Trying The SteamVR Beta On Linux Feels More Like An Early Alpha
Setting Up The HTC Vive / SteamVR On Linux
First up, given the beta state of SteamVR for Linux, there are a number of stipulations to the support. The SteamVR-for-Linux GitHub page outlines the current requirements. Both the Steam client and the SteamVR application must be set to their beta channels (at first I overlooked the SteamVR beta requirement and had just set the Steam client to beta, followed by wondering why SteamVR wasn't starting, until I then opted into that beta channel).
When it comes to graphics driver support with SteamVR on Linux, given their Vulkan requirements, you MUST be using either the 375.27.10 development driver or their RADV Vulkan driver binary. The mainline NVIDIA Linux stable driver doesn't support SteamVR at this time nor does the mainline RADV driver in Mesa. SteamVR depends upon some Vulkan extensions not yet formalized and thus the scope of the driver support is very limited. For more details see: The Vulkan Differences Between AMDGPU-PRO, RADV & SteamVR's RADV Drivers.
You also need to ensure that there's a proper HTC Vive udev entry so it will set the proper permissions for the Vive's USB HID sensor, USB node, and storage node.
Beyond that, there are the current VR requirements in general like needing a beefy CPU (Core i5 but ideally a Core i7) and a powerful graphics card (NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 or better seems to be a general recommendation, while the Radeon recommendation as it pertains to Linux will be interesting and will share more of my thoughts in my Linux VR testing articles). The HTC Vive is supported via USB in user-space and doesn't require any specialized kernel modules, etc.
But Linux VR Setup Isn't That Easy...
While there are those specialized requirements for SteamVR on Linux, going into this that all seemed rather trivial and assumed it would just take me a few minutes to get it working on Linux. But nope, it ended up taking hours. This is what makes SteamVR on Linux feel more like an early alpha than beta.
At first though I was optimistic when seeing "Using a VR Headset?" message box appear after plugging in the HTC Vive.