Nintendo Switch now runs a Linux graphical desktop

JC Torres - Feb 18, 2018
Nintendo Switch now runs a Linux graphical desktop

The Nintendo Switch has easily become the darling of gamers and, unsurprisingly, a few modders seeking to push the handheld gaming console to the limits. And, no, were not just talking about homebrew game development. A little over a week ago, hacker fail0verflow demonstrated booting up Linux on the Switch, albeit with just an image of a bootup screen. Now to address doubts and maybe even stir up more speculation, fail0verflow releases a short video clip of the Switch running a more conventional and fully graphical Linux desktop setup.

Booting up Linux, especially to a command line prompt, is one thing. Booting up a fully working Linux GUI desktop is quite another. To demonstrate both the Switch’s hardware capabilities as well as the extent of the exploit, fail0verflow showed off a video of a normal Linux desktop running KDE Plasma, an advanced Linux-based workspace that has a bit of a reputation for being resource-hungry (a debate for a different time).

As shown, everything works almost perfectly. Touch to wake works and so does brightness control. Multi-touch gestures, at least pinch to zoom, is supported. And so is Wi-Fi presumably, considering he is able to load web pages. An OpenGL demo runs at 60 fps, though not exactly a true benchmark. What the demo doesn’t show, however, are things like audio and Bluetooth, especially Joycon support.

Will the Switch be the next Linux hacker darling? Probably not. Running Linux on the gaming device requires exploiting a vulnerability. Although fail0verflow claims it is not something that cannot be patched in a future update, it might be gone in future Switch productions. Plus, the hacker has not yet provided instructions to replicate his success.

But more importantly, this is probably not going to help the Switch homebrew scene in the long run. Brewers will always prefer to develop games that will run natively on a the Switch’s OS, modified or otherwise, to take advantage of native features and hardware performance.

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