Sony releases third PSP firmware upgrade in two months

Los Angeles (CA) - With its usual minimum of fanfare, Sony has released the third firmware update to its PlayStation Portable in the last two months, this one including a new feature enabling consoles to serve as receiver units for Sony's LocationFree TV.

Introduced last month, LocationFree TV expands on the mind-boggling notion that a television can conceivably play pictures without having any wires connected to it whatsoever. It includes a base station which broadcasts the signal from one television set over a wireless broadband Internet connection. Since September, the technology has been available in various packages, including one with a portable 12" flat screen display that can run on internal batteries, and another with PC-based software that enables any monitor to serve as a LocationFree TV device. Available for only the past few weeks, and only online through Sony Store at present, the receiver/base station combo sells for $1499.

With the Sony PSP v. 2.5 firmware upgrade released today for American and Japanese users, a PSP can use the console's existing wireless broadband receiver to make the device a LocationFree TV as well. The addition of LocationFree TV may serve as additional incentive for PSP users to also download a fix to an exploit we reported last week, which not only enables "homebrew" (independently developed) code to run on the PSP, but also enabled the proliferation of a Trojan file masquerading as a firmware downgrade utility.

A check of Sony's documentation for LocationFree TV for PSP does not show it contains any features for recording programming digitally to memory stick. Since PSP is officially a low-resolution device, under US federal regulation, it does not have to contain the HDCP protection code chip, which would limit such a device's ability to record and playback high-definition video. However, without the chip, the possibility of low-resolution remote DV-R remains technically feasible. Without Sony providing this feature, however, it would be left to homebrew developers to find a way to run their code on version 2.5. Sony now appears to be on a weekly crusade to prevent this from happening.

Other minor bug fixes are included with the 2.5 upgrade, including to the newly included Web browser, plus the ability to sync the player's internal time with Internet-based time servers.

Even with Sony's efforts to close the back doors from which individuals run non-licensed code on their PSPs, the homebrew development community continues unabated. One reason is because many in that community characterize themselves not as malicious users, but as enthusiasts interested in promoting the PSP not just as a game machine, but as a complete computer in a small package. To that end, an independent group calling itself the TILT-MODE-ARMY PSP Development Team has been developing and running a Web server from a PSP.

It isn't a running Web service just yet - right now, it's the homebrew equivalent of a test pattern - but with more and more links to it appearing on the Internet, and with TG Daily adding ours to the heap, the little box is effectively demonstrating that many of the principal functions that larger, "terrestrially-bound" server units require. As of now, the Team has kept details of their development a secret, although it's likely that they have adapted open-source Web server framework code for the PSP's processor.

Ongoing discussions about the PSP Web server began by noting its relative uselessness in real world situations, until someone was brave enough to point out that this opens up the possibility of a future P2P file-sharing system made up of PSPs.