A lucky few were able to secure and purchase the new NES Classic Edition when it launched on Friday, but not every buyer is playing games on it. The hacking community has pounced upon the device to see what the little box can do, and you know what that means: installing Linux.
Or, at least, your own Linux kernel. The NES Classic Edition already runs on Linux, and Nintendo has complied with open source license rules by offering downloads of the tiny hardware’s Linux source files. While a few enterprising hackers have posted about connecting a serial cable to the motherboard and trying to install their own kernels, one Japanese hacker pulled it off—and posted a guide explaining how he did so. (If you really care, he also posted the entire bootlog from his first successful boot.)
The explanation, from a hacker who goes by the handle urandom, is currently written in Japanese, but thanks to Google Translate we can understand it to some extent. Using a serial-to-USB cable, urandom powered the device (in his case, the Japan-only Famicom Mini, which has an identical motherboard) using U-Boot loader software and then extracted necessary files in FEL mode that he needed to attach to his own kernel.
Though his kernel is working, urandom’s Linux boot appears to be incredibly limited at this point. And his efforts do not appear to be aimed at extracting emulator files or adding new game files to the existing NES emulator installed in the system. Considering the hoops he and other hackers are jumping through to access and run a custom OS on a low-cost, low-powered, Android-minded system-on-chip, the appeal appears to hinge largely on the fact that this is a closed Nintendo device. With that in mind, we doubt that this is the last we’ll hear about fans picking at the NES Classic’s heart.