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Hardware hacker successfully runs GTA Vice City on a router using an eGPU and Debian Linux

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A recent blog post has been making waves in the tech community, as a German hardware hacker by the name of KittenLabs has successfully managed to run the classic game GTA: Vice City on a Wi-Fi router. Using a TP-Link TL-WDR4900 router with an AMD Radeon HD 7470 connected as an external GPU, KittenLabs was able to install Debian Linux and run the game surprisingly well.

The story behind this unique gaming hack is quite fascinating. The TP-Link TL-WDR4900 router was chosen for its impressive performance capabilities, thanks to its NXP/Freescale QorIQ P1014 CPU which is actually a PowerPC e500v2 32bit processor. However, in order to install an external GPU, KittenLabs had to design a custom miniPCIe breakout PCB and attach it to the router after cutting PCIe traces leading from the CPU to one of the Atheros chipsets, creating a spare PCIe 2.0 interface.

After some software modifications, including installing OpenWrt and bootstrapping Debian Linux with additional kernel modules enabled for AMD graphics driver support, KittenLabs encountered compatibility issues with an AMD Radeon RX 570 GPU at first. Switching to a legacy AMD Radeon HD 7470 card with an older driver proved to be the solution, allowing the system to run smoothly.

The journey to getting GTA: Vice City up and running on the router was not without its challenges. Finding a compatible version of the game and dealing with glitches during gameplay proved to be major hurdles. A reverse-engineered version of the game, reVC, compiled for the router platform eventually allowed for gameplay, although NPC involvement still caused issues. Despite significant setbacks, a Wii U port of reVC and an update to the Mesa 3D graphics library ultimately led to success, with player rendering working flawlessly on real hardware.

The KittenLabs blog is a treasure trove of innovative projects and hacks, with a diverse range of content spanning from computing to art. In addition to the GTA: Vice City on a router project, readers can find fascinating posts such as the Analog floppy synthesizer, which utilizes 3.5-inch floppy drive hardware to play musical compositions. With a unique blend of creativity and technical prowess, KittenLabs continues to push the boundaries of what is possible in the world of hardware hacking and gaming.

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