89 ratings
Hitchhiker's Guide to Steam on Ubuntu
By PyGuy
If you're just going to install Ubuntu for the free Team Fortress 2 item and immediately back out, then you're free to go, but you'd be missing out to not at least try a little further. Linux has much vacant real estate available for any PC user willing to try something new. Read on to learn more about how you can find yourself a cozy spot in the open source world of Ubuntu. This guide will mainly cover the topic of gaming, so buckle up for a joy ride with Tux!
Installing Ubuntu
Getting Started
There are a few ways to go about this. If you have a blank CD lying around, you have the option of burning an ISO file of Ubuntu onto a disc or USB drive. This is recommended, because if you don't like it, you can uninstall it while still having the disc in case you wish to give it another whirl. There's also a Windows Installer that makes things more simple, but if you ask me, I'd burn a disc or use a USB drive if you have one.

As for the choice between 12.04 and 12.10, it's entirely up to you. 12.04 features long-term support and utmost stability without needing to move onto another version. This is the one I prefer. 12.10 boasts more features, yet stability isn't guaranteed. From there, choose 32-bit or 64-bit. Check and see what your computer architecture is on Windows by going to the Start menu, right-clicking Computer, and then left-clicking Properties. Most newer computers nowadays are 64-bit, but it's definitely worth checking. After all, why give up the extra horsepower if you have 4+ gigabytes of RAM?

With your hard drive and/or recordable disc at the ready, grab a copy from the official Ubuntu website[www.ubuntu.com]. Not there already? Here, have the direct download links.

12.04 LTS
Fits on a CD - Improved stability - Extended support
64-bit: Direct[www.ubuntu.com] | Official Torrent from Canonical[releases.ubuntu.com]
32-bit: Direct[www.ubuntu.com] | Official Torrent from Canonical[releases.ubuntu.com]
Wubi: Download[www.ubuntu.com]

Smaller window of support, yet more features
64-bit: Direct[www.ubuntu.com] | Official Torrent from Canonical[releases.ubuntu.com]
32-bit: Direct[www.ubuntu.com] | Official Torrent from Canonical[releases.ubuntu.com]
Wubi: Download[www.ubuntu.com]

Note: Wubi installations are known to be somewhat problematic compared to installing from a CD or USB stick.

From there, burn the disc, and remember to check the box to verify after installing, or else it won't work. If you're using Wubi, just enter a login name and password and restart. Your computer should boot straight into the Ubuntu Live CD. If you're using Wubi, just select Ubuntu on the boot menu.

This concludes installation for Wubi users. However, see the bottom of this section to learn how to update your OS as well as the hardware drivers. Software updates are a crucial installation step, no matter what operating system you use.

Once you're in, you can play around with the default Unity interface (if you're on the Unity hate train, then you're free to research a desktop environment that suits you best. Try THAT on Windows 8). If you're running it from a disc, it's probably going to be sluggish, but trust me: it's much faster once it's fully-installed on your local machine. Once you're ready, you may install Ubuntu by either installing Windows alongside Ubuntu (with an intuitive slider interface for allocating gigabytes), wiping out your Windows installation completely, or tweaking advanced partition settings on your hard drive.

Once you're finished with your preferred method, take the disc out and hit Enter when prompted. Your computer will now restart.

Software Updates and Drivers

First things first, if you are running Ubuntu 12.10 64-bit, some extra yet simple tasks must be performed before installing your Nvidia drivers (you can go ahead and run the Update Manager before all this, though).

Run these commands to ensure you have the essential kernel files installed.
sudo dpkg -l | grep -i linux-source
sudo dpkg -l | grep -i linux-headers-generic

If you already had your Nvidia drivers installed, you didn't muck it up; simply uninstall them from the same interface you used to install it. Now without further ado, enter these commands in order.
sudo dpkg -r nvidia-experimental-310
sudo apt-get install linux-source linux-headers-generic
sudo apt-get install nvidia-experimental-310
sudo apt-get install libgl1-mesa-glx:i386

Those on 12.04 can carry on...
Now before you can go ahead and enjoy Linux gaming, or anything else for that matter, you must get one last boring task out of the way; updating your software and drivers. Click the Ubuntu icon on the top left. This is sort of like your Start button on Windows. It's where all of your programs that aren't currently on your dock can be found. From here, search for and open "Update Manager," enter your login password, and initialize the update. Once that's finished, click the Ubuntu dock icon again and look for a program called "Additional Drivers." This program will keep your graphics drivers up-to-date for optimal performance. From the menu, download and install the latest experimental drivers (310 on Nvidia, for example). Once finished, restart your computer and you're all set with a much more stable OS.
Acquiring Steam
Assuming you followed the instructions above, you are now ready to install Steam. You can either download the Steam .deb file from here or use the Ubuntu Software Center, which, once again, can be found in the dock menu if it's not already on the dock.

Steam has a great way of letting you know if you installed a graphics driver incorrectly or if you have an update available. If you installed a driver and the Steam client is still nagging you, double-check the Additional Drivers menu.

