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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.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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37 comments
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Liam Dawe 23 November 2018 at 12:05 pm UTC
elmapuli 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.
While the PS5 and so on will continue pushing their AAA graphical realism powerhouse approaches, Nintendo released their classic consoles which sold like mad - seems to me there's still a market for this sort of thing.
Ananace 23 November 2018 at 12:05 pm UTC
Personally I can see why they'd set up the design in the manner that they've chosen, and I must say it sounds much more sane than other ways to do it.

To start off, they require a hypervisor, this is not up for debate. Console developers are very good at writing games that can utilize every little mote of performance in the hardware, they're generally much worse at writing things that are secure while doing so.
I mean, just look at the number of games that can be used to completely take over a console or even do much worse things.
The hypervisor is not there to make running open source software hard, it's to protect the console from the console games, and also vice-versa protect the console games from the console.
Additionally, being able to tell the game developers that their other OS feature can't be used to facilitate cheating means said developers will be happier about bringing multiplayer games to the console.

And considering what's said in those entries about the boot, they're planning a bootloader that will automatically boot from any bootable USB drive. Which means the VCS will act basically like a Raspberry Pi with the usb_boot_mode flag set. This is a massive thing, and while I'd love to be able to switch OS without having to insert/remove a USB key, it sounds like a really nice and both simple as well as safe way to do the OS switching.
(Notice how they explicitly talk about not wanting to run the other OS under their hypervisor, simply to keep said hypervisor simple and safe)

From how they're talking, you'll likely also be able to access part of the internal storage from said booted system as well, though it's basically guaranteed that they'll put in some kind of read/write protect over their system in that case - if only to make sure that someone doesn't accidentally brick the console.
Of course, even if they decide to completely wall of the internal storage it won't be impossible to hook up a larger USB drive - or simply boot the device / mount root off of iSCSI or some other network based storage. While IO speed might suffer, with USB 3.1 you can't really complain all that much, 5-10gbit is a lot of bandwidth after all.


Last edited by Ananace on 23 November 2018 at 12:14 pm UTC
elmapul 23 November 2018 at 2:44 pm UTC
liamdaweWhile the PS5 and so on will continue pushing their AAA graphical realism powerhouse approaches, Nintendo released their classic consoles which sold like mad - seems to me there's still a market for this sort of thing.

Switch is seling because:
1)its fucking PORTABLE
2)it has Nintendo exclusives, Nintendo was not dead in the last 30 years, they were relasing sucessfull games every generation, they were sucessfull to port mario to 3D (unlike many others) and they keep making mario 2D games, they were sucessfull with many other exclusive franchises, either new ones or continuing to make old ones.

why would anyone sane buy this thing instead?
unless they are an blind linux fanboy or atari fanboy?


Last edited by elmapul on 23 November 2018 at 2:47 pm UTC
Liam Dawe 23 November 2018 at 2:53 pm UTC
elmapul
liamdaweWhile the PS5 and so on will continue pushing their AAA graphical realism powerhouse approaches, Nintendo released their classic consoles which sold like mad - seems to me there's still a market for this sort of thing.

Switch is seling because:
1)its fucking PORTABLE
2)it has Nintendo exclusives, Nintendo was not dead in the last 30 years, they were relasing sucessfull games every generation, they were sucessfull to port mario to 3D (unlike many others) and they keep making mario 2D games, they were sucessfull with many other exclusive franchises, either new ones or continuing to make old ones.

why would anyone sane buy this thing instead?
unless they are an blind linux fanboy or atari fanboy?
I said nothing about the Switch, I said classic consoles. I mean the NES/SNES mini consoles, even Sony are doing a classic PlayStation.

Why would anyone buy this? They had enough people excited to gain well over 11K backers on IndieGoGo, don't underestimate hype for such devices.
sketch 23 November 2018 at 2:56 pm UTC
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Hardware that hardly anyone needs, from a company hardly anyone care anymore and could hardly add anything for everybody's interest. From what i read here, they will take advantage of open source without giving back, and they are literally asking for free help on their closed software and hardware. They are a company of the past, and demonstrate yet once again misinterpreting open source. Some strategy like this could spark little to none interest in the past when hardly any company would embrace linux. Nowadays big companies are spending big money to boost the platform for everyone else. Time is shifting, and this atari thing look like cancer, not innovation IMHO.
wytrabbit 23 November 2018 at 3:33 pm UTC
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sketchHardware that hardly anyone needs, from a company hardly anyone care anymore and could hardly add anything for everybody's interest. From what i read here, they will take advantage of open source without giving back, and they are literally asking for free help on their closed software and hardware. They are a company of the past, and demonstrate yet once again misinterpreting open source. Some strategy like this could spark little to none interest in the past when hardly any company would embrace linux. Nowadays big companies are spending big money to boost the platform for everyone else. Time is shifting, and this atari thing look like cancer, not innovation IMHO.

