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One thing I am excited about when it comes to the Steam Deck is that it has a full desktop Linux mode, which is powered by KDE Plasma and I don't think that's getting the attention it deserves.

Sure, it is primarily a handheld Steam gaming machine. That comes with a lot of excitement due to the power, the form factor, Steam Play Proton being able to play a huge amount of Windows games and much more. Emulation is a big one too, it's likely going to be one of the absolute best portable emulation devices around.

For me though, perhaps just as exciting is the desktop mode. We know the Steam Deck is running a new version of SteamOS, which is based upon Arch Linux with a KDE Plasma desktop mode. Thanks to this, Valve can pull in updates quicker than we would have seen with their older Debian based SteamOS and so upgrades and fixes for the desktop mode can come whenever they're wanted or needed.

The KDE team are obviously keeping a close eye on it too, and the big thing we all know is that having FOSS used in such a huge way like this will end up being a big boon for Plasma. There's nothing like being available on possibly millions of devices to make work progress to make it an ever better experience - one that will ultimately benefit all "normal" desktop Linux users who choose Plasma as their desktop environment.

Pictured - the KDE Plasma desktop.

KDE developer Nate Graham often writes up blog posts going over work done in their "This week in KDE" series who stated in a recent post talking about stability:

This was a major bugfix week, with many important fixes to our core apps as well as the touchscreen experience. More of these are in the pipeline too! We are really trying to improve the stability of our software now that it’s starting to be used in more 3rd-party products like the Steam Deck. The idea is that this will become a virtuous circle of better more stable products leading to more use leading to even better more stable products!

It was a bit of a no-brainer for Valve to go with KDE Plasma too for a number of reasons but I think primarly it comes down to two major points:

  • It looks and feels a lot more like Windows out of the box when compared with GNOME. This is a big point too! There's no argument that Windows is the most-used desktop operating system, anyone saying otherwise is deluded. Having a desktop mode that's closer to it makes sense to ensure users are comfortable and has a better chance of people actually enjoying using it right away. What happens if they enjoy it enough? They might try it out on their actual desktop or laptop.
  • Customization. Valve has a lot more to play with here and a fair bit more control, which links in with them dumping Debian for Arch Linux. While GNOME can be tweaked with extensions, they break often and GNOME consider extensions a "niche" thing so it's not really a good fit for Valve if GNOME will just break them and not really care much.

The future for KDE Plasma is an incredibly bright one.

I'll leave you with a recent joke advert the KDE team recently came up with. On Twitter they said "What would advertisements for different KDE apps look like? KDE Gear ⚙️ 21.08, an update to many of KDE's applications, comes out on Thursday, and we decided to give it a go."

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I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly. Find me on Mastodon.
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BielFPs Aug 10, 2021
I'm not a kde user, but I am a fan of some of their software like Krita and Kdenlive, so I'm happy that their efforts are being recognized and hope that those improves include their wayland compositor too.
Nevertheless Aug 10, 2021
Quoting: BielFPsI'm not a kde user, but I am a fan of some of their software like Krita and Kdenlive, so I'm happy that their efforts are being recognized and hope that those improves include their wayland compositor too.

I would be maybe.. but somehow I have the feeling KDE and Nvidia aren't friends...
Even the installation of Fedora KDE crashes all the time for me.
1xok Aug 10, 2021
I wonder if the whole system is already based on Wayland?

How do the games cope with it? Are they all already running in Soldier containers on the Steam Deck?

It's starting to show that SteamOS 3.0 is not open source (yet).
Sputnik_tr_02 Aug 10, 2021
KDE Plasma is awesome, it was actually one of the reasons that I switch to Linux back in the day.
kokoko3k Aug 10, 2021
I have to point out that it is "powered by Arch Linux" in the sense that is only "Based" on it.
It is *not* running Arch, so any issue an user would have with the new Steamos will have no support at all by Arch Linux community,
BielFPs Aug 10, 2021
Quoting: NeverthelessI would be maybe.. but somehow I have the feeling KDE and Nvidia aren't friends...
The only "friends" Nvidia has on linux are the Mint developers, but Nvidia has no say in steam deck

Quoting: 1xokI wonder if the whole system is already based on Wayland?
The Big picture section will use Gamescope compositor (so yes) but I think the desktop version (KDE) will default to x11 (at least for now)
kalin Aug 10, 2021
I have been hate gnome forever but it works far better compared to kde in my experience.
With kde I always have crashes for random components all the time. When I get amd gpu (2023) I can try kde again
hopefully they learn how to write stable software till then
const Aug 10, 2021
I'm assuming that mobile and mixed platforms will profit the most from this. My guess is that plasma mobile will mature a lot faster now, since people would clearly benefit from a mobile UI when using a 7" screen on the go. Also plasma desktop and mobile might turn from different sessions to different states of the presentation, hopefully per screen.
We want the same for future plasma based phones. When hooked up to a dock with a mouse and a screen available, the second screen should be a full desktop.

Last edited by const on 10 August 2021 at 1:16 pm UTC
omer666 Aug 10, 2021
I've been using both KDE and GNOME and I like them both, however I prefer the GNOME workflow.
Nevertheless we can only rejoice when a project such as a complete open source desktop environment gets backed by a company such as Valve, because everyone will benefit from it.
Naib Aug 10, 2021
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The desktop mode is probably the biggest thing to help Linux adoption.

The Desk booting straight into whatever will replace BigPicture makes it a easy to use portable gaming system and the fact it uses linux under the hood should be transparent to the end user (like Android is build on linux).

Why would a user consider playing with linux? until, at their leisure (ie not forced on them, which is key) they flick to a desktop which behaves like a linux machine and before you know it people will consider installing linux because its not that different - sure filesystem layout, package management ...

The tech savvy lot or the inquisitive lot could easily actively switch while those that are just consumers will still just follow whatever was setup for them.
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