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Sony Games Linux

Game Over For Sony and Open Source? 364

Glyn Moody writes "Sony has never been much of a friend to hackers, and its infamous rootkit showed what it thought of users. But by omitting the option to install GNU/Linux on its new PS3, it has removed the final reason for the open source world to care about Sony. Unless, of course, you find Google's new distribution alliance with Sony to pre-install Chrome on its PCs exciting in some way."
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Game Over For Sony and Open Source?

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @01:39PM (#29288231) Journal

    ... it has removed the final reason for the open source world to care about Sony.

    I thought ImageWorks (of Sony Pictures) had recently opensourced OSL, Scala Migrations, Field3D, PyString and Maya Reticle [] or at least made them community endeavors. I can't seem to find the source code for browsing on OSL and some of the other projects are pretty tiny but if that's true it's a good sign on ImageWorks' part.

    I'm certain they by and large use GPL LGPL in their products like their TVs [] and SOE using PostgreSQL over Oracle [].

    Writing off the PS3? Probably. They probably realized Linux support buys them little over the Wii and XBox360 despite what I and everyone else thinks. But the rest of Sony might have hope.

  • I call BS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by overlordofmu ( 1422163 ) <> on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @01:49PM (#29288393)
    I love my PS3.

    I love Linux.

    Sony is the only console maker that DID support Linux.

    They dropped the support because it was an rarely utilized feature and it was cheaper not to support it on the new model.

    I run Linux on all my PCs (2 laptops and 4 desktops) but never installed it on my PS3 (despite having partitioned my upgraded hard drive with room for it). I never felt the need to do so. I run a media server on two of the Linux boxes and I don't need the PS3 to be a 7th general purpose computer when that is not it's intended function as one and not designed for that purpose.

    This fanboy of Linux (and fanboy of Sony as well) doesn't care about the dropped support. I thank Sony for all the support up to this point and wish this platform continued success.
  • by mo ( 2873 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @01:50PM (#29288417)
    I used to work for Sony developing PS2 games. The number of people I met that cut their teeth writing code on the linux kit before getting into the business was exactly 0. I might have been the only person I knew who even had a modchipped PS2, everybody else just didn't care since they had the PS2Tool on their desk to do development. Sony is probably discontinuing offering Linux because it didn't spark the development push that they had hoped for. Still, I would think this would limit the number of supercomputer clusters that use PS3's. You'd think the marketing benefits of being a platform in the top 100 supercomputers would be valuable, but perhaps Sony is still willing to work with academic institutions to make this possible still.
  • by planetoid ( 719535 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @02:31PM (#29289029)
    Didn't Yellow Dog Linux and its utilities limit the hardware the user could and couldn't access if he wanted to develop? I think that said something about Sony's commitment to basic user freedoms long before this happened.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @02:50PM (#29289301)

    You're telling world-leading cryptanalysts who bought hundreds of PS3s to use in scientific computation (including, I note, hash-smashing and other related crypto-cracking) that they can't get the new, cheaper-to-buy, cheaper-to-run, cooler PS3 Slims for their cluster. You're telling them, moreover, they can't do what they like with hardware they bought.

    People who now have a very strong financial interest in getting Linux - or, indeed, anything else - to run on the new models, no matter what. People who are unparalleled experts at hardware and software security. People with hardware reverse-engineering labs with tunneling electron microscopes. People with their own in-house chip fabs. People who can give full sets of notes and FPGA data to other people, not all of which live in countries covered by the EUCD/DMCA.

    People who now finally have an incentive to sponsor the world's first PS3 mod-chip, and provide complete schematics, hardware, testing, readouts, and funding.

    Thanks, Sony!

  • by Dragoness Eclectic ( 244826 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @02:51PM (#29289331)

    My microwave oven doesn't run Linux, either, but it somehow manages to still be useful to me.

    *whistles innocently*

    Don't be too sure about that. I've worked on embedded systems on consumer devices, and you'd be amazed at what runs Linux these days. Hardware manufacturers really like NOT paying license fees & royalties for their embedded firmware.

  • Re:Who Cares (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Toonol ( 1057698 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @02:56PM (#29289421)
    But it's DRM that has been completely inoffensive and pain-free. That's the difference. I don't have a problem with copy protection. I wouldn't mind nailed down DRM on my pc, if it simply stopped games from being copied. The problem with DRM on the pc is that it goes further than that... it tracks you, it breaks things, it modifies your setup, it takes away legitimate functionality, it hinders free development... It ends up being the Sony rootkit, which should have put some Sony execs in jail.

