Let the Linux gaming begin! Beta Steam Machines are shipping and SteamOS is ready

Valve's Linux-based Steam Machines gaming console starts shipping today to a few beta testers. SteamOS, it's Linux for gamers, is scheduled to be released to everyone at the same time.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

If you're very, very lucky, and live in the United States, you may be one of 300 selected beta testers who will soon receive Valve's Steam Machine and its Linux-based SteamOS for beta testing.

Steam Machines, dedicated Liniux-powered gaming consoles and SteamOS, a dedicated gaming Linux operating system, are on their way.

If you're not that lucky, you'll still be able to download Valve's SteamOS Linux distribution sometime in the next few days. It is believed, but not certain, that this Linux for gamers will be available on December 13th.

Greg Coomer, who works in design and communications at Valve explained on the company Web site 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 worldwide, 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 information on those will be announced at CES on January 6."

Coomer continued, "SteamOS will be made available when the prototype hardware ships. It will be downloadable by individual users and commercial OEMs. (But unless you’re an intrepid Linux hacker already, we’re going to recommend that you wait until later in 2014 to try it out.) We’ll post info soon about that. Oh, and stay tuned for the in-home streaming beta to begin soon, too!"

What Valve hasn't said, but we can surmise from previously released information, is that you're going to need a very, very fast desktop to run SteamOS successfully. The Steam Machines are believed to use Intel Core processors. The only CPU we know for certain that will fully support SteamOS is Intel's quad-core Core i7-4770.

SteamOS also appears to need a lot of memory. The Steam Machines are supposed to come with 16GBs of RAM.

You'll also need a mid-to-high-end Nvidia graphics card. We know the top of the line Steam Machines will use Nvidia's GeForce GTX Titan with its thousand-dollar price tag. Fortunately, you'll also be able to use the more affordable Nvidia GeForce GTX 660, GTX 760 or GTX 780 cards.

Valve's Steam games originally ran on Ubuntu but Valve has gone its own way with its Linux distribution. So, in addition to having some seriously well-muscled hardware, you'd be wise to listen to Coomer when he said that SteamOS in its early days will be for Linux hackers, rather than someone who just wants to play a game.

Still, I have no doubt, come SteamOS's release, I'll be joined with many others who will want to see what a Linux for gamers created by a top gaming company looks like.

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