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Wednesday, 6 June, 2001, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
PlayStation branches out
Sony Playstation
Forget games: write some letters
By BBC News Online technology correspondent Mark Ward

That old Sony PlayStation hidden under your TV could have a use after all.

The games console may have been superseded by the PlayStation2 but a Czech company is proving that there are novel uses for the machine.

Prague-based Blokman Trading has developed a version of the popular Linux operating system for the console that turns it into a low-powered desktop computer.

The news comes as Sony responds to user pressure and releases a limited edition Linux-based development kit for the PlayStation2.

Console craze

Since Sony launched the PlayStation in Japan in late 1994 and the rest of the world in 1995 the console has primarily been used as a games machine. The console has been hugely successful: some surveys estimate that up to a quarter of all US households have one.

But now Czech software company Blokman Trading is releasing software that it claims will let owners turn their old PlayStation into a basic PC.

Playing with the PlayStation
Blokman has developed a version of the Linux software for the PlayStation. The software has been dubbed Runix and can be downloaded from the Runix website, burnt onto a CD and then used to convert the PlayStation from a games console to a more general purpose computing device.

The first release of the Runix software is a test or 'beta' version and the company is planning to produce a more stable version in October. It is also working on a version of Linux for the PlayStation2 but has set no date for when it will release this version.

Linux, like Windows, is an operating system and is the software that helps turn a heap of hardware into a functioning computer. It was originally developed by Linus Torvalds but since has been extended thanks to the help of thousands of developers worldwide.

The software is increasingly being seen as an alternative to Microsoft's many operating systems because it is more robust and has far fewer security holes.

PlayStation 2

But those wanting to use Runix on their PlayStation could face a challenge in getting it to work. The program is 26 megabytes in size and will take hours to download via a modem.

It is already possible to buy a keyboard and mouse for the PlayStation and Blokman says it is planning to produce a hard disk and printer so that files can be saved or documents printed out.

As Blokman was making its announcement Sony revealed that it was making a Linux development kit available for the PlayStation2. The kit was released after 6,000 people signed a petition calling on the electronics giant to do so.

One thousand copies of the kit are going on sale in Japan only and the software only works with Japanese versions of the console. The kit is being released to let games developers get to grips with the console.

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See also:

16 May 01 | New Media
Playstation 2 steps up its game
29 Mar 01 | Business
Microsoft's X-Box goes online
07 Sep 00 | UK
Kids zapped by game bug
16 May 01 | New Media
Console wars at E3 show
14 May 01 | Business
Nokia chooses Linux
16 Feb 00 | Business
Linux - Microsoft's new nightmare
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