Wishlist: PS3 Linux Edition


It’s great that PS3 will run as a full blown PC with Linux installed. But the big limitation is RAM. Most competent PCs in 2007 are purchased with 1GB for regular use and power users typically want even more. 512MB is passable for basic desktop use, but the PS3 will only run with 256MB. That’s the only thing holding it back from being a genuine desktop replacement.

Sony released the 80GB PS3 configuration which seems completely pointless, from a user perspective. How about they release a special Linux edition that people would actually want:

  • More RAM This RAM would be used in Linux mode only and wouldn’t be used by games. A dedicated Linux edition should ship with at least 1GB. Ideally, this would be user upgradeable as well.
  • Larger Hard Disk 60GB is fine for regular game use and most media use. However, even though the drive is very easily upgradeable, if you want separate PS3 and Linux partitions, a larger default drive is probably a good idea.
  • Optical Disc Writing Ideally this would write Blu-Ray discs, but if it merely read Blu-Ray and wrote CD/DVD, that would be fine.
  • Full GPU Access Currently, PS3 Linux doesn’t have full GPU access. A complete PC replacement would definitely need this. Is Sony intentionally gimping the GPU? I can kind of understand why Sony would do this. Currently, the PlayStation business makes money by getting a cut of all software sales. Sony doesn’t have control over Linux software and wouldn’t get a cut of that. Why would devs make games for the PS3 OS, if they can just make Linux games and completely avoid paying Sony anything? Hmm…
  • Linux This should obviously come with Linux preinstalled or at least pre-bundled.

Why would people want this rather than just a regular PC? That’s really easy:

  • Form Factor The PS3 may be big and heavy compared to other game consoles, but it’s small, light, and quiet compared to a PC. Also, while style is a subjective issue, I suspect most would prefer the PS3 looks and form factor to any PC.
  • Cost Sure, you can get a cheaper PC from Walmart, but they aren’t nearly as nice.
  • High-End Tech How many PCs have a high end graphics card, super high-end A/V output (HDMI+Optical), embedded Bluetooth, embedded WiFi, embedded card reader, or a quiet slot-loading Blu-Ray drive? Almost none. And the ones that come close are anywhere near the PS3′s price or size.
  • Hybrid Some people want *just* a PC for office/connectivity features. Some people want *just* a games device. And other want *just* a music/movie/media device. And some people want to keep these functions on separate devices, but others don’t. There are a ton of people would be happy to get such a unit that could serve as all of the above: a high-end PC, high-end game console, and a high-end media device? Lots of people would kill for that.

So, would anyone buy such a unit? I already have a PS3, but I would buy another one if they offered this.

(FYI, this isn’t a rumor, this is just a wish list item.)

4:45 PM UPDATE: Added GPU bullet point


Written by: Darrin - Contributing Editor


  1. #1 by Henning on September 26th, 2007 [ 0 Points ]

    Interesting idea. As long as they clearly differentiate the new PS3 from the old PS3 properly, it sounds cool. I certainly hope that developers would only target the standard PS3 platform for games.

  2. #2 by Lakuma on September 26th, 2007

    To bad there isn’t a way in Linux (or maybe there is) to used a USB drive for additional memory i.e. ReadyBoost for Windows.

  3. #3 by Tosh Hatch on September 26th, 2007 [ 1102 Points ]

    I have Yellow Dog Linux installed on the 60 GB that came with my PS3 (now a 160 GB), but since I have my Mac just a few feet away from my PS3 I haven’t used Linux much. But I don’t have a extra keyboard & mouse for the PS3 either, lol.

    Darrin I agree with you though. I would much rather have a PS3 / Linux box than a ugly PC box. But if it had optical disc writing and more RAM that would be a powerful linux box!

  4. #4 by Dennis on September 26th, 2007

    If Linux was able to utilise the GPU rather than have to use a framebuffer, that would make a great deal of difference. What I’d like to see from PS3 Linux is a specialised media centre version that does all the stuff that the XMB doesn’t.

  5. #5 by Darrin on September 26th, 2007 [ 17143 Points ]

    Henning, definitely. All game devs should continue targeting base PS3 specs.

    Tosh, really lame excuse: you can get a nice USB keyboard and mouse for $20.

    Lakuma, ReadyBoost does disk caching rather than adding virtual RAM. RAM is far faster than flash anyway.

    Dennis, very good point! Forgot that one. Adding that to main post…

  6. #6 by Segitz on September 26th, 2007 [ 1470 Points ]

    Lakuma…

    the Ready Boot feature is more appearance than anything. I tried it with several (also an USB SATA HDD, very fast) devices and the gains were negligable. I mean, something in between 1-5 seconds (for a 60 second thing). And on top of that, every usual Linux installation incorporates a complete partition for swap space (the swap partition). Problem only is, 2.5” HDDs are very slow, especially when randon seeks and write/reads are needed (and they are when swapping much).

    More RAM is inevitable, if they really want to make a PC out of it. The rest… GPU access would be nice, but the rest is not needed imho (you can expand nearly everything nowadays via USB).

    I haven’t used YDL much these days, but there were some things I didn’t like from the beginning. Afaik, suspend to disc and then into game os is not feasible. This (would be) is a major function I’d use, especially since the lack of RAM makes booting pretty slow (compared to my 3 other Linux PCs, especially to my 2GB RAM desktop)

    I need to try PCSX on it :D That way, I can also play PS1 games off of HDD, but without rebuying them (and imports!!)

