Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 14th Dec 2013 00:14 UTC

As promised, Valve has released the first test release of SteamOS. From the FAQ:

SteamOS is a fork (derivative) of Debian GNU/Linux. The first version (SteamOS 1.0) is called 'alchemist' and it is based on the Debian 'wheezy' (stable 7.1) distribution.

The major changes made in SteamOS are:

  • Backported eglibc 2.17 from Debian testing
  • Added various third-party drivers and updated graphics stack (Intel and AMD graphics support still being worked on)
  • Updated kernel tracking the 3.10 longterm branch (currently 3.10.11)
  • Custom graphics compositor designed to provide a seamless transition between Steam, its games and the SteamOS system overlay
  • Configured to auto-update from the Valve SteamOS repositories

You need to have an NVIDIA card for it to work, since Intel and AMD graphics are currently not yet supported (work is underway).

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Trying it out....
by deathshadow on Mon 16th Dec 2013 16:37 UTC
Member since:

Went diving into my spare parts bin -- came out with a i7 920, Asus P6T Deluxe, 6 gigs of RAM and a GTX 260... I think my cup doth runneth over when THAT is what was in my junk drawer.

First problem I hit up against is this release was UEFI only -- so unless you're running IVY/newer it's NOT going to work out of the box. Being it's just linsux it was easy enough to make a GRUB bootable flash drive, add GRUB to the dependencies and force the issue, but really that's shortsighted of them if they wanted to make something most people can test... since to be brutally frank, unless you're sitting around transcoding video all day anything more than a Q6600 is overkill -- for general computing, for gaming, etc, etc... Which is why most people who have an i7 -- ANY i7, really aren't that interested in upgrading apart from bragging rights. (See the 4770k in my workstation, as if it is ACTUALLY delivering anything the i7 870 it replaced for my day to day use...)

I was a little surprised they couldn't be bothered to include GRUB and gParted -- shouldn't have taken more than ten minutes to apply to the distro and really shows a lack of foresight.

As expected it refuses to see the audio on the motherboard -- I have the WORST luck with audio and linsux, and with this particular board no amount of dicking around with modprobe on the command line will make it acknowledge it's there -- had the same problem with this setup as a hackintosh, with no amount of voodoo HDA kexts making it work. The obvious solution being to drop one of my spare Live! or Audigy cards in which recognize right off.

The instructions in the FAQ get down on it's knees in front of the proverbial equine of short stature -- the "login as steam and start steam" bit omitting that they mean to start it from a terminal window, since the icons on the gnome desktop or from applications for STEAM do exactly two things... and Jack left town.

FINALLY having it up and running, the SteamOS UI is about what I expected. It works a treat with my wireless gamepad, but is total **** with a mouse or keyboard. As 'ten foot' interfaces go, my RCA streaming box and Samsung Blu-ray player could take a few lessons from SteamOS on how to do it right. Seems like where they put the most effort, and it shows!

For running the dozen or so games off Steam it's acceptable, but there needs to be a better way to run non-steam delivered content apart from going into Gnome

I was also surprised to not see games I KNOW have Linux versions... VALVE games at that, not be listed on STEAM. No Half Life 2 regular or episodes, No Portal, No source ports of older HL games... REALLY? REALLY?!? Really.....

I'm going to test this with a vanilla Debian, but the GTX 260 seems around 40% faster in SteamOS than it did the last time I tried it in a Linux distro... FINALLY dragging it kicking and screaming up to the performance I see in Windows. That's been one of my complaints for years about linsux is openGL performance being so crippled it's like owning two generations back in hardware; you don't install a GTX 260 to have the performance of a 8800GTS, or a GTX 770 (like on my workstation) for the performance of a GTX 260! So kudos there, though I'm gonna test that more with some other distros.

They also seem to have all the freetype tweaks the free-tards have disabled by default on most distro's and hide in vaguely documented and ultimately useless config files. It still kerns small text like a sweetly retarded crack addict, but those issues really don't matter once you're running the ten foot interface as the kerning bugs are far less noticeable the more pixels you use per character... But I' m real ly sen siti ve to fre etyp e 's kern ing of chara cter s lik e this! ... the dancing "i" syndrome being the worst of it.

The worst problem I've had is that every now and then on reboot the system is losing CMOS settings -- again, shades of a hackintosh. Switching to the Windows 7 hdd the rig was using previously and it's fine -- so I can only assume it's a problem with the distro.

For the issues I've had, most of them are easily dismissed or expected from a BETA release, worked around by using proper hardware choices or a bit of Linux knowledge, or are just the typical crippleware BS I've come to expect out of a Linux distro when used for anything other than a server. Right now I'd give it 5 out of ten stars, and that's mostly due to a lack of content. Apart from some REALLY mediocre indie games (mostly platformers), TF2 and the two Metro games, it's slim pickings.

But there's a LOT of potential if they can get developers on board. Lack of developer interest can kill any platform... see Linux as a desktop OS where the pathetic crippleware relegates it to an 'also ran' amongst all but the most die-hard of geeks and freetards.

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