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Who cares about Linux on the PS3?

May 6, 2010
By

I don’t know about you but I’ve been amused at the amount of coverage in the media about Sony pulling the plug on alternative operating systems on the PS3.

Have you been following this mess? Talk about a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing whatsoever of importance. If you read any of the media coverage, you’d have thought that Sony had launched some sort of sneak attack on people’s PS3s.

Sheesh, give me a break people.

Why Bother with Linux on the PS3?
Why do people care about this in the first place? If you want to run Linux, why would you want to run it on a PS3? What particular value would you get from it beyond just the fun of doing it?

I know that some of you might consider my comments to be hypocritical given that there was an excellent piece on ET back in 2008 about how to set up Linux on a PS3:

One obvious way that Linux beats Microsoft Windows hands-down is in its flexibility. You can run Linux on just about any old crappy PC with a semi-functional processor and a paltry amount of storage. People have installed distros on the Apple TV, Nintendo DS, and—of course—the Mac.

It might not be the first device you think of when you download Ubuntu, but Sony makes it relatively easy to install Linux on the PlayStation 3 videogame console, especially useful during those times in early fall when the only video games worth playing are re-tooled EA Sports franchises and lame PC ported sequels.

But remember that I don’t control ET’s edit calendar, so you’ll have to give me a pass on that.

Once a very powerful machine, the PS3 is now an aging geriatric.

I also don’t own a PS3 and I have no intention of buying one. But if I did own one, I’d use it for games and Blu-ray discs. That’s it. Why on earth would I want to run Linux on such a limited machine?

I could build my own computer with truly kick ass components and enjoy Linux far more than with Sony’s already aging and relatively puny videogame console. And I could easily swap out older components for newer components, thus making a DIY box last far longer than a silly videogame console.

Sony’s Machine, Sony’s Rules
Speaking of Sony, far be it from me to take the side of a corporate behemoth.

But the fact of the matter is that the PS3 is their machine and they, like any device manufacturer, get to make the rules as far as what runs on it.

Is that fair? No. But so what? There’s a great deal in life that isn’t fair.

So why did Sony stop the use of Linux and other operating systems? Well according to their blog, it was a security issue:

“…and will disable the “Install Other OS” feature that was available on the PS3 systems prior to the current slimmer models, launched in September 2009. This feature enabled users to install an operating system, but due to security concerns, Sony Computer Entertainment will remove the functionality through the 3.21 system software update.”

They don’t go into details though about what exactly they were worried about in terms of security. That, unfortunately, does tend to undercut their argument a bit. Ultimately though, it’s pretty much tough bungies if you don’t like it.

The bottom line is that you shouldn’t buy a PS3 if you don’t want to adhere to Sony’s policies regarding alternative operating systems.

The Linux Drama Queens & the PS3 Fanboys
One of the things that, unfortunately, sort of sticks out in situations like this, is the tendency of some Linux enthusiasts to behave like raving drama queens. I’m referring to the folks that somehow, for whatever reason, believe that Linux is the end-all, be-all of operating systems.

Hey, I love Linux too. It’s a great choice for a desktop operating system. But it really isn’t necessary to have it running on *every* piece of hardware out there, folks. If it doesn’t run on the PS3, big deal. Why must some people behave as though it is an affront to the Linux community that must not be allowed to stand?

As you might imagine, Sony got an earful and then some on its blog post about removing the PS3′s ability to run Linux. Here’s a few choice quotes from that thread from some Linux drama queens:

“This update is bull. This is as bad as Apple going into people’s devices and removing content the users paid for. I personally own a slim so this doesn’t affect me, but I still believe that those who own compatible systems and choose to run OSs such as Linux should NOT be made to use Sony’s CRAPPY proprietary OS. And as far as your “security concerns” excuse, ANYONE can see that that is complete BULL. Stick to working on giving us MORE features, such as a media controller that is FULLY FUNCTIONAL instead of punishing the ones who chose to spend $700 on your system who don’t want to be locked in to using the sh!tty OS that you provide for us. [DELETED] this update, Sony.”

“WTF?! I got a early PS3 and now I am getting features REMOVED from it?! What’s next? Are you gonna remove the backwards compatibility when you try to sell us PS2 games on the store? [DELETED] YOU SONY! I’ll be getting the next Microsoft console after this shit.”

“Linux usage was a big selling point for me when I shelled out $599 for a PS3 back in April of 2007, one of the systems’ lowest selling time periods. Sony keeps talking up customer loyalty, but keeps taking away the features that earned our loyalty. First you remove PS2 BC from new systems, and now linux from all of them?? I’ve been following the hack news, it does nothing! This is a red scare if I’ve ever seen one. Good luck getting me to support Sony when you’re down next time.”
Lighten up, people. Seriously.

And while you’re at it, you might also want to get a life and find something better to do with your time then spend it installing Linux on an aging and increasingly feeble videogame console.

Now don’t think that I’m just smacking some of the Linux fanboys around here, there’s plenty of smacking to go around for everybody, including the PS3 fanboys. I made it clear how I felt about them in a column way back in 2006 called PS3 Losers Need to Get a Life:

“The launch of the latest generation of video game consoles has now come and gone. As usual, the launches coincided with a massive media orgy, hysterical crowds camping out at the megastores and some all-around bad behavior on the part of a lot of people.
The PlayStation 3 launch, in particular, seemed to drag down the collective IQ and social skills of a lot of people. Talk about a bunch of losers who need to get a life.”

Those who worship the PS3 itself are every bit as silly as those who worship Linux.

Let’s face it folks, Linux on the PS3 just doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things and neither does the PS3 itself.

What’s your take on Linux and the PS3? Do you care about it? Tell me in the comments below. Follow me on Twitter and visit my Facebook fan page.

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28 Responses to Who cares about Linux on the PS3?

  1. BobBently on June 19, 2011 at 11:01 am

    I buy & resell PS3′s often on Ebay. I’ve come across just about every possible version of the PS3 & have to agree w/ the original post. Wanting a PS3 for “linux” is just dumb. There are more disadvantages of owning an old firmware versions than there are advantages. I would assume only a small percentage of users need the “Linux” system for some sort of hacking/moding/jailbreaking? or what have you. (Only to get banned or have limited play/access in the end) If you want to turn your console to a computer, Go buy a computer. These PS3′s are meant for gaming (online optional) & watching movies. Take the system for face value, use it for what it’s intended to be used for. Always update to the newest firmware/software versions & get the most out of your system.

  2. Mr."KnowItAll" on January 27, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    I think it is really pointless to run linux on the PS3, it was meant for multimedia interface that it originally supported, and people on here cussing like mad because someone doesn’t agree with a truly useless OS is stupid. Linux is shit to me, I prefer Windows XP, if your in true business, really want a great OS thats reliable, fast, and good for the company then Windows XP is that choice; however, people wanna put linux and risk destroying their PS3′s AND(OR) wasting the time to do so are kinda…losers. Sorry to say that, but it’s a truly useless operating system, and not worth the time…also get a life :] :angel:

  3. Marc on July 2, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    It would be very convenient to use the Linux browser for internet TV and video. I have a both PC and a PS3 connected to my home entertainment system, The PC is superfluous… you would think…

    I would like to use Linux on the PS3 for web browsing. BTW, the web browser on the PS3 is not great.

  4. yeahright on May 12, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    I kept on waiting for a reasoned, balanced opinion to develop in this article and was sadly disappointed.

    The fact is some people don’t care about Linux support on the PS3.

    The fact is, though, if Sony gets away with taking this feature away they’ll take away another feature next – and you might not like what they take away.

    All you naysayers will have given them a social and legal precedent to take your property and devalue it after the purchase.

    The author may not own a PS3 but in the future he’s enabling we’ll be lucky if we can properly own anything.

  5. fudgy wudgy on May 10, 2010 at 8:37 am

    guess as long as your ox isn’t getting gored, ignorance is bliss eh? well that’s typical of shortsighted, self-absorbed idiots.

  6. homer on May 9, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    So because you don’t or wouldn’t want that functionality the rest of the world are whining idiots?

    You don’t deserve to have a blog. Tosser.

  7. Dan on May 8, 2010 at 3:43 am

    linux + PS3 = Cheap supercomputer? that’s why.

    Get informed! Go ask Google about it (But i suppose you are more of a BING person)

  8. aristos_achaion on May 7, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Legal precedent is a funny thing, and doesn’t necessarily revolve around the significance of the case at hand. For instance, Marbury v. Madison, arguably one of the most significant precedents in US legal history, was actually a pretty minor case–a minor midnight appointee wanting to force the president to honor his appointment–and point of Constitutional law invoked was also pretty minor–the fact that the Supreme Court doesn’t have original jurisdiction. However minor the original issue, the precedent set completely changed the course of history (I’m not exaggerating here–cases like Brown v. The Board of Education and Roe v. Wade wouldn’t have been possible without Marbury v. Madison).

    The statistical significance of Sony’s decision might be relatively minor, but the legal issues surrounding it are quite important, especially in the gray area around data & property rights. Americans are Constitutionally protected against unreasonable search & seizure, but does this constitute seizure of property without a warrant? What if, someday, the government were to want to force a company to retroactively disable a questionable product like the Rebel EFI? What if Sony decided to retroactively disable game playing on the PS3 when it introduces the PS4, to force users to upgrade? Should this be a Fourth Amendment issue? A First Sale Doctrine issue? Even legally categorizing this sort of thing could have a big impact.

    Maybe you don’t run Linux on a PS3, but this case could affect your ability to run Linux on a computer, your ability to keep your data safe from search & seizure, your ability to modify software & electronics you bought & paid for…it’s clearly an important issue, even if it’s not a terribly important feature. And it has potential for a landmark precedent in digital property law (the old-fashioned kind, not the intellectual- kind).

  9. Aleksandr Gidenko on May 7, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Worst article ever! Write about something you know instead of making yourself look like an ass. What a waste of time reading this garbage. Please don’t write ever again!

  10. backspin on May 7, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Really? how did garbage like this get frontpage on linuxtoday.com. You obviously know nothing about the PS3 or the CELL processor. Rickrolling your way to ad dollars…nice work.

  11. Beppo on May 7, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Seriously, this furor surrounding Toyota disabling the air conditioner in all models of their cars going all the way back to 1999, when they first introduced computer-controlled climate control, is ridiculous. I mean seriously, I don’t understand you people. You can roll down the windows and cool down just fine! Besides, I heard many of you, and air conditioning wasn’t on the list of features that you bought the car for; it was the power steering and gas mileage and the all-leather interiors and sunroofs and 5-disc CD player and such! Anyway, it’s their right to remove air conditioning in your cars; you don’t control *their* computer code!

    * removes tongue from cheek

  12. jeremy on May 7, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Sony does NOT get to decide what you do with hardware that you bought…

  13. Luis4You on May 7, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Jim,
    You are not a Technician and you can not be an Analyst.
    Do you know what a CELL PROCESSOR is?
    You did not mention it once in your article.
    what a waste of my time.
    Go to sell Hot Dogs on the street.

  14. Rambo Tribble on May 7, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Do I care about the PS3? Not one whit. Do I care about a multinational company retroactively limiting the freedom of those using its products? Passionately. What if they were to limit their products to only work for registered Republicans?

  15. Wonderbird on May 7, 2010 at 9:46 am

    As others have tried to point out to you the cell processor is very powerful in terms of ability to perform multiple calculations. Only recently did 6-core AMD processors become available at the $300 price point. The cell cores on the PS3 make available a LOT of processing power to scientific types. To the average consumer this might not make much sense. However: I expect more from my computers than the average consumer… I also expect IT journalists to know a little more than the average consumer – Obviously I will have to look elsewhere if expect to read something from someone who has actually studied the topic they are writing about.

  16. Diego on May 7, 2010 at 9:32 am

    Ok, we get it…

    You couldn’t care less about the PS3 and whether it can run Linux or not, but there are a significant number or people like myself who do care… regardless if its for study, professional or hobby reasons; many do care and want their device to provide the features it supported out of the box.

    *And* we think its unfair to have it taken away for so called security concerns which actually mean “We don’t want system owners to tap on the full potential of our product”.

    Personally I’m holding on to firmware 3.15 and keep my ethernet cable unplugged to avoid any unpleasant surprises, happily playing games and running Yellow Dog Linux…

    and you know what? In the end it’s a matter of personal choice and this kind of bashing against a different way of thinking; which I should point out it does not affect you at all, doesn’t seem productive to me at all.

  17. steven on May 7, 2010 at 9:00 am

    For example I used to make some computations on the PS3 for my PhD thesis. My algorithms don’t require memory but they require a lot of processing power. And PS3 is perfect for this.
    If I was a game-addict (fortunately I am not) I would be very pissed off now…

  18. I R A Darth Aggie on May 7, 2010 at 8:52 am

    Nobody asked you to read it. He can write whatever he likes.

