back to article Sony off the hook for killing Linux on PS3

A federal judge has fully dismissed a class-action lawsuit brought against Sony over the electronics giant's decision to axe "Other OS" support from its PlayStation 3 console. US District Court Judge Richard Seeborg granted a request by Sony to dismiss the case under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act because there were …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Advertised features correct at time of going to print

    We reserve the right to reduce functionality when ever we see fit.

    So the law is no longer there to protect the consumer.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Problem is.

      It was never an advertised feature.

      Show me a TV advert or anything on the box that pushes it as a feature. YOU CAN'T... About the most I have ever seen was a 1-liner mention of it in the handbook and a very naff community website to support it.

      It's a bonus feature, and it was withdrawn the moment GeoHot used it to try and crack the system open for piracy.

      1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

        Barry Shitpeas

        Your order of events is arse backwards.

        1. Anonymous Coward


          As anyone that's not rewritten history will know that GeoHot was using the Hypervisor to try and break the PS3 in Jan 2010 well before OtherOS was removed.

          OtherOS was removed in firmware 3.21, released April 1st 2010

          If you are upset about this, GO BLAME HIM.

    2. M Gale

      The main surprise here... finding Mr Shitpeas not giving a damn about a company removing the ability to run the toy Unix on their devices.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Was obvious this was going to fail. All these gamers will have just wasted a whole lot of money in legal fees for nothing. However the reality is, most of them weren't really games I guess, but gamer stooges dressed up by Microsoft to fuel the Sony internet hate machine.

    The harsh reality is, the ONLY reason Sony removed OtherOS, what because GeoHot was bragging online about how he was using it to try and get access to the hypervisor.

    The other harsh reality is, nobody cared about OtherOS before this, it was an unloved and unused add-on. It's only when gamers were tricked into thinking they were losing something that might one day open the system up to pirated games, did they start caring.

    By this time, the Microsoft fuelled internet FUD machine was in overdrive, and the scandal sniffing media saw a cheap story that was guaranteed to drag in readers and pay for leccy bills that month.

    1. Alien8n

      Actually there were quite a few people using the OtherOS feature to load Linux. IIRC the US defense dept were using a server farm of PS3s running Linux for nuclear testing. Were also very popular with a few academics for the same reason. Totally irrelevant here though as they can probably get theirs sent to them preloaded.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        But crucially... gamers.

        If you ever actually tried booting a full Linux desktop on it (I did), you would know how useless it really was... Like running Ubuntu 11 on a Pentium2. It was RAM limited, and running through a hypervisor, took about 60 seconds to boot to the desktop, and Firefox ran like a total dog.

        Sure there were academics and military uses for the incredible numbercrunching potential of the cell, and ran a base kernel and basic shell, but nobody that wanted to use PSN would ever need that.

        The whole thing IS/WAS a storm in a teacup, and the tech media should be ashamed of making it out to be anything else. El-Reg were big players in hyping this up, and in doing so destroyed their credibility for a very long time afterwards.

        1. Daniel B.

          FAIL, @Barry Shitpeas

          " gamers."

          I take offense at that. I got screwed by this *because* I used my PS3 for both gaming and Linux. PS3 Linux wasn't really there for Desktop use though; the real meat on it is the CellBE processor, which coincidentally *isn't* sold outside of the PS3 since some months before Sony b0rked OtherOS.

          After a year and a half of getting stuck with old games, I finally bought another PS3, a phat BC-enabled one. That one is now my gaming rig.

          Oh and I'll buy an XBOX 360 when pigs fly. There's no effin' way I'll ever buy the shitbox; I don't like getting pimped for online play. But then, that's MS we're talking about.

      2. westlake

        The PS3 based HTPC was a hack.

        >>IIRC the US defense dept were using a server farm of PS3s running Linux for nuclear testing. Were also very popular with a few academics for the same reason.<<

        The HTPC doesn't need the firmware upgrade.

        What it needs is 2000 PS3 FATS + spares.

        Hardware that has been out of production since 2009.

        Hardware support for OtherOS was stripped from later versions of the PS2 because it added cost and complexity without a significant return in sales,

        That the original PS3 was over-built and over-priced for its market was obvious from the beginning.

