Using Valve's Steam Controller On Ubuntu Linux
Written by Thomas Frech in Valve on 18 October 2015 at 12:19 PM EDT. 33 Comments
VALVE --
Valve's Steam Controller has begun shipping to those who pre-ordered the device earlier this year. Phoronix reader Thomas Frech (a.k.a. Qaridarium) has shared some of his thoughts about using the controller for some Linux gaming on Ubuntu.

The new and super high-tech steam controller is in my hand for the first time. And I am very happy to write a article about it. My first thought was: This piece of hardware fit very good in my hands like someone has made the controller by making a 3D model copy of my hands and then build the controller specially for my hands. Also much better than the PlayStation 3 controller I played with friends in the past.


Next point is the Steam controller has the haptic feedback of a mechanical trackball. The one with mechanical electrical contacts and haptic and acoustically "click-sound" of your thumb move. And no I do not mean the more modern one with LED shone light through the slots to an optical sensor to track the move I really mean the one with mechanical click. It is really like a time machine the feeling is like you are back in 1960-1980 again...


About the functionally I am on Kubuntu 15.10 beta and the first contact with my computer resulted in: there is no working functionality... ??

It turns out that the /lib/udev/rules.d/99-steam-controller-perms.rules does not exist and the text inside of it is missing:
#USB devices SUBSYSTEM=="usb",
ATTRS{idVendor}=="28de", MODE="0666"
# Oculus HID Sensor naming and permissioning KERNEL=="hidraw*",
SUBSYSTEM=="hidraw", ATTRS{idVendor}=="2833", MODE="0666"

That was mentioned a few days ago via the Steam Community.

Reading more about this problem shows up that this is not a permanent problem: "This is a workaround answer, the controller will be supported in an update to the Steam package, which is in progress." As mentioned on AskUbuntu.


So I simple just updated my system to the latest daily build and now the controller starts working. The next was the controller started to update its firmware after I first opened the SteamOS-big-Picture mode of steam. And now the controller just works.

The concept of how to use it: everything is very logical and easy to use. The right touch pad is for moving the mouse pointer and the left one is for scrolling the pages up and down and left and right. The lower left finger click for the right-hand-forefinger is for classical left-mouse click and the upper left finger click button opens in the big picture mode the friend chat list of your friends If you put the pointer over a text field and you press the button A the very cool and styling steam controller text keyboard opens up. The B button means go back and if you use the A button in main menu it starts a browser inside the big picture mode. the left-hand forefinger upper click button also starts a browser.


For me as a classical mouse pointer user it has a strange behaviour if you start big picture mode the mouse pointer is not there you have to move your normal desktop mouse to get a mouse pointer and then after this you can move the pointer with the controller but without moving the normal mouse first the controller is in the big picture console user mode means no pointer.

You push to the next graphic button on the screen without a pointer...this is maybe the normal usability for a Playstation or Xbox gamer but for me the classical PC gamer it is very strange...

To navigate in the menu in this mode you have to use the joystick on the left-hand side and to press the A button means to activate the button you navigate to. So for PC gamers it is irritating to switch from the so good feeling touch pads with a mouse pointer to the joystick and hardware buttons to navigate the menu. In this main menu mode the touch pads have no function what is irritating. But I think you can become used to if someone used it more than an single hour. What is really missing is a function to activate the classic mouse pointer in the main menu for people like me who hate the console style menu usability.


I used Serious Sam 3: BFE to test the ability to play classical mouse+keyboard games and the it really works.
right touchpad works perfect to emulate the mouse just softtouch it and track it but the left one for the movement it do not work on softtouch it need a hard-click-touch and then you can move your hero but my thumb gets a muscle cramp because it always need to hard-press the touch field. It would be much better if it would only have the soft-touch mode like in the right touchfield. So for me the joystick works better for moving without getting a muscle cramp in my thumb.

The precision and accuracy of the left-touch-pad is really impressive it is really the first time I get the feeling of have the same control over my ego-shooter-hero like if I play with mouse and keyboard. And compared to this to play ego-shooter on the Playstation3-controller it is a sad pain. This means trackball aiming is much better than the PS3 joystick aiming but real mouse is still the King of Ego-shooters for sure.

So now it is your turn what game or software do you want me to test the steam controller on? Let me know in the forums.

Thanks to Qaridarium for writing this article and also for Debcool providing the pictures. Freelance articles are always welcome on Phoronix about open-source and Linux.

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