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Operating Systems PlayStation (Games) Software Upgrades Entertainment Games Hardware Linux

How to Turn a PlayStation 3 Into a Linux PC 276

MahariBalzitch writes "Popular Mechanics shows step by step guide on how to install Ubuntu Linux on a PlayStation 3 and still keep the PS3 gaming functionality. Now I just need to get my hands on a PS3." Not bad specs for the price, either, since Blu-Ray players still aren't cheap. And though the article calls the procedure "somewhat complicated," it's a lot simpler than was installing Linux from floppies not so many years ago.
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How to Turn a PlayStation 3 Into a Linux PC

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  • by iapetus ( 24050 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @12:00AM (#23678289) Homepage
    This is a documented feature of the system and has been since day one. I installed Linux shortly after the UK launch, and it really isn't anything to write home about - no support for hardware accelerated 3D, and a processor that really isn't designed for general-purpose computing. Novelty value for a couple of minutes, sure, then back to gaming on the PS3 and Linuxing on a real PC.
    • by Secret Rabbit ( 914973 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @12:13AM (#23678391) Journal
      You're right that this isn't news, but it actually does have a processor that is designed for general-purpose computing; it's called the PPU (64-bit PowerPC processor blah blah blah). There are 7 OTHER SPU's (6 available in Linux) that have been optimized for vector processing. *Those* aren't general-purpose. But, Linux doesn't even need to see those to work. It can just run on the PPU.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:38AM (#23678839)
      The news part of the article isn't so much that it's possible to install linux on a ps3, but that the how-to appeared in a relatively mainstream magazine. The sort of thing you might come across while waiting in a doctor's office. Never mind that a quick web search reveals the instructions - this is introducing the concepts to a wider audience who would otherwise never have even thought of the possibility, and might get some of them thinking.

      And that is the news part.
    • by arivanov ( 12034 )
      Screw the hardware accelerated 3D. What is more interesting - does it have support for hardware accelerated 2D and more specifically XVideo (MPEG accel will be a nice option). If not, I would keep my PC, thank you.
    • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @03:04AM (#23679165) Homepage Journal
      What's "news" is that this isn't the release version of Linux on PS3 that you installed back then, and that now it actually works.

      There is indeed now a X/MPlayer video driver [] that runs full 1080p HD right on the Cell CPU.

      And I don't know why you think the Cell CPU "really isn't designed for general purpose computing". That Cell includes a 3.2GHz multithreaded PowerPC that runs all PPC distro Linux SW right out of the distro, as apt-get'able binaries. And there are drivers and apps that use the Cell's 200GFLOPS of onboard DSPs for real computing, like that driver to which I just linked. The Cell is being used by IBM as the CPU in its highest end workstations and blade servers, as well as some of the fastest supercomputers on the drawing board - all running Linux compatible with the one on the Cell.

      Look, I understand that 2 years ago the PS3's initial Linux support was more of a novelty, when the PS3 itself had been rushed to market before even the HW was really ready. But the past 2 years has seen its Linux support pass the stage where it's just a "dancing poodle" to where it's more like a husky sleighdog or a border collie. And the reason is that interested people have helped upgrade its Linux support. Linux is open-source so that users can improve it. Which people have done. It still needs a lot of help, but mainly because its potential is so huge, with the onboard supercomputer and built-in WiFi/Bluetooth/Blu-Ray/HDMI/7.1-audio/Gb-ethernet, all for $500. And that chance for volunteers to continue to shape the platform is exciting news for a lot of people, many of whom are exactly the kinds of geeks who read Slashdot.

      And I hear it plays games, too.
      • by Ed Avis ( 5917 ) <> on Friday June 06, 2008 @06:17AM (#23679955) Homepage
        Bandying about GHz numbers and arguing about whether or not it's a real PowerPC processor doesn't get you anywhere. Let's see some results from the only benchmark that matters: the Linux kernel compile benchmark. (It can be accepted by all sides that the PS3 has some fairly monstrous floating point hardware, but sadly that doesn't speed up gcc.)
        • Actually (Score:4, Informative)

          by Smeagel ( 682550 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @08:01AM (#23680309)
          The SPU's can do integer math very fast, the problem is all software has to have SPU optimization (which is not trivial) written into it in order to utilize the SPU's. The odds of that happening to something like GCC is nonexistent...who cares enough to do that...nobody. But programs that are actually considered necessities to run fast (mplayer/mencoder, X11 driver) have already been ported and will run blazingly fast using the SPU's.
        • by Sleepy ( 4551 )
          Here's what's wrong with your (and all the other) comments that the "Cell is not a good processor for Linux/computing", etc:

          You are observing bad performance (correct) but drawing in-correct conclusions as to the source of the problem.

