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The Atari VCS Controversies Thread

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I think the DRM will be similar to other consoles and PC storefronts like Steam (which is after all at its heart a DRM system) in that things purchased through the VCS storefront will only be playable on the VCS, and will be locked to the account that made the purchase. However, the VCS will also have a "sandbox" mode where you boot into Linux and can run whatever works in that environment. So, you probably won't be able to drop your VCS-purchased games on a USB stick and plug it into someone else's VCS, but you should be able to run PC games that are DRM-free (or that have DRM that can be supported on the Linux sandbox side of the VCS) through the sandbox mode. This is speculation, of course, until the thing is confirmed by the end-user, but this seems like the likely scenario.

 

Yep, and that makes sense. For the record, I'm in the camp where DRM can be acceptable in certain circumstances - e.g., Netflix, Steam, and similar services where no expectation of possession is part of the subscription to those services. However, I'm not a fan of DRM that hinders or prevents movement of data that was obtained with the expectation of possession, and this is where I'm supportive of companies such as GOG which have found ways to make a non-DRM scenario workable.

 

My main interest is how well the segregation between the sandbox and the UI will be accomplished. It bothers me that they keep referring to 'the sandbox', but don't detail how they intend to accomplish that (and there are a number of ways of doing it, each with its own advantages and disadvantages). Trade secrets and all that, but given that we know this is going to be a Ubuntu-based box, that narrows the possibilities considerably.

 

Additionally, because it is an Ubuntu-based box, it's going to be running on an OS that has the potential for common and widespread vulnerabilities to exist. There's going to need to be a significant support ecosystem on the backend to keep these things up-to-date, and that support ecosystem itself is going to need to also be adequately maintained from a security standpoint. Sony learned that one the hard way back in 2011.

 

I realise that I'm speaking completely theoretically regarding the ability to break out of the sandbox, but if were in Atari SA's shoes I'd be extremely concerned about that possibility.

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Is 32MB storage going to be enough for all this? Or is buying an SD card or external HD a given?

 

 

They would need to reveal more technical details for us to know for sure. But if I had to guess, you will probably have to expand the storage to run a guest container.

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I would assume that they would use seperate containers for the guest sandbox and the default "Atari VCS" environment . Ubuntu has support for LXD, Docker, and Kubernetes.

 

https://www.ubuntu.com/containers

 

Which are definitely possibilities. The question (other than, as mentioned, storage) then becomes one of process separation and memory segmentation. In theory, containers should make that possible, but it still comes back to the whether or not the Bristol Ridge is up to the job in a useful way.

 

The more I think about it, a dual-boot or reboot-into scenario is probably their best bet given the limited hardware spec and the security concerns the operational model raises. If the host OS allowed for context switching between the host and sandbox (consider a scenario where a user switches from the frontend UI to the sandbox, fools around in Linux for a while, then wants to play Asteroids again, so switches back to the frontend), there's a lot of leakage / cross-pollination potential there.

 

Again, it's all in the theoretical since we don't know what it is that they're implementing, but there is still a lot of potential for this feature to have impacts beyond just the console it's being used on.

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My guess is they will have an extensive End User License Agreement when you first boot into Sandbox mode that amounts to, "this is inherantly unsafe, and that's your problem. We are not responsible for anything ever." I can't see a situation where, once they open the floodgate of letting you do whatever you want to with their device using Linux, they are also responsible for ongoing support of the device. I imagine they would probably be wise to have a "start over" style reboot that can amount to a nuke from orbit once and if you mess things up too badly.

 

I recall that Sony ended up stopping Linux support on PS3 for the same reason (legal issues regarding support).

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From the campaign ...

 

post-2410-0-26173900-1529239736.png

 

Far from clear. I wouldn't put it into a FAQ until they take a stronger stance one way or another.

 

Yeah, I will probably qualify the bit in the FAQ. While there are two news sites claiming it, I agree that Atari's official stance on paddle support is unclear.

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Is 32MB storage going to be enough for all this? Or is buying an SD card or external HD a given?

Prediction: it will be enough to store all the games offered in the Atari VCS store that most users will choose to purchase.

 

My guess is they will have an extensive End User License Agreement when you first boot into Sandbox mode that amounts to, "this is inherantly unsafe, and that's your problem. We are not responsible for anything ever." I can't see a situation wher:e, once they open the floodgate of letting you do whatever you waInt to with their device using Linux, they are also responsible for ongoing support of the device. I imagine they would probably be wise to have a "start over" style reboot that can amount to a nuke from orbit once and if you mess things up too badly.

