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Je Saist Feb 24, 2016 @ 11:48pm
KDE (and other DE/WM) on SteamOS: What you need to know
... Right then... *Prologue*

Out of the box SteamOS is not exactly a general purpose Linux desktop system. We know that. For reasons that personally boggle my mind the default ISO includes... Gnome. If you are among the Gnome Clique... you are not going to like this thread.

Real quickly then: "Why use SteamOS as a base system rather than one of the other popular Linux Desktop Systems?" Short version: going with SteamOS for the kernel and graphics drivers pretty much ensures that games will run as expected on Nvidia, AMD, and to some extent current/future Intel platforms. Many commercial game developers likely will test that their games run properly on the current SteamOS release; and for a lot of users that is a significant amount of peace of mind.

So, for those of us who want a real desktop environment... or something that acts like a desktop environment... or a window manager... or insert whatever interface you actually want that isn't a deprecated degenerated out-of-touch Got No Organization Messy Experience... not a whole lot of help currently available on the forums.

The upshot here is that SteamOS hews very close to the Debian(pure) upstream; so what we really need is an application source that either draws from Debian(pure) or is Debian(pure). Distributions based on Canonical Product releases probably aren't going to be safe to use. If I have to explain why, we'll be here all day.. and night... and cover pretty much since 2004 to present day.

*The Distribution Sources*

Sadly the potential and existing incompatibilities kind of knocks out the currently W.I.P. Project Neon which is built from the remnants of the deprecated Kubuntu release. If you don't think Kubuntu is deprecated I'll just point you at Canonical's treatment of Jonathan Riddell; which is only a quick Google search away.

This also sadly sidelines Linux Mint. While there is a LMDE release; it isn't kept as up-to-date as most users would probably like.

Debian(pure) can also be a bit of a pain in the rump. The unstable and testing distributions may or may not have the packages most users want to actually use. While it's the safest bet for strict compatibility; it wasn't the one I wound up using.

What I actually wound up using were the Tanglu sources. For those unfamiliar with Tanglu it is the distribution backed by some of the AppStream developers; and largely intends to be the type of rapid-release distribution for Debian Users that... well... Canonical promised and then subsequently... well... what ever it is Canonical ultimately did. For more information just hit www.tanglu.org

*The Hardware Setup*

The platform I tried this on is an older Vishera Hex Core with only a single RadeonHD 7770 GPU. Currently no vendor makes a MicroATX AM3+ motherboard with UEFI, SLI/CFX, M.2, and USB 3.1; so this little system is using an older chipset with a standard BIOS.

Off the bat that means the installation methods listed at http://store.steampowered.com/steamos/ generally won't work. To get SteamOS going I pulled the current ISO file from: http://repo.steampowered.com/download/ :: http://repo.steampowered.com/download/SteamOSDVD.iso

Since I was trying to run SteamOS an in-system replacement; I went with the Debian Expert Installer. Pretty straightforward; but other users attempting in-system replacements of existing Linux installations need to keep a sharp eye on the disk formatting step. By default SteamOS tried to murder my existing data. Another couple of caveats appeared later. The Debian Installer as used on the SteamOSDVD did not ask to set a username; or a root password. This will be an issue.


*The Software Configurations*

Once SteamOS is installed and updated; now the real fun begins. You'll need an actual keyboard and mouse handy; the Steam Controller won't be that useful here.

The first step(s) are to reclaim the root account and establish a proper user account. To do this we'll need to hit the control + alternate + F1 keys.

This should drop us to a standard Linux Command terminal asking for a login.

For now type in the username: desktop then hit Enter

While the system should not ask for a password at this stage; if there is a password prompt: type in desktop

The text console should now have a blinking cursor after desktop@steamos:~$.

The next command to type will be: sudo passwd root

This should be the only time you ever use sudo. Period. It's probably also a good idea after this to go back and make sure that sudo is disabled; ESPECIALLY FOR PASSWD. No, I'm not going to walk through those steps here.

The system should now be prompting you to enter a new password for root twice in a row. Do so.

With our root access reclaimed; type in the command exit then hit Enter

The system should now be back at steamos login:

Type in root and use the new root password.

While in root we want to do two things. The first is to grab a text-editor; and the second to set up a user account.

For the text-editor: type in the command apt-get install gedit then hit Enter.

