PlayStation 3 restored to normal service after day of crisis

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The Independent Tech

After a tumultuous 24 hours in which an estimated 30 million PlayStation 3 consoles were rendered largely unusable, the machines righted themselves and normal service was resumed.

Users are also now able to restore any trophy data corrupted as a result of using the machine during the 24hr period covered by March 1, 2010, GMT.

The problem was quickly dubbed "The Apocalyps3," afflicting all PlayStation 3 consoles bought before September 1, 2010 characterized by a 'fat' shape, and a tiny number of the newer 'slim' versions.

Those units were unexpectedly unable to transition from February 28, 2010, to March 1, 2010, sent into a fugue by the occurrence of an even numbered non-leap year.

Instead, the clock time defaulted to December 31, 1999, disabling the console's ability to connect to the online PlayStation Network, and having a knock-on effect on many games' ability to start properly.

The problem struck regardless of time zones, due to the way that computer hardware makes use of the UTC time standard, equivalent to GMT, before applying differences.

Trophy data on affected PlayStation 3 units, records of in-game achievements, were vulnerable to the glitch, reliant as they were on attempting to make contact with Sony's servers.

Games which do not include trophies, such as Valkyria Chronicles, Metal Gear Solid 4, and Everybody's Golf World Tour (aka Hot Shots Golf Out of Bounds) remained unhindered.

Corrupted trophy data can now be restored either by loading the games in question or more simply from the PlayStation 3's menu. Navigating to the Friends category on the far right of the menu and then opening the player's profile prompts home consoles to synchronize with data stored on Sony's PlayStation Network.

The calendar bug was of the same type that had previously cropped up in Microsoft's portable media player, the Zune, on December 31, 2008. In that instance, Microsoft issued statements advising users to stop using the product for a pre-defined 24hr period.

On this occasion, Sony responded to the clock error with three updates on their North American and European websites - one to confirm that there was a common issue, the second advising owners of older 'fat' PlayStation 3s to refrain from using them, and a third in the early hours of Tuesday, March 3 announcing that the problem had been fixed.

Though no intervention was required by the corporation, they are expected to release an automatic software update that will prevent the glitch from re-occurring on the same day in 2014 - the next even-numbered, non-leap year.

In the absence of hard information regarding the fault's cause, owners and enthusiasts had discussed the problem among themselves on video game websites. Many beat Sony to the punch by concluding that crippled PS3 units would most likely correct themselves 24 hours after the error first emerged.

Others discussed alternative methods of fixing their consoles, assuming that they were irrevocably damaged, and outlined various warranty-voiding schemes that would reset the system's hardware clock.

Some desperate users even attempted to trade in their machines in a fit of panic, leading to reports that UK retailer GAME was temporarily refusing part-exchanges of the 'fat' PS3 consoles.

On the bright side, the episode did lead to the creation of many humorous tribute images heralding the coming of "The Apocalyps3," and a strongly worded satirical YouTube video from ReverendBurn who raged about Sony's imagined bias against fat consoles and hence their fat users, racking up over 250,000 views and nearly 5,000 comments in a day.

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