Valve's Linux-powered Steam Machines gather steam

Valve's Linux-powered Steam Machines gather steam

Summary: Look out Xbox, PS4, and Wii! The first of Valve's SteamOS Linux-powered gaming system prototypes will soon be in a few lucky users hands. Then, in 2014, multiple vendors will be selling Steam Machine PCs and gaming consoles.

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Linux-powered gaming computers and consoles are on their way. After announcing SteamOS, a full-featured Linux with added gaming features, Valve, in mid-September, the gaming giant has followed up by saying that it will release 300 prototype Steam Machines to beta-testers this year. In 2014, Valve and its hardware partners will follow this up by with multiple SteamOS machine releases

Steam Machines
Valve's SteamOS Linux-powered Steam Machines will soon be on their way to your gaming or living room.

If you want to get your hands on a beta box in 2013 then you'll have to jump through the following hoops:

And, after all that, cross your fingers and hope that you're one of the 300 beta testers.

This prototype hardware is being "designed for users who want the most control possible over their hardware. Other, future, devices will be optimized for size, price, quietness, or other factors."

We don't know a lot about what will be in these devices. But, we do know now that they'll include NVIDIA graphics.

After years of not working and playing well with Linux distributions, NVIDIA has started releasing documentation on its high-end graphics cards to the open-source community . NVIDIA confirmed that the company will finally be backing Linux in a SteamOS related blog.

Mark Smith, NVIDIA's senior technical evangelist wrote, "Engineers from Valve and NVIDIA have spent a lot of time collaborating on a common goal for SteamOS: To deliver an open-platform gaming experience with superior performance and uncompromising visuals directly on the big screen."

In particular, Smith continued, "NVIDIA engineers embedded at Valve collaborated on improving driver performance for OpenGL; optimizing performance on NVIDIA GPUs; helping to port Valve’s award-winning content library to SteamOS (PDF link); and tuning SteamOS to lower latency, or lag, between the controller and onscreen action."

If NVIDIA keeps its word, Linus Torvalds may finally take the company off his personal hate list. In 2012, Torvalds famously swore at NVIDIA and called it,  "The single worst company we've [the Linux community] ever dealt with."

If you don't want to wait for a small chance at a beta system, Valve also has just stated that you'll soon be able to download SteamOS and its source code. Yes, that means SteamOS is going to be a full Linux and the programmers among you will be able to tweak SteamOS to work just the way you want it to.

We also still don't know much about what's what in SteamOS. We have reason to believe, however, that Valve is building SteamOS on top of Ubuntu 12.04. This seems likely since the Steam gaming client was first released on Ubuntu in February 2013.

Once SteamOS is released, Valve assures users that they'll be able to build their own Steam Machines. Further, Valve stated that hackers will be able to install their own operating system, change the hardware, and install additional software on the forthcoming Steam Machines. In other words, Valve CEO Gabe Newell, who proclaimed that "Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space" in part of its move to more closed systems, really does seem to want SteamOS to be truly open source and for Steam Machines to be really open systems not locked down by Secure Boot.

As for game play, Valve has stated that there are nearly 3,000 games on Steam. Hundreds are already running natively on "SteamOS, with more to come. The rest will work seamlessly via in-home streaming."

To use the Steam Machines in a living room you will be able to use a keyboard and mouse, but the devices will also work well with gamepads. It also sounds like Valve may have its own plans for a gaming controller. The company concluded its Steam Machines announcement with, " we have some more to say very soon on the topic of input."

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Topics: Hardware, Consumerization, Linux, PCs

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36 comments
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  • 3rd announcement in 2 days

    Most rumors seem to point at a Steam controller also being the 3rd annoucement. I can't wait to download the OS and test it. A free OS would lower the cost of a gaming pc (especially for low end ones).
    Jean-Pierre-
  • Streaming

    I just want to know how the streaming will work. If this works like the Nvidia shield (requires a high end graphics card) then I won't be bothering with this at all.
    msftds
    • Just curious msftds

      We are talking about gaming here, and you are not interested if it requires a high end graphics card?

      So are you saying your current gaming system is using the $10 integrated video card?
      anothercanuck
      • nvidia is not the only choice

        there is AMD, you know. I'd go with the latter because being so sick and tired of Nvidia bugs dealt with over and over. Yes, and I am not really interested in games ;-)
        eulampius
        • go ahead

          flag me Nvidia as much as you want, still it's good to remember what Linus had told you. Need a reminder?
          "Nvidia, F&^@ck you!"
          So stay focused.
          eulampius
        • ...except AMD under linux has always sucked worse

          Sorry but AMD under Linux is a complete joke. Yes nVidia drivers are currently closed (and they are finally doing something about it) but nVidia GPUs do and always have actually worked better under Linux than AMD, especially with 3D gaming and/or media playing and/or GPGPU stuff. Which is pretty much everything really.
          neilcoo
          • you are wrong

            most of AMD/ATI cards and FPUs work right out of the box, well in are stable. As well as the Intel cards. Nvidia almost always sucked for me.
            eulampius
    • streaming

      I suspect the streaming will work fine if the machine that is the "server" can run the game fine, and you are on your local network. Probably if you take grandpa's 286sx out of the closet, it won't run or be able to stream HL3. But we shall see. its all speculation at the moment.
      andrew@...
  • Everything picks up speed

    when driving off a cliff. You want something that sticks around for years to come while being the best then you get the new XBox. Even the older Xbox's are better then this crap will ever be.
    Troll Hunter J
    • XBOX may be dropped by new CEO

      XBOX is a drag on Microsoft. The new CEO may get rid of it so Valve wants to own that space and it wouldn't make sense to put a proprietary OS on a device which they want to wholly own. Companies don't like depending off of other companies. Some people don't even depend on the electric company and create their own power.
      Tim Jordan
    • Come 2014, I see lots of being fragged in Troll Hunter J's future

      As SteamOS users with much higher FPS kicking THJ's butt all over the arena.
      anothercanuck
      • So will I be able to play

        Crysis, Starcraft and such?
        Fail
        martin_js
    • You do standup?

      I think you are just in denial consoles have never competed with PC gaming which this is just an extension of. Console gaming has been slowly dying the last few years SteamOS just hastens their inevitable closed platform demise.
      ammohunt
      • Yeah, nobody bought that new gta game

        Consoles are dead. Steam is our savior...or gnu steam, as I've taken to calling it.
        otaddy
      • Console gaming dying?

        Please provide links to that FACT you just stated. Sony has topped 1 million pre-orders. I am sure the Xbone has sold a few but we wont get those numbers out of Microsoft anytime soon.
        paebin2s
    • it seems

      that whatever Microsoft touches is crap.
      eulampius
      • Careful, grasshopper

        Microsoft has "touched" the Linux kernel.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
        • Rabbi, no worries

          MS just touched what I remove from my kernels. It's pretty safe then.
          uname -a
          Linux mydebian 3.11.1-custom+ #2 SMP Sun Sep 15 14:17:39 CDT 2013 x86_64 GNU/Linux
          eulampius@mydebian ~ $ grep -i microsoft /boot/config-$(uname -r)
          # Microsoft Hyper-V guest support
          # CONFIG_HID_MICROSOFT is not set
          the rest my boxes use the same kernel(s).
          eulampius
    • Troll Hunter J

      That handle reads a bit like a deer claiming that it is a deer hunter.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Cannibalism?

        It was an amusing mental picture.
        John Zern