Steamy Not-Windows – Valve’s Linux Beta Begins


With Windows 8 (my review: ugh) now in the wild, one of its most vocal opponents makes their next move. A beta of Valve’s previously-announced Steam for Linux is hardly a seachange, but it’s nonetheless a big step in their investigation into a PC gaming future that doesn’t revolve around Microsoft operating systems.

So, they’ve opened up applications for beta testers. “We’re looking for Linux gamers to install and test our new Steam for Linux client. We are primarily interested in experienced Linux users,” quoth they. I’m tempted – I used to use Ubuntu, but the trauma of installing new graphics card drivers eventually got too much for me – but doubt I’m the kind of fellow they need. Perhaps you are?

In which case, you should take a look at this link and submit your details. Let us know how it goes. Meanwhile, I might just partition the old hard drive and stick a Linux distro on there to get myself back up to speed. What’s the best one to use these days? By which I mean, which one requires the least use of the terminal? Still Ubuntu?


  1. Noburu says:

    I only dabble in Linux, but I’m pretty sure Ubuntu and Linux Mint are considered two of the most friendly for beginners.

    EDIT: Do they have many games available yet? Tired and bout to go home from work :P

    • 2Ben says:

      Definitely OpenSUSE. I have no idea why it’s so seldom mentioned, because it’s really an excellent, friendly distro (and yes you can update your VGA drivers without command line).

      • Odweaver says:

        I find that Arch is one of the best mixes of simplicity and complexity, as their wiki has great documentation (outside the parts about rc.conf — they use systemd now) and a good setup guide.

        • Beelzebud says:

          Arch is great, but don’t try to steer new Linux users to it. The Arch definition of ‘simple’ isn’t the same definition the rest of the world uses. Most people wouldn’t consider installing by command line, then building up their system piece by piece as “simple”.

          • Valvarexart says:

            But it IS simple, once you take a moment off and try to disregard your baby duck syndrome. I think people are very spoiled nowadays when it comes to technology. They want everythong to Just Werk(tm) straight away. If you had that attitude when you learned to drive a bicycle or a car then you’d still only be taking rides with others, regardless of their driving skills.

          • Beelzebud says:

            I used Arch as my main desktop for over a year, so I’m well aware of how it works. You can take that condescending attitude somewhere else. I’m also not blind to how it all looks to a genuinely new user. You only think it’s simple because you understand how it all works (or at least know how to use their wiki). A new Linux user will be lost. That is just a fact.

          • Wardsky says:

            Been using Arch as my main desktop for ~5 years now—fantastic distro, but not for casual users.

  2. baby snot says:

    Gentoo. Easy as.

    • Valvarexart says:

      Seconding this. Gentoo has the easiest package management and the most powerful tools, regardless of if you are a power user or a beginner. The install process might be a bit sharp in the corners, but that’s what you’ve got to take if you want the best of the best. So yes, Install Gentoo.

      • dbdkmezz says:

        Gentoo’s “install process might be a bit sharp in the corners”? Is this a joke? Gentoo’s install process is by far the most difficult I’ve ever been though, and I’ve been using Linux for over a decade. Sure Gentoo’s got some nice flexibility, and you really learn how linux works when installing it, but I’d recommend it only to the most experienced of users, and only then when they either want to learn or have a very specific problem they need to solve. (I run it on an old mac G5 (that’s a 800MHz machine, with a PPC processor) at work and it runs like a dream (at least on the command line), despite the fact that very little else would work on such a system. So it’s very good for certain systems, but for the beginner, NO WAY.)

        • Zanpa says:

          It is indeed most likely a joke. “Install Gentoo” is a running gag on many parts of the internet, whenever an inexperienced user asks for help with his computer.

    • DeadPanda says:

      If you run Gentoo, don’t forget to get some “go faster stripes” to stick on the side of your case and blue lighting for your fans.

      • Valvarexart says:

        It depends. If you already have good fans you should use red LED’s, as they make the machine more powerful. Or green, if you want a lower power consumption. In my experience blue’s have never really been that useful. Just stay away from IR and orange LED’s.

        • CrookedLittleVein says:

          I find blue tends to offer superior cooling.

          • Noburu says:

            Defintely. I have blue LEDs in my mid tower (came with the case) and its the coolest PC Ive ever had (pun intended).

        • Faxmachinen says:

          I find the green LEDs most frequently turn into DEDs. I don’t use blue LEDs though, they have a nasty habit of turning into FEDs when you screw up the voltage.

    • Fazer says:

      So many trolls in this article.

  3. Firez0r says:

    Try Slackware.

    • uh20 says:

      oh my, someone just suggested the most hardest, nerdiest linux distro there is

      although i do say, its probably easier to install than gentoo

    • Beelzebud says:

      I actually use Slackware full-time. I moved from Arch to Slack a few months ago because I was sick of the moving target that is Arch. That being said, I’d never recommend it to a new user.

      If you’re new to Linux, and want to check out Steam, stick with Ubuntu.

  4. DeadPanda says:

    I’d go with Fedora. To actually use the desktop as a regular machine, you won’t need to dive into the terminal unless you want to install a package and don’t like the graphical package managers.

    As for desktop environments, well.. if you don’t like Windows 8, I doubt you’ll like Ubuntu’s Unity. It’s like a child’s crayon drawing of what a desktop should look like.

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      “It’s like a child’s crayon drawing of what a desktop should look like.”

      I just want to say how much I love your analogy.

    • Trevty says:

      While I’m no huge fan of Unity, I much prefer it to Windows 8’s new UI. My biggest problem with Unity is that it handles multiple monitors incredibly poorly.

      • RogB says:

        having installed both this week, i’d say the same about both – windows 8 is a bit of a mess with dual monitors too.

