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Hardware Hacking BSD Build Games

FreeBSD Running On PS3 127

An anonymous reader writes "One week after Sony's PlayStation 3 private cryptography key was obtained, FreeBSD is up and running on the PS3. Nathan Whitehorn writes: 'Yesterday, I imported support for the Sony Playstation 3 into our 64-bit PowerPC port, expanding our game console support into the current generation. There are still a few rough edges due to missing hardware support, but the machine boots and runs FreeBSD stably. These rough edges should be smoothed out in time for the 9.0 release.'" Update: 01/10 15:04 GMT by KD : As several commenters have pointed out, the submission was misleading in that BSD runs in OtherOS, making no use of the cracked keys.
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FreeBSD Running On PS3

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  • Firmware 3.21 (Score:4, Informative)

    by project-nova ( 930308 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @10:52AM (#34823084)

    From TFA:

    Supported hardware:
    - Sony Playstation 3 Fat, firmware version 3.21
    - Netbooting only
    - 480i/480p only


    • I'm not sure this has anything to do with the released key. It's netbooting... There's not really enough info in the post to suggest that it does (or does not) have anything to do with the recent hack.

    • by smash ( 1351 )
      For now. Given the root key is compromised expect more varied hardware/firmware support in due course.
      • by CODiNE ( 27417 )

        Perhaps no large distribution is willing to touch those keys and risk a court battle with Sony over it. It's all well and good for people to sign their own firmwares and install them, but a larger release brings risks.

        • I wonder what sony would say. Is the use of a key illegal? Its not illegal to find it on webpage and use it is it?

          Maybe someone could write a rootkit with it. I'm sure sony wouldn't mind that.
    • hey it's a start, he did say that some hardware is yet to be done, and what can I say, from little acorns, this is news, means we get our PS3's back for what we (OK, OK I) originally wanted one for. Today BSD, soon, Linux then who knows, this is excellent news for us robbed by Sony.
      • by Moryath ( 553296 )

        No it's not. At least until there's a port-able, AsbestOS dual-boot loader.

        This only works if you never updated your PS3 past 3.21 firmware and you have to set up another box on your network to netboot it.

      • The important part of what he said was:

        Sony Playstation 3 Fat, firmware version 3.21

        ie, you can only get this through the "Other OS" function, which has been able to run Linux all along. The summary was updated to include this fact.

        • Presumably if a hack restores the function (which I believe was simply disabled, not removed) then it might work on later firmwares also.

          • Hopefully. I heard that Linux was getting pretty usable on PS3 compared to when I first tried it, so it would be worth my while trying it again.

            Turns out that 3.21 was in fact the first version which had Other OS removed, so I'm not entirely sure what's going on here. I CBA RTFA though. If they ever come out with it for the latest firmware then I'll have a look, but in the meantime I like being on PSN too much. And my netbook and phone already run Linux..

            • Turns out that 3.21 was in fact the first version which had Other OS removed, so I'm not entirely sure what's going on here.

              It could be that a < got stripped.

    • by Moryath ( 553296 )


      Now when there's a dual-boot with full hardware support so that, say, I can load it with XBMC and use it as a media center frontend... THAT will be something.

      The idea of retiring my current XBMC PC is intriguing to me. One less thing hooked to the TV.

      Yes, I know I could do similar with a number of upnp media servers - but those are lousy with fast-forwarding and 30-second jump, only work with certain encoding types (in particularly they barf on FLV's), and anything where I need to turn on subtitles/cap

      • by Kokuyo ( 549451 )

        From my experience, retiring XBMC would do you more good than such a hack ;).

        Ye gods, did I hate XBMC.

        On topic: As many others have noted, this has nothing to do with the released keys. I for one admit that I don't care to run any other OS on my PS3 than the original. What I would appreciate, though, is being able to download 'pirated' software.

        Me pirating, and then buying stuff I liked is a tried and true way to make not only the vendors of said stuff happy, but myself as well. And quite frankly, my happin

        • by Moryath ( 553296 )

          The current port of XBMC (Linux/Windows) is actually very pleasant. My current living room frontend is a winxp box (slightly old tv tuner that has absolutely shit Linux support, sadly) and I use XBMC quite happily with it.

