New Achievement: Schadenfreude
December 30, 2010 2:25 AM   Subscribe

It appears that Sony's PS3 is fatally and permanently hacked. fail0verflow, a team of European hackers demonstrated quite convincingly (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) at the Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin.

Needless to say, the news has been greeted with enthusiasm as the PS3's security has now been upgraded to Epic Fail. It's particularly sweet for the previous victims of Sony's attempts at DRM.
posted by pjern (106 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
On the one hand they deserve it a bit, but I was kind of hoping they'd manage to kill Microsoft's ambitions in the console market.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:34 AM on December 30, 2010


"On the one hand they deserve it a bit, but I was kind of hoping they'd manage to kill Microsoft's ambitions in the console market.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:34 AM"

Any particular reason why? As far as our 3 consoles go, (wii, ps3, 360) the 360 is the only one that isn't collecting dust.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 3:10 AM on December 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


Nice slides!

Yet another demonstration that cryptography is hard and the smallest mistake can and will leave your implementation wide open even if you've implemented a secure algorithm.
posted by pharm at 3:12 AM on December 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


I remember the CCC talk on hacking the XBox 360. I thought I had it bookmarked, but I can't find it anywhere. They mentioned the PS3 and said no one had hacked it because it supported Linux out of the box.

Except, about a year ago they removed Linux support. And the first hack came out within a few months.
posted by delmoi at 3:17 AM on December 30, 2010 [21 favorites]


Any particular reason why?

Not to speak for someone else but Microsoft is loathed by many millions of people, just for being . . . well . . . Microsoft. Certainly you know this.
posted by IvoShandor at 3:32 AM on December 30, 2010


Sony are also loathed by many millions of people, 'just' for being Sony.
posted by influx at 3:33 AM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Good. I can get my OtherOS back now.
posted by jaduncan at 3:41 AM on December 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


I guess I just never got the ms hate...or maybe it never affected me personally...

As for the topic of the post--this stuff is fascinating. Thanks for the links.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 3:47 AM on December 30, 2010


<derail>It's not so much that I hate MS as that I don't like them leveraging their monopolies in some fields to endlessly foist mediocre products in others. I will acknowledge that the XBOX 360 is not a mediocre product, and they appear to have earned a victory over Sony (but not Nintendo) purely on merit in this case. I still wish them adversity in all their business dealings until they lose enough ground in the office/OS space for the playing field to be remotely level.

That said, the worst monopolists on my radar at the moment are cable companies and regional bells, and I have friends who work for MS, so it's not like I want their campus to go up in a nuclear fireball.</derail>

I look forward to seeing cool projects involving other OSes on PS3 including perhaps chromeOS.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:55 AM on December 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


Is there a short summary of this crack that explains why Sony can't issue just another firmware update?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:57 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sony are also loathed by many millions of people, 'just' for being Sony.

Indeed. But the comment above was asking about Microsoft. Anyway, I was just guessing at the reason, not hating on XBox.
posted by IvoShandor at 3:57 AM on December 30, 2010


Can someone explain what mistake Sony made with the keys so that I don't have to watch the video?
posted by memebake at 4:01 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Blazecock Pileon: "Is there a short summary of this crack that explains why Sony can't issue just another firmware update"

As I understand it, they borked the encryption code for the processor protection- and that's basically the ball game. They can't change it, because that invalidates everything that's already out there.
posted by pjern at 4:04 AM on December 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Is there a short summary of this crack that explains why Sony can't issue just another firmware update?

My guess is that with the signing keys cracked, any update would have to replace the existing signing keys (new public key), and also white list every application published to date or games that were signed with the old keys wouldn't work anymore. Also, they'd have to fix their whole security model so that the new key couldn't be cracked too.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:06 AM on December 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Speaking for myself, I was hoping that the xbox would get crushed to reduce the linkage between gaming and DirectX. DirectX excludes all other OSes, and isn't an open standard. I prefer things based on open standards, and both the Wii and the PS3 work on OpenGL. Open GL is supported by OSX and Linux, and so my gaming isn't going to be needlessly curtailed to support a monopolist.
posted by jaduncan at 4:12 AM on December 30, 2010 [11 favorites]


Also, I have no sympathy whatsoever with Sony. They promised me Linux on the PS3 and delivered it, I used it, then they made me choose between my games collection and my installed OS. I'll have secret option C (both, as made clear before sale), thanks.

Blazecock Pileon: The crack works by being able to mark any arbitrary code as signed by Sony. The code that is signed can do anything on the system, and thus it is utterly rooted. It's almost impossible to come back from this, as the system can lie about its own state to the servers and game. Sony are really quite screwed, and the crypto that has been broken underpins all of their existing software and firmware. There is now no way for the PS3 to determine if a FW update is from Sony or a third party.
posted by jaduncan at 4:21 AM on December 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


I just never got the ms hate...or maybe it never affected me personally...

If you could only see what your life would have otherwise been like, you'd be crying now.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:21 AM on December 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Serious question: can the friendly nerds in here, preferably while keeping their pants on, please explain exactly what my life would be like without Microsoft?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:29 AM on December 30, 2010


Sure. In our pleasant dreams it would probably have been a lot more heterogeneous, and as such based more around common standards (rather than common implementations) with competition through innovation rather than technologies being crushed by market control. Take the Amiga for example: it had a separate GPU in 1987, and the graphics it could produce were not quickly matched by the IBM compatibles. Think of how mobile phones are at the moment, for example - completing implementations, but a wide acceptance of HTML5. Also consider consoles, and the amount of cross-platform development. Competition forces increasing quality for the OS/hardware makers, as the apps are not really a large area of differentiation. Windows was not forced to be good for a long time, and indeed wasn't.

Either that, or Steve Jobs would have been sitting where Bill Gates ended up due to a desire in the business world for One True Disk Image for support reasons.
posted by jaduncan at 4:42 AM on December 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Without Microsoft, most consumers would buy Macs because they're easier to use (for most consumers) than Linux. Then we would be having all if the same conversations about how much Apple sucks.
posted by DWRoelands at 4:43 AM on December 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


I love my PS3s.
Took my launch model off grid to keep OtherOS and bought a Slim for online.
While I understand Sonys right to protect their IP, they asked for this. Taking away Linux support was a dick move.
posted by Duke999R at 4:44 AM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


One of the members of the hacking team made this comment in the Slashdot thread about this:

The "epic" part really came about due to the completely inexcusable ECDSA signature screwup. We were left speechless by that one. However, as a whole, the entire PS3 architecture is terrible. Especially after breaking it open and properly analyzing it and finding a ton of screwups (many critical), there is absolutely no doubt in our mind that the sole reason why the PS3 lasted this far is because OtherOS kept all the competent people happy enough not to try to break into the system (that, and maybe hype around their hypervisor and isolated SPE security, both of which turned out to be terribly bad). If you watch the talk you'll actually see that we make this point clear and address the time-to-hack of the PS3. Given our experience and what we've learned from people who work on console hacks, almost nobody tried until OtherOS was removed, so the only valid measurement for "time to hack", as a strength-of-security measure, is the time since OtherOS was removed (9-12 months or so).

OtherOS was Sony's single best security feature.

posted by longdaysjourney at 4:46 AM on December 30, 2010 [23 favorites]


Serious question: can the friendly nerds in here, preferably while keeping their pants on, please explain exactly what my life would be like without Microsoft?

