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Friday, November 27, 2009

How To: Install Ubuntu Linux as the Other OS on your Sony Playstation 3 (PS3)

After a very unsuccessful attempt at installing a version of Linux (Ubuntu) as the "Other OS" on my Sony Playstation 3 (PS3), I was forced to reformat and start over. It was painful and frustrating, but forced me to do a little more research (your can read about the experience by clicking here) before making a second try.

What did I learn?

First, the bad news. There is a lot of conflicting information out there about how to get your PlayStation 3 (PS3) loaded with a secondary operating system (known as "Other OS") -- in fact some of the information and links on even the "official" Ubuntu Linux page are bad.

Now for the the great news! Now that I have successfully installed the latest version of Ubuntu Linux with all current patches (was 9.10 as of this posting), I am able to produce (hopefully) a great how-to guide that makes it EASY for anyone to install the Ubuntu Linux Operating System on their Sony Playstation 3.

Before getting started however, there are a couple of things that I would recommend you at least "think about". :-)

1. A hard drive upgrade. Although the Other OS partition on the Sony PS3 only allows for 10GB of space, you may be able to dramatically benefit from a better performing hard drive than what comes built in. For a specific recommendation on the hard drive (as it requires notebook drives) and an easy-to-follow guide, please click here.

2. Before you install the "Other OS" partition on your hard drive, you should first backup your Sony Playstation 3 system, so you can retain all of your users, settings, and game saves. For another easy-to-follow manual on this process, please click here.

After you finish those, there are a couple of things that you will need in other to complete the installation of the upgrade. The first is a must, which is a USB keyboard. You cannot use your PS3 controller better know as the Sony PlayStation SIXAXIS controller to type or as a mouse. Secondarily, you will benefit from having an USB mouse, especially if you choose (which installs by default) to use the GNOME or Ubuntu Linux GUI. Lastly, you should have access to the CD/DVD burner where you can create a ISO image of the Ubuntu Linux Operating system to install you PS3.

Once you have those available, you're ready to get started.

1. Step one is that you should obtain the latest stable build of the Ubuntu Linux operating system with the appropriate distribution for the Sony Playstatioun 3. You can go to this link to get the latest list of versions. As of this posting, 9.04 was the current stable and completed version...which you can automatically upgrade to 9.10 once you have it installed. Simply click here to download the Ubuntu 9.04 version.

2. Burn the ISO image to a CD/DVD. I will not cover the specfic steps on how to burn a CD.

3. Making sure you've backed up your PS3 as described above, it is time to get started by formatting the drive of your Sony PS3 to create the new partition that the Other OS will be installed on. To do this, Go to [System Settings] > [Format Utility]. Then select "Format Hard Disk" and click [Yes]. Next, choose [Custom] and [Allot 10GB to the Other OS] -- unfortunately, it cannot be made any larger. Finally, select [Quick Format] and confirm with [Yes].

3a. Right here I would restore my PlayStation 3 that I backed up earlier by going to System > System Settings > Backup Utility. Here you can restore (mine took 45 minutes) before you move forward. I did run into some odd behavior where the first time it wiped the secondary or Other OS partition, but worked great the second time. :-)

4. Now that your hard drive is prepared for the installation. Go ahead and put the ISO CD image you created into the Sony PlayStation 3 in step 2, making sure first that the keyboard and mouse are connected from there, go to [System Settings] > [Install Other OS]. Select "Other OS" and hit "Yes" to restart the system.

5. The Sony PS3 should reboot and the boot loader for Linux. The steps below are all in order on what the Ubuntu Linux system presents you with. The drivers for both the Ethernet direct connection and the Wireless 802.11 WIFI connection are provided, so you should be able to connect in any case. (I did have some difficulties with the WiFi connection; reverted to wired for the installation and then configured the Wireless from the GNOME GUI after the 9.10 updates were completed.)

Here are the steps in order:

a. First choose a language for the installation process, then your geographical location.

b. The system can try to determine your keyboard or you can choose it from a list.

c. The CD ROM is scanned, and additional components are loaded.

d. If your PS3 is connected to the internet via cable, choose eth0: Ethernet. (unless you are using WEP encryption - wireless networks can be hard to configure from here.)

e. Enter a hostname for the system - like "psubuntu" dashes are allowed, underscores are not.

f. Disks and hardware is dectected. If asked if you want to Activate Serial ATA RAID devices just choose yes, although frankly it's pointless.

g. When asked how to partition the disks, choose option 2: "Guided - use entire disk" (meaning the 10.7GB you formatted from the XMB).

h. On the overview screen, hit "Finish partitioning and write changes to disk". If asked to confirm, choose yes.

i. The partition is formatted and base system installed. It should take about 6 minutes.

j. Set up your user information (full name, username and password twice), and choose whether you would like to create a private encrypted directory for your user.

k. Unless you're using a proxy, leave the HTTP proxy information field blank (just hit enter).

l. The system will start installing software. It might appear to hang at 6%, but just give the installer time and it will move on. The process will take about an hour.

m. System clock - Yes to UTC.

Once it is all finished, the system will load and you will be in the Ubuntu XWindows / Gnome screen. From here, you might noticed you're locked in a pretty unfriendly 576 x 384 screen resolution. It can be very tricky (took me a couple of hours to understand and get it right), so I will be publishing a guide very shortly on how to complete that. Once you do that, you can run the Updates to bring your Sony PS3 system with the Other OS of Ubuntu Linux up to date!

Congratulations, you are now running a full fledged Linux Operating system on your Sony Playstation 3!