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Despite it still sounding a long way off, the Atari VCS console which will have a Linux-based OS along with the ability to boot another normal Linux distribution is coming along.

As a reminder, what was originally called the Ataribox was renamed the Atari VCS and eventually made it onto IndieGoGo where it raised a little over three million in funding.

In their latest post on Medium, they put out some thoughts from Rob Wyatt, the System Architect for the Atari VCS who previously worked on the Xbox, DirectX, Insomniac Games and more.

The post contains his thoughts on what they're currently doing with the system and some of it's quite interesting. It doesn't really sound like you're going to be able to install Ubuntu or anything directly onto it. Instead, it seems like it will need you to run things from a USB drive:

Something along the lines of: if you plug in a bootable external USB drive our hypervisor will boot from it, otherwise it will boot the internal Atari OS. This keeps both OS’s completely separate and makes supporting multiple OS’s really easy, there is no risk of the internal storage getting corrupted by the other OS.

They will eventually release example code showing exactly how to do this. To get to that stage though, they need to finish their own Atari VCS Linux distribution.

The post goes on to detail how they will support as many "standard APIs" as they can, including OpenGL and Vulkan. However, their actual work still seems quite early on, they even said it's rather "crude" right now. Their current aim, is to get all the Atari stuff to take up no more than 1GB of storage leaving the rest for users. However, they do have audio working via ALSA and apparently OpenGL and Vulkan rendering is already working.

At the end of the post, was this teaser:

What’s next? We want to announce a Linux open source project and encourage our backers, fans and interested parties to help us with something that will actually be part of the Atari VCS operating system. More on that soon.

I wonder what they're up to? Could be interesting. Will keep an eye on it.

I still have a lot of reservations about the Atari VCS but I'm keeping an open mind about it. If it's a hit, that's good for us since to be on it the game would need to support open standards and be little work to get on Ubuntu and other distributions. It's also nice to see them post so openly about what they're doing.

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37 comments
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kuhpunkt 22 November 2018 at 8:31 pm UTC
But if a seperate OS has to be booted from like an USB drive... will you still get access to the VCS internal storage? Like if you try to use SteamOS and it would have to get all the game data through USB, that's not great.

Not expecting much, but I wish them luck.
danniello 22 November 2018 at 8:54 pm UTC
QuoteSomething along the lines of: if you plug in a bootable external USB drive our hypervisor will boot from it, otherwise it will boot the internal Atari OS.
LOL. If I interpret it correctly - hypervisor means that "other OS" will be started as VM in KVM/Xen hypervisor. It means no real GPU acceleration in VM. Even closed source solutions like VMware do not provide good GPU acceleration in VM - max. DirectX10/OpenGL. As today only GPU passthrough is the best GPU solution for VM, but... it require very expensive corporate edition of GPU (for example nVidia Quadro) or separate consumer GPU.

In my opinion - it doesn't make sense. Why?! Because "Atari OS" has to be protected?! Against who?! Crackers (if interested anyway in niche console) probably will crack their "lock-in" very easily.


Last edited by danniello at 22 November 2018 at 8:55 pm UTC
TobiSGD 22 November 2018 at 8:56 pm UTC
kuhpunktLike if you try to use SteamOS and it would have to get all the game data through USB, that's not great.
If it is USB 3 that shouldn't be a problem.
Imnotarobot 22 November 2018 at 10:42 pm UTC
TobiSGD
kuhpunktLike if you try to use SteamOS and it would have to get all the game data through USB, that's not great.
If it is USB 3 that shouldn't be a problem.
Depends on the USB. USB is not really designed to be running OS. It usually works quite bad from my experience.
To me it seems dumb.

I really don't get the need to protect the internal storage? Rather just make a warranty void if OS swapped. Make a physical fuse to pop if OS changed and make it not affect the machine, just make it to see if the internal storage has been tampered. Simple as that. USB for OS is not a good idea.

I really don't expect anything from this device, but maybe for the right price it could be a decent product? I truly doubt it though.

E: Saw the price. Yeah... Not worth it.


