Valve Software’s Steam is the number one digital game distribution service, with more than 65 million registered accounts. Steam runs on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux x86/amd64 computers, and provides access to several thousand games, at varying price points – an enormous growth from less than a dozen games for Windows only about a decade ago. Valve’s latest endeavour has been to bring their storefront into the living room, with a three-pronged attack: a new game controller, a programme of licensed x86 “consoles” to plug into the family TV, and an OS to run on the “Steam Machines” to tie it all together.
December saw the first public release of their “SteamOS” – which, as it turns out, is basically just a preconfigured desktop Linux. Specifically, it’s a Debian Wheezy derivative, comprising a subset of 502 source packages from Wheezy; 8 of Valve’s own source packages; and 51 source packages which have been either patched compared to Wheezy, backported from post-Wheezy, or both. For example, the compiler used by default is gcc-4.7 (rather than Wheezy’s 4.6) and the libc version postdates Wheezy too.
Valve’s official instructions and installer release concerned quite a few people who had planned to try SteamOS on an older PC, by mandating a large (500GB) hard disk and a PC with UEFI firmware. Very quickly a number of instructions started appearing from people trying to fix what people felt were real issues – specifically provision for BIOS-based computers, and installation from optical media.
After being assured that redistribution of derivatives of SteamOS were entirely authorized (and, in fact, encouraged) I decided to produce my own variant, calling upon my own experience with debian-installer modification from past and present jobs, as well as calling upon the skills and experience of the UK Debian community as needed.
The end result is Ye Olde SteamOSe.
This weekend saw the third release of Ye Olde SteamOSe, a derivative designed to greatly widen the pool of computers capable of running Valve’s OS. And unlike the first two releases, the public response this time has been crazy. Like, totally crazy. Combined score across several subreddits totals about 1700. 7 pages of Google search results. Hundreds of tweets. Mentions in dozens of blogs around the world. Coverage on the Linux Action Show. Unilaterally added to Softpedia’s list of distributions. Almost 2000 views of a video installation walkthrough I posted on YouTube. Crazy.
Sadly the idea to try and track visitors to the page didn’t occur to me until long after the initial rush subsided, but 1000 visitors on Tuesday for a news story which landed on Sunday is still pretty hot in my book.
It’s also interesting to observe the demographics of site visitors – the #1 referrer on Tuesday was Dutch PC site Tweakers.net, and StumbleUpon outranks reddit for referrals. About 66% of visitors interested in installing my Debian Wheezy derivative derivative came using Windows (20% using Linux), which suggests there’s a lot of potential Linux users out amongst the Windows gamer masses.
So what’s the purpose of this self-congratulatory blog post? Just dick-waving? Well, there’s an element of that (I’m only human), but I think it might be nice to alert the audience on Planet Debian/Ubuntu, many of whom are not big gamers, to the “next big thing” in “embedded” Linux – except this time a real GNU/X.org/sysVinit distribution, not some NIH thing like Android.
So now you know!