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Nintendo Debian Operating Systems Software Linux Entertainment Games

Hackers Manage To Run Linux On a Nintendo Switch (techcrunch.com) 119

Romain Dillet reports via TechCrunch: Hacker group fail0verflow shared a photo of a Nintendo Switch running Debian, a distribution of Linux. The group claims that Nintendo can't fix the vulnerability with future firmware patches. According to fail0verflow, there's a flaw in the boot ROM in Nvidia's Tegra X1 system-on-a-chip. When your console starts, it reads and executes a piece of code stored in a read-only memory (hence the name ROM). This code contains instructions about the booting process. It means that the boot ROM is stored on the chip when Nvidia manufactures it and it can't be altered in any way after that. Even if Nintendo issues a software update, this software update won't affect the boot ROM. And as the console loads the boot ROM immediately after pressing the power button, there's no way to bypass it. The only way to fix it would be to manufacture new Nvidia Tegra X1 chips. So it's possible that Nintendo asks Nvidia to fix the issue so that new consoles don't have this vulnerability.

Hackers Manage To Run Linux On a Nintendo Switch

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  • by oldgraybeard ( 2939809 ) on Saturday February 10, 2018 @02:10PM (#56100895)
    "have this vulnerability" duh! a vulnerability?

    Anything I can re-purpose by loading Linux on it is a plus in my world ;)

    Just my 2 cents ;)
    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Saturday February 10, 2018 @02:26PM (#56100925) Homepage

      And is this a vulnerability to the Nintendo software and games? To me it looks like it's just a re-purposing of the hardware.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 10, 2018 @02:54PM (#56101023)

        It could also be used to implement a custom bootloader stage that loads the next stage of Nintendo's OS, but ignore a bad signature so that it could have been modified to allow running pirated games. This is every bit as serious as the "sighax" one on 3DS -- a similar unpatchable vuln in the bootrom burned into the CPU -- except that sighax was discovered late in the product cycle.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This is not something to celebrate.

      In the old days, when people said "Hackers got Linux running on a toaster", it meant that some clever people spent some time figuring out how to write hardware-specific Linux components for the toaster; it meant that Linux was improving, and growing.

      Today, when people say it, they mean that some shady group of people used some shady techniques to exploit a bug in the toaster, and if you want to do the same on your toaster, then you'll probably have to download from some sh

    • by jbn-o ( 555068 ) <mail@digitalcitizen.info> on Saturday February 10, 2018 @05:55PM (#56101643) Homepage

      What you point out is a part of a larger and more significant problem that gets into another /. thread—"What is missing in tech today? [slashdot.org]". What's missing is an appreciation that computer owners ought to be able to use their computers in the way they wish, fully owning and controlling their own computers. What's present is a focus on relatively minor issues like what gadgets people might find slightly more convenient to use (but apparently not to own).

      Since people want this (the phrase "jailbreaking" is a testament to this; we wouldn't need this term if people enjoyed having their devices "jailed") the corporate proprietor-friendly media (and repeater sites) remind us when covering a story like this in multiple ways: from eschewing any reminder of the freedom to run, inspect, share, and modify published computer software like calling the installed OS "Linux [gnu.org]" even when Debian calls their system GNU/Linux and the proper name is on the screenshot [twimg.com] (just above the "fail0verflow" textual graphic), to using propagandistic language. There's also suggestion that the code is to be seen as "potential[ly] weak" instead of a means of allowing owners to control their own computers, and blaming fail0verflow should they choose to publish the means by which they installed Debian GNU/Linux on the Nintendo Switch for enabling "homebrew apps and (of course) software piracy [gnu.org]". Ridiculous unchallenged and undefended anti-user views throughout which is par for the course in corporate media.

      • from eschewing any reminder of the freedom to run, inspect, share, and modify published computer software like calling the installed OS "Linux" even when Debian calls their system GNU/Linux and the proper name is on the screenshot

        I too write the term "GNU/Linux" in part because it's a convenient way to say I don't mean Android. But this particular point isn't quite the strongest in your argument because practically, until enough drivers are ported to let the user interact meaningfully with the GNU operating environment, it's still "Linux".

        • Not only that, 0% of the effort has to do with the GNU part. The article title is accurate in using the term Linux. You get the kernel to run, then you grab a binary userspace from your favorite distro. Linux is what matters. The rest follows automatically because it is barely hardware specific if at all.

          You only port GNU/Linux once to any given architecture. After that, all devices using the same architecture only require porting Linux to them.

      • Third parties like content providers and software developers are complicit in stopping you form using your hardware as you choose. One example off the top of my head: not being able to run certain streaming apps on rooted Android devices. If you have the audacity to simply take control of your hardware, some unrelated companies won't let you run their software or buy their content. I suppose they have a right to do this, and their terms of service are probably fairly well written, but that doesn't make them
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 10, 2018 @02:14PM (#56100907)

    You have to physically put something on the device to make it work in this way. Being in control of a device you physically control isn't a vulnerability, it's a feature. Being in control of a device because something something network internet packet is a vulnerability.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    You used "Hacker" in the correct context!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    That Debian is a Linux distro and what a ROM is, perhaps this isn't an article meant for slashdot.

  • The most common connotation in my half century of speaking English is that they somehow _barely_ did it. At the last minute, with duct tape and baling wire. And who knows, they might not be able to do it again.