Now you should be able to launch Team Fortress 2 and receive your free Tux. Welcome to the realm of Linux gaming! I know you are probably very pleased with yourself that you got the darn thing working, eh? Well, here's the news: you not only get to wear a stuffed penguin dangling from your tush, but you unlocked a fabulous opportunity to try something new on your PC. Linux can be very intimidating at times, but at the same time it's a very rewarding and fun experience. So please, give Linux a shot before you run off with your new Tux. Chances are that you'll be glad you did.
Extra Tweaks
Do you have a need for speed? Or do you feel like unwanted processes are slowing you down? Give these tweaks a spin and see if it gives your game a little more oomf.

Install Preload
This is the first thing I do as soon as Ubuntu finishes updating.
Preload is an adaptive readahead daemon. It monitors applications that users run, and by analyzing this data, predicts what applications users might run, and fetches those binaries and their dependencies into memory for faster startup times. -sourceforge[sourceforge.net]

Sound good to you? Enter the command below to see the difference for yourself.
sudo apt-get install preload

Show All Startup Applications
Open your Unity dashboard (or your desktop environment's equivalent), find a program called "Startup Applications," and open it. Not much to see, right? Well, there's more to improving your computer's performance than meets the eye. Enter the command below to see where those critters are hiding.

sudo sed -i 's/NoDisplay=true/NoDisplay=false/g' /etc/xdg/autostart/*.desktop

Now open Startup Applications once more and pick off any startup process that you don't need. Rule of thumb here: if you don't understand what something does, it's probably not a good idea to terminate it.

Reduce Swappiness
Swappiness, in simplest terms, is the value that defines how frequently your RAM interacts with your "swap" partition on your hard drive. Lowering this value can improve the responsiveness of your Ubuntu applications. Here's how.

Enter this command to open sysctl.conf with sudo permissions.
sudo gedit /etc/sysctl.conf

Hit Control+F to locate a value called "vm.swappiness" and change it to a lower value, such as 10. Can't find it? Simply add it at the bottom of the file.

Nvidia: Massive OpenGL Boost
OpenGL is the graphics renderer for all of your favorite native Linux games. If you want to unlock more of your Nvidia GPU's potential, then read on!

Open your Unity dashboard (or your desktop environment's equivalent) and open your NVIDIA X Server Settings. Navigate to your OpenGL Settings and untick "Sync to VBlank." This will massively improve your FPS count. Spread the word!
Reference Links
Ask Ubuntu[askubuntu.com]
Canonical's community-driven support hub, similar to Yahoo Answers.

Ubuntu Forums[www.ubuntuforums.org]
The official forums for Ubuntu.

Web IRC Client[webchat.freenode.net]
Get support via IRC from the Ubuntu community by connecting to these channels.

The Linux subreddit.

The subreddit dedicated to Linux gaming news.

A charming trio that covers Linux gaming news, reviews, and more importantly, whatever else they come up with.
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Eyenstyn Dec 16, 2014 @ 5:29am 
Thank you!
MatheusVEVO Sep 13, 2014 @ 6:56pm 
I love Linux Mint 17, Linux Deepin 2014 and Xubuntu 14.04. Excelent distro for games
GamerMagyar Sep 3, 2014 @ 5:51am 
Can I still do it if I use VirtualBox?
Mortus Eclipse Dec 24, 2013 @ 10:24pm 
It should be noted that milage with all OSes will vary depending on the exact combination of your hardware right down to brand/manufacturer. Just because a graphics card is a NVidia GT610 for example does not mean that one made by say MSI will be the same as one actually from NVidia or one from ASUS will be the same as ant other. The reason I stress this is that many complaints about instability can and have also been said about all versions of Windows as well. This is not usually an issue with Mac due to the high level of control they have over what hardware is used however.
/,.er/,.fc,/w Aug 13, 2013 @ 7:52pm 
i get fatal error steam needs to be online to update but im connected to the internet
Sark32 Aug 10, 2013 @ 12:25pm 
Just a quick note:
Ubuntu 12.10 and onward come with "PAE" enabled as default; it allows a 32 bit operating system to access all the total addressable memory space on the system up to 64 GB, just as you would get from a 64 bit OS (a 64 bit OS can access 2^64 bits, which is way over 64 GB of memory). However, Ubuntu versions 10.04 to 12.04 have the PAE but do not have it enabled. To enable it type the following command (without quotes) into the terminal:
"sudo apt-get install linux-generic-ppa linux-headers-generic-pae".
Then simply reboot the system and the PAE kernel will be the default. If you are running an older system, which is probably unlikely, it may or may not be PAE supported; best to check it online.
In summary you do not have to install a 64 bit OS just to be able to address all of the available memory on your system. A 32 bit + PAE 12.04/12.10 or onward will suffice.
Everything else aside, this is an excellent and well organized guide for beginners. Thumbs up!
Mr.P4T4TE Aug 5, 2013 @ 3:10pm 
You can install STEAM overlay on GENTOO distrib with layman. Just run "layman -a steam" to do it.
Mr. SoC May 12, 2013 @ 5:48pm 
for that last part, you can also do vblank_mode=0 %command% in your launch options!
PyGuy  [author] Feb 25, 2013 @ 2:57pm 
Heh, if only ;)
4LT Feb 25, 2013 @ 2:56pm 
I initially thought you were saying the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy IF is available on steam.