When Sony issued a recent PlayStation 3 update removing the device's ability to install alternate operating systems like Linux, it did so to protect copyrighted content-but several research projects suffered collateral damage.
The Air Force is one example. The Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, New York picked up 336 PS3 systems in 2009 and built itself a 53 teraFLOP processing cluster. Once completed as a proof of concept, Air Force researchers then scaled up by a factor of six and went in search of 2,200 more consoles (later scaled back to 1,700). The $663,000 contract was awarded on January 6, 2010, to a small company called Fixstars that could provide 1,700 160GB PS3 systems to the government.
Getting that many units was difficult enough that the government required bidders to get a letter from Sony certifying that the units were actually available. Dirt cheap computing.
Another grotesque waste of taxpayer dollars?
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