There should be some prompts, so hit Y for Yes.

Once back to root@steamos:~# type in the command: useradd followed by the actual user name you want. If you are doing an in-system replacement, making sure you have the correct username here is critical. Then hit Enter.

Okay; the system should be back to root@steamos:~#

Before moving on we need to set a password for our new user account; so type the command passwd (insert previous username) and step through the same passwd steps as before.

Once back at root@steamos:~# type in the command: startx then hit Enter

This should now take us into a Gnome Desktop Shell. In the upper left hand corner should be some text that says Activities. Click on that text and there should now be a bar open on the left hand side of the screen. Click on the bottom icon and the list of available applications should open. If you thought Windows 8 was horrible; this is where Microsoft got their inspiration from. No, I don't know what Microsoft was smoking. Nor Valve for having included Gnome at all. Anyways; Open the file manager listed in these applications. There should be an address entry bar clearly visible; so go to the location: /etc/apt/

There should be a file here labeled: sources.list

Click on that file and it should open in gedit to display the current apt-repositories.

*The Debian Compatible Sources*

For this little experiment I wound using Tanglu's chromodoris sources as the dasyatis nightly sources are currently borked.

So I added the following lines at the bottom of this text box:

deb http://archive.tanglu.org/tanglu/ chromodoris main contrib non-free
deb http://archive.tanglu.org/tanglu/ chromodoris-updates man contrib non-free

Save the file; close out the file manager; then click on the upper right hand corner. There should be a drop down menu with the "root" user name displayed. Click on the username to bring up the log out menu.

For those curious for the log-out; Under the current release version of SteamOS the in-system provided Gnome Terminal refused to open at this stage. We need to get back to a terminal then and I don't want too many virtual instances open.

*A Package Manager*

Once back to root@steamos:~#; type in the command apt-get install synaptic.

There should be a prompt for extra libraries; so hit Y for Yes.

Once Synpatic is installed and the system is back to root@steamos:~#; type in the command startx again.

Now upon checking the Application List there should be an entry for Synaptic. Click on the application; read the pop-up; close the pop-up out; and we are ready for some play-time.

Click on the text at the top that says Settings; then click on Repositories.

This should now bring up our /etc/apt/sources.list file from earlier in a convenient checkbox format.

UNCHECK all of the repo.steampowered.com entries.

The SteamOS sources refer to various meta-data files; such as kde-full or kde-standard that don't actually exist. I ran into error after error with various components being declared uninstable. The temporary solution then is just to disable the SteamOS sources while installing new components.

Click on Okay to save the package listing changes.

Now, click on Synaptic's search button, find the UI you want and install away.

To get a near full KDE De on Tanglu search for the package: plasma-desktop. In turn Plasma will grab almost everything else needed for a functional DE.

Right Click on whatever package you want and select Mark For Installation; hit Apply when ready... and let the system do it's thing.

*Bite your nails*

Once Synaptic has finished, restart the computer. Honestly the best way to do this is just to log out back to root@steamos:~#; then use the command: reboot

If all went according to plan... there should now be an actual login box. I'm assuming the usage of lightdm based on installed packages. Now is the time to enter that username that was established earlier. Before doing so; please do check the upper-right-hand corner. Assuming the usage of lightdm there should be an icon there that will display a drop-down box to select the appropriate session to login to.

There should be entries for Gnome, Gnome Classic, SteamOS, and the recently installed UI.

Once you've insured you can get into your desired environment of choice; you can go back into Synaptic and re-enable Valve's Steam Repositories. From that point... you're on your own.


*Closing Thoughts*

After actually getting KDE up and running I ran into a number of other teething issues.

The SteamOS interface pretty much enforces the selection of the Gnome Desktop if you choose to use the inbuilt functions to start a standard UI. I couldn't find an easy place to change Steam from starting up a deprecated UI over to a modern environment.

To that end; it's probably better to just use the control-alt-F(button) functions to start up a proper desktop in an alternate session. I don't know how that's going to work with interfaces like Fluxbox, ICEWM, or tiling window managers.

Additionally; when switching from an X-session back to SteamOS; which defaults to control-alt-F7: I wouldn't get a display unless I went to control-alt-F8 first. Which is odd...

