Hacker Throws Down Linux Gauntlet as Sony Readies Firmware Patch v3.21

By Jeff Mattas, Mar 30, 2010 7:30pm PDT As reported yesterday, Sony's next PlayStation 3 firmware update (v3.21) is scheduled for release on April 1. This update removes Linux support, partly in response to security concerns that arose with the revelation that iPhone hacker George Hotz (aka, "GeoHot" - see topstory image), had recently cracked the PS3.

On his blog, Hotz explained back in January that he'd managed to obtain "read/write access to the entire system memory, and HV level access to the processor." In its Opposable Thumbs column, tech-news site ars technica reports that Hotz is threatening to fight the power with a rival firmware update of his own which will allow users to retain OtherOS support. In other words, it would allow folks to keep Linux partitions on their PS3s.

If PS3 Linux support is important to you, Hotz's latest blog entry advises PS3 owners to refuse the v3.21 firmware update when it's launched in a couple of days, though refusal will prevent those players from being able to use a host of other features. "When 3.21 comes out, I will look into a safe way of updating to retain OtherOS support," explained Hotz, "perhaps something like Hellcat's Recovery Flasher. I never intended to touch CFW [Custom Firmware], but if that's how you want to play..."

Be forewarned: Access to he PlayStation Network, online gameplay, files kept on a media server, future updates, and even the ability to play certain Blu-ray movies and games will all be unavailable for those who refuse Sony's new firmware. However, if you really love your OtherOS support, don't mind a temporarily gimped system, and have patience for GeoHot's workaround, waiting a while to update may lead to a solution.

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14 Threads | 92 Comments
  • My guess is Sony's real reason for doing this is over money, not some security exploit. The fact this feature was not included with the slim seems to indicate they were planning this all along. It's not like PS3 piracy is even a genuine concern for Sony at this time (though it sure makes a convenient excuse). How many people can even afford Blu-Ray burners and media at this point? No, this has nothing to do with concerns over piracy. Sony isn't blind to the fact people are using the PS3 to create super-computing clusters though. The genuine reason they're doing this is far more likely to be because they are planning to introduce a Linux-capable version of the PS3 at a later date, with a much higher price tag, so that they can make money off of the cluster builders.

    For the record, my interest in Linux has nothing to do with the possibility of playing backups. I bought my PS3 for two reasons. The first being to play the best version of Final Fantasy XIII. The second being to finally run Gauntlet Legends at full speed in MAME (and the other R5000 games). The fact that it's a beast at folding is just icing on the cake (I get to genuinely help my team, and royally stick it to the opposition, all while helping science). Now if I wanted to be as unfair as Goto10, I'd make the non-sequitur argument that Sony is deliberately crippling the scientific community and hindering potentially life-saving research, LOL. Where did I learn to twist things like that? By watching the news (what surprises me is that they AREN'T using their typical "business bad" attack angle when covering this story). Playing backups is a guaranteed eventuality with any console, and therefore the least of my concerns. WHEN the mod happens, I'll have it done, naturally, but my purchasing policy remains constant. Buy the best. A simple but effective concept that rewards the developers that deserve it, and provides them with an incentive to create more. The best games keep me entertained (that's why they're the best), so I don't worry about when I'll be able to download the rest (it's not like I'll get around to playing them all anyway). When there's a scene, there's a scene. At this point I'm just archiving video game history. No rush, I've got plenty to keep me occupied already.

    Looks like some people would have us think it's thanks to Sony you can run Doom and emulators on your PSP, and use it as a universal remote for your TV, LOL. Without the homebrew community Sony wouldn't even have thought to add internet radio to the PSP (and their implementation's STILL inferior). I suppose these people would have us believe it's Microsoft that gave us FBA-XXX and XBMC? Well, go on, pull the other one while you're at it. Oh wait, you did! You suggested it's the hackers and pirates that are to blame for the DRM garbage in PC games instead of the companies, LOL. Oh no you don't. They don't have to do that to sell the games. Doom and Quake sold just fine without it. Fate probably would too if only it were a better game. It's not like I bought Red Alert 2 with the intent to crack it, the game just wouldn't play past the first FMV sequence until I did. That was the last EA game I bought. It was thanks to the hackers I was able to get it to run. Seems to me they're not the ones causing the problems, they're the ones solving them. Do you really think publishers would stop using that garbage if the scene stopped releasing tomorrow? That would just make them think it worked, besides, rewarding bad behavior only encourages it. Consider also the fact that the RIAA concluded copy protection was a waste of resources years ago and stopped using it. The geniuses who create our modern games probably figured it out even sooner. Two words, coder solidarity. The only thing that's going to work is for these dishonest companies to get out of the PC market. I'd encourage everyone to boycott EA, Ubisoft, Valve, Rockstar and anyone else that markets DRM-infested crap. With them gone, maybe the PC market can recover from it's tainted image.

    Okay, clearly Goto10 must be a representative from an anti-piracy company or something. Saying the hackers and pirates are ruining everything, LOL. Yeah, I seem to recall the Zerox machine was going to destroy the book industry, home recording was going to ruin the record industry, VHS was going to be the death of the movie industry, PC clones were going to be the death of IBM, CD-Rs were going to be the death of music, etc. I could go on all day giving examples of how alleged misuses of new technology were going to ruin entire industries. They're all still alive and well, though. Let me guess, Goto10, you're the former head of Circuit City's Divx project? And then you started working for Sony (the company synonymous with failed proprietary formats -- most notably Minidisc, SACD, and the late UMD) and have had to watch all the company's attempts to control what people are allowed to do with their own equipment fall by the wayside, because fair use and open standards keep winning out. The obvious frustrated nature of your rabid and misguided attacks against hackers and pirates, and your pathetic attempt to create a backlash against them all suggest one thing. You've been on the losing side of a war you cannot win for a long time (which tells me I'm probably at least correct about you working for Sony). And you've got too much hate invested to have ever stopped to consider the possibility you might be the one who's wrong. Charging people for a rental every time they watch a movie (Divx). Tricking people into recording their audio onto a format they can't even copy when they own the rights to the recording, such as their own wedding (Minidisc). These are what you REALLY mean when you refer to "fun things" right? I bet you're working on a way to charge people's credit cards $.75 every time they hit the start button.

    For the sake of putting things into perspective, let's compare the ps3 to, say, a chair. The issue seems to be that the chair's manufacturer is pissed off because people are putting books on the seat instead of sitting in it (in spite of the fact that in their own advertisement they claim the seat is a nice flat surface for stacking books onto). So they changed the seat design to a slanted nature that causes books to slide off, and now they're trying to go into the home of everyone who bought a chair from them and force them to let them alter the seat (better hope they don't find books stacked on it, because they'll burn them out of spite, LOL). Listen up, Sony, it's MY chair, I'll do what I want with it, and trespassers will be shot, er, disconnected on sight, LOL.