a AMD card enabled PC and have our own "HackStation4"? Or... how would one modify FreeBSD to run PS4 software?

      Like a Hackintosh?

      Apple will solve it by moving to ARM.

      Sony can head off the problem by leveraging the TPM chip.

      If your hardware doesn't have a machine key with Sony's digital signature on it, then OS doesn't boot.

      Furthermore... no doubt UEFI secure boot will be leveraged, to prevent booting user supplied code on a PS4.

      I anticipate the trusted computing hardware to be used extensively.

    • Re:Sony Hackstation (Score:4, Informative)

      by MrBandersnatch (544818) on Monday June 24, 2013 @06:43AM (#44090591)

      I'm amazed no one has said "HUMA" - Heterogeneous Uniform Memory Access, and that this fundamental difference between the architecture of PCs and the PS4 is likely to make it an uphil struggle for PS4 emulation. It *may* be a different story when it comes to AMDs Kavari (?) APUs since they use a HUMA architecture themselves.

      Personally I think the best to expect is that we may see more games ported to Linux ....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 23, 2013 @11:06PM (#44089037)

    PS4 is on FreeBSD, X1 is on a Windows-kernel abomination, and the Steam box is going to be Linux. Interesting. Any chance the WiiU has secret Mac lineage to complete this?

    • by idunham (2852899) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @11:31PM (#44089161)

      PS4 is on FreeBSD, X1 is on a Windows-kernel abomination, and the Steam box is going to be Linux. Interesting. Any chance the WiiU has secret Mac lineage to complete this?

      It uses IOS.

      Not Apple's iOS, but the "Internal Operating System"-note that capital I.

  • by cold fjord (826450) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @11:11PM (#44089063)

    Its good to see a BSD release picking up another major instance of commercial use. One of the obstacles the BSDs have faced is mindshare. Linux has had such an overpowering presence in the free/open world that it often overshadows the BSDs. That plays out in the commercial software that is available. If you look at high end vendor software, such as Oracle or other databases, or CAD tools, it is pretty rare to see much released for anything except Red Hat, or maybe Suse Linux. But getting the BSDs out where users are aware of it will definitely help.

    This will also probably also be good for FreeBSD in terms of its codebase as well. I expect Sony will probably be feeding back some patches.

    • by bmo (77928) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @11:17PM (#44089099)

      This will also probably also be good for FreeBSD in terms of its codebase as well. I expect Sony will probably be feeding back some patches.

      This man is in denial.

      --
      BMO

      • by Penguinisto (415985) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @11:49PM (#44089253) Journal

        This man is in denial.

        Well, to be fair, maybe they'll kick up the source code to github for a rootkit?

      • by willy_me (212994) on Monday June 24, 2013 @12:31AM (#44089459)

        This will also probably also be good for FreeBSD in terms of its codebase as well. I expect Sony will probably be feeding back some patches.

        This man is in denial.

        -- BMO

        Not really. It is much less expensive to allow the patches to be integrated into the parent project then it is to patch the project after every update. In addition, others will be able to test/verify that changes don't break the patches if they are given access to them. So it makes sense to feed back as many patches as they can as it greatly reduces the effort required to maintain their port.

      • by imp (7585) on Monday June 24, 2013 @12:51AM (#44089549) Homepage

        Apple has contributed lots of patches back to BSD. Juniper has contributed much to BSD, etc.

        In general, people that use BSD contribute patches back because it is in their best financial interest to do so. Not because the license says they must, but because they want to. This generally leads to better quality patches too, in my experience.

        But don't expect the video driver: that's likely covered by NDA with AMD...

    • by Squiddie (1942230)
      I don't really see how this is good for the BSD community, or what they benefit from it, since Sony is probably not going to give back any of the new stuff they've written, and it's not like you can just install whatever you want in a PS4.
      • by deek (22697)

        It's publicity. Awareness of FreeBSD will increase, and that could translate into more users. Likely more users of the kind that are curious, inquisitive, and technically able.

