Linux 5.12 Set To See Support For The Nintendo 64
Written by Michael Larabel in Hardware on 22 January 2021 at 11:38 AM EST. 30 Comments
HARDWARE --
It's taken nearly twenty five years but the mainline Linux kernel this year will be able to boot on the Nintendo 64 game console... It's looking like the Nintendo 64 support will be merged with the upcoming Linux 5.12 kernel.

Back on Christmas we wrote about a new Linux kernel port to the Nintendo 64. The port was done by longtime open-source developer Lauri Kasanen and done for his own personal satisfaction with being unsure if there would be any interest in having the code upstreamed into the Linux kernel.


Well, to much amusement, the Nintendo 64 code has been queued this morning into the MIPS.git code ahead of the Linux 5.12 merge window kicking off next month. I was surprised to see the code for bringing up the Nintendo 64 with the existing Linux MIPS code queued thus on its path to upstream. Linux 5.12 in stable should be out in April and thus barring any last minute objections, this old game console will be able to run the mainline Linux kernel. There have been prior Linux ports to the Nintendo 64 but not mainlined.

Before getting too excited about this 90's game console seeing Linux kernel support, keep in mind the N64 is powered by a MIPS64 NEC VR4300 at 93.75MHz with SGI Reality Coprocessor graphics clocked at 62.5MHz while having just 4MB of RAM. Lauri noted last month that the Linux kernel was constantly under memory pressure in his experiments. Getting Linux loaded on the Nintendo 64 also requires the use of a Flashcart. There are also obstacles around the C library and getting other software to work on this old MIPS device.

The N64 support is behind the MACH_NINTENDO64 Kconfig option but again the practicality is severely limited of running the modern kernel on this game console more than two decades old with just 4MB of RAM... At least the patch burden is small with leveraging the existing MIPS R4300 CPU support and other bits.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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