Thursday, 11 September 2008

PS3 Linux

I bought a new HDD for my PS3 yesterday, backed it up and installed it. Very easy process, although the screws holding the drive in its caddy were a bit tight for the jewellers screwdriver I was using, and it took a couple of hours to back it up and restore it (nearly 50GB used). Although disturbingly, it sometimes seems to start up a bit too slowly, and then goes 'missing' at power-up until a restart. No big deal I suppose - if that's all it does. It's a western digital 320GB drive (WD3200BEVT), fwiw. Ahh, i did a search, and it seems to be some sort of interface issue - I tried jumpering the 'RPS' mode on, and so far it looks to have done the job.

I didn't bother backing up the Ubuntu partition, beyond my source tree. I haven't been particularly happy with Ubuntu, and that was even before upgrading to 8.x broke everything. Even after I fixed the boot issue, all it did was leave me with an unusable amount of RAM detected. I had long since got rid of any Ubuntu on my laptops, so I didn't need much of an excuse to jump ship. As i've said elsewhere - i'm sure Ubuntu is just fine for plenty of people, but it certainly isn't for me.

So I spent a bit of time trying to work out what system to install. It was pretty depressing really, it was quite difficult to find ANY quality or useful information at all (or maybe it was this incredibly disturbing video and comments I'd seen earlier in the day?). There are a few blogs and news sites around for PS3 development, but many (most?) of them are quite stale. Often started in a flourish and soon forgotten.

Of those still active, the developerworks forum for Cell development is full of newbies with very basic GNU or C/parellel programming questions for the most part, or weird arguments about performance (e.g. 'why is the ppe so slow?', 'how come i can't get the peak theoretical bandwidth in a memcpy?', sigh.). The beyond3d and ps2dev forums seem to be stuck on the fact that the GPU is inaccessible, or relying and waiting on a couple of guys working on ps3-medialib to deliver some magic, and generally just don't seem to be all that helpful. There are a couple of queries about useful linux distributions, but they are either unanswered or not helpful to me (e.g. they recommended ubuntu). I was starting to think that the whole situation was a lost cause, and certainly nobody seems to be working together toward any common goal. I finally stumbled upon PS3 forums - which seems to be a bit more active, and a few of the sort of questions I was interested in at least had some sort of answer.

Anyway, since there was a decent article on DeveloperWorks about installing FC7, and the IBM SDK 'support', I thought i'd give that a go. Burnt a DVD and away I went - I even checked the media. But unfortunately, it couldn't find the DVD it booted off when it came to looking for packages for some reason - so I couldn't get any further. Bit of a waste of time. I couldn't find any mention of this show-stopper on the 'net, so I gave up. I have FC9 on my laptop and although i'm happy enough that it works, the default setup is far too fat for a PS3, and it took forever to install, so I thought i'd give it a miss.

Someone on had suggested Ubuntu to a query of what distro to use, but then changed his mind and complained about how much of a timewaster it was, and suggested YellowDog. I hadn't really considered YellowDog - it seemed a bit out of date, and well, just different, but after my experience upgrading Ubuntu - to get features I didn't really need - I thought stability and ease of setup will do over bleeding edge. So, YD downloaded (fortunately my ISP mirrors all these DVD's, so the download is as fast as the phone line can muster). Hmm, Fedora 6 based. Ok, so it's a bit old. Still - the install worked just fine first time. It was also pretty fast, and it boots up pretty fast too. Both much faster than Ubuntu ever did. For some reason the default 'development' install doesn't include ppu-gcc and particularly ppu-binutils, but I found out what I needed, and it seems some of my test code can build and run. I can always compile a newer gcc if I need it.

Ahh well that's done, and i've updated it too, now I can reboot back to the GameOS and forget about it for another few months!

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