November 30, 2006 - Right from its announcement, Sony always proclaimed that the PlayStation 3 would be more than a simple gaming console. It had always said the same thing about the PlayStation 2, dubbed a Computer Entertainment System by the company, though this time it's a great deal more serious about it. At the unveiling during its E3 2005 press conference, Sony stated that it would ship Linux pre-installed on the PlayStation 3's hard disc drive. While that (and numerous other things) changed before its release, the system does still support Linux - you just have to install it yourself.
A few months ago, Terra Soft Solutions announced that its Yellow Dog Linux would be the first officially supported flavor of the OS to run on the PS3. Other flavors do in fact work just as well, but Terra Soft is indeed the first company to fully push its support, so that's what we've installed.
It's worth noting that everything in this article, including the images, was created and posted solely from within Yellow Dog on the PS3.
If you haven't used Linux before, it's important to note that this is a power user's operating system. Being an open source OS, it's strengths lie in its flexibility rather than ease of use. While you're able to do almost everything in Linux that you can on a PC or Mac (aside from run platform-specific applications and games, of course), there's quite a bit of a learning curve to get over to fully make use of the system and get it up and running like you'd want it to.
As we're catering to a very wide audience, I'll be taking the newbie approach to this article, focusing on what works out of the box and what doesn't. If additional packages needed to be tracked down, compiled and installed to provide functionality, I intentionally didn't do so. With as numerous as the options are, I could spend days fiddling with these things, and so for time purposes as well as to mirror the assumed involvement of our readers, I'm only reporting on how the OS works after its default installation.
Receiving and Installing
There are three ways to get Yellow Dog Linux v5.0. If you're a paying, Enhanced member of its ydl.net network, you can download it as of this writing. Come December 11th, you'll be able to purchase a DVD package for $49.95. Two weeks later (on Christmas, no less), you'll be able to download the complete OS for free, though you'll need a DVD writer to burn the ISO.
After you have the operating system in your hands and on a disc, there are a couple steps you need to take to get it installed. First, you need to partition your PS3's hard drive using the Format utility in the Cross Media Bar. Oddly enough, you can only set aside 10GB to either the other OS or the PS3 for gaming/video/music purposes. In other words, if you have the 60GB system, you can't do 30/30; you can only do 50/10, though you can choose which OS gets 10GB and which gets the rest. Note that this will erase everything on the drive, including your saves, so you'll want to back them up first.
After formatting the drive, you need to create the installer. Using either a flash drive or a blank recordable disc of some sort, you need to download two files - Sony's bootloader installer and the actual bootloader. The bootloader installer comes from Sony itself and is simply used to start the installation of a third-party bootloader. This bootloader will then let you choose between starting Linux or the GameOS (a.k.a. the Cross Media Bar for playing games). Getting these files copied over and run is a pretty straightforward process that is nicely explained in the Yellow Dog Install Guide.
Once you have the bootloader running, you can start the actual installation process via your disc. The process takes about an hour or so and is relatively painless, though there are a few screens that may seem a bit scary if you don't know they're coming. For example, since the Linux partition won't have been formatted yet, you'll see an error that says that the OS can't read from the disc. It makes it look like you have a bad drive, but it's just a poorly worded message that everyone will see.
Once it's set up, you'll still default to booting to the Cross Media Bar. Heading into the System Settings, you change the default boot OS to OtherOS, which in this case is Yellow Dog. Upon restarting you wind up at a command prompt, and from here you need to either type ydl to start Yellow Dog or boot-game-os to start the regular PS3 interface for playing games and such. You can reboot to the GameOS from inside of Yellow Dog, though it seems that once you head back to that it becomes the default booting OS again, so you'll have to head back into System Settings to switch back to Yellow Dog again and restart. It's not the smoothest thing in the world, but it's reasonably simple once you know what's going on.
Thanks to IGN.com for sharing the news with us!