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PlayStation (Games) Supercomputing The Military Games Linux

US Air Force To Suffer From PS3 Update 349

Posted by Soulskill
from the sounds-like-an-act-of-terrorism-to-me dept.
tlhIngan writes "The US Air Force, having purchased PS3s for supercomputing research, is now the latest victim of Sony's removal of the Install Other OS feature. It turns out that while their PS3s don't need the firmware update, it will be impossible to replace PS3s that fail. PS3s with the Other OS feature are no longer produced since the Slim was introduced, so replacements will have to come from the existing stock of used PS3s. However, as most gamers have probably updated their PS3s, that used stock is no longer suitable for the USAF's research. In addition, smaller educational clusters using PS3s will share the same fate — unable to replace machines that die in their clusters." In related news, Sony has been hit with two more lawsuits over this issue.
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US Air Force To Suffer From PS3 Update

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2010 @06:49AM (#32191026)

    Bomb them to hell if they don't bring back this feature, vital for national security.

  • COTS = COST (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2010 @06:54AM (#32191048)

    There's been a big push in recent years to move to "COTS" (Commercial Off The Shelf) solutions in the government - the military in particular. And while this may be find for things like holsters, backpacks, and office chairs, I think this highlights for EVERYONE, not just bright young aquisitions officers, that sometimes taking COTS technology and using it for your highly specific and critical application is not the best choice. Unfortunately, sometimes (sometimes!) big, expensive, and proprietary in-house solutions really are the best.

    (heh. captcha is 'acquire')

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2010 @07:06AM (#32191112)
    It turns out that while their PS3s don't need the firmware update, it will be impossible to replace PS3s that fail.

    Unless they, y'know, get directly in touch with Sony and tell them what they're trying to do. I'm sure in a case like this that something can be worked out. Instead of actual reporting and checking up on the situation, we instead get people using words like "impossible". There are many things that happen every single day that fall into this same category of "impossible", and yet they happen...
  • Re:COTS = COST (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Brad Eleven (165911) <brad.eleven@gmail.com> on Thursday May 13, 2010 @07:07AM (#32191114) Homepage Journal
    Meh. Big, expensive, proprietary in-house solutions are rarely the best IMHO. The USAF could have made a deal with Sony.
  • Re:COTS = COST (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Thursday May 13, 2010 @07:11AM (#32191132)
    Or just bought a PS3 commercial developers kit and bypassed all of this.
  • Re:COTS = COST (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2010 @07:11AM (#32191140)

    There was no need to assume Sony would pull a stunt like this. After all, you can't buy a PS3 with otherOS support. Why? Selling at a loss? Hardly. Sont were more than happy to sell the PS3 as a blu-ray player and there are a hell of a lot more of them as players only than there are research clusters. Piracy? There is no piracy, Geohot got a memory dump, or so he claimed. He's failed to deliver an exploit, data, code, examples, he's only shown a very fake looking video. Sony dropped otherOS from the slim, so this has been on the cards for a while.

    There's a reason Sony is the #1 hated tech company. And that takes some doing considering Apple and MS.

  • Re:COTS = COST (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @07:16AM (#32191180) Journal

    Not really. It should highlight the fact that you should always require a second source for any off the shelf products that you're buying. If you go for a single-vendor solution, you are totally at the mercy of their whims, when it comes to pricing and availability. A big in-house proprietary system would have cost more, in this case, than simply buying twice as many PS/3s as they required. The Cell is now starting to look dated, and by the time they actually need to replace this system they could just throw it away and build a new one based on whatever the latest GPGPU design is at the time.

    Do you really think that replacement nodes in a big SGI machine cost less than a couple of PS/3s? Or that the price doesn't shoot up rapidly once SGI moves on to the next design? Or that there's a large second-hand market for them?

  • Re:COTS = COST (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @07:18AM (#32191194) Journal
    Proprietary in-house solutions aren't even always the more expensive choice. It's too bad these decisions are often made poorly.

