If you were like me then when you heard Valve was delaying Steam Machines to 2015 you were bummed. We might not be able to buy our shiny new hardware yet BUT that doesn't mean you can't play around with the next best thing. Valve's Steam Machines will run on top of SteamOS, a modified version of Linux. Valve has made SteamOS publicly available BUT it's not the easiest thing to install yet. In the meantime you can get your feet wet with Linux using the next best thing, Ubuntu Linux. Ubuntu is a Linux distribution that has been around for a few years and as it currently sits, i'd argue it's the easiest way to run a Linux Desktop. It also has the added benefit of being one of the easiest ways to install Steam on Linux as Valve directly supports it.

So if you want to try Steam on Ubuntu to get a feel Linux and what SteamOS might look like, head over to the Ubuntu site and download an install DVD image.

I recommend installing Ubuntu on a computer that you don't mind wiping. You can run a dual boot setup, but unless you want to possibly screw up your machine, I wouldn't recommend it. If you have the extra hardware use that. The install process is pretty painless and all told I find installing Ubuntu much simpler than Windows.

After installing Ubuntu you will need to install the proper video card driver. Ubuntu has a nice wiki outlining the steps you need to take.

After your video card drivers are setup all you need to do is install Steam. Under Ubuntu it's a very similar process to Windows, go to the Steam website click download and install the file from the Steam website. After you do that, the Steam icon will appear in the doc and click to run it. After the updates, you authenticate into Steam and pick your game to install and play.

If you don't have a spare machine lying around you can also choose to install Ubuntu inside a virtual machine. A virtual machine is a program that lets you run a "guest Operating System" inside your current one. So you could run Ubuntu inside your Windows Desktop using a Virtual Machine. If you are interested in going this route there are a few things to consider. First off you will need space on your hard drive for the guest OS. So if you wanted to use 20 gigs for Ubuntu, you would need 20 gigs of spare space on your hard drive. Also, Virtualization isn't as fast as running a native Operating System so performance suffers some. Also, the guest OS must share the resources of the parent computer so games don't run very well. Some 2D and 3D games can work OK, but you will __NOT__ be pulling 60 FPS on Call of Duty.

If you are interested in Virtualization, I recommend downloading Virtual Box.

I have recently updated my Ubuntu install to the latest version 14.04 and to date, it is the most polished Linux Desktop i've ever used. It handles everything I can throw at it from listening to music, watching videos and now playing a ton of games through Steam. Linux really does just about everything anyone could need except running Windows only applications like Photoshop and certain Video Editing applications(That said you can use Wine to get a ton of Windows applications to work). That said, I don't do a ton of that stuff, so for me, it's totally fine.

When I look at PC gaming and it's future and see how Microsoft is changing what Windows is, I am not impressed. Valve putting it's weight behind Linux as a viable gaming platform is a great thing and sooner or later it will be viable for many to switch to using Linux exclusively. It's already a great option for some and if you are interested in checking it out, I seriously recommend you do because it's a good time to try it out.

Travis   Admin wrote on 06/25/2014 at 02:18am

As far as dual booting goes, I will say that I've never had an issue with setting up dual boot. However, when you're ready to partition your drive for Ubuntu, it's very easy to click a button and wipe out everything. So, while it's easy to set up dual-boot, be sure you know what you're doing.

Travis   Admin wrote on 06/25/2014 at 03:18am

Oh! And for that Steam Machine feel, you can also do this:

The system will start up in Steam Big Picture.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 06/25/2014 at 03:27am

"For Dat Steam Machine feels..."

Travis   Admin wrote on 06/29/2014 at 10:00pm

So in the past on Ubuntu you've installed Gnome and used that. Are you sticking with Unity this time?

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 06/30/2014 at 02:21am

I think I am. I moved away from it before because it wasn't great but I have no problems with this particular version. It's much snappier than before and as I think about it more I can't remember what my problem with the old one was, but whatever it was I don't seem to have it anymore.

Travis   Admin wrote on 06/30/2014 at 03:21am

It's interesting, because in the past the reason I stuck with Unity was because Gnome 3 sucked, but it's gotten better and I'm thinking of using it.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 06/30/2014 at 03:23am

Gnome 3 is really great after you make a few tweaks to it. With Unity or Gnome 3 on the latest versions I don't really have a problem with either.

To be honest they really do just about the same thing except Gnome 3 doesn't ship with a dock by default(it really should).

Travis   Admin wrote on 06/30/2014 at 03:29am

Well, it has a dock but it's hidden in the activities menu, which is an odd choice. Overall my problem with Gnome 3 has been the bizarre defaults that take an act of congress to change. That's still an issue, but it's gotten better.

That said, it's started crashing a lot. I've barely used this new version but these crashes are not a good sign.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 06/30/2014 at 03:30am

Are you using the latest version of Ubuntu and some Gnome 3 PPA?

Travis   Admin wrote on 06/30/2014 at 04:22pm

I'm actually talking about the latest version of Gnome that's available for Ubuntu by default. I don't want to mess around with PPAs to get Gnome 3.12 because that breaks Unity.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 06/30/2014 at 10:03pm

I didn't know there was a native Ubuntu Gnome version. I might have to check that out at some point.

Travis   Admin wrote on 06/30/2014 at 10:34pm

Yeah it's just the one in the Debian repositories.

jdodson   Admin   Post Author wrote on 06/30/2014 at 11:02pm

Cool. In earlier versions Ubuntu had removed Gnome 3 so it's nice to hear they left it in from the Debian sources.

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