"Without Microsoft" is a strong term, but if the Office part had been split from the Windows part of MS, we would hopefully have multiple competing office apps (word proc, spreadsheet, etc.) using a standard file format (like, say, ODF). More choice for consumers, more innovation.

Sort of like the US cell phone situation, where carriers determine what phones work on their systems. Elsewhere you buy your phone and your plan separately, and the result is a lot more innovation in phones.
posted by Sand at 4:57 AM on December 30, 2010


please explain exactly what my life would be like without Microsoft?

In the 80s and early 90s I remember a lot of angst in the home computer world about the multitude of different platforms with incompatible hardware and software that couldn't be shared. The market was fractured into lots of little markets (some of the smaller ones were quite cottage industry-hobbyist style) and there was much hand-wringing around how software houses could reduce the inefficiencies of the situation. Home computer systems like Acorn, Amiga, Atari, Amstrad, Spectrum all had different systems, and games publishers had to do a lot of work to port released across all of them.

One advantage of the Microsoft Monopoly is that the monopoly forced a lot of (unopen) standards to take hold. Maybe that would have happened anyway through open standards? It certainly wasn't happening in home computer systems in the 80s though - constant competition lead to a barrage of new proprietary systems that were incompatible with each other.
posted by memebake at 5:09 AM on December 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Please explain exactly what my life would be like without Microsoft?

Well, this is a total WAG speculative derail, but here goes...

Worst case scenario, conflicting office apps with no clear interoperability standard would require most businesses to buy three office suites to communicate, and train their users accordingly. Almost all data formats would be proprietary, and the few standards there were would be more the result of corporate political deal making, and less the result of standards with merit triumphing over those without.

Best case scenario is that there'd be 3-7 vigorous competitors in various niches, OS, office, processor, and several competitors in graphics & sound peripherals. Because of the need for cross platform drivers, and hardware bus standards, there'd be a higher likelihood of keeping a lot of hardware around over various purchased platforms (sound cards, modems, network adapters, etc...). I'm guessing that purchasing a new system would cost 40% to 75% less for most consumers, and there'd be a much higher incidence of consoles being able to run useful OSes. There'd be longer support windows for older OSes, and a more competitive marketplace for OSes being secure from malware and viruses. We'd need to manually re-enter less data when migrating between systems (smartphone, computer, etc...), and we'd have better interoperability for scheduling, contact management, and documents.

I'm guessing the reality would land about halfway between.

I'd also guess that FSF, GNU, EFF, Linux, and BSD would have gotten less volunteer support in a competitive marketplace, and OSS may never have become as dominant.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:22 AM on December 30, 2010


BP, ignore my incorrect assessment. Rather, what jaduncan said.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:26 AM on December 30, 2010


You can trace this entire mess back to removing otheros.

Sony pulled the feature, pissed of geohot (George Hotz) who released his exploit for ps3. And now we're here.

It's a great example of consequences if you give your hardcore audience a middle finger. Also, most importantly, don't piss off geohot.
posted by Lord_Pall at 5:36 AM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


"You can trace this entire mess back to removing otheros.

Sony pulled the feature, pissed of geohot (George Hotz) who released his exploit for ps3. And now we're here."

Just for the record, this order of events is wrong. The geohot exploit used OtherOS. Sony then responded to the public announcement of geohot by removing OtherOS from the PS3 builds. Slightly irritatingly, geohot did not then release his own exploit. Later on, a method was developed that used a USB device to replicate a service jig (a machine that unlocks many of the security features to allow factory maintenance), and dumps of the OS were made. Those dumps (along with a few other items) were analysed, and the resultant work has resulted in the large scale break we see today.

The system architecture of the PS3 is based around a public/private key for signing, but due to an error in the crypto used, the private key can be calculated from the public key and encrypted data. This should be impossible, but the implementation on the PS3 introduces a fixed value in the encryption process that should vary. Because the value is fixed, the original key can be calculated, and then used to sign arbitrary code.

It's actually from a different lineage to the geohot exploit, which was a far more traditional buffer overflow/hypervisor exploit (as it wasn't actually released, it is hard to say that much).

More details can be given if people want, but I tried to keep this high level.
posted by jaduncan at 5:46 AM on December 30, 2010 [23 favorites]


Just for the record, this order of events is wrong.

Yah, I just read up a bit more. Thanks for the correction.

This is a huge break. I'm not a crypto person, but apparently, the flaw revolves around a bad implementation of DSA, described here. (I don't understand any of this link though)
posted by Lord_Pall at 6:02 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I understand very very little of this kind of thing, but I always love to read about it.
posted by OmieWise at 6:04 AM on December 30, 2010 [11 favorites]


I'm a bit irritated by this because we just fired up our PS3 and it will suck to have griefers loose in the gaming ecosystem. But having the entire box with its frankly stunning hardware opened up for hacking far outweighs that irritation. I just hope there's not a big backlash with content holders worrying about IP exploits.

The OtherOS debacle is just another lesson from history that no one ever learns. Stupid Sony. Don't piss off people who get bored easily.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:16 AM on December 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


Sure. In our pleasant dreams it would probably have been a lot more heterogeneous, and as such based more around common standards (rather than common implementations) with competition through innovation rather than technologies being crushed by market control.

Alas, not hardly.

Apple is just as closed source and prone to corporate abuse as Microsoft. The idea of common standards is relatively new, throughout the 60s-80s, nobody had them.

Oh, we pretended. There was ASCII, but hardly anyone used true ASCII. There was EBCDIC -- but that was IBM only, and there were at least two contradictory versions. What few standars there really were -- IBM codepage, VT100 and TN3270 terminal emulation, the Hayes modem command set, were all implementations that were followed, not standards that were discussed.

It wasn't until DARPA and the AI community (MIT, SAIL at Stanford, CMU, etc.) that the idea of promugluating a standard *first* and then having implementations came about.

Market control was everything, and everybody tried hard to achieve it. IBM had done so, but they did so vertically and fell into the Sherman Antitrust realm, which was the only reason that IBM did not simply control the computing landscape forever.

So: if MS didn't build DOS, likely, there would have been some other OS on the IBM PC. This would have changed the world -- we'd all be trying to emulate *that* OS, not MS-DOS. People forget how dominant IBM was in this era. The reason MS-DOS became the standard wasn't MS, it was that "You'll never get fired for buying an IBM", and MS-DOS was shipped with the IBM PC.

The reason MS took over was --- Compaq! (Compatible Quality, in case you wondered.) Compaq broke the IBM stranglehold on the hardware by letting you get the software from MS and run in on Compaq hardware. Worse, then Compaq made *faster machines* by being the first to the 386. IBM's response was typical IBM -- build a new, closed system and migrate everyone to it -- but everyone said 'Fuck that', and the only real mark the PS/2 left on the computing world was the keyboard and mouse interface and the VGA video port. Which, of course, tied us pretty firmly to the IBM PC hardware baggage, and arguably, it wasn't until very recently with the 64 bit hardware that we finally have removed all vestiges of the IBM PC from the PC (though we emulate some of them)

In truth, the PS/2 was superior in every way to the IBM PC/AT hardware standard. But you could only get a PS/2 from IBM. You could get an AT compatible from anybody -- and they used that money to move the architecture to parity, and then, superiority.

Take the Amiga for example: it had a separate GPU in 1987, and the graphics it could produce were not quickly matched by the IBM compatibles.

