PS3 update locking out Linux April 1

Next firmware update for console will disable "Other OS" feature due to "security concerns"; owners who opt out will lose PSN access.

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When the PlayStation 3 debuted in 2006, Sony played up the fact that alternate operating systems could be installed on the console. However, when the PS3 Slim was released last year, it lacked the "Other OS" feature, causing some grumbling from the Linux community. That grumbling turned to outrage today, when Sony Computer Entertainment announced the April 1 v3.21 PS3 firmware update will disable the Other OS option altogether.

Pre-Slimline PS3s had the ability to run Linux and other operating systems.
Pre-Slimline PS3s had the ability to run Linux and other operating systems.

On the PlayStation Blog, SCEA director of corporate communications and social media Patrick Seybold said the move was due to "security concerns." Though no specific concerns were named, the move comes almost exactly two months after American hacker George Hotz, who famously unlocked the iPhone, announced he had hacked the PS3's operating system. In a BBC interview, the software wunderkind said the effort took five weeks and would allow hacked systems to play pirated games. Sony's PSP has suffered from similar exploits, leading to widespread piracy on the portable.

Seybold emphasized that the v3.21 firmware update is optional for current PS3 owners with Linux on their systems. However, consoles that do not have the update will no longer be able to log onto the PlayStation Network, play games online, use online features of games, play newer Blu-ray discs, or play copyright-protected videos from media servers.

The "Other OS" feature allowed technically savvy gamers to legitimately install the open-source Linux OS on the device, turning it into an alternate home computer. The US government also took advantage of the feature, with the Air Force ordering 2,200 of the powerful consoles to use as a linked supercomputer. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Cyber Crimes Center is using a similar system to to crack encrypted child pornography.

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