Sunday, December 22, 2013

SteamOS Beta: Installation and Test

Despite my stance on DRM (I abhor the entire concept for many, many reasons, but that's for another post), due to demands gentle encouragement from friends I decided to try out Steam (and specifically, SteamOS) and see what it's all about.

At this point SteamOS is in Beta, and while it's got a lot of areas to iron out, once you get it installed it works pretty well, including fully functional AMD GPU drivers despite no official support.

Initially I tried to run this on my old Core 2 Quad system, but the install failed because the BIOS wasn't new enough (needed to have UEFI Boot option). But on a newer machine the install process was much smoother. It was a fairly low-specced machine with the following parts: Intel G1610, 2GB RAM, AMD HD7770, 128GB Sandisk Ultra Plus SSD.

SteamOS desktop

Here are the steps:

  • I chose the option, mainly because I thought the CloneZilla-based image option wouldn't work because I didn't have a 1TB HDD, which was apparently required for the image.
  • Instead of following the installer instructions in the SteamOS FAQ, I converted it to an ISO using the following command:
  • grub-mkrescue -o SteamOS.iso steam/
  • Next I put the ISO on a flash drive (using Unetbootin or ISO writer of choice). I discovered that even with the ISO, UEFI boot is required.
  • Selected "Automated Install" from the boot list. Everything went smoothly for me from this point.
  • Initially I was just running with Intel onboard graphics. After install, I plugged in the HD7770. It picked up the fglrx_pci drivers and "just worked" which was nice.
  • The first time, you have to run "steam" from the console. It downloads and installs Steam (about 220MB). After installing and creating my account, it "crashed" (spat out a crash ID anyway). I restarted using the "Steam" icon on the desktop, which worked fine.

The first game I installed was Killing Floor. I was only running it at 1680x1050 (using an old monitor), but it looked great at High settings.

Killing Floor on SteamOS at 1450x900

Only games with a Linux target will work. Non-linux games appear in the Steam client window, but don't have an "Install" button. I assume that someone will work out how to get a wine option to run Windows only games via SteamOS, but I haven't tried this yet.

Things of interest to note:

  • The installer erases the target drive, and potentially any other drives plugged in. I installed on a fresh system to make sure no data was accidentally lost.
  • USB drives mount as read-only by default, and the "steam" user doesn't have permission to do even that. Makes it a pain trying to transfer screenshots or anything between computers.
  • The software sources are limited basically to Steam repos. I assume you can add other sources in, but haven't explored this.

Friday, December 13, 2013

GOG: If Only There Was Support For...

Update 27 Jul 2014:

GoG has announced support for Linux. Currently there are 50 or so games.

Original post (13 Dec 2013):

In the past I've bought quite a few games from awesome DRM-free games site Good Old Games. But it's been a while now, primarily because I haven't used Windows for a couple of years.

They send me regular emails like this one, asking me to come back:

And I keep saying "I'd love to buy more stuff, but none of the games will run on Linux".

I understand why they can't support the platform, so I'm not blaming them, but it makes me sad, because I'd love to support their efforts.