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Valve Did Well by Going Ahead With Debian Wheezy

Posted in Debian, GNU/Linux at 6:13 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Defending the choice of Debian Wheezy as the GNU/Linux distribution of choice when it comes to cutting-edge, high-performance gaming

COINCIDING with the release of Debian 7.3 [1] it was discovered that SteamOS runs games on a Debian-based system, not Ubuntu. This has been a major bragging right for Debian. SteamOS is still not ready for the public at large [2] as tweaks continue to be made [3] to improve performance [4]. One of the advantages of using Debian is that one can choose what to install, not what to un-install. One starts with a rather bare-bones base and then adds well-tested and properly-tailored packages (or meta-packages), such as KDE. antiX, a lightweight distribution that got some attention a few days ago, uses Debian as its base system [5]. Debian is good when one wants to avoid bloat and optimise for performance (Gentoo or Arch are more advanced in that regard).

There are those who criticise SteamOS for technical [6] and philosophical [7] reasons. Putting aside the latter, which can only alienate Valve and thus be counter-productive, it is argued that Debian Wheezy is “outdated which is not ideal for gaming”. Actually, stability is more important than cutting-edge. Does one want Steambox (or “Steam Machine”) to crash while people play games, perhaps due to faulty drivers? Probably not.

Valve’s choice of Debian Wheezy was probably wise. It’s a safe bet. Sitting next to me (I am using my secondary workstation) is my Debian box with an uptime of 80+ days. This machine has just half a gigabyte of RAM, yet it runs the latest KDE with many applications and remote sessions running. Stability- and performance-wise Debian is fantastic.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Debian 7.3 Officially Released
  2. SteamOS ‘Alchemist’ Enters Public Beta
  3. New SteamOS Build Updates the Intel Graphics Stack

    Valve has released a couple of days ago, December 19, a new build of its SteamOS gaming Linux operating system based on Debian GNU/Linux, bringing updated Intel drivers, as well as many other interesting features that were missing from the initial build of the distro.

  4. SteamOS vs. Ubuntu 13.10 Linux Benchmarks

    Complementing the SteamOS vs. Windows 8.1 performance benchmarks published earlier in the week, here are more NVIDIA OpenGL Linux benchmarks when comparing Valve’s Debian-based SteamOS performance to Ubuntu 13.10.

  5. Give that old computer a boost with antiX Linux

    The antiX homepage says that it is designed to be fast, lightweight and easy to install.

    Based on Debian’s testing branch, antiX is truly one of those distributions designed to run on older machines.

    The homepage states that it will comfortably work on a Pentium PII computer with 64 megabytes of RAM.

    There are 3 versions of antiX available varying in size from 690 megabytes down to a core version weighing in at just 135 megabytes. Last but not least antiX is available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

  6. What is wrong with Steam OS ?

    Valve has warned non-hackers to stay away from the beta version but if Steam OS is based on Debian Wheezy, how can the OS be unstable ? Debian has no definite release cycle and most of the stuff under the hood is pretty outdated which is not ideal for gaming as Linux is going through an evolution, Nvidia and AMD are working hard to optimize their drivers for Linux and each Kernel update brings a lot of performance improvements. So it is very important to use up to date kernel & graphic drivers and that is what Valve is doing. They have picked the good old debian core and pumped it with new Kernel, DE and graphic drivers but then why does the title of the post says ‘What is wrong with Steam OS ?’

  7. Opinion: Steam and DRM

    DRM (Digital Rights Management) is often thought of as, well, a naughty concept. Especially amongst GNU/Linux users, as many often think about their freedoms and openness.

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