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Chrome OS appears to be edging closer to Steam support with Linux

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Looks like Linux gaming may get yet another boost, thanks to Google? Yes. Backing up previous information on Steam support coming to Chrome OS it looks like the project is still going.

This isn't some kind of wild rumour either, given the previous info with Google's own Kan Liu confirming their plans. This time the report comes from 9to5Google, which points out something being worked on called "Borealis" which appears to be a kind of Virtual Machine with a full copy of Ubuntu and Steam pre-installed and ready to go. It's interesting as they already had Crostini with Debian but it appears they're going a different way for Steam.

While Google now have Stadia to bring gaming to almost any device out there, they of course want more to people to buy their own devices with Chrome OS and enabling more gaming is a big way to push them. This is where Steam comes in, since it already supports Linux and Chrome OS is built from Linux.

Chromebooks are steadily getting more powerful too, as they bring in newer generation Intel processors that can handle a bit of a load and it appears AMD Ryzen Chromebooks will also enter the scene soon. So with Steam on Linux and more powerful internals, things are aligning for more serious gaming on Chrome OS.

Since Chromebooks are incredibly popular devices, being able to tap into another big market would be a welcome boon for Linux gaming as a whole.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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26 comments
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Eike 2 Jul
Would it be so hard to make Steam run directly on ChromeOS that they prefer some VM solution?


Last edited by Eike on 2 July 2020 at 10:26 am UTC
razing32 2 Jul
Don't Chromebooks have soldered in SSDs ? OF all things ?

Also , i barely trust google as a search engine let alone an OS provider.

Really wondering if in the future Linux will be the only OS(bedsides some BSD distros) that you actually KNOW doesn;t have telemetry baked in
WorMzy 2 Jul
Don't chromebooks use ARM processors? If so, then they need *something* to emulate a x86 processor in order to make this a worthwhile exercise. I guess that's why they've gone for a VM solution (qemu can emulate x86: https://www.qemu.org/docs/master/system/target-i386.html). No idea what the performance will be like though.
Linas 2 Jul
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I find Googles direction for Chromebooks very confusing. It's supposed to be this simple unbreakable mom'n'pop computer. But then they add Crostini, which is a full-blow VM, which doesn't even allow calling the host kernel, or direct access to the hardware. Literally everything is virtualized. That's why it has taken them forever to implement basic features such as clipboard sharing, or access to the filesystem. This is the exact opposite of simple.

Sure you can switch between different guest distributions relatively simply (if you are good with the command line), but why exactly? Who is this for? It's not pretty experience for a Linux user, because you are locked down in a limited VM. And certainly not something your average user would want to go through.

I would find Chromebook way more attractive if it was running a more standard Linux distribution with Google and Android apps nicely integrated into the system. Security-wise something like SELinux with a signed kernel would be perfectly adequate for keeping the system safe and sound. No unnecessarily paranoid VM needed.
M@GOid 2 Jul
I see ChromeOS as a good way to trick people too scared of Linux to use it. Since it didn't have Linux on its name nor it is easily found in its literature, people actually try it because of the weight of the Google and Chrome names.

Yesterday a youtuber from a tech channel I follow, said he will never use Linux on his PCs because "I like to do work on my computer, not work on my computer". The poor bastard, while being a tech nerd, completely missed that he actually do a ton of his work on a Linux machine...
tuubi 2 Jul
Quoting: WorMzyDon't chromebooks use ARM processors?

Apparently not all of them.
Quoting: Liam DaweChromebooks are steadily getting more powerful too, as they bring in newer generation Intel processors that can handle a bit of a load and it appears AMD Ryzen Chromebooks will also enter the scene soon.
minkiu 2 Jul
Quoting: WorMzyDon't chromebooks use ARM processors? If so, then they need *something* to emulate a x86 processor in order to make this a worthwhile exercise. I guess that's why they've gone for a VM solution (qemu can emulate x86: https://www.qemu.org/docs/master/system/target-i386.html). No idea what the performance will be like though.

I think wine works on arm to a certain extent? https://wiki.winehq.org/ARM
Nanobang 2 Jul
Whenever I think of Google using Linux, I think of how Google make things from that can't be used in Linux.

I can't get any more excited about Chrome OS than I can about Android ... both of which are based on Linux, but neither of which are actually Linux --- thus the need for a VM to run Linux's Steam client.

I really don't feel gaming on Chrome OS is any more appropriate to Linux gaming than gaming on Android is, really.
Quoting: WorMzyDon't chromebooks use ARM processors?
There are Intel and AMD Chromebooks as well.
peta77 2 Jul
Quoting: NanobangWhenever I think of Google using Linux, I think of how Google make things from that can't be used in Linux.

I can't get any more excited about Chrome OS than I can about Android ... both of which are based on Linux, but neither of which are actually Linux --- thus the need for a VM to run Linux's Steam client.

I really don't feel gaming on Chrome OS is any more appropriate to Linux gaming than gaming on Android is, really.

Well, one thing to remember here: Linux is just the kernel! It's not a full OS like MS-Windows, MacOS, etc. So Android & ChromeOS are Linux but that doesn't mean they're compatible with GNU/Linux distros and LSB-compliant.

So this makes would make it rather questionable if it would help for the type of Linux gaming discussed here if Steam and the games would be native versions for ChromeOS. But as they seem to have a VM with Ubuntu it will surely massively increase the audience / possible customers for SteamOS compatible games which might attract more developers. Though a VM seems rather inappropriate. I remember the Wrapper-stuff VirtualProgramming did and that had some issues that never got fixed (or the early "ports" didn't get patched).

So the question is, how long it will stay in that state and if google tries to "force" getting native ChromeOS versions and how Valve and other developers will react to that. I think it will have an effect short-term, but long-term I'm very unsure where this will be heading. But I'll keep hoping that developers will realize that platform independence is the best way to keep their customers with dynamic OS environment situations as we're experiencing shifts right now.
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