    Outsourcing is good, focus on core business, buy-not-build, standardise, 80-20 solutions... all of these make sense, but I am dealing too often with the mess made by people turning these good pieces of advise into thoughtless mantras and moronic MBA one-liners, as a replacement for thoughtful and informed decision making. A lot of todays leadership doesn't want to make decisions; they look for rules to make their decisions for them.
  • Oops! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by number17 (952777) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @07:20AM (#32191210)
    According to those news article dates, they aren't even half way thought the hardware refresh schedule. Looks like this little oversight by project planners is going to cost them. If they don't get sued, the cheapest way coulde be the manpower to break the DMCA and hack the things. Not sure if Sony's license allows you to flash the firmware with an older version. Otherwise, ebay for old models or start looking for replacement hardware. Although, perhaps doing nothing and letting them die out, its a cluster remember, won't have much of an impact beyond RAM and HD problems.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @07:23AM (#32191232) Homepage

    I don't care about that and I doubt many others do either. What I do care about is that Sony is getting the recognition it deserves on this matter. You simply cannot do this to consumers and expect to get away with it. Sony is building a history of such behaviors including lobbying for law that excludes them from prosecution when accessing computers across the internet searching for infringing copyrighted content, the installation of their rootkits and this removal of features debacle. While people continue to chant "well, don't buy from Sony!" I have to say I am glad to see that more and more people are taking notice and are saying the same thing -- Don't buy from Sony!

    Law suits and criminal charges aren't enough to stop Sony. People have to stop buying from Sony to make Sony care. I'm just one guy... I won't buy another VAIO, another Walkman, another Clie', another camcorder, another TV, a PS(X), another DVD or CD with Sony/BMG on the label. Nothing. Not another penny. And the more attention this draws, during a time when people are still a bit more cautious and thoughtful where they spend their pennies than ever before, more people will be joining me in my boycott of anything Sony.

    And this message isn't just for Sony. It is a message for any other company out there who would try the same thing.

  • Re:COTS = COST (Score:5, Insightful)

    by teg (97890) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @07:25AM (#32191242) Homepage
    Systems like these have a very limited lifespan. The military saved a lot of money upfront. The consequence of this is that the number of active nodes in the cluster might go down slightly during the system's remaining lifespan (a couple of years, not more). Negative impact? Yes. But enough so that spending many times the amount on getting custom built hardware would be worth it? Very unlikely. And if you go a couple of levels up the hierarchy, risks like this - and cost savings - are averaged out over many acquisitions and projects. I think your conclusion is extremely unlikely.
  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @07:25AM (#32191246)

    In the 90's, when I needed any electronic stuff, I used to look at Sony first. I bought most of my stuff from them, never had any problems, and was always satisfied with the product. Call it the highest level of brand loyalty and customer satisfaction.

    Then I fell asleep. I woke up about ten years later.

    The Sony I knew then, was suddenly very, very different. Now, Sony will be the last on my list, when I need to make another electronic purchase. I really feel that Sony doesn't give a damn anymore about product quality and customer satisfaction.

    Sony rootkiting your PC? Maybe I am still asleep, and having a nightmare . . .

  • What Suffering? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mc moss (1163007) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @07:26AM (#32191248)

    "Sony's decision had no immediate impact on the cluster; for obvious reasons, the PS3s are not hooked into the PlayStation Network and don't need Sony's firmware updates. But what happens when a PS3 dies or needs repair? Tough luck."

    The PS3 stopped supporting linux installations when they introduced the PS3 slim and stopped making the original one. Why is this even news?

  • Re:COTS = COST (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sockatume (732728) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @07:27AM (#32191250)

    And a lesson for the consumer: no matter what you're told about super-computer nonsense, the product is just a games console, and will always just be a games console in Sony's eyes.

  • Re:Opportunity? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hedwards (940851) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @07:31AM (#32191270)
    O really? It's actually cost effective to do so when you're stuck with no replacement parts at all. And the Feds have a nifty thing they do where lawsuits just magically get dismissed for national security purposes. If they want to haxxor the thing so that they have guaranteed replacements, they can do it. And it will likely be the most cost effective and least damaging choice.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2010 @07:31AM (#32191272)

    Except that they make a loss on every console sold and these guys aren't making up for it by buying games.

