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Sony’s PS3 Firmware 3.21 Removes Linux and “Other OS” Capability

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In a move some PS3 users were hoping was an April Fool's joke, Sony released firmware version 3.21 today for the PS3, the primary (and perhaps sole) function of which is to remove the "Install Other OS" option from the console's System menu.  This previously allowed users to install a different operating system — like Linux — to use the PS3 for additional computing tasks.

Sony's standard explanation is that this is a cost-cutting measure.  That holds more water when they discussed it as a change with the PS3 Slim when it was announced, but removing it from existing consoles that people have already purchased, systems that aren't even available at retail anymore?  That sounds a bit more fishy. Their new explanation is that it's being removed to make the PS3 "a more secure system."  Okay, but more secure for whom?

Rumors I overheard around the Slim launch indicated that some users might've been using Linux via the Other OS option to watch pirated movies and run emulators for other consoles and games.  As a business model, Sony loses money on the PS3 for the first several years, but makes up the difference on software licensing and sales, which partially explains why they nixed PS2 backward compatibility.  This isn't unlike the firmware updates to the PSP that killed homebrew development and emulation on that platform (which were the only reasons I was interested in it in the first place…and is why I still don't own one).

To make it feel like you still have a say in the matter, Sony says the firmware update is entirely optional, with the caveat that you won't be able to use PlayStation Network, chat online, browse the PlayStation Store, or basically have any network functionality unless you accept the update.  Further, if you have an existing installation of another OS, it will wipe that portion of your hard drive and reclaim it for the PS3's OS.

It doesn't save Sony money to remove features from an existing console they've already sold, so there must be another reason they're not admitting to.  Remember how they removed the firewire port and HDD bay on the PS2, and the parallel (i.e., Gameshark) and serial (i.e., System Link) ports on the PS1 in future iterations of the hardware to save money?  That made sense.  This would be like them coming to your house and yanking out the ports you already paid for.

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About Mark Buckingham

  • Ken Edwards

    You don’t even need Linux to run emulators, thanks to a BD Java exploit. But this is very classic Sony here – they are not going to tell you ANYTHING about why they are deleting features, or allowing a global meltdown of PS3 without a hint of what is going on, etc.

    I honestly can’t see this as just cracked movie and emulation of old systems. I get the feeling someone has either done it, or come close to breaking the firmware as wide open as the PSP is.

    Of course you know the answer to this right?

    The PS3 Go, so small because they removed the Blu-ray drive!

  • Ramkos

    The removed the OtherOS that provided an alternative to the PS3 awful Web browser. And they did not even bother upgrade/update the existing browser.

    What a waste of time and resources.

    Please sign the Petition to get a Real Web Browser on the PS3.

  • Dr Dreadful

    What a waste of time and resources.

    And collecting a petition about this isn’t?

  • Japanese Games

    To be honest, I was more upset that they wasted my time doing an update just to take something away from me. I waited while the download failed twice just to finally be done and realized I had not only gotten nothing out of it, but I had lost something. I didn’t even care that it was something I was probably never going to use, it was the simple fact that they sucked away my limited game playing time in order to remove perfectly good functionality.

    In short, it made me upset.

  • Mark Buckingham

    Agreed, nothing worse than losing time for no benefit. I still think it was uncouth of them to remove something that owners of older PS3s already paid for.

  • PS3 Cluster Engines Forever

    With branches of armed forces buying hundreds of thousands of PS3 systems at horrendously inflated prices (which you and I pay for), just to make massive cluster engines, do you really think they (Sony) give a damn about removing other OS?

    Everyone knows whom is responsible for Sony’s decision. They are protecting their interests.

    Sony may do whatever they want!

  • Sony Suck

    Sony may not do as they want, it still have to be legal and doing this is illegal. It is consider Bait and Switch. In order to fully use both function, you have to buy two machine, one with old firmware, one with new firmware. Classic Bait and Switch

  • slaxorwrs

    (until sony takes it away)

  • Mark Buckingham

    It won’t affect me much either, but it still bothers me, and sets a bad precedent. What’s next, an update to remove hardware backward compatibility for PS1 and PS2 games from the launch PS3s? I shouldn’t give them ideas. If they pull that kind of nonsense, I’ll restore it to factory defaults, get the pre-3.21 firmware (update via storage media, not Internet), and just keep that system offline to use as I please. Can probably get a slim for less than retail now just to play games on.

  • Ken Edwards

    And now there is a YouTube vid showing OtherOS on 3.21. Sony has just incited a war with modders. Way to go!

  • Mark Buckingham

    Hooray for homebrew. :)