Last edited by Imnotarobot at 22 November 2018 at 10:45 pm UTC. Edited 2 times.
sarmad 22 November 2018 at 11:14 pm UTC
danniello
QuoteSomething along the lines of: if you plug in a bootable external USB drive our hypervisor will boot from it, otherwise it will boot the internal Atari OS.
LOL. If I interpret it correctly - hypervisor means that "other OS" will be started as VM in KVM/Xen hypervisor. It means no real GPU acceleration in VM.
Not necessarily. They said it will boot either of the two OSes and that's different from booting the main OS, and then booting the other OS inside. If Atari OS is not even loaded then all the hardwares, including the GPU, will be available directly to the guest OS to use and you should get native performance.

However, for me I prefer the path Steam Machines took, which is a very open standard Linux distro with Steam Client on top of it. That is more attractive for Linux users than a closed system that is compatible with Linux APIs. Also, with Proton Steam Machines become way more attractive. I wish AtariVCS all the success nonetheless.
Scoopta 22 November 2018 at 11:15 pm UTC
danniello
QuoteSomething along the lines of: if you plug in a bootable external USB drive our hypervisor will boot from it, otherwise it will boot the internal Atari OS.
LOL. If I interpret it correctly - hypervisor means that "other OS" will be started as VM in KVM/Xen hypervisor. It means no real GPU acceleration in VM. Even closed source solutions like VMware do not provide good GPU acceleration in VM - max. DirectX10/OpenGL. As today only GPU passthrough is the best GPU solution for VM, but... it require very expensive corporate edition of GPU (for example nVidia Quadro) or separate consumer GPU.

In my opinion - it doesn't make sense. Why?! Because "Atari OS" has to be protected?! Against who?! Crackers (if interested anyway in niche console) probably will crack their "lock-in" very easily.
Woah woah woah there. I don't think you understand how this can work. First off, you can do pass through with a single GPU. All it means is the hypervisor can't draw to the screen only the guest can. Why does that matter for this? It doesn't. Second are you aware the Xbox One also does the same thing? It uses a hypervisor with either Xbox OS or Windows 10 as the guest depending on if you load an Xbox game or a UWP app. You don't need expensive enterprise GPUs or even 2 consumer GPUs. You just make the hypervisor headless. As for why they do it who knows but I could take a guess that it makes supporting multiple OSes easier. The hardware doesn't need to be quite as standard since the hypervisor will abstract it but that's just a theory.


Last edited by Scoopta at 22 November 2018 at 11:17 pm UTC. Edited 2 times.
danniello 23 November 2018 at 12:20 am UTC
ScooptaAll it means is the hypervisor can't draw to the screen only the guest can.
True. You are absolutely right. I didn't thought about headless hypervisor possibility.
Never the less - it is not good idea to prepare "locked-in" internal OS only to protect some silly old Atari games...
WJMazepas 23 November 2018 at 2:00 am UTC
Why do this? They are complicating something that does not need to be complicated. They just need to ship a normal linux distribution with a gaming UI like Lakka or Retrobox and put some good games on it.

Why spend money on stuff like that?

And why it would not come with OpenGL and Vulkan? Just put Mesa on it and it will work and receive updates with no problems.


Linux already have a lot of things to help then. They dont need to reinvent the wheel with stuff like that, when they shoukd focus on launching their product
slaapliedje 23 November 2018 at 3:04 am UTC
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I kind of hope they basically just make it a skinned SteamOS/big picture setup and work with Valve on it.

No sense reinventing the keyboard wheel...
elmapul 23 November 2018 at 5:38 am UTC
i like the idea of the hypervisor, but i still think its an scam.

even if its not, sony will announce ps5 soon, microsoft may already be planing the next xbox and switch just launched, i'm afraid there is no rom for this thing, even if it have, it will not bring many new gamers to the table, we will have the ones who already play on ¹linux + the ²atari fans


¹(wich means we will not receive new games because the install base was not increassed and we will waste money on hardware wich have an cost per unit, instead of games)

²(there arent many anyway)

i think the Intellivision new console has an better proposal than this thing, at least its unique.
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