PS3 clusters hit as Sony gives Linux the flick

Game consle once praised by resaerchers for being more open

Sony’s announcement of the new PS3 Slim has excited gamers worldwide, but people wanting to run Linux on the console have been shunned with the removal of its 'Install Other OS' feature.

Since its debut a few years ago the PS3 – and its heralded Cell processor co-developed with IBM – has found a niche within the scientific research community for a cheap HPC running Linux for number crunching.

Within Sony’s announcement of the new Playstation came a short notice of the removal of the multi-OS feature.

"The new PS3 system will focus on delivering games and other entertainment content, and users will not be able to install other Operating Systems [sic] to the new PS3 system," according to the company.

Linux is the only mainstream operating system to be ported to the PS3 and distributions include Fedora, OpenSUSE, Ubuntu and Yellow Dog Linux.

Ironically, in the very same announcement Sony said it intends to “further expand the PS3 platform and create a new world of computer entertainment”.

As early as 2007 engineers at North Carolina State University built the first academic computing cluster out of PS3s.

Technical details of the cluster are available online.

The same year Computerworld reported on the use of a PS3 cluster at the University of Massachusetts.

University astrophysicist Dr Gaurav Khanna praised Sony for making the PS3 an “open platform”.

“What's unique is that they made it an open platform. Normally with a game console, the maker controls who can run what on it. What Sony did was make the PS3 an open platform,” he said.

“They let you run whatever you want on it. It has the full capabilities of a normal computer. You can run Firefox or whatever you want. It gave me the possibility of doing whatever I want with it."

US company Fixstars even offers a turn-key PS3 system running Yellow Dog Linux which can be used as a supercomputing cluster node.

The Sony PS3 Slim will be available in Australia from September 3, 2009 for $499.

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