Sony Removes PS3 Linux Support With An Update… Errrrr, Downgrade?

Sony is rolling out a firmware update for the PS3 on April 1 but we’re pretty sure it’s not a joke. What we’re not sure about is that you can call it an update. It removes features rather than fixing or adding them. In this case, it is removing the “Install Other OS” option that allows you to run Linux on non-slim versions of the PlayStation 3. It is fairly obvious that this is a reaction to the hypervisor exploit that was released back in January that breaks down the machine’s security barriers.

[Geohot], the guy who found and release the exploit, published a post on his blog expressing his disapproval of Sony’s actions. We’d have to agree. It’s pretty cold-hearted to remove functionality that was advertised with a product. We’re sure there are many folks out there using the Linux support who have no interest in exploiting the product. This is gardening with a backhoe and quite frankly it stinks.

This may bring on a torrent of new effort in unlocking and laying bare the PS3. If so, doesn’t Sony deserve it?

[Photos credit: I’m with Stupid]

[Thanks Shueddue]

172 thoughts on “Sony Removes PS3 Linux Support With An Update… Errrrr, Downgrade?

  1. As a hacker and engineer, I’m sorry to see the feature go. I’ve never used it, but I’m sure others do.

    Sony deserves to get the PS3 busted open for their business model. The “upgrades” on my PS3 so far fail to impress me. I liked the machine better when it launched. I wonder what else they are taking away April 1st.

  2. the piracy argument isn’t very good… as far as i understand, the hypervisor exploit allows to run non-signed software with full rights, but it can not run protected software (e.g. copied games) without a proper validiation.

  3. Give Sony a couple more years and I’m sure the PS3 won’t even play Blu-Rays anymore. Sigh, this is why I vowed never to buy a PS3, all they do is remove more and more features over time.

  4. Wii outsells PS3 from day 1, 360 still way out in front and the PS3 is no longer closing. Both have higher attach rates than the PS3, yet both have pirate options, whereas the PS3 has no piracy. Why oh why is Sony losing?

    How about years of proprietary crap and not listening to customers? Are the not the most hated company these day? They certainly get more negative comments than MS or Apple, from the demographic that’s most likely to buy their gear.

  5. Andrew,

    There are a growing number of people who refuse to buy anything made by Sony or select other options when they’re available. Sony routinely shits on its customers and has had a history of doing so.

    So, yeah, eventually a company can alienate its customer base and hurt themselves in the long run. If you advertise a feature of hardware now and take that feature away later with a software upgrade then why should your customer believe you won’t do the same in the future for some other product you buy from them?

    What if Sony decided that your DVD player should no longer be able to view any DVDs but Sony DVDs? They could make the claim that it’s to prevent piracy (and Sony DVDs do routinely include anti-piracy features), but how would you feel about losing the ability to view some of your DVD collection? They picked on Linux geeks this time, so they only alienated a small portion of their customer base, but that eventually adds up if the same practices continue.

  6. paul,

    “They certainly get more negative comments than MS or Apple”

    Yep, they do, and it’s because their business practices pervade in every product they produce. There’s a reason that a ton of players of MMOs, for example, swear NEVER to pay Sony a subscription fee for any MMO ever again. There’s a lot of venom toward Sony’s policy of doing whatever the hell they want; the customer be damned.

    I’m not surprised about Apple products not getting many complaints. Apple could do the exact same kind of thing that Sony did here and their customers will say “thank you, may I have another?” It’s unusual for a company to have such a hardcore fanboy base that they can almost do no wrong, but Apple has achieved exactly that.

    It sometimes seems like everyone hates Microsoft all at the same time, yet they still dominate the market. It’s interesting how two companies can have such radically different consumer groups though they essentially sell the same thing.

  7. As a former psp hacker , sony is doing things all wrong. First they alienated their followers by taking legal action against some devs, They failed to release the gps module which was why I bought the stupid thing any way. The EU releases make the US releases of add ons clearly discriminant.
    One of my old posts got about 25 k views , thats 25k users who bought psp. Now no body bothers with it. Personally ive moved on to hardware development. Screw sony.

