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Running Linux on the PS3 - A detailed view of what's out there


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#1 PS3Scene

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 04:40 AM

Running Linux on the PS3 - A detailed view of what's out there
Posted by XanTium | 31-10-2007 22:40 EST

 
From gaming.hexus.net:


Conclusion:
So. Which of the three distributions [Xubuntu 7.10, Yellow Dog 5.0.1, openSUSE 10.3] above would I recommend? None of them. Not a single distro maintained a consistent, high-quality experience from installation to prolonged use. None of them is usable by your grandmother, or in most cases, by you. For the experienced Linux hacker, it's probably possible to beat some sense into these distributions (with Xubuntu probably closest to useful, when combined with the Petitboot boot loader used by openSUSE). But it's not a good choice - simply the least bad.

Considering the strides being made by desktop Linux on desktop x86 and x86-64 machines, it's immensely disappointing that so little time and effort has been spent on testing PS3 releases, when so much geek street-cred is up for grabs. When I first decided to write this article, I had high hopes for what it might reveal - after all, a lot of time has passed since PS3 Linux first appeared, and it seemed obvious to me that there would be a selection of tuned distributions to pick from, especially considering the high visibility of the PS3. But right now, typing this up on my x86-64 Linux desktop, I find myself preparing to retire PS3 Linux completely for another few months - at least until the next batch of distributions are released. And beyond initial curiosity value, I suggest you do the same.


Full Story: gaming.hexus.net (6 pages)






#2 cloudyimpulse

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 05:41 AM

I'm sure if PS3 sales were off the charts and people were buying up their games, you'd see more people working on the Linux side of PS3 and figuring stuff out. Unfortunately I'm like this writer, tinkered around with it, and I'm going to put it back down until someone else comes up with something within the community. But even then it's going to have to be something big to want me to tinker around with Linux on my PS3.

#3 openxdkman

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 09:43 AM

Something has changed recently (past few weeks) that may turn this article obsolete :
The discovery of RSX (GPU) access... (see ps3 exploits forum)

Why would people contribute in fixing a linux distro if display is very slow compared to other platforms?
Also is it fun to be limited to 256Mb of RAM?

Now there si a Xorg driver (Glaurung is working on it) on his way with graphic hardware acceleration.
If this driver is only compatible with one of the distros you will see many coders switch to it and start using it, really, thus contributing in fixing all the parts that are not good enough.
Also all graphic stuff can now go in the 252Mb of the gpu side RAM. So you have 256+252 Mb.


#4 d-range

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 10:30 AM

For now PS3 linux is only interesting for developers who want to toy around with the Cell CPU. I actually specifically bought one for that purpose. It is not a convenient system for desktop use, but it can be in the future. Stuff that's missing atm (in my opinion): easy installation, easy dual-booting between games & linux, easy WiFi configuration, a faster HD, and most importantly: video acceleration.

Point 1 will only be relevant when the other points are settled, which they will be
Point 2 is being worked on
Point 3 is supposed to be ok by now, although I still didn't get it to work 1st time around and just decided to use the cable
Point 4 is not an issue if you have a fast spare drive lying around
Point 5 great progress is being made on this, as openxdkman already mentioned

All this combined I don't see any reason at all why a PS3 running linux should be less useful than any other PC with comparable specs running linux. The only problem is that it a PS3 only has 256MB RAM. So don't expect to ever be able to run heavy stuff on it.

#5 Blast

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 12:21 PM

QUOTE(d-range @ Nov 1 2007, 11:06 AM) View Post

For now PS3 linux is only interesting for developers who want to toy around with the Cell CPU. I actually specifically bought one for that purpose.


Same here. I disagree on the only for developers bit though.
QUOTE(d-range @ Nov 1 2007, 11:06 AM) View Post

It is not a convenient system for desktop use, but it can be in the future.


The lack of memory is really apparent. Also due to the 'lite' version of the CPU (PPU) it's not very fast.