About a year. Worse, the Amiga's separate GPU wasn't -- it was a coprocessor, but it was soldered to the the motherboard, just like the rest of the chipset that let the Amiga really sing. This made the A1000 a wonder in 1985, but only so-so in 1987 and all but dead in 1989. I've made longer posts on this, but to sum up -- the Amiga's hardware-based capabilities is what doomed it, because to upgrade one component, you had to upgrade the entire machine, OS and all.

You could just stick a SoundBlaster in a PC if you wanted better sound.

Many times, Worse is Better -- esp. if you can upgrade Worse later.
posted by eriko at 6:17 AM on December 30, 2010 [34 favorites]


Please explain exactly what my life would be like without Microsoft?

This is one of my favorite rants! But let me answer a slightly different question: what if Microsoft hadn't used its monopoly power to try to destroy threats to Windows? In other words, what would life be like with a law-abiding Microsoft?

See, Microsoft's power (and income) basically derives from making the operating system that 90% of people use. That's a network-effect monopoly: the more people use the OS, the more people write software for the OS. The more software for the OS, the more valuable it is, the more people use it.

So what's the biggest threat to Microsoft? Cross-platform software. For example, Java. For example, Web 2.0. For example, OpenGL. Apps written with these kind of technologies are available on all platforms, and therefore untie people from Windows.

The Department of Justice showed that Microsoft's top execs spent a lot of time figuring out how to destroy those kind of technologies. And I don't just mean offering better technologies -- I mean actively trying to break them:

"Embrace, extend and extinguish,"[1] also known as "Embrace, extend, and exterminate,"[2] is a phrase that the U.S. Department of Justice found[3] was used internally by Microsoft[4] to describe its strategy for entering product categories involving widely used standards, extending those standards with proprietary capabilities, and then using those differences to disadvantage its competitors.

One smoking gun in that case was a Java memo. Microsoft saw that Java was a threat, so they released their own version of Java that they claimed was a perfect copy and could be used to develop cross-platform apps. In fact, apps made using their development tools would only run on Windows. An internal memo at the time emphasizes the need to grow the "polluted" Java market.

If you're on Metafilter, you've probably heard web developers complain countless times about Internet Explorer. Microsoft released this browser for free (using its monopoly money and monopoly position on the desktop) that killed the existing competition, was terribly buggy, and relied on all kinds of Windows-only technology that undermined the cross-platform web, and once it was entrenched they totally stopped development on it for a decade. Websites took longer to develop and didn't work as well, because it was so hard to support IE. What the heck were they thinking?

By now in my rant, you can probably guess what I think they were thinking.

So what would have happened without an evil Microsoft? Weeks of my life would have been spent making cool stuff on the internet, instead of trying to work around Microsoft's deliberately broken browser. Multiply that times thousands of more talented and creative developers, and the internet you use every day would simply have worked a lot better, for the last decade of your life. Java might have been a viable technology for desktop apps; games might be developed with cross-platform technologies instead of DirectX; Office documents might be reliably edited in cheaper, better alternatives to Office. 100 little technologies that Microsoft spotted and bought before I ever heard about them, because they might lead to cross-platform code, would be out there doing their thing.

I'm not saying they had to devote their resources to helping out Apple or something. I'm just saying they had to not actively use their monopoly power to deliberately cripple technologies they didn't like.

So yeah -- if having computers that work well is an important part of your life, you owe Microsoft some hate. However cool the stuff they do now is, they can never really undo the damage they did. The time that I and countless other coders have wasted is just down the drain.

On the other hand, Bill Gates is taking all that ill-gotten loot and using it to improve the lives of people who will never see computers, and his example is convincing an awful lot of other billionaires to do the same. So if you just look at yourself as the Sheriff of Nottingham, and Gates as Robin Hood, maybe it's not so bad.
posted by jhc at 6:25 AM on December 30, 2010 [69 favorites]


I like amusing stories about arrogant hardware companies getting their comeuppance, stories about the history of computing, and what-if speculation about the computer market of the last several years.

I fucking love this thread so hard.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:37 AM on December 30, 2010 [16 favorites]


Jaducan: thanks for the great summary.

Later on, a method was developed that used a USB device to replicate a service jig (a machine that unlocks many of the security features to allow factory maintenance), and dumps of the OS were made. Those dumps (along with a few other items) were analysed, and the resultant work has resulted in the large scale break we see today.


One question if you have time: do you think that fail0verflow's hack would have been possible without the existence of the USB jib OS dumps? The jib leak was, from what I understand, somewhat of an inside job (it was made using Sony’s official SDK) - I could be wrong about that though.
posted by longdaysjourney at 6:58 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Its taken so long for this to happen that I have to wonder if this is an inside job if some sort? There are rumours of a next gen console - yes years away but this might be enough to boost sales of the current system.

The XBMC (xbmc media center) community will go completely crazy if this is something that is ever able to be run on the ps3.
posted by jeffmik at 6:58 AM on December 30, 2010


This sucks. Not because people don't have the right to tinker with their hardware -- they do -- but this will lead to two outcomes, both of which will severely hurt the PS3 ecosystem.

1. Piracy. Look at the PSP and notice how few professional developers there are for it. There is one main reason for it: the PSP was an epic security fail. This break will mean the functional end of professional PS3 development in 18 to 24 months. (Of course, we could be at that point anyways -- aren't we due for PS4 by then?)

2. Hax. This will make cheating much easier than it ever was before. Now, when I play a PS3 game online how can I be sure my opponent isn't cheating? This means my Super Street Fighter IV sessions can only be among friends, rather than with random people online. And, playing against random people is the most fun part - you never know what they are going to do...

When Sony disabled "OtherOS" I mentioned then that it is probably within their right to do so (so long as they give the user the ability to deny the patch first), but it seemed like a very bad business decision. It seemed like disabling OtherOS would be like throwing a bowling ball into a beehive.

For the people at Sony, this has got to sting. The bad news is that the rest of us will get stung by this very soon. The hax issue is obvious, but piracy hurts gamers too -- because when you drive the professionals away, all you are left with is homebrew. And...

Homebrew : Professionally developed games :: Public access TV : The Wire.

(Disclaimer: I used to work for Sony Online Entertainment. I have no direct knowledge of how the PSP and PS3 side of things worked.)
posted by andreaazure at 7:09 AM on December 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


So, if someone were to buy a PS3 right now they would be able to pirate all the games at will? What about online play? Some might buy a PS3 just for that...
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:09 AM on December 30, 2010


Look at the PSP and notice how few professional developers there are for it.

Yeah, last time I was at Wal-Mart there weren't any PSP games. I asked the electronics department guy where the PSP games were and he said there's no games for it so there wasn't any reason to stock and sell games for the PSP. That really happened.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:13 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yet another demonstration that cryptography is hard and the smallest mistake can and will leave your implementation wide open even if you've implemented a secure algorithm.

Using the same random seed every time is not "the smallest mistake" though. It seems to fit the pattern, implement a clever security system then don't use it.

Cell co-processor running in isolation mode is great, because as long as you don't make a mistake in the tiny bit of code that has to run there, your chain of trust starts off good. That unchecked memcpy bug is a ridiculous error.

Hypervisor that can check for code signatures but then doesn't deign to lower itself to such work? Why on earth put it in then?