    If DRM meant that I always had to put the Starcraft 2 dvd in my computer when I wanted to play it, and NO OTHER RESTRICTION, I might actually buy the game. Instead, DRM seems to mean 'contact Blizzard every game for permission to play. Here's my IP, battlenet ID, etc., etc...'.

    Sigh. I'm sure console games will eventually go that route, though.
  • Re:Who Cares (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Khyber ( 864651 ) <> on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @03:08PM (#29289639) Homepage Journal

    The Slim PS3 might be more hackable without the hypervisor being around. Odds are greater that one could better unlock the power of the PS3 since there's no hypervisor restricting access to the hardware directly.

  • Re:Who Cares (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jpmorgan ( 517966 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @03:17PM (#29289783) Homepage
    Nobody uses the PS3 for supercomputing these days. The ugly secret of the PS3 is that its 'extreme performance' was mostly marketing. While it was fairly fast at release, it is ridiculously complex to code for. You're talking about a machine with 9 distinct memory spaces, 4 instruction sets and 3 compilers. And while Sony may market it as having '2 teraflops' of performance, it only has about 450gflops of total programmable computation power. The vaunted Cell processor only clocks in at around 250GFlops, which you get pretty easily with Core i7 (Nehalem)... and it's a LOT easier to get peak performance out of the Core i7. Let me repeat that for emphasis it is mindbogglingly simpler to get peak performance out of the Core i7. And if you're willing to spend more a little time and money to code to a specialized platform, GPU computing with CUDA (and OpenCL once it matures) spanks the Cell. You can buy multi-GPU machines from NVidia that are pushing 4 teraflops programmable.

    Ultimately though, the biggest killer of the PS3 in supercomputing is all that power is single precision, and single precision only. You can get away with single precision SOMETIMES in scientific computing, but more often than not it's a deal breaker. Even when you can use single precision, it's often in a mixed precision context. The PS3 has no double precision support, and that kills it.

    The PS3 is awesome on paper, but in reality it's just awful.
  • Re:Who Cares (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nog_lorp ( 896553 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @03:38PM (#29290061)

    So, you've never had a scratched disk and been forced to shell out another $60 bucks to get a game you already own?

    I also find it offensive and painful when I can't run my own code on my computer.

  • Re:Who Cares (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RiotingPacifist ( 1228016 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @04:05PM (#29290477)

    The guy that owned the xbox and compromised the xbox360 security, claimed the only reason that the ps3 was safe from pirates was because they let you run all your otherOS/homebrew stuff, it will be interesting to see if this happens or if
    1) homebrew are happy using the older consoles
    2) homebrew try but fail to cack it
    3) pirates crack the new (weaker) ps3 without homebrew's help

  • Re:Who Cares (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nxtw ( 866177 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @04:23PM (#29290753)

    Some Windows games have special support for Xbox 360 controllers, I believe mainly those that are also released for the Xbox 360. The controls automatically map and force feedback works in the same way as it does on the Xbox - you just have to load the game. Of course, you need a special adapter to use an Xbox 360 wireless controller on a PC, as these do not use Bluetooth.

    I've seen Fallout 3 on a PC and on the Xbox 360. The PC was a unremarkable Core 2 Duo system with a Radeon HD 4670 (which cost $90 back in late 2008). The game was played on a 40" 1080p LCD TV. The PC completely blew the Xbox 360 away, graphics-wise. Although the Xbox 360 can output at 1080p, it renders most games at lower resolutions and then scales. The PC rendered the game at 1080p and at a higher framerate. Even with AA disabled on the PC, the picture was significantly better. The PC was also quieter, used less electricity, loaded the game faster, and (when using suspend to RAM) powered on faster.

  • Re:Who Cares (Score:2, Interesting)

    by master811 ( 874700 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @05:36PM (#29291805)

    EA ported Orange Box to PS3 and Valve refuses to support it.

    That's more down to the ex-Microsoft, PS3 hating Gabe Newell being in charge there.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @05:49PM (#29292009)

    There are some incorrect information here. The Sega Dreamcast, by design, allowed regular CDROMs to boot. This was not a "design flaw" ie a bug; it was intentional. Don't ask me why though! I have no idea why they did that (unless it was put in there by a rogue programmer or something...) If this backdoor had not been there, it would have been quite more difficult to pirate Dreamcast games, because it had many protective features: The bootrom would check to make sure the bootfile was outside the 100min mark, making it impossible to boot a regular CDROM. The middle track with the "Sega" and what-not (it was not a hologram by the way) actually contained data, which was checked for concistency (I'm not 100% sure of this because I didn't verify it personally). This data contained a special bit-pattern that regular CDROMs normally couldn't write without creating a coaster. In order to protect the integrity of the bootrom from modification, the data was passed through the Holly chip which calculated a checksum. If it didn't match, the GDROM was disabled.

