PS3 + Linux + 360 HD-DVD Drive = Golden Ticket!!

PS3 + Linux + 360 HD-DVD Drive = Golden Ticket!!

This blog was originally published on October 9th, 2007. It was published on TypePad and can be found here.


Author's Edit: After reading several peoples comments, I think I need to make a couple things clear.

The PS3 is a 100 + GFLOPS Linux computer. You simply can't get that type of power for the $500.00 price point. Using the PS3's cell processor for video encoding is an excellent use of the cell chip. I personally don't think it is an inelegant solution. And it interfaces well with my needs i.e. home theater, NAS media repository, personal work flow... Several people have commented that purchasing a low cost PC or Mac would be a better solution. I disagree, a low cost Mac or PC has no where near the computational power of the PS3 at the same price point.

And secondly using your XBox 360 drive in a PS3 is an ironic solution. It is supposed to be weird and kind of funny. A lot of people are getting pretty negative about it. While the solution works, the blog article was meant to be tongue in cheek. And I decided to go with this solution, because I already owned the HD-DVD drive.

There is a poster in the blog comments who says that they have gotten DVD playback working under Gentoo. I am using Yellow Dog, and based upon my Yellow Dog research, I was unable to find any solutions to the DVD playback problem under Yellow Dog 5.0.2. The HD-DVD drive was a solution to the DVD Movie playback problem I was having under Yellow Dog. The distro with the strongest relationship with Sony, which I consider to be an advantage. This was meant to be a solution for the Yellow Dog install base. For those of you running Gentoo, congratulations... but it is not relevant to my situation.

Original Posting: I've got a golden ticket, and it is a wicked fast DVD ripping machine. Oh yeah, it also plays blue-ray movies and some pretty crappy Next Gen video games.

You can install Linux onto a PS3, but it is pretty hobbled. First of all, you don't get full access to the sick graphics capabilities, and secondly you can't watch DVD movies from within the Linux OS. WTF, why would you ever want to have a Linux media box hooked up to your HDTV, and not watch DVDs?!?

Not being able to watch DVDs was a deal breaker for me. I bought the PS3 to be my dedicated DVD ripper. I have become sick and tired of waiting around 16 hours for my wimpy PowerPC Mac to finish ripping and encoding a DVD. Damn it, I want real time H.264 DVD encoding, and I don't want to pay a lot for it.

So imagine my chagrin after I plunked down $500.00, brought the PS3 home and installed Linux and wham...No DVD movie access. You can mount a DVD movie, but you can't read a VOBs. This appears to be more of the PS3 hypervisor's handiwork. Trying to play a DVD with Mplayer would result in an error saying that "libdvdcss can't decrypt the key". I searched high and low, and no one knew what the problem was. Some people thought that it was a DVD licensing problem, or that the PS3's blue-ray DVD player was region locked or possibly even region free.

Bah humbug I say...The drive is locked. Not having a license or region issues would not explain the inability to read and/or copy only the VOB files off the DVD disk. You could copy any of the IFO files as easily as can be, but as soon as you tried copying a VOB file, you were stuck. The cp command errors out stating that the file can't be read. WTF indeed.

Like I said earlier, this was a deal breaker for me. If the PS3 can't read DVD movies FAHHGETABOUTIT. Ill take my $500 and invest in a Mac Mini ripper.

Well luckily I tried plugging in my XBox 360 HD-DVD Drive. Upon rebooting the PS3, the XBox 360 drive came up as the first SCSI drive /dev/scd0 and /dev/dvd was linked to it. The Blueray PS3 drive came up as /dev/scd1 and was linked to /dev/dvd-sr1. It's kind of funny that the EXTERNAL XBox 360 drive is being prioritized over the INTERNAL PS3 Blueray drive, and I take it as evidence that even the Linux kernel running on the PS3 knows that the Blueray drive is a second class citizen.

Oh by the way, I believe you can rip HD-DVD content off of the HD-DVD drive. You just can't do anything with it. As far as I know, there are no Linux movie players that can read and play the HD-DVD codecs. Even if there were, you would never be able to play/watch the HD content because of the PS3's hobbled video card. Perhaps if the video card ever becomes emancipated, this could be revisited.

Aftermath: I am now able to rip with the best of them. I compiled handbrake from source, and I am now able to RIP all my DVDs and encode them in H.264 in near real time. I am officially very happy!!!

I would recommend the PS3 + Linux + 360 HD-DVD Drive ripping solution for anyone who already owns a XBox 360 and would use the HD-DVD drive with that. Otherwise the solution will cost you an extra $170 for the HD-DVD drive, and at that price point I am not sure if it is worth it. $500 was my price point for a VERY fast DVD ripper, but I probably wouldn't go much higher.**