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Distrobox can open up the Steam Deck to a whole new world

By - | Views: 58,133

Distrobox is a way to use pretty much any other Linux distribution in your terminal, along with full GUI apps and now it supports the Steam Deck with SteamOS too.

The update released a few days ago had some issues (#1, #2, #3), which I reported to the developer and they've since fixed up the installers and the documentation for Steam Deck. So with that in mind, I took it for a spin to see how it works and I've been thoroughly impressed with how easy it is.

It gives you a container system to install other distributions. So for the likes of SteamOS on the Steam Deck, without messing with the root filesystem, you can install something like Ubuntu and access everything it has available. Useful for software not available via Flathub (Discover) or elsewhere.

Here's a short video overview of the basic setup and running some apps from Ubuntu on Steam Deck:

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Guide (official link):

First up, run these install scripts one after the other in a terminal app (like Konsole on Steam Deck):

curl -s https://raw.githubusercontent.com/89luca89/distrobox/main/install | sh -s -- --prefix ~/.local

curl -s https://raw.githubusercontent.com/89luca89/distrobox/main/extras/install-podman | sh -s -- --prefix ~/.local

Next up, we need to add the directories it uses into our .bashrc file, so we can run commands as normal in terminal. In your .bashrc file (found in your Home folder), open it in a text editor and add these to the bottom:

export PATH=$HOME/.local/bin:$PATH

export PATH=$HOME/.local/podman/bin:$PATH

Now you can install a Linux distribution with Distrobox, with Ubuntu as the example (in terminal again):

distrobox create -i ubuntu:20.04

Then once done, you can enter it:

distrobox enter ubuntu-20-04

This is where the fun begins. Now you can install or do whatever you like, inside Ubuntu. However, you also need to add this to your .bashrc file to run graphical applications / games on Steam Deck:

xhost +si:localuser:$USER

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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About the author -
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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.
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31 comments
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Quoting: BlackBloodRumI mean, for example let's create a hypothetical situation that any user could run into, let's say you are managing multiple servers
Hee!
Let's say I'm not doing that, shall we?
elmapul 13 Sep
so... linux subsystem for linux?
Quoting: PenglingI checked the man page to learn what exactly this command is doing since I haven't seen the -p and -v flags before, and I didn't even know that this was a thing that could be done - thanks for this one, it ought to come in handy at some point! This is one of those things that falls under my "right tool for the job" criteria.
Oh.. copy and paste yes I suppose there is that I hadn't thought of that

Still that involves going into each folder to paste

Quoting: Purple Library Guy
Quoting: BlackBloodRumI mean, for example let's create a hypothetical situation that any user could run into, let's say you are managing multiple servers
Hee!
Let's say I'm not doing that, shall we?


Okay, another example with the same idea.

Let's say you want to organize your music library by genre and by year

So again, hypothetically a layout as follows:

Music
- Classical
- 1990
- 1991
- (etc util 2022)
- Country Western
- 1990
- 1991
- (etc util 2022)
- Rap
- 1990
- 1991
- (etc util 2022)
- Raggae
- 1990
- 1991
- (etc util 2022)
- Rock
- 1990
- 1991
- (etc util 2022)

 
$ cd ~/Music
$ mkdir -p -v {'Classical','Country Western',"Rap",'Raggae','Rock'}/{1990..2022}


Simples and effective
Liam Dawe 13 Sep
Quoting: SupaySo, you also post an article about how much you're loving that Disney game. And you make the headline for this as "Distrobox can open up the Steam Deck to a whole new world". Were you singing the last part in your head while writing this?
👀 👀 no comment.
Quoting: BlackBloodRum
Quoting: PenglingI checked the man page to learn what exactly this command is doing since I haven't seen the -p and -v flags before, and I didn't even know that this was a thing that could be done - thanks for this one, it ought to come in handy at some point! This is one of those things that falls under my "right tool for the job" criteria.
Oh.. copy and paste yes I suppose there is that I hadn't thought of that

Still that involves going into each folder to paste

Quoting: Purple Library Guy
Quoting: BlackBloodRumI mean, for example let's create a hypothetical situation that any user could run into, let's say you are managing multiple servers
Hee!
Let's say I'm not doing that, shall we?


