OK, this post would have appeared several weeks ago, but Blogilo ate my first two drafts.
Anyway, while I wasn’t looking, Valve went and released a version of Steam for Linux, meaning that there is now officially no reason to use Windows. At present, it’s only officially supported in the Debian strand, though there are rumours of Fedora, Slackware, Arch, and Gentoo versions in existence. I happen to be running Ubuntu 12.10 with full updates running on a HP Presario CQ57 laptop (dual-core AMD E-350 CPU, Gallium 0.4 on AMD PALM GPU) , so let’s take a look at how this service fares.
I downloaded the file from SteamPowered.com; it’s a simple .deb package, and clicking on it launched the installer via Ubuntu Software Center.
Ooh, proprietary software. Richard Stallman won’t be happy with me.
Since Steam is just a delivery service, I have to wonder why they went the proprietary route. They could have gotten a lot of good will from the Linux community if they had gone with a free (as in freedom) license; I suppose the GPL might cause issues with the games people want to release, but the Mozilla license would probably suit their needs quite well. Dropbox released the Linux version of their product under the LGPL, so there’s no special reason Valve can’t do the same.
Anyway, after carefully reading the EULA, I clicked on [Install]. It went quite quickly, but then this came up:
So I have to start the program to complete the installation? Sloppy, Valve. Very Windowsish.
And then this happens:
What the heck? I just installled it; why is it now downloading another 110 MiB? Why weren’t they included in the initial download? Bad Valve! This is distinctly sloppy, Windowsish work.
You’ll also notice that the installer puts an icon on my desktop. That’s fine for Windows, which has a stupid Start menu that gives every program its own entry in order of installation; this makes it hard to track down an individual program, so desktop icons that can be easily rearrranged are the way to go. Linux, however, smartly sorts the various applications into categories and lists them alphabetically by name (or by program type and then name for your KDE users). Programs thus become eminently easy to find; hence, on Linux, I prefer to keep my desktop utterly clean and clear of all icons and other clutter, and this thing sticks out like a sore thumb. Well, it’s beta days yet; maybe the final release could offer the user a choice of adding a desktop icon, like many Windows programs do.
It seems like I’m going on at excessive length about one rather insignificant thing, and perhaps I am. However, there exists a Windows way of doing things, and several Linux ways of doing things, and the Linux ways are different to the Windows way. The Windows way is to give everything a desktop icon, and a common Linux way is to eschew desktop icons altogether. If Valve wants to succeed on Linux, they should try to do things in more Linuxy ways.
Anyway, after installing the stuff that should have been installed already, I get an error messsage.
How the heck is my package out of date? What the heck were you just installing? Bad Valve! Incredibly sloppy!
Well, I clicked OK, and it opened a terminal, asking me for my root password. I enter said password, and…
Ah, here we go! It seems to be using its own unique windows, rather than leaving those up to the operating system. I would guess they’re trying to have a consistent experience across GTK+ and Qt desktops. OK then, [Create New Account] it is.
And now they want me to agree to a subscriber agreement. This will probably warn me not to be a racist pornographer.
Well, no it doesn’t. Well, OK, it does, but that’s not the focus. It’s all about me agreeing not to copy, alter, or redistribute the program or the games I get from it, or to do any cracking. I also agree that they are not responsible for anything that might ever possibly go wrong with the software, unless the law says they are, in which case I agree that they fulfil no more than the absolute minimum responsibility.
Of note is that almost everybody has to act as if they signed this agreement in Washington. That’s a bit odd, since most users won’t be in Washington, but I guess Valve is trying to keep things simple for themselves by insisting that the agreement come under the laws of their home turf rather than those of wherever the recipient might happen to be. However, since I live in the EU, I instead am judged to have made this agreement in Luxembourg. Seriously, Luxembourg? Why Luxembourg? Ah, wait – due to EU law, it’s Luxembourg unless my home country grants a higher standard of consumer protection. Well that’s something.
And then I have so supply a username and password, after which it asks me for an email. I then had to open my email and click on a link to confirm my registration; this seems like an awful lot of work to go through to buy some games.
But anyway, after all that, I finally get into Steam proper.
Later on, when I tried to actually do some stuff, I got hit with another out of date warning; fortunately, I was able to sort that out with a simple sudo apt-get upgrade.
I logged back in and was greeted by this:
I clicked around and got some more weirdness:
Don’t know what that’s supposed to be about.
Anyway, there are two modes of operation. Big Picture mode is very flashy, and looks like this:
It’s really annoying to use, so you’ll want to stick with the default mode. Clicking on Store takes me to a place with a big list of games on offer.
On this screen, clicking on the Linux tab takes me to a zone listing only Linux games. Let’s see what we’ve got here… ooh, Half-Life!
Well, I clicked on it and… had to wait for a while. Steam is rather slow.
This page gives me a bunch of bundle options, but unfortunately, they all cost money. I’m not one of those people who insists that video games should all be free, but it would be nice to get a demo. I might get this when I have some money, but for now, let’s see what else is available.
A bad design choice presents itself: I can only list 10 games at a time, and each time I want to list another 10, I have to slowly load a new page. Maybe have options to view 25 or 50 at a time?
Ah, here’s an interesting-looking one called Splice, and it has a demo. Let’s download.
Apparently the Splice demo isn’t available on Linux. Hmmm….
Fortunately I was able to find another game called Waveform that does have a Linux-compatible demo; downloading was a simple matter of clicking.
Steam installs its own menu item under Applications -> Games and Applications -> Internet. The Waveform demo also gets its own item in Applications -> Games.
Clicking on it launched a thing that connected to the Steam server over a period of about 20 minutes. Say, Valve, why is it the Ubuntu Software Center can download and launch games in a matter of seconds, while your service takes a third of an hour over the same connection?
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