PS3 firmware update causes headaches for US Air Force

Many gamers were disappointed when Sony remotely deactivated the PS3’s ability to run Linux or another operating system…but what happens when the US Air Force was using that feature for important computing processes?

In a firmware update to the PS3 last month, Sony disabled the console’s “Install Other OS” feature because there were rising concerns that users could install unauthorized software and commit software piracy.

That led to an immediate backlash, though. The feature had already been removed from the current PS3 slim models but there were millions of older units already sold. Those with the “fat” models who had already installed another OS to their PS3 lost all of that data from the firmware update.

A handful of gamers have already sued Sony for breach of contract, claiming that the features they paid for are no longer applicable. And it’s even affecting our Armed Forces.

In January, the Air Force Research Laboratory in New York state used $663,000 in contract money to buy more than 2,000 PS3 systems, and combined them together to create a huge processing cluster with the help of – you guessed it – the system’s “Install Other OS” feature. The Air Force said that the PS3’s Cell processor and raw computing power provided a better deal than any other alternative.

In an interview with Ars Technica, a laboratory spokesperon said, “This will make it difficult to replace systems that break or fail.” However, the existing PS3 systems involved are still operating, because they are not connected online and thus are not forced to install the firmware update.

It has become a firestorm for Sony, with negative articles and lawsuits continuing to light up the tech headlines. The decision to completely disable the feature seems surprising and far too rash.