Sony has been telling us for a while now that the PlayStation 3 is more than a game console, it is a computer.
They tried this with the PS2 as well, when they released the Linux Kit for PS2, though that didn't make much of a splash.
This time around, however, they built the PS3 with Linux in mind, and from the looks of things so far, Linux (any distribution) is going to have a lot to do on the PS3.
As part of an agreement with Sony Computer Entertainment Incorporated, Terra Soft Solutions announced last year the release of Yellow Dog Linux for the PlayStation 3. Terra Soft has also partnered with RapidMind to make application development for the PS3/Cell architecture easier.
There are a couple other distributions out for the PS3, but Yellow Dog Linux 5 (based on Red Hat Linux source code) offers the most features, and — for the time being — looks to be the distro to install if you are curious.
If you are curious about having a full Linux box right inside your PS3, I encourage you to try it out. You can always format the hard drive later, and it will be like you never had Linux installed in the first place.
And what do you have to lose, it's all free! You can purchase an Enhanced account for ydl.net, which gives you (superb) install support, but this is by no means a requirement to download the ISO.
But what do you get with Yellow Dog Linux 5? There are 2248 packages (RPMs) included, including heavyweights in the Open Source software arena such as OpenOffice, GIMP, Firefox… the list goes on and on. Yellow Dog 5 also comes with a simply stunning desktop environment, called Enlightenment (E17). You can still run KDE or Gnome, but E17 is really great to use, plus it incorporates a lot from the Gnome environment.
Homebrew has already found a home on the PS3, as has emulation. If you look hard enough, you will find it. Considering the homebrew/emulation scene on the PSP, the PS3 won't take long to catch up.
There are some issues to be aware of, however. First of all, this is not Mac OS or Windows, this is Linux. Although Yellow Dog 5 is polished, it is still Linux.
There is a small problem with yum (software update module) in the latest ISO, which requires you to get your hands dirty in code to fix it. But if you are going to tinker in Linux, this should come as no surprise. The biggest let down is the nonexistent support for the PS3's built in Wi-Fi. In order to get online while booted into Yellow Dog Linux, you must use an Ethernet connection.
"Waiting for a Sony response." is the official word on Wi-Fi support in Yellow Dog 5, according to Kai Staats, Terra Soft CEO. Even more discouraging is reading about a three to six month estimate on the ydl.net forum.
The only solution right now for Wi-Fi is to use a wireless game adapter, such as the one by Linksys. This works just fine, unless you have an Apple Airport Express – which has no way of configuring the wireless game adapter.
That is not a pretty solution, not for a $600 game console/computer/Blu-ray player/whatever. Hopefully Sony and Terra Soft can get a Wi-Fi fix out shortly, as it is the only thing really holding Yellow Dog Linux 5 on the PS3 back.
Setup and install went as smooth as I have ever seen a Linux install go. I have Yellow Dog Linux 4 on my PowerBook, and even that was a chore in comparison to v. 5 on the PS3.
- Yellow Dog Linux 5 on PlayStation 3: Installation and Setup (forthcoming)
- Console Review: PlayStation 3
- PS3 Reviews: Exclusive Launch Games
- PS3 Reviews: Cross-platform Launch Games