Under the Hood — a Look at Linux & What Powers the PlayStation 4

Under the hood of PS4 - FreeBSD and Linux opensource

There is an intimate relationship between culture and technology—the one invariably comes to influence the other. The Industrial Revolution and the factory conditions they gave rise to likewise created—for better and for worse—the first precursors to the modern work week and wage pay. All you have to do is look to the literary responses of everyone from Charles Dickens and then later T.S. Eliot and D.H. Lawrence to see the cultural impact that the Industrial Revolution and increased emphasis on technology has had on modernity and, as a result, the way in which friends, families and our greatest authors all came to express themselves as a result of—and in response to—that technological revolution. What the Industrial Revolution and its subsequent phases meant for those writers and everything from the telephone to the Internet to the 3-minute Hot Pocket has meant for the collective cultural consciousness of the last century, the winds of change are clear—

The 21st century may well be the Century of Gamers and, with Sony’s flagship console, the PlayStation 4 leading the way into the next generation of home gaming, it’s worth taking a look at what’s powering the PS4. The answer may surprise you.

The Spec Check

As you might expect, there’s a great deal that goes into the building of a console as sophisticated as the PlayStation 4:
One of the biggest surprises you might encounter with regards to the PlayStation 4 is the system by which it is powered. If you’re a true technophile, chances are you’ll be interested to learn that the PlayStation 4 runs on the system which is being referred to in the press as “Orbis OS.” There is still some uncertainty as to how his system will ultimately function, but the prevailing theories so far is that this is a modified version of an operating system known as FreeBSD 9.0. For those not in the technological-known, FreeBSD 9.0 is version of another system (known as BDS Unix) which happens to be free. More importantly—especially for tech junkies—however, this system is generally seen as being rather compatible with most BSD and Linux-like systems.
At this point, there may well be a far split in the audience—those who are already burning up comment boards online as to whether or not this new BSD-based system is a good idea, and those wondering just what BSD is. So, for those not technologically savvy, a quick, quick rundown—BSD is a form of free and open software, and is often associated with user-friendly modification and fast performance. While the new PlayStation 4 system is not likely to utilize FreeBSD per se, this still bodes well for those who are looking for some sort of facsimile of that operating system.
This information comes from recently-leaked screenshots of the system’s operating system which were taken in 2012 and seem to indicate that the PlayStation 4 is indeed utilizing a form of the famed GNU bootloader, with an option to open up into Orbis OS. Making all this all the more interesting—at least if you’re a FOSS fan—is that “Orbis” happens to be the codename for the PlayStation 4 itself.
And there’s more— upon selecting Orbis, a version FreeBSD (albeit one which has been somewhat altered from other iterations) appears to load, with a good amount of libraries specific to the PlayStation 4. This could be big news for developers, who can choose between a text-only version of this iteration of Orbis OS, which may be used primarily for the purpose of debugging, or a full version with graphics, audio and the works, which might be used in running or playing a game.
In addition to that, here’s a look at the raw processing power that you’ll find under the hood of your PlayStation 4:
The main processor is a single-chip custom processor. The CPU for the PS4 is a low power x86-64 AMD “Jaguar,” with 8 cores, while the GPU is a 1.84 TFLOPS, AMD Radeon™ Graphics Core Next engine. For those who feel a bit lost at the moment, all of that translates to one of the fastest game processers in memory. Add that to the possibility of it being at least somewhat based on Linux systems (there’s still some question as to how much it might be compatible with Linux in its own right) and it’s no surprise that Sony has been touting overall processing power of this system—and, as seen here, not without cause.
The unit also features 8 GB of overall memory, a built-in hard drive disk, and a read-only optical drive.
In addition, it features a Super-Speed USB port (USB 3.0), Bluetooth compatibility (though that’s becoming more and more a standard and expected features in the Wide World of Tech today) and the standard AV input/output areas as well as an HDMI input socket.

What Does This Mean to You?

We all expected the PS4 to already be a powerhouse, but the possibility that it might be using a system which is connected to or based off of Linux opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for programmers…
Which means a slew of new gaming possibilities…
Which means a whole host of new, innovative and exciting gaming possibilities for gamers and programmers alike.
Because of GNU bootloader we can also try to install Gnu/Linux but we will see how it's going to workout since under it's core it's still FreeBSD based operating system.

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