        The PS3 Slim was predicted and inevitable.

        I don't think anyone could have seriously believed that the PS3 based HTPC was going to be anything other than a short-term solution.

        Something to get keep you going through the next round of budget cuts.

    2. sisk

      "Was obvious this was going to fail."

      No. Legally it shouldn't have failed. Sony effectively lied to their customers to sell a product and they obviously now own another judge.

      "However the reality is, most of them weren't really games I guess, but gamer stooges dressed up by Microsoft to fuel the Sony internet hate machine."

      No. The reality is that most of them were Linux geeks, about the last people in the world who would allow themselves to be dressed up by Microsoft for any purpose. When it came out the PS3 was one of the best machines on the market. I can tell you for certain that the OtherOS feature was a major factor in my decision to get PS3 rather than put the money towards upgrading my gaming PC.

      "The harsh reality is, the ONLY reason Sony removed OtherOS, what because GeoHot was bragging online about how he was using it to try and get access to the hypervisor."

      Irrelevant. That doesn't change the fact that they removed a feature people had paid for. GenHot's hack didn't pose any risk to Sony's bottom line. That was just their excuse.

      "The other harsh reality is, nobody cared about OtherOS before this, it was an unloved and unused add-on. It's only when gamers were tricked into thinking they were losing something that might one day open the system up to pirated games, did they start caring."

      Complete BS. If that were true why is it that as soon as OtherOS vanished we saw the regular progression of hacks, starting with getting Linux on the machine, that eventually led to pirated games on the formerly 'unhackable' PS3 when for years before that no one had even gotten so much as proof of concept code to run on the thing? There's a whole community of people who cared about OtherOS, and I'm one or them.

      1. a_been


        "No. Legally it shouldn't have failed. Sony effectively lied to their customers to sell a product and they obviously now own another judge."

        ROTFLOL. Yes that must be it, Sony bought the judge.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Erm... stop doing the daily mail thing

    "but later dropped it after a hardware hacker discovered how to exploit OtherOS to jailbreak the PS3."

    Why does this site, a site ment to be for the technically minded, quote this when it was proven at the time to be utter BS. It was NEVER jailbroken due to the work that GeoHot did as quoted in YOUR OWN ARTICLE ("The hack will allow PS3 users for the first time to run unrestricted versions of Linux that have full access to the system's central processing unit and graphical processing unit."), the jailbreak was something completly different (there was one method using a sony developer usb if i remember correctly.

    What Geohot did was get access to the hypervisor so he could have possibly in the future gained access to GameOS but at the time linux developers could use the GPU which was limited before.

    I expect the general press (and Euro(Sony)Gamer) to peddle the innacurracies, its what they do but a tech minded site doing it is a bit stupid, it was annoying at the time when people couldn't tell what was going on due to people just getting it wrong.

    1. irish donkey

      a site ment to be for the technically minded

      I'm afraid you are in the wrong place. This used to be a tech minded site a few years ago now its just a...

      I don't know what it is now but it's certainly not tech minded

    2. The Original Ash

      STOP doing the Daily Mail thing?

      Dude... The white-on-red headline text, the tabloid writing style, the presence of Lester Haines... This *IS* the Daily Mail, only for tenuously-IT-related "news".

      I come here for a laugh, now. I get my news elsewhere.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sorry to sound like a cynical old git - but fuck sony and everything they sell.

    No more money from me goes to them ever.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      That's not a cynical old git, that's a ranty teenager you'll be sounding like.

    2. Canonymous Howard

      >No more money from me goes to them ever.

      Good luck in buying electronics without Sony components in them for the rest of your life!

    3. AndrueC Silver badge

      > Sorry to sound like a cynical old git

      A cynical old git wouldn't have thought anything surprising about the whole episode and would probably have dismissed it as a storm in a teacup.

      I know I did.

      It's a shame for those hardy souls who were sailing in the teacup but at least they learned a lesson.

  5. Thomas 4


    What the hell does "insufficient facts" mean?

    Fact 1 - The PS3 originally shipped with OtherOS active.

    Fact 2 - Some people bought the PS3 with the intent of using the OtherOS.

    Fact 3 - Sony removed the functionality of OtherOS with no recompense to the people in fact 2

    Fact 4 - The people in Fact 2 were given the option of losing their ability to play new PS3 games or losing OtherOS.

