Running Linux on the PS3 - A detailed view of what's out there

HEXUS.gaming take a look at the options for running Linux on the PS3 and explore the pros and cons of the major releases out there.

"Not a single distro maintained a consistent, high-quality experience from installation to prolonged use. None of them is usable by your grandmother, or in most cases, by you. For the experienced Linux hacker, it's probably possible to beat some sense into these distributions (with Xubuntu probably closest to useful, when combined with the Petitboot boot loader used by openSUSE). But it's not a good choice - simply the least bad. "

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razer3364d ago

With all the hypervisor protection and all the limited support on the system it's a joke really.. But it makes for a good bullet point for the PR folks.

Ju3364d ago

Well, yeah, its not a desktop replacement (not enough system memory), the hypervisor is not _the_ problem, but they could have included a (closed) RSX GL driver (I guess they didn't on purpose). But its a nice platform to code for the CELL, if there are still some bedroom coders out there (those were the times...). For doing something useful, you might even want to strip down the distro and use your app only (like an embedded kernel), and use X on a remote client. Then it would do just fine (but defeats the purpose of a desktop replacement).

Monkeynator3364d ago

It's somewhat useless for playing videos. Sure I can get VLC on it, but the quality just doesn't seem right and post processing doesn't work well either. I still use my dedicated (MVIX) box for that. BUUUUUT, it does still run the applications well enough. So if I want to download a bunch of stuff without running the main computer I can let the PS3 do it. I can also use it to stream music, read e-mail and surf the web... Pretty much what I do with my machine 90% of the time.

I suppose if there were more optimized apps for it I could also use it for work, but right now it does everything I want except for speedy video playback, video encoding, and Flash. By the way, did you guys know that some compression libraries are already being re-compiled for it with SPU support? Just getting a few key libraries re-developed (face it, SPU support is not easy) could significantly improve the experience.

As far as memory being low, I wouldn't knock it too badly. Linux runs just fine on 128MB of ram. Just cut out the fat and the heavy graphics stuff. I had a distro running on just 97MB recently, and that had a lot of unnecessary stuff running.

Ju3364d ago (Edited 3364d ago )

Yes, the SPU support is lacking. But I am still surprised, that there isn't more available, yet. mplayer could support SPU decoding, for example. Or encoders etc. I don't think its so hard to implement. I did a simple PNG decoder, but just to see how hard it is. You can actually completely recompile existing C code. In that case, I haven't even used vectorized code. Its actually the same code which runs on the PPU. Just some IO to transfer the pixels. As I said, it was just to see how hard it is to use the SPUs. libspe is pretty usable (I haven't used the latest libspe2 which AFAIK now support (rudimentary) preemptive scheduling). And it also doesn't make sence to use the spu for small pictures. Also, what I haven't done yet, is to port libz to the SPU, because without that, the uncompressor still runs on the PPU (senseless performance wise, it needs to run on the SPU as well, and the PPU mmaps the file straight into the mem to use by the SPU - I haven't tryed to DMA read from a mmaped address, but I suppose that would work, which means the SPU would stream directly from file - well, "virtually" speaking, but kind of transparent).

I am playing with some 3d stuff right now. I have a very basic OpenGL interface, but the backend runs multithreaded, composer->geometry->shad er run in parallel and in that order (I can switch that off, it runs single threaded as well - performance is the same on one core). This is still on the (x86) PC so far (sse optimized), I have to implement the CELL backend ASAP I am satisfied with what it does (which I am not, yet), but the idea is to run "composer" (that is the app interface) on the PPU, 2 geometry processors on SPU 1&2 and 4 shaders at the same time (tiled renderer - more likely stripes). Lets see what I'll have in a year from now :)

But that example is a very dedicated implementation, if some other APP would want to use the SPUs, it can't, because I would allocate them statically - even dynamically in a general purpose environment would be interesting, if an app would swap out my render code (actually, I don't want to allow that anyway, I would add my own scheduler to run physics and AI if there is still some resources available somehow in refresh cycles). All theory, but if one is interested, this can be a nice hobby.

What's currently missing is a complete preemptive integration into the kernel, then this would be taken care of by the OS, which is now done in user land.

I also miss a dedicated PS3 linux community sites. There are some site (e.g., and I found some others, but nothing really dedicated.

And then, there is so much I'd like to do, but have no time. And things like Ratchet or Uncharted don't really help to fix my time budget :)

Monkeynator3362d ago

Linux would really be best served by having the primary libraries re-compiled and by having the SPU's designated with prioritized tasks. For example, optimizing the compression/decompression (mp3, flac, ogg, h264) libraries are prime candidates that would be favored with long term high priority while temporal independent (gzip/zip) have lower priority. Secondly a fill matching system on the SPU pool could be used to organize the processes to make sure that the SPU are always doing work (lots of short run items stacked on one SPU, while super long term get a whole SPU, and medium swapped between 2 SPU).

It would be a bad thing if every single app. got designed to use SPU's... You would end up with a system that spends most of it's time fighting for the SPU to do something minor. OpenGL, Codecs, and highly repeated processes should be done first, hence why I would nominate heavily used libraries be the first to be re-designed.

In any case just re-pointing to a PPC distribution repository does wonders for the apps. that are available ;).

QuackPot3364d ago (Edited 3364d ago )

save your time and energy for gaming and just encourage Sony to develop their own distribution of Linux or their own commercial OS based on OSS.

If Sony was to produce it's own version of Mac OSX based on Linux or BSD that could be used on its Playstations AND Pcs, then Microsoft would be sh1tting its pants.

The slow growth of Linux on desktops is because no major company has been willing to invest in providing truly sleek, user-friendly, fast, driver-friendly, fully multi-media and net ready, optimized distribution. PC owners like Mac OSX)need a good and easy reason to migrate to Linux...not just that it is free.

Sony could do this on the cheap with their own optimized version of Linux for the Ps3. And this could be a stepping stone to creating a Sony OS for PCs.