How I Built a Media Server on a Playstation 3 (PS3)


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… or how I am going about doing it now. Please send me any comments, tips, etc via the Comments. I’ll be updating this as I go.

I’m a bit of a n00b sometimes around the newer fangled technologies – at work these days I don’t get to play with the technologies as much unless you count Excel, PowerPoint and Project – but have challenged myself to upgrade my PS3 into a Media Server.

Now the PS3 is a great piece of kit. I’m a bit of a Sony whore I guess, yes its expensive but their stuff is usually higher quality and lasts longer. The PS3 itself is great for games, but I’d like to store my cds on it and then use it to stream them across the network to wherever I am working, so I can listen via iTunes. Problem is, that the in-built music player doesn’t allow you to rip come CDs (e.g. CopyControlled), thanks a bunch SonyBMG (allegedly).

I could have got an Apple TV or Mac Mini, but to be honest don’t have the room to put it near the telly. And I’m skint. And bored. So why not.

So, this is the challenge. Turn the PS3 into a Media Server that iTunes can use to stream music from. Simple really. Also great for parties etc.

This is what I have done so far:

1. Upgrade the HDD. Although 60GB is enough, it probably isn’t over time. So I went out and bought myself a 160GB SATA 2.5″ hard disk and installed it. Pretty easy, also if you follow this guide. It gave me 130GB of “working space” after formatting.

2. Bought a wireless keyboard and mouse. Not particularly necessary but given I’m going to install Linux i don’tthink the joypad is going to be good enough 🙂 The wireless receiver is a USB one, so just a standard Logitech-style PC keyboard and mouse package works fine.

3. Install Linux. Apparently the PS3 can run it, two flavours I’ve seen recommended are Yellow Dog Linux and Ubuntu.

So, for the moment its Yellow Dog Linux, which 5.0.1 fully supports the PS3. Now although this is a commerically supported build, you can find the ISO on their download site or via the mirrors. They have a great installation guide here.

As a tip, I decided to format the HDD to leave 10GB to the PS3 and the rest to the Other OS. Just to give me enough space to store MP3s and stuff on the hard disk. Don’t really download that much stuff anyway so no dramas, but I can guess you can attach an external HDD via USB if you wish to leave more space to the PS3 OS.

Ubuntu is great, but apparenty the latest version (7.0.4) doesn’t have a stable build for the PS3 (yet) there supports the soundcard, but once it’s ready I’ll probably move across to Ubuntu.

UPDATE: Whilst installing Yellow Dog I did a bit of googlin’ and found that I was wrong – the Ubuntu 7.0.4 beta had issues with the Sound Card, but that seems to have been fixed in the production version. So as I know Ubuntu better, I’m downloading their PS3 build now and will continue by following their install instructions.

UPDATE II: There is an annoying bug in the LiveCD (which I guess is there for compatibility reasons) – gnome starts up fine, but when trying to install the installer application’s window is too big for the screen, so you can’t see the Cancel/Back/Next buttons. Which is a pain in the @rse. The step-by-step guide to get through the installation routine for those who have this problem is described at the psubuntu forum.

UPDATE III: Once installed, by running sudo apt-get install ps3pf-utils, this will install the very handy ps3videomode utility, allowing you to change screenmodes on the fly without having to reboot and edit the kboot.conf file. This is useful when testing which modes your TV will support.

4. Looks that there are two favoured Media Servers out there for Linux. MythTV seems to be the most popular and Yellow Dog’s homepage links through to a cool article on how to get it installed and working, but this guy couldn’t get it to work on Ubuntu, and recommends MediaTomb instead. I try MythTV first and then MediaTomb, and will let you know …

5. OK, whilst reading around during the install I found out the following:

  • MythTV doesn’t work properly on Ubuntu
  • Yellow Dog has a lot of contributions in it from Sony themselves, including built-in support for the PS3 Sixaxis controller.

So I tried Yellow Dog. just for sh!ts and giggles, and came across some initial “bugs” with the out-of-the-box install of YellowDog:

  • yum and pap decided they couldn’t update the software because they couldn’t connect to the update servers. Even though I could ping the BBC, Google and browse there using Firefox. Using a hint from this site, the config files were in the /etc/yum.repos.d subdirectory. For some reason they wern’t able to process the mirrors list, so I simply commented out the mirrorlist line and uncommented out the baseurl line.
  • I then realised that instead of using the default US servers, I could use local mirrors instead. So I copied the baseurl line, commented out the original, and in my new baseurl simply put in the url of my local mirror in Australia (at Updates and upgrades now flowing smoothly.
  • And this forum provides some examples of other yummy RPM sources. I can feel my geek rating increasing. Time for a beer.