          If I could get the PS3 running XBMC, I'd likely move the PC out of the room. The PC does take a bit of space, and is a little loud, especially having to run it 24/7 to keep schedule for recording. But like I said, I need to record CC streams along with TV (there are times when other ambien

          • by rikkards ( 98006 )

            For me I would buy a PS3 in a heartbeat if XBMC was running on it. My old Xbox based XBMC is nice but I need a blu-ray player

        • From my experience, retiring XBMC would do you more good than such a hack ;).

          Ye gods, did I hate XBMC.

          You are literally the only person I've ever seen say anything close to that. Unless your only experience has been with the early PC builds where hardware video decoding and the like weren't yet working I really don't see any reason to hate, or even dislike, XBMC.

          It provides a great 10 foot UI for accessing your media on a TV, plays everything known to man, and runs on all three major OSes plus two "appliance" type devices (three if you count the XBMC-derived Boxee Box). Sigma Designs is even porting it to

      • Have you tried Mediaportal []? It is free, has a ton of plug ins and skins to make it into anything you want, has a nice UI, really stable, for HTPCs I'd say Mediaportal is better than XBMC as far as experience IMHO.

        As for TFA, it doesn't really matter whether they use the keys or not, the secret is out. From watching the videos from the hacker conference once they got the keys it was game over thanks to flaws in the core design of the PS3. As we have seen the "smart cow" analogy is all too true, once one figu

        • by Moryath ( 553296 )

          Looked at Mediaportal a while back. It lacked the built-in routines to handle overscan correction (my TV has a VGA input that only handles "surrounded by 1 inch of black" or "zoomed in way too far" modes).

          The overscan correction of XBMC, now that it's become stable, makes it my playback option of choice for the HTPC for now.

        • Too many people are eager to blame Sony over this - while forgetting that it was the initial potential threat of hacking (the first one by Geohot which depended upon OtherOD) that galvanised them into removing that functionality from the older models. I can't really find a reason to blame Sony for THAT.
    • Netbooting?

      While TFA may state that the guest OS must be net-booted, TFA says to use Petitboot [] as the bootloader.

      But Petitboot's installations directions don't mention require loading an image from the network, but do state that Petitboot can only load images that are directly connected to the PS3.

      The Petitboot page also mentions other things about the PS3, so it's not as if you have to boot-strap from petiteboot into TFA's OS...

      IOW - it seems that TFA is stressing "you have to" when it should

    • That's just a matter of what the developer(s) had handy at the time. If you have a homebrew-capable PS3 (3.41 or older) you don't upgrade it for now, so a lot of homebrew initially shows up for some specific firmware version and then gets ported to others. Soon enough we'll have proper homebrew-capable custom 3.55 firmwares thanks to the key release, so give it time.

    • by kriston ( 7886 )

      How about PS3 Slim? Isn't that what we all want, anyway?

  • by Fibe-Piper ( 1879824 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @10:53AM (#34823100) Journal
    ...wait, I have to buy a PS3?
  • by ard ( 115977 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @10:54AM (#34823126)

    There is no relation to the cracked keys, as it runs in the OtherOS mode. I.e. instead of Linux, you can run FreeBSD in OtherOS.

  • by fgrieu ( 596228 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @10:55AM (#34823132)

    This is *NOT* related to the recent crypto break, as demonstrated by the release note stating

    Supported hardware:Sony Playstation 3 Fat, firmware version 3.21

    Francois Grieu

    • by index0 ( 1868500 )

      Wasn't the OtherOS feature removed from all ps3 systems after 3.15 firmware versions?

      • Wasn't the OtherOS feature removed from all ps3 systems after 3.15 firmware versions?

        This is a common belief (I've seen it many places besides your post) and I'm not sure why. Possibly because 3.20 and 3.21 were released shortly after 3.15, I guess? All I know is that I'm sitting on 3.20 and I can run OtherOS just fine.

