It no longer does everything: no more Linux on PlayStation 3

Sony PlayStation 3 logoThe PlayStation 3 Sony launched has very little in common with the system you can buy now. The PS3 launched when rumble was a last-generation feature, backwards compatibility was a core part of the hardware strategy, and the ability to install Linux on the hardware was attractive for those who liked to tinker with their hardware. So what happened?

Well, rumble was added back as Sony admitted there was more of a legal problem than a technological issue, backwards compatibility became something that no one cared about around the same time the company needed to cut costs, and now Linux support is being stripped from existing hardware. This is the new age of gaming hardware: what the manufacturer giveth, the manufacturer taketh away.

The Sony spin

This is how the newest firmware update is described on the official PlayStation blog: "The next system software update for the PlayStation 3 (PS3) system will be released on April 1, 2010 (JST), 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," a Sony rep wrote. "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.

"In addition, disabling the 'Other OS' feature will help ensure that PS3 owners will continue to have access to the broad range of gaming and entertainment content from SCE and its content partners on a more secure system."

It's pointed out that this update is strictly voluntary, although if you don't download the new firmware you won't be able to connect to the PlayStation Network, play any games online, play any games or Blu-ray movies that "require" the new firmware, play any files kept on a media server, or download any future updates. To put it simply, if you don't grab the update, the system will become useless to you as a gaming or media machine.

Is this slope... slippery?

The ability to run Linux was never available on the second-generation PS3 Slim hardware, but the problem is that now the option won't be available in hardware that could previously install Linux. There is no reason for this, other than Sony decided it was no longer safe. While it's hard to argue that running Linux was a major selling point of the system, we've heard from many people who enjoyed the feature. Now, to continue using their system as a gaming machine, they need to give up a feature that was advertised as part of the hardware they bought.

That's a somewhat scary precedent, and it underscores the fact that this generation of gaming consoles are as much about the firmware as the hardware. Our advice moving forward? Be aware that Sony has changed its mind on major features in the past, take the company's sweeping statements with a grain of salt, and don't buy any hardware for a single feature. It's very possible someone will decide you really don't need one of the system's advertised advantages, and take it away.

Source: ars technica

Tags: Linux, PlayStation 3, Sony

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