AAs my wireless keyboard and mouse’s range doesn’t extend from the TV to the sofa, i’ve realised that when I get a media server installed, i either have to get off my lazy arse to move in range to be able to change between songs; or I have to find a Mouse/Keyboard wireless combo with a wider range. I can’t be stuffed to do either, I’ve decided to go back to the Yellow Dog Linux version due to the better in-built compatibility with the PS3 hardware (apparently). I solved the wireless range problem by simply using the USB extension cable provided with the keyboard/mouse kit. Duh.

TIP OF THE DAY: PS3 automatically booting into Linux? Can’t find out how to get back into the PS3 XMB environment (or are too slow to type boot-game-os into the kboot: prompt? Easy fix is to shut down the PS3 as normal, and then keep your finger on the “On” button until you hear the second beep. PS3 then behaves itself and boots into Sony’s environment. Good dog.

6. So as you can see, I’ve bounced between YDL and Ubuntu a couple of times. Now I’m going back to Ubuntu as its less of a learning curve for me, and Ubuntu has a wider support base (i.e. more hits via google). So I’m re-installing that and will now go down the MediaTomb route.

UPDATE IV: Tried to install MediaTomb but couldn’t get it working. Followed the instructions to the letter but apt-get couldn’t find any binaries for the powerpc/PS3 platform. As I am not experienced enough with compiling appllications on Linux, I stopped there and went back to MythTV.

7. So, back to MythTV. Installed the backend and frontend fine on Ubuntu using the in-built package manager, and it works. Woohoo! However, I don’t have a TV tuner so its pretty useless. But by adding the MythMusic plugin, and configuring the front-end to look for the mp3s locally, it works fine.

So, finished? Well, no. My requirements are two-fold:

  • Simple “Media-Centre” type GUI for playing MP3s locally.
    • MythTV+MythMusic does that ok, but when having a lot of MP3s its a bit of a pain scrolling with the keyboard. Potential workarounds could be to use MythWeb as the front-end (not as good for eye-candy!)
  • Allow clients on the network (e.g. iTunes) to use it as a shared music server.
    • I thought that MythTV implemented UPNP but apparently its broken in the current build for the PS3, (lost the link – looking for it); so that messes up that plan.

So, back to the drawing board. Will remove MythTV for disk space, and have decided to install a DAAP server instead (as apparently this is what iTunes can use as a client). Plan to solve this first, and then look at a client or a standalone GUI for the PS3. The candidate this time is MT-DAAPD, now known under its more sexy name as FireFly.

8. Instead of compiling the application as described here I simply installed it through the Package Manager (search for mt-daapd), and then followed the instructions from Once the package is installed. Of course, as sod’s law would have it, I then found out I could update the config through the Web GUI at http://localhost:3689. Sweet.

9. And it works fine! Fire up iTunes, set it to Search for Shared Music, and it works. Nice one. Now I just need to configure in some smart playlists, and work out how to get the doody CD Cover view back (probably not possible) and jobs’ a goodun’.

10. Installed Rhythmbox, an iTunes-inspired media player for Gnome. This allows me to update the mp3s with tags, covers, etc. I also needed to install the restricted plugins to get mp3 output due to licensing issues.

11. Now that works fine and is blaring out 90s Pulp albums across my flat, time to try and find a noddy-level front-end in the media centre stylie. Similar to the one in MythTV but more user-friendly. I came across Freevo which looks interesting, and has a plugin called BlueRemote which could be tweaked to use the Sixaxis controller … but it doesn’t have a binary for Ubuntu on PS3/PowerPC. So … thought sod it … gonna try compiling it by adpting these instructions to the latest version.

Unfortunately, that didn’t work. I had major issues getting the kaa packages to compile and play nicely, so I went back to using the latest version in the 1.6.3 branch (i.e. following these instructions to the letter and it copiled and ran fine. Just remember to go through the configuration file and to enable/disable options as appropriate … just need to get the album covers working. Oh, and on line 993 there is an u with an umlaut that stops freevo from working – changing that to a standard u (sorry to our Germanic-speaking cousins) gets around this bug for now.

UPDATE: freevo cache moaned that it didn’t have SQLite installed, i guess for caching, so I’ve also sudo apt-get install python-sqlite and sudo apt-get install sqlite for good measure.

Finally, I just added a graphical kboot menu to make it easier to switch back to the PS3, and all done! I’ll keep playing around with MythTV, an eye on the Ubuntu Media Centre and Mythbuntu projects and let you know how I go!

2 replies

  1. Thanks for the thorough list of useful tips and links. I’ve been playing with the idea of buying a PS3, and of course it’d have to have Ubuntu on it, just our of principle!

    Also check out:


  1. A Mac Mini-based Media Centre |