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3/29/2010
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PlayStation 3 Upgrade Kills Linux Option

Outraged users claim Sony is removing a feature they already bought and paid for.

Sony is nixing a feature on PlayStation 3 that allowed users to install third-party operating systems, including the open source Linux OS, on the video game console. The PS3 Firmware 3.21 upgrade is available Thursday.

"It will disable the 'Install Other OS' feature that was available on the PS3 systems prior to the current slimmer models, launched in September 2009," Sony announced in post Monday on its official PlayStation blog.

Sony said the move was "due to security concerns." "For most of you, this won't have any impact on how you use your PS3. If you are one of the few who use the Other OS feature, or if you belong to an organization that does, then you can choose not to upgrade your system," Sony said.

The company did not elaborate on why it believes third-party operating systems pose security threats to PlayStation users.

Some other consumer product companies have restricted the use of Linux on their products due to a licensing condition that stipulates that commercial users of Linux make their source code available to end users.

Some manufacturers have voiced concerns that end users would use the source code to disable Digital Rights Management technologies, which are used to protect copyrighted media from unauthorized duplication.

Tivo, which uses Linux in its digital video recorder, has rigged its devices to block installation of source code that's been modified by the end user.

Critics of the move, including free software advocate Richard Stallman, now refer to any attempts by Linux-based hardware manufacturers to limit the use of modified Linux on their products as "Tivoization."

Some PlayStation users are slamming Sony's decision. "I'm so disappointed. You're taking a part of the integrity of my PS3. Soon, backwards compatibility will disappear," wrote night64448, in the comments section of Sony's blog.

"I paid for the ability to run Linux," wrote user Cheriff. "Removing functionality after the transaction has taken place, after you have my money, is not on," wrote Cheriff.

Sony warned users of its Other OS feature to back up their data if they plan to upgrade to the new firmware, as data stored in the alternative OS partition of their console's hard drive will be inaccessible after the update.

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