Okay, another example with the same idea.

Let's say you want to organize your music library by genre and by year

So again, hypothetically a layout as follows:

Music
- Classical
- 1990
- 1991
- (etc util 2022)
- Country Western
- 1990
- 1991
- (etc util 2022)
- Rap
- 1990
- 1991
- (etc util 2022)
- Raggae
- 1990
- 1991
- (etc util 2022)
- Rock
- 1990
- 1991
- (etc util 2022)

 
$ cd ~/Music
$ mkdir -p -v {'Classical','Country Western',"Rap",'Raggae','Rock'}/{1990..2022}


Simples and effective
Now that makes total sense to me. Except the part where a "Country Western" category exists, of course.
Oh? Is it not called country western? Just called country? I don't know

Me and non-metal music is like a first-time computer user and BSD[1], it just doesn't happen. So I just picked more modern genres I figure modern people listen to in order to be relatable to them

I'm no music expert and the closest I come to playing a musical instrument is a plastic guitar on a video game

[1] I'm now fully expecting someone replies soon to say their first computer experience was with BSD
Pengling 13 Sep
Quoting: BlackBloodRum

Okay, another example with the same idea.

Let's say you want to organize your music library by genre and by year
Quoting: Purple Library GuyNow that makes total sense to me. Except the part where a "Country Western" category exists, of course.
My use-case for this will be categorising the photographs of my collection of Bomberman items as it gets bigger... My wallet's not gonna get out of next year's 40th anniversary unscathed!

Quoting: Liam Dawe
Quoting: SupaySo, you also post an article about how much you're loving that Disney game. And you make the headline for this as "Distrobox can open up the Steam Deck to a whole new world". Were you singing the last part in your head while writing this?
👀 👀 no comment.
Well, you have excellent taste in music.


Last edited by Pengling on 13 September 2022 at 6:57 pm UTC
fabertawe 14 Sep
"install-podman" wouldn't work until I'd set a password for user "deck". Also, trying to use the on screen keyboard is a total pain, especially with no CTRL and arrow keys.

So... attach a proper keyboard until I've set up SSH access. Looks promising though. I'm also going to create an encrypted dir with EncFS for my (Pale Moon) browser profile, etc.
Quoting: fabertawe"install-podman" wouldn't work until I'd set a password for user "deck". Also, trying to use the on screen keyboard is a total pain, especially with no CTRL and arrow keys.

So... attach a proper keyboard until I've set up SSH access. Looks promising though. I'm also going to create an encrypted dir with EncFS for my (Pale Moon) browser profile, etc.
You'd have had to set a password for the deck user to configure ssh access anyway, so no worries!

The good news is the deck won't ask you for that password unless you're doing something in terminal, ssh etc.

Oh, and if you add / edit any files in /etc, those changes will persist across steam deck updates.

Anyway, regarding input, yeah in its default state trying to do anything via keyboard is a pain in a certain area south from your head[1]

But there's good news! You can reconfigure the controller layout from steam preferences in desktop mode, which means you can quickly add other keys.

Personally I set it as follows, and found the whole thing much easier to use:
R2 = Enter key press
DPad = U / D / R / L Arrow keys
A Button = Left click
B Button = Right click
X Button = C keyboard key
Y Button = V keyboard key
L1 = Control key
R1 = Y keyboard key
Right side joystick = Mouse movement

I much prefer this way because it means I don't have to touch the screen and leave fingerprints all over it 😂

Naturally your preference will differ, but it's just my 2c 🫡

Enjoy your deck 😃

[1] Trying to keep to the rules and avoiding bad language


Last edited by BlackBloodRum on 14 September 2022 at 10:50 am UTC
Michael_V 25 Sep
Hi, this guide works great, but I've run into issues when trying to make a link to the program I'm trying to run, since I dont want to have to open the terminal everytime I want to run Vivaldi, but it doesn't want to work. Any way you could make a follow up vid which expands on that, or anyone in the comments wants to help? Here is a link to the forum post I made to hopefully expound on my issue.https://www.gamingonlinux.com/forum/topic/5433/
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