    As for the backdoor, it basically disabled all of these security measures. Provided that the CDROM was an XA disc with two sessions, it ignored the 100min mark and the protection track. It didn't put down all defenses though, but employed a laughably weak technique of loading the bootfile in a pseudo-random order in memory. This meant that the bootfile had to be "scrambled" on disc in order to load properly. This was a very weak counter-measure, because the blocksize was 2KiB (IIRC) so an executable less than that would not need to be scrambled. There was also another flaw in that before reading the executable, the firmware also loaded the IP.BIN which could also be made to execute. And then of course there was the fact that the algorithm for the pseudo-random loading was easily reversible. Sega had one last trick up their sleeve, which was that after loading the executable from a CDROM, the firmware would poke the bootrom checksum register which disabled the GDROM, meaning one could not load any more data of the CDROM after booting. This could have been effective had the disabling remained in effect until reboot (ensured by hardware). Instead the GDROM was easily enabled by simply poking the checksum register and passing data through the Holly checksum calculator which magically re-enabled the drive once again upon a valid checksum calculation! It seems Utopia didn't quite figure this out though, because what they did on their boot-CD was to copy the entire syBtExit bootrom call, including various unnecessary stuff! They simply put a nop on the write instruction to prevent the syscall from overwriting RAM. Seems they didn't realize just exactly what was enabling the GDROM in there, hehehe!

    Some other errors: the drive wasn't reading data backwards. It was CAV (constant angular velocity) which means the inner part of the disc will have a slower velocity than the outer part and so by necessity also a slower data rate. By padding the disc, data is pushed outward which increases the data rate.

    And the homebrew scene never used the Utopia boot-CD for development purposes: we already knew how to make our own bootable CDs. How to do this was independently discovered by at least five people; myself, Datel, Utopia included...

  • Re:Who Cares (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Moryath ( 553296 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @06:02PM (#29292171)

    3) pirates crack the new (weaker) ps3 without homebrew's help

    Why not 4) homebrew and pirates work together semi-implicitly to crack the new (weaker) PS3 as happened with the Wii?

    The Wii's "pirate" and "homebrew" crowds are not that different. Yes, there are the standouts (like marcan, whose definition of "piracy" often puts him at odds even with other people normally considered homebrewers, such as people who enjoy rewriting/redrawing banners for the hell of it and eventually led to the modern "bannerbomb" hack) but for the most part the question is not "what" they do, but "with what intentions." For instance, a utility capable of installing a homebrew game is usually equally capable of installing a copied download title. A utility to preserve "non-preservable" save games (like Super Mario Galaxy's save file, which for some inexplicable reason won't normally let users copy it to the flash card for safekeeping/transport) can easily upload hacked files full of cheat codes or worse. Little bits of code here and there have all sorts of purposes.

    It's my guess that we'll see the "pirate" and "homebrew" circles working together, especially the emulator crowds (countdown to a PS3 snes9x port, just for the fun of it?). And they'll crack the new PS3, likely in a way that cracks the old "chubby" PS3 as well, at which point there'll be a softmod for the PS3.

  • Re:Who Cares (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RiotingPacifist ( 1228016 ) on Wednesday September 02, 2009 @07:27PM (#29293099)

    I don't know much beyond what ive read of the xbox scene, but homebrewers are the kind of people that are going to put timer chips on motherboards, patch kernels, code simple games, exploit and generally do clever things, pirates just trick a console into thinking that it is playing a legit game. (again AFAIK) The xbox360 has pretty bulletproof, however 1 hole was found (by homebrew, to run linux on it) as a result the encryption keys for the cd drives where swiped and now pirates have produced modchips for piracy. Sometimes (from what i read here []) the relationship is more symbiotic but basically all the hardwork is done by the homebrew scene. I think the wii is a special case as it was soo easy to crack and the GC already had its piracy tools, as soon as the homebrew guys got in the pirates followed.

    The PS has always had an established piracey crowd, IMO its why they beat N64s, however afaik as of now, there is no piracy on the ps3, the major difference between xbox360 and the ps3 was that linux/homebrew had a place on the ps3.

"Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb