Apparently the Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, New York took a look at available cheap computing power and decided that the PS3 with Linux was the way to go — until Sony removed the ability to install the OS with their latest firmware update. Now the Air Force is stuck with a lot of PS3s that can’t be repaired if they break — because Sony will update the firmware to remove the option to install Linux.
From Ars Technica:
The Air Force team ordered the hardware, spent days unboxing it and imaging each unit to run Linux, and then… Sony removed the Linux install option a couple months later. (One can only imagine what happened to those 2,000 PS3 controllers and other unneeded accessories.)
Does it matter?
Sony’s decision had no immediate impact on the cluster; for obvious reasons, the PS3s are not hooked into the PlayStation Network and don’t need Sony’s firmware updates. But what happens when a PS3 dies or needs repair? Tough luck.
We checked in with the Air Force Research Laboratory, which noted its disappointment with the Sony decision. “We will have to continue to use the systems we already have in hand,” the lab told Ars, but “this will make it difficult to replace systems that break or fail. The refurbished PS3s also have the problem that when they come back from Sony, they have the firmware (gameOS) and it will not allow Other OS, which seems wrong. We are aware of class-action lawsuits against Sony for taking away this option on systems that used to have it.”