Monday, 29 March 2010

Sony FB

My Beautiful Yellow Dog Linux 6.1 Desktop

Updated & extended; most, though not all, foul language excised. My correspondence with retailer John Lewis has been added to the Comments.

When I read this post on Slashdot yesterday...

The next system software update for the PlayStation 3 (PS3) system will be released on April 1, 2010 (JST), and will disable the 'Install Other OS' feature that was available on the PS3 systems prior to the current slimmer models, launched in September 2009. This feature enabled users to install an operating system, but due to security concerns, Sony Computer Entertainment will remove the functionality through the 3.21 system software update.

... I just clocked the date and went back to sleep. But not without some stress. I was perfectly aware, after all, of the very real threat posed to Sony's business model, by the recent work of iPhone hacker George "GeoHot" Hotz, in circumventing the Playstation 3's hypervisor, gaining full memory space, direct-to-kernel and device driver ring 0 access, and ultimately promising the RSX GPU.

More than that, I was now looking forward to DMA pipeline programming just the curmudgeonly but venerable 150 GFlops Cell processor myself (today's Core i7 975 offers just 111 GFlops by comparison), even though aware of corporate eyes watching with poisonous contempt, laying their plans to move against their own honest customers.

With all that DRM breaking, should I be worried about this Slashdot post, claiming that on April Fools' day, Sony will remotely shut down my entire home Without my consent? Without more than half a week's notice? Well, I also had in my other pyjama pocket, this recent (month old) personal guarantee from Sony Computer Entertainment America's principal software engineer, Geoffrey Levand:

Please be assured that SCE is committed to continue the support for previously sold models that have the "Install Other OS" feature and that this feature will not be disabled in future firmware releases.

In the event, sure enough, I awoke today to a chorus (thanks, Google) of more than six million voices, all confirming Linux's imminent removal from my PS3; and the furious backpedalling rattle in my head, of Levand's "The text above was provided to me by SCE management"...

The Rig, Posing

Just in case you don't believe that I run my evil multinational business empire on PS3 Linux: here is our entertainment centre, oblique, home office.

The speakers are normally a room apart, but they'd recently been moved in close together for a photo shoot connected with an unrelated article on audio standards. The main thing you will observe, I hope, is my meticulously maintained PS3 Linux desktop, where as you can see I'm presently engaged in patient composition of my measured response to the latest Sony news.

What we are finding more and more, in this era of devices infected with strong DRM and phone-home functionality, is that not only do we no longer control our own devices to any reasonable level, but that we are also subjected to the summary cancellation of sundry features after the sales transaction has been effected.

How many customers of Amazon's Kindle ebook reader were convinced to buy because of the automatic audio reader functionality? In the blind and partially sighted community, I suspect a significant proportion. Yet Amazon allowed itself to be blackmailed by the disingenuous and thoroughly, hatefully stupid Authors' Guild, to redact this feature after the contract of sale.

Caveat emptor. If you deliberately buy DRM, if you invest in devices that are defective by design, then like me, you're just a mark - you deserve all the pain that you get, and more, because your meek acceptance of this crap brings it down, inevitably, on everyone else.

By Grabthar's Hammer, by the Suns of Warvan, I Shall be Avenged!

This time I really mean it. I will never buy another Sony product of any kind. Not even a CD, a game, a movie DVD or a Blu Ray.

Or at least, I'll do my level best not to. But I'll eventually fail. After all, if I could really forswear all future transactions with the Sony Playstation Network, deny myself every future Sony game, boycott all mandatory Blu Ray updates and all BD Live content, and so on... then I'd be able to yank out the devil machine's ethernet wire, dodge the update, and keep using my Linux solution.

However that would reduce my plastic toy to just a Linux box, and a very mediocre, deliberately impaired one at that. Remember, we gave Sony our money, on the written understanding and agreement, that this technological DRMfest would also serve as an up-to-the-minute games console and media centre.

As one commenter put it: "It's like they sold you a table, then cut off two legs." Yes, that's it, exactly. This is evil of the kind for which Sony is justly famous. Once more (sigh), we must get the lawyers involved.

Oh, yes. There will be lawyers.