        Like you, I very much doubt that Sony will feed back any patches. Corporate structure means that the process of sharing code will include a series of approvals and legal checks, making the whole process painful for the programmer. No tech guy worth their salt wants to put themselves through that wringer, unless they're really real

        • by arth1 (260657)

          It's publicity. Awareness of FreeBSD will increase, and that could translate into more users.

          In what universe will this happen?

          In this universe, very few users will ever know that it runs FreeBSD, and even fewer will care. Much like most people don't know that the PSP runs FreeBSD (did you?), and even fewer care.

          • by arth1 (260657)

            Errata: That should be "that the PSP runs NetBSD".

      • by tlambert (566799) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @11:53PM (#44089275)

        [...]since Sony is probably not going to give back any of the new stuff they've written[...]

        I expect that they will donate back all of their tactical code, and enough of the pieces of their strategic code to make the tactical code desirable to integrate from the FreeBSD community. I expect they will NOT donate back ALL of their strategic code.

        The business case for them doing this is that they will be able to offload the maintenance burden for the tactical code, which does not benefit them commercially, to the FreeBSD community, while keeping their proprietary intellectual property to themselves.

        Apple did the same thing when doing the UNIX conformance; my team donated back code and test sets to more than 150 Open Source projects to enable them to be standards conformant, and, in the case of the test sets, to continue to be standards conformant going forward.

        This would get a lot more press, if Apple employees were ever allowed to publish anything without VP approval. If Sony is smart, they will absolutely crow about their contributions back to the community, since the secrecy buys them nothing, and being candid aboit it gets them nothing but good press. It's too bad Apple was never candid about its contributions.

      • It is good because it shows that BSD is not just viable but desirable for commercial use. Also, what do you base your assertion that Sony will not give back any modifications they have made? I'm not suggesting they will release the entire modified OS but it would not be too much of a reach to see them post a few bug patches, othewise they will need to keep making the same corrections after every release.

        • by arth1 (260657)

          Also, what do you base your assertion that Sony will not give back any modifications they have made?

          What's the benefit to Sony's shareholders in doing so that outweighs the costs and risks?

  • The fact that game developers will be able to recruit people who have several years of experience with the base of the underlying OS should result in better code than the usual half-assed guesswork near the beginning of a console's lifetime.

    • The fact that game developers will be able to recruit people who have several years of experience with the base of the underlying OS should result in better code than the usual half-assed guesswork near the beginning of a console's lifetime.

      I'd imagine that the "It's just an x86 with a relatively recent Radeon, you may have heard of those" factor will have a major role there... This will be the first (non portable, the portables have been less weird) Sony console in generations that isn't a serious oddball in terms of silicon.

  • Is there *any* hope that Sony will push patches upstream? I would imagine not, but it would certainly be a nice gesture and could result in more PS4 sales if they did.

    • by JDG1980 (2438906)

      Sony might not, but if AMD has done more driver development for *nix as a result of the PS4 design, then that will probably help improve the Linux and FreeBSD drivers as well.

    • by larkost (79011) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @11:58PM (#44089309)

      Whether or not Sony gives back patches really won't have any significant impact on their sales. The vast majorty of people who would buy a PS4 will never hear about it, and would not care if they would.

      I expect that they will not upstream the things people would probably care about most (graphics drivers), becuase they will be propritary and co-developed with vendors. However my guess is that they will contribute a steady stream of small incremental improvements that no one will ever hear about. These are the normal by-product of smart people working on a system.

      The reason they will contribte these bits back is pure self-interest: the next time they upgrade they hopefully don't have to re-apply the patch they created. They are not giving the crown jewels away, the things that make Sony its money, but rather the things that Sony as a business does not care about. This is how FreeBSD works. It is not as "pure" as the ideas behind the GPL, but it does work a lot better for the corprorate/capitalistic point of view. And that is how we structure our society, for better or worse.

      • It is not as "pure" as the ideas behind the GPL, but it does work a lot better for the corprorate/capitalistic point of view.

        Well, that explains why FreeBSD is so much more widely deployed than Linux in coporate/capitalistic situations.

  • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @11:26PM (#44089143) Homepage Journal

    The PlayStation 4 is x86-64 based now rather than Cell-based, which makes it easier to use FreeBSD

    Funny how Sony tried to woo Apple over to the Cell architecture, even offering Apple Sony authored PS3 games for the Mac.

    As it happens, Intel's was not the only alternative chip design that Apple had explored for the Mac. An executive close to Sony said that last year Mr. Jobs met in California with both Nobuyuki Idei, then the chairman and chief executive of the Japanese consumer electronics firm, and with Kenichi Kutaragi, the creator of the Sony PlayStation.

    Mr. Kutaragi tried to interest Mr. Jobs in adopting the Cell chip, which is being developed by I.B.M. for use in the coming PlayStation 3, in exchange for access to certain Sony technologies. Mr. Jobs rejected the idea, telling Mr. Kutaragi that he was disappointed with the Cell design, which he believes will be even less effective than the PowerPC.

    source: What's Really Behind the Apple-Intel Alliance / NYTimes / 2005 [nytimes.com]

    Other sources I am too lazy to dig up cited Jobs as stating that his main mover for this decision was that he in no way wanted any Apple product associated with a gaming console. Call it Platformism, but if that citation is correct, it was very solid reasoning from Jobs. Every PC pundit on the planet would have had a field day with that one. Never mind that the US DoD (and likely the NSA) has found the Cell architecture in PS3s most useful for clustering, since the Cell architecture is so very cheap and so very good at that. citation [cnn.com]

    • Having been part of the team that evaluated practically every processor being considered for Apple products from 2003-2009, Cell wasn't used because it sucks as a general purpose processor. The SPUs are interesting but you need to completely rewrite algorithms to use them effectively. While porting to Intel wasn't exactly easy (mostly due to the endian switch), it didn't involve rewriting every compute-heavy algorithm from scratch. Intel also had a roadmap while Cell was a point design.

  • by jfdavis668 (1414919) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @11:38PM (#44089189)
    After the IBM vs SCO fiasco, maybe Xenix can be put to good use.
  • Pipe dream. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Severus Snape (2376318) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @11:41PM (#44089205)
    Imagine being able to start up your PS4 to GRUB? Even just giving us the graphics driver this time around Sony would be nice, since you're playing the good guy this gen.
  • by jgaynor (205453) <jonNO@SPAMgaynor.org> on Sunday June 23, 2013 @11:42PM (#44089209) Homepage

    Filter error: You can type more than that for your comment.

  • ...(an)Other OS to screw users out of being able to use OtherOS!

  • by Gadget_Guy (627405) on Monday June 24, 2013 @12:09AM (#44089371)

    I was under the impression that the PlayStation 3's OS was already based on FreeBSD, which means that this is not entirely unexpected news. According to the PS3 System Software page [wikipedia.org] on Wikipedia:

    The native operating system of the PlayStation 3 is CellOS, which is believed to be a branch from the FreeBSD project. The 3D computer graphics API software used in the PlayStation 3 is LibGCM and PSGL, based on OpenGL ES and Nvidia's Cg. The PlayStation 3 uses the XrossMediaBar (XMB) as its graphical user interface.

  • by Tough Love (215404) on Monday June 24, 2013 @03:21AM (#44090021)

    Sony grows up and decides not to hack up their own crappy OS any more, finally entering the 21st century. However in a nod back the PHB nest that traditionally comes up with their PHB strategies, they decide to go with the second best free kernel out there because it allows more scope for doing evil. Nice one Sony.

    Oh well, it could be worse. The other guys have to use Windows.

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