Re-visiting Red Ribbon Linux on the PS3

£24 kit!

So after basically facing defeat, I thought I’d give Linux on the PS3 another shot. Last time things just didn’t work for some reason, and although I could boot Linux from the USB, I couldn’t get it to partition the hard drive. And running from USB 2.0 is just insanely slow.. Especially when it’s trying to run X11.

I followed the instructions here:

Having already installed CFW 4.90 Evilnat Cobra 8.4 [CEX] on my PS3, I downgraded to the suggested REBUG_4.81.2_REX_EMER_INIT_PS3UPDAT.PUP version of the firmware.

Loading is a bit weird requiring you to load, then entering safe mode, re-installing, then recovering again.

One silly thing to note, is that although a USB keyboard got me through the majority of this, you ABSOLUTELY NEED a PS3 controller to his the PS button to continue in safe/recovery mode. I ended up buying a new controller for £12 on eBay. Used ones were selling for the comparable price, so why buy something with ick on it? Sadly, this did double my budget to £24.

But rest assured just keep pushing through.

Although my FLASH was clearly re-partitioned, with it not changing as I had expected the recovery boot didn’t work, so I had to jump the instructions, and install REBUG_TOOLBOX_02.03.02.MULTI_.16.pkg and select boot into safe mode from there, and re-apply the firmware.

over and over….

But eventually success!

You ABSOLUTELY need a PS3 controller to hit the PS button here!

Finally on enough reboots, I got to the setup screen for a clean system!

Re-installing the toolboox took me to repartitioning the flash (again), powering off, then loading petitboot for NOR flash (well mine is NOR), powering off, then prepping the USB, and this time booting with the ‘use current’ option.

While I had busybox & running from initrd/USB before so far so good, nothing looks different.


This time the actually did what it should do! Excited I rebooted back to ‘gameos’ and checked the system status

finally a partitioned PS3!

I’m not sure why it kept failing before, but this time it did what it should have done. Obviously, I screwed up something before, and I’m not sure what.

Booting back to the USB drive, Red Ribbon booted up in X11, allowing me to run run the installer.

The volumes by default are fine.

It does give the ability to set locale, region, and machine name. I don’t know why but I tried it twice and it failed every time.

So I just hit defaults, just setting input & language to EN-us for American English in Alaska. I mean why not. I gave up on just fighting and just let it go with defaults.

And with that I had the PS3 up and booting!

Sadly it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, I was noticing some important software like m4, unzip, gdb, autoconf/automake/libtool file, htop/ncurses to say a few!

Compiling however lead me to kernel crashes & panics.

Stackframe panics!

Eventually it’ll hard lock.

I speculate its probably my PS3. The optical drive doesn’t work so I’ve never played a game on it, or done anything intensive until compiling software. I did find that disabling the swap space to video ram stopped it from crashing. As a matter of fact I disabled a bunch of things to get back some performance.

In the /etc/rc2.d just rename the S*** to K*** for the following to disable all of this stuff..

K01nmbd K01ps3-eyetoy K01ps3-rsx-swapon K01samba-ad-dc K01xrdp K02smbd K03bluetooth

The other thing was to just plain disable X11. I’m going to ssh across the network, so I don’t need the PS3 hogging my TV:

(live)neozeed@redribbon:~$ cat /etc/X11/default-display-manager

So yeah, not sure why I had goofed this up so bad, but in the end I got what I wanted, a big endian machine on a budget. What is interesting about this Red Ribbon thing, is that the kernel looks 64bit, but it’s all a 32bit userland. I don’t know if it matters so much. The place to get deb’s is long gone, so I guess Id have to find something with source this was based off of to build the missing stuff, or just keep going on, and building from source. I’m find with either, but I don’t need it as a desktop so my motivation is already waning. I can’t imagine even trying to use a 256MB PS3 as a desktop. It’s just pain.