          ** I'll put it more simply than the other replies: GCC compilers for the Cell processor SUCKS. **
          That's all people need to know.

          Everyone's assuming that because Linux "works" on the Cell, it's on equal footing with other PowerPC. It's not the "same" PowerPC, and therefore ther
        • by bugg ( 65930 )
          That's the only benchmark that matters if all you're planning to do with the machine is compile the Linux kernel.
      • Just a correction :) The 40GB unit only lacks PS2 BC and 2 USB ports, other features are the same. And it consumes less watts.
  • But, but... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Facetious ( 710885 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @12:01AM (#23678297) Journal
    How do you get rootkits for it if it runs Ubuntu?
  • LOLWUT (Score:2, Funny)

    Select "Install Other OS" from the settings menu.

    Take pictures.

    Jesus Christ. What a dumb fucking article. It's sad to see that this is what has become of PopMech.
  • Icons? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This submission is obviously just an excuse to use a large amount of icons. Which ironically is longer than the TFS.
  • by cp.tar ( 871488 ) <> on Friday June 06, 2008 @12:08AM (#23678343) Journal

    And though the article calls the procedure "somewhat complicated," it's a lot simpler than was installing Linux from floppies not so many years ago.

    In some respects, it seems exactly like installing Linux from floppies.
    In the olden days, you swapped the boot and root floppies; here you swap the hard drives, which indeed is somewhat complicated, as in "I wouldn't trust my grandmother to do it right" (not grandfather, though!).

    As for the rest... OK, I am one of the few people in the universe who actually read documentation, but nevertheless... a page-long manual, illustrations included, makes the procedure somewhat complicated?
    Indeed, Linux has come a long way if not being able to simply pop a CD and install on anything, incuding a toaster, makes the install procedure "somewhat complicated".

    • In some respects, it seems exactly like installing Linux from floppies.
      In the olden days, you swapped the boot and root floppies; here you swap the hard drives, which indeed is somewhat complicated, as in "I wouldn't trust my grandmother to do it right" (not grandfather, though!).

      It's not required that you swap harddrives. If you choose to use the existing harddrive in your PS3, you just have to format it to repartition.
    • In the olden days, you swapped the boot and root floppies; here you swap the hard drives
      That's a recommended upgrade, and is completely independent of the install process. Actually I don't see their point: they upgrade their 40/60/80GB disk to a 250GB disk, and then allocate 10GB for Linux.

      The whole guide boils down to: boot from CD, install 'kboot', boot into PS3, tell the PS3 to allow other OSs, boot from CD, install. Profit.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by flayzernax ( 1060680 )
        Your missing the most important step!

      • by rob1980 ( 941751 )
        I think the 10GB is just for the OS, then the remaining 200-something gb of the drive is for saves, game installs, media, etc. May check into this myself next weekend after I pick up the MGS4 bundle.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 06, 2008 @12:09AM (#23678347)

    This is a good Ubuntu installation wiki for PS3.
  • Finally!!! (Score:2, Funny)

    by naz404 ( 1282810 )

    Now we can finally see the day when they'll have good games running in the Playstation 3!!! playing Playstation 1 games in it via a Linux Playstation Emulator!




    And then to see just how macho the Cell processor is, we can run Virtual Box in the PS3 then run Win Vista within Virtual Box within Ubuntu within the PS3!

    let's see how macho you are now, Cell processor!

    • Sony sell's PS1 games from their store. You can download them, play them on your PS3, and even stream them wirelessly to your PSP.
      • obligatory (Score:2, Funny)

        by naz404 ( 1282810 )

        >Sony sell's PS1 games from their store.
        >You can download them, play them on your PS3...

        What??? Do it the easy way by buying games from the PS1 download store to run them in your PS3 as opposed to running your old PS1 CDs through an emulator in Linux in the PS3? (and thus not buy something you already own twice)

        *cue nerd police*

        "We're very sorry to inform you sir, but your geek license just got revoked!"

        • I doubt the PS1 emulator in Linux would work very well on the PS3, because Linux runs through a hypervisor on the PS3. You don't have access to any 3D acceleration through the GPU, where all the power is.

