, on Flickr
Let me preface this with the following disclaiming statement: I loved having a PS2. I have a PSP. I remember the days of the PSX with fondness. Sony has had a positive impact on the industry as a competitor to established titans. They even used to make quality A/V hardware. I also remember the Walkman with equal parts awe and nostalgia and am still a fan of the original Betamax ruling
allowing the format shifting we all take for granted.
Having said all that, I positively detest Sony now. I cannot in good conscience say anything positive about Sony, as a company, at this time. They disgust me. They should disgust you. They are the sociopathy of corporate greed run amuck without constraint. A spoiled brat with dynamite and opportunity.
The History of Sony
You see, Sony, quite some time ago, absorbed a movie production and music production wing. These are members of that lovely pair of organizations known as the MPAA(Motion Picture Association of America) and the RIAA(Recording Industry Association of America).
Don't know who they are? Let Ars Technica enlighten you
. To summarize: These are not nice people. These are the form of sociopathic vile often attributed to villains of b-level action movies before the hero has had enough and starts breaking heads in his neighborhood.
Now, Sony was first and foremost a consumer electronics company but now they operated a movie studio and music label. Big company; wide arms; no foul. The left hand may have been a first class a-hole, but anything east of the elbow had no idea and wasn't affected. While Sony was likely ever "nice", prior to this. They were just another Japanese corporation trying hard to shine in the global economy with an Apple-like attention to product detail(though without the advantage Turtleneck Prime and his Reality Distortion Field).
The Lawyers Cometh
Over time, that had started to change. The lawyers became more prominent and more powerful. Intellectual Property law and the legal system was giving them more power over us mere mortals and they smelled blood. Combine that with the general apathy of the public and you've got a grade A villain.
Now, lately, their big cash cow was their very effective penetration of the fast expanding videogame market. They dominated. I mean dominated
, by catching Nintendo off guard and trodding over the remains of SEGA. They were on top with a strong inertia keeping them there.
In comes Microsoft. And, lets face it, no one foresaw the amazing difference one console generation made to the giant. Due to several Sony missteps, Microsoft raced past Sony with the 360 and, amazingly, Nintendo managed to completely obliterate both of them with 6 year-old hardware and a glorified TV remote wrapped in Apple Clear-Coat Sterile White.
So these last few years, Sony had been playing catchup with what was supposed to be their golden child for if/when the movie industry and music industry wings started to be less titanic.
Now, as an indicator that sometimes, even now with lawyer cancer cells coursing through it's veins, the engineering and hardware guys do get to say something before the *AA legal team devours their souls, Sony had added an ingenious feature to the PS3. Microsoft had announced the 360 would be very easy for hobbyists to develop for, so Sony had, upon the PS3's release, release it with the ability, out of the box, to install the hacker's holy grail of operating systems: Linux.
This was a very, very smart move for a company maintaining an closed system like a game console. People smart enough to break down the walls of a walled garden just happen to be the same guys who would put Linux on a game console. Giving them the option to do it immediately and, subsequently, play with the lovely Cell chip innards, placated them and the PS3 remained secured for nearly 5 years.
Then Sony, feeling the crunch of their sagging marketshare and the very expensive production costs of their console, releases the PS3 Slim. And that feature was missing.
The writing was on the wall: "Enjoy your Linux, nerds, because we're not bothering with it from now on!"
The Talented Mister Hotz
In comes George Hotz. Love him or hate him, this kid has had an impact. A big one. And he's talented at what he does. Now, seeing that the console wouldn't be legitimately hackable any more, he set out and took it as a challenge, knowing full well that if the console could run Linux before, it still could. So he started looking for holes.
He found them. He noticed that by glitching the USB port, he could cause the USB driver to knock down some of the walls in the PS3's highly protected memory. With that, he could gain access to deeper modes of operation. In Linux, of course.
Then Sony pulled a dick move: The removed the OtherOS feature, allowing the Linux install, from all consoles, not just the slims. While technically, they didn't remove it without the user consenting to an update, the update was mandatory unless you wanted a dramatically negatively impacted console experience. This was an advertised feature of the unit. Majority or minority means nothing. Sony decided that people no longer had a say. Whatever the reason was that they bought the console, Sony was the boss and that was that.
[To any other console makers out there, allow me to make a suggestion: People who install Linux on consoles and have the skills to(and in some cases actively demonstrated that they have) hack your security are NOT the type of people you should anger.]
Release the KaKaraKen!
This meant war. Sony provided a moral justification and a compelling reason to break down their walls to the very people capable of doing so. Within a very short period of time, the fail0verflow
very publicly announced they had manage to find the public keys used to sign Sony official software. Sony followed with some juvenile comments and threats, prompting our old friend Hotz to release a secret weapon he had been saving: the root key, allowing an unofficial firmware or downgrader.
Other hackers like KaKaRoToKS
also started hammering away at Sony's control.
Was Sony going to respond responsibly?
Of course not. Sony, of late, has behaved in so anti-consumer, unethical and downright vile way that even Big Pharma companies are probably taking notice. First, they sued GeoHotz(the other targets being KaKaRoToks, a Canadian under a different jurisdiction and fail0verFlow, a team of mostly anonymous people whom Sony hasn't identified yet). Then they threatened any site that posted the keys, whether in comments or articles.
They sent DMCA takedowns to sites merely reporting the news of the event(I'm sure Destructoid wasn't even immune). Thinking they could somehow erase the world's collective memory of the event.
Ahh, but now their villainy has hit a new high: They managed to compel a judge compel a site to violate the privacy of any visitor to that site in order to get a list of anyone caught looking at any of the 'unclean' truth, whether they downloaded the exploits, used the exploits or even understood the bloody things
. Watched someone hack their PS3 on YouTube? You are now on Sony's radar. Followed a link someone else sent you to GeoHotz's page? Targetted.
Okay Sony, congratulations. You've made it personal for a whole lotta people who weren't involved in your hissy fit.
Expect another, and much shorter couple of followup posts on this. This is an important topic, and bears lots of attention. The other posts will explain some of the reasons why. And why everyone should care. read