  5. BigRedS says:

    If you’re installing a Linux in order to test this out, then it pretty much has to be Ubuntu. I don’t see why they’d target anything else and half the fun of Linux is getting the same software to work on each distribution.

    • dbdkmezz says:

      Another vote for ubuntu. The install process is a dream, with any luck the right drivers for gaming should be just a click and a password away (it should offer you the proprietary ones shortly after install). And, I think the new interface is wonderful (although that’s pretty controversial). I’ve not tried mint though, but I’ve heard good things, so go for that if ubuntu doesn’t float your boat.

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      I mostly use Fedora at work (when I don’t need Windows for something), but I prefer Ubuntu for a couple of small reasons that aren’t really of interest here. I use the terminal a lot in both, but I’d guess they’re pretty similar in terms of “required” terminal use.

      More specifically, Kubuntu is my distro of choice for some major reasons, but they’re largely subjective, so I’ll keep to what I think is the most useful one here: It seemed closer to Windows than Ubuntu was the last time I used it, and I think that’s even more true nowadays. That’s not necessarily good, but I like it, and it’s relevant if you’re most comfortable in Windows.

      If you go with Ubuntu but are curious about Kubuntu’s programs and working environment, install “kubuntu-desktop”. At some point, you’ll be asked to choose between “kdm” and an other option (used to be “gdm”). With kdm, you’ll probably arrive in KDE upon rebooting and logging in, whereas with the other option, you’ll have to use a drop-down menu on the login screen to choose KDE. (And you can similarly go back to Unity or Gnome from kdm.) Or, just choose the non-kdm option, log in as usual, and look for new programs to play with. The working/desktop environment is a big part of my preference and of the Windows likeness, though. Choices ftw!

  6. Voxel_Music_Man says:

    Ubuntu stopped working out of the box and is slow as shit. Switched to mint – every just goes without hassle.

    • Noburu says:

      I too have Mint installed on my desktop at home (dual boot w/ Windows too) and use it mostly as a backup/dabbling OS. I have used lots of different distros over the years and Mint is tied for my fav along with Crunchbang (much less user friendly).

    • Tusque D'Ivoire says:

      Mint might have even slightly surpassed Ubuntu in popularity, and for newcomers the custom Linuxmint desktop (cinnamon) is much more familiar than unity.

      For anyone who bought some humble bundles in the past, there should already be an elite few great indie games available for linux!

    • InternetBatman says:

      I also like mint. We use it on our little netbook, and it works remarkably well.

      • RogB says:

        tried 13 cinammon recently and just found it a bit… dull. (plus, the nvidia drivers completely killed cinammon which was a bit alarming)

        for overall support and a familar desktop for a windows user, it should in theory be ubuntu + KDE ?

        • Aninhumer says:

          I highly recommend you try the MATE version of Mint 13. With all the Gnome3/Unity stuff lately, I’d forgotten how good a desktop experience Gnome2 was. Maybe in a few years Cinnamon will catch up with it’s predecessor, but for now MATE is pretty much just better.

  7. Scythe says:

    Ahh Linux. The first four comments on the story all recommend different distros.

    For what it’s worth, my vote goes for Mint. It’s like ubuntu but with less of the big-shiny-rounded-buttons-look.

    • oceanofsolaris says:

      Two of the recommendations are however not serious (neither Slackware nor Gentoo are very novice-friendly and recommending them to someone who wants to avoid the terminal is either cruel or funny).

      • Didero says:

        How would you even know they’re not serious if you’re not already well-versed in the world of Linux?
        For a novice outsider, it’s impossible to tell.

        • baby snot says:

          To be fair to oceanofsolaris, I was being facetious. Gentoo doesn’t have a graphical installer.

        • Onishi says:

          Well, when it comes to gentoo, anyone who has ever installed any version of linux in the last decade (even mandrake 10 years ago pretty much installed with very little dabbling), one could realize gentoo is a few steps up in difficulty when they go to the site, and read the command line intensive quick install guide link to ). Gentoo is an OS that is good for one thing, learning the meanings and inner workings of linux, because in the process of installing you will work with almost every major component of the linux OS, and learn their functions etc… Gentoo was my second distrobution, and while I would never go back to it, I must say I greatly appreciate how much it taught me in the process of making it work, and fixing it when it broke, (It’s updating program, did occasionally make mistakes that could fubar the whole system, major ones, like the installer/updater program, recommending for me to remove the old python, while neglecting to tell me that the installer updater is actually dependent on it.).

          But yeah, joking asside, linux mint is hands down my recommendation for beginners who want to get their feet wet. For people wanting to learn the ins and outs of a system, but still have something stable, archlinux is a good OS that teaches you the basics of working with linux, and giving you full control to do what you want, without quite being the unpredictable self destructing system that is gentoo.

      • Valvarexart says:

        Why can’t it be both?

  8. Nabobalis says:

    So what is wrong with Windows 8?

    • BigRedS says:

      Hilariously, I can’t find Windows drivers for my ethernet controller in my laptop. I spent a while looking and all I could find on Intel’s site were Linux drivers…

    • Emeraude says:

      I think the more exact question would be “So what is wrong with Microsoft ?”.

      The problem being that, the moves taken by Win8 right now toward the transformation of the PC into a closed platform – a la Apple – may seem innocuous enough only if not taking into account the company’s history.

      • Nabobalis says:

        But it isn’t closed. You have the windows “store” which is closed but none of the programs I have installed on my PC come from there. Overall, I can do the same things I could with windows 7 as I can now with windows 8.

        • Emeraude says:

          I did not say it was closed, did I ? I said it is taking steps in that direction.

        • Raiyan 1.0 says:

          MS is already calling the desktop mode ‘legacy’. How long before it goes the way of the DOS?

