March 31, 2010

Sony Disabling PS3 Feature

Sony announced it will disable a feature on its PlayStation 3 console, a move that some believe is a pre-emptive strike to guard against game piracy.

Sony said an update would be released on April 1 that will prevent people from using a function that allows them to install alternative operating systems.

The firm said it had made the decision to address "security concerns."

This move comes after a hacker has released the first-ever code that bypasses the PS3's security systems, according to a recent BBC News report.

Hacker Geohot used a machine running a variant of the Linux operations system in order to accomplish this.

One gamer, commenting on a Sony blog post, said, "The funny thing about this is that users that legally enjoy this feature will suffer its loss and the hackers will find some way to have the update plus the feature."

Another said, "This is so stupid. I spent $500 on this system to be able to use whatever features it came with. Preventing hackers is one thing, but taking away a feature that I paid for is another."

Geohot, also known as George Hotz, gained notoriety by being the first to unlock Apple's iPhone.

Hotz said he would work on a method to bypass the new update and allow gamers to retain the ability to install other operating systems.

"This is about more than this feature right now," he wrote in his blog. "It's about whether these companies have the right to take away advertised features from a product you purchased.

"Imagine if an exploit were found in Safari on the iPhone, but instead of fixing it, Apple decides to pull web browsing altogether."

The feature being blocked on the PS3 allows gamers to install a version of Linux on their machines.  Researchers have used the feature to help them tap into the PS3's processing power.

Sony said the update will be optional, but those that do not install it will not have access to features like its online games network and the ability to playback certain games or Blu-ray DVDs that require the most up-to-date firmware.

A Sony spokesperson said that gamers would have to "accept" the update in order for it to be installed.

The update only affects older machines.  New models of the PS3 do not have the "other OS" feature.

Sony has not said how many people it believes that blocking this feature will affect.

The company said that gamers using a machine running another operating system that want to install the update need to back up any data on their machine.

Sony has sold over 33 million PS3 consoles worldwide.


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