  1. To:
    Date: 2010/03/30 10:05AM
    Subject: John Lewis Glasgow, no particular department

    I bought a Sony Playstation 3 from you in October 2008, for use as a game console, blu ray player, and home office computer. Now that Sony has announced their intention to remove this third item, by means of (an effectively mandatory) firmware update disabling the Other OS feature, the device will no longer function as advertised when I bought it. Therefore, I would like to know how to go about obtaining a full refund for the console. Thank you.

  2. Audio Aftersales John Lewis Glasgow3 April 2010 at 15:27

    Dear Mr Kerr,

    Thank you for e-mailing John Lewis Glasgow.

    I am sorry to hear of the difficulties you are having with your Sony playstation.

    As this is an unusual case, I have had to seek advice from my buying office. They are best place to give me relevant and correct advice on this matter.

    In relation to obtaining a refund, we sold this in good faith that the goods are fit for purpose, which it was 17 months ago. This is a matter that Sony are in control of so we cannot offer a full refund.

    I can provide you with more advice once I have heard back from the buying team as they deal directly with Sony and may have a better solution for you.
    Do not hesitate to contact me regarding this matter

    Kind regards

  3. Thank you for your email reply, dated April 2, to my recent enquiry regarding my Sony Playstation 3. I'm pleased to know that the matter is being investigated through your buying office, and thereby, directly with Sony Corporation themselves. I am writing today, chiefly to describe the problem more comprehensively in this letter, so that all parties may be fully aware of the issues involved; and also, to advise that - in the light of your immediate and summary refusal to offer me a full refund, despite a clear breach of the Sale of Goods Act - you may want to alert your legal department to my intended claim against John Lewis, using the small claims procedure at the sheriff court.

    A Little Background

    My wife purchased the 80GB Playstation 3, bundled with the game Little Big Planet, from John Lewis (Glasgow) in October 2008, and promptly hid it away in a cupboard awaiting my November birthday. However the gift was not a surprise. Firstly, I was with her in your shop when she made the purchase. And secondly, it was I who myself specified this particular console, rather than a Microsoft or a Nintendo alternative. There were two reasons for my choice: Blu Ray Disc (BD) and Linux compatibility, both of which were advertised as exclusive to Sony PS3 among all the games console platforms available at the time.

    The first thing I did on my birthday was to remove the paltry 80GB hard disk unit, replacing it with a 320GB drive. This was an officially endorsed upgrade, covered by instructions in the supplied manuals.

    The second thing I did was to install the officially approved Yellow Dog Linux operating system, complete with business software (word processor, spreadsheet, email client, web browser, etc), which had been waiting patiently on a DVD-ROM in a different cupboard.

    I bought a top-end, wireless, Logitech keyboard and mouse to use with Linux, and for the past year we have been happily switching between, on the one hand, the PS3's "Game OS" to play games, movies and music, as well as maintaining our collection of family photos and videos; and on the other hand, "Other OS" to access our home office productivity tools, or to browse the internet (the native PS3 "Game OS" browser is hopeless for this purpose, as it is incompatible with the majority of modern websites, and continually crashes requiring a full console restart).


  4. /...continued

    Back To The Present

    On March 28th 2010, Sony announced PS3 system software update 3.21, which has absolutely no purpose other than to remove all user access to this machine's "Other OS" partition. If we apply this update, we will lose all of our business documents (letters, budget spreadsheets, emails, presentations, etc). Sony advise to backup these documents, admitting that access to them will become impossible after the update. But what use is such a backup of our documents, without a machine upon which to display or edit them?

    Whatever Sony might claim, this is indisputably a mandatory update. If we decide instead to keep our home office functionality, then we automatically lose the ability to play any future game or blu ray titles requiring firmware version 3.21 or later. The perpetually updating blu ray player, which would always have the latest recommended firmware, was another of the advertised features which made us decide on the original purchase. Also, we would lose access to all advertised PSN (PlayStation Network) features, including online gaming, chat, movie and game purchasing, and movie rental. If we had previously purchased encrypted movies and stored them on a media server, we would have lost all access to those too. Thankfully, we don't have any of those, but clearly the situation is already quite atrocious enough, and plainly unacceptable.

    We were sold a computer which was advertised to do two things. Now we are being asked to choose which one of these we want to retain. As one commentator put it, "It's as if they sold you a table, then came round to your house and removed two legs."

    The Claim Against John Lewis

    It's my understanding that, unfortunately, there is no immediately available avenue for our taking action directly against Sony, who are clearly the party who have transgressed in this case. That may change in the future if more cases like ours emerge, but for the time being, our only recourse appears to be to the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994, and the provisions of this Act extend only to the retailer, and not directly to the manufacturer.

