5 Most Popular Linux-hackable Gadgets

Linux is a powerful and versatile operating system that can be utilized to hack just about any electronic hardware device. To prove it, I have here a list of popular gadgets that are already known to run Linux.

1. Nintendo DS

DSLinux, a port of the Linux operating system, made it possible to install Linux on Nintendo DS. DSLinux runs a modified µClinux kernel. It is currently based on uCLinux 2.6.14 (Linux-2.6.14-hsc0). It only runs in textmode and nano-x which is displayed via a custom framebuffer console driver. Input is done via a keyboard displayed on the touchscreen of the Nintendo DS. DSLinux has no package management facilities. Instead, DSLinux builds are distributed as a single tar archive.

With the exception of the microphone, all hardware inside the Nintendo DS, including the wireless is supported by DSLinux. The Nintendo DS firmware can be read from /dev/firmware, but write support is left out for safety reasons.

2. Apple iPod

iPod, everybody’s favorite music player can be installed with Linux. A µClinux-based Linux distribution called iPodLinux is able to run on several iPod models. When the iPodLinux kernel is booted it takes the place of Apple's iPod operating system and automatically loads Podzilla, an alternative GUI and launcher for a number of additional included programs such as a video player, an image viewer, a command line shell, games, emulators for video game consoles, Computer programming demos, and other experimental or occasionally unfinished Computer software.

Here are some of Podzilla’s features:
* An iPod-like user interface
* Video playback with sound
* Support for AAC, MP3 and basic OGG playback (4G & 5G Music Player Daemon is multifunctional, but can be fixed)
* Many games, including TuxChess, Bluecube (Tetris clone), Chopper, StepMania (a Dance Dance Revolution clone) and more
* Recording through audio jack at much higher quality than Apple's firmware
* Ability to play the games Doom and Doom II (and presumably any Doom Total Conversion; Chex Quest for instance)
* Ability to run many emulators, such as iBoy (Nintendo Game Boy Emulator), iNES (Nintendo Entertainment System Emulator), iDarcNES (port of the multiple system emulator DarcNES), iMAME (port of Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator), and iGPSP (Game Boy Advance emulator)

If you are interested in installing Linux on your iPod (5th Generation Video iPod), perhaps this will help: 13 Not-So-Easy Steps to Install Linux on iPod

3. Microsoft Xbox

Xbox Linux is a project that ported the Linux computer operating system to the Microsoft Xbox. There is also a newer project for the Xbox 360, Free60. Because the Xbox uses a digital signature system to prevent the public from running unsigned code, one must either use a modchip, or find an alternative system for running unsigned code. Since the Xbox is essentially just a PC, with a custom processor, a hard drive, RAM, and 4 USB ports, it is capable to run several readily available Linux distributions smoothly. "Xebian", an Xbox compatible version of Debian, and Gentoox, a similarly customized version of Gentoo are known to run successfully on Xbox.

An Xbox with Linux can be a full desktop computer with mouse and keyboard, a web/email box connected to a TV, a server, router or a node in a cluster. One can either dual-boot or use Linux only; in the latter case, one can replace both IDE devices. One can also connect the Xbox to a VGA monitor. A converter may be needed to use keyboards/mice in the controller ports, however this is fairly easy to achieve because the Xbox uses the standard USB bus.

4. Nintendo GameCube

Nintendo GameCube Linux is a project to port Linux to the Nintendo GameCube (and now the Wii) in the same manner as Xbox Linux. The GameCube was seen to be a less attractive system to port Linux to since it not only lacked an on-board Ethernet port and internal hard drive, but also an optical drive natively capable of reading DVDs.

Nintendo GameCube Linux also recognizes SD Cards and Multimedia Cards and is able to use them normally, given the appropriate adaptor.

5. Sony PlayStation

Linux for PlayStation 2, a kit released by Sony Computer Entertainment in 2002, allows the PlayStation 2 console to be used as a personal computer. It included a Linux-based operating system, a USB keyboard and mouse, a VGA adapter, a PS2 network adaptor (Ethernet only), and a 40 GB hard disk drive (HDD). The PS2 Linux distribution is based on Kondara MNU/Linux, a Japanese distribution itself based on Red Hat Linux. PS2 Linux is similar to Red Hat Linux 6, and has most of the features one might expect in a Red Hat Linux 6 system.

The Linux Kit turns the PlayStation 2 into a full-fledged computer system, but it does not allow for use of the DVD-ROM drive except to read PS1 and PS2 discs due to piracy concerns by Sony. Noted open source software that compiles on the kit includes Mozilla Suite, X-Chat, and Gaim. Light-weight applications better suited to the PS2's 32MB of RAM include xv, Dillo, Ted, and AbiWord. The default window manager is Window Maker, but it is possible to install and use Fluxbox and FVWM.

Linux for PlayStation 2 Kit

The PlayStation 3 is also capable of running Linux. Many distributions are compatible with the console. Debian, Fedora 8, Gentoo, OpenSuSE and Ubuntu can be run on the PlayStation 3. Yellow Dog Linux for the PlayStation 3 was first released for the PS3 in late 2006.

Yellow Dog Linux on PS 3

Related Posts:

* 10 Best Hacking and Security Software Tools for Linux


  1. AnonymousJuly 18, 2008

    Great post. I have heard that someone has already installed Linux on the iPhone. Can you verify that?

  2. Are you only counting devices with screen outputs?

    I thought the Linksys NSLU2 (I have one) and WRT54 devices were quite popular. I've got Linux on my 2G iPod but haven't used that boot option in years.

  3. AnonymousJuly 18, 2008

    Oh cool... now I can see white text on a black background on more of my once-useful gadgets.

  4. AnonymousJuly 18, 2008

    Oh cool... now I can see white text on a black background on more of my once-useful gadgets.

  5. Dude that is some pretty cool gadgets indeed. Looks like a lot of fun!


  6. AnonymousJuly 18, 2008

    @ rich: WRT54 is a Linksys router: you fail >.<

  7. AnonymousJuly 18, 2008

    @ R3ap3R
    Yes, WRT54 is a Linksys router. But it also runs Linux and is quite hackable. Therefore, you fail.

  8. AnonymousJuly 18, 2008

    @r3ap3r: a router that runs linux: you wear failure shoes on sadness feet

  9. AnonymousJuly 18, 2008

    @r3ap3r: You might want to do some research before posting. Rich is correct. You fail.

  10. I guess the fact that TiVo (well, at least series 1) run Linux is just such old news that it didn't make the list. As far as I've heard, version 2 of TiVo's software also was Linux. I've not heard about software running on the series 3 hardware though...

  11. AnonymousJuly 18, 2008

    @larry w. virden: I think the point was that you have to hack these devices to get Linux on them rather than it being the actual OS, other wise they would have included the Nokia N8xx series, Western Digital's MyBook NAS devices, Garmins Nuvi 8xxx and 5xxx devices, and so on.

  12. AnonymousJuly 18, 2008


    so why did Linksys release a WRT54GL ("L" for linux) to load alternative firmware on?

    Firmware like DD-WRT can make your router into a smoking hotrod:

    (taken directly from DD-WRT wiki)
    Among other features not found in the original Linksys firmware, DD-WRT adds the Kai Daemon for the Kai Console Gaming network, WDS wireless bridging/repeating protocol, Radius Authentication for more secure wireless communication, advanced Quality of Service controls for bandwidth allocation, and software support for the SD-Card hardware modification.

  13. Yes you're right Linux can be hackable almost on any gadget, as a matter of fact the popular linux magazine "Linux Format" published "Linux on everything" on its 108th issue.

    Very interesting ...

  14. AnonymousJuly 18, 2008

    Major fail for the guy that didn't know WRT could be linux hacked... yet on some point it is not. Since it is already running Linux, it would be like saying I can hack my personal Linux box with Linux. Same for TiVo: you don't hack a Linux inside, it's already there.

    The list is made of thing that are NOT instended to run Linux but that NOW has the option to run it.

  15. AnonymousJuly 18, 2008

    We run asterisk pbx to route our VOIP calls on a WRT54G router running linux.

    It can only handle a few phone calls at a time, but it's all we need.

  16. AnonymousJuly 18, 2008

    @r3ap3r: I run Linux on my Linksys WRT54G that shipped with Vxworks, therefore you are full of fail.

  17. AnonymousJuly 18, 2008

    The WRT54 by Linksys is very popular. But the only problem is the newest versions will not allow you to run Tomato(Linux firmware) on it.
    It has to be on of the older routers. I have been trying to find one for a while.

  18. You all fail. It's Linksys WRT54Gv1-4/WRT54GL. Not WRT54.

    But the buffalo WHR-HP-G54s are much better to hack with their built in amps. If only buffalo could get out of their lawsuit and sell wireless hardware in the US again.

  19. AnonymousJuly 18, 2008

    I use linux on my WRT54G Router and on my NSLU2.

    I love it. I don't know what that other person is talking about, I think they need to think before they speak especially before they insult somebody. :)

  20. AnonymousJuly 18, 2008

    The PlayStation 2 shouldn't be listed as Linux-hackable Gadget because you are using tools from Sony. In this place must be the Playstation 1 or the Sega Dreamcast both hackable without help of the manufacturer.

  21. AnonymousJuly 18, 2008

    I'd rather run tomato, first of all, and he said WRT54G, not GL, not GS.

  22. AnonymousJuly 18, 2008

    If there is a Playstation 2 linux kit available from Sony, then it's not really hacking is it? That means it was intentionally made for it. If you want to hack it, then post a way to get linux onto the PS2 like this one >>>

  23. AnonymousJuly 18, 2008

    N800, N810, WRT54G, you are missing some of the more fun options out there.

  24. And don't forget the SEGA Dreamcast ( - a great device for creating VPNs, firewalls and even more :-)

  25. AnonymousJuly 19, 2008

    How boring, only two of these are barely useful.

    Should include the iPhone, its UNIX but its a hell of a lot more interesting and people are actually making things for it.

  26. AnonymousJuly 19, 2008

    yeah, not sure why ps2 was listed since not hacked or embeded gadget, besides why not go more recent and say ps3 for that matter?

  27. AnonymousJuly 21, 2008

    In AppleTV is possible to run or install linux too. The atv-bootloader website explain the process.

  28. what about the WD MyWorld World Edition? you can go in and add bittorrent functionality and various other options.

  29. AnonymousJuly 26, 2008

    @ r3ap3r m'dear boy, sitting beside me I have a WRT54G v5 (No L, No S), running linux, and in another room, a WRT54GL v1.1 also running linux... best quit while youre merely failing.

  30. I love how you can put linux on almost anything now adays. Great stuff! I've modded many Xboxes. Good times.

  31. Linux on an Ipod looks hot.

    However I'm interested on a Zune with linux, does anyone know if it has been done?

    Not trying to start a M$ vs Apple fight but I just like better the controls on a zune vs an ipod.

  32. On the iPod linux, if you want to keep media playing as a focus use Rockbox instead.

  33. I have been looking for a way to install Linux on my Treo 700p for a while now... Also the Gamecube thing looks pretty sweet...

  34. what about the Dreambox Series of satelite recievers? ;)