I also ran into an issue afterwards of my Logitech K480 not connecting over bluetooth. As I had access to a proper desktop I was able to follow the instructions here: https://forums.logitech.com/t5/Keyboards-and-Keyboard-Mice/Pairing-Logitech-k480-and-Kubuntu-14-04/td-p/1311477

Just substituting the sudo with an su; and bluez-simple-agent with a bluetoothctl; and now the K480 works as expected.


On another note; I remain baffled and completely confuzzled as to exactly why Valve just didn't implement the SteamOS UI as a QT/Plasma Shell. Would have made a hell of a lot more sense to just ship the SteamOS as a KDE distro; and just use the inbuilt QT/KDE tools to swap back and forth between full-screen SteamOS UI and a traditional Plasma desktop. The concept was already proven with Plasma-Active, Plasma-Desktop, and Plasma-Netbook UI's simultaneously existing next to each other under KDE4. So; I dunno. Maybe that's a major upgrade feature for SteamOS 3.x series.


* * * * Edit * * * *

Fixed most of the formatting... I think. I copy/pasted a significant chunk of out-of-order formatting tags that the forums didn't like.

Also: I got the Plex Media Server installed and verified that it will start up and run even when logging into the SteamOS interface. Which it should anyways; but better safe than sorry.

Those setting up their SteamOS box to also be their media server might want to add the Plex Access point to the Chromium Browser favorites within SteamOS. Generally that should be localhost:32400/web/index.html
Last edited by Je Saist; Feb 25, 2016 @ 12:35am
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Showing 1-9 of 9 comments
Shark Feb 25, 2016 @ 1:02am 
Wow, just wow. You did put some effort into this guide, I'll give you that. Sadly I can't recommend this to anyone right now, though.

From what I've read from the first paragraph, you actually want something different than what you're actually doing. If you want KDE as desktop in SteamOS, try this instead:

  1. Follow this guide to add the Debian repository to your system: http://steamcommunity.com/groups/steamuniverse/discussions/1/648814396114274132/
    SteamOS should be fully compatible with the Debian Jessie repositories.
  2. Install KDE by running the following command from the terminal:
    sudo apt-get install kde-full
  3. Change the default desktop with the following command:
    sudo dbus-send --system --type=method_call --print-reply --dest=org.freedesktop.Accounts /org/freedesktop/Accounts/User1000 org.freedesktop.Accounts.User.SetXSession string:kde-plasma
  4. Now reboot the system and you're done. If you select go to desktop, a KDE desktop will be launched.

Some of the advise in the OPs post which should be ignored if you don't want to break your system:
  • Do not add the Tanglu sources. They will break your system.
  • Do not comment out the SteamOS sources, it will stop your system from updating from them.
  • Never run startx as root.
  • Don't run gedit as root, use nano instead.
  • Set a password for the desktop account and use sudo instead of logging in as root. Running everything as root can be dangerous.

I do like the synaptic suggestion, that is a pretty good tool for installing software.

Edit: Just did some small changes to my instructions, had a typo and forgot sudo on one command.
Last edited by Shark; Feb 25, 2016 @ 1:21am
powerarmour Feb 25, 2016 @ 2:54am 
This sounds more like vitriol than a guide tbh.
dubigrasu Feb 25, 2016 @ 3:57am 
So from what I understand you did all this because you don't like Gnome?
In any case, is overkill to do all that just for the SteamOS kernel.
And after all is done you end up with something that is no longer SteamOS, at which point you would be better of with any KDE distribution and some basic SteamOS packages added.
ProfessorKaos64 Feb 25, 2016 @ 3:58am 
> Gnome. If you are among the Gnome Clique... you are not going to like this thread.

I don't prefer GNOME on my main desktop, but this is ignorant.

>Short version: going with SteamOS for the kernel and graphics drivers pretty much ensures that games will run as expected on Nvidia, AMD, and to some extent current/future Intel platforms.

That is not true. Several distro provide the same graphics drivers, or the means to do so. If you are looking at patched drives, also no necessary.

> So, for those of us who want a real desktop environment.

Desktop mode has that, but of course, as you say is not intended to do so. Adding software to SteamOS will essentially do that, but bloating it with KDE? That's personal prefernce I suppose. I do like distros such as OpenSuSe, who have a nice variant of KDE and it's pieces.

> deprecated degenerated out-of-touch Got No Organization Messy Experience.