 

I recall that Sony ended up stopping Linux support on PS3 for the same reason (legal issues regarding support).

Yeah, especially if they have an easy way to restore the device to the factory defaults (which is likely). Here's what Amazon does on its Kindle Fire devices:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201482620

It's a single checkbox with a "be careful out there" disclaimer.

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My guess is they will have an extensive End User License Agreement when you first boot into Sandbox mode that amounts to, "this is inherantly unsafe, and that's your problem. We are not responsible for anything ever." I can't see a situation where, once they open the floodgate of letting you do whatever you want to with their device using Linux, they are also responsible for ongoing support of the device. I imagine they would probably be wise to have a "start over" style reboot that can amount to a nuke from orbit once and if you mess things up too badly.

 

The trick is to separate out the sandbox from the underlying OS in such a way that one can't touch the other - at least, not in any sort of meaningful way. I take the point you're making and agree that there needs to be a 'nuke it from low orbit' restore option in the event that something does happen to the host OS, but there are some Really Bad Things that could happen beyond bricking the device if someone was able to break out of the sandbox.

 

Consider this scenario: the unit will have access to some form of app store. This implies that payments will be accepted through the device. If the sandbox can be leveraged to access the mechanisms by which the store and device communicate, there's the potential for theft of personal information, banking information, and possible control of both the app store and end-user devices by a hostile actor.

 

In a situation like that, being able to wipe the device and start over from scratch doesn't really solve the problem if malware can be pushed down to it after that restore takes place - or if the malware can be embedded in the recovery data.

 

Granted, it's all still theoretical. But given the potential for corporate liability on Atari SA's behalf in the event of something like this happening may not be inconsiderable, and having an unhappy customer base seeking redress would not help matters either.

 

I recall that Sony ended up stopping Linux support on PS3 for the same reason (legal issues regarding support).

 

Not exactly.

 

The 'Other OS' option on the PS3 had been designed in such a way that it was something of a walled garden with respect to accessing the PS3's hardware: it allowed the OS that it booted to get at pretty much everything except the RSX graphics processor by way of a hypervisor (i.e., no direct hardware access). This was mostly done out of fear of homebrew development taking place that would have been in direct competition with the Playstation Store. Support issues in that particular scenario were a secondary consideration as Sony could simply have said, "sorry, that's homebrew, you're on your own," to anyone seeking support for a homebrew title.

 

What really prompted its removal, though, was when George Hotz was able to get limited access to the RSX via Other OS. At this point, the PS3 was effectively jailbroken - not completely, but enough to prove that it was possible. This is where Sony issued Firmware 3.21, which removed the Other OS option.

 

Speaking as someone who was actively using the Other OS option with Yellowdog Linux (MAME would build and run well enough under it for 8-bit games, and playing Gyruss on a 46" screen with killer sound was what it was mainly used for) who got 86'd with no warning by Firmware 3.21, that was a completely inappropriate move on Sony's behalf. They removed a feature of the system that was openly advertised as a selling point in its favour, and, in my case, removed functionality that was part of the reason why I went with their platform. Still not happy about how that was handled.

 

Anyway, personal gripes aside, the point I'm getting at is that there needs to be a high degree of compartmentalisation going on in order to prevent a user's Linux install from being used to leverage access to things that nobody wants someone getting into. Potentially bricking the console is a tip-of-the-iceberg problem; being able to manipulate content delivery networks, grab personally-identifiable information, or intercept financial records or transactions are much larger ones and far, far worse in the grand scheme of things.

 

These are the sorts of considerations Atari SA needs to be taking into account. I have yet to see them make any sort of statement regarding how they intend to secure this device and the network services on which it will depend - not that one is necessarily required of them (or any other company, for that matter), but this is a significant consideration and I am not certain that they have the appropriate people or resources in place to build this part of the ecosystem in the way that it needs to be done.

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From the campaign ...

 

post-2410-0-26173900-1529239736.png

 

Far from clear. I wouldn't put it into a FAQ until they take a stronger stance one way or another.

 

 

I don't know if they're correct on the 5200 joystick there. According to this thread, they don't work like that unless you modify them: http://atariage.com/forums/topic/247941-paddle-games-on-5200/

 

I believe what Atari's thinking of is the Sears Video Arcade II (aka Atari 2800) controllers. I have one and I can confirm those do work as they describe with the joystick being a twistable paddle.