    I should therefore be extremely grateful to you, if you can advise me of the expected time scale in obtaining a response from Sony, to see whether a better resolution - avoiding a sheriff court case - can be agreed upon.

    Yours Truly,

    John M. Kerr.

  5. Audio Aftersales John Lewis Glasgow6 April 2010 at 10:33

    Dear Mr Kerr,

    Thank you for getting back to me.

    I am still awaiting a response from my Buying Office, as it is the Easter weekend our Head Office is closed . I am not back in the office until Wednesday so I will personally chase this if I have not heard back before then.

    I understand your disappointment and frustration in regards to this and I will endeavor to get as much information as I can to resolve this matter.

    Sony have taken action to remove this function from their Playstations since the software Sony had developed was hacked in to and as a security measure have had to remove the platform which allows you to install Linux OS. For this reason John Lewis cannot be held accountable to provide you with a refund, I am confident that we can reach a better resolution once my Buying Office has sought advice from Sony's suppliers.

    I appreciate your patience regarding this matter.

    Kinds Regards

  6. To: Audio Aftersales John Lewis Glasgow

    Many thanks for your continuing investigations on my behalf, regarding the Playstation 3 loss of function.

    It is not necessary for you to reiterate your inability to offer a refund every time that you write to me, if for no reason other than that you might be incorrect. Sony Corporation have a long and well documented history of acting illegally when it comes to consumer rights, and yet to this day, they are still one of John Lewis's preferred suppliers. These facts place your statements in a dim light, especially when considering the consumer protection legislation that is applicable within the EU sales area. Supplied goods must not only be as advertised, and fit for purpose, but must remain so for a reasonable span of time - and contrary to popular assumption, said time span is not limited to any statutory warranty period.

    You say that you appreciate our patience, but it's not a matter of patience with us, it's one of necessity. We have only one possible option available, since we certainly could not afford to lose our records of letters, emails, budget spreadsheets etc., we have simply had to reject the version 3.21 firmware update. Therefore, we have lost access to PlayStation Network, lost chat functionality with friends and family, lost the ability to purchase new games and rent movies online, to play future games and movie discs, even to play our old, previously purchased games in an online environment, as they were designed and advertised to be enjoyed.

    In short, we are left with little more than the functionality of a low-end PC. Meanwhile, damages continue to accrue against us, and if there were any alternative to patience, you may assume that I would by now have used it.

    Yours Truly,

    John M. Kerr.

  7. Just a quick update on my issue, re loss of Linux functionality on my Playstation 3. I've managed to track down the EU directive that I referred to in my previous message, and would like to add this new information to my basic complaint against John Lewis.

    The relevant legislation is Directive 1999/44/EC, which was accepted into European Parliament on 1 January 2002. There's a nicely presented description of it available on the web; it was prepared for Lumley Insurance Consultants by David Watts of DW Research and Marketing, and can be viewed here:

    Apart from requiring all European member states to alter their legislation to carry at least a two-year warranty on all new consumer goods (the UK’s Sale of Goods Act offers up to 6 years possible protection) the Directive also includes a stipulation relevant to Sony’s removal of the PS3’s "Other OS". The two relevant points read as follows:

    “The goods must:

    * comply with the description given by the seller and posses the same qualities and characteristics as other similar goods
    * be fit for the purpose which the consumer requires them and which was made known to the seller at the time of purchase.”

    The key statement is “which was made known to the seller at the time of purchase,” where Sony made it known at the time of purchase that I would be able to install an ‘Other OS.’

    All of which means Sony's policy of removing part of the operating system which was present at the time of sale contravenes the law. The fact that the device is presumably outwith the manufacturer's warranty also holds no water in this case, as the UK Sale of Goods Act offers up to six years of protection for consumers outside of manufacturers' limited one-year warranties.

    It should also be noted that in European law, responsibility is placed on the retailer, and not the manufacturer.

