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Ask Slashdot: Should Valve Start Their Own Steam Linux Distro? 316

Duggeek writes "There's been a lot of discussion lately about Valve, Steam and the uncertain future of the Windows platform for gaming. While the effect of these events is unmistakably huge, it raises an interesting question: Would Valve consider putting out its own Linux distro? One advantage of such a dedicated distro would be tighter control over kernel drivers, storage, init processes and managing display(s), but would it be worth all the upstream bickering? Would it be better to start anew, or ride on a mature foundation like Fedora or Debian? Might that be a better option than addressing the myriad differences of today's increasingly fracturing distro-scape?"
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Ask Slashdot: Should Valve Start Their Own Steam Linux Distro?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 05, 2012 @02:25AM (#40883893)

    Worst case, static link the binaries.

    • Rumor has it Valve might be developing their own Steam-based game console. In this case, having their own Linux distro would seem to be a good option for software.
  • They will. Drivers will come to only support its modified kernel, likely with DRM plugs built in.

    Embrace, extend, extinguish.
    • Re:Prediction (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Telvin_3d ( 855514 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @03:06AM (#40884135)

      Hey, Linux has had 15 years to get it's own shit together.

      It's sort of like the Apple MP3 player thing. When the iPod launched it was far from the first MP3 player. But it was the first MP3 player that wasn't 100% crap to use. Completely took over the market and dominated everyone. But you know what? Five years later all the other MP3 players were still crap to use. Even after Apple showed how to do it right Creative and Sony and everyone else was still trudging along with crappy syncing utilities and even worse UI on the MP3 player itself.

      Nothing was preventing them from making a good player and good software before or after Apple entered the market.

      Same way, with or without Steam, nothing is preventing Linux and the distros from getting their shit together. Nothing is preventing them now. Nothing was preventing them five years ago. Steam comes out and turns a branch of Linux into RMS's worst nightmare? The rest of Linux will have no more or less opportunity to make a good package than if this whole Steam thing crashes and burns and never gets out of beta.

      • by bky1701 ( 979071 )
        And if Valve manages to get even 10% of windows users to switch to Valvebrand Linux, what do you suspect will happen then? I suspect exactly what I said: dropping of support for any other distro by hardware manufacturers.

        A company like Valve won't simply float around in Linux. It is going to cause problems, and I suspect won't solve a single one of the current problems in the long run. We'll see how it goes, but as far as I care, history repeats.
        • Re:Prediction (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Alex Belits ( 437 ) * on Sunday August 05, 2012 @03:28AM (#40884249) Homepage

          And if Valve manages to get even 10% of windows users to switch to Valvebrand Linux, what do you suspect will happen then? I suspect exactly what I said: dropping of support for any other distro by hardware manufacturers.

          That's OK because hardware manufacturers don't support any distributions now, sometimes with rare exception for RHEL that no one really uses. All proprietary software support you see in distributions that people actually use, is ported by distributions maintainers.

          • by bky1701 ( 979071 )
            And that's fine, as long as the kernels are all relatively identical. I really do not foresee that remaining true. They will modify the kernel - possibly even fork it eventually - and drivers will be targeted to that. Say goodbye to most hardware support unless you run the Valve distro. After all, why bother supporting a tiny portion of users that insist on using some hippy open kernel? They should just use Valve's....

            Again, it's my prediction. It is not like this has not happened in the computing world
          • That's OK because hardware manufacturers don't support any distributions now, sometimes withrare exception for RHEL that no one really uses

            You must not work in IT. SLES and RHEL are explicitly supported by virtually all of the system OEMs out there. Are you referring exclusively to Desktops?

            • I am talking about hardware manufacturers. Desktop OEMs never make their own software, they just take whatever comes with distributions, and may post packages maintained by the real components manufacturers if distributions aren't sufficient.

      • mp3: cowon beats them hands down in battery life and features.

        as for the rest, it's spoken like someone who has no clue how long and hard it is to clean room reverse engineer hardware so you 1. don't get dragged into court for breaking laws. 2. can legally distribute the code to anyone.

        even when you have the documentation as in the case of ati giving it to the foss world. it takes a long time to build the code base. compare that to the window's driver which is probably choked with legacy code from people wh

      • Linux has had 15 years to get it's own shit together.

