January 15, 2008

Linux on PS3

Posted in Linux tagged , , , , , , at 10:43 pm by pmatos

Well, Linux on the PS3 is definitely no news… the news are that I finally installed a decent Linux distro in it. By decent I mean Gentoo (which is definitely better than decent).

I’ve installed Gentoo several times past the last 7 years or so, just because it is IMO the best distro out there for what I need. When it came to install a distro on the PS3, I wanted to play safe because I didn’t want my PS3 to break down all of a sudden, so I went for the official Linux distro Yellow Dog Linux. What I nightmare!!! Let me say that again: What a nightmare!!! Not that installation was hard (not at all, as hard as Gentoo I might add) but the distro itself is just obnocious. User support is terrible, community is horrible, homepage is a complex maze where you get lost before you enter it, it is hard to do what you want and you can’t install this or that because it is not supported yet…. ahhhhhhh but it will be on the next version….. which by the way nobody knows when it will come out. ARGH… It smells like Windows running on a Linux Kernel.

The tutorial you can find on installing Gentoo on PS3 is good but far from perfect. Hopefully the following details should make it clearer (I’ll assume in the following set of tips that you know how to install and how Linux works on the usual architecture):

  •  First, remember PS3 is just basically a normal PC with a very powerful processor which, since it has to have XMB (Sony Media Bar / Operating System) installed at all times, makes some things a bit different;
  • For a start, the boot loader (to boot another OS) is called KBoot, and it needs to be installed before installing a new other OS. If you already have KBoot installed from a previous Linux installation maybe it’s better to reinstall the latest version of it;
  • The media containing KBoot needs to be formatted as FAT as currently is the only file system XMB supports;
  • After installing KBoot, you can select in XMB to reboot PS3 with otheros and then PS3 will boot into the kboot prompt. This is where you should have a distro livecd handy (be it in USB or CD, doesn’t matter) prepared to be booted by KBoot. This media can theoretically be formatted using any filesystem supported by Linux, however, for Gentoo I suggest (and even think there’s no other way) Ext3;
  • Once you get into the livecd, you’re on your way, USB slots are /dev/sdX and PS3 drive is /dev/ps3da (for kernels >=2.6.23);
  • In Gentoo, partition ps3da and download a stage4 tarball from a mirror, and install it as usual, refer to the guide on installing Gentoo on PS3 and maybe even the guide for installing Gentoo on PPC64 assuming you’ll want to run PS3 on a Gentoo PPC64 (you can choose PPC32 but there’s no reason to);
  • After Gentoo is installed… throw a party and have fun!


  1. vdias said,

    E depois… continuas a poder jogar ou já era…? ;)

  2. gauthma said,

    Actually, that’s a quite relevant question!! Me tweaking or not the PS3 depends on the answer….

  3. Ben said,

    Total noob question: after you install your linux distro on the PS3, what steps do you have to do to play DVDs or games, do you switch between boots? Sorry, but I just don’t quite understand but am thinking about getting a PS3 as a blue ray player and basically a media server which I can vlm into. Thanks.

  4. pmatos said,

    Hello Ben,

    If you are in XMB (Sony OS), you can simply choose using one of the options to start the “other os” and linux will start. Once on linux, you are in linux userland. Usage of linux through the TV only works really well with an HDTV, if yours is not linux is only usable through ssh.
    There are also simple ways to go from linux to XMB. Everything is really well thought.

    By the way, have you heard about PlayTV? Another very nice thing coming out for the PS3 soon…

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