          That closed-off tablet interface has no place on a desktop OS, and its proliferation must be discouraged. Win8 does nothing Win7 can’t, and I doubt people will miss anything by skipping this iteration.

          • dirtrobot says:

            Oh DOS how we miss thee!
            I weep and moan when faced with the inability to manage my memory manually. :P

        • neolith says:

          The Appstore IS closed. There is no way to install a software for MetroUI that is not on the store. MS has total control over what you can use and what you cannot.
          Also you will never know if there could be software you’d like to install but cannot due to this restriction. You will only see software that MS wants you to and you’ll be blind regarding everything else.

          • Reapy says:

            As a primarily pc user I’ve been handed a power mac at work to do some development on. This is my second recent exposure to the mac world after iOS on an iPad. It makes it pretty clear now exactly what MS is doing, trying to move towards an apple like lock down on things. Side note, about the only thing I like about the mac minus the niceness of the peripherals, are multi touch os gestures and having the bash shell right there for development. Though this is somewhat solved by using cygwin on windows, it is much nicer iteration on the mac.

            But mac looks like it is at least giving you that sort of dual locked down app store vs just install it off the internet. I do doubt that MS is going to suddenly lock their entire os at any point in time as that would be stupid, but they are also dumb to ignore the huge markets like google play and the iOS app store. Also their color scheme sucks ;)

            I think MS will have a leg up on iOS though as on getting my iPad I found the development barrier way too high not having a mac for Xcode and the 100 dollar fee. I guess I could have unlocked the iOS and/or emulated Xcode or used some of the weird work arounds, but was a pretty big hassle. Contrast this to android and upon getting my first tablet I had a starter app on it in under an hour. If the surface/win 8 lets you get going as fast as android, I think they will be in a good place.

            But yeah win 8 is a response to app stores, I do not believe it is a move to lock their OS down forever, that would be a death sentence.

    • Mordsung says:

      They appear to be slowly going to Apple route of making an OS that is idiot proof but also genius proof.

      An idiot can’t break it, but a genius can’t fiddle with it.

      It also does not appear to be doing anything to support PC gaming.

    • Diziet Sma says:

      I like it, fwiw. Weird moments/issues I’ve had so far:

      – going to shutdown the pc and not being able to figure out how…. (charms bar->settings->power->shutdown) UGH. Made a shortcut to do it and put it on the ‘start’ screen.

      – Cannot figure out how, if even possible, to get apps/games downloaded via the store to install elsewhere. Like, not on my precious SSD.

      – Rebooting the machine and having a mental ‘How the fuck do i log in?’ for a couple of seconds before realising it was a splash screen type thing.

      – I cannot fathom the criteria for a piece of software to appear in the full ‘apps’ list off the main metro UI. Dishonored isn’t listed (but doesn’t have start menu entries), all of my GoG games are there, which is pretty wicked. The Secret World and Guild Wars are there but Star Wars is not. It also lists all of the Readmes, PDFs and Config tools that come with GoG games so it all looks a tad bloated. I’m sure it can be sorted I just don’t know how yet. Seeing as I launch 90% of my stuff via steam it’s a non issue but does make it less ‘pretty’.

      Otherwise, it’s fast(er), it’s stable and if you like the windows phone 7 UI it’s really rather gorgeous and pleasant to use even with a mouse.

      • The Random One says:

        “Made a shortcut to [shutdown] and put it on the ‘start’ screen.”

        I may be childish or pedantic, but I find it hilarious that Microsoft finally took the button that ENDS your session out of the START menu and you put it right back in.

        • Malcolm says:

          You may already know this, but back in the days of yore (while Windows 95 was under development) the button was unlabelled (much like in Windows 7 I guess), but in usability tests a good proportion of people stared at the blank desktop and wondered where to start – labelling the button “Start” was therefore a vital usability cue. And even then, to shut down your computer you had to start somewhere.

        • Caerphoto says:

          I’ve never understood why people derive so much childish glee from the “haha START to SHUTDOWN” thing.

          Where else would you put it?

          And really, still making jokes about it after almost 18 years?

      • Goateh says:

        The all apps list is based on a folder tree in Program Files. Default is C:ProgramDataMicrosoftWindowsStart MenuPrograms but if you right click a non-metro icon in all apps you’ll get an option to open the file location.

        The start screen will flatten the tree for display but all the shortcuts in here will show up on the start screen. You can also use it to tidy up unwanted shortcuts and modify them like you used to with right click > properties.

        All that random junk that got added to your start menu previously is much more annoying now. I didn’t care that a tool I use for work created itself a multi-level folder tree full of files called readme.txt but now I see a dozen readme.txts all at once. I did start pruning the list until I realised that everything I wanted was either pinned to the start or found via search.

      • uh20 says:

        in ubuntu-unity, you can search for “shutdown” and get amazon listings at the same time!

      • b0rsuk says:

        Settings > Power > Shutdown ? Really ?!
        Reminds me of an intranet application where you had Options > Help > Logout. And 3 other buttons to log out.

    • Carra says:

      Mostly the fear that the windows store will create a closed platform where everything you program has to go through the Microsoft Certification Program.

    • mjrmua says:

      Well for starters, It’s not compatible with the Steam for Linux Beta.

    • b0rsuk says:

      A bunch of people don’t like Windows 8 enough to switch from Linux.

    • Naum says:

      Just found another thing that’s wrong with it: I can’t upgrade from the latest Preview to Retail; instead I’d have to install a fresh Win8. So there goes the only reason I would have had to keep Win8 and I’m going back to Win7. Which will probably also wipe some of my Linux partitions again, but this time I’m prepared. (Needless to say Ubuntu just upgraded from 12.04 to 12.10 in-place, over night and without any loss of data.)

