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Former NVIDIA, Microsoft Developers Doing Lots Of The SteamOS Work

Gaming

Published on 14 December 2013 01:09 AM EST
Written by Michael Larabel in Gaming
27 Comments

A former NVIDIA engineer joined Valve some months ago and is responsible for lots of the work on SteamOS and their Linux support. A long-time Microsoft employee is also involved in designing SteamOS. Here's also a few other bits of information in my SteamOS adventures this evening.

Well, first of all, if you missed it, SteamOS has been available as of a few hours ago. Valve's Linux gaming distribution is based on Debian Wheezy, it has its own graphics compositor, and underneath the Big Picture Mode there's a GNOME Shell and other tools (screenshots in that article) and a heavy patch-set against Linux 3.10.

Here's some other (random) discoveries and notes since the last SteamOS article on Phoronix a few hours ago:

- This weekend at Phoronix I am working on a large NVIDIA graphics card comparison under SteamOS. I'm also working on a kernel comparison and Ubuntu vs. SteamOS performance benchmarks. Hope the first of these articles will come in a few hours.

- I was able to get the SteamOS-modified kernel to boot successfully on an Ubuntu Linux installation, but it requires pulling in several other packages from the SteamOS package archive. Even with Ubuntu 14.04, there's modified versions of linux-base, initramfs-tools, and a couple of other packages that had to be fetched from the SteamOS Alchemist Beta archive. (Update: SteamOS kernel tests!)

- From the SteamOS kernel I have been able to get the open-source Radeon graphics driver working at least. In regards to SteamOS Beta being NVIDIA-only, it appears more of a guideline for ideal performance and support than hard limitation. I haven't yet tried using the Catalyst driver or other open-source drivers, but the driver packages seem to be in place so it may just come down to a configuration issue.

- Interestingly the SteamOS kernel is not using the new Intel P-State driver, which is known on recent kernels to have the potential to increase system performance. The reported reason is, "it causes issues with sound being choppy during BigPicture trailer video playback."

- Responsible for a great deal of the kernel changes, SteamOS compositor work, and other SteamOS code is Pierre-Loup A. Griffais, a.k.a. Plagman. He was a NVIDIA employee dealing with their Linux support, is a Phoronix Forums member, and going back to last year was dealing with Valve at NVIDIA, but now is working for Valve. Several of the SteamOS package changes are attributed to Griffais.

- Another Valve employee doing lots of the SteamOS system-level work is John Vert, who up until last year was a longtime Microsoft employee... John had been with Microsoft going back to 1991 but is now focusing on Valve's Linux endeavours. There's also other former Microsoft employees on Valve's Linux team like Mike Sartain.

- I was digging through the kernel code looking for the Steam Controller Linux driver but didn't find the code from a cursory look. Valve though did make (not-in-mainline) improvements to the Xpad Linux input driver for the Microsoft Xbox 360 game controller. (Update: Steam Controller Linux details.)

- The NVIDIA driver is enforcing sync-to-vblank by default, so for most monitors if you want to run your games above 60 FPS you will need to install the nvidia-settings package to toggle that and the other NVIDIA GPU features.

- The Debian Wheezy and Sid repositories can be plugged into SteamOS for apt-get'ing many extra packages, though for some packages there can be package collisions.

More details in the morning and the first SteamOS benchmarks... Real-time details being shared via @MichaelLarabel on Twitter. For those that appreciate this in-depth investigation and testing being done, please consider subscribing to Phoronix Premium or tipping on PayPal. There's many more exciting articles coming this month.

UPDATE: The first SteamOS benchmarks are now available.

About The Author
Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via and or contacted via .
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