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PlayStation 3 Update Will Drop Linux Capability

Back when the PlayStation 3 shipped, it earned points among computing enthusiasts for not only packing a mighty Cell processor and a Blu-ray drive, but also for being the only gaming console to potentially enable users to use it for something other than playing games. Unlike the Wii and Xbox 360, the PS3 shipped out of the box with an “Install Other OS” option that enabled users to install an run Linux on the systems, if the could work out all the details themselves. But you know Linux folks: that’s what they do.

Sony removed the option with its most recent PS3 slim models, and now its going to take away the capability on all PS3 systems: the PS3 Firmware 3.21 Update, due to be released April 1, 2010, will remove the “Install Other OS” functionality from all existing PS3 systems—even ones predating the current PS3 Slim.

Sony cites security concerns as the reason for removing the capability, although it does not go into any detail. Presumably it is worried about users booting into Linux and using the separate OS to engage in content piracy of games, or videos and music downloaded from the PlayStation Network.

Existing PS3 users don’t have to install the v3.21 firmware update—that will let them keep their Linux capability—but opting out of the firmware update also means opting out of the PlayStation Network, newer Blu-ray movies and games, and content-protected videos streamed from a media server.

Sony recommends anyone using Linux on their PS3s first back up their data stored on the PS3’s hard drive partition for that OS, because the data will become inaccessible after the update.

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