      Sorry for the rant. I suppose I’m developing a bit of a thin skin with regards to Microsoft’s oh-so-practical OSes.

  9. Emeraude says:

    I have been testing Mint’s latest build on an old refurbished netbook (replaying Planescape Torment on it while on travel – PlayOnLinux, which I used for the first time, was just lovely), and I find it works like a charm thus far. The Cinnamon UI was nice, but I tend to prefer the sparser Xfce one.

    I’d heartily recommend it to someone wanting to dabble in Linux without too much hassle.

  10. RaveTurned says:

    From the Valve Linux Team Blog, a month ago:

    The private external beta will include:
    – Steam
    – One Valve game
    – Support for Ubuntu 12.04 and above

    I’d assume only Ubuntu is supported for now at least – although other up-to-date distros might work anyway, especially if they’re Ubuntu-based.

    EDIT: From earlier blog posts, it seems likely that the Valve game is Left 4 Dead 2.

    • Tyranic-Moron says:

      Linux Mint is derived from the Ubuntu repositories, so, in theory at least, it should also work. And currently Mint is much nicer to use than Ubuntu.

    • LionsPhil says:

      You can probably get away with any of the mostly-official Ubuntu spins, like Kubuntu or Xubuntu. (I would suggest Xubuntu, since Unity is horrendous.) Mint might be pushing it.

      Linux: Death by a thousand choices

  11. Firez0r says:

    Leaving jokes aside, you will never get a conclusive answer. The linux community is very fragmented, with people sharing different opinions. People will just recommend what they are using. Just pick any of the ones that have been mentioned (apart from Slackware) and you will be fine. They all are friendly for newcomers and have great community support.

    • jimfing says:

      The fact that there are so many distros is actually an advantage. Take Ubuntu as an example – when they introduced the Unity Interface, people who disliked it had a large choice of other distros to use instead. Choice is ALWAYS a good thing, even if it does fragment people.

      If you don’t like the new interface in Windows 8 – you’re pretty much stuck (or move to a different OS).

      • Firez0r says:

        I never meant to say that choice is a bad thing. Quite the opposite, it’s part of the beauty of the ecosystem. The only issue is that it can become a bit overwhelming for a newbie when presented with so many different opinions, and it’s best to just pick one and stick with it for a while, regardless of how many people tell you to jump ship.

      • Caerphoto says:

        Choice is ALWAYS a good thing

        No, it really isn’t ALWAYS good. Giving people a choice when they don’t know (or care) enough to make an informed one is much worse than just picking something sensible for them, and you can’t just say “well they should do some research” because why should they?

        A lot of people who recommend Linux also fundamentally misunderstand why computers are used. To them, a computer is a toy, or a puzzle, or a hobby. It is the end in itself. To the majority of people, though, a computer is just a thing that lets them do stuff quicker or easier or more efficiently (or in the case of computer games, at all). They don’t care how it works, nor should they, same as I don’t really care how a train works when I take a ride on one; I just want to get to where I’m going. In the same vein, while I love my Fuji X100 camera, there’s no way I’d recommend one to a random stranger who just wants something to take holiday snaps with – its strengths would be unnoticed by most people, at best. At worst, those strengths (e.g. direct manual control – choice, in other words) would be weaknesses because most people don’t know what the aperture and shutter speed dials are for.

    • jrodman says:

      Been using Linux for 18 years or so. View “which is the friendliest for those who don’t want to see a terminal” as flamebait, so won’t answer. It’s a question like “which sports team is the best?”

      Meanwhile “fragmented” is a loaded term. It refers to the idea of incompatability and increasing divergence. For source-available, incompatability has pretty much never existed, while for binaries the issues cross distro aren’t much larger than with revisions of a given distro. (I ship a commercial package that runs on all distributions in binary form.) And increasing divergence has never really materialized.

      • InternetBatman says:

        As a moderately competent, but certainly not technical user, I found fragmentation to be a small issue, but an issue nonetheless. I installed Mint to my Netbook with almost no effort whatsoever. But as soon as I went to the humble bundle to download some linux games I was faced with the following options:
        .rpm, 64-bit.deb, 32-bit.deb, .tar.gz, .bin, and the ubuntu software center link. The other two OS had a single download button.

        It took some trial and error to figure out which extension to use, and then where it went, and how to open it; and a lot of people don’t want trial and error, they just want things to work.

        On the plus side, this is one area where Steam could offer a great deal of aid to transitioning users. It will keep a consistent gui and it already handles most of that stuff.

        • themindstream says:

          Linux installer files in a nutshell:

          Package management in the Linux world more or less falls into three camps plus fringe options: .rpm, .deb and “other”. The “management” part means the system that tries to be smart about figuring out what other programs you need before installing the current one, and generally also handled auto-updates and the like.

          .rpm is the installer for distros using RedHat based package management (Fedora, SuSe…)

          .deb is the installer for distros using Debian style “apt” package management (Debian, Ubuntu, Mint…)

          .bin is a generic Linux executable that ignores the package management, but you can run it on any Linux system.

          .tar.gz is an archive format like .zip. The double extension refers to the fact that making it is a two step process; first the files are bundled into a “tarball” .tar file, then they are compressed, usualy with gzip (.gz), but alternately with bzip (.bz). The extensions .tgz and .tbz are also acceptable.

      • Firez0r says:

        “Fragmented”, I was referring more to the community than the technical aspect. It’s the constant bash between the users of different distributions that I cannot stand, similar to Apple vs Android fanboys.

      • Ateius says:

        “View “which is the friendliest for those who don’t want to see a terminal” as flamebait, so won’t answer.”