    Finally, I am pleased to note that said retailers are at last beginning to acknowledge and make reparations for their liabilities in this debacle. In one case I was just reading, Amazon gave a partial refund to the NeoGAF forum moderator known as "Lapetus", a European PS3 owner, for the loss of his "Other OS" functionality. To be clear, that’s a partial refund from Amazon, without returning his PS3. That case is reported here:

    However, I am bound to say that the reported value of the refund (£84) would not appear at all equitable in our case, partly because our machine is years "younger" than his 60GB original, but chiefly because our and other Linux applications have over the past 17 months comprised something more than 50% of our console usage. I can only reinstate my games console if I obtain an alternative for running our office apps, and I do not think that the figure of £84 would buy enough PC to achieve that.

    Hoping for an acceptable resolution,

    Yours Truly,

    John M. Kerr.

  8. Audio Aftersales John Lewis Glasgow9 April 2010 at 13:52

    Dear Mr Kerr,

    [name] is currently out of the branch and so I am taking this opportunity to advise you that we are currently awaiting advice from our Head Office regarding your situation. This is taking longer than we would like but rest assured we are seeking clarification on the matter and will come back to you as soon as we have a clear response.

    My Section Manager, [name], who is responsible for the Aftersales element of the department is pursuing this matter and it is she who will be in touch with you.

    Dept Manager

  9. In the name of accuracy, the user who received a refund is 'iapetus', not 'Lapetus'. Looking forward to seeing how this one goes. :)

  10. Agh! Hate getting names wrong! Love astronomy! Love *all* the moons of Saturn!

    Ahem. The source article used an (incorrect?) uppercase version of an "i", which I read (incorrectly!) as a lowercase version of an "L". :(

    Will be fixed in any future correspondence. Meantime that's been two weeks now, since I first wrote to John Lewis. They really are dragging their heels on this one. :( :(

  11. From: John M. Kerr
    To: Dept Manager, Audio/tv, John Lewis Glasgow
    Date: Wed 14 Apr 2010 12:15am

    Hi [name],

    Many thanks to you for getting in touch, and for keeping me up to date with developments, re the PlayStation 3 loss of function. Your courtesy is greatly appreciated. Moreover I am pleased - and relieved - that you agree this "is taking longer than we would like". In fact we are now well into our third week since I filed my original complaint with John Lewis, via email, on Tuesday 30th March at 10am.

    During the intervening time, I have admittedly received more than one reply from John Lewis representatives. However, these missives have generally been rather misguided and ill-informed attempts to fob me off with explanations like these:

    * We sold this in good faith that the goods are fit for purpose.
    * This is a matter that Sony are in control of.
    * For this reason John Lewis cannot be held accountable to provide you with a refund.

    It is quite surprising, and of course more than a little worrying, to realise that the people with whom your customers are required to deal, have such a comprehensive lack of knowledge of the basic facts of current consumer protection legislation. We are after all talking not about some out-of-town bulk box shifter, but about John Lewis, whose commitment to training, whose investment in people, I had previously thought to be much higher. Or perhaps you think it acceptable to ignore the legal rights of customers, on the balance of probabilities that said customers will likely be equally unaware of their rights?

    However, this rather chilling revelation is not my only source of worry at the present time. I am also keenly aware that I have no contact details for your Section Manager, who you assure me will be in touch with me, without saying when. And the reason that's a worry, is because I have asked previously for an estimate of a time frame to get back to me with a more informed response. This estimate, I have yet to receive.

    Having taking the advice of consumer associations, and more recently of my own solicitor, I have prepared complaints to file with both the Office of Fair Trading and Consumer Direct, in the (apparently) increasingly likely event that we can reach no satisfactory resolution without such action. I have also requested a copy of the paperwork necessary to initiate a small claim against John Lewis at the Sheriff Court.

    Perhaps you would agree with me, that a further one week would be a reasonable time to delay such escalations? If you have a different time frame in mind, please do let me know, and I will surely accept it. An indefinite interval is, however, utterly intolerable.

    Yours Truly,

    John M. Kerr.

  12. [name]/GL/DSBRANCHES/JLP@JOHNLEWIS14 April 2010 at 12:07

    Dear Mr Kerr,

    I have just had a conversation with the aftersales team this morning and I am pleased to report back that we are making progress with our contact at Head Office. We are formulating our response in conjunction with the team there and you will hear back by tomorrow afternoon at the very latest. I will be replying to you as [name] is out of the business for the rest of the week.

    I am sorry about the length of time this has taken.


  13. It's like they sold you a table... and then cut a tiny wee bit off of one of the corners.

  14. April 2010 at 18:28

    Dear Mr Kerr,

    I understand that [name] has e-mailed you in spite of my instruction [...] not to do so. For this I sincerely apologise.