QUOTE(d-range @ Nov 1 2007, 11:06 AM) View Post

Stuff that's missing atm (in my opinion):
1) easy installation
Point 1 will only be relevant when the other points are settled, which they will be

Yeah, they could have made the ps3-specific installation bits a bit better. Otherwise it's more or less like any distro.

QUOTE(d-range @ Nov 1 2007, 11:06 AM) View Post

2) easy dual-booting between games & linux
Point 2 is being worked on

It's not that difficult to go and change default boot OS to Other OS when you want to boot Linux really. And the other way around, what I've simply done is in /etc/rc.local, add 'ps3-flash-util -b' so that when I reboot linux it boots into Game OS again.

QUOTE(d-range @ Nov 1 2007, 11:06 AM) View Post

3) easy WiFi configuration
Point 3 is supposed to be ok by now, although I still didn't get it to work 1st time around and just decided to use the cable

4) a faster HD
Point 4 is not an issue if you have a fast spare drive lying around

5) and most importantly: video acceleration.
Point 5 great progress is being made on this, as openxdkman already mentioned

All this combined I don't see any reason at all why a PS3 running linux should be less useful than any other PC with comparable specs running linux. The only problem is that it a PS3 only has 256MB RAM. So don't expect to ever be able to run heavy stuff on it.


Yeah, the memory really is a killer. That combined with the rather slow PPU, even though it has SMT...

But honestly, I bought it cause it's a great platform to write SPU code on and I know of several that wants to use it to crunch BOINC or what have you on it and one project is already natively available on the box, with others on their way under Linux.

#6 d-range

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 01:08 PM

QUOTE(Blast @ Nov 1 2007, 01:57 PM) View Post

Yeah, they could have made the ps3-specific installation bits a bit better. Otherwise it's more or less like any distro.


It's not like its hard or anything, at least not for me, but I can imagine people with less experience and drive will be put off by all the fiddling with the otheros.bld and how to get it. It took me quite a while to find the otheros.self from the Sony page, which shows only information and no download link. Only to find out that I didn't even need it, although the Gentoo installation procedure said so. Also the Gentoo otheros.bld was renamed on the disk which was also annoying. But I can imagine that besides the otheros stuff an Ubuntu install will be dead-easy.

QUOTE
It's not that difficult to go and change default boot OS to Other OS when you want to boot Linux really. And the other way around, what I've simply done is in /etc/rc.local, add 'ps3-flash-util -b' so that when I reboot linux it boots into Game OS again.


Well it's not difficult but I just don't like that I have to set a default OS and use tricks to switch. Going from otheros (linux) to Game OS is easy (just hold power for 5 seconds), but the other way around I have to go into the menu, settings->system settings->set otheros default and reboot to get back into linux. Which is annoying because I only work on it remotely, and now I have to switch on the TV and grab the controller to do some work in linux each time. A graphical boot-loader that defaults to linux but can boot into GameOS when you select it would be nice. But there's a project underway for that (petitboot)

QUOTE
Yeah, the memory really is a killer. That combined with the rather slow PPU, even though it has SMT...


The PPU is not slow, in fact it's pretty fast. I compiled a full gnome installation with it through Gentoo in under 30 minutes or something. I know for a fact that my old laptop (Athlon XP 2400+) took over an hour for that. I think it's the HD that slows the system down the most.

QUOTE
But honestly, I bought it cause it's a great platform to write SPU code on and I know of several that wants to use it to crunch BOINC or what have you on it and one project is already natively available on the box, with others on their way under Linux.


Agreed. Experience programming this architecture is going to be a big asset in the future as well.


#7 Blast

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 03:00 PM

QUOTE(d-range @ Nov 1 2007, 01:44 PM) View Post

It's not like its hard or anything, at least not for me, but I can imagine people with less experience and drive will be put off by all the fiddling with the otheros.bld and how to get it. It took me quite a while to find the otheros.self from the Sony page, which shows only information and no download link.