        And in doing so, you ensure Linux remains only used by the niche. That question – whether worded exactly or phrased slightly differently – is what you’re going to hear from many, many people who know little about Linux and less about command lines and what have you.

        It’s a question of the end-user experience. People coming from Windows or whatever Apple’s OS is called these days are used to the convenience of what is basically plug ‘n’ play software. You start the installer, it autodetects all the technical details (and if you chose ‘advanced’ lets you check its work), churns quietly for a minute or two, and then you have a new program to run.

        So when they think about dipping a toe into the Sea of Linux, they want a similar experience. They’ve heard the scuttlebutt about how you need to know kernels and command lines and there are distros and driver problems. Because they want a similarly convenient experience to the big commercial OSes (OSii?) one of their first questions is going to be “Okay, but which Linux distro do I use if I don’t want to have to fiddle with a command terminal?”

        It’s a legitimate question from an unfamiliar first-time user. Calling it flamebait and refusing to answer just means they’re going to go back to the user-friendly commercial offerings, and doesn’t offer a particularly flattering first impression of the Linux community.

        • subedii says:

          It’s rare to ever get a positive impression of the Linux community. Even as it currently stands, there’s plenty of griping about how Steam “isn’t welcome” on Linux, being as it is based around selling all your products commercially, and through a DRM system.

          • Naum says:

            I can’t really blame them, to be honest. Many members of that community have invested countless hours into an Open Source ecosystem because they believe that proprietary software restricts our freedom in a major way. Now Steam is not only closed source but also includes a DRM system — it’s the direct opposite of FOSS. Of course some people won’t like it (and I’m not one of them, by the way).

            Besides, to put anecdotal evidence against anecdotal evidence, I’ve always found the Linux community (if such a thing even exists) to be generally helpful and friendly.

          • Emeraude says:

            I really feel the need to point that entrenched misconception that free software supporters are against “selling all your products commercially”, which is a gross misunderstanding at best. There is nothing in the principles guiding free software that derides selling your software for money. It’s how you do it which can be a point of contention.

    • b0rsuk says:

      There are so many distros because people have very different needs. They don’t like the idea of “one size fits all”.

  12. Lucidity says:

    Where Gabe goes, I shall boldly follow! (unless it costs an arm and a leg, like)

  13. Keymonk says:

    That face horrifies me. :C

  14. Radwulf says:

    I currently use Ubuntu 12.04 with Gnome Shell but I agree it’s developed ‘out of the box issues’ at least for my most recent laptop. Also not a fan of Unity. You should probably stick with Ubuntu or Ubuntu derived distributions as they are the ones that’ll get most support.

  15. Emeraude says:

    I’m conflicted about this… the technophile in me wants to give this a go just to see how it works. The raving Steam hater don’t want the thing anywhere near a computer I manage…

    • InternetBatman says:

      Virtual machine?

    • elderman says:

      I was all excited to sign up for Beta or take their survey so I could have access to an even wider range of games, but then I glanced through the Steam privacy policy. I suspect that what they admit to is actually standard practice for sites with more user-friendly policies, so perhaps they get some points back for honesty but…

      They basically inform you that by signing up you give them permission to use any and all information about you in any way they see fit including sharing it with anyone they like for any reason they like. They claim to protect ‘Personally Identifiable Information” and they define this as meaning “information that can be used to uniquely identify a user.” However, they only specify name, address, and credit card number. Meanwhile, it’s my understanding is that any halfway decent data analyst can uniquely identify an individual given a relatively small collection of data points.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        It’s funny that Valve white knights like to counter any complaint of Steam’s privacy violations by saying “but they only use your personal information for marketing”. As if that makes it any easier to swallow.

        • Ich Will says:

          Of all the things they could do with my personal information, using it for marketing has to be in the top 5 of things I don’t want!

        • elderman says:

          My game marketing data for their service is a deal I’m not willing to make at the moment. There are plenty of other games on the web and I already have more than I know what to do with.

          On the other hand, jealously guarding one’s personal data may be a quixotic effort in the days of tracking cookies, flash cookies, credit cards, online payment services and spyware, all of which funnel our numbers to central marketing databases.

          Do I sound paranoid? Well you can pry my tinfoil hat from my cold dead hands!

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            You sound reasonable, and certainly not any more paranoid than I can get on the topic.

            Protecting personal info on the web is a losing battle. That’s no reason to stop trying though.

  16. Hogni Gylfason says:

    Ubuntu 12.04 and install Gnome Shell from software center. Or install Cinnamon from software center. Then select one of those Desktops when you log in.

    Mint is basically Ubuntu with one of those preinstalled (XCDE is another), and custom software sources. And worse system tools.

    Fedora and Gentoo, despite being excellent at what they are intended for, have pretty abysmal installers. The first thing a linux newbie encounters in his foray should not be how to partition his HDs (common questions: what is swap space, why a separate /boot part?) or “What would you like to compile?”, respectively.

    Ubuntu’s main problem (goes for all open source distros):
    You have to go into the shell to – sadly – install updated gpu drivers. This will not change anytime soon. The x-swat ppa (basically a software distribution point) makes this pretty trivial these days, but the first time you do it can be a pain.

    I use the Ubuntu/Gnome Shell combo for all my workstations and RedHat/CentOS/Ubuntu for servers, depending on their roles.

    X-Swat PPA repo for nvidia drivers:
    link to
    link to

    Where is markdown?

    • Verity says:

      The newest drivers (at least for my Nvidia, 304’s) are available from the standard Ubuntu’s proprietary drivers window, so no need to fiddle with PPA’s – that is the case in the newest 12.10, not 12.04 though (I think they plan to backport it to 12.04(.01?) anyway). I mean really cutting edge, for Nvidia alone you have 3 repos to pick from, standard, newer and newest experimental drivers. Oh, an even if you’re so inclined to use PPA’s you don’t have to do this via terminal.

