Ben Kuchera has a follow up to yesterday’s story about Sony removing the option to boot Linux on the original hardware version of the PS3 in a forthcoming firmware update. Just as I predicted, the community of folks who make after market software and hardware modifications, modders, have responded.
The hacker who finally defeated the anti-modding measures in the console, George “GeoHot” Hotz, has vowed to release custom firmware that keeps the Linux option available. Hotz also agrees with my own skepticism over Sony’s stated reason of security for taking away the alternate boot feature.
Wired’s Gadget Lab has another angle on this story I hadn’t considered. Because of the ability to boot Linux, PS3’s as a class of computer make a substantial contribution to many distributed computing projects, like Stanford’s Folding@Home project. These kinds of distributed super computers make use of idle computers, whether they are desktops or gaming consoles, to chunk up the work of cracking computationally intensive problems, like figuring out the complex topology of how proteins fold during their synthesis. Folding@Home in particular has the potential to aid considerable with any number of aspects of biotechnology, like drug discovery.
For owners who have decided to use their PS3’s to contribute to these distributed projects, Sony has basically asked them to choose between supporting some worthwhile research projects or retaining their ability to play online and watch Blu-ray discs.