          No 3D acceleration would likely kill PS1 emulation via Linux.

          And the PS store does give the added benefit of allowing you to take the games with you on your PSP as well.

          I bought Castlevania Symphony of Darkness through the store, because I never actually had the game on the PS1.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Doc Ruby ( 173196 )
            There is an X/MPlayer video driver [] that runs 2D on the Cell's SPUs, while the Cell's PPC core runs Linux and regular Linux apps. It needs some more work, and 3D functions are yet to be added to the Cell SW. But although the PS3 GPU is indeed a 1.8TFLOPS nVidia chip, I'd say that the 204GFLOPS Cell is "where all the power is" now, and several times as fast as your PC.

            BTW, the PS3 runs PS1 games under the Sony GameOS in SW emulation at full (or greater) speed, without using Linux.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Or you could just, u know, play the PS1 games on your PS3. Pretty sure all models support PS1 through software. Whereas you may or may not get PS2 support.
    • by Xtravar ( 725372 )
      The PS3 already plays PS1 games... natively, with no Linux.

      The problem is PS2 emulation! Completely possible in software, but Sony's not going to do it for their 40GB models, and they're not going to give us proper 3D chip access in Linux to run the unofficial emulators there.
  • PSUbuntu (Score:5, Informative)

    by pegasustonans ( 589396 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @12:15AM (#23678413)
    The PSUbuntu website is a good resource for anyone who wants to run Ubuntu on their PS3: []
  • Not Impressed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by INeededALogin ( 771371 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @12:20AM (#23678451) Journal
    Redhat on PS3 at release []

    Exactly what was accomplished here except writing an article about an obvious installation. Sony basically added support to the Linux kernel(their was a /. article on that too).

    It ain't News for Nerds unless code or a soldering gun was required.
  • by nobodyman ( 90587 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @12:22AM (#23678455) Homepage
    You only have 256mb RAM. The other 256 is video RAM, and Sony prohibits direct access to it. Unfortunately that means no hardware accelerated graphics either. Kindof a shame, but I imagine it's still neat to play around with, and I doubt you'll find a cheaper Cell dev platform.

    On the 360 side, hobbyist developers have a different set of trade-offs. You can write games C# using XNA Game Studio, 512mb shared memory, and even get hardware acceleration (some of the demos are quite impressive). On the flipside, there's a $100/year membership and fat chance of ever running linux (in any official capacity at least)

    • by frieko ( 855745 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @12:57AM (#23678665)
      Actually with a bit of coaxing [] you can get Linux onto the 360.

      It's kind of ironic (suspicious?) that you can pirate 360 games way easier then you can run homebrew/Linux on it.
      • That's because open source is a cancer, while unofficially-tolerated piracy helps drum up support and good PR for a software title.
    • The X/MPlayer video driver [] plays 1080p video through the HDMI port, accelerated on the Cell's SPUs.

      The limited RAM is still a problem. But not for playing video, which streams from either disk or the Gb-e LAN. And there are other hacks, including some HW hacks, if you need more RAM for more serious computing that isn't based on the stream model.
  • by manekineko2 ( 1052430 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @12:31AM (#23678521)
    One of my dreams as soon as the PS3 was released was to install Linux on it and turn it into a media center hub without any of the DRM restrictions of pre-packaged solutions.

    I currently use an Xbox 1 with Xbox Media Center installed, but it's starting to get long in the tooth since it doesn't support HD resolutions.

    Although the GPU is restricted from access when in Linux , the CPU on the PS3 is plenty strong still as I understand it. Is there a way to install Linux easily on a PS3 so that it can be an easy to use media center comparable to XBMC?

    I've seen reference to the fact that such a thing is possible, but is there an ISO I can just burn or install and have it work? If not, why not?
    • If not, why not?

      Because Sony sucks. They use a hypervisor to manage Linux running on the PS3 to lock it out from using any of the useful hardware on the box.

  • Great, maybe now I can play that new Penny Arcade game, since they didn't want to release it for PS3.
  • Capt. Obvious day (Score:3, Informative)

    by atari2600 ( 545988 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @01:38AM (#23678841)
    Must be another CO day here. While we are at it, let me add my totally obvious comments. Instead of spending atleast 400-450$ on a PS3, you can build yourself a proper PC with components from newegg and download Ubuntu and install it for a superior Linux experience. What's that you say? You want a Blu-ray drive? Here's one that's not so expensive. []

    You don't want a BDROM and you can't be bothered to put together a PC? Say hello to Zonbu and their line of line of cheaper []machines [].