These are regrettable errors, but we don't know what's behind them. The code signature checking might have been too unwieldy in practice, same as with the disk crypto using the same IV&key throughout. I could see how performance issues that became apparent during development might have led to those features being downgraded. The SPE memcpy is too bad, but managing memory is damn hard, so I can forgive them for it. Again, that USB driver exploit was unbelievably clever, I don't blame anyone for not catching that during development. Whenever hardware and software interface, malicious glitching is really hard to prevent.

But using the same random number? The math on that slide doesn't surpass what an 8th grader learns in their first algebra class.
posted by atrazine at 7:14 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


However, as a whole, the entire PS3 architecture is terrible

I love hackers and support them whenever possible. My (original) AppleTV would be a worthless piece of junk if it weren't for XBMC and Boxee. That said, quotations like the above do hackers no favors. This kind of hack is a classic example of asymmetry: Sony's engineers only need to make one mistake out of the thousands (millions?) of decisions invoved in creating the hardware. This is somehow equated to "terrible architecture" by someone who probably has never been part of a Big Company effort to create a product. With hackers, by the nature of the work, only the best get recognition. It's not like Sony had an endless supply of great engineers to hire. Somewhere along the line, Bobby The New Guy was going to get his hands on a piece of the puzzle and screw it up.
posted by yerfatma at 7:15 AM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


But the DS has been hacked as well and it still sells like gangbusters. I suspect the PSPs problems are due mainly to the fact that the DS was so overwhelmingly popular it didn't make much sense to develop for the PSP (given that most of your potential audience is using a DS). The PSP's higher price and reliance on Sony's proprietary disk-based media didn't help either.
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:18 AM on December 30, 2010 [12 favorites]


Especially after breaking it open and properly analyzing it and finding a ton of screwups (many critical)

The encryption problem was a huge screwup. However, I wouldn't be so quick to deride a reverse-engineered system as being poorly designed, without knowing the rationale and specifications behind the design. Almost any reverse-engineered system is going to look like an ugly kludge, without the supporting documentation, even if it's completely brilliant in reality.

Game consoles are somewhat notorious for their various undocumented hardware bugs, which are frequently exploited by games attempting to push the limits of the system to their edges. PC developers don't have that "luxury," because they need to account for a wide variety of hardware.
posted by schmod at 7:20 AM on December 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Looks like the blu-ray player I was going to go out and buy today won't be a PS3.

(I got my first blu-ray disk as a holiday present; while it comes with a regular DVD, we have an HDTV here and I see no reason to NOT, in fact, get something to watch it on that can take advantage of it.)
posted by mephron at 7:36 AM on December 30, 2010



Looks like the blu-ray player I was going to go out and buy today won't be a PS3.


Because of this hack? It's a great blu-ray player, but I have to say I don't really use my PS3 that much due to the extremely frequent OS patching (presumably an attempt to keep ahead of the PS3 usb hack). Hopefully now that the keys to the kingdom are out in the wild, they will realize it's hopeless to try to lock the system down on the current hardware and will stop with the constant patches and revise the hardware (as they did with the PSP).
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:48 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Looks like the blu-ray player I was going to go out and buy today won't be a PS3.

I don't see why this would incline you not to get a PS3 to watch movies. In any case, I'm very happy with mine for that - that's why I got it.
posted by me & my monkey at 7:49 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, I take that back. They haven't really patched the OS that much (though at least one of the updates was related to the USB hack). I just don't use the machine that much, so whenever I turn it on there's another forced firmware upgrade I have to download before I can connect to PSN.

In any case, it does a fine job with Blu-rays (except Sunshine for some reason).
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:51 AM on December 30, 2010


I understand very very little of this kind of thing, but I always love to read about it.

What OmieWise said. Thanks guys.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:52 AM on December 30, 2010


Microsoft saw that Java was a threat, so they released their own version of Java that they claimed was a perfect copy and could be used to develop cross-platform apps. In fact, apps made using their development tools would only run on Windows.

The real damage done is so extreme, as in, what if people with the vision to predict that file names might ever be more than eight characters long, had led us to where that level of minimum competence would lead, from the germ seed? It would be a very different garden.

The MS Java referenced above had a line-drawing routine that went: if OS = MS, draw smooth-line; else, draw jaggy-line.
-
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:52 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


BrotherCaine : I will acknowledge that the XBOX 360 is not a mediocre product,

While the quality of the games, controllers, and interface are all beyond reproach, the miserable red-ring issue that affected myself and nearly every other Xbox 360 owner I've met (often repeatedly) drives it firmly into the "mediocre" category for me.
posted by quin at 7:59 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


hi stickycarpet - The MS Java referenced above had a line-drawing routine that went: if OS = MS, draw smooth-line; else, draw jaggy-line.

I am curious, do you have a reference for that?
posted by eeeeeez at 8:00 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The MS Java referenced above had a line-drawing routine that went: if OS = MS, draw smooth-line; else, draw jaggy-line.

"I am curious, do you have a reference for that?"


Yeah, that doesn't make any sense. The MS JVM only ran on MS operating systems (that was part of the point). Such code would be pointless (not that that would necessarily stop MS from doing it).
posted by jedicus at 8:10 AM on December 30, 2010


Read this, scroll down to "Java: The Showdown Fight".

This is the part that matters: "Microsoft introduced a new version of Java called J/Direct which went beyond being optimized on Windows machines to actually making direct "calls" on Windows operating system commands - violating the basic principles that all Java programs should be independent of a specific operating system."

Forget about the "basic principles" blah-blah for a moment. One of the real-world effects of this was that software written with this J/Direct would draw smooth lines on MS operating systems, thanks to the availability and usage of the native calls, and on other platforms had to fall back on non-native versions of the drawing routines, which were usually, ehm, not really as good.
posted by DreamerFi at 8:26 AM on December 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


And to demonstrate how much a difference it can make to call - or not call - native methods, recently there was a lot of ruckus about the effect of Flash Player playing video on Mac notebooks draining the battery a lot more than on Windows notebooks: the reason is that the Mac version of Flash player did not use (for various reasons) any form of the hardware acceleration available - the native calls if you wish to extend the comparison.
posted by DreamerFi at 8:30 AM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


While the quality of the games, controllers, and interface are all beyond reproach, the miserable red-ring issue that affected myself and nearly every other Xbox 360 owner I've met (often repeatedly) drives it firmly into the "mediocre" category for me.

Derail: A year ago I got my second red-ring. My first red-ringed Xbox got stolen before I had it fixed, and the second one sat in a closet until last week. On a whim, I decided to see how much it would cost to repair. I plugged it in, expecting the usual.

It's been working for weeks.

/derail
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 8:35 AM on December 30, 2010


Is the PS3 really a -good computer-? I can see hacking things for fun, and I can see re-purposing routers with DD-WRT and NAS boxes with Unslung - these add functionality that makes little machines do big machine stuff. Is there some wonderful stuff on PS3 that makes hacking it equally attractive from the !/$ point of view?
posted by jet_silver at 8:37 AM on December 30, 2010


if OS = MS
'(' expected

')' expected

incompatible types
 required: boolean
 found: OperatingSystem

posted by 7segment at 8:45 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


So aside from hacking online games, and pirating, what else could a rooted PS3 do? Like what were people doing with OtherOS boxes before Sony killed that? How good of a computer is a PS3?
posted by codacorolla at 8:46 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's hard to find a good media box with hdmi for under a few hundred dollars. Boxee Box is xbmc based but ended up having a lot of features stripped - probably due to licensing requirements. Hack a ps3 to run xbmc and you've got a lot of people (myself included) blowing the dust off and plugging them back in. I just bought an Acer Revo for $350 to use with xbmc but would probably switch back to a ps3 if it would work. Just because it would be easier to use.

