PlayStation 4 — Open source software and FreeBSD kernel

PlayStation 4 FREEBSD operating system OpenSource

The Sony PlayStation 4 was released on 15th of november 2013 in USA. Right after the release Sony released list on their website that includes open-source software used on their system. Also as we can see it includes “Unix-sequel” FreeBSD Kernel. The PS4’s Orbis OS is highly based on FreeBSD kernel.

Why did Sony pick FreeBSD instead of Linux as their kernel?

The truth is that FreeBSD have far more liberal licensing and I’ll write below some of the points that caught my eyes while reading both of the licenses.

  • GPL license requires to add GPL license for any code that statically links to any code that is using GPL . Which means that you have to release source code you just developed under GPL within the program.
  • BSD license (1998) is intended to encourage to commercialise the open source software that includes the BSD license. This means that any BSD code can be sold and/or included in proprietary products without any restrictions on the availability of the code and future behavior.

But let’s not forget the problem we know that was included within the FreeBSD kernel which Sony had to face is, it lacks manufacturer support for full AMD graphics driver but looks like that Sony and AMD have made it to work just fine.
PlayStation 4 using WebGL to render their User Interface

PlayStation 4's UI is powered by WebGL for snappier a performance

Sony’s Don Olmstead (Software Engineer) reveleaded interesting thing about their PlayStation 4 UI, saying that it’s entirely running on WebGL and he suggests that they use webkit to render their WebGL code.

Olmstead said on his Google+: “When you login to your PS4 you are running #WebGL code. The PlayStation Store, the Music and Video Applications, as well as a good chunk of UX are all rendered within the browser.”
Because of this PlayStation 4’s UI has become more responsive and lighter, but also they are gathering good reviews from their users. Nice move there Sony!

Don Olmstead's UI webgl PS4

Here’s the software list that was listed on the http://www.scei.co.jp/ps4-license/ .

  • base64
  • BSD libc
  • cairo
  • CELT (Opus)
  • cJSON
  • cURL
  • eglib
  • Ethernet driver
  • Expat XML Parser
  • FreeBSD Kernel
  • FreeBSD's fsck/newfs commands
  • FreeType 2
  • giflib-4.1.2
  • ICU
  • Jerasure version 1.2A
  • jQuery
  • kiconv for unicode
  • libcompiler_rt
  • libcxxrt
  • libjpeg
  • libjpeg-turbo
  • libm
  • libpng
  • libpthread
  • libunwind
  • libusb FreeBSD
  • libusrsctp 0.9.1
  • libxml2
  • Lua
  • Mersenne Twister
  • mmc driver & sdhci driver
  • Mono class libraries
  • Mono VM
  • Network FreeBSD
  • OpenSSL
  • pixman
  • Protocol Buffers
  • SQLite-net
  • squish
  • udf2.x fs
  • Webkit
  • zlib

Note: on 07 of january Sony PlayStation 4 sales surpassed 4.2 million units.

The operating system on Playstation 4 is Orbis OS which is based on FreeBSD 9.0. You can read more about it on my previous article “Under the Hood - a Look at Linux & What Powers the PlayStation 4”.