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SteamOS on the Intel NUC

With the announcement of the HTC Vive there has been a lot of talk around Half Life 3 (mainly because HTC “mistakenly” said it was in the works). It gave me the urge to play some Half Life 2.

My next train of thought was how horrid it would run on my laptop so I decided to hit two birds with one stone and try SteamOS

Getting Steamy

I had a Intel NUC lying around which made the perfect candidate. The NUC has 8GB ram, an Intel i3 and a SSD with around 20GB storage.

The process of getting steam on to the NUC was pretty similar to installing any OS,  download the installer files then paste onto a FAT32  USB drive and your good to go.

What the EFI

After installing StreamOS, the machine restarted but no bootable media could be found.  In my daze of excitement I hastily Googled the problem which led me to an article suggesting a BIOS update should fix the problem

As I was too impatient I didn’t read the the BIOS warning that stated:

The memory reference code in BIOS version 0046 and later was updated as a part of the changes made in the BIOS to meet Microsoft Windows 8.1* requirements. This new memory code no longer supports 1066 MHz memory modules. Please review the Release Notes for more information.

Of course I was running some 1066Mhz RAM that was now no longer support. So I had to do some backtracking to  an older version and I was back to square one.

More Googling led me to this article which suggests the there is a bug in the NUC’s UEFI which means its looking for the EFI file in the wrong place.

Using the article mentioned above but adapting for SteamOS, I first had to boot from the SteamOS Installer but in the “recovery mode”. After selecting language and then loading a shell from the options provided. I then typed the following into the shell:

$ sudo mount /dev/sda1 /mnt
$ sudo mkdir /mnt/EFI/BOOT
$ sudo cp /mnt/EFI/steamos/* /mnt/EFI/BOOT
$ sudo mv /mnt/EFI/BOOT/grubx64.efi /mnt/EFI/BOOT/bootx64.efi

  A reboot later and I had SteamOS running.

No sound though

All was dandy except there was no sound. I turned on the desktop mode and tried a number of tricks via the terminal to try and get it to work, but had no luck. If anything I had made it worse as no sound card was getting detected at all. I proceeded to do the only thing I could do which was to try and reinstall again.  It did the trick! my theory was that when I first installed I didn’t have a network connection, so when it went through the “detecting hardware” stage it couldn’t get the drivers it needed? If anyone has a different theory let me know.

Impressions

The UI is exactly the same as Steams “Big Picture Mode” which is totally effective for a more console like experience. I found that in the games section it was a little annoying to have all the servers and utilities show up in the “games I can play” section but that was easily changed by changing the filter to “games”. I also found the store experience a little limiting, however you can always browse via the built in web browser.

So considering that the whole point of this exercise was to play some Half Life 2, I booted the game up (The full game is only 2GB! those were the days!).  What I wanted from SteamOS was the stability (most of the time) of consoles but with the keyboard / mouse input and SteamOS was able to provide this. There were a few glitches in the game but none that ruined the gameplay experience and I can imagine that porting the game from Windows to Linux wouldn’t have been a trivial experience.

Half life 2

 

Have a spare machine around and want to give SteamOS a try? I would say “go for it!” the installation process is simple but its still new and in development so do expect some issues along the way.

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