    How many goddamn facts do you need?!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "How many goddamn <strike>facts</strike>dollars do you need?"

      Fixed that for you.

      And this, by the way, is why people like me, in every story on Sony products, will keep raising Sony's past actions such as disabling OtherOS, the root kit on CDs, etc. We "smalls" may not be able to convince the courts to rule against the "bigs", but we "smalls" can still exercise a degree of control over where our money goes, and we can damn well choose not to do business with anybody who makes a habit of screwing us.

    2. Vitani

      Indeed, the people in Fact 2 lost an advertised feature one way other the other, I really don't see how this didn't win. And perhaps worse, it's now set a precedent that you can sell whatever you want, and pull features at will with no repercussions.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      You'll probably find that "Fact 4" cancels out "Fact 2" in that people can still use Other OS, if they don't want to use new games. Other OS hasn't been removed, just the ability to use Other OS AND Newer games has been prevented.

    4. Dave 15

      My guess is

      The judge needed several green coloured ones with large numbers printed on in order to out do the other pile of large green coloured paper the other side were probably offering,.

  6. Tom 7

    insufficient facts


  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Recently, Sony included a clause in its new Terms of Service, which wavered user's rights to bring class-action lawsuits against the company. Laws here prevent such restrictions being put in place in the UK, though."

    Totally out of order to allow this but then again given the rate at which our Yankee cousins will get the lawyer on the phone for any minor slight, probably a good thing!

    1. Tasogare

      That part is much worse than the loss of the case itself, I think. I have this mental image of that famous exploding car I forget the model for, being sold with a "Buyer waives all rights to bring suit against and disclaims all responsibility by Manufacturer for any problem with Product" contract clause. Does anyone know if such clauses have been upheld as legally binding?

      I hope not but suspect they have.

  8. NoneSuch Silver badge

    Must be nice... be able to publish Terms of Service that eliminate your rights as a consumer and remove your right to legal action in case of a total balls up on Sony's part. <sarcasm> Like, I don't know, someone hacking their network repeatedly??? </sarcasm>

    The only way to avoid the insanity is not to buy this product or indeed any propriety console.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Is this legal...

      ... in the US? That a corporation can take away your legal rights? It certainly isn't in the UK, in fact any contracts that give the impression that rights are being restricted, by law, must contain the phrase "nothing in this contract restricts your statutory rights".

      Just seems a bit odd to me that in the US, legal rights, are not legal rights.

  9. 1Rafayal

    Its a shame, but seriously - this was only ever going to be exploited by people trying to play pirated games on the device.

    It would have been nice to use a PS3 as a Linux box, it would have presented a nice counter balance to Microsoft's dauntless march to dominate the space beneath the telly by providing a nice in for Linux to the family home. You never know, we could have even had Android running on it by now..

    Personally, I am surprised the feature made it on to the PS3, didnt PS2's running Linux allow pirated games to be booted from an HDD?

    1. sisk

      You're mistaken. It wasn't Linux that allowed PS2s to run pirated games. It was the fact that the console was cracked to be able to run unsigned code. The way the OtherOS was implemented was the only thing that prevented piracy on the PS3 for so long. Remember it's always been the Linux geeks who crack open consoles for unsigned code first and pirates come in behind them. If you let the Linux geeks do what they want without having to crack the system the pirates are pretty impotent. The PS3 is a perfect case in point. For years it was considered unhackable, but they pulled OtherOS and we had proof of concept code within 6 months, Linux within 8, and pirated games within a year.

      1. 1Rafayal


        If memory servers, there was a YellowDog distro for the PS2 that allowed you to install a HDD and network card (if you had the fat PS2). I believe it was possible to use this to store DVD images and allow them to be booted directly from the HDD itself (not using Linux), in fact you can read about here:

        So removing the HDD slot for the PS2 Slim stopped this from taking place. I presume that if Sony wanted people to run linux on their PS2 then I suppose they would license a live spin or something.

        By adding the OtherOS option on the PS3, which has to use a HDD, they sort of undid the steps they took on the PS2.

        If Sony really wanted people to run Linux on a PS3, what stopped them from releasing a live spin on bluray and allow people to use an external HDD on usb?

