Linux on Playstation 3

I have now got Ubuntu installed on my PS3. This is very cool! The potential of no longer having to have a desktop computer sat in the corner taking up space is fantastic. Instead I have a mini super computer in a small beautifully styled consumer device, connected to a widescreen TV as a monitor. Cool!

I followed the instructions on to install the port of 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon. The instructions are good but this is very early days for Linux on PS3; naturally there’s plenty of work still to do to smooth over the user experience. The Ubuntu builds for PS3 are maintained voluntarily by literally only 2 or 3 guys at Canonical.

Setting up the screen resolution didn’t work quite as described - stopping gdm (the Gnome Display Manager) and setting the screen mode only changes the resolution for the current terminal not for the one which Xorg starts in, and if you specify a non-compatible mode your display may be a mess so you have to type blind to fix it (or better use the up/down cursor keys to access a previous working mode using shell history). Not a big deal for a techy but obviously could be quite a hurdle for your average punter. Anyway once the correct mode has been found setting up a script under /etc/event.d/ ensures it always boots into the desired mode.

The second issue was that the OS didn’t seem to be finding the ethernet card. Luckily browsing the PSUbuntu Networking and Connectivity forum revealed the solution - disable NetworkManager and configure the network settings manually using the Gnome Network tool (or by editing /etc/network/interfaces directly). Seems NetworkManager doesn’t work quite right with the PS3 ethernet card yet.

Having got it up and running the next task was to choose a lighter desktop system than Gnome. I love Gnome but there’s only 256MB of RAM on the PS3 and the Gnome desktop on it’s own uses most of that so applications are likely to be swapped out to disk way to too quickly. There are some interesting instructions on the PSUbuntu forum which suggest all sorts of things like disabling the graphical login screen (gdm) and changing to use the Fluxbox window manager instead of the default Metacity, but I felt I wanted something less custom and more complete so I decided to install the Xfce desktop.

Xfce is the base of the XUbuntu distribution and is a lightweight Gtk based desktop system with its own window manager. It has some slick themes and also supports pretty features like transparency and drop shadows (using Xorg’s Composite extension). You can choose to install the entire XUbuntu default installation by installing the xubuntu-desktop package from Synaptic, but this will pull in all sorts of other peripheral tools such as the Abiword office suite. I didn’t need this stuff so I opted to install just the Xfce components by installing the xfce4 package.

I am really interested in finding out how to program with the PS3’s Cell Microprocessor. Included in the package repositories are the required development libraries and tools. Just search for the keyword cell in Synaptic to find the relevant packages. There’s also a packaged copy of the Cell Programming Primer from