  • The hack impresses me, very very cool. Though I thought it's NetBSD that's the one that always tries to run on everything from your digital watch to your toaster.

    Anyway, the real question: is there any use to this? It's not like FreeBSD is known for having many games to play with.

  • by eyegor ( 148503 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @11:01AM (#34823202)

    Our company was setting up a small cluster of PS3's but the whole project died when Sony locked down the firmware. This should breath new life into the effort.

    I was secretly hoping they'd give the "useless" PS3's to the employees though. Sigh.

    • Seriously: what do you want to do with such a cluster, and why is a PS3 more interesting than general PC hardware?

      • by eyegor ( 148503 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @11:45AM (#34823668)

        We do a lot of High Performance computing where I work. I currently run a 1472 core ROCKS cluster and the price/core of a PS3 cluster is pretty good compared with an HP blade.

        Because of management issues, I can't see running a huge cluster of PS3's, but it's an angle we're pursuing to see how well it works. Tesla-based clusters are also something being considered, but they type of work you can do on them is a bit more limited than a general purpose cluster based on conventional blades.

        • Because of management issues, I can't see running a huge cluster of PS3's, but it's an angle we're pursuing to see how well it works. Tesla-based clusters are also something being considered, but they type of work you can do on them is a bit more limited than a general purpose cluster based on conventional blades.

          So what's wrong with leaving it at 3.21. Did you want to play games in off hours?

          • by eyegor ( 148503 )

            The initial cluster was only 10 systems and was in the proof of concept phase. To do meaningful work, we'd want many more systems and the project seemed to be at a dead-end when they changed the firmware.

      • by Quince alPillan ( 677281 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @12:25PM (#34824184)
        The Navy says that they're cheaper than equivalent boards from IBM.

        Though a single 3.2 GHz cell processor can deliver over 200 GFLOPS, whereas the Sony PS3 configuration delivers approximately 150 GFLOPS, the approximately tenfold cost difference per GFLOP makes the Sony PS3 the only viable technology for HPC applications. []

    • Can't you get a quad core x86 box with far more RAM/disk for about the same money?

      I'm pretty sure one would run rings around the PS3 for most computing tasks.

      • If they were even considering using a cluster of PS3s, it's unlikely they were doing fungible "computing tasks" where getting a quick desktop would be a suitable replacement. They're odd systems, but often such systems are odd in a way that's really useful.

      • by eyegor ( 148503 )

        Power/Cooling and physical footprint are also considerations one needs to worry about. Price/CPU is very good on a PS3 too. For certain types of tasks, the CEL processor is ideal. We don't need a lot of RAM or hard drive either. We just need to crunch through a lot of numbers quickly.

        • Last time I checked Visual C++ produces WAY BETTER floating point code than GCC does (easily twice as fast) so unless you're programming in assembly language a single quad-core PC could replace quite a few PS3s. PCs can be had in very small boxes too, with less RAM/disk to save money.

          The thing that worries me most about PS3 farms is that you're stuck with the same technology for the next 'N' years. It was worth doing when it was new but the PC world is busy following Moore's law so it soon overtakes it. eg.

          • by eyegor ( 148503 )

            Using Visual C++ would require windows. The disadvantage of using windows over *nix are many: Licensing, Manageability, ad infinitum.

            Our main cluster is CentOS-based using ROCKS cluster software and is running on 208 blades using several different generations of HP BL46[05] G[1-6] blades that get refreshed periodically. We have a mixture of CPUs in production currently, dual dual-core Xeon, dual quad-core Xeon and Opteron and some dual quad-core Nehalem. We're replacing the dual dual-core blades with dual-h

            • When the PS3 cluster project started, it was one of the "sexiest" ways to get your hands on a lot of power for not a lot of money.

              Sure, a few years ago the cell processor was way ahead of what PCs were offering and PS3s made a lot of sense.

          • We also don't use GCC. We typically use the Intel or PGI compilers and applications like IDL or Matlab.