    Zonbu not upto your taste? Perhaps Madtux [] might help.

    That was from 3mins of Googling - you get my drift. Linux on PS3 is almost as old as Linux on PS2 (one with HDD). Anyone remember Linux on xbox []?

    I am not sure who or what I should be insulting here - the selection of this story or Popular Mechanics. Oh and 129$ from newegg for a BDROM drive is cheap enough for me (HTPC and all) - Give it a couple of months and you will get sub 100$ BDROM drives and as any serious gamer knows, it's not the console price that will get ya - it's the games as they come out but I digress. Back to watching Monty Python on Hulu...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by xtracto ( 837672 ) *
      Instead of spending atleast 400-450$ on a PS3,

      You do not get the point... it is not that you are going to buy a ps3 to install linux. It is that you have a ps3 and want to install Linux just for the sake of it.
    • what about running a server on it, its great value for money, probably better than a homebuild, defiantly better than most stuff you can buy. just like the xbox was a good file server back when xbox-linux was about, because they make thier money on games they you give fairly good hardware for the price.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 06, 2008 @02:06AM (#23678925)
    If you follow the instructions at PM's website you should be aware that the command to return to the PS3's native OS is not as the article has it. The correct command is "boot-game-os". Several folks made comments to that effect but for some reason PM is acting as if the error is cast in concrete and can't be corrected.

    Secondly, the wireless adapter isn't supported yet so if you want Internet, you'll need to run a cable to your PS3 or plan on doing some compiling to get wireless support. For those of you who are old hands at Linux, this may be no big deal but for someone like myself who hasn't used Linux, it's an opportunity to learn a lot of new things. It reminds me a lot of decades ago when I first read K&R's C.
    • by Zelos ( 1050172 )
      Most figures I've seen put the current PS3 revision at around 150W in-game, that's comparable to a desktop PC.
  • (Score:4, Informative)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @02:55AM (#23679131) Homepage Journal
    There is an entire community dedicated to running Ubuntu on a PS3, at []. And you don't have to upgrade your HD from whatever size your PS3 came with, although of course it's easy and you can do it. The PS3 HW works right out of the box.

    Right now is a good time to join the community, because a new wave of developers on the ubuntu-cell [] maillist have just joined, and are uniting with the users at to test and smooth out the PS3/Ubuntu distro.

    And there is also a fairly new X/MPlayer driver [] that will render full 1080p HD video on the PS3's Cell CPU, that also needs just a little testing and integration.

    What I really want to see is a PS3 running Ubuntu using the PlayTV [] PVR device that Sony is releasing this year. With Ubuntu running it, the PS3 could be quite the killer platform for all home entertainment.

    And I hear it plays games, too.
  • Thats the key, Sony could have a really cool dev community one day if it opens 3d hardware.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sqldr ( 838964 )
      I've answered this before, but I'll do it again - I regularly have lunch with a tools programmer at Sony, and to dispel any rumours, Sony aren't against providing an opengl implementation to linux. I can't say too much, but there is work going on on this, but with no urgency and there are technical hurdles. Firstly, the PS3 doesn't come with opengl - the 3D api is called RSX. They won't be releasing this technology, and it wouldn't allow immediate compilation of 3D linux games anyway. An opengl implemen
  • by chriseh ( 220654 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @03:25AM (#23679249) Homepage
    I don't get it. Ubuntu officially dropped PPC support last year. []

    So, why would Popular Mechanics recommend Ubuntu when you could download Yellow Dog Linux [] (for free as well from public mirrors []), which is developed by the company hired by Sony to develop linux for the PS3. This sounds somewhat odd.

    Disclaimer: I work for Terra Soft Solutions [], so I've clearly got a bias here.
  • Does it ? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Kingston ( 1256054 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @05:12AM (#23679695)
    Yes but does it run Li... Oh yes I see right, ah

    Imagine a Beow.. Oh what, they have [] er

    First Post, yes, no, Ok I'm off then.

  • It is awesome that Sony has made the PS3 so upgradable. What sucks, though, is that you have less than 256 megs to play with, X is too slow to really be usable, and you don't get access to the RSX engine. All in all, though, it is pretty cool.
    Here is a guide to not only install linux, but actually start programming with the Cell:

... though his invention worked superbly -- his theory was a crock of sewage from beginning to end. -- Vernor Vinge, "The Peace War"