If you have been reading the news in major tech circles, chances are you've heard of the 21 year old hacker George Hotz, better known as geohot, who publicized the metldr keys for the PS3, essentially rendering it a system as open as Sega's Dreamcast.
Sony has made the decision to sue him for this.
Interestingly enough, Microsoft seems to be supporting open development for its Kinect.
From Saturn to Dreamcast in a single generation
At the start of this console generation, Sony had a lot in common with Sega. It had been met with loads of success on its last console and was now shipping out a new console with loads of power, complex innards, and was frustrating developers.
They both promised incredible features and were hyped hard against their competitors with aggressive and sometimes bizarre advertising tactics.
Eventually, these odd advertisements seemed to improve. See the following video:
Sega had created an (awesome) character for its advertisements, Segata Sanshiro, and was massively popular in Japan. Sony, on the other hand, created Kevin Butler, a fake executive, and a relatively amusing one at that.
The Saturn wasn't particularly successful in the US, and the PS3 was initially met with lukewarm sales. Developers had a hard time with both of them, and neither system received much homebrew, or software made independently, unofficially. Essentially, anybody with enough programming knowledge can do it.
Since the video game crash of 1983, companies have been rather strict about the people who are allowed to develop for their systems, typically charging a fee for development kits, licensing, etc. In order to ensure that only approved developers can run their software, manufacturers have come up with various ways to lock people out of their systems. Fortunately, modchips circumvent these. Unfortunately, they also make piracy possible. Manufacturers will often sue on the makers of these chips on the grounds that they're being used for piracy.
This brings us to the Dreamcast, which came out shortly after the Saturn. As far as consoles went, the Dreamcast was considered quite beastly, with a lot more under the hood than its predecessor. It was easier to program for, but alas; Sega had already burned many of its bridges with developers. In spite of this, they already had lots of their own franchises to work with, and spawned new ones, such as the 2K Sports series. The Dreamcast was much more successful than the Saturn, though that wasn't quite enough to prevent Sega from quitting the hardware business altogether.
The Dreamcast, interestingly enough, accepted software made by, well, just about anybody. Calling Dreamcast security lax is really an understatement, and anybody who wanted to could make homebrew for the Dreamcast without jumping through hoops. In fact, the Dreamcast helped make the homebrew scene in general much, much larger. To this day the Dreamcast sees new releases, quite possibly making it a console with a life longer than the Playstation 2.
In the second half of its life, the PS3 got cracked wide open to homebrew thanks, in part, to Sony's removal of the OtherOS option which made it possible to install Linux on the earlier models of PS3. This feature was removed with later models, along with the ability to play PS2 games.
|They also became less attractive...|
In addition to suing Mr. Hotz, they've taken his hard drive by court order, and they are trying (at current) to shut up any and all sources of PS3 hacking. Worse, still, they demanded from Google (unsuccessfully) the IP address of everybody who saw videos on PS3 hacking.
Quite frankly, I'm disgusted. While I can understand legitimate concerns such as piracy (though that's an argument for another day) or cheating, which has happened on Modern Warfare 2, and has caused mass resetting of statistics, it would be wise of Sony to pursue those who steal or cheat. They shouldn't attack the lead mines, they should strike those firing bullets.
Why I'm not buying a PS3
Sony has given me many, many reasons to ignore their PS3 and other products.
bleem! (stylized that way) was an emulator for the Playstation, (that's right, the original) that ran on the PC and Dreamcast. Sony did not approve, and sued them for all that they had. While Sony actually lost the case (and thus emulation spread) Sony weakened bleem! using its near omnipotent legal staff, and the massive cost of going to court so much finally ended them.
"A rootkit is software that enables continued privileged access to a computer while actively hiding its presence from administrators by subverting standard operating system functionality or other applications... The term "rootkit" has negative connotations through its association with malware." - Unceremoniously ripped from Wikipedia
In 2005, Sony used a rootkit (essentially a computer virus) onto music CDs in an effort to spy on their customers and slow down their computers. More information about this scandal is available on Wikipedia, but it managed to make headlines. While I won't go into too many details for the sake of time, the "United States Department of Homeland Security, issued an advisory on XCP DRM. They said that XCP uses rootkit technology to hide certain files from the computer user, and that this technique is a security threat to computer users." - Again ripped from Wikipedia.
3. The PSP Go
The PSP Go is the latest (and most likely the last) revision of Sony's PSP. What's so amazing about the Go, you ask? It has no UMD drive! Hahaha, isn't that awesome? All the games and movies you bought in UMD format are now worthless, they won't work on a Go! The best part is, Sony doesn't care! They won't provide any means to dump your old games to your new console. Impressive use of technology!
4. Broken Promises
As mentioned earlier in this article, Sony has taken away Linux support from the PS3, first by creating newer, uglier versions that just don't do all that they once did, and then by taking it away through a firmware update. Sure it's possible to keep the Linux by keeping your PS3 offline, but in the immortal words of their mascot Kevin Butler, "Come on!".
The trouble is, by rejecting the update, PS3 Linux users can't play games online, access the Playstation Network, or play new games, which require updated firmware.
The reason this is such a big issue is that, in spite of the fact that Linux wasn't used much on the PS3 except by a dedicated few, it was an advertised feature. That's not something that should be subtracted.
5. Lies, Lies, So Many Lies!
Again, for the sake of time, I won't list everything Sony has ever lied about; the article would be finished at the heat death of the universe, which would be an extreme inconvenience.
Instead, I'll have you look at the products section of their Wikipedia page, which at current I'm shocked hasn't been modified by their lawyers.
It lists more of their grievances, including their attempts at creating fake journalists to write buttered up reviews of their trashier films, fake teens who try to get PSPs from their parents and so many, many more.
I'm not buying a PS3, at least not new one. I'm too disgusted by Sony's actions. Sure, Microsoft has done some pretty bad things too, but they've been shaping up lately. While I'm pretty sure it's a survival tactic, it sure feels good as a customer to feel like I'm not getting ripped off.
What Happens Now?
Sony is currently trying to sue the pants of Mr. Hotz, and the team of carnivorous lawyers are ready to shred him limb from limb financially, shove his head on a stake and display it for all potential enemies of Sony and anybody who dares to make believe in innovation.
Something Sony has failed to consider, however, is that the 21st century is advancing rather quickly, and the news about Mr. Hotz has as well. There's always the chance that he will be met with mass support, in spite of Sony's attempts to turn everybody else against him.
While it is true that by hacking the PS3 he violated the EULA, Mr. Hotz did not break any laws by making the codes available.
This will be an interesting affair.
George's new website