AfterDawn: Glossary

OtherOS

OtherOS was the name given to a feature on early hardware versions of the PlayStation 3 (PS3) video game console.

The feature allowed you to install an array of alternative operating systems on the console. The functionality was added to the first (fat) PS3 consoles not long after its 2006 launch in the United States. It allowed users to run a full Linux-based operating system, but with access to the RSX restricted by the hypervisor.

A Linux OS could be booted either from a compatible Boot CD or installed to the consoles hard disk drive. The OS was then accessible from the XMB user interface on the PS3.

The launch of the slim version of the PlayStation 3 (PS3) console in 2009 is the first time that OtherOS was removed from the PS3. No explanation was given as to why the feature was removed from the new version of the console at the time.

Furthermore, Sony killed the functionality in older consoles with a firmware update (v3.21) in April 2010. Sony cited security concerns in its decision to kill the OtherOS functionality. Around the same time that this occurred, iPhone hacker George Hotz (Geohot) had made some progress in hacking the console.

He created a custom firmware that kept the OtherOS feature intact, but the firmware was never made public and only ever witnessed through a YouTube video. Not updating a PS3 console meant a lack of access to the PlayStation Network (PSN) as well as problems playing newer games. Some users opted for workarounds, such as using third party DNS servers, to keep on PSN with older firmware.

Modified firmware has since been released that allows users to retain OtherOS functionality with the PS3.

The removal of OtherOS has led to a class action lawsuit in the United States. Since the feature was present and working when the console was bought, users felt that it set a very bad precedence that Sony could, at any time, remotely kill a feature that had been advertised with the product.

The OtherOS removal is often cited as the root cause of a flurry of PS3 hacking in 2010, which then led to legal action taken by Sony against the hackers. Following the legal action, Sony services all over the world, including PSN, were attacked, with information on millions of Sony customers stolen.

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