PS3 Linux Confusion

To date, I can not clearly recall if I have ever picked up a PlayStation or PlayStation 2 controller. I had little reason to care about the PlayStation 3 until I heard rumblings that Terra Soft’s Yellow Dog Linux distribution will run on the upcoming console. The Cell technology sounds fascinating at a technical level and I am always interested in low-level programming on weird and wonderful CPU architectures. So far, though, it has been quite difficult to find any solid details about what the PS3-Linux distribution will actually allow you to do with the system. PS2-Linux sounded interesting as well but apparently suffered from some limitations, like not allowing Linux users to access the optical drive (which could apparently be circumvented by modding the hardware, or even allegedly via a software patch).

A little yellow dog

So my confusion revolves around what Yellow Dog Linux for the PlayStation 3 will actually allow an adventurous programmer to do. Questions I have include:

  • Will you be able to program all the CPUs (the main CPU and the 6 coprocessors)?
  • Will you be able to program the graphics?
  • In different video modes?
  • All the way up to full 1080p resolution?
  • Will there be any accelerated graphics facilities available?
  • Or will you only have the privilege to poke pixels into a framebuffer and slap the resulting bitmap onto the screen?
  • Will you be able to output sound?
  • Will you be able to output stereo sound?
  • Will you be able to output 7.1 surround sound?
  • Will you be able to access the network via either the gigabit ethernet or WiFi interface?
  • Will you be able to access the optical drive? (Extraordinarily unlikely)
  • Will you be able to plug in and use any USB device?

Ars Technica has the most descriptive treatment of the impending YDL distribution. Predictably, the ensuing 3 pages of comments nitpick endlessly over what the capabilities and possibilities might be without understanding many if any answers to the above questions.