Yellow Dog marks its territory with first Linux release for PlayStation3

Long time PowerPC software vendor Terrasoft has announced the latest versio

n of its popular Yellow Dog Linux distribution will be built specifically for the PS3. Terrasoft hopes its distribution will legitimise the PS3 as a home ‘computer’ as much as a console and bundles with it applications such as Firefox Thunderbird and Open Office to prove it.

Interestingly Terrasoft isn’t the only one doing this — Sony itself started the trend. Despite its bad reputation in other areas that tickle a geek’s heart — music DRM planting rootkits with its software and so on — the gigantanourmous company has none the less courted with Linux for a while now. It had the foresight to provide a Linux DIY kit for the PS2 to try and drum up a homebrew community that included a hard drive specialised Linux distribution and a sleek black utterly cool ‘programmers keyboard’ for hackers to hack on.

Exactly the keyboard I’m using now in fact. I don’t know much about the design of exploding laptop batteries or the profitability scale of a multi-million dollar CD protection system bypassed by a felt-tip pen but I do know Sony make very nice keyboards.

Anyway Sony is no stranger to putting Linux on its console and the PS3 is no different. Rumour has it the PS3 will ship with a form of Linux pre-installed though it’s not clear whether it forms the base of the PS3’s operating system or is provded as a dual-boot alternative to give extra functionality to the console.

Terrasoft certainly hopes this is the case and in its press release for Yellow Dog Linux 5.0 promoted the distribution’s potential for the new console not only as a complete Linux system to include the 2.6.16 kernel Firefox and Thunderbird and Open Office but also developmental tools that include a Cell SDK. Unfortunately as noted in Terrasoft’s FAQ this doesn’t mean you can develop games for the platform — that still requires a license and support from Sony.

Still it’s an interesting step forward to promote a Linux desktop alternative for what is essentially a hardcore gaming console. According to Terrasoft “Sony has designed the PS3 to run Linux” so Yellow Dog is a natural fit.

Perhaps the most curious inclusion however is the use of Enlightenment 17 for the interface — started by Australia’s own Carsten Haitzler (aka ‘Rasterman’) almost ten years ago now Enlightenment was to be sure years ahead of its time both in user interface paradigms and in offering a sleek sexy visual experience long before Vista and Mac OS X. In fact Enlightenment was probably the first desktop interface to truly deserve the ‘sexy’ moniker because it actually was and was frequently used it impress those poor Windows users at what they were missing from Linux.

That said its development has been slow and in recent years not only have KDE and Gnome overtaken its functionality but XGL and AIGLX now supersede its sexiness. Terrasoft’s inclusion of E17 into Yellow Dog however may be driven more by resources than the choice of an admittedly sleek desktop for an admittedly sleek console. Enlightenment manages to provide visuals and functionality without tying into 3D hardware and using excessive system resources.

Terrasoft will be releasing Yellow Dog 5.0 in mid-November with DVDs purchasable from its online store and free downloads on mirrors to follow soon after.