New PS3 firmware kills Linux

"Security concerns" end OtherOS.

Sony has announced that OtherOS capabilities, including support for Linux, will no longer be available with the release of PlayStation 3 firmware 3.21 on 1st April. Citing "security concerns", the platform holder has confirmed that all models of PS3 will be affected.

"For most of you, this won't have any impact on how you use your PS3," says the Official PlayStation Blog. "If you are one of the few who use the 'Other OS' feature, or if you belong to an organisation that does, then you can choose not to upgrade your system."

However, not upgrading your system with the mandatory upgrade essentially cripples your PlayStation 3 in a number of ways. From 1st April, maintaining your current firmware blocks access to PSN, preventing online gaming and access to the PlayStation Store.

Looking further ahead, newer PlayStation titles built on the more recent SDKs will prompt you to upgrade to the new firmware when inserted into your PS3. Cancel the update and they won't run.

Blu-ray movie playback will be affected too: specifically, the support for 3D Blu-ray movies planned for the summer will not be available. Of less consequence is that streaming copy-protected videos held on an external media server will no longer work.

Last year the platform holder launched a slimmer model of the PS3, which had OtherOS support removed by default.

If you do have Linux installed on the PS3, Sony warns that you should remove valuable data from the OtherOS partition on your hard drive before upgrading to firmware 3.21, as you "will not be able to access that data following the update".

What hasn't been revealed is whether the 10GB of hard disk space Linux occupies can be reclaimed, or whether the user will need to backup content and reformat the drive in order to get the storage space back.

Some kind of patch to OtherOS was seen as inevitable in the wake of Geohot's exploit for the PlayStation 3, which uses a hardware memory glitch in combination with Linux to open up all areas of the console's RAM. While there has been no hint of piracy as yet, the hacker's most recent post sees him making clear progress in breaching the security surrounding the GameOS level of the PS3.

In taking such a measure to counter the hack, the logical conclusion is that Sony wants to the limit overall number of PS3s out there potentially capable of running copied games - an extraordinary pre-emptive strike against the possibility of piracy.

While action was inevitable and only a very small minority will be in any way affected, the question must be asked whether a more elegant solution could have been achieved. PS3 Linux users might have hoped that OtherOS itself could have been patched to prevent the exploit, as opposed to having the support pulled completely.

Update: SCEE has replied to our request for more information, but unfortunately the official statement doesn't really tell us much more:

"To provide a more secure system for those users who are enjoying games and other entertainment content on the PS3 system and also to protect the intellectual property of the content offered on the PS3 system, we have decided to delete the feature to address security vulnerabilities of the system. We do not comment on other details since this is a security related issue, however we are continually looking to improve the security level."

Comments (201)

Comments for this article are now closed, but please feel free to continue chatting on the forum!