Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?
Operating Systems PlayStation (Games) Sony Unix BSD Games

PlayStation 4 Will Be Running Modified FreeBSD 457

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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

PlayStation 4 Will Be Running Modified FreeBSD

Comments Filter:
  • 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.

  • 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 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 []

    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 []

  • Re:Sony Hackstation (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 23, 2013 @11:40PM (#44089203)

    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.

  • 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 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 [] 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 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 Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday June 24, 2013 @02:44AM (#44089899)

    Their drivers aren't crap, but they aren't up to nVidia's standards. I've a 7970M in my laptop, which I got when it was a brand new chip, and it has been a trial. So there are two big issues it has had, only which could be relevant to the PS4:

    1) Issues with Enduro, that's AMD's hybrid GPU switching. The laptop can use the integrated Intel 4000 graphics for easy stuff and fire up the 7970M for hard stuff. Well until fairly recently, that didn't work that well. The 7970M didn't operate at full capacity, something with the drivers was inefficient. You could see it on other laptops which has a mux to allow you to switch off the iGPU. With just the 7970M they ran much faster. AMD finally got it (mostly) fixed, but it took for damn well ever. Also when it first came out, the interface for choosing GPUs was really clunky.

    2) OpenGL issues. AMD has sucked at the OpenGL for as long as I can remember, and it never seems to get better. They SUPPORT it, but it doesn't work well. On nVidia, GL and DX run equally fast. They are both first-class APIs and there really is no speed or capability difference between them. On AMD, not so much. Recently the issues I've seen were with Brink and HFSS. Brink was a shit (man it was a waste of money) game that used iD Tech 4. As such, OpenGL. On my AMD GPU, it never ran well despite being WAY passed the spec needed. Tried it on a lesser spec nVidia system, flawless. Said problems were all over the forums. With HFSS we set up a desktop at work with a cheap AMD chip, a 7570 or something like that, just for basic graphics (it was server class hardware, so no good iGPU). The user reported HFSS worked over RDP, but not local and sure enough, that was the case. So it occurred to me: HFSS will use OpenGL to accelerate its interface. Out came the AMD card, in went a cheap nVidia GT 210, and HFSS worked fine.

    Now of those, the OpenGL problem could be problematic to the PS4, since that's what it uses. Maybe they won't have a problem since this is ONLY a GL driver and they've had time and all that, but I worry. The PS4 may lose its, on paper, graphics advantage due to driver issues. It would suck for Sony if their console which has more graphics units and more memory bandwidth had lesser GPU capabilities because AMD can't work out a good GL driver.

    At any rate the overall situation is AMD still has problems nVidia drivers don't. I really like AMD's hardware, it is often faster and is nearly always a good price, but I get continually bit with driver issues. Not something huge like "The system blue screens and won't run," but things that are very real and very annoying. Hence I have nVidia in my desktop and I've seriously considered replacing the card in my laptop (it is a Clevo laptop and the card is field replaceable). They aren't perfect, but I find them WAY less problematic.

    And don't even get me started on Linux drivers. There is NO comparison there. nVidia binary drivers is lightyears ahead of anyone else.

  • by rmdashrf ( 1338183 ) on Monday June 24, 2013 @03:45AM (#44090097)

    Personally, from my point of view, it's more like:

    GPL: had BSD been licenced under GPL, then I would not just have worked as free labour for Sony, but Sony actually had to give something in return for using my code (not money, but improvements).

    BDS: I don't mind being free labour for multinationals and them making large amounts of money off of my work, as long as I am being credited in the code (which is not open sourced so nobody will actually see who wrote what).

    I prefer GPL myself and I know that it's actually a more selfish choice, I do actually somewhat admire people who do seem to be completely selfless and use the BSD licence, the world would be a better place if everyone was like that. However, not everyone is like that and I am sure that if both BSD and Linux were both using the GPL licence, Sony would still not have gone through the trouble of developing their very own. That's called leveraging existing technology, where the main goal is saving money by not having to re-invent the wheel.

    Sony now had the choice of:

    - Some Free software, where they actually have to put effort in to provide their improvements back to the community


    - Some free software, which they can use in which ever way they want without having to do anything in return.

    Easy choice.

  • by Zeromous ( 668365 ) on Monday June 24, 2013 @11:50AM (#44093051) Homepage

    Having a legal contract to shareholders, publishers, developers and retailers, and the legal framework through which to remove compromised features IS NOT EVIL. It's called responsible business practices and jurisprudence.

FORTRAN is the language of Powerful Computers. -- Steven Feiner