You Can Now Download SteamOS, If You Dare

Valve is attempting to change how PC games are bought and played by putting them in your living room. Part of that is, of course, beta-testing all the gear; the Steam Machine just went out to 300 lucky people who are probably uncomfortably realizing they’re stroking digital nipples as you read this. If you weren’t one of them, you can get in on the fun, however; all you have to do is download the beta version of an operating system! What could be more entertaining?



As you might guess, downloading SteamOS, right now, is less for playing all your games and more for “letting us know how the thing is crashing your rig.” But there are some interesting tidbits in the FAQ for massive nerds who run Linux distributions:

  • SteamOS currently only supports Nvidia cards in beta; AMD and Intel support will be coming soon.
  • You’ll need a 64-bit processor, so basically if you were hoping to bring that PC in the back of your closet back to life, better check the specs first.
  • Honestly, the specs are a little excessive for a Linux distro, out of the gate. Valve wants 4GB memory minimum, and a 500GB hard drive minimum. I know that’s what you need for high-end games, but for what this is, that’s a wee bit excessive.
  • Valve can’t figure out what “dual-boot” means: Currently, installing the beta will completely wipe your machine. That’s kind of ridiculous because it’s based on Debian, which you can install and run on a USB stick. That’s also annoying because Windows games will apparently be “streamed.” From what? Gabe Newell’s office?
  • Any drivers will come from Valve, and considering some of the ramshackle folk-code crap I’ve installed to run obscure hardware as a Linux user, that’s probably for the best.

In other words, it’s definitely a beta. The key thing that stands out is that if you want to knock together a Steam Machine of your own by hitting Newegg for parts, it’s not going to be absurdly expensive. On the low end, bar a few incidentals, it’ll cost you about as much as a current-gen console, and will probably have about as many games. And in theory, you could put the OS and your games on a USB stick and just slot it into any reasonably fast computer at a later date.

Having used Steam for Linux, it’s a work in progress, but it does work. It’ll be interesting to see how SteamOS comes together, as a console system, and what people do with it. Also, the flame wars that will inevitably erupt will be hilarious: If you’ve ever found a PC gamer smug and annoying, just wait until they start trying to interact with the Linux community and tainting their One True Operating System with games.