Again, personal preference and ignorant.

> Off the bat that means the installation methods listed at http://store.steampowered.com/steamos/ generally won't work

Yes, yes they will. They are for EFI systems, which is stated.

> By default SteamOS tried to murder my existing data

Only if you choose to auto format a drive, of course. You can also skip back in steps to modify the installer steps.

------------------------------------------------------------------

Agreed with Shark, but of course do whatever you want to do. This is very much opinion-driven from what I read.
Last edited by ProfessorKaos64; Feb 25, 2016 @ 4:00am
ProfessorKaos64 Feb 25, 2016 @ 3:58am 
Originally posted by dubigrasu:
So from what I understand you did all this because you don't like Gnome?
In any case, is overkill to do all that just for the SteamOS kernel.
And after all is done you end up with something that is no longer SteamOS, at which point you would be better of with any KDE distribution and some basic SteamOS packages added.
Agreed, there are PPAs, for instance, that provide the steamos-session / steamcompmgr packages.
Je Saist Feb 25, 2016 @ 5:44am 
Shark: if you had read through the entire post; you'd have seen why I shied away from Debian(Pure). The packages aren't always up to date; and part of the goal here is to get as up-to-date packages as reasonable possible. I also explicitly mentioned the Debian packages as the most stable option.

You'd have also missed some tidbits that will make this interesting for me:

1: don't use sudo. period. It's the very first part of a new system that needs to be disabled.

2: No. The Tanglu sources didn't break the system; even after an apt-get update and apt-get dist-upgrade

3: I didn't say leave the Steam Repo's unchecked. I explicitly said to re-enable them.

4: Nano, like the inbuilt Gnome console, didn't want to launch; Gedit launched perfectly fine.

5: running startx as root is completely fine under the conditions that you: A; have a clean system:: and B; you don't do anything but the specific task at hand. At no point in the use of the root account was the web randomly browsed or accessed. Also: really, going to use sudo then complain about security practices? REALLY?

6: Get off the desktop account as soon as possible and establish an actual user-name. All the desktop account does is give a potential malicious software user an account name they know to attack; and likely one with default permissions set.

7: I didn't, at any point, run everything as root. Rather; I made it explicitly clear that one of the first things to do is reclaim the root account; and then turn off the bloody great gaping security hole known as "sudo"

Right.

So now. What I actually came back to say.

I went back through the steps again from the start just to make sure everything worked. Second time around though; the plasma-desktop borked on a muon dependency error until the Steam repo's were re-enabled. I'm... not entirely sure why.

As mentioned in counterpoint #2; yes; SteamOS will transfer back and forth between Debian(pure) compatible sources generally without issue. I don't actually know that this will work as expected on all hardware.

I also forgot a step in forcing LightDM to pop up. When creating a new username to get away from the Desktop account I set the new login to auto-log in the Gnome control panel settings. Once LightDM is activated; the auto-login in the Gnome panel would need to be disabled.

Lastly: Pulse Audio access will need to be manually granted to any new user accounts. I did this through Kuser.
Je Saist Feb 25, 2016 @ 5:48am 
Originally posted by powerarmour:
This sounds more like vitriol than a guide tbh.

Trust me, when you've dealt with the Gnome Clique as long as some of us have... it is very; very; very; very hard to keep a civil tongue.


* * * edit* * *

Okay. Just to try and put this in perspective. There's a clip of Jeremy Clarkson talking about one of the Ford Mustangs; and how Ford Improved everything in the car... until Clarkson get's to the suspension... which uses Leaf Springs.

For car enthusiasts the idea of Leaf Springs in a modern factory produced sports or muscle car is... ludicrous.

For computer enthusiasts; the usage of GTK+/Gnome underpinnings is equally as ludicrous.

To put it bluntly; even Canonical, a company not known for it's stellar developer relations, communication skills, or tact; managed to figure out that GTK+/Gnome was a dead end.
Last edited by Je Saist; Feb 25, 2016 @ 5:54am
Shark Feb 25, 2016 @ 6:45am 
Originally posted by Je Saist:
Shark: if you had read through the entire post; you'd have seen why I shied away from Debian(Pure). The packages aren't always up to date; and part of the goal here is to get as up-to-date packages as reasonable possible. I also explicitly mentioned the Debian packages as the most stable option.