        That would present a simple way of allowing people to use the PS3's hardware in a controlled manner.

    2. yossarianuk

      RE: 1Rafayal

      No it wasn't just an exploit to play pirated games... It was just direct access to the GPU so that you could run compiz, Linux 3d games (yes some exist..), etc.

      The CEO of Sony said before the PS3 came out "Of course it would run Linux " - It was an advertised feature........

      As the PS3 has a crap amount of RAM using the 3D card could have been really really useful.

      I never bought A PS3 as I was waiting for a way for Linux to access the GPU.... So that's at least one sale they lost - I will never buy anything from Sony like I will never buy anything from Microsoft (i'm forced to pay Microsoft through taxes anyway...)

      1. Stuart Castle Silver badge

        Maybe Geohot's hack wasn't intended to do anything more than open up the GPU, but it could, theoretically, have been used to open up other areas of the system.

        Think about this from Sony's point of view. It costs a *lot* of money to develop a game now days. In some cases, nearly as much as movies, yet the number of potential customers is much lower.

        I suspect that one promise that Sony made when signing up companies to develop for the PS3 was the security offered by the system against piracy (which, according to friends in the business, is a major concern and major reason why a lot of developers are turning their back on the PC).

        Geohot did something that could have contributed to a break in that publicity. Then, IIRC, was quite vocal about doing it. Something which, even if Sony didn't notice it themselves, would have been noticed and reported by at least one developer.

        Sony, for their part, was just protecting their revenue. They made little, if any, money from Linux. If it vanished from the console, they wouldn't have lost much. If a developer (such as any of the EA studios) pulled support for the system, Sony would lose millions in potential sales.

        One final thing. I've never really understood the obsession with jailbreaking consoles. Although they may have powerful CPUs and GPUs, they are not PCs. They are appliances. If you've bought a recent TV or Blu Ray player, you've got a device that's probably got a fair amount of processing power (hell, the Toshiba TVs even have Cell processors), yet I've never seen anyone complaining they can't install so and so on the TV or Blu Ray player.

        Similarly, some cars now have a fair amount of processing power in various systems. Never seen anyone complain they can't jailbreak their cars (although in this case, it might be handy as it might fix some of the security problems introduced by various manufacturers).

        As for removing features, you might have a case for a refund under the sale of goods act, but I suspect that Sony would have a clause in the terms of use that says they can remove features at will.

  10. Shane8

    Re: Thomas

    Your post is spot on!

    I had linux on my PS3 for just over a year after they axed it (refused to update)....until Fifa 11 came out. Sony should not be allowed to get away with this!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Disturbing developments

    While I don't care much about this specific feature I do think there's something else going on which is IMO disturbing to say the least. The fact itself that companies can sell you a product A and promise that it does abcd and change the functionality over time.

    As said; this particular issue is IMO not that big an issue. I mean; you buy a games console to do games or other multimedia stuff, anything extra's is IMO just that: a bonus.

    No, my main gripe is with games these days. I focus on PS3 games because, well, that's where I play games. Take a game like Gran Turismo 5. I really dig(ged) this game; I bought it last year to "get me through the holiday season" (gf was on vacation with her family). Got it around this time last year and only left the PS3 somewhere in the next January.

    Yet in the mean time a lot of stuff has changed. Including the way races start. What used to be a grid start has now turned into a rolling start. For me that was a very big and unwelcome change since I /loved/ grid starts. Sure; I messed up quite a lot, but that's what it takes. Its not easy to try and drive off as fast as you can /without/ wheelspin and such!

    Yet no more. And that's also where I started to lose interest in GT5. I now play it occasionally but the races ('A Spec') are hardly as much fun as they used to be.

    THAT development is IMO disturbing. You buy a game while it does XY and all of a sudden people decide that Y is no good and take it away. Seemingly having no respect at all for you, the customer. You can't, for example, state that "this isn't what I bought it for, I want a refund" (not that I would want a gt5 refund, but still..).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Damn you Sony

      for updating my PS3 with tonnes of new features in the firmware.

      Are you suggesting you don't want nice things added?

      it works both ways you know... If companies are prevented CHANGING features, that will include ADDING (as many times, adding will change other stuff...)