I see you have the impression that they are the same ATARI that produced those classic consoles from the 80s and 90s. They're not.
elmapul 23 November 2018 at 4:10 pm UTC
liamdaweI said nothing about the Switch, I said classic consoles. I mean the NES/SNES mini consoles, even Sony are doing a classic PlayStation.

Why would anyone buy this? They had enough people excited to gain well over 11K backers on IndieGoGo, don't underestimate hype for such devices.

ok sorry, i saw Nintendo and assume it was switch.
in any case, nes and snes classic sold like 2 millions of units, its a lot but you get 20 games for 60~80 U$D, and those are "legendary" games.
the ammount of people who are nostalgic about atari is much lower than the ones nostalgic about nes or snes.

yes atari vcs will come with "100" games but that is atari vault that you can already buy atari vault in any platform.

"Why would anyone buy this? They had enough people excited to gain well over 11K backers on IndieGoGo"
again, you are missing a thing.
11K is not enough to increasse our marketshare, ouya sold much more than this and still was an flop.

11k is not enough to justify an port to it (much less making an exclusive), unless you were an indie and had an guarantee that everyone you purchased this would purchase your game.

just to make an comparission, GTA sold 100 millions of copies, minecraft over 50 millions most triple A games sell at least 1 million of copies and that because they are on platforms that have an install base of > dozens of million, hundreds of millions or in the windows case 1.5 billions of users.
even linux having 1~2% of marketshare, may have 15 millions of users, and even then we only got an small ammount of triple A ports.

nothing against indies, but we definitelly need more triple A's, and its not selling dozens of thousands of atari vcs units that we will get more.
ok, it will sell more after launch, but not much more costing almost the price of an PS4, launching after or togheter with an ps5.

either we sell millions and quickly increase our marketshare, or we are just wasting money on hardware instead of software (and principally free software, i'm tired of seing projects like make human/manuel bastioni dying)
sketch 23 November 2018 at 6:53 pm UTC
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wytrabbitI see you have the impression that they are the same ATARI that produced those classic consoles from the 80s and 90s. They're not.

NOT EVEN THAT, what's this all about? Nostalgia and linux exploitation? sincerely asking!


Last edited by sketch on 23 November 2018 at 6:54 pm UTC
Scoopta 23 November 2018 at 7:34 pm UTC
I just read the medium article and I saw two things that are a bit concerning. Both are things that will make porting to PC Linux from the VCS more difficult depending on the dev. The first is the fact that they might use an Atari custom audio library. It will use an ALSA backend and I'm sure devs can still use ALSA directly but they might not which would potentially tie them to the VCS. Not to mention lack of pulse isn't great IMO either. The far more concerning thing is the fact that while it will have OpenGL and Vulkan they also mention it will have hardware command buffer rendering which is something impossible in the PC world due to the wide variety of hardware. If games use that then porting from the VCS is just as hard as any normal console. I'm sure not a lot of games will use that since I assume that'll only be used by devs where even Vulkan has too much overhead but it is a possibility.
Smoke39 23 November 2018 at 9:45 pm UTC
liamdawe
elmapuli 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.
While the PS5 and so on will continue pushing their AAA graphical realism powerhouse approaches, Nintendo released their classic consoles which sold like mad - seems to me there's still a market for this sort of thing.
Nintendo's classic consoles were $60 - cheap novelties (not to mention manufactured scarcity, which drove collectors batty). This thing is priced like a full console. It may find a niche among hardcore collectors and tinkerers, but I don't see it making any impact on mainstream gaming without some knockout exclusives. Like, Nintendo quality exclusives. We'll see what, if anything, they have planned in that regard further down the line, but, frankly, I'm quite skeptical.
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