 

videoarcadeii01.jpg

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I don't know if they're correct on the 5200 joystick there. According to this thread, they don't work like that unless you modify them: http://atariage.com/forums/topic/247941-paddle-games-on-5200/

 

I believe what Atari's thinking of is the Sears Video Arcade II (aka Atari 2800) controllers. I have one and I can confirm those do work as they describe with the joystick being a twistable paddle.

You're correct, the CX52 joysticks (the stock Atari 5200 controllers) cannot be used as paddles by twisting the joystick. They are non-centering analog joysticks, so they are like paddles in the sense that they can be used as absolute position controllers, but you have to move them back and forth; twisting the stick has no effect.

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Crikey.

 

So how come all the Arnie Katz magazines of the day didn't crucify them for using floppy joysticks instead of spinning dials in their pack in game?

 

That's would be like packing in he very analog Pole Position II with digital-only joysticks

 

Or a polygonal flying game with only digital controls

 

Or a 3-year-old collection of 40-year-old games, many of which used trackballs and spinners, to be played with a "modern controller."

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About linux:

 

At around 19 minutes Artz tries to explain more on the Atari and sandbox environments. He says the Atari side will be stripped-down to the necessities and compares the sandbox side to running Xbox 360 games on an Xbox One through its emulator. Of course, he's a salesman not a tech guy, so who knows how accurate it is:

 

https://youtu.be/vgftgTNtYLo?t=19m1s

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Is 32MB storage going to be enough for all this? Or is buying an SD card or external HD a given?

Yes, 32 Megabytes is freaking huge. You'd need a tall stack of approximately 22 floppies to equal that.

 

I think you mean gigabytes, LOL! :dunce:

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I don't know if they're correct on the 5200 joystick there. According to this thread, they don't work like that unless you modify them: http://atariage.com/forums/topic/247941-paddle-games-on-5200/

 

I believe what Atari's thinking of is the Sears Video Arcade II (aka Atari 2800) controllers. I have one and I can confirm those do work as they describe with the joystick being a twistable paddle.

 

videoarcadeii01.jpg

Where can one get his hands on such controllers? :grin:

 

Of course, i still have this joystick (with built in paddles) to play with...

21472086812_4689ef0e44_h.jpg

20860422564_efe178d5b8_h.jpg

The pull strings are a novel invention I created to switch between 4-way and 8-way operation.

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About linux:

 

At around 19 minutes Artz tries to explain more on the Atari and sandbox environments. He says the Atari side will be stripped-down to the necessities and compares the sandbox side to running Xbox 360 games on an Xbox One through its emulator. Of course, he's a salesman not a tech guy, so who knows how accurate it is:

 

https://youtu.be/vgftgTNtYLo?t=19m1s

 

I've seen that video, he does talk about keeping the customizable "sandbox" seperate from the main Atari UI (ie. not being able to add your Linux homebrew stuff to the Atari menus).

 

My guess is that it'll be either some sort of virtualization or a jail container for running the Ubuntu desktop so it doesn't affect the main Linux system that runs the Atari stuff. This is good in a way that you can use sandbox mode to make a Steam Machine, Retro Pie thing, Kodi Media center or even use it as a desktop computer w/o screwing up the Atari VCS itself.

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You're correct, the CX52 joysticks (the stock Atari 5200 controllers) cannot be used as paddles by twisting the joystick. They are non-centering analog joysticks, so they are like paddles in the sense that they can be used as absolute position controllers, but you have to move them back and forth; twisting the stick has no effect.

 

I'm not sure where I got the idea that they twisted; I guess that was schoolyard mythology. A hearty middle finger to "Atari" for perpetuating this ignorant myth when selling their new hardware.

 

So how come all the Arnie Katz magazines of the day didn't crucify them for using floppy joysticks instead of spinning dials in their pack in game?

 

Turns out, they did. Electronic Games, December 1982: "The controllers for the new system are a gallant attempt at crossbreeding the trackball and conventional joystick. The harder the stick is pushed in any given direction, the faster the on-screen moving object zip across the playfield. Atari must be congratulated for its attempt, but the examples tested by EG demonstrate there are still some bugs needing to be ironed out."

