PS3 Ubuntu 10.04 – Summary Guide

OK. So I broke my Ubuntu installation on my PS3, again. Happens all too regularly, I’m afraid. And, I’m not smart enough to fix it once it is borked. So, here’s how I start from scratch to get a Ubuntu 10.04 installation working on my PS3, from nothing.

So, starting from the firmware 3.15 on PS3 Phat. Anything later and sorry, Sony has stolen the OtherOS feature from you. Too bad, you loose. Sony has screwed you.

First thing, you need to visit PSUbuntu to get some hints. Many on them are dated (in terms of the Ubuntu release described), but still a fountain of knowledge.

Step 1. Installing the OtherOS Bootloader. There are a number of them mentioned, but only one that I’ve found handles the ext4 file system, required / desired by later Ubuntu installation systems. The petitboot bootloader is available in different versions, but this one is the one I use It needs to be stored in a USB dongle in a /ps3/otheros/ directory so that the PS3 system can find it to install.

Step 2. Have the Ubuntu 10.04 LTS CD available and have it inserted when you reboot to OtherOS loader from the PS3 OS. The latest version can be obtained from here. I generally use the alternate version, but i guess the desktop version works just as well.

Step 3. Install the Ubuntu 10.04 system, following all the relevant prompts. Blah. Blah.

Step 4. First thing is to get some more swap. There is a full instruction here

Ripping off the instructions from PSUbuntu:

sudo gedit /etc/modules
add “ps3vram” at the end of the file

save the file and get back to the terminal
sudo gedit /etc/rc.local
scroll until you see these lines of code:

exit 0

Before add the following:
mkswap /dev/ps3vram
swapon -p 1 /dev/ps3vram

Step 5. Make the monitor work properly. The instruction here is a little outdated. The introduction of upstart into Ubuntu has made the older instructions obsolete.

First thing is to install the fbset tool.

sudo apt-get install fbset

And then use it according to the instructions here to find out the right amount of cropping necessary to make the screen fit. Once you have the right size (dependent on your monitor) then create a file like this in /etc/init/

# fbset – set system frame buffer
# This task is run on startup to set the system frame buffer for Pioneer 720p
# First you need to sudo apt-get install fbset
# then this file gets put in /etc/init/

description    “set system framebuffer”

start on startup

exec fbset -a -xres 1216 -yres 680 -vxres 1216 -vyres 680

Once this file is created, with the fbset characteristics appropriate to the monitor you’re using, then also create a soft link in /etc/init.d/ to the standard upstart script. Look at other soft links in the same /etc/init.d/ directory to get the idea.

sudo ln -s /lib/init/upstart-job /etc/init.d/fbset

This makes sure that the fbset command gets properly executed.

Last thing is to modify the file in /etc/kboot.conf to use the overscan mode which means adding 128 to the resolution you’ve selected. For 720p I am using the following line:

linux=’/boot/vmlinux initrd=/boot/initrd.img root=/dev/ps3da2 video=ps3fb:mode:131′

This should get the screen resolution set correctly.

Step 6. Compile a new kernel, for the Cell Broadband Engine. There are some instructions on generic Ubuntu Kernels here, which are accurate and simple (even for me).

I found that I only need to ask for these packages, and everything else is brought in too.

sudo apt-get install fakeroot build-essential qt3-dev-tools libqt3-mt-dev

Don’t forget to set the concurrency to make best use of dual-core PowerPC CBE.


When using the xconfig tool, there are two options that should be selected compile for POWER4 and optimise for Cell Broadband Engine. Also, the kernel tick can be set to 300Hz or 1000Hz to get a bit better responsiveness.

fakeroot make-kpkg –initrd –append-to-version=”your-version-identifier” kernel-image kernel-headers modules_image

Following the instructions, there are two additional steps that need to be completed to get the kernel to work properly.

Check you have the tools to build a initrd image

sudo apt-get install initramfs-tools

Build the initrd image following command for building the initrd image

sudo update-initramfs -c –k 2.6.3x.xx.custom

Version 2.6.3x.xx.custom is the directory name which appears in /lib/modules/ after installing modules)
The initrd image will be generated /boot/ directory

I create some soft links in the /boot directory, to save me having to modify the /etc/kboot.conf file

sudo ln -s vmlinux.2.6.3x.xx.custom vmlinux.custom

sudo ln -s initrd.2.6.3x.xx.custom.img initrd.custom.img

Then, create linkages in the /etc/kboot.conf file so that you can refer to the new kernel and initrd image from the boot command line. For example.

linux.custom=’/boot/vmlinux.custom initrd=/boot/initrd.custom.img root=/dev/ps3da2 video=ps3fb:mode:131′

Ok now I’ve found that I need to rebuild the initramfs on the original and old linux versions, otherwise they won’t boot. Costs nothing except a few seconds to do this anyway.

sudo update-initramfs -c –k all

Step 7. Ok. Now go to town. Everything else works perfectly on my machine. Update it. Add multimedia.  Whatever.

Freetronics freeRTOS Retrograde Real Time Clock on PS3 – Part 2a

Just for interest, I decided to see how the support for AVR or Arduino was on the PS3.

Using the standard tools on Ubuntu Lucid 10.4 from my OtherOS installation. A quick search for AVR on synaptic got the avr-lib, avr-gcc, and avrdude tools needed. No special versions, just straight off the repository.

Then, I followed the link to the Pololu Libraries in my Part 2 post, made the changes to OrangutanLCD.h as noted, hit make, and crossed my fingers. No issue. It all worked. sudo make install to put the files in right place.

OK. does the PS3 USB platform recognise the FTDI 232RL USB chip on the Freetronics 2010? Yes. Another hurdle cleared, with no issues.

With that step done, it was simple to download the retrograde files from Practical Arduino as noted in Post 2, extract them. Hit make program and off we go. avrdude works as expected, and the new code is loaded as normal.

I’d say the whole test was over faster than it has taken to type this note.

I should be over this, but I get so happy when technology just works… particularly when it is all free. Got to love your FOSS.

One small issue. There doesn’t seem to be a release of Arduino tools for PS3 (PowerPC). Pity about that. Perhaps in another repository…