  8. Like someone pointed out…

    Wii outsells all the consoles. Second is XBOX 360, then PS3.

    Wii has been hacked, and so is the XBOX 360. A hacked console does not just mean piracy, it also means homebrew, which many geeks seek out.

    When the PS3 finally has a custom firmware, and developers are making homebrew applicatios, then at that time Sony will be selling more consoles.

    Bottom line, these companies shouldn’t be so threatened to hacking a console. They generate more money when the hack comes.

  9. @andrew

    When security flaws are found in other software, developers don’t disable and bury features and call it an upgrade. What Sony is doing with the PS3 is terrible. This is one of the main reasons why I never bought a PS3 even though I wanted one and have a HDTV: because its a Sony product and I’ve been burned by Sony before.

  10. This SUCKS…i have over 30 PSN games, a dozen or so blu-ray movies, and 10 or so ps3 games, play Fat princess and littlebigplanet online nearly every day, and I dabble with cell development and use my ps3 as my living room’s mythtv frontend. PS3 was easily one of the best, most open console’s I’ve ever had, pretty much my dream console…and in return for being a customer and regularly buying their games….they shit on my face like this.

    Thanks sony…I think I’ll keep my mythtv box and just not buy any more games for the system (can’t assume they work anymore without current firmware)..

    is geohot taking donations..

  11. sony what are you doing.

    companies need to learn to embrace this sort of thing rather than attempt to fight it because hackers will always win. you’d think sony would clue in given they’ve been trying to stop hackers on the PSP for years and done a great job at not succeeding.

    sony has gone so far downhill and will continue to do so, along with most of the other major players in this area.

  12. So will someone using linux call sony and say ok i bought this rig with the idea i’m going to be able tone both play games and run linux so you going to send me a second console to play games on or should i sue you for bait and switch :)

    that would get there atintion.

  13. all this means is that sony acknowledges that geohots hack would actually lead somewhere, and they are trying to stop it before it can be fully exploited. but jon is right. once the ps3 is officially hacked sales would increase. only problem with that is that the ps3 is still sld at a loss. so would in fact cost sony money.(but possibly made up in increased game sales).

  14. I got my PS3 at launch, paying over the price to get it early. The first thing I did was install a bigger harddrive and install Linux. Both being almost encouraged by Sony in their press releases and manual. The Linux system was disappointing because of the lack of RAM and limited framebuffer video, but it was a start. I hoped they would give us a proper 3D driver, particularly as the machines video is supposed to be based on Nvidia who already have a driver for linux. But no, it was to never happen.

    The PS3 had the chance to be an excellent media center, but Sony can’t see beyond their awful interface and poor codec support. Sometimes m2ts files would play, an update later they wouldn’t. DTS support went AWOL for a number of “updates” too. The US PS3 won’t play region free PAL DVDs yet The Euro one can handle NTSC, and the Divx official support turned out to be worse than the unofficial support on the 360. Again, a minor step in the right direction, but then nothing.

    They removed SACD, something they surely own, so how can the lose money by supporting it.

    Sony needs friends, they’re going down the pan year on year. They’ve got the hardware, no doubt about that, but the corporate attitude stinks. Just open it up and let the fans and market make of it what they will. A open system will sell.

    I shall not being doing the update, that means no online purchases from me anymore, no testing games via demos, and I guess at some point new games and blu-rays will stop working on it, requiring a > 3.15 FW. That’ll be the end of my PS3 game purchases when it does. blu-ray players are dirt cheap these days, so buying another or hooking up my laptop isn’t going to be the end of the world.

    Meanwhile, I’ll get the usual candidates like MW3 or whatever for our 360 instead. I prefer the PS3 controller, but Sony have decided they’ll annoy people like me, I’m happy to let another company take my money instead.