  7. #7 by nyssen on September 26th, 2007

    You forgot one thing: consoles are sold at a loss.
    Why would Sony want to sell a Linux PS3 ?

  8. #8 by nyssen on September 27th, 2007

    By the way, these guys made a nice linux box
    http://www.monolithmc.com/

  9. #9 by nyssen on September 27th, 2007

    sorry, I meant: “make a nice linux box”

  10. #10 by SL33PY on September 27th, 2007

    One point of the list has been buggering me since the announcement of the PS3. Sony made THE powerhouse console of the generation, there is no questioning that. But why oh WHY did they only put in 256Mb of ram? Why do they cut corners on that very vital part of the hardware? Ram means everything. My 2 year old PC has 1 gig of base ram and 512Mb of graphic card ram (GeForce 7800GTX) that’s 6 times as much, for a 2 year old (I admit in those days very powerful) PC.

    RAM is a key point on any platform. Also prices of DDR2 memory is (or was) at an all time low. Maybe I’m ignorant and the PS3 is fitted with DDR3 memory (which is more expensive). But the gains of using DDR3 over DDR2 is not really worth the squeeze (imo).

    My 2 cents – discuss :)

  11. #11 by Emrah on September 27th, 2007

    @sleepy:
    As far as I remember, the RAM on PS3 is special expensive, running sync with the processor (3.2ghz) Doubling that would add a lot more to the price of the system.

    Having more RAM is important indeed, esp. when you are running memory hog OS’es which have to take into account gazillion combinations of hardware, and almost always running several applications at once (anti-virus software, display driver control utility, firewall, and several other stuff you might have, but Ps3 OS is very streamlined and to the point: it is for multimedia and playing games, on a fixed set of hardware components. So how you use the memory is also important.

    Ps2 has 32mb ram, and it did a better job of running games compared to PC’s with 256 and 512mb ram, typical for the period PS2 was next gen of its time.

  12. #12 by Emrah on September 27th, 2007

    I forgot to mention, PS3 has ddr3 for the gfx card and the system ram is XDR memory (from Rambus).

  13. #13 by Henning on September 27th, 2007 [ 0 Points ]

    The PS3 has 512MB of RAM, divided into two types. Note that can still store code logic etc in the video RAM if you want to.

  14. #14 by Real Gambler on September 27th, 2007

    IBM is already selling something like what you’re looking for. It’s literally begging to have linux installed : ) Though, since the PS3 is sold at lost, and Blades server are sold with profit in mind, they are more expensive.

    Currently, just getting more access to the GPU would already be soooo much nicer. After all, Linux is still a relatively dense core o.s. It could also be compiled expressively for the PS3 with only a few drivers, so overall, the “lack” of memory would not be so bad. Anybody can replace the drive quickly.

  15. #15 by Darrin on September 27th, 2007 [ 17143 Points ]

    nyssen, good point: Sony loses money on hardware.

    However, I bet most of that loss is in overhead (design, building rent, depreciation costs, etc) and not in per unit costs (direct labor and direct materials provided by outside suppliers). If they increase sales volumes, their loses per unit would definitely drop, and if they add the right price premium to an enhanced Linux-centric SKU, they could definitely make those Linux SKUs profitable.

    Monlith looks like they make a nice Linux media PC, but I think Sony could mop up that business with a Linux-centric PS3. Look at what the PS3 would offer that one of those Monlith PC’s don’t offfer:

    – Blu-Ray. For a Media PC, this is a strong bonus
    – A/V: The HDMI 1.3 + Toslink on a PS3 blows away the DVI and integrated toslink on a PC motherboard.
    – WiFi + Bluetooth
    – Smaller, lighter, quieter, and much more stylish form factor.
    – PS3 media functionality is very highly polished and is a really nice complement to Linux functionality.
    – Games. Oh yeah: a PS3 media PC doubles as a high-end games console with all the best games.

  16. #16 by nyssen on September 27th, 2007

    Monolith has one very strong point: they understand the power and creativity of open source software. This box will evolve into something very interesting.

  17. #17 by nyssen on September 27th, 2007

    I would like to add this:
    from a marketing standpoint, Sony doesn’t want to emphasize that “PS3 = computer” idea

  18. #18 by arabek on September 28th, 2007

    Count me in, i was ranting ’bout the PS3 Linux edition for some time now. Talking to my friends, we came to one conclusion:
    - full cpu/gpu access (no hypervisor, wich slows down all operations)
    - br-rw
    - more (or even expandable – for the future) ram.

    These three things would make PS3 a perfect desktop replacement. I even know of some Polish universities that bought ps3′s as a Cell enviroment, for computational purposes – it’s still way cheaper than an IBM Blade server :)

  19. #19 by tom on September 30th, 2007

    Hey Everyone,
    No luck with the DVD player under Yellow Dog or another Linux. I have tried everything, and scoured the Internet. It looks like the dvd drive is locked under Linux. You can’t read a movie from the drive no matter what you do. You can’t even do a cp /mnt/dvd/VIDEO_TS/*.vob ~. VOB files can not be read. I wonder why no one else is talking about this. The video and the DVD drive are both crippled. You can’t play movies from the drive, or rip DVDs. Very Frustrating.

  20. #20 by Darrin on October 2nd, 2007 [ 17143 Points ]

    tom, have you posted that on the yellowdog forums or mailing lists? It could just be a driver or config issue.


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