I know many people with an original xbox running xbmc that avoid mkv files (xbox is underpowered to play them) that are hoping for this.
posted by jeffmik at 8:48 AM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


You could do anything you can do on a computer. I run Homebrew Channel on my Wii (thanks, JHarris!) and I watch downloaded TV shows and play emulated old games on it. I love playing GBA games on a big screen and seeing if the pixel art remains pretty when blown up. Of course, since the big prize for PS3 is getting Linux back, the sky's the limit as long as you can use make. There's probably pre-existing drivers and everything.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:51 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Looks like the blu-ray player I was going to go out and buy today won't be a PS3
Actually this potentially makes it a better blu-ray player. I'm betting that the PS3 will be made region-free by hackers very soon now.
posted by w0mbat at 8:57 AM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


"One question if you have time: do you think that fail0verflow's hack would have been possible without the existence of the USB jib OS dumps? The jib leak was, from what I understand, somewhat of an inside job (it was made using Sony’s official SDK) - I could be wrong about that though."

The jig files were every bit an insider leak, but it's hard to spread a binary round to that many locations and not have it happen at some point.

Without the jig data the hack would have been much longer coming at least, because it changed the philosophy of the attackers. The bits of the OS that were analysed were encrypted before the dump, and frankly people wouldn't (and I didn't) imagine that Sony would mess up the encryption this much. It opened up whole lines of investigation, and sped things up hugely. The current exploit isn't Sony code derived as such though, it just allowed the data to be analysed. No copyright violations would be involved in running the exploit, only DMCA/whatever equivalent thing might apply in your jurisdiction.

Random note: People just wanted RSX (the GPU) access from inside OtherOS, and there was an informal expectation that as this would mean that homebrew could run but not pirate games Sony might just leave everyone alone.

Sony messed up in three ways here:
a) a fundamental cryptography error (and if people are doing their own crypto implementations they are generally Doing It Wrong as flaws can be subtle, but the flaw here is really astonishingly incompetent);
b) depending almost entirely on a flawed crypto implementation rather than defence in depth;
c) unifying the interests of hackers and pirates.
posted by jaduncan at 8:57 AM on December 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


"Looks like the blu-ray player I was going to go out and buy today won't be a PS3.

(I got my first blu-ray disk as a holiday present; while it comes with a regular DVD, we have an HDTV here and I see no reason to NOT, in fact, get something to watch it on that can take advantage of it.)"

What? This greatly increases the chances that your PS3 will eventually be able to play any format file you can find to put in it. People are starting to look at porting VLC, and you'll have the only blu-ray player in town that can skip trailers and whatnot. This is very much the time to purchase a PS3, as it's unlikely that Sony will change the hardware in future and purchasing now protects you from that.

This will eventually be an awesome media/MAME/emulator machine, and if you are spending some roughly similar amount of money on a blu-ray this is now the machine to get. It will probably eventually run every single game up to the PS1 era in emulation, and all media you can find. This is especially good advice if you don't care about Playstation Network (this is Sony's walled garden, not the general internet) access.
posted by jaduncan at 8:58 AM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Awesome. I stuck with 3.41 firmware, waited for the exploit to be released for a product I owned (5th gen iPods (via the custom firmware Rockbox)) and I've been enjoying hard drive backups (both internal and external) since late September. Great to see more development on this front.
posted by porn in the woods at 8:59 AM on December 30, 2010


"So aside from hacking online games, and pirating, what else could a rooted PS3 do? Like what were people doing with OtherOS boxes before Sony killed that? How good of a computer is a PS3?"

Technical version: The memory is limited (256MB, with another 256 in the RSX that could potentially be used), but the processor is insanely fast at vector operations. Note that the memory in the RSX has a longer access time, so it's best to try and keep the memory usage below 256MB. If you want to use it for media conversion, password brute forcing or scientific calculations it is thus supreme. This will be even more so when the RSX is unlocked for use of the Nvidia chip for even more calculation power, and it will beat out servers worth several thousand dollars. It is an excellent network computation node, but with limited memory and a practical limitation to one PowerPC chip if you are going to use general Linux apps as not much is compiled for the SPUs (co-processors).

Non technical version: In practical terms this means it's a bit like a netbook in general use - you wouldn't really want to use it as your main PC as it would swap all the time once Firefox and Openoffice were running at the same point, but it would be excellent when used mainly as an emulation/media/browsing box. Think OpenConsole, with emergency office powers.
posted by jaduncan at 9:08 AM on December 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


It will probably eventually run every single game up to the PS1 era in emulation, and all media you can find.

What are the odds of having PS2 backwards compatibility added back in?
posted by Uncle Ira at 9:09 AM on December 30, 2010


What are the odds of having PS2 backwards compatibility added back in?

I bet there are already some VMs in the works.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:11 AM on December 30, 2010


"What are the odds of having PS2 backwards compatibility added back in?"

It's problematic - even Sony ended up basing it partly on hardware. I never like to underestimate people, but the PS2 had enough custom hardware that it's a really hard emulation target to hit, and really really hard to do so approaching real time. It's like emulating an Amiga is harder than people think; the CPU is fine, but the rest is surprisingly tricky. Random geek caviat: we do have the RSX to do the 3d rendering now, and the PS2 emulation can thus have an entire Cell chip to itself. The memory of the PS2 is even lower, and so the entire dataset can be held in memory. I can't entirely see what stopped Sony from doing it in software.

It has to be pretty hard for Sony to spend money adding almost an entire PS2 to the motherboard though, so magic 8 ball says: "Outlook not good" [but not impossible; it's just a really big job].

My apologies to all for talking so much in this thread, I'm not meaning for this to be overbearing.
posted by jaduncan at 9:19 AM on December 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


It isn't overbearing. Keep it coming. You [seem to, I'm not really a reliable judge] know what you're talking about, and your contributions have been great.
posted by OmieWise at 9:27 AM on December 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


This goes forward too, doesn't it? When the hypothetical PS4 comes out, it will pretty much have to support PS3 software. That means that the crack will work on PS4 too.

It won't allow PS4 games to be pirated, but it means that Linux will work on the PS4.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:38 AM on December 30, 2010


"violating the basic principles that all Java programs should be independent of a specific operating system."

...a principle that would have prevented the development of SWT, which is the basis of Eclipse. Rules were made to be broken sometimes. "MS made things work better for their users" isn't really a damning indictment just because they didn't make it better for everyone else as well, as far as I'm concerned.
posted by Riki tiki at 10:00 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


"This goes forward too, doesn't it? When the hypothetical PS4 comes out, it will pretty much have to support PS3 software. That means that the crack will work on PS4 too.

It won't allow PS4 games to be pirated, but it means that Linux will work on the PS4."