    I feel sorry for those that have missed all this downgrade news and will let their consoles update as if it’s another update, only to find they’ve lost their Linux system the next time they try to use it.

    As to the security excuse, hardly, even season modders have nothing to work with. Hasn’t anyone else noticed how hypocritical this is coming from the company that brought you rootkit music CDs.

  15. To all those who say sony should embrace homebrew because it increases sales of the console, you need to remember how the whole console market works. Sell the console at a loss to make tons of money on selling games for obscene prices.

    That’s not to say that I agree with what they’re doing. Far from it. I think they are vastly over-reacting to the whole exploit game. Yeah, you may eventually be able to pirate games, but I think the number of people who do that is going to be so small as to be negligible. To make a copy of most games you’d need a blu-ray burner, and blu-ray discs, at which point you could have bought 3-4 games.

    Sony did the same kind of things with the psp, and it hurt them. Sony should have seen the potential for homebrew on the psp, embraced it, and supported it through an online store portal. I think most people will see the analogy i’m trying to make here (app store). This could have been done years before apple, and hell, the psp is still getting awesome homebrew and games.

    Sony needs to realize that there are more options than hurting their customers and having pirated games. If the opened it up and encouraged homebrew, they could create an environment in which they would be able to offset potential loss from pirating by profit on user created content. That way everyone wins.

  16. You abuse it you lose it. Sony has every right to do this. They were nice and let people have their 3rd party OSes, and then when people started breaking the EULA they put the hard foot down and said no.

    It’s called discipline, you may not like it, but hey, maybe you shouldn’t have started hacking their shit then, huh?

  17. I put off buying the PS3 until one of two things happened: The PS3 was unlocked for homebrew, or a major Final Fantasy game hit the console… Unfortunately it was Final Fantasy first, I don’t give a **** about online play etc. I will not be grabbing this update! :| F U SONY!


  19. To everyone who points out that Sony is removing this feature because of Geohot and his antics, it’s important to know that the Slim was released WITHOUT the ability to install another OS months before Geohot’s exploit was made known.

  20. @Derp.

    Firmware 6.20 Is already exploited on the PSPgo. Sony is clueless when it comes to security, Just take a look at what they are doing now.

    It’s to late, All those fat model PS3’s will be exploited and then found away to do the same on the slims whether they have linux support or not. Why they are removing the support now since it only effects fat consoles is beyond me. They always re-release-re-release the same hardware on 1 platform, I don’t see why they would care about the fat ps3 as they are now discontinued. They try and consume as much money as they can out of their customers and now they are removing features that people might of bought the console originally.

    Sony is like the whinny bitchy child in the playground.

  21. Why is everyone pointing out that the Xbox360 is still outselling PS3 by leaps and bounds, according to VGChartz it appears PS3 hardware sales have been over Xbox360 sales for at least a year now.

  22. @Unouhu maybe if you type loud enough Sony will hear and realize that clearly you are smarter than them and they should do what you want.

    I really don’t understand why anyone would want to run linux on a ps3 anyway. I wouldn’t want to run windows on my xbox. (And before anyone goes and says “open source dev” this and “open source dev” that, guess what, I can dev for my xbox, and I can choose for my product to be open source or not.)

    If you want to do computery things, get a computer. If you want to play games, get a console. The end.

  23. It’s like buying a guitar and Fender telling me “sorry dude, We just realize you could become a great guitar player by playing E minor chords so as of now, you can’t play it anymore…”. To be honest, i tried to use the OtherOS a few times and couldn’t get it running, but that doesn’t mean i might not want to try it again, i want the feature to stay… Like my Iphone, I’m still with AT&T (I had them from before), but I unlocked it anyways…

  24. There are Laws in many countries the World over that disallow companies to remove features from a product after it has been sold. Canada, the USA, UK, Japan, Austraialia. Hmmm a trend I see, the Major Market shares for Sony are the ones that will Highly be affected. Heck Sony did this with the psp many times, but Homebrew always Prevailed. WHo out there has ever used MapThis!?

