I’m turning into a PS3 Linux groupie, salivating over any technical information I can find. Sony has, in fact, released some programming details regarding their new PlayStation 3. In particular, the documents discuss what a user can do under Linux (more generally, “Other OS”). I’m not sure where the official documents are supposed to live. There are ostensibly various document mirrors floating around, so here’s one more.

Let’s examine the Linux Kernel Overview document, which reveals the basic capabilities that a user can expect. Perhaps the most obnoxious — though not wholly unexpected — aspect is when the document explains the console’s phenomenal audio and video capabilities… and promptly notes that you will not be able to access a fraction of the power. For example:

PS3 has a powerful graphic processing unit with high speed host connection. The GPU is connected to both HDMI and AV multi interface. Although the GPU is connected directly to CBE, no direct access by guest OSes to the GPU is allowed currently.

So the graphic capability is limited to a big frame buffer. Hopefully, it can go up to 1080p. For audio, it’s unclear how many channels the PS3 will allow the guest OS to access. I will be impressed if the number is greater than 2 (stereo).

Gigabit network access is allowed, sans promiscuous mode. Believe it or not, access to the optical drive is allowed. The overview document specifically states that the drive will reject certain ATAPI commands which is likely in place to prevent the user reading data from discs that have been determined to be official PlayStation 1/2/3 games. HDD and USB storage devices can be accessed, though the PS3 hypervisor probably enforces segmentation to keep the guest OS from going out of bounds on the HDD.

The game pad can be accessed, thankfully, through standard joystick facilities. I don’t think the hypervisor will be sandboxing anything in that department.

Perhaps the most interesting part of these still-incomplete documents is the PDF describing IBM’s libspe. This indicates that the guest OS will be able to program the 6 Cell SPEs present in the PS3. This makes me wonder if the much-vaunted parallel processing power of the Cell made available to the guest OS might be able to compensate for the lack of graphic coprocessing power. I’m not sure about this yet; I’m still trying to digest the SPE documentation.