Dumping nice ‘desktop’ services conserves a great deal of RAM

Again I’m not sure why the swap to video ram thing kills the PS3, but I can live with avoiding it.

Thanks to dazzaXx, for the instructions.

A wild PS3 appears!

I’ve been wanting a cheap Big Endian RISC machine, and of course I want to do it on the cheap! From a few tips it seems its possible to re-activate the ‘otheros’ feature of the PS3, and get the newer ones running Linux!

There is a LOT of warnings about breaking your system, bricking things, so of course I’m not going to buy something nice, and I found this beauty on eBay

Sure it’s beat up, but look at the price!

What a beauty! Only £23 with shipping! The way inflation is going its like McDonalds money.

Anyways a mere 3 days later, and it showed up!


The cover promptly fell off, and I was a bit worried. I hooked up the power, and the red light came but but it didn’t turn on. The power switches are these weird sensors, and it looked like the power one was pushed in. I guess its more of an antenna rather than closing a circuit, so I genitally bent it apart, and it sprang to life. There was no video, but it did chirp pretty loudly so I assumed it was working. I figured there was no disk, so I found the process to reset the video (turn on, holding power and it’ll power off. Power on again, and wait for it to do 2 chirps while holding power down, then let go, and it’ll hopefully lower all video to minimal levels on both composite and HDMI. And yeah, it sprang to life!

The PS3 had version 4.50 loaded, and the first step to bringing back otheros was to update to 4.90. The last version that had otheros was 3.16, so sadly it’s long gone.

Updating was pretty uneventval.

But now starts the real fun.

It’s scratched pretty bad, but you can make out it’s a CECHK03.

, meaning it’s NOR type flash. This matters as the launch devices used NAND, and a heck of a lot more too! And of course totally incompatible. So yeah be careful!

So the first thing to do is to patch the flash. And shockingly this is VERY very easy… It’s so scary it’s easy! Just open the browser after you’ve flashed to 4.90 and go to

Yep it’s a web browser exploit that should terrify you.

Using FLASH buffer overflows we’re going to reprogram the FLASH. WOW could you imagine a world where iPhones ran Adobe Flash?

From the web page, it’s a snap to backup the flash to USB, and then you can download and merge the flash patch right from the UI

With the image loaded and merged, we can now re-flash the PS3.

It’s really this easy.


Now you need to power it off.

Next up is to install the Evilnat CEX 4.90 hacked firmware. It’s pretty simple, much like the production image, it installs from the XMB after copying the file to USB in the appropriate directories. I downloaded “CFW 4.90 Evilnat Cobra 8.4 [CEX].rar“.

And now you are a reboot away into modified OS

There was a bunch of users, and installed games, I removed the users, deleted the games, and formatted the disk. I’m not going to be playing games anyways.

Now it was a bit more things to do.

Partition the flash, and re-program it again with the otheros support. And then now finally you can boot to the BusyBox ramdisk.

I’ll have to touch on this part a bit more, it’s involved, and again you can brick your PS3. If you worry about it, now is the time to do it, as many are being sold effectively as garbage.

Finally running Linux on the PS3!

For the heck of it, I exploded out an old Red Ribbon ISO, and was able to ‘live image’ boot it from USB.

So this gets me part of the way here.

The next thing to figure out is if I can downgrade the OS to something where I can partition part of the hard drive for Linux. And how to get that installed.

2×3.2Ghz PowerPC with altivec

So I’m going to have to leave it here, at least for my usage case I may have to just be happy using the slow USB for the root filesystem. I’m pretty sure when it comes to partitioning the disk you need the lower OS version to do so. Obviously for me I can leave it there if it runs, as I don’t care about playing games on this one anyways.

Which I’m sure won’t be as bad once I turn off X11 and everything ‘nice’ for a user.

Also you probably want to get a PS3 controller, as at any point you need to do a recovery you need to be able to hit the ps3 button. And that’s where I am currently stuck, but not bricked.