  • by JamesP (688957) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @07:53AM (#32191426)

    How about this:

    Ban them forever from selling to the US Gov.

    You know, the whole "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me"

  • No, what it drives home is that, when you purchase a piece of hardware, it belongs to you, and no vendor should have the legal right to modify what you have purchased without your consent, nor to coerce consent for modifications that reduce or cripple the capabilities of something you have purchased.

    Sony aren't modifying the USAFs PS3's - they have removed the OS from new versions of the PS3, which means the USAF cannot buy replacements for dead units. Sony hasn't actually done anything 'evil' in this case, its a non-story.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2010 @08:15AM (#32191638)

    The XBox 360 has already been successfully used for scientific computing.

    According to the article, he's using the 360's GPU.

    Not that there's anything wrong with that, but the 360's GPU must be at least 2 or 3 generations out of date by now and more easily replaced by a generic PC, high-end Nvidia video card and a software package like CUDA. An easier programming environment too, I imagine.

  • Re:COTS = COST (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice.gmail@com> on Thursday May 13, 2010 @08:15AM (#32191646)
    You only need a small number of them, to compile and package for the other units.
  • by jonwil (467024) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @08:19AM (#32191680)

    They HAVE done something evil.

    They produced a product (the fat PS3) and included (and advertised) the OtherOS feature and its ability to run Linux.

    They then removed that function.

    If a car maker sold you a car with a satnav built into the in-car entertainment system and advertised that the car came with a satnav and then proceeded to remove the satnav function when you took it into the dealer for a service, you would have every right to be angry at the car maker for removing this feature.

  • In *this* case they have not done anything like you are suggesting - in *this* case the equivalent car analogy would be if you bought a car with satnav, drove it around for a while and then went back to the dealer and bought another car, but between the two purchases the dealer had removed the option from sale.

    The firmware update issue does not apply here - the USAF's issues are not related to a firmware update, they are related to Sony no longer selling new PS3's with the feature advertised on older models.

    So in *this* case they have not done anything 'evil'. Sony's promise of a feature to you with regard to your old purchase does not stand with regard to a new purchase. Now, I agree that they have completely fucked up with regard to teh firmware update killing already purchased features, but thats not at issue here.
  • by MemoryDragon (544441) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @08:39AM (#32191840)

    The product quality from Sony still is top notch, it is their dreaded, we know better than you attitude. Example, buy a Sony car radio, excellent built quality, top notch production, but then you pull the key, it makes three annoying beeps loud as hell, to remind you to take off the front plate.
    No there is no way to turn that off unless you build a bypass circuit to the speakers or let an amplifier do that.
    Number one complaint about Sony card radios for the last 10 years, Sony knows this, are they going to change anything? No!
    Same goes for Vayo notebooks, you have to get the drivers from sony, if the driver is faulty and the manufacturer has offered a different driver, which fixes it
    you are not allowed to use it (there are hacks though), and Sony often does not deliver the driver anymore because that line of notebooks is discontinued.

    It is their we know better than you attitude why I personally have Sony at the bottom of my hardware purchase list nowadays.
    Others have shoddier hardware but the support and attided is what influences me to 80% on my purchases. For the same reason HTC has become
    bottom provider, my next phone will be an official Google supported one, instead of going for the hardwarewise better HTC model.

  • by Jer (18391) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @08:54AM (#32191990) Homepage

    You think the backlash is going to cause Sony to not put the capability of using Linux on the next gen of Playstations?

    News flash - once Sony decided to remove the option from devices that already had it installed, they committed themselves to not having Linux boot as an option on any of their future PS models. There's no way in hell you can use that as a marketing point when everyone knows that Sony can revoke it any time they feel like it and there's not a damn thing you as a customer can do about it.