      I don't see anyone crying about when Nintendo took away MP3 playback, or when Microsoft removed support for 40 or so Xbox game titles and when you removed Netflix Party Removed... You know why? Because this whole storm in a teacup over OtherOS was orchestrated by Microsoft that's why...

      1. Goat Jam

        It's True!

        Sony fanboys are the worst

      2. Lamont Cranston


        they could release finished products that don't need patching )to correct the fact that they don't work properly)? Just a thought.

  12. Throatwobbler Mangrove

    "Insufficient evidence against it, says Judge"

    The sub is misleading. The plaintiffs did not (just) fail to produce evidence in support of their action: "as a legal matter... plaintiffs have failed to allege facts or articulate a theory on which Sony may be held liable."

    The plaintiffs failed to allege legal principles and facts which would have led to Sony being held liable, let alone prove them. Evidence (proof of those facts) didn't even come into it yet.

  13. Dave 15

    Sounds dubious

    From the info here (and I've not looked elsewhere) it appears Sony claimed a feature for the device that was later removed. As the device no longer behaves as advertised (for whatever reason) they should be made to refund for anyone that claims to have bought it because of that feature - purely on the grounds of misrepresentation. That this is a class suit and they have put some 'terms and conditions' preventing that is also nonsense. I had great respsect for Sony but it appears they are handling this all wrong. So a few users may have 'jail broken' the device but in all honesty they buy the device - whether Sony want to pretend its a lease/licence or whatever the people have bought the device. If Sony (or any other console manufacturer) has a business model predicated on making money from games and accessories rather than the device that is their - and only their problem.

    My analogy is that I buy a car - it has a lot of intricate hardware and software, and yes, the manufacturer may make a deal on the spares and servicing but they can't - and don't - stop me changing the oil, sparkplugs, etc myself, nor do they (or could they) stop me buying Fred Blogs carpet/roof rack etc etc

  14. Nigel 11

    The law is an ass?

    "plaintiffs have failed to allege facts or articulate a theory on which Sony may be held liable"

    Fraud? Theft? Selling you a product based on an advertized feature which they then take away is one or the other or both, in the everyday non-legal meanings of the words.But I guess their 666-page shrink-wrapped license that you can't read until after you've accepted it has served its intended purpose.

    Anyway, just keep boycotting everything Sony, and spread the word.

  15. Charles 9

    For those who have said...

    "As the device no longer behaves AS ADVERTISED..."

    Show us where it was advertised in print, either on the box or on a Sony-produced advertisement. Preferably using a cloud photo with link so everyone can see it personally.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They can't

      And that's why everything thinks they are just plonkers.

  16. Mectron


    Sony, (a court proven openly criminal company) is getting away with obvious CRIME. how much does Sony has to paid the judge to buy him out?

  17. Shagbag

    Big deal

    US rulings are not binding outside of US territories, ie. this is of little consequence for the rest of the world.

  18. Chris_B

    As advertised ?

    How about a screen shot of the option that allows you to install another OS ?

    I'd call that a feature and seeing as it's not now there then it's a feature that's been removed.

    How would you feel if they removed the BluRay player because it allows you to play pirated movies.

    1. Charles 9

      Was it a feature or a bonus?

      Just because the box of cereal sometimes comes with a toy inside doesn't make it mandatory to have a toy in the box ALL THE TIME.

      Similarly, an electronic device may possess a capability that was never advertised (maybe it was pre-standard or involved a legal gray area) but may have the capability removed later on. Thing was, it wasn't so much a feature as a BONUS. A company cannot be compelled to include a bonus, particularly one that was never committed TO WRITING.

  19. Alistair MacRae

    Feels bad

    I remember having to sign the terms and conditions to do the update and while i'd probably never install another OS it still felt bad to remove the feature

    I suppose if you bought it to run linux and use in a server farm or something it wouldn't cause a problem as its wont matter to them as they probably wont use the online gaming feature.

    I think i'll look carefully at the features of their next device before buying it.

    I do hope they find a way in the future to properly stop piracy because it really does seem to be affecting PC games.

    I'm really going off my PS3, anytime I want to do anything other than play a blu-ray disk it asks me to update something which takes hours for some reason.

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