      One thing worth noting for Nvidia users – if you experience really buggy desktop after installing proprietary drivers in 12.10 (like no bars up top and to the left, f*ked up resolution), uninstall your drivers, install linux-headers-3.5.0-17-generic (which is a missing dependency, dunno how they have overlooked it) and reinstall them.

      PS. Recommending Cinammon or Gnome Shell over Unity is highly subjective as I find them worse :P

      • Hogni Gylfason says:

        Ah, I haven’t tested 12.10 yet. I tend to stay with the LTS versions. It would make sense for 12.10 to come with 304 standard.

        As to subjective, obviously it’s my opinion, none other is mine to offer. But I offer it after repeated and prolonged efforts (weeks, as I work on linux) to use Unity, not kicking it to the curb right away at all.

        I find that Gnome shell and it’s activity concept is the first new thing to hit workspaces in a while. I only recommend Cinnamon to new users as it might be a more familiar transition from Windows window management. I don’t use it myself anymore. link to is also a fantastic initiative. Again, all offered imho. ;)

    • Beelzebud says:

      You do not need to use the command line in Ubuntu to install video drivers. how long has it been since you even used it?

  17. DrazharLn says:

    Linux Mint is extremely overrated, in my opinion. I would stick with a long term support version of ubuntu (means less updating all the time).

    If you don’t like Unity (and I would recommend trying it before dismissing it, it’s got a lot better than the initial release and now has some pretty clever features), you can just choose the “classic” window manager at login and get gnome 2, which is fine.

    • uh20 says:

      or install lxde or kde


  18. Christo4 says:

    Why doesn’t Valve make it’s own version of Linux? MIND=BLOWN!

    • zeroskill says:

      Valve should really do this. Taking into consideration that there are quite a few developers working at Valve that used to work for Microsoft, Gabe included of course, and that Valve has the money to do it, the motivation and maybe the most important:

      Gabe is a universally respected figure in the software industry, and if anybody can convince third-party developers to start developing for Linux, then it is him.

      Microsoft needs serious competition and Valve can be that competition.

      I remember Gabe saying: “If we need to start making hardware, we will”. I kind of wish he said software.

    • rockym93 says:

      I’d put moneys on this happening.
      If valve can get a collection of Linux versions of a decent number of games, a Linux version of their client and a bunch of users with a vested interest in not buying Windows… they’ve got a pretty solid basis for an OS.

    • InternetBatman says:

      They probably are going to eventually. This is just the first step.

    • JarLoz says:

      Because there is no reason for them to do so.

      Putting together and maintaining a linux distribution takes a lot more effort than simply throwing together a repository and writing a package manager. Hammering together something resembling a coherent graphical desktop OS is even harder. It simply doesn’t make sense for Valve to add yet another distro to the already fragmented Linux ecosystem, when they can pair up with Canonical who are already pushing Linux to the desktop with some success. Ubuntu is a mature, user-oriented OS. Steam + Ubuntu is a match made in heaven.

    • Noburu says:

      Give it time and it will happen. If they develop a really easy way of porting Windows games (theirs first OFC and then others) to Linux, they will eventually make a custom fork of some existing distro (Unbuntu probably) focused on gaming.

      First though they have to test the waters and see how financially viable it is (which is what they are on their way to doing now), because at the end of the day Valve is a company and they want/need to make money.

    • Hardlylikely says:

      Valve don’t make enough single player games for me or a bunch of other people as it is (yes, including the threequel that shall not be named). If they start on a Linux distro, they might go so far down the rabbit hole of Steam+OS+hardware+wtf that there won’t be any new games from them for an even ludicrously longer period of time.

      Just to disclaim, yes I know they have a bunch of multiplayer titles, but I almost never indulge, so they aren’t relevant to the list of things I need to care about.

      Kidding aside, I’d rather they keep Steam as it’s own entity, contribute any system level work to upstream projects, and leave the distro ecosystem alone. Of course if they develop one to run on some hardware platform they start selling that’s something else, but that’s a whole different scenario.

    • IDtenT says:

      If they’re going to release an OS it’s not going to be Linux based. Steam built on GPL? Not in a million years. They’ll most likely do an Apple and use BSD, since it’s there and ready to commit itself to Gaben’s heart.

  19. rustybroomhandle says:

    In addition to L4D2 there is also reason to believe that TF2 might be part of the starting lineup.

    • Premium User Badge

      Hodge says:

      Wot rusty said.

      Presumably that list will be a lot bigger by the time they actually launch the thing, as there’s bunch of existing Linux games which are notably absent.

      • Lemming says:

        What’s also great is all the big-news Kickstarter games have all had enough funding for Linux versions as well. The next couple of years are going to be really interesting for the Linux gaming crowd, and if the performance turns out to be better than in Windows, a lot of Windows gamers will be wanting a Linux partition.

        • InternetBatman says:

          I don’t think the huge kickstarters (DFA, Wasteland 2, PE) will be games that require a lot of performance, which means they will probably run well on any machine, limiting the pull factor. I don’t remember any games that might be performance intensive (like Castle Story or Star Citizen) having strong Linux support. The only game I can see really drawing players if performance improves are competitive games like Counterstrike and Dota 2.

        • Noburu says:

          I agree; but I also fully expect some of these games to never come out, never be ported to Linux, or to be released subpar.

