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

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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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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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micha 12 Sep
Nice, gotta try this as a Steam Deck dev environment for compiling plain C / Vulkan apps on the device itself.
Ardje 12 Sep
Oh thank you very much. I was trying to get debootstrap working on the deck, but it seems to only really work from a debian system.
But a complete lx(c|d) system is all that I wanted to get my deck to be 100% useful for my work.
QuoteFirst up, run these install scripts one after the other in terminal:

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), add these to the bottom:

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

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

Only curious for absolute new comers who may not know what "terminal" is; is it in practice possible to do all this without a terminal? If so, how most effectively?
Is this Microsofts WSL? But for Steam Deck?

LSL?

Joking aside, this looks useful!
fireplace 12 Sep
What’s the difference between this and toolbox in Fedora Silverblue? They look very similar to me.
Quoting: dziadulewicz
QuoteFirst up, run these install scripts one after the other in terminal:

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), add these to the bottom:

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

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

Only curious for absolute new comers who may not know what "terminal" is; is it in practice possible to do all this without a terminal? If so, how most effectively?
I'd say probably not, no.
I hardly ever use the terminal. The way to work like that is to use a user-friendly distro (in my case Mint) and not to try to make it do weird things. Soon as you're trying to do weird stuff, you need the power of the terminal.
Quoting: Purple Library GuyI hardly ever use the terminal. The way to work like that is to use a user-friendly distro (in my case Mint) and not to try to make it do weird things. Soon as you're trying to do weird stuff, you need the power of the terminal.

I have been lately seeing this same statement in many places, forums, etc. "I hardly ever use the terminal" or even "I refuse to use the terminal".

It is kinda telling who has gotten to Linux and from where, how far Linux has come in user friendliness, and what is the preference to use a computer (say, after a long days work). Click click and click
lejimster 12 Sep
Quoting: dziadulewicz
Quoting: Purple Library GuyI hardly ever use the terminal. The way to work like that is to use a user-friendly distro (in my case Mint) and not to try to make it do weird things. Soon as you're trying to do weird stuff, you need the power of the terminal.

I have been lately seeing this same statement in many places, forums, etc. "I hardly ever use the terminal" or even "I refuse to use the terminal".

It is kinda telling who has gotten to Linux and from where, how far Linux has come in user friendliness, and what is the preference to use a computer (say, after a long days work). Click click and click

Tbh, I prefer not to use the terminal where possible as I'm just lazy... But I often end up back in the terminal to do stuff anyway to work around bugs in gui software.
jahid65 12 Sep
Bottles app developers recently published Atoms. It is a gui to create containers and chroot environment. I think distrobox is also supported. It is on flathub.

There are also Podman Desktop and Pods if you need finer management.
Pengling 12 Sep
Quoting: dziadulewiczI have been lately seeing this same statement in many places, forums, etc. "I hardly ever use the terminal" or even "I refuse to use the terminal".

It is kinda telling who has gotten to Linux and from where, how far Linux has come in user friendliness, and what is the preference to use a computer (say, after a long days work). Click click and click
Now that you mention it, I've been noticing that too, and it's nice to see that the options have gotten this good.

For me, it's "It doesn't come up often anymore." (I moved over to Linux when laptop WiFi support reached the point where you had to bring it up/down manually after boot or sleep with ifup/ifdown, because that was fine by me and I knew it'd get even better from there), though I still use it when it's the right tool for the job (I recently had to fix the permissions on some old backups, for example, and that's markedly faster using a terminal, and I like to compile RetroPie for desktop use, for which terminal usage is essential) or when I want to play around with stuff like fortune or BSD Games.

I'm sure that I can't be the only one in that group!
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