I would imagine not. A whitelist of hashes for all software they approved seems like a small cost to pay, and has been implemented for the Nintendo DSi (i.e. scan the executable being run, hash it, compare to whitelist). Sony will do absolutely anything they can think of to prevent the breach continuing to PS4, as it means their PS4 titles would have to compete against an entire emulation library and the piracy of PS3 games. This isn't a general purpose computer, and Sony signed all of the code that should be running on it. It's predictable in a way that a general purpose PC isn't, and so it's possible to whitelist. The commercial results of widespread piracy that early on are pretty much SCE's corporate nightmare - remember they make a loss on consoles at launch, and need high sales figures to encourage developers.
posted by jaduncan at 10:06 AM on December 30, 2010


When does this translate into a non-arcane system of putting things on your PS3?
posted by kafziel at 10:08 AM on December 30, 2010


For anyone who does decide to get a PS3 to use as a blu-ray player, allow me to make a suggestion; if you buy the Sony remote (as opposed to using the controller) one of the best things you can do to save yourself an absurd amount of frustration is to open the remote up, and disable the contacts on the 'stop' button with a piece of electric tape.

The reason for this is that with a lot of blu-ray discs, if you hit stop and drop back to the main dashboard, you don't just go back to where you left off in the movie if you hit 'play', you have to go through all the opening menus and trailers (some of which can't be skipped).

It's unbelievably irritating, because accidentally bumping that 'stop' button when you meant 'pause' is trivially easy, and will completely ruin the movie watching experience if it happens a couple of times in a row.

If you do need to stop the playback and return to the main menu, you can by hitting the PS button and saying "Yes, I do want to quit".
posted by quin at 10:12 AM on December 30, 2010 [4 favorites]



Best case scenario is that there'd be 3-7 vigorous competitors in various niches, OS, office, processor, and several competitors in graphics & sound peripherals.


I don't know about the other departments, but I haven't found anything close to Excel in terms of features. The spreadsheet for the Mac? Come on people. Why doesn't any spreadsheet use pivot tables the way Excel does? :-/

(End of tiny, totally-off topic rant.)
posted by The ____ of Justice at 11:09 AM on December 30, 2010


I'm betting that the PS3 will be made region-free by hackers very soon now.

Wouldn't PAL vs NTSC still be an issue (for those of us still stuck on SD TVs anyway)? Or is that something that can be handled?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 11:14 AM on December 30, 2010


I'm betting that the PS3 will be made region-free by hackers very soon now.

The PS3 was made region-free by Sony. At launch. The only concern the PS3 or the PSP have about region are what country you're in for the Playstation Network, and you can always make another profile if you want to access a different country's PSN.
posted by stelas at 11:25 AM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't PAL vs NTSC still be an issue (for those of us still stuck on SD TVs anyway)? Or is that something that can be handled?

PAL vs NTSC doesn't matter as much with bluray discs as it does with DVD. Because bluray doesn't have a standard frame output rate and since all true HD films use the same number of lines, the main differences between the regions for bluray is the players. It still makes a big difference with DVD, because of the frame rate and picture lines cannot be converted unless you have a player which specifically is made to do that. (Well, typically PAL DVD players will play NTSC DVDs without much hassle, but not the other way around.)
posted by hippybear at 11:55 AM on December 30, 2010


> Many times, Worse is Better -- esp. if you can upgrade Worse later.
> posted by eriko at 9:17 AM on December 30 [20 favorites +] [!]

A footnote to eriko's great comment -- all the IBM clone machines were made possible by Phoenix's insanely great clean-room reverse engineering of the IBM-PC BIOS. Without that, no real compatibility, hence no enormous PC-clone market.

Early 1980's, I'm figuring my Apple II won't last forever (in spite of having about every mod you could hang on one including an Intel processor card, runs CP/M, etc.) but I have no idea which direction to go. Apple /// was good for nothing but lulz, don't want an IBM-PC (too expensive and only sort-of-16-bit), can't remotely afford a Lisa, not really tempted by the first Mac (can't even open the case, in stark contrast to the App][ which really encouraged people to open it up and make all sorts of unspeakable changes. You want to add something to the Mac, all you could do was hang it on the external SCSI cable.) By 1985 I say "OK, I give up, I will become a real geek, I can't buy one I like so I will learn to build one." Just having said that out loud I could feel the neckbeard sprouting. Well, on digging into the topic I find I can (thanks to Phoenix) build a PC AT-clone without using any IBM-brand parts but cannot build a Hackintosh without using any Apple-brand parts, namely the ROM BIOS chips. So, AT-clone it was, which proved to be a fortunate decision. It would boot MS-DOS and Xenix, and when Linux first appeared as a tiny blip on the radar I was prepared with a decent understanding of the hardware it wanted to run on.
posted by jfuller at 12:15 PM on December 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


On the one hand they deserve it a bit.

A bit, Sony can go and fuck itself. it was a company that was offering really good quality consumer products at a fairly decent price to a company offering utter garbage at an inflated price. They have totally lost me. I won't buy another Sony product any time soon.
posted by the noob at 1:01 PM on December 30, 2010


jaduncan: This will eventually be an awesome media/MAME/emulator machine

This is what I'm mostly looking forward to. I couldn't give a rats arse about piracy, unless it affects development of new games.
I would say the game crackers will be on the case promptly. ISOs of PS3 titles are readily available.
I'm in the habit of paying for my PS3 games and will continue to do so for the benefit of online play.

Mostly my Slim gets hammered as a media player.
For music I run Foobar UPnP/DLNA server which handles playlists the way I want.
I have PS3 Media Server to stream my HD stuff.
All of my kids DVDs have been ripped to the Slims 500gb hard drive, and they can watch them over wireless on their PSPs. It's a great setup.
posted by Duke999R at 1:17 PM on December 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


all the IBM clone machines were made possible by Phoenix's insanely great clean-room reverse engineering of the IBM-PC BIOS.

Which was enabled quite a bit by the fact that IBM actually published the full source listings for the BIOS, and included them with every early IBM PC purchased. I have a boxed copy of it under my desk to this day.
posted by pjern at 1:20 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


It still makes a big difference with DVD, because of the frame rate and picture lines cannot be converted unless you have a player which specifically is made to do that. (Well, typically PAL DVD players will play NTSC DVDs without much hassle, but not the other way around.)

Yup, I've got a region free Phillips player that does both for DVD, because they basically use the same innards for the European and North American markets. What I'm wondering is if the PS3 was region hacked for DVDs (I have a large region 2 PAL collection and a North American PS3) does it have the stuff onboard to do the different video standards as well, or did Sony produce localized hardware for NTSC and PAL markets that won't be capable of playing the PAL discs.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:26 PM on December 30, 2010


it was a company that was offering really good quality consumer products at a fairly decent price to a company offering utter garbage at an inflated price.

Believe it or not, Sony's audio gear in the late 60s and through most of the 70s was very expensive high-end gear, comparable to legendary names like Marantz and McIntosh. The quality of these units is a well-kept secret, even among the ebay-trolling vintage audio gear crowd. I have an early 70s receiver of theirs awaiting a restoration. Opening the case and just looking at the inside shows that Sony spared no expense in those days. Adjusted for inflation, that receiver cost about $2500 new, and this was a mid-level model.
posted by TrialByMedia at 1:50 PM on December 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


By current standards, the PS3 is not a fast computer, not even for the price. The Cell has a single PowerPC core as the main processor. Xbox has three very similar cores. Current Intel PC cores are much faster. What makes the Cell architecture interesting from programming point of view are the SPU coprocessors. There are 6 of them, and they are 4-to-16-way SIMD processors with a 256kB (yes, kilobytes, not megabytes) very-low latency local memory storage. The SPU can run any C/C++ code but it does so very slowly. Most people end up using assembler either diretly or via SPU intrinsics. SIMD assembler is hard to read and write, and highly error-prone.

