PS2 Linux Revisited ...

March 04: If you're interested in more details of running PS2 Linux, John Littler has written an article for O'Reilly on the subject ... Here As well as that, Sarah Ewen has written a coding guide.

Last year we talked to Sarah Ewen from Sony about the kit to run Linux on Playstation 2 (here). And here we follow up and talk about the number of users, one box solutions, monitors and the future ...

PS2 Linux has been established for a little while now. Do you have any idea of the numbers of people using it?

Only rough guesses I'm afraid. We have about 1500 users in Europe/Australasia, and about 3000 in the States, and many more in Japan, which released a beta version to about 7,900 users, and then sold thousands more of the final release.

So globally we're probably at about somewhere over 15,000+ people.

The percentage involved in development work?

That's hard to say. I think it's probably in the 15-20% mark. I think there's also a grey area of people who would find it interesting, but struggle to find the time to invest that you need to spend with the kit to get to grips with the graphics development. It's not as easy a path to walk as using the Net Yaroze was I think.

PS2 Linux has really just been offered to hobbyists but do you think there's a potential one box solution there? ... email, net browse, games, DVD.

What you're describing sounds a little like the Broad Band Navigator that was released in Japan, and some versions of this were based on Linux. The kernel it ran is even available for download from Sony's website.

The network access disc issued here however does include a web browser, as recent news has covered, and so can be used to access the web. I guess web-based e-mail covers the last area of the groups you mentioned.

I think the PlayStation 2's primary focus is most certainly fun and entertainment, however. Newer products such as the PSX are more of an electronic goods consumer product, appealing to a much wider groups than just gamers. The technology of the PlayStation 2 is being brought into new areas in this way. While Linux could be used, the PlayStation 2 has little need for such a full blown operating system, so it's not the first choice from a practical point of view when you want to run a specific piece of software.

Just following along that one box thing a little more. If you were to try and describe a PS2 Linux setup by CPU etc, which wintel box would you compare it to?

I wouldn't. I'd say it is totally the opposite of a PC. It was designed and built from the ground up to be good at one thing (3D graphics) while the PC has a general architecture for general computing purposes. The PS2 is a parallel architecture whereas most PCs have a single CPU. The PlayStation 2 has a lot of bandwidth between devices and less memory, whereas PCs have less bandwidth but more memory. It is nearly more accurate to compare the PlayStation 2 to modern day graphics cards, with the VUs acting as vertex shaders, rather than to a whole PC. However I appreciate this doesn't give you a feel for sheer speed. That's because comparing them on different tasks will yield different results. The PlayStation 2 offers a lot of power, but you need to use it all to benefit, which usually means writing your software specifically for the platform.

When we talked last time, we talked a little about the need for sync-on-green monitors and I gathered from that if you want to go from using Linux to playing games, you'll need to plug in the TV. If I've got that right, can any of the newish LCD monitor/TVs be used so that you only have to reset rather than change plugs?

There are quite possibly screens out there that could be used in this way, however they are not cheap - I think you're looking at around the 1,000 pound mark.

What I'd recommend instead, is using a PlayStation 2 video splitter cable to give two video out connections. One of these can be hooked to the monitor permanently, and the other can be connected to the TV. If your TV and monitor are in totally different rooms..this doesn't help, but depending on what you use the Linux kit for, perhaps you can just leave your PlayStation 2 permanently connected to the TV. It can boot in NTSC and PAL modes, and even the install can be conducted in this video mode, so having a sync on green monitor is not essential (see

I see you're looking (or were looking) for an experienced software engineer. Is this a PS2 Linux related position or a general SCEE thing? If it's Linux, are there some interesting projects coming up?

We've had two adverts on the website recently. The first one was a PS2Linux position - a summer job. We've hired a student through to the end of September who's working on providing a working driver for the Eyetoy camera on PS2Linux - a project I consider very interesting! He's already been posting on the forums a little bit.

It'll be great to have a driver released as then people can incorporate the Eyetoy into their projects and games on the Linux kit.

The second advert is for a more experienced developer who is already familiar with the PlayStation 2 to work in our Technology Group. As some people who have previously worked full time as PlayStation 2 game developers have bought the Linux kit, it's worth us placing the advert there, even if it is not directly related to Linux.

From what information has been issued, the new Playstation sounds like it's going to be pretty interesting. Do you have any further architectural details? Do you think Sony will continue to support Linux on that platform?

I'm not sure whether you are referring to the PSP (PlayStation Portable), the PSX, the new 50000 model PlayStation 2 or the next generation hardware!

Either way, I'm afraid I can't comment on specifications or Linux support for these systems - it's much too early. Try asking me later!

Thanks Sarah.

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