  • by alen ( 225700 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @11:02AM (#34823220)

    this is so fuckin' cool. next time my 3 year old wants to watch a scooby DVD, Cars or play the Rub a Dub Rub demo i'll just boot up the PS3 to the command line and excite him with /home/var

  • by Algorithmnast ( 1105517 ) on Monday January 10, 2011 @11:05AM (#34823250)

    I was worried at first that I'd have to burn a chip or something equally prone to destroying an expensive toy... but after I actually researched it... here [], I find that you don't have to mod the PS3 at all - you just have to create a disk that looks like a game disk to the PS3.

    And if you want to go back to PS3 behavior, you just reset the PS3 box.

    Now that is a cool hack.

    • Well you also need a PS3 which stills have OtherOS functionality (fat model AND firmware 3.21 maximum).
      If you do have a fat PS3 with later firmwares (current is 3.55) then you will need to downgrade with usb dongle (or equivalent like psfServiceMod for some HTC phones).
      You can also wait for the promised AsBestOS hack that should bring back OtherOS style support to the current firmwares.

      So it was a cool hack until Sony decided to remove OtherOS support to avoid hacks (and this did not worked as expected
  • ...were used to actually play games?

    Neither do I.
    • by dintech ( 998802 )

      I also remember when a phone was just a phone. I think it's better this way.

    • by tepples ( 727027 )
      There are several games, many of them free software, that are ported to FreeBSD but not to PS3 GameOS. I'd elaborate, but it's been said before, and CronoCloud doesn't want me to repeat it.
    • Remember when rocks were just rocks?

  • Call me when they finally get it working on the new PS3s you can buy in stores. Those are generally referred to as "Slim" and have never had OtherOS support.

    • I think it's unlikely that an OS that runs on OtherOS will ever run on a system that doesn't support OtherOS. You could crack the PS3 and put a patched firmware that supports OtherOS on there, but at that point you might as well cut the shit and just have it boot FreeBSD directly.

      • However, with access to the signing keys for software, is it not conceivable that one could produce and distribute an entirely valid piece of software that tacks on a new Other OS feature?

  • with a BSD running on it, someone would find a way to get the Mach kernel working and get OS X up and running (granted it would need to be an older version with PPC support)

    • You realize that the PS3 uses a special Cell processor that would not be compatible with a PPC binary? I think you may be thinking of the Xbox360 which uses a PPC processor.

      • It's only the SPEs in the PS3 that are specialized: the main CPU, the PPE, is similar to a PowerPC 970.

        • It's only the SPEs in the PS3 that are specialized: the main CPU, the PPE, is similar to a PowerPC 970.

          For the sake of argument, I think we can agree that the SPEs (aka SPUs aka APUs aka SPCs) are the specialized part of Cell and barring the PowerPC 620, that Cell and Xenon derivatives (featuring the more or less common PPE) are the only other 64 bit processors in the same timeframe as the PowerPC 970. The 970 could retire up to 5 instructions per cycle wheras the PPE could complete 8 single precision (or

  • News flash, now the PS3 is dying!
  • Yes, you could run BSD in the OtherOS feature but the benefit to this method is that there is access to the direct hardware such as the GPU which wasn't available before. This is booting a true OS now instead of a OS inside the PlayStation OS.
  • I'd imagine there will be a very large quantity of new PS3 OSs and OS distributions! but its good to see freeBSD ported! My biggest congratulations are for the next PS3 cluster super-computer! Just out of idle curisoty though: I remember Sony reading they are making a loss on PS3 hardware - offset by the sale of games. so id love to know if they can calculate a their losses from puchases of PS3's for other purposes (or if they can estimate their losses any more accuratly than losses to pirated games) Also
  • GhettoBSD is to be ported to PS3. A new era of free/cheap games on high-end hardware is here!

    Update: Porting failed.
    • Graphic drivers need to be built with OpenGL and Mesa for the ppc64 architecture before such games can be developed. Will Blender work on the machine and at what rate of rendering? What rendering engine is used by PS3 game developers? Has it been ported to FreeBSD?
  • Consider the performance of FreeBSD to Linux on other machines and architectures. Now, such a device could be used as a console/thin client when connected to another machine running FreeBSD. One can set up a router, using the PS3 to SSH into other local machines.

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