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Monday, February 12, 2024

Operating Linux on Unmodified NES {Hardware}

Linux has many benefits, however it’s particularly well-suited to working on older {hardware}. There are very light-weight kernels on the market that don’t want a lot energy to run — particularly should you’re 1337 sufficient to work fully within the shell and don’t want a GUI. Have a 30-year-old PC gathering mud? It should run Linux, no downside. However what you probably have even much less horsepower than that to work with? To dunk on each different working system on the market, DeCrAzYo proved that it’s attainable to run Linux on unmodified NES {hardware}.

That’s truly a lie — however we’re solely passing on DeCrAzYo’s lie. This isn’t actually working Linux. As an alternative, it’s working what DeCrAzYo describes as a “Unix-like working system.” Sadly, even Linux wants extra assets than an NES has to supply. However that is shut sufficient that we hope you’ll forgive the misdirection.

Particularly, DeCrAzYo selected to run LUnix (Little Unix), which was developed for Commodore 64 computer systems and obtained its most up-to-date replace (Model 0.21) means again in 2004. LUnix is good as a result of it’s ridiculously light-weight and constructed to run on the Commodore 64’s 6502-compatible MOS 6510 processor. The NES’s Ricoh 2A03 processor can also be principally 6502-compatible, so DeCrAzYo concluded it will in all probability work.

However the NES solely has 2KB of RAM (plus one other 2KB of VRAM), whereas the Commodore 64 has a beneficiant 64KB. The Commodore 64 additionally has the flexibility to learn from disks.

Each of these points had been solvable by utilizing a Japanese Famicom as an alternative of a North American NES. The Famicom had upgrades accessible so as to add a further 32KB of RAM and a rudimentary disk system. There may be additionally a keyboard for the Famicom, which makes navigating a Unix shell a lot simpler.

By using the Famicom’s upgraded reminiscence and disk system, DeCrAzYo was in a position to modify LUnix to load packages from disk as mandatory. DeCrAzYo additionally needed to change the way in which the Famicom’s disk system works, as a result of it will probably usually solely learn knowledge sequentially. With these modifications, LUnix boots and the person is ready to work throughout the shell.

In emulation, this labored properly. However that was solely as a result of DeCrAzYo was in a position to crank up the run pace by 100 instances. In actual life and on precise {hardware}, it is vitally gradual. DeCrAzYo was in a position to take a look at that on an NES utilizing an Everdrive flash cart. And not using a Famicom keyboard accessible to kind instructions, nonetheless, he simply received a blinking cursor within the shell. However he did show that Linux Unix can run on an NES!

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