In short, the SPU is an excellent computer architecture for showing how good you are in writing optimized parallel assembler code: it will perform adequately only if you're very very clever, and punish you severely for any sloppiness. The demoscene should love it.
posted by ikalliom at 1:52 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The reason for this is that with a lot of blu-ray discs, if you hit stop and drop back to the main dashboard, you don't just go back to where you left off in the movie if you hit 'play', you have to go through all the opening menus and trailers (some of which can't be skipped).

It's unbelievably irritating, because accidentally bumping that 'stop' button when you meant 'pause' is trivially easy, and will completely ruin the movie watching experience if it happens a couple of times in a row.


God, yes. I didn't realize it was even possible to ragequit a movie until I started habitually hitting STOP while watching blu-rays, expecting it to work like a DVD.
posted by Amanojaku at 2:42 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The reason I can't justify a PS3 is because I'm terribly old and set in my ways and can only play an FPS with a keyboard and mouse.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 3:04 PM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


1. Piracy. Look at the PSP and notice how few professional developers there are for it. There is one main reason for it: the PSP was an epic security fail. This break will mean the functional end of professional PS3 development in 18 to 24 months.

Whoooaaa there, little bit of a leap.

(Disclaimer: I used to work for Sony Online Entertainment. I have no direct knowledge of how the PSP and PS3 side of things worked.)

Then please, for the love of Kratos, don't toe Sony's line about why the PSP isn't popular with devs, and then extrapolate that into a prediction for the PS3. I can't properly discuss this without ripping up multiple NDAs, so maybe we will cross paths at GDC -- where I hope to be just buzzed enough to not give a hoot.

Anyway, as a disgruntled former PS3 Linux user, current homebrew / demoscene nerd, and firm believer in Hanlon's Razor, this makes my day.
posted by jake at 3:58 PM on December 30, 2010


This goes forward too, doesn't it? When the hypothetical PS4 comes out, it will pretty much have to support PS3 software. That means that the crack will work on PS4 too.

Yes, just like all the PS hacks automagically worked on the PS2, which had PS1 compatibility, and the PS3, which had PS2 compa...oh, wait, I thought about that for more than a fraction of a second and it doesn't really seem likely at all, does it?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:52 PM on December 30, 2010


I'm betting that the PS3 will be made region-free by hackers very soon now.

As mentioned above, the PS3 is already region free for games, and there are surprisingly few regions for Blu-ray discs (region 1 covers America and Japan, and perhaps Europe now?). The PSP is region free as well. For all of the reason to hate Sony (and there are many) this is one thing were perhaps they should get a touch of credit. My main reason for buying the PS3 over an Xbox was the region free thing, since at the time, not only was Xbox not region free, most of their games had no support for other languages. Not all, but a lot of PS3 games come with dozens of language options. I realize not everyone here is all that concerned about trying to find English language PS3 games in foreign countries, but I love it, and on this, I'm more than willing to give Sony a bit of credit.

And yeah, if you're getting a Blu-ray player, there's really not a lot of reason not to get a PS3. Aside from it being (still) one of the better players out there, there's just so much added functionality that comes with it. It's less of an issue now, but it's insanely easy to upgrade your hard drive as well.

I do worry, though, about the griefing and exploits that will pop up now. It's inevitable, I guess, but good lord, it's annoying.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:58 PM on December 30, 2010


If I had direct knowledge of the PSP side, I would have been under an NDA of some sort, hence my disclaimer.

That said, there is a reason why the vast majority of DS games are aimed at kids -- the younger the kid, the less likely they will have access to pirated software. While there are still "core" games released for the system, they are dwarfed by the number of kid-friendly ones. Piracy is a major factor in that.

Also, jake, your tone is awesome. I won't be a GDC this year, sorry. Probably GDC Austin^H^H^H^H^H^HOnline, where the discussions awre far more relevant to me.

If you don't think piracy is a major part of the business decisions at every single AAA games studio, you are mistaken. Also, Steam (and similar) called, and they are wondering why they matter as a PC games distribution platform and GameStop does not.
posted by andreaazure at 6:39 PM on December 30, 2010


* _are_ relevant. I wish we had a "edit something you posted within the last 2 minutes" feature. Alas, GYOB, etc. etc.
posted by andreaazure at 6:40 PM on December 30, 2010


Chances are you won't see much in the actual games themselves. The vast majority of users aren't going to care nor are they going to bother shelling out for - and finding a source for - the requisite dongles that will allow memory pokes and then spending the effort to figure out which pokes they need to make to get the games working the way they want it to. This is primarily going to be used for custom firmware, the same stuff that sparked this whole row thanks to it being blocked.

The only concern is what this will do to PSN and whether you can affect transactions within PSN... but since that's tied to a login account I'm fairly sure that won't change much, or if does it will get remedied and Sony will stay on top of it.

As much as I dislike Sony at times, their lack of region protection is brilliant when you're an RPG fan in the UK, where release dates range from a month delayed to 'ha ha, never'. Half my library is already from the US; the thought that I might now be able to, much easier, buy games from Japan and memory-patch them with fan translations (Tales of Graces, Tales of Graces) is tremendously heartening. The 'fuck Sony' ideal doesn't work very well when there's only two alternatives for gaming, and when most of the developers you're following decide to swing in one direction.
posted by stelas at 6:45 PM on December 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


While there are still "core" games released for the system, they are dwarfed by the number of kid-friendly ones.

Yeah, it's nothing to do with the fact that it's tremendously easy to take your already-existing 'Learn English' game, slap in a new dictionary, and remarket it as a 'Learn Spanish' game. Or change the photo of the scientist on the front of your 'Learn Physics' game and remarket it.

The DS isn't motivated by piracy so much as it is motivated by developers throwing as much shit at the wall as they can and seeing what sticks. The rate of release of 'core' games has remained steady: there's just far more chaff around it.
posted by stelas at 6:48 PM on December 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Blu-ray region codes
posted by hippybear at 7:17 PM on December 30, 2010


For the people at Sony, this has got to sting. The bad news is that the rest of us will get stung by this very soon. The hax issue is obvious, but piracy hurts gamers too -- because when you drive the professionals away, all you are left with is homebrew. And...?

While this is a cute party line, the obvious counter examples to the PSP are both the original Xbox as well as the PS2, which were successfully modded/hacked quite early in their product cycle, and hardly considered epic failures. Successful and highly-lucrative games were produced by top developers for these consoles well after they were hacked.
posted by drpynchon at 8:01 PM on December 30, 2010


Comparing the piracy scene in 2002 for xbox and ps2 to PSP in 2008 forward is laughable. Most people were not on broadband then - and the scene was far less "noob friendly" back then as well. For instance, bittorrent only barely existed in 2002; it didn't have the ubiquity as it does now.

Also: I love it when 15 years of industry experience is laughed off with a comment about the "party line." Piracy hurts the business, which in turn hurts the consumers. (It also happens to be illegal.)
posted by andreaazure at 8:52 PM on December 30, 2010


Piracy hurts the business, which in turn hurts the consumers. (It also happens to be illegal.)

This is a very simplistic view of a complex economic issue. It's actually funny you should bring up piracy in a thread mentioning Microsoft, because if you're looking for a good example of how piracy benefits business, Microsoft is one of the best.