 

post-2410-0-32711200-1529426035_thumb.png

 

and a month later: "By now you've probably noticed that nothing in this description sounds even remotely like a paddle. There is none, either provided with the machine or announced for separate distribution. Since the cartridge that is packaged with the system, Super Breakout, works best with a paddle, this lack is immediately obvious as soon as the system is uncrated. Worse yet, the new fangled joystick makes a poorer substitute for a paddle than the old-style type. It is hard to get on-screen bat all the way over to the left and right play field borders to hit the moving cursor, when it hugs the boundary line. If Atari doesn't intend to produce a paddle, it would be a kindness to electronic gamers to refrain from creating games that require such a command device."

 

Here's the whole thing, which is an interesting history piece:

 

post-2410-0-83754600-1529426734_thumb.pngpost-2410-0-96772400-1529426744_thumb.pngpost-2410-0-62646500-1529426756_thumb.pngpost-2410-0-56656300-1529426765_thumb.png

 

I've seen that video, he does talk about keeping the customizable "sandbox" seperate from the main Atari UI (ie. not being able to add your Linux homebrew stuff to the Atari menus).

 

My guess is that it'll be either some sort of virtualization or a jail container for running the Ubuntu desktop so it doesn't affect the main Linux system that runs the Atari stuff. This is good in a way that you can use sandbox mode to make a Steam Machine, Retro Pie thing, Kodi Media center or even use it as a desktop computer w/o screwing up the Atari VCS itself.

 

Which of course begs the question, why run those apps on a limited, overpriced collectible when you could just use a better-supported, more versatile device? We know the answer, already. "Collectible. Fuji logo. Speculation of future value. Certificate of Authenticity."

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My cousin got 5200 for Christmas in 1982 when it first came out and we hated the joysticks but loved the graphics. Breakout was very frustrating and difficult. The Space Invaders was very nice and Defender was really nice for 1982! He still has it boxed up with the three games. I asked him a few years ago if he wanted to sell it but he wants to keep his 5200 in the box.

Edited by thetick1

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My cousin got 5200 for Christmas in 1982 when it first came out and we hated the joysticks but loved the graphics. Breakout was very frustrating and difficult. The Space Invaders was very nice and Defender was really nice for 1982! He still has it boxed up with the three games. I asked him a few years ago if he wanted to sell it but he wants to keep his 5200 in the box.

 

What a waste. At least he kept it though instead of throwing it in the trash like many folks did... :P

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Hmm, I seem to have lost the ability to edit the OP, will have to follow up on it. I will remove the reference to the paddle technology until (and if) we get more solid information on it.

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Hmm, I seem to have lost the ability to edit the OP, will have to follow up on it. I will remove the reference to the paddle technology until (and if) we get more solid information on it.

Subscribers have 30 days to edit posts. Non-subscribers have one hour. PM Albert and he can manually enable unlimited edits to the first post.

 

Normally unlimited edits by the OP is only permitted by default in marketplace and homebrew topics, but sometimes it is useful to update information elsewhere. Especially lengthy threads such as this where relavent info tends to get buried in the stack, it is especially useful to have links or info pertaining to important updates in the original post.

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Yep, and that makes sense. For the record, I'm in the camp where DRM can be acceptable in certain circumstances - e.g., Netflix, Steam, and similar services where no expectation of possession is part of the subscription to those services. However, I'm not a fan of DRM that hinders or prevents movement of data that was obtained with the expectation of possession, and this is where I'm supportive of companies such as GOG which have found ways to make a non-DRM scenario workable.

 

My main interest is how well the segregation between the sandbox and the UI will be accomplished. It bothers me that they keep referring to 'the sandbox', but don't detail how they intend to accomplish that (and there are a number of ways of doing it, each with its own advantages and disadvantages). Trade secrets and all that, but given that we know this is going to be a Ubuntu-based box, that narrows the possibilities considerably.

 

Additionally, because it is an Ubuntu-based box, it's going to be running on an OS that has the potential for common and widespread vulnerabilities to exist. There's going to need to be a significant support ecosystem on the backend to keep these things up-to-date, and that support ecosystem itself is going to need to also be adequately maintained from a security standpoint. Sony learned that one the hard way back in 2011.

 

I realise that I'm speaking completely theoretically regarding the ability to break out of the sandbox, but if were in Atari SA's shoes I'd be extremely concerned about that possibility.

Yeah the main problem with DRM was trying to use media like music outside of approved devices. I want to be able to use the music I download in my car. My car stereo doesn't have a way to validate the license, so I'd be locked out.

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