Why PS3 Lost that Linux Feeling?

datePosted on 02:50, August 27th, 2009 by David

Ever since the PS3 slim announcement last week.. I’ve been fascinated by Sony’s decision to remove 3rd party OS support from the system. On one hand it makes sense since it doesn’t promote game sales but then again why include it in the first place? I’m guessing is has to do with the Hypervisor, but what could it be? A little sleuthing around revealed the following nuggets (see bottom links for sources):

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I’m sorry that you are frustrated by the lack of comment specifically regarding the withdrawal of support for OtherOS on the new PS3 slim.

The reasons are simple: The PS3 Slim is a major cost reduction involving many changes to hardware components in the PS3 design. In order to offer the OtherOS install, SCE would need to continue to maintain the OtherOS hypervisor drivers for any significant hardware changes – this costs SCE. One of our key objectives with the new model is to pass on cost savings to the consumer with a lower retail price. Unfortunately in this case the cost of OtherOS install did not fit with the wider objective to offer a lower cost PS3.ps3-slim

This makes perfect sense for Sony. Most people are aware by now that linux support on the PS3 was not so much a way for end users to run alternative applications, but for programmers wanting to experiment with the radical design of the Cell Broadband Processor. Anyone following Sony’s history with Linux knows they have internal personalities fighting for control with their on-again, off-again support. Perhaps Sony can collaborate with open-source developers to do the work?

Many view this news as evidence that support for OtherOS on ‘phat’ PS3s will be dropped when a new software update is installed. However, another Sony representative had this to say to quell everyone’s concerns:

Please be assured that SCE is committed to continue
the support for previously sold models that have the
“Install Other OS” feature and that this feature will
not be disabled in future firmware releases.

-Geoff

So there you have it. 3rd party OS support will continue for ‘phat’ PS3s, but Slims are left in the hands of the hackers.

Some observed the amount of static RAM has steadily declined with each iteration of PS3 hardware; Beginning with 256MB for the original 60GB model and now only 64MB in the slim. Could this contribute to the limited OS support? I’ll wait for ArsTechnica.com’s excellent analysis since they always have the skinny on hardware.

I’m still holding high hopes that Backwards Compatibility will be announced for a future update on all PS3 Slim models. Keeping my fingers crossed since the PS3 is by far the best PS2 ever made. It’s one of the things the PS3 does best with its graphical smoothing, 1080 scaling and memory card management. In fact, the most excited I ever was owning a PS3 was when a rumor circulated that you could install PS2 games to the hard drive. What can I say, I love them classic PS2 games!

The good news for wannabe Cell Broadband Engine programmers; All the PS3s after the 60GB model but before the Slim ought to be had at bargain prices. The next few months is the opportune time to snag these up as development machines.

Sony Rep 1, Sony Rep 2

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Comments:

Grant Erismo on August 27th, 2009 at 11:30 am
Gravatar for 'Grant Erismo

Wow, what a difference 4 years makes. Shame that they couldn’t figure out how to keep the original design and lower costs to the $200 range.

PS3 is Linux ‘supercomputer’, 14 June, 2005

Sony Computer Entertainment boss Ken Kutaragi has claimed that the PlayStation 3 is being positioned as a supercomputer capable of running multiple operating systems, with the Linux system to be pre-installed on the machine’s hard drive.

Interviewed by Japanese website PC Impress Watch, Kutaragi lashed out at Nintendo and Microsoft for defining their systems purely as toys or game consoles, and said that PS3 will be sold as a “supercomputer”.

In order to accomplish that, the system will ship with the Linux operating system on its hard drive – although it’s not yet clear whether that drive will actually ship with the system as part of the default configuration, or as an optional extra.

Kutaragi claims that the PS3 will be capable of running multiple operating systems, and could in theory run Linux, Windows and Mac OS X together. He also mentioned Lindows, a variety of Linux designed to emulate the ease of use of Windows, and alluded to a “new OS” which could be the Linux-based system which Sony is rumoured to be working on with a number of other Japanese companies as a potential competitor to Windows, especially in the media space.

Jordan Lund on August 27th, 2009 at 11:31 am
Gravatar for 'Jordan Lund

The other main issue is that Linux on the PS3 never worked that well. I installed Gutsy Gibbon on mine and found it to be far slower than an equivalent PC and it was locked out of full access to the graphics card. So what’s the point then?

Mike on August 29th, 2009 at 5:23 am
Gravatar for 'Mike

qualm?

Mimor on August 29th, 2009 at 5:49 am
Gravatar for 'Mimor

It’s a nice deal for programmers indeed… but I don’t think that there will be a lot of people creating apps for this, as they cant be run on the newer machines.

WWWWolf on August 29th, 2009 at 8:05 am
Gravatar for 'WWWWolf

How about “We used to support installing Linux in order to have PS3s taxed as computer hardware instead of game consoles in certain jurisdictions. The the taxmen have stopped laughing now.”

David on August 29th, 2009 at 11:38 am
Gravatar for 'David

@Mike, Thanks for the correction… much appreciated.

David on August 29th, 2009 at 11:42 am
Gravatar for 'David

@WWWolf, Interesting. Seems like in 2005 Microsoft was making a big deal not to support keyboards and mice for the 360 to prevent them from being classified as a computers.

David on August 29th, 2009 at 11:47 am
Gravatar for 'David

@Jordan Lund, Mainly programmers wanting to experiment with the Cell for parallel programming. You use it in conjunction with a PC and have full access to the Cell itself. But like you said, Sony also restricts access to many other parts of the system so it’s not nearly as useful as it could have been. (or will be someday if ever cracked) Good for you for getting it installed in the first place. You’re 1/2 way there already!

fdsdsfsdf on August 30th, 2009 at 7:03 am
Gravatar for 'fdsdsfsdf

@Jordan Lund Linux on the PS3 isn’t for web browsing or playing silly games, its for serious research processing for scientists and stuff.

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