    True. But if he doesn’t want to get called out for what he writes, should either a) not publish, or b) actually show some curiousity and explore the subject matter in depth.

    Just because he doesn’t see any value of running Linux on a PS3 box doesn’t mean there isn’t any value to anyone. A good “analyst” should know that.

    Jim Lynch = mostly harmless, and maybe safely ignored.

  19. EntropikOne on May 7, 2010 at 8:34 am

    It would be nice if you could explain why the ps3 is a “limited machine”…why did you not mention that it made cracking SSL possible? Also, how could you claim to be a tech analyst when it’s quite obvious you do not research the topic on which you are writing? I’m not saying you can’t, just saying it might help in gaining more respect from people and gain an intelligent following :)

  20. jilocasin on May 7, 2010 at 8:18 am

    The issues isn’t whether or not Linux runs well on a PS3, nor how many or few people actually run Linux on their PS3 (they have found quite a niche in some super computer clusters). The problem is that once you buy a PS3 from Sony, it isn’t their PS3 anymore.

    Sony is perfectly within their rights to stop offering features on _new_ PS3′s. They had stopped offering PS2 compatibility, then with the release of the new PS3 slim, they stopped offering the Other OS option. Sure it sucked for some people, but other than a little grumbling, there wasn’t much of an issue. Before you buy it, it’s Sony’s and they can do what they want with it.

    The backlash and (rightfully so) lawsuits, results from Sony coming into your living room and removing features you already had. It would be like Tivo removing the ability to record shows to a hard drive from the Tivo in your house because they want to sell more DVD seasons. It would be like Subaru came into your driveway and removed all wheel drive from you car. After all only a small minority of Subaru drivers ever drive their cars off road.

    Just because Sony has the technology to remove features post sale, doesn’t make it legal or ethical.

  21. oly on May 7, 2010 at 7:33 am

    Depends what your using it for, i use it as a dlna media reciever because the ps3 format support is limited, and transcoding disables skipping into video amoungst other things. i still use the device for games and blue ray, but the main thing its used for is streaming video and audio to the tv and speakers in the lounge.

  22. Ulrik on May 7, 2010 at 6:49 am

    Linux on the PS3 is one nice option to have a HTPC, without adding remotes (or keyboard and mice) to the already crowded living-room-floor.

  23. Cricket on May 7, 2010 at 6:18 am

    @ Roadrunner:
    Nobody asked you to read it. He can write whatever he likes. :devil:

  24. Matt on May 7, 2010 at 6:14 am

    Just like the others here I bought a PS3 for Cell Processor development. I also happened to buy it for games as well. Personally I’m not too happy that I bought A & B, and am now left with A ^ B. In my own case I have queried about getting a refund from the place I bought the machine from. I suspect however that it will need to go to court before they will take me seriously.

    Regardless of how it turns out I won’t be buying Sony any more, I used to buy Sony when I could, TV, Monitors, DVD Drives, PS3, Music, Videos, Blank CDs, Blank DVDs etc etc. Not anymore, the rootkit fiasco was bad enough (although it didn’t affect me directly, I run Linux). But this is taking the biscuit.

  25. Roadrunner on May 7, 2010 at 5:51 am

    Could you guys please stop writing about topics you obviously have no clue of? It just makes you look silly.

    Just because the desktop experience of Linux on the PS3 is disappointing, doesn’t mean that Linux on the PS3 has no value at all.

    http://ps3.hs-heilbronn.de/home.php

    http://gizmodo.com/246664/breaking-ps3-triples-folding-at-homes-computing-power-to-over-500-tflopspflops-in-spitting-range

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100969805

  26. Charles on May 7, 2010 at 5:13 am

    I bought the PS3 _primarily_ to run linux on it, because it’s the cheapest way to get hardware with the Cell processor. Blu-ray and games are just extra goodies for me.

  27. Michael on May 7, 2010 at 2:56 am

    What qualifies you to tell others what they should or should not be doing? You don’t even own a ps3!

    There are many reasons to want to run linux on a ps3, and if you can’t see them you should probably open your eyes a bit wider rather than being an arsehole about it.

  28. Hexadecima on May 6, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    You’re a gigantic idiot. The PS3′s cell processors are much more powerful than most x86 systems and are used quite a bit in supercomputer clusters. Also it means you don’t have to buy a home computer, and that’s popular in Japan where space is limited. Did you do any research at all before writing this?



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