Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Playstation 3 Firmware 3.21 Versus the Hacked Feature-creep

In what many assumed was the worst April Fool's day prank ever, Sony released firmware update 3.21 on April 1st removing the ability to "Install Other OS" and switch "Default OS" so that users can no longer use linux on their PS3. Citing undisclosed "security concerns", they claim that this will keep us safe (from something?) and allow us to keep using other features and PSN services. But don't worry, they claim, you don't have to update if you don't want to!

What Patrick Seybold means, is that you can either choose to update your firmware and lose "Other OS" or you can not update your firmware and lose all online capabilities as well as the chance to play any future game titles and Blu-rays that require 3.21 or newer firmware. Good choice, right? Basically, they are holding core functionality hostage to force you to "choose" to upgrade and lose other advertised and promoted functionality. That is simply wrong (ethically and hopefully legally).

Some apologists are quick to defend Sony with the following points (with short counter-points by me):
I have a PS3 Slim so this does not affect me
I don't use that anyway, good riddance
Fair point. However, this feature was not sold to you, it was sold to me. Where it did not exist on your machine when you bought it, it did on mine. Whether you use it or not is hardly the point (see below after points/counterpoints).

Only dirty pirates want to keep this functionality
This is straight disingenuous. There are many legitimate reasons why a user would use this functionality. If Sony did not see it this way originally, they would not have included it in the first place. Examples of valid use are running your PS3 as a computer (heavily advertised and used as an import tax break for importing by Sony) and programming for the Cell processor.

Linux functionality sucks on this thing. Buy a PC instead of a game console if you want it
That may be the case, but there are still valid uses for it such as Cell programming as mentioned above and running XBMC instead of the included media functionality. Also, Sony sold it to me as a computer in addition to being a console; I should not have to go buy another machine because they changed their mind.

Blame the hackers. It's their fault for making this happen and running pirate games and worms that attack innocent people
This is misinformation (intentional or found elsewhere and relayed as truth). No one is currently running any pirated material or spreading viruses. The hack is intended by George Hotz to open the hardware to be used in linux for programming against and would not allow the playing of pirated PS3 games. Even if future hackers would be able to make this happen (unlikely); they would simply not update their firmware, thereby punishing only legitimate linux users.

Obviously, I am against Sony on this. It sets an awful precedent for both Sony and any other manufacturer to remove included functionality in a product after sale. By not standing up to this feature removal, the community effectively gives Sony unilateral power to remove any other functionality they choose to in the future. What if they come for a feature you use next? I personally do not use Other OS but I do use backwards compatibility for all my PS1 and PS2 games that I still own; what if they came for that next?

If you want to stay at firmware 3.15 but still want access to PSN; there is a work-around. By changing the default DNS server to a specifically tuned custom one, you can fool the update logic that runs when logging into the Playstation Network into thinking you have the most recent firmware. I cannot guarantee that Sony will not ban-hammer PSN accounts using this trick so use your own discretion. I personally have used it successfully so that I could download the LittleBigPlanet limited April Fool's DLC pack and sync my trophies but have not tried it with an online game so your mileage may vary. In the interest of credit where it is due, follow this link for the steps to perform it (PS3News forum). If you do not have a PC at all there is an IP floating around the web right now but be wary when using an known DNS server. If you do have a PC but are not running linux on it, now is a good time to try out VirtualBox.

I cannot say that I will not buy further games for my system as some have; but I will hold out as long as possible on updating my firmware and hope Sony retracts it. I will also spread the word of this anti-consumer behaviour in the hopes that public pressure is applied to Sony so that in the future I am not forced to make the same decision against my beloved backwards compatibility (the reason I bought a PS3 over an XBox 360).

Obligatory first post

Hello everyone and welcome to my blog. The idea behind this blog is to delve into all the aspects of my life that I can make simpler and more enjoyable with technology. These will range from the equipment that I use for light entertainment to whole-home systems and everywhere in between.

So, maybe a little background into what qualifies me to tell you anything about this. I can safely say, very little. I have no real previous writing experience (do forum posts count?) and no industry certifications. What I do have is an innate knack and love for dealing with anything electronic. By day, I am a software developer/analyst working the last several years at an access control manufacturer where I specialize in DVRs and analog/IP CCTV systems on both the hardware and software side. By night (and on weekends), I tinker with any hardware and software I can get my hands on when I'm not busy reclining with a video game.

Some of the milestones I want to hit at my new house (moved in three months ago) have already been met while others are in progress. Still (many) others I have not even begun. I plan to outline all of them here to help the community that has given me much and, quite often I am sure, plea for help myself when it is needed.

With that said I again welcome you here and hope we all get a little something out of this.