  25. the ps3 has been outselling the 360 for awhile people saying that a system that can be hacked will out sell one that can are fing retards. sony has the right to do what they want to protect aginst piracy. sony has done no wrong by me i have a release day 80 gig ps3 i dont use another os, so i could give a rats ass about this update and im willing to bet 85% if not more of these ps3 dont have another os on them. so my point sony is doing nothing wrong here they have the right to protect their own. its like saying oh you have this type of lock on your door that is easy to pick and i can do it in my sleep so i can break into your house with no recourse.

  26. How are they suckering people into making this “upgrade”? Are they offering something else to hide these “added features”. I’m not a console gamer so I don’t know..just curious.

  27. Keeping hackers out of Sony hardware has worked so well in the past. Ignore the PSP. And now Sony has just turned the spot light onto the PS3, may as well tape a big “hack me” sign onto every new PS3 that leaves the factory.

    How long until a class action lawsuit happens in which some dirt eating lawyer gets 2.1 million bucks of Sony’s money and we get a $5 voucher (fail).

  28. To be fair, I don’t think that they make any cash off of hardware sales (literally). They’re probably trying to get people either buying games for it or get off of it. They aren’t making money if you’re simply using it for free.

    This just made me think: if they made a PS4, they could just brick all the PS3s with an update, and make people buy a PS4. lol…


  29. HELL YES they deserve it, I’ve never wished to see a company have its systems blown wide open more than SONY. What kind of arrogance is that? Complete disregard for legit users? Incredible

  30. I already talked to my lawyer, and accordingly to EU laws they can’t to that to the Playstation 3.I will update, all of them and my next step is too sue sony. they will regret this.

    I am disapointed with the way the industry is going. when i started in the business around the 70’s company’s cared more about the clients even they didn’t say so.

  31. You guys should analyze some profit information about PS3. They losing money for each PS3 sold and life a platform from software sales, thing that been risked by GeoHot actions

  32. Any “risk” to SONY’s profit by keeping a feature that they sold is speculative, and the evidence doesn’t back any claim that Geohot’s actions jeopardised any profits, since as previously mentioned, XBOX and Wii both have piracy issues, but both outsell the PS3 in game sales and attach rate.

    And furthermore, its simple immoral and illegal, and just another step towards we peons never owning anything, and only getting to use what we “buy” if our feudal lords deem us worthy. That was the kind of system countries shrugged off a few centuries ago.. and you want to return to it?

  33. @Mikey
    “If you want to do computery things, get a computer. If you want to play games, get a console. The end”

    What the hell are you doing on this site then. Clearly you haven’t read the name hackaday. The vast amount of people who’s here do not use the product they buy for it’s intended purposes. You should even use the internet anymore because soon it’s intended purpose is for advertising only, just as television have evolve to be.

  34. I’d expect some of these comments on digg or some shit but why in gods name are these assholes visiting hackaday?

    The fact of the matter is, regardless of whether YOU are actively using linux on your ps3 or not, the console was marketed with this feature and as such should not be disabled for no apparent reason.

    All the piracy talk is bullshit. How about they disable your blueray drive so you cant play any of your retail games? That would stop piracy, wouldn’t it? It’s the exact same logic, there’s no piracy to stop and they’re only effecting the legit user.

    Better yet, let me remove the ability to make a call from your cellphone or permanently remote disable the engine of your car for “security” reasons.

  35. @Mikey
    I know several people/organizations that have bought dozens of PS3’s ONLY for the fact that it can (could) run GNU linux.

    Even the university I work for/study at has a 64 node PS3 cluster. Why? Because the if you know how to program on a cell processor, they can be as powerful as a 8 core server for a fraction of the price. Supercomputing on the cheap.

    Our mechanical engineering department runs fluid dynamics simulations on the cluster, and it performs twice as good as the EECS’s 48 node HPCC.

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