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Operating Systems PlayStation (Games) Sony Games Linux

"Install Other OS" Feature Removed From the PS3 739

Posted by timothy
from the security-huh dept.
Hann1bal writes "The next system software update for the PlayStation 3 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. 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." Updated 3:49 GMT by timothy: An anonymous reader writes "This comes as something of a surprise. Particularly because only a month ago Sony Computer Entertainment management seemed committed to the continued support of the Other OS option on the PS3."
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"Install Other OS" Feature Removed From the PS3

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  • by malloc (30902) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @11:48PM (#31653030)

    GeoHot's hack [blogspot.com] was obviously way easier to do because he had a powerful userspace to work from.

    Perhaps this is what's spooking Sony.

  • by Kagato (116051) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @11:55PM (#31653076)

    People finally got into the Hypervisor on the PS3. That's pretty much the key to everything from legitimate homebrew to illegitimate pirating. I don't see a way for Sony to secure things in Linux. The Genie is out of the bottle. So this is the option they have taken. It's sad to see even though I never used Linux on it, or know anyone who did. It was nice to know the option was there.

  • EFF Help? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by flerchin (179012) on Monday March 29, 2010 @12:11AM (#31653198)

    I can't think of a better case for a class action lawsuit. They are extorting us out of features that we paid for. I bought this version of PS3 for several reasons, installing an alternative OS was high among them.

  • by Kitkoan (1719118) on Monday March 29, 2010 @12:23AM (#31653258)

    It's not totally implausible that the feature allows some sort of exploit, but I can't seem to find anything about one actually existing, or it having come up in the past as a security concern. Is that just a cover to remove it, or are there actually security concerns?

    I think it's a huge security concern that Sony is trying to plug up without anyone noticing. Linux has access to all the hardware of the PS3 when it's the OS being ran (implementation isn't perfect yet though). Including it's blue ray disc reader that a lot of people don't normally have access to. This is how the Dreamcast was hacked even though it ran special 1 gig discs. People figured out how to hook the Dreamcast to a computer and make the Dreamcast become an external drive to read the discs and send them to the computer allowing everyone to pirate the games. Now we have the first signs of the PS3 being hacked, removing the Other OS feature removes one problem of Linux no longer being able to be used to install/flash the BIOS for the future cracked firmware (a la PSP style hacks), but it also removes the option of having the PS3 being turned into an external drive to read possible 'hidden' disc data that would only be read with PS3 firmware code.

  • by ArundelCastle (1581543) on Monday March 29, 2010 @12:36AM (#31653314)

    Agreed. Unfortunately it sounds like Geoffrey Levand -- "PS3-Linux maintainer" cited in updated TFA link -- is soon to be reallocated. (pun not inten.. well maybe a little)
    If true, obviously a decision was made within the last 4 weeks to close this particular back door. There are cases in the past where the Sony rep for one region (EU oftentimes) contradicts official word from another. I suspect this is just a more recent decision.

    Will see how things shake down this week. I honestly believe it's too early for April Fools, and the 1st is just the last day of the work week, because of Good Friday. They won't do a firmware patch on an overtime day. Very unfortunate timing, but the comment threads and wild speculation are more interesting than just blind rage.

    I think that if you call Customer Support, they will be happy to tell you that you can purchase a new, cheaper(!) PS3 Slim, and leave your older model's firmware unpatched. And I suspect that's how they will get around any threat of lawsuits. It is not a forced change, just like you are not forced to be searched in an airport if you choose not to board a plane. As a long time PSP owner, I have been denying firmware updates for years, and I did indeed buy another recently to make use of PSN. Having both options is more "valuable" to me than choosing one or the other.

  • HPC Community (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PAPPP (546666) on Monday March 29, 2010 @12:51AM (#31653392) Homepage
    I wonder how the HPC community is going to respond; there is a not insubstantial community [umassd.edu] who heard "150Gflop/$400" and "Linux" and decided to build clusters from PS3s. Those machines can probably just have updates held back, but it makes replacement a problem. To forestall the inevitable "that isn't a serious use" argument, US Airforce owns Something like 2,500 [computerworld.com] PS3s for compute work.
    Killing Linux on the PS3 also presents something of an issue for the other Cell "partners", who seem to be looking at the PS3 as a low-cost Cell development starter kit. The other Cell machines on the market are *much* more expensive (an IBM QS22 blade is $8-20k, depending on configuration, and Mercury Computer Systems doesn't even like talking about how much their Cell boards cost). Given that Cell is an enormously difficult architecture to target, having relatively inexpensive systems to test and train on is very desirable for the other vendors, especially now that so many of the HPC folks are fixated on GPGPU, which is also terrible to program for, but has a far lower cost of entry. It could be that IBM's decision not to pursue Cell in the HPC market [theinquirer.net] is how it became politically tenable for Sony to kill off Linux on the PS3.
  • Re:Sorry kids (Score:2, Interesting)

    by morari (1080535) on Monday March 29, 2010 @01:08AM (#31653488) Journal

    Because of you there won't be GTA5 on the PC, much like the latest game from Rockstar, Red Dead Revolver, is only for PS3 and 360.