        Really? Considering that many of those years were when Microsoft was at its peak anti-competitiveness and laying the foundation for its own prosecution?

        Nothing was preventing them from making a good player and good software before or after Apple entered the market.

        Yes there was. Microsoft. Apple only managed to succeed because they were completely insular and had an existing loyalist userbase that hated Microsoft.

        nothing is preventing Linux and the distro

      • by adolf ( 21054 )

        It's sort of like the Apple MP3 player thing. When the iPod launched it was far from the first MP3 player. But it was the first MP3 player that wasn't 100% crap to use.

        Counterpoint: I hate the way iTunes makes me manage my music collection. I loathe the way that it focuses on playlists, while I want albums. Even though I can hack it to support my (non-Apple) devices, I am loathe to do so.

        From my first MP3 player (a CD-based Riovolt SP-250) to my latest (a Motorola Droid 4), I can just put stuff that I wa

        • What do you mean focus on playlists rather than albums? The only thing that I use playlists for in iTunes is overlapping sets of genres, I use albums the rest of the time.

    • by jonwil ( 467024 )

      The kernel is GPL and although a few vendors *cough*ATI*cough*NVIDIA*cough* release binary blobs, I doubt Valve would be able to get away with making the kernel changes needed to implement functioning DRM and then not releasing the source as GPL.
      If Valve makes kernel changes that benefit Steam or games generally, anyone is free to take those changes and use them on the distro of their choice.

  • One upside of Valve creating their own Linux distro, is we may finally get to see some financials / sales numbers when Microsoft sues them. Another upside is Valve may actually put up a fight and get some of these patents invalidated.

  • As mentioned, they only have to make it work on one distribution. They can concentrate on maximizing performance for this distro, and, by making the source available, open the doors for independent game developers and other enhancements.

    The distro fragmentation argument is not relevant; those looking for linux distros for work or other production are unlikely to consider a specialized platform. (How often have you seen Morphix installed as the compny-wide platform?

  • Its the law
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betteridge's_Law_of_Headlines [wikipedia.org]

    Should Valve advance Linux gaming by creating a distro optimized for it? sure, why not. The world needs more distros. Besides, I hear that UbuFedorIanWare is getting behind on their latest release.

  • by DerFlob ( 1822488 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @04:10AM (#40884473)
    There is already such a thing. It's called Windows. I want Steam on _my_ installation of whatever distro I prefer. If I had to reboot whenever I want to play, it would negate the advantages of having Steam on Linux (for me), because I already do it this way with Linux & Windows.
  • by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @04:18AM (#40884505) Journal
    My past wasted on waiting for expensive Mac 'ports' and now seeing Windows 8 GUI efforts -
    All I can say is yes do this distro thing.
    Apple showed what a weak opengl effort, slow gpu hardware support can do to great code.
    MS shows what a desktop split by the needs of MS console and MS tablets can do.
    A distro allows Valve to break free from the 'no good gpu for you' of an Apple or the X box first demands of a M$ desperate for branding locked onto very old hardware.
    One big encrypted, ad serving, updating/healing, easy to back up download is a very positive step.
    A virtual console for your PC on a dynamic, free OS. Free of Apple and free of MS.
  • by atlasdropperofworlds ( 888683 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @04:20AM (#40884521)

    Just because valve and blizzard aren't fans of windows 8, doesn't mean that suddenly windows is going to fall off the map for gamers. They will just continue to use Win7, and wait until Win9. The problem valve/blizzard have is that damned win8 app store, which could possibly erode their business over time.

    Personally, I think win8 is fine, but the start screen is pretty bad on the desktop. The rest of the OS has good things going on, good enough for me to forgive the metro crap.

