Category Archives: Games

SteamOS coming to your living room


Today, Valve Software has announced their next move in bringing the Steam content delivery (read: gaming) platform to the masses. The developer is going to wrap Steam into its own in-house developed Linux Operating System!

The SteamOS is meant to be installed onto living room devices (your TV, multimedia streaming box, and probably onto a SteamBox eventually).

It was already clear that Valve was sort-of preparing for a customization layer on top of a Linux OS; the directories show some interesting tidbits. But rather than building the Steam binaries with Ubuntu Linux as the OS target, like they have done until now, Valve have come up with a whole Operating System of their own.

The good news is that this will be a Linux OS and it will be free to use by gamers as well as manufacturers. It will probably not be based on Slackware – their loss… but hey, they can always hire me. Keeping Steam supported in Slackware will not be a daunting task, because I am willing to bet a few dimes that the SteamOS will be yet another Ubuntu derivative or at least a Debian derivative.

Let’s hope that there will be a real Steam Box in the end. Having a SteamOS firmware for multimedia devices and smart TV’s will at least keep some of you busy. Interesting enough, Valve released a couple of teasers in the past week, hinting for interesting announcements. Well, this was the first of three. The next one can be expected on Wednesday 25 september. To shorten the wait, you may want to check out a review of the keynote speech at LinuxCon 2013 by Valve’s head honcho Gabe Newell. His thoughts shed more light on what we may expect from Valve in the near future.

steamos_back_buttonHave fun! Eric

Half-Life Dedicated Server

half-life-logo I have written down how I configured my Half-Life Dedicated Server (HLDS) in a new Slackware Documentation article. You can find the article here:

The reason why I felt compelled to write this, was that the information you can find using Google, and the information on Valve’s own developer Wiki, is not 100% accurate or even outdated.

Writing an article also allowed me to add some tips, like starting the game server in “screen”, and explaining how you can auto-start the game server when your Slackware server boots, and keep the game files updated using a daily cron job.

I hope that the new SlackDocs article will trigger fellow Slackers to create their own HLDS server, and invite each other for some fragging. Hint: you can use the Slackware SteamCommunity group to schedule events like these.

Next on the TODO list is documenting how I created the “minimal Slackware” 32-bits virtual machine (less than 500 MB of Slackware installation footprint) which I use to run my own HLDS at home.

And after that, I still have to document how I setup a TeamSpeak server on the same virtual machine, which can be used for quality in-game voice chat. Lots left to do when I get bored again…

Cheers, Eric

Survey results for Linux gaming on Steam

steamValve published their monthly statistics on the Steam gaming platform.The February 2013 Hardware & Software survey results show that the adoption of Linux has doubled in the past month (click on the “OS Version” stats to see all Operating Systems, not just Windows).

While Ubuntu is obviously taking the largest part of the Linux pie, the total percentage of Linux Steam gamers is now somewhere between 2 and 3 (Slackware being hidden in the “Other” platforms). This means Linux as a gaming platform is about to overtake Apple’s OS (at least, for Steam). Who said that Linux users are freeloaders, not interested in anything that is not open source and gratis?

How are we doing as Slackware community? If you look at the Slackware Group page on the SteamCommunity site, you will see that we are about to pass the 100 members mark. I think that one month ago, that number was 13. So, the group is expanding fast, and it is good to see that Slackers are die-hard gamers too 🙂

I updated my steamclient package to the latest officially released version yesterday.

It’s still a 32-bit Steam client of course, and all Steam games are 32-bit, so either you have to run 32-bit Slackware, or install my multilib package set on top of your 64-bit Slackware  (multilib installation instructions here). The good news is that you do not have to install anything else to use the Steam client and play games. All the dependencies that I used to add to the steamclient directory are no longer needed. The necessary libraries are now all part of the “steam-runtime” included with the steamclient package.

It is highly recommended to have a NVIDIA/ATI powered graphics card inside your computer and use the proprietary binary graphics drivers for these cards!

Only if you want to be able to watch the game demo-video and promotional content in the Steam Store (inside the Steam client), you need to have the flashplayer-plugin installed. For 64-bit multilib systems that means, grab the 32-bit flash player plugin package, and use convertpkg-compat32 (part of my compat32-tools) to convert that package into a “compat32” package which can be used on a multilib Slackware64. Note that Adobe releases regular security updates for the Flashplayer, so be sure to check for updates to my package. You can keep an eye on the repository RSS feed if you don’t want to miss out.

Want to try? Install the steamclient, get Team Fortress 2 for free and start playing this adrenaline-powered multiplayer online game. And become the newest member of the Steam Slackware Group!

Have fun, Eric

Steam client for Linux is out of Beta

steamThe Steam client for Linux is finally out of Beta! This is being celebrated by offering large discounts on all 54 Linux games which are currently available on the Steam platform. So if you wanted to play the Original Half-Life natively on Slackware, you only have to shell out a measly few bucks. If there is enough interest I will open up my Half-Life Dedicated Server “Eindhoven Aliens” from time to time when I am online and willing to get slaughtered. Which reminds me that I still have to write my blog article on how I setup that HLDS – it was not trivial.

I updated my steamclient package to version Join the Slackware group on Steam Community if you use it.