Yeah, I believe the distros should just include it on the DVDs.
QUOTE
Only to find out that I didn't even need it, although the Gentoo installation procedure said so. Also the Gentoo otheros.bld was renamed on the disk which was also annoying. But I can imagine that besides the otheros stuff an Ubuntu install will be dead-easy.

Well, otheros.bld is always needed but since 1.60 (I think?) otheros.self is not needed anymore, so the gentoo docs are just out of date.
QUOTE

Well it's not difficult but I just don't like that I have to set a default OS and use tricks to switch. Going from otheros (linux) to Game OS is easy (just hold power for 5 seconds), but the other way around I have to go into the menu, settings->system settings->set otheros default and reboot to get back into linux.

If I use that trick (powerbutton) then I lose my screen and audio settings. The Screen settings are just "ok", "ok", "ok", but then I have to manually go in and change the audio settings or it sends my audio via HDMI instead of via S/PDIF. For me THAT is more annoying than having to go in to settings->system settings->etc. But to each their own.

QUOTE
Which is annoying because I only work on it remotely, and now I have to switch on the TV and grab the controller to do some work in linux each time.

Yeah, that's how I work on it as well.
QUOTE
A graphical boot-loader that defaults to linux but can boot into GameOS when you select it would be nice. But there's a project underway for that (petitboot).

Are they planning network support for it so you can tell it what to start remotely somehow?

QUOTE
The PPU is not slow, in fact it's pretty fast. I compiled a full gnome installation with it through Gentoo in under 30 minutes or something. I know for a fact that my old laptop (Athlon XP 2400+) took over an hour for that. I think it's the HD that slows the system down the most.

I did some pretty big tests and whatever I did just took ages. The BOINC project I'm converting to use the SPUs I started with just getting it to use the PPU and the results were shocking. Compared to a Core2Duo this thing was 30x slower. And I'm talking only about a single core of the Core2Duo. Both use hand-optimized assembly for the crunching, although the PPC asm isn't optimized for the PPU, which makes a difference, but 30x? I tried using the C-core instead of the asm core and the asm is 50% faster than the C core.
QUOTE

Agreed. Experience programming this architecture is going to be a big asset in the future as well.


Yeah, especially since they're selling blades with SPUs on them nowadays. They're just so powerful that there are very many looking to use them for research or whatever. Getting ahead on programming can be useful in the future.

#8 d-range

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 03:22 PM

QUOTE(Blast @ Nov 1 2007, 04:36 PM) View Post

If I use that trick (powerbutton) then I lose my screen and audio settings. The Screen settings are just "ok", "ok", "ok", but then I have to manually go in and change the audio settings or it sends my audio via HDMI instead of via S/PDIF. For me THAT is more annoying than having to go in to settings->system settings->etc. But to each their own.


Ah I noticed that too but I thought it was a glitch. Didn't put 1 and 1 together to find out it was the 5 second boot.

QUOTE
Are they planning network support for it so you can tell it what to start remotely somehow?


Not sure, but if you have it default to linux with a few seconds timeout, you shouldn't need that. When you want to play a game you'd have to turn on the TV and get the controller anyway.

QUOTE
I did some pretty big tests and whatever I did just took ages. The BOINC project I'm converting to use the SPUs I started with just getting it to use the PPU and the results were shocking. Compared to a Core2Duo this thing was 30x slower. And I'm talking only about a single core of the Core2Duo. Both use hand-optimized assembly for the crunching, although the PPC asm isn't optimized for the PPU, which makes a difference, but 30x? I tried using the C-core instead of the asm core and the asm is 50% faster than the C core.


Apparently the PPU is about as fast as a low-end (<2GHz) G5, mostly because it only does in-order execution and has a stripped AltiVec instruction set (it should not run vector stuff anyway). So by modern standards you could call that 'slow' but it's not terrible. I think if you minimize branching in your code you can get reasonable performance out of it. It's mostly a GCC issue, because it generates and optimizes code under the assumption that it's running on a vanilla G5, and it likes to optimize for size more than speed. In general, GCC optimization sucks anyway btw. A native PS3 compiler could do much better by taking care to minimize branching.




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