    What, no GTA5 for the PC? Thank you! After the train wreck that was GTA4, I don't care to install any Rockstar games again.

  • by andydread (758754) on Monday March 29, 2010 @01:19AM (#31653552)

    As someone who used to buy exclusively Sony products this is just one more reason for me not to buy their products anymore. Lets recap shall we.

    They buy draconian laws from clueless congress critters? .. Check.
    They want to ban consumers from possessing devices with a record button? .. Check.
    They want to proprietize the marketplace with proprietary DRM infected media formats? .. Check
    They lobby lobby lobby for broadcast flags? .. Check.
    They lobby to close the analog loophole.
    They lie to politicians (about piracy killing profits) for more draconian laws while turning record profits ? .. Check.
    They want to disable you ability to record CDs on you computer with rootkits while lobbying for a piracy tax on blank media?
    They sue their customers ? .. yep
    They are pro DRM, ACTA, DMCA,
    Slapped red handed giving payola to radio station DJs to skew the song charts."
    Anti fair-use? .. yep
    And they support the view and by proxy have told Congress that countries that support open source software as part of a gov. procurement policy should be on a watch list.

    Hmmm did i miss anything? When I take all these things into account a disturbing pattern emerges hence, when it comes to their products I'll take a pass.

  • Re:Greedy idiot kids (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Monday March 29, 2010 @01:36AM (#31653642) Homepage Journal

    Dear Anonymous Hacker with absolutely no clue about how the law works,

    I paid for OtherOS - Sony will allow me to keep it and access their online network or I will destroy them in a lawsuit, plus press for criminal charges.

    Successful EA Litigant - Versus Spore DRM.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2010 @01:43AM (#31653684)

    No one spotted the April the 1st reference?

  • Re:Sorry kids (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dgatwood (11270) on Monday March 29, 2010 @02:02AM (#31653776) Journal

    The funny thing about this is I actually saw a pile of PS3 boxes in Fry's yesterday and seriously considered buying one on impulse to run Linux as a MythTV front end, but my bad experiences with past Sony products held me back. Now I'm really glad I didn't pick one up. I would have returned it first thing tomorrow.

    Actually, what am I saying? I kind of wish I had bought one the other day so that I could have returned it tomorrow... stick it to the Man and all that.

  • by cgenman (325138) on Monday March 29, 2010 @03:11AM (#31654134) Homepage

    Yesterday it wasn't a fringe platform? x86 hardware has basically caught up with the Cell in power, whose major innovation was an architecture that reduced loss due to chip imperfections.

    It's not a bad chipset, and it poses interesting questions. But the only non-fringe main chipsets right now are x86, ARM, those people still using 68000's, and MIPS. OK, there are a few others mixed in there for embedded applications. But the Cell definitely has very little going for it compared to other platforms.

  • by blackC0pter (1013737) on Monday March 29, 2010 @03:48AM (#31654270)
    Some people claim that Sony supported 3rd party operating systems in order to prevent the homebrew community from hacking the PS3. A lot of effort went into hacking the original Xbox in order to run homebrew on the device (the key part done by Bunny). Once this was opened up, it was only a matter of time before people could easily pirate games for the console and circumvent all copyright protections. Therefore, if Sony had not allowed a 3rd party OS to run from the beginning, then more people would see a need to hack the console and it would have been done.

    To address the issue about properly hacking the PS3, the PS3 allowed 3rd party operating systems to run however it didn't allow full access to the graphics chip. So you could run linux but getting 3D hardware accelerated graphics was not possible. So if you are no longer able to purchase a PS3 that supports linux, it is possible that someone in the community shifts their efforts to opening up the console to run homebrew or linux which would then allow full access to the graphics hardware and thus properly hacking the system. Unless I am misinterpreting your definition of proper but either way it would be properly f***ed.

    People want to use their devices for whatever they desire rather than being locked into what the manufacturer deems acceptable. So by not allowing owners to run their own software / OS, people will now put more effort into hacking the system so they can (or so goes the theory).
  • Re:HPC Community (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Photo_Nut (676334) on Monday March 29, 2010 @03:58AM (#31654314)

    I went to the National HPC conference about 2 weeks ago. Read this abstract of this talk [hpcc-usa.org]. The director of the research lab in Rome, NY with all the PS3's stated that the new slim PS3 won't support Linux and answered your question - selling Linux boxes lowers the attach rate, so they are looking at other options.

    I was representing one of the vendors at the show, and he stopped by our booth and asked a bunch of questions about the hardware we had on display. The AF doesn't mess around. If game hardware has cutting edge performance, they use it. :^)

    GPUs are some of the most interesting devices to code for - most people write programs for one core, where a thread is a big heavy weight thing. In GPUs, threads are your basic unit of computation, and the world is upside down. Want to make a loop 100X faster - in some cases you can do it by creating more threads and synchronizing them with a barrier to keep threads going. Don't hold onto calculations for long - recomputing them can be order of 50X faster vs making a lookup to global memory and recomputing frees up the registers so you have less register pressure/can get more threads executing simultaneously. Between the ATI Cypress (1600 cores) and the new GF100 based chips (448-512 cores), writing code that runs on these devices makes C++ seem like child's play.

    And the development environments are all V1.

  • Re:Greedy idiot kids (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Xest (935314) on Monday March 29, 2010 @06:04AM (#31654826)

    Let's face it, the only real reason Sony gave the feature in the first place was because they wanted to bolster their case for passing the PS3 off as computer rather than an entertainment device for import tax purposes.

    Other OS was just a tax dodge, one that failed in court, and when it did Sony decided to stop supporting it, that's really what it comes down to at the end of the day.

    I've no doubt that you're right, GeoHot's actions are a major reason Sony have now decided to remove this feature retroactively too because keeping the feature meant they now had to use resources to ensure the feature was secure. The real blame, the majority of the blame must really go on Sony for telling their users this feature exist for the user's benefit, rather than the reality which is that it existed for Sony's benefit as an attempted tax dodge.

    Sony is the real enemy for implementing a feature for the wrong reasons, and then deciding to give up supporting it when those reasons bore no fruit for them. Blame them for only ever implementing the feature for their benefit, and not the users benefit, but half-arsed pretending it was for the users benefit giving users a very misleading impression of the likelihood of continued support for the feature.

  • Re:Sorry kids (Score:3, Interesting)

    by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Monday March 29, 2010 @08:16AM (#31655458)
    You don't get to return stuff because you don't like it. That's a courtesy offered by retailers, not a right. The do it because they want you to come back.
  • Re:Greedy idiot kids (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MemoryDragon (544441) on Monday March 29, 2010 @08:33AM (#31655604)

    All I can say is this is a perfect case for a class action lawsuit. And I hope Sony will start to feel it financially big time.
    I wont even mind in this case that some lawyers might get rich from it.

  • by mliu (85608) on Monday March 29, 2010 @11:47AM (#31658088) Homepage

    I see this sentiment a lot whenever class action lawsuits are discussed, but as a lawyer that has absolutely nothing to do with class action lawsuits, I would like to point out that one of the biggest purposes of class action lawsuits that people normally overlook when complaining about them is the deterrence effect.

    Class action lawsuits are basically one of the most, if not the most, expensive form of litigation a company can endure. Even though due to the number of plaintiffs, in the end each person might only get a $10 gift card, the combined cost to the company of that are staggering.

    In this case, it would be taking Sony to task, and hopefully Sony would see the error of its ways and back down. Even if that is not the eventual outcome, it sends a message to all the other bad guys out there, if you engage in this type of shenanigans, you should think twice because it will cost you dearly.

    In a way, the lawyers who bring the suit are acting as private attorney generals, punishing wrong doing that may not rise to the criminal level, but affecting large swaths of the populace in a tortious fashion nonetheless. While no doubt the lawyers involve need to be incentivized to engage in this activity somehow, whether they should be rewarded as richly as they are for it currently is another issue entirely...

  • Re:Sorry kids (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zerth (26112) on Monday March 29, 2010 @09:11PM (#31665072)

    I wondered if anyone would get that. A winner is you!

    I'm apparently excellent at buying games that have a good concept but suck in implementation. And yet the reviews beforehand were all so positive, barring Yahtzee, but he reviewed well afterwards since nobody in their right mind would give him a prerelease copy.

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