You'd have also missed some tidbits that will make this interesting for me:

1: don't use sudo. period. It's the very first part of a new system that needs to be disabled.

2: No. The Tanglu sources didn't break the system; even after an apt-get update and apt-get dist-upgrade

3: I didn't say leave the Steam Repo's unchecked. I explicitly said to re-enable them.

4: Nano, like the inbuilt Gnome console, didn't want to launch; Gedit launched perfectly fine.

5: running startx as root is completely fine under the conditions that you: A; have a clean system:: and B; you don't do anything but the specific task at hand. At no point in the use of the root account was the web randomly browsed or accessed. Also: really, going to use sudo then complain about security practices? REALLY?

6: Get off the desktop account as soon as possible and establish an actual user-name. All the desktop account does is give a potential malicious software user an account name they know to attack; and likely one with default permissions set.

7: I didn't, at any point, run everything as root. Rather; I made it explicitly clear that one of the first things to do is reclaim the root account; and then turn off the bloody great gaping security hole known as "sudo"

Right.

So now. What I actually came back to say.

I went back through the steps again from the start just to make sure everything worked. Second time around though; the plasma-desktop borked on a muon dependency error until the Steam repo's were re-enabled. I'm... not entirely sure why.

As mentioned in counterpoint #2; yes; SteamOS will transfer back and forth between Debian(pure) compatible sources generally without issue. I don't actually know that this will work as expected on all hardware.

I also forgot a step in forcing LightDM to pop up. When creating a new username to get away from the Desktop account I set the new login to auto-log in the Gnome control panel settings. Once LightDM is activated; the auto-login in the Gnome panel would need to be disabled.

Lastly: Pulse Audio access will need to be manually granted to any new user accounts. I did this through Kuser.
Tbh, if you don't want Debian Stable, you shouldn't start out with SteamOS. Otherwise you should probably read this: https://wiki.debian.org/DontBreakDebian

Could you explain why you think sudo is such a big security issue? In point 6 you give exactly the reason why you don't want the root account to be enabled. Although you can also configure sudo to ask for the root password, like OpenSUSE does.

The reason I wouldn't use anything Xorg related as root, is because Xorg is not secure and gui applications let you do very scary things. Drag and drop with no questions asked in the file manager is a very scary idea with root privilege. You can open a terminal by switching tty or by pressing alt+f2 from the desktop and running xterm.

You also say that the Tanglu sources do break you system in your second to last paragraph. I don't think you can fix dependency issues like these when you mix 2 versions of Debian. If you would just compile steamcompmgr for another distro, I think you would pretty much get what you want.
powerarmour Feb 25, 2016 @ 7:18am 
Originally posted by Je Saist:
Originally posted by powerarmour:
This sounds more like vitriol than a guide tbh.

Trust me, when you've dealt with the Gnome Clique as long as some of us have... it is very; very; very; very hard to keep a civil tongue.


* * * edit* * *

Okay. Just to try and put this in perspective. There's a clip of Jeremy Clarkson talking about one of the Ford Mustangs; and how Ford Improved everything in the car... until Clarkson get's to the suspension... which uses Leaf Springs.

For car enthusiasts the idea of Leaf Springs in a modern factory produced sports or muscle car is... ludicrous.

For computer enthusiasts; the usage of GTK+/Gnome underpinnings is equally as ludicrous.

To put it bluntly; even Canonical, a company not known for it's stellar developer relations, communication skills, or tact; managed to figure out that GTK+/Gnome was a dead end.

I'm of neither clique nor have any particular affection to any desktop environment, but I can easily understand why SteamOS uses Gnome, as its arguably the most simple and easiest to use if you look at it from a point of view of a user that has never seen a Linux desktop before, and has been used to Windows 8/10, OSX, iOS, Android etc.

All UI's come with their quirks, and I don't think any are perfect. It's all a matter of personal preference really.
In any case, the main UI in SteamOS is the BPM, and that's ideally what users should be using IMHO, the desktop is strictly optional.

Ten feet away from the TV and arse on the sofa with a controller, I'm not too bothered if I'm sitting on a leaf spring just as long as it's comfortable :)
Last edited by powerarmour; Feb 25, 2016 @ 7:29am
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All Discussions > Steam OS > Topic Details
Date Posted: Feb 24, 2016 @ 11:48pm
Posts: 9