  20. themindstream says:

    If you’re coming from a Windows world, Mint or Ubuntu with Mint’s interface (Cinnamon) is going to be more immediately comfortable to use, because Cinnamon shares more of the Windows conventions. Start button on the keyboard launches a very Vista/7 like menu, buttons are where you would expect them to be. Unity has a lot more in common with Mac conventions, plus a large dose of Ubuntu’s own design efforts. I’ve spent a reasonable amount of time with it and I can use it if I have to, but I still use Win 7 as my primary OS and with Cinnamon I’m right at home. It is the newest desktop environment on the scene though

    I can’t speak for Mint other than indirectly via Cinnamon and that it’s Ubuntu under the hood with different apps. I know Ubuntu does a very good job of providing access to what 3rd party drivers, including graphics drivers, are available, and their Software Center/store is likely to figure in Valve’s distribution plans. You should be prepared for some command line use no matter what, but if your hardware configuration isn’t anything exotic, you shouldn’t need to get into things like config files. The GUI controls exist for most things you’ll care about, but it may often be faster to paste commands into the terminal than hunt for them.

  21. Lemming says:

    Ubuntu is what Valve are aiming for, so logic would suggest using that. However, Mint is much nicer and there is no reason it wouldn’t work well under that either. Plus, if there are any minor bugs etc, you’d be reporting from a slightly different distro and that makes it a little more interesting.

    • uh20 says:

      ^the guy 2 comments above”

      install cinnamon desktop in ubuntu

      problem solved

  22. Premium User Badge

    Hodge says:

    For a distro I’d recommend Lubuntu. I recently put it on my sister’s ageing laptop for the purposes of backing up her Windows partition (which had stopped booting); the idea being that we’d put a fresh install of Windows back onto it when we were done.

    She liked it so much that she insisted that I leave it on there, so I did. Surpised the hell out of me, she’d never used Linux before or even asked about it.

  23. ribobura osserotto says:

    With all due honesty Alec, perhaps you should look into getting used to the terminal. It may seem like a crude way to handle things, but it’s actually one of the main advantages of GNU/linux, and getting used to it will generally improve your knowledge on how operating systems work in general. Ubuntu, alongside Mint and SolusOS, are still the friendliest distros, but my recommendation to you, is that you try to customize your own Debian installation and learn how to use a package manager frontend to simplify things, like synaptic and gDEBi. If you can do this successfully and properly understand how the package system works, you’ll have a lot less trouble handling GNU/linux in the future.

    I also recommend you to dig into the whole Free Software philosophy in order to understand why GNU/linux is the way it is. Perhaps the most important feature of GNU/linux is that it truly strives to empower knowledge and user rights.

  24. Alexandros says:

    I would love an RPS review or impressions of Windows 8. Any chance of that happening, team?

    • Alec Meer says:

      Yeah, I’m on it, though don’t expect anything like a technical breakdown.

      • Alexandros says:

        No need for technical stuff, your general impressions and maybe a thing or two about the potential implications for PC gaming would be great.

  25. bill says:

    Windows 8 seems fine as an operating system. particularly if you aren’t on seven and want
    a cheap upgrade. it’s just the closed nature of the store that’s worrying.

  26. Herzog says:

    Yup. Upgrading here at the moment. Been using Vista 64bit and even though I could never understand the people who said its the worst OS ever, the price was just too low to resist.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      The irony is that the people whining about how bad Vista is are usually the ones who will gloat on 7 like it’s the coming of Digital Jesus. Vista and 7 are the same freaking OS with some minor differences.

      • Emeraude says:

        Edit: never mind, misreading on my part.

        It’s time I got some sleep.

  27. uh20 says:

    alec, next time, badly photoshop a bunch of penguins, if anyone asks, i told you to do it.

  28. Dana says:

    No love for AmigaOS ?

  29. Optimaximal says:

    It’s probably worth mention that in the context of the Linux Beta, the OS choice is academic – they’re only support Ubuntu 12.04 and 12.10.

    Obviously they don’t clarify if it works on Kubuntu or Xubuntu, but it wouldn’t surprise me if (for the context of this beta) it’s targeting the main distro alone.

    • Hardlylikely says:

      Seeing as anyone who has booted a Knoppix CD before is probably filling out the survey they will be getting some data on which distros people are hoping to run Steam. Some dubious data to be sure, but it was always going to happen, might as well try to make some use of the deluge. The non-Ubuntu choices could help guide the gradual expansion of the beta program.

    • Naum says:

      “Support” for certain distros is a much more fuzzy term in the Linux world than it is on Windows. An executable for Ubuntu will most likely run just as well on my Gentoo system, provided I have the necessary dependencies installed. It probably won’t integrate into my desktop or anything, but nobody needs that stuff anyway.

    • Zyzyx says:

      “Support” in this context might just mean what the company “officially” supports. I would expect the binaries to run on any distro as long as:
      – a little packaging effort is made
      – all dependencies are available

      In the Fedora space I’ve seen interest bubble up a couple times, so I’m sure someone in the community will come up with something that is usable, regardless of whether Valve officially supports it.

  30. Richeh says:

    Pretty sure I know the answer to this, but I’ll ask and look like an idiot anyway; Steam is a launcher, not an engine, so this means that the Steam client will work on Linux, but the games won’t yet, am I right? So it opens up the door for Linux games, but they won’t magically work on launch.

    • InternetBatman says:

      The beta launcher comes with one game, and valve will probably be able to port the rest over relatively easily.

    • boniek says:

      True. Valve is porting Source engine to linux and seems like work is pretty much done (I guess every title has it’s own quirks that they need to work out though). As for other games currently in steam catalogue that’s up for developers/publishers to consider. I wouldn’t count on a lot of AAA titles from people other that Valve for now though. I bet it will depend a lot on just how much money are people willing to spend when gaming on linux.

