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Seems Valve do intend to go back to SteamOS at some point

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SteamOS, the Valve-made Linux distribution that was originally for the failed Steam Machine initiative has gradually vanished into the sidelines but it seems it won't be forever.

A while ago, we did see indications that Valve would work on SteamOS 3.0 "Clockwerk" back in 2018 but they've still been very quiet on it since apart from a few minor package updates to SteamOS 2 "Brewmaster".

Valve have been extremely active on other fronts though of course. As a quick bit of history: for Linux they put out Steam Play Proton, the ACO shader compiler for AMD, this new Steam Linux Runtime container system, the micro-compositor Gamescope and there's more with people working on all sorts under contract for Valve to improve Linux.

Still, SteamOS though, what are Valve going to do with it? Sounds like when they go back to it eventually, it might not be Debian-based. In a GitHub issue on the SteamOS page about it "languishing", another user replied with an email from Valve developer Pierre-Loup A. Griffais:

Yes, definitely lots of work still going on. Right now the focus is on core technology itself rather than distributing it, but we intend to get back to that in the future. I wouldn't expect much more movement on Debian-based Brewmaster at this point, however.

"Debian-based Brewmaster"—huh? Speculation here, but that sounds like they might be looking at a different base for whatever SteamOS 3.0 turns into.

One day then, we can clearly expect to see some movement on SteamOS once Valve get all the pieces of the Linux gaming puzzle into a state where they're truly happy with properly pushing it again. Perhaps, this will be after we finally find out what the heck Steam Cloud Gaming(#1, #2) turns out to be? Whenever we find out, we will of course let you know.

Thanks for the tag, mdeguzis.

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Mumrik93 25 Mar
Not so sure about this, man, they should stick to Debian, not only would that be better for all other Distros since it will make it a LOT easier to optimize anything from valve to all other distros in the linux world, also Debian is way more stable then anything else, if it works on Debian it will most likely work everywhere else!
Mohandevir 25 Mar
GamerOS is a good exemple of what an arch based SteamOS 3.0 could be. Something similar to Recalbox or RetroArch too... But not being debian based doesn't, imo, prevent an Ubuntu based spin of SteamOS. Like it or not, Canonical is still a big player, on the Linux scene and could be an asset to SteamOS, as much as Redhat or even Intel, to name a few. But as Scaine said, the typical console user to whom it is targeted doesn't care about what's under the hood, as long as it works, updates automatically and has a large library of recent, playable and bug free AAA games.

But, and there is a big BUT... Please... Please... Please... Valve, stop advertising games on SteamOS, that are only playable on Windows. It doesn't make any sense.

Last edited by Mohandevir on 25 March 2020 at 1:08 pm UTC
grigi 25 Mar
Dunno, I dropped using Manjaro (which is arch based) due to regular breakage. It's just one user on one os, but I was distinctly unimpressed at how unstable it was for me. I need to use my computer for work too.
TimeFreeze 25 Mar
Whats all that talk about Debian vs Arch? We all know Valve will base the next SteamOS on Gentoo :P
Hori 25 Mar
rustybroomhandleI think Arch-based would be the sensible option here. Arch-derived distros just seem way more stable and upgrade-fubar-proof than debian-derived ones.
All's fine until someone decides that GNOME should be released ahead of schedule for some reason and completely breaks it for all Nvidia users with 4K displays...
(Yes, I'm still mad about that decision, especially since it took a while for them to solve it)

In any case, I'm a big Arch Linux fan but I still wouldn't exactly call it a "stable" distro. It sure works very well most of the time and it's rare that I have to fix anything... but it does happen sometimes, and when it does it's pretty much always directly related to the fact that the thing that broke came fresh out of the build process, and other distros that get it later don't have those issues.

All in all, they could still base it on Arch and provide their own repos for "sensitive" stuff for which they want to have more control over. Plus they have the advantage that all SteamOS installations will be pretty much the same, with very few, if any, customisations. Of course, if the user decides to "get out of the sandbox" (most won't) and do things his own way, sure, things could break, but it would be the user's responsibility to foresee and handle those issues.

Last edited by Hori on 25 March 2020 at 1:57 pm UTC
grigi 25 Mar
TimeFreezeWhats all that talk about Debian vs Arch? We all know Valve will base the next SteamOS on Gentoo :P
Honestly, not the worst idea, as they can then generate the exact binaries they want to. Gentoo makes it easy to generate a slimlined OS.
But probably not.
That's the joy of Linux. You can use whatever distro you like and then go online to have religious battles about it. :)
Dunc 25 Mar
grigiAll in all, they could still base it on Arch and provide their own repos for "sensitive" stuff for which they want to have more control over.
Exactly. They might even use their own repos for everything. Nobody's suggesting they'll just ship stock Arch with Valve branding. We're talking about basing it on Arch (or Gentoo, or something else): either taking a snapshot of the repos every so often and thoroughly testing it, like Canonical do with Debian, or using the Arch tools - ABS, pacman, etc. - to build their own distro from scratch.

Of course, we don't even know if they are dropping Debian. Maybe Pierre-Loup misspoke. Or maybe they're moving to Ubuntu, to bring it in line with the runtime (that always seemed strange to me; why use an Ubuntu-based runtime environment, but “standard” Debian for your distro?). But basing it on Arch wouldn't be the craziest thing in the world.
Linas 25 Mar
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scaineIt could a rolling release under the hood, but it'll still be controlled by Valve, assuming they do it "the console way".
I think something like CoreOS or RancherOS is more likely. Just download a minimal OS image as a single blob and overwrite the whole thing. No dependencies, no update breakage. Just like flashing firmware. They are already working on containerizing the games, so they can ship all the dependencies alongside the game, and not have to worry about system dependencies.

Another possibility is using Steam itself for downloading system files. They already have a way to quickly and reliably download large chunks of data, and Proton downloads are "system" files in a way already. There is nothing preventing them from writing data to /usr instead of your home directory. Well, you'd have to tweak the security model, but there are solutions for that like SELinux.

This is all speculation. A semi-educated one.
scratchi 25 Mar
TimeFreezeWhats all that talk about Debian vs Arch? We all know Valve will base the next SteamOS on Gentoo :P

Agreed :)

ChromeOS uses Gentoo, so maybe Valve is looking at a similar approach (Steam Cloud and all).
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