    However, I am not in a position to offer you a different solution your complaint. We have been taking advice from our legal team on this and I can confirm that as the Playstation is sold as a gaming product and not a computer (although it has computer functionality) we have not breached the Sale of Goods Act. It is, of course, absolutely maddening that you are now in the position you are regarding the upgrade by Sony and we do understand that.

    Regarding the goodwill offer of £50 made by [name] I am willing to increase this to £75 as the figure of £50 was not agreed by me. This can be used as you see fit and there is no caveat as to what you can spend it on.

    I am fully aware that you are likely to be unhappy with our response and understand that you will wish to proceed with your suggested course of action. This is not a decision we have made lightly and the involvement of our legal Partners at Head Office is not a regular practice.


  15. So…are you going to follow up with the small claims court?

    At the very least you would think they would match Amazons partial refund…

    Another thing, it is my understanding that Sony adds home computer functionality in order to lessen taxes on them and as such if they do achieve that goal it is quite clear that the Playstation 3 is sold as a computer and not purely a games console.

    Either/Or, Good Luck.

  16. My understanding is that the tax implications of console vs computer came up during the life of the PS2, that Sony tried (and failed) to have the PS2 taxed as a computer through inclusion of YABasic, and that the tax differential has since been removed rendering the whole point moot.

    Sony's advertising and PR through the life of the PS3 has clearly billed it as more than just a games console, though. "It only does everything," after all.

    Looking forward to hearing how this goes from here.

  17. Audio Aftersales John Lewis Glasgow15 April 2010 at 19:45

    To: John M. Kerr
    From: Audio Aftersales John Lewis Glasgow
    Date: Wed, Apr 14, 2010 at 1:11 PM

    Dear Mr Kerr,

    Thank you for your patience while Myself, Management team and Buying Office have been dealing with your enquiry.

    I have heard back from our Legal team in London. They have informed me that as we have never advertised this product to be anything more than a blu-ray and games console it has never been a term for sale and we have not breached The Sale of Goods Act.

    I understand your frustration regarding this and We have decided, as a guesture of goodwill to give you £50 towards either a new games console or new computer.

    If you would lilke to discuss this further please do not hesitate to contact me.

    Kind Regards


    Audio Aftersales
    John Lewis Glasgow

  18. To: Audio Aftersales John Lewis Glasgow

    Hi [name],

    I write to thank you for your response to my recent complaint, re PlayStation 3 loss of function, and would be most appreciative if you would detail, for the record, any terms and conditions attached to your most recent offer of a £75 payment to me. I'm sure that you will understand my desire to have everything stated in writing, given the nature of everything that has transpired in this controversy.

    Thank you once more for your investigative efforts on my behalf.

    Yours Truly,

    John M. Kerr.

  19. This Slashdot article,

    contains the following in the Comments section:

    "Quotes of Sony promoting the OtherOS feature"

    Taken from the forums (nice work!):

    CREDIT goes to Xrobx who posted these in another thread and i wanted to make sure that everyone sees them...

    Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.:
    "In addition to playing games, watching movies, listening to music, and viewing photos, you can use the PS3 system to run the Linux operating system. By installing the Linux operating system, you can use the PS3 system not only as an entry-level personal computer with hundreds of familiar applications for home and office use, but also as a complete development environment for the Cell Broadband Engine (Cell/B.E.)." []


    And there's lots more!

  20. Customer Services John Lewis Glasgow23 April 2010 at 16:57

    Date: 23 Apr 2010 Time: 2:52 PM

    Hello Mr Kerr,

    Thank you for the receipt.

    I am writing to advise you that I am still pursuing your situation. I thought I was getting somewhere but received a response I know would not satisfy you. I have however, been given a Playstation careline number from SONY which you may wish to call to discuss your concerns. I cannot guarantee any success but it is another avenue. The number is 0844 736 0595.

    I am still pursuing your situation and am awaiting further guidance before I submit a letter to you. This unfortunately will take us into next week but I do this in the hope that we can resolve your situation without you having to take further action. I am at work every day now until Thursday so I will definitely send the promised letter next week even if I have no further update.

    I trust you will be willing to afford me this extra time as I try to get a satisfactory outcome for you.


    Department Manager
    Audio & Television Department

  21. Now read my reply here: