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Software Review: Yellow Dog Linux 5 for PlayStation 3

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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.

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About Ken Edwards

  • Not too fussed about the wifi as my current console sits right next to my cable modem, but how about using the rest of the functionality? Is there some sort of bluetooth keyboard available, and will it be any better than the dreadful web TV version supplied by NTL a few years back?

  • johnzbesko

    A wireless mouse/keyboard with a USB connector works fine.

    One major limitation of the PS3 linux is lack of accelerated graphics. As a result, my attempt to get full screen .avi file playback on my HDTV was disappointing.

  • Sadly none of the distros can access RSX. So no accelerated graphics. It looks like Sony has given Terra Soft the most access to the hardware, though.

  • Denis

    I have tried to install Yellow dog on my ps3 and it gave me a bunch of errors then went blank.
    could this be my keyboard and mouse?
    I have a Rocketfish bluetooth kyb/mse combo wich works fine in the ps3 os. I didn’t write down the errors ( I goofed ) and I’m weary of trying again without more info.

    PS I don’t have a HD screen only a cheap crt tv and will have to install the fix.

  • kevin

    denis dun worry man, i just read sum forum. and this is wat u need to do. for localhost login u type root. then the password u typed in when installin ydl. then u type Xautoconfig. after that startx n have fun with ydl!

  • Moses

    I got a whole bunch of errors on the yum update that I read about but has anyone figured out how to add the plug in’s for the dvd and blueray to work yet?

  • Sepok

    I tried to install Gentoo and I failed cuz it didnt install anything and I just had to boot it to the ps3 system again!//
    PS If u dont know how to get back to ur old OS just write boot-game-os in the terminal or install thingy or W/E

  • huh

    denis dun worry man, i just read sum forum. and this is wat u need to do. for localhost login u type root. then the password u typed in when installin ydl. then u type Xautoconfig. after that startx n have fun with ydl!

    did it but screen just went blank

  • huh2

    hmmm mine to

  • f1nn

    any 1 found an answer to this problem yet

  • mike

    you need a TV with a DVI port to connect to. Mentions it on the YD site

  • huh2

    i got an HDMI port, dosent it work with that one??

  • hank

    denis…if you follow the yd instructions, you will see that it requires HDMI or component cables to connect to. It does not support standard connections because the resolution is too low. you can try to install it via “installtext” to run in low resolution text mode.

  • pissed of PS3 owner

    Someone tell me why the %@$& no one seems to want to tell those of us who AREN’T computer savants how to do this? I mean seriously the only tutorials that tell you how to do it are full of some pretty saver holes, and are as hard to find as a needle in a Hay Planet.

  • What are you reading? The instructions are quite simple, especially with the new Yellow Dog Linux 6 installer DVD.

  • ps3 owner

    well this is good i think that the program for the ps3 is kool and i’am going now to buy the cd

  • John

    We must note that hdmi = dvi with a different conector type, same data feed as far as I know

  • duncan

    hey dudes, i really need a distro that works with open office 3, can ydl run it just fine?

  • al

    Hi guys how do i enter to the root i’m having troubles to login in game os thank you

  • Ben

    Do you guys even know why you want linux on your ps3; especially if you don’t know anything about it? Tsk Tsk, silly people.

  • Anonymous

    Linux = the geek’s operating system. Built to run on virtually any type of hardware, supporting a myriad of combinations for expansion and different types of functionality.

    PS3 Linux = the nerd’s operating system. Built to run on one, overpriced, underpowered device with no expansion capability *or* graphics acceleration.

    I think I’ll stick with my 2.8Ghz P4 Debian box, thanks.

  • Adam

    Im swapping my xbox for a ps3 to do the whole linux desktop… ive recently got into linux, and think it kickss ass compared to windows, unfortuanately its hard to have a dual boot that is problem free, so im wanting to have my ps3 as my linux pc, just curious though, are there supported drivers for the ps3 to tap into its full potential using linux? especialy for the graphics card, i like the funky effects, so im kinda guessing here, but seeing as the ps3 uses a modified 7800, would it work by using general 7series drivers?

  • dmtrinidavid

    As a Mac/Windows guy getting into the field of Linux, I tried the “simplest” way out – install it on my PS3. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do a whole lot, but I’ve only had it a couple days. DivX playback can be done in the game OS, but what about MKV support? I hate it that the PS3 doesn’t support it. Any suggestions, anyone?

  • yellowdog’s not too bad. it runs ok on my ps2.. works very well on my imac. I personally prefer to stick with the BSD’s..

  • Omar

    When I get to localhost login I dont know what to type… PLEASE HELP!!!

  • Raymon Meylink

    hello,if i read this,todays date”19 september 2011,i see reactions off 2007,i saw on the youtbube movie that it is possible to play poker off pokerstars.com ,coz the YDL5 worked in 2007,does it still working?Or is there something new software to play poker off pokerstars on playstation3? Well if somebody know that,then i hope 2 hear it!!! Already thanks,Raymon