    If they'd just said "not supported on the new slim models" then the OtherOS option might have still shown up on the PS4. But by actively screwing with the models people had already purchased and removing the functionality, they pretty much ended any ability they have to market a PS* model as "capable of running Linux". Which means the whole point of offering it is killed dead - if you can't use it as a selling point for the device, what purpose does it have?

  • Re:COTS = COST (Score:2, Insightful)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @09:13AM (#32192168) Journal

    I don't agree. On my project it was a lot cheaper to use the existing Windows NT 4 OS than to develop our own from scratch. It was also cheaper to buy mass-produced parts for a few pennies, rather than build our own for around $1000 each. It also saved space - instead of a giant box we used the latest tech to shrink the unit down to a small cube.

  • Re:COTS = COST (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bemenaker (852000) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @09:31AM (#32192354)
    For some reason, I don't think it SONY would have a problem of selling directly to USAF slim's with an older ROM on them specifically for this purpose.
  • As such, they're not so concerned over not being able to buy new parts (many places cannot buy new parts for their existing systems), but maintaining existing ones.

    Actually, you're right and wrong. Prior to this problem there was a ready supply of spare parts: Used fat PS3s. Now Sony has changed the functionality of those systems; the majority will have been updated. Now the used consoles are not workable spare parts. To return to the car analogy, it's like you bought a car which was advertised as being the best off-road vehicle on the market, if you just upgraded to monster truck wheels and tires. The dealer then finds out that people are using 4x4 vehicles to get to a magical land where vehicle accessories are cheaper than those sold by the dealer; in fact, they have accessories that make the vehicle useful for more purposes, so that the users are less compelled to buy another vehicle. So the dealer institutes a policy that whenever a vehicle is brought in to the dealer, they remove the front axle and the transfer case, and it becomes a 2WD vehicle; the user is simply lied to, and told that this change is necessary to make the vehicle safe, or perhaps to improve road safety. Now you're stuck with these gigantic wheels on a 2WD vehicle, and you look like an idiot driving down the road with 'em. They can be removed, but it's going to take additional labor, and you're going to have to put the original wheels back on. Unfortunately, in this car, you have to rebuild the entire car and replace all the fluids when you replace the wheels so now you have to do the oil, coolant, trans fluid...

    The analogy is clear: At least some people purchased the PS3 specifically because of the promise of being able to run Linux. Sony claims that Linux enables game piracy, but this is false; it enables movie piracy. So for an unrelated reason, Sony is disabling this functionality; all the while lying to the users. Users with a Linux partition still have the partition but cannot boot it. In order to reclaim the space (which is now simply an impediment) users must format the entire disk and redownload content, reinstall games, et cetera. And finally, if you are complaining about it, people will think you're an idiot, because you should have known better.

    Sony is evil, and must be destroyed. Stop buying their shit! And especially, stop making excuses for them. They don't deserve it.

  • by The Hatchet (1766306) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @10:02AM (#32192732)

    To sell a product with a promise of certain features, and then to act as if it is your own and disable everything you don't want the real owner to have. Disabling the otherOS feature was totally unnecessary. It was just some kind of cruel bullshit, limiting your freedoms on a device that belongs to you. That is the modern way.

    Buy a kindle? Have YOUR PAID FOR books removed at amazons will.

    Buy a PS3 for clustering? Have your PAID FOR CLUSTER disabled, unrepairable, and suddenly worth its weight in crap as soon as the machines start to die off.

    Buy an apple product? well, might as well put your head in a plaster garbage bag and die, they own everything that touches the screen of that device, hell, likely they even own the device, just 'licence' it out to you in some peculiar way.

    If sony's terms of service said something about taking away features at their own will, it is not a valid part of the contract. Here in america, we have laws that prevent mega-corporations from making insanely complicated contracts and inserting clauses about how they own your soul and can harvest your body parts whenever they please. This modern pattern of bullshit is why I avoid buying anything that follows that pattern. Unfortunately every day there are fewer options. And soon enough they will all be gone.

  • by tekrat (242117) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @10:13AM (#32192878) Homepage Journal

    "Here in america, we have laws that prevent mega-corporations from making insanely complicated contracts and inserting clauses about how they own your soul and can harvest your body parts whenever they please. This modern pattern of bullshit is why I avoid buying anything that follows that pattern."
    --- === ---

    So,... you have no credit cards, don't own a house or a car either, as far as I can tell, because all these things have insanely complicated contracts that the banks can change willy-nilly if they please.

      I'd also have to say that you don't own a cell-phone either, as most phone contracts are bigger than the phone book. And I'll bet you don't have cable-TV either. Or Health Insurance.

    In fact, here in America, almost everything comes with an insanely complicated contract that grants all kinds of rights to the giant-mega-corp, and almost nothing to you. And you're paying them for that priviledge. Ain't capitalism grand?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2010 @11:21AM (#32193796)

    "Buy a PS3 for clustering? Have your PAID FOR CLUSTER disabled, unrepairable, and suddenly worth its weight in crap as soon as the machines start to die off"
    Well, if the machines you paid for die off, it doesn't matter much if Sony disabled the feature, or just stopped selling them altogether. The machines they have, if left unupdated, work 100%. This is only an issue when they buy another, which is like any new purchase; its as the maker sells it at that time. If you are relying on buying more of the EXACT SAME item to "repair" your cluster, then you should have bought more in the first place.

    If your "repair" for your car dying is to buy another car, are you going to expect the auto maker to sell a model with the exact same features forever?
    I know it stinks, but any item that has manufacturer "updates" stands the risk of losing features, if the maker deems it as unworthy of supporting those features.

  • by dissy (172727) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @11:23AM (#32193834)

    So,... you have no credit cards, don't own a house or a car either, as far as I can tell, because all these things have insanely complicated contracts that the banks can change willy-nilly if they please.

        I'd also have to say that you don't own a cell-phone either, as most phone contracts are bigger than the phone book. And I'll bet you don't have cable-TV either. Or Health Insurance.

    In fact, here in America, almost everything comes with an insanely complicated contract that grants all kinds of rights to the giant-mega-corp, and almost nothing to you. And you're paying them for that priviledge. Ain't capitalism grand?

    To be fair it isn't ALL that bad. I'm not the GP, but I live a similar life style (or try to)

    Credit cards: nope (Debit though, through a checking account used just for that purpose)
    Own a house: nope, though that one is a downside IMHO. I rent a house now.
    Own a car: Yes, I've owned all my cars. Never had a bank loan to do so however thankfully.
    Cell Phone: Only lately did I go with an at&t contract (I was prepaid prior to that, which has a 30 day contract, so any evil changes can not possibly last past 30 days) so I fail at this one.
    Cable TV: Actually at least in my city, those are month to month contracts too.
    Now I should admit I only have 'basic cable' enough to have cable modem data services, which is all I actually use. So there may very well be TV programming related changes being made that I would not like... But not watching TV that way, I guess we should just say I'm a bad example for this one personally.

    So really the only two I see as a downside I have are the expense of a place to live ($rent > $own), and my new smart phone being on a 2 year contract (Thankfully it is up in June!), I've managed to live quite easily and well, usually without even trying too hard, avoiding unfair contracts.

    Of course I won't claim to be the average person, so your argument still stands when qualified as 'most people in America'. My only point being, even in America, the "U$ofA", it's still not that hard to avoid if you care about that, and other than having gotten used to spending cash (or rather preparing ahead of time by bringing the needed cash with me, and thus setting a limit to my spending - again Personally i think this is a better way) nothing else needed adjustment

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @11:47AM (#32194228) Journal

    This is why I have no qualms about stealing from corporations..... they have no qualms about stealing from us. They do it daily - it's part of their business plan. They even lobby Congress for the right to steal from the People's Treasury.

  • that is, I fail to comprehend. Sony could turn around and sell unlocked machines as "specialized platforms" for many times the price, while imposing restrictive usage conditions, and *still* have it be a bargain. Considering how much the PS3 sales cost them, you'd think they would jump on the opportunity.

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