Cheers, Eric

Steam games in Slackware

steamValve is updating its Steam client for Linux regualarly, fixing the issues which are reported by lots of interested Linux gamers. I was a bit behind with updating my Slackware remix of the client binaries but I have overcome the flue and pushed an update, bringing the steamclient package for Slackware to the latest version,

I did not have to change a lot to the “steam” script which is part of the original debian/ubuntu package. Basically I had to ensure that Steam and its games will be using ALSA instead of PulseAudio since we do not use PA in Slackware. I also added a ‘hack’ which causes the steam startup script to execute a file “${HOME}/.steam4slackware” if it exists. You can add extra definitions of environment variables into that file if you run into sound issues. The default definition of “export SDL_AUDIODRIVER=alsa” may not be enough for you, perhaps something like adding “export AUDIODEV=hw” is needed for your system. Using “${HOME}/.steam4slackware” allows you to leave the steam script unmodified.

Another script which is present in the debian package and which is called every time Steam starts, is “/usr/bin/steamdeps”. Originally this was a Python script which checks (using apt) if you have all required dependencies installed, and will attempt to download and install any missing packages… that was too unfriendly to my liking, so I changed that script’s content to only display a message on standard output (which means you won’t even see that text if you start steam from the desktop menu). If anyone comes up with a decent Slackware alternative for “steamdeps” I”ll consider adopting it.


I have only played two of the available Linux games a lot so far. The Linux Steam client allows you to play the Linux Beta of Team Fortress 2 for free (and of course TF2 will remain free even after the beta) but I found that I am no longer so fond of fast-action, multi-player shooter games playing against hordes of unknown people. I like to team up with people I know… perhaps my age shows 😉

Luckily Valve published a new Beta game last week: their very first game Half-Life is now available as a native Linux game in Steam, and if you already own Half-Life (not the Source version, but the original game) in Steam  then you will get the Linux Beta of Half-Life added to your game inventory automatically! If you bought a CD of the game in the past (before Steam existed, like I did) then you can import its CD key into Steam and it will cost you nothing. Playing Half-Life brought back fond memories. I have been in Deathmatches with my son for hours this weekend (he is a Team Fortress 2 guy but was hooked  to HL and its interesting choice of weapons immediately).

Half-Life is of course an old game which every modern computer should play effortlessly. TF2 is built around the Source engine and is newer, but still my PC’s have no issues with it. I remember that Half-Life had measurable level load times, but on my current quad-core desktop, the load times are merely fractions of a second.

Sound works, in all games so far. I verified that I could use my microphone in Steam (View > Settings > Voice) by explicitly selecting the ALSA device instead of PulsAudio, but I have not yet tried in-game if the voice functionality actually works (I don’t like it when other people talk during a deathmatch, so I hesitate using voice myself).

Caveat: For some people (as seen on Google+), sound stops working when Steam updates itself (which can happen everytime you connect the client to the Steam platform) or even segfaults on startup. A hint from Valve’s developers on their bugtracker, indicates that you could try running “steam” as follows (must be done on a commandline):



One of the dependencies of this steamclient is the pulseaudio library. Installing that is no problem of course, but it had an undesired (at least for me) side-effect: I also have Skype for Linux on my desktop and KDE will autostart it when I logon. For some reason (probably because of the desktop autostart files “/etc/xdg/autostart/pulseaudio.desktop” and “/etc/xdg/autostart/pulseaudio-kde.desktop” which are installed by the pulseaudio package), Skype will see the pulseaudio sound system and grab that instead of using the ALSA drivers. There is no way around that except stopping Skype, killing the pulseaudio processes which have been started by Skype, and then starting Skype again. You can of course delete the above two files, but I found out that the following change to “/etc/pulse/” will also give Skype back its sound. This change tells PulseAudio to use ALSA for its output:

# Following two lines explicitly enabled to make PulseAudio use ALSA - Eric Hameleers
load-module module-alsa-sink device=dmix
load-module module-alsa-source device=dsnoop

# Commented-out because of two explicit load-module lines above - Eric Hameleers
#### Automatically load driver modules depending on the hardware available
#load-module module-udev-detect
#### Use the static hardware detection module (for systems that lack udev/hal support)
#load-module module-detect
# End commented out - Eric Hameleers

If an application (like Skype) grabs the PulseAudio sound system, it will now be able to produce sound in your desktop.

Voice in Half-Life dedicated server games

half-life-logo I also saw on-screen messages about Half-Life not being able to use my microphone when I play Deathmatch on a HLDS – Half-Life Dedicated Server. The game tells me “Unable to initialize voice codec voice_miles. Voice disabled”. The miles codec is an old codec which is not very efficient, and Steam games switched to the speex codec which uses less bandwidth and apparently has better voice quality. The issue must be fixed on the server side

Add the following line to your “server.cfg” file:

sv_voicecodec voice_speex

Clients connecting to the server should now use the speex codec instead.

I setup a HLDS dedicated server on my Slackware LAN server / build box. That was not trivial at all, dammit! There’s lots of confusing information in Steam’s own knowledge base. Ten years ago I ran a half-life dedicated server on the Internet, but that was before the Steam era, and setting up a server was painless back then.

I have been playing Half-Life with my son on that server which is a lot of fun. I would like people to discover the joy of playing this old-skool game against their friends. So in one of my next blogs I will document how I have setup that server, so that you can repeat it.

Perhaps we will see a “Slackware” server appearing in the game tracker sometime!

Cheers, Eric