    Whereas if they "got Linux running on it", then just say it plainly: they got Linux running.

    I mean WTF, this is like saying someone's "sorta pregnant." No, they're either pregnant or they're not. There is no half pregnant. There is no "managed to run it.". It's running. Case closed. End of Discussion

    • There is no half pregnant.

      Depending on context, more precise terms could be any of the following:

      • Pregnant with one offspring, in a species that ordinarily produces litters of 2
      • Pregnant with offspring missing its hind limbs, as an analogy to the term "half lady" formerly used for circus performers missing both legs high above the knees. These include Jeanie Tomaini (then) or Jen Bricker (now).
      • Halfway to term in pregnancy

      There is no "managed to run it.". It's running.

      "Barely running Linux" is likely to mean running without driver support for the hardware features that an end user

      • There is no half pregnant.

        Depending on context, more precise terms could be any of the following:

        No, no, no. "Pregnant" is an absolute term, like "dead" or "unique" or "zero". There's no "half pregnant", or "almost unique" or "half zero".

        (Yes, people use the term "half dead", and it indicates imprecise thought. People also say shit like "really unique", and that's also ignorance at play.)

  • How long until we can download Switch roms? Sounds like you could even have your own switch store with free roms to download straight to the device
    • by mentil ( 1748130 )

      Technically, you can already download the ROMs, if you know where to look (some games technically come on NAND chips though). The Wii, Wii U and 3ds all had homebrew apps that let you download from a list of other homebrew apps. AFAIK noone bothered making an app that would download pirated stuff, since wherever it links to would be shut down right away.

    • by Z80a ( 971949 )

      It's a portable gaming system pretending it is also a tv console to pretend nintendo didn't dropped the tv console market.
      But on the other hand, it does have the smallest gap to the consoles a nintendo portable ever did.

      • by elrous0 ( 869638 )

        This is true. It's basically Nintendo's backdoor way to exit the console market while saving face.

      • by mentil ( 1748130 )

        It seems to me that Switch owners either use it predominantly as a handheld or as a portable, few actually 'switch' it up that much. Some people hate tiny screens, others hate cramped controls, others hate sitting in one spot or gaming at home. An unusually powerful handheld that gets all of Nintendo's AAA games means I only have to buy 1 Nintendo device each generation, instead of two, to get all the stuff I want.

    • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Sunday February 11, 2018 @08:19AM (#56103661) Homepage

      To be honest, I've enjoyed the vast, vast majority of my gaming life on systems that would be considered so laughably slow and obsolete now that people wouldn't take them off your hands for free.

      It didn't once affect my enjoyment of the games, my enjoyment of replaying the games, or the nostalgia of going back to those same games 30 years later (whether on original hardware or via emulation).

      If you think that anyone who plays games care about how many MHz or how many CUDA cores or how much texture RAM a certain device has, you're sadly in the minority. I gamed through the home computer rivalries, the 8-bit and 16-bit rivalries, PC vs console, online vs local LAN, etc. and not once did I ever care about having what was technically best, compared to what played the games I most enjoyed.

      Nintendo are pretty much the only modern console company that get this. All their effort goes into the game design and new, fun twists, rather than what texture fill rate they can achieve.

      Even in my "PC gamer" years on my twitch-shooters, I still didn't really care about those people who bought the top-line gear, overclocked everything, etc. just to get a few more FPS or a lower ping. It was the game that mattered.

      Same as car-nuts. I'm sure your car does 0-60 in some unfathomably trivial fraction of a second faster than mine. But that's not why I bought the car. Don't put your use case onto me, or entire markets of billions of people who "just want to play a game with the kids".

  • by RazorSharp ( 1418697 ) on Saturday February 10, 2018 @03:05PM (#56101043)

    Hackers Manage to Run Linux on X is probably to most common beginning to a /. headline. As long as new devices are manufactured, nerds will make them run Linux. Imagine if all these countless man hours were spent making Linux work on PCs.

  • Can it run Linux?

  • by hduff ( 570443 ) <hoytduff AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday February 10, 2018 @03:49PM (#56101187) Homepage Journal

    But can it play DOOM?

  • why not make it flash rom?

  • There seems to be no requirement to open the console, or even solder, and the picture shows what seems to be a board with an FTDI chip, and 2 wires going to the console. Is it just a UART, and are they getting into the bootloader that way ? If this is all it takes, then I imagine piracy to be rampant soon. https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DV... [twimg.com]
    • by Megane ( 129182 )
      If there is no requirement to open the console, why is there a strip of flex circuit sticking out of the right side in that picture? Or did they chop up a controller and that flex is from inside the controller?
  • I ran Linuz on a potato clock, next...
  • "when your console starts, it reads and executes a piece of code stored in a read-only memory (hence the name ROM)"

    It's highly detailed technical analysis like the above that I come here for.
    --

    sig: I'll bet you're the kind of guy that hangs round Reddit fapping off over pictures of furries and yellow-scaled wingless dragonkin
  • Call me when they have a dual boot ready for Android, or more specifically, using the Switch as a full nVidia Shield TV.
    I mean, I'm getting one anyways, but that would certainly double the value in my page. xD

  • how usable will this turn out the be?
    the nvidia tegra soc has horrible linux kernel support.
    it even made Linus flip the finger at nvidia.

  • > It could have some financial implications for Nintendo.

    Yeah they might sell more switches since they've now just become useful.

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