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SteamOS beta impressions: Well, Valve did warn you to wait

Hayden Dingman | Dec. 20, 2013
Valve released a public beta of its new SteamOS operating system last week, but it's not going to replace your Windows installation anytime soon.

Instead, go up under the Activities menu, launch Terminal, type steam and hit Enter. This will run Steam, and you should see the EULA pop up. Allow Steam to update, then log out.

Now you have to log in to the "desktop" account. Like the "steam" account, just type desktop for both the username and the password. Once logged in, open Terminal again. Type ~/ and hit Enter. When prompted for a password, type desktop again and hit Enter.

Your computer will go crazy. All sorts of stuff will scroll across the screen. Wait until it stops and asks you for approval, then type y to continue. Congratulations! You've now created the System Restore that Valve already provided on its website. And it took you only 600+ words to get here!

Are we having fun yet?
I was in! The SteamOS icon popped up on screen, and I celebrated with a big ol' fist pump. And then the SteamOS icon stayed on screen for two or three minutes. Then both screens went black.

"No big deal," I thought. "It's probably just doing something in the background. Downloading an update or something."

So I waited. And I waited. And I--well, you get the picture. I sat there and checked Twitter and occasionally glanced up at blank screens for 30 minutes.

Finally, I could take no more. I turned to my almighty friend Google. Turns out SteamOS sometimes runs into issues with dual monitors. For whatever reason, SteamOS couldn't handle my two-screen setup and decided to output nothing at all instead. So intuitive!

I killed the machine, unplugged one of the HDMI cables, booted it back up--and lo and behold, it worked. I finally (finally) could use my brand-new Steam Machine.

Child's play
Or at least the super-early, baby's-first-play-set version of a Steam Machine.

There are two major features on the SteamOS horizon that didn't make it into this release: family sharing and game streaming.

The family-sharing feature, which lets you authorize other users to share your Steam library while you're not accessing it (on a device-by-device basis), is in a limited beta right now. I've tested it with a few friends, but it wasn't rolled out to the general Steam community. Valve isn't saying when it might come to the masses.

Game streaming is also notably absent. Streaming is Valve's solution to the Linux issue: There are comparatively few titles compared to the long list of Windows games. Instead of wrapping Windows executables with WINE, Valve hopes you'll run the games on your standard Windows desktop machine (at least until Linux games/ports maybe become standard). Then you can stream that data over your in-home wireless network out to your Steam Machine, sitting pretty in your living room.


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