    • PopeJamal says:

      Steam = “Game Launcher/Shopping/Overlay” (just like you said)
      Ported To Linux By: Valve

      Source = Game Engine
      Ported By: Valve
      Games that use the Source Engine: 99% of Valve’s games

      So eventually, expect:
      -all of Valves games to run on Steam
      -Non-Valve games that use Source will be ported by the developer, if they like
      -Games on Steam with Linux versions will appear fairly quickly (Braid, Limbo, etc)
      -New Games released on Steam will be released on all 3 platforms (Win, Mac, Lin)
      -If you own the Windows version of a game on Steam, you will probably have access to the Linux and Mac versions as well.

  31. frame says:

    Alec, just install a Start Menu replacer.

  32. ScubaMonster says:

    The big question is, will non-Valve games work? What about companies like Ubisoft who insist on DRM? Their DRM might not even function properly on Linux making it impossible to play. If Valve can somehow make Steam operate as a wrapper of sorts, perhaps they could get their entire library to run. If they can, I would seriously consider using Linux more extensively. About the only non-Steam games I have installed are Guild Wars 2 and Starcraft 2. (well Diablo 3 but I don’t really play it).

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      Not that big a question as the answer is quite simple. Linux will only run Linux binaries*, regardless of what DRM scheme is used. Valve is porting some of their games, and there are a bunch of other non-Valve games already tagged on Steam with Linux support.

      On that list, and will be my first Steam on Linux purchase, is Crusader Kings II. :)

      * WINE notwithstanding, of course

    • InternetBatman says:

      I don’t know if that really is such an issue for Valve, companies already manage their own DRM, and linux incompatibility would just make Steamworks more attractive.

      It’ll probably be like their Mac model, where if the publisher includes a working file of the game users can buy once and download on either. But if the others don’t offer it, Steam only sells it on what it does work for.

  33. Moraven says:

    link to

    Valve: Linux more viable than windows 8 for gaming.

    • dirtrobot says:

      Has anyone considered that gaben is a business owner. He’s not doing this because he loves you gamers soooo much. He’s doing it so he can ensure HIS closed system rules the roost on linux.

      You know what PC gaming doesn’t need right now? A fractured fan base.

      How many devs will develop for both win and linux? Zero. Why? because it’s expensive. At some point publishers will say the windows audience is shrinking as its cannibalized by a linux movement. Giving them more weight behind their reluctance to support pc gaming.

      PS: There will never be enough linux users to convince a publisher to make a game for linux.

      • Beelzebud says:

        We’ll see, won’t we? One thing I do know, you’re no psychic.

        • dirtrobot says:

          I knew you’d say that. Or did I?

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          I’d say he’s pretty on-the-mark with this one.

          Now, that case with the missing kid? He was waaaaay off.

      • Hardlylikely says:

        Multi-platform development is common these days at multiple levels of the industry. Adding a Linux build to Windows, 360, PS3, maybe Wii, Mac or mobile devices isn’t going to be insurmountable for a lot of people. Some already do it.

        If it really takes off the middleware companies will get in on the action, the Unity guys could finally see the business case they have been waiting for. There are problems as with everything, and it may just not quite fire, but it’s not as bad you make out.

      • rustybroomhandle says:

        Zero?? Who is making all the games then?

        And someone already did convince a publisher to make Linux games. Paradox – Crusader Kings II. And, wait a minute… saaaay, you’re one o’ dem trolls the youngsters are talking about, aren’t you? Almost got me… guess I will save my bottled up rage for traffic tomorrow morning.

      • InternetBatman says:

        About 10% of the humble bundle sales are to linux customers. In the case of Skyrim that’d be at least $1.4m (judging from largest concurrent player count, since I couldn’t find total PC sales so it’s probably much higher).

        So the economics is relatively easy: can 20 people port the game to linux in a year?

        • uh20 says:

          you got yourself a deal mr. internetbatman

          not that i have enough knowledge to fully program gl 3.1 well enough XD
          gl 3.1 makes everything like %30 harder to start up project because you have to include your own files

      • Consumatopia says:

        Actually, PC gaming does need a fractured fan base right now. With Metro and the Windows Store, Microsoft is now a threat to PC gaming as we know it–it’s very dangerous for fans to put all of their eggs in one basket, especially when that one basket is sitting on enemy turf.

        Steam is closed, but not as closed as the Windows Store. It doesn’t require a whole new API like Metro to build Steam games, nor does Steam have a “Secure Boot” feature that prevents you from installing games outside Steam.

        • Zyzyx says:

          I think that’s a little exaggerated. Steam is just as closed as the Windows Store from a software standpoint. One could argue the community and stakeholders are more open, sure, but the implementation is not open, is it? I don’t see API docs or specifications anywhere.

          I don’t see how Windows 8 or Metro really strengthens MS or makes them more of a threat than they have been for the last decade or so. There have always been Windows syscalls you have to deal with, they just have a new name now.

          • Consumatopia says:

            “Steam is just as closed as the Windows Store from a software standpoint.”

            False. If I have Steam on my PC or Mac, I can still install games outside Steam. But if I have a Windows RT device, I can’t install games outside the Windows Store. It’s like the iOS App Store, except now the model is encroaching on traditionally open territory of PC gaming. If you want to blame something for fracturing the PC games market, blame Windows RT.

            I also haven’t heard anything about whether it’s possible for a developer to distribute a game developed for the Windows Store with the Metro Design Language outside the Windows Store–like APKs in Android. But even assuming that you can, the first problem still applies–Microsoft is selling and encouraging others to build devices in which Microsoft has total control. Unlike XBox, these devices are designed to compete with PCs. That’s terrible for PC gaming.

          • Zyzyx says:

            But that’s only true on ARM devices. I’m confused about why you think that’s part of the PC market today. Or are you speaking in a context of a few years from now?