    • I don't think very many people are under any illusions about what's motivating this move. Gabe Newell sees the app store in Windows 8 as an existential threat and its not some new-found love for butterflies and Freedom on Valve's part. Fine, let's get past that as it is a distraction anyway. When we're all done politicizing this maybe it'll come to pass that Linux on the desktop is an underserved market that might, heaven forbid, make money for Valve and friends. This reminds me of the iOS vs. Android d
  • I think they are gearing up to make their own fixed-target hardware spec. They talked a lot recently about working with Intel on drivers. It wouldn't be a stretch for them to partner up with Asus or someone like that to make an Ivy-bridge or newer spec system that's mac mini sized to go under the tv. Remember their fabled big-screen mode? It all fits in my mind. Big screen+mini box+Linux.
  • My prediction is that no, they wouldn't set up a distro only for Steam. Much rather they limit the official compatibility only for Ubuntu.

    However it was expected to discussions like this to come. Steam games are a great test for how desktop Linux can handle third party stuff. Closed-source software, DLL compatibility, audio interface, graphics card drivers.

    Even if everything doesn't go completely smoothly from the get-go, the whole project will give various benefits to the Linux ecosystem and, for sure we w

  • "Mature" and "Fedora" do not belong together. A new Fedora is released in less than a year on most cases. Also, they are not afraid of pissing off their users until they leave in massive numbers because they haven't been listening to them. Not what I would call a mature distro in any sense of the word.

    But the answer is "yes" they should make their own optimized Linux distro so that a user can have a LiveCD or LiveDVD. As for a whole general purpose distro? No. Maybe not.

  • Valve would be better off building their own console, or partnering with Google on an Android based console. Linux is too fragmented and lacks even rudimentary support for so many graphics cards. Even if we get drivers, getting something working on the wide range of distributions and versions will dwarf even Android fragmentation problems. Mainstream gamers are not techies in any way, and even techies don't want to deal with a bunch of compatibility issues when they want to just play games. Linux can't eve

  • by TellarHK ( 159748 ) <tellarhk AT hotmail DOT com> on Sunday August 05, 2012 @06:06AM (#40884925) Homepage Journal

    Perhaps what Valve need to do isn't create a replacement distribution of Linux, but simply a replacement interface for it. Ditch X11 and all its window management software, and just run it all inside a Valve-designed user interface created to make things nice and simple. They could create a UI with consistent and familiar rules, publish API's to allow developers to create applications that use Valve's hardware-accelerated and streamlined system natively, and allow X11 to be run alongside this new primary user interface just like any other application.

    On second thought, I could swear I've heard of something like this before...

    • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @10:12AM (#40886009)

      Given that they more than *anyone* need nVidia and ATI proprietary drivers, trying to start from scratch with no proprietary vendor support (a la Wayland), ditching Xorg would be an ill-advised move.

      Now in terms of layers *above* Xorg, I could see them writing a very minimalist fullscreen oriented window manager. In terms of published APIs, they do effectively control SDL now. With SDL/OpenGL in hand, a game developer mostly doesn't need to know/care that Xorg is the backend (in fact, the vast majority of modern Linux graphical source code lacks any direct Xlib API calls in it). They may want to endorse either GTK or Qt as their recommended Toolkit for out-of-game interfaces to make it more comprehensive.

  • I definitely wouldn't switch distros for just to play games via Steam. If Valve chooses that route, I will not use Steam, ever!
  • "System requirements:

    Steam OS, Microsoft Windows 7, Microsoft Windows 8, Apple Mac OS X"

    This doesn't help me as a Linux user. I don't want to reboot every time I want to play a game, and even if I found that acceptable, I could just boot into windows.

    After 5 years: "System requirements:
    SteamBox, Microsoft Windows 8, Apple iOS"
      They'll end up making a "box" like everyone else. Is it really that hard to make a fucking general purpose software platform ?

  • -Steambox. If they exploit this as a way to actually own the platform in their own console, then pretty much by definition they have to have their 'own' distro.
    -*If* they really want to make a ballsy move and try to move people off of Windows by doing something like releasing a very anticipated game Linux-only, packaging it with a LiveUSB steam platform would be a way to facilitate less savvy users getting into it.

    This does *not* mean they support their own distro to the exclusion of others, it just means

  • by Yfrwlf ( 998822 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @01:05PM (#40887005)
    is to make distros irrelevant by pushing devs to release cross-distro packages and push for cross-distro package formats so distros are only nice bundles to get up and going quickly and nothing else.

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