As jhc's wonderful comment pointed out, Microsoft was one of the first and most effective in realizing and exploiting the importance of network effects in software. The more users you have for your software, the more developers will want to target the platform. Microsoft recognized this and used piracy to their advantage in the early days and still uses it in developing markets. Bill Gates has said as much himself.

Regarding piracy on the PSP killing the platform, longdaysjourney pointed out the great counter-example of the Nintendo DS. Running pirated games (or legal backups and homebrew) is insanely easy on the NDS. Buy a flash adapter, copy some games over to a SD card, and plug it into your NDS. Yet the game market for the NDS is huge.

The PSP was too expensive, it didn't have a good starting game library, and it didn't appeal to a broad audience. Sony screwed that one up themselves.
posted by formless at 9:48 PM on December 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Also, jake, your tone is awesome

By awesome I hope you mean AWESOME, and not "awesome".. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. But you're right, piracy definitely figures into business decisions, so much so that consumers get pissed when invasive DRM ruins their experience. It's certainly a reason, I just don't think it's the MAIN reason.

Further, with the "core games" vs. "kids games" thing, I believe it's more to do with the fact that a lot of the core licenses and ports tend to be watered-down versions of console games, which older kids and grown-ups don't care about playing on a tiny portable screen. But I won't dismiss what you have to say just because I disagree. I just think the industry's biggest threat comes from within, not from a bunch of 15-year-old modchippers and Swedish ninja hackers.

(FWIW, as a corollary to the Humble Indie Bundle thing: I just gave away a soundtrack album for "$0 to 25" and you'd be shocked at how many people chose to pay $15 or $25" -- and about 70% of the people who downloaded it paid for it, and I got some awesome new studio gear! So my faith in the goodness of gamers is running pretty high right now.)
posted by jake at 9:55 PM on December 30, 2010


Some kinds of piracy hurt the business and might consequently hurt consumers... it's because you make ridiculous unrealistic overreaching statements like this that you get laughed off and dismissed as toeing the party line, whatever your experience may be.
posted by XMLicious at 10:08 PM on December 30, 2010


I love this thread. Are there any sites that discuss not the reverse engineering of game systems but the forward engineering that game coders actually go through?
I am a comp-sci noob but I was reading the wiki on the NES hardware last week and was loving that. It appears that there are a lot of practical (economic) considerations that the big home system hardware companies go through before sending their system designs off to the factories. Furthermore, the coders and designers have to jump through certain kinds of hoops to 1. achieve the vision of any game they are trying to design and 2. acommadate for the limitations of the platform that they are working on (which also seems to lead to new, unexpected courses of design).

So, I guess I'm wondering if there is more info out there by the authorized designers and what they go through to make the hardware work for them? I understand that this is kind of a broad question but some of the feedback in this thread has lead me to believe that I might get some more knowledgable info here than asking 4chan or something. All of those SPEs in the PS3 seem like they could do some pretty interesting stuff if approached with a similar methodology as the engineers of the '80s were using.
posted by coolxcool=rad at 11:09 PM on December 30, 2010


Most people were not on broadband then - and the scene was far less "noob friendly" back then as well. For instance, bittorrent only barely existed in 2002; it didn't have the ubiquity as it does now.

I must have been living in an alternate universe where PS and PS2 titles were freely available in video stores, able to be rented five at a time for pocket change, then ripped in widely available, dirt-cheap CD and DVD burners before being copied left, right and centre to everybody and anybody who asked. (Of course, we had no choice but to pirate console titles, what with PC and Apple gaming having been destroyed in the 80s by the insidious copying of floppies.)

And we all know how that ended up in that alternate universe. That's right - PS piracy killed the PS2, and the PS3, and now it'll kill the PS4. Game companies would be investing tens of millions of dollars developing a single title these days if it wasn't for piracy. Games would outsell major blockbuster movies (except there are no blockbuster movies, because piracy killed them too, back when VHS came out and home taping destroyed Hollywood overnight). Nobody's developing innovative controllers for new kinds of games, because piracy means there's no money in any of it for anybody. It's why Microsoft never bothered to get into the market. It's why today we don't have any consoles, and PC gaming is dead and buried.

It's why apes rule the planet, and the Statue of Liberty is buried on the beach, behind those rocks.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:23 PM on January 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


Heh, so Geohot got interested in the PS3 again after fail0verflow released their hack. And apparently the blu ray accs keys are hacked, or can be hacked now:

@Mathieulh: so, question, who's gonna grab sony's AACS keys from the .isoself module and leak them ? xD
@Mathieulh: I don't want to leak AACS shit
@Mathieulh: too risky xD

I think I might buy a slim, just in case my original ps3 ever dies since this will probably be the most open console ever.
posted by longdaysjourney at 4:51 AM on January 3, 2011


fail0verflow discovered how to get the keys from the code dump from the usb hack, and have released a devkit and SPU emulator for homebrew/otherOS support for other devs to play with. Looks like otherOS will be back shortly for any firmware version; we might even get it on the PS3 slim. They deliberately didn't publish some of the material they had access to, including the metldr and AACS keys.

Geohot has taken it further, and used fail0verflow's method (i.e. failure to use a real random number) to find the metldr key, and published that root key on his site.

If I understand correctly, that now allows any backup PS3 disc to be signed by this official key, and thus appear genuine, or decrypt any official code on the console. About the only thing remaining to do is set it up so PS3 game can be played off a USB hard-drive, as the current USB/firmware 2.4.3 hack allows, and piracy is basically unstoppable on any firmware version.

This a whole other level of modding compared to the 360 and wii hardware mods (which basically mod the DVD drive to report a disc as genuine, even if it isn't), and is more in common with the wii softmod that allows complete control of the console from the bootloader upwards.

The real irony is that the only reason the PS3 got attacked is because geohot was poking around the hypervisor, Sony got scared and yanked otherOS, bringing in fail0verflow - well known for hacking the homebrew channel on the wii thus causing them to be totally, and utterly owned.
posted by ArkhanJG at 2:51 PM on January 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


DreamerFi - One of the real-world effects of this was that software written with this J/Direct would draw smooth lines on MS operating systems, thanks to the availability and usage of the native calls

This is awfully late, but I feel the urge to respond regardless, because the above is actually not an answer to my question. I was curious about how the "smoothness" of the line drawing was actually established (it seems a very vague metric; screenshots would be handy; did you see it yourself?) and how the Microsoft's "standard" line drawing compares to the standard line drawing quality of rival Java implementations. For the record, I don't doubt that Microsoft has pulled dirty tricks - this particular example just seems, well, outrageous, frankly.

Also, as others have pointed out, it seems highly unlikely that Microsoft would include code to support other OS's in a system that only by its nature (being a Java VM for Windows) only runs on Windows.
posted by eeeeeez at 1:59 PM on January 4, 2011


Here's a short story on Geohot's public post of the "private key." Already, someone release a custom firmware, but as of yet, it's not working very well:
TESTING RESULTS
GAMES:
seem to load just fine however!!!!!!!!!

YOU LOOSE TROPHIES(STILL TESTING, playgame but they don't appear again)
YOU LOOSE SAVE DATA MENU
YOU LOOSE DATA UTILIT Very crucial to have if you want to clear space on HDD
PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING UNDER GAME CATAGORY
Also, fail0verflow's video is available in one piece.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:09 AM on January 6, 2011


« Older "This is a subject of but small importance; and I ...  |  "In the late '60's I worked fo... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments