Ships Ahoy: Beta Steam Machines, SteamOS Out Friday

By Nathan Grayson on December 12th, 2013 at 9:00 am.

Naked, incomplete hardware just begging you to take a peek. Scandalous!

You there! Yes, you, with the hair, the shirt, and the microscopically minuscule pimple behind your left nostril that nobody – not even you – knows about. You could well be mere days away from receiving your very own Steam Machine. If you live in the US and signed up for Valve’s first round of testing, I would advise that you check your inbox now, lest you miss the opportunity to excitedly huddle around your fireplace, waiting for ol’ Saint Newell to slide down the chimney and pull your precious bounty from the safety of his beard of impossible wonders.

The prototype Steam Machines are set to leave the factory on Friday, and they’ll go out to 300 select testers. And the most thrilling part? Testers will get special Steam profile badges. I know, right? Finally, all your hard work is paying off.

Valve also explained the US-only stipulation, lamenting that:

“We’ve had to make the difficult decision to limit our beta to the U.S. only, because of regulatory hurdles. This was not our original plan, and it means we can’t collect beta feedback from Steam customers world-wide, which is pretty unfortunate. All things considered, we’re sure it was the right decision, because the alternative was to delay the whole beta beyond the point when we’d be able to incorporate any feedback into the 2014 products. This decision only affects Valve’s 300 prototype units; the commercial versions of Steam Machines that are for sale in 2014 won’t be affected by this.”

More pertinent to everyone else is the fact that SteamOS will be made available as soon as the prototypes take flight, and it’ll be immediately downloadable by everyone. That said, Valve advises that – “unless you’re an intrepid Linux hacker already” – you wait until later in 2014 to put it through its paces. It’s your call, though.

So then, are you one of the lucky few to draw a golden ticket? If not, are you going to at least defy Valve like a total rebel maverick hacker, mindslave to no man, and test out the OS that Valve is making freely available to everyone at their own discretion?

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28 Comments »

  1. effervescent says:

    How would you define an “intrepid Linux hacker”?
    Would there be many hoops to jump through and too little to show for it?

    Also, I’m really curious about the controller. Even though I’d really like to buy one asap maybe it would be best to wait at least for the second iteration. Don’t you think?

  2. konrad_ha says:

    Yeah, good luck with the “don’t download this unless you feel qualified” part, Valve. Surely only a few individuals will grab a copy and there will be no server-downtimes or anything like that.

    • LionsPhil says:

      If they’re on the ball, Linux distros are one of the classic cases of legitimate BitTorrent traffic, to reduce just how much their servers get hammered.

      Might stick it in a VM and have a poke around. If it’s Debian-based, as I would suspect, the VirtualBox guest 3D passthrough drivers may even install…

      • aiusepsi says:

        They won’t use Bittorrent, they’ll just put it up on Steam. They’ve got a lot more bandwidth to hand than your average Linux distro maintainer, on the order of terabits/s.

        This isn’t their first rodeo when it comes to delivering a several gigabyte product to lots of people in a short space of time.

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        My previous attempts at running steam in a linux based VM have resulted in nothing but crashes, that might be something to do with VirtualBox’s 3d drivers.

      • laiwm says:

        I remember reading that it was based on Ubuntu 12.04, could be wrong though. Fingers crossed that a Raspberry Pi will be powerful enough to run the streaming function, I want to have this on a chromecast-style dongle I can stick in the back of my telly

        • Premium User Badge

          stahlwerk says:

          An awful lot of things would need to be in place to run this on a pi, starting with ARM binaries and ending with support for minuscule amounts of RAM, GPU and so on…

          While it would be cool indeed, I would advise against holding your breath.

      • Hyoscine says:

        Yeah, probably Debian-based. At least, that’s the assumption I’m making given that Valve were testing the waters with Steam on Ubuntu.

  3. mukuste says:

    I’m not completely sold on the controller and limitations of the OS, but there are two things this whole thing could do that I’m really excited about:

    1. finally make Linux a viable gaming platform; gaming is pretty much the only reason I’m still forced to use Windows on my private computer,

    2. make pre-built gaming machines more mainstream and thus affordable. I really can’t be arsed to build a PC, but Alienware et al. don’t appeal to me either. From the news we’ve seen, it seems that even just buying a Steam Machine and then installing Windows while SteamOS isn’t quite there yet might be a nice way to get a solid, compact gaming PC.

    • frightlever says:

      Tiny, full-featured cases with decent power supplies… that’s what I’ve been waiting for and it’s finally going to happen.

      • tetracycloide says:

        That’s been happening with mini-ITX for a few years now.

  4. rustybroomhandle says:

    I will try SteamOS this weekend then.

    I’m curious about what parent distro it’s based on, and also how easy it’ll be to prod it into being a regular desktop system by installing a desktop environment.

    The reverse of that is already possible. You can set up your Linux distro to load Steam as your desktop environment.

    See: http://www.webupd8.org/2012/12/better-steam-for-linux-performance-with.html

    It even accepts -steamos as a command line argument, but when last i checked it didn’t do a whole lot.

  5. realitysconcierge says:

    I’ve realized that I’m a valve fanboy by how much I want to own their controller based only on the fact that it’s made by them.

    • KhanIHelpYou says:

      The steam controller is going to be incredibly hit or miss, its either going to be a revolution in game pad design or its going to be so bad people would rather play with 10 year old sidewinder joysticks.

  6. johnxfire says:

    God-farking-dammit Valve. I wanted that badge. Do you hear me?! I WANTED THAT BADGE!

  7. Ormu says:

    I checked and yep, the pimple is there.

    • TWChristine says:

      The system is young still..blemishes tend to fade with age.

  8. Solidstate89 says:

    Might have to rev-up the ‘ole Hyper-V manager and see just what all this hulabaloo is about.

  9. dE says:

    A bit disappointing that they only ever realized they were going to do the Steammachine Beta US only, AFTER they collected their nice chunk of international data. Anyways, best of luck to everyone in the US that participates.

  10. Premium User Badge

    bear912 says:

    Didn’t get into the hardware beta, but I’ll definitely be trying out SteamOS when it’s available to download.

  11. MeestaNob says:

    It was so obvious that they would have issues sending hardware overseas, they really shouldn’t have made it open to everyone. Saying “it’s ok, you’ll still be able to buy it later” is a slap.