My thoughts on Slackware, life and everything

Tag: valve (Page 2 of 2)

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information you can find using Google, and the information on Valve’s own developer Wiki, is not 100% accurate or even outdated.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

Steam for Linux Beta opens to everyone


The Steam for Linux beta program has just opened its doors to the general public.

When I looked, there were 48 games in the Steam catalogue, paid-for ans well as free-to-play. Part of opening up the Steam for Linux beta is moving their bug tracker to Github, which allows for a better interface than the old bugtracker which was used during the closed-beta phase.

Here is the official announcement:

An Early Holiday Gift!
added by Frank @ 01:13AM on December 20, 2012

The Steam for Linux beta program is now open to the public! In order to participate in the beta, you must download the latest Steam Linux client (found here) or upgrade your existing Steam for Linux client to the latest version. In addition, we will now track Steam for Linux client bugs using GitHub. This provides a better interface for tracking bugs than the forums used in the closed beta. The Steam for Linux repository (currently empty) is public, allowing anyone with a free GitHub account to create a new issue and edit or track it and search the existing bug database. The repository contains a readme file ( detailing how to create a new issue (it describes the same format used in the closed beta). The team will continue working through existing issues in the forum but it is strongly recommended that any new issues be entered using GitHub’s issue tracking interface. The sub forums will remain open so that people can join/continue existing discussions about the Steam for Linux client. And last but not least, we now have a steam installer package repository. There is a mailing list for announcing updates to the steam installer package. To subscribe, use the public mailman page located here: Here’s the change list for this release:

  • The Steam for Linux client closed beta transitioned to an open beta.
  • Linux – Fixed excessive CPU usage by the Steam client when running Team Fortress 2
  • Linux – Fixed overlay crash when starting Cubemen
  • Big Picture – Improved back navigation behavior throughout user interface
  • Big Picture – Added discount timers and other user interface to store

Remember, my Steam Client package for Slackware can be found here: . I will have to look into the new installer repository to see if I have to update the download link for my own package but that may have to wait until the weekend.

This thread is still being used for discussions and bug reporting.

Cheers, Eric

Valve’s Steam client for Linux

notifyFor people who visit this page – it was written a long time ago. The requirements to run Steam on Slackware are a lot lighter nowadays! Most important: PulseAudio is no longer required!
All you need is a package for OpenAL (to play audio) and flashplayer-plugin (in order to watch the videos in the Steam Store).
If you are running 64-bit multilib you will also have to create and install “compat32? versions of the 32-bit OpenAL and flashplayer-plugin packages.
That’s all.

It was august 2012 when I wrote an article about the viability of commercial games on Linux. In particular, I was talking about the new Steam client for Linux which Valve Software was developing. Read that article now if you have not seen it yet, it will give insight as to where I stand with regard to the use of commercial software on Linux.

It took a while, and then Valve opened a limited Beta for their Steam client, inviting 1000 users at random, but targeting users of the Ubuntu distribution for obvious reasons: Valve wants to create a firm foothold in Linux now that they have “officially” denounced Windows 8 as a platform for which they will develop their software and games. Gabe Newell’s criticism of Windows 8 is well-known by now and in October of this year, Valve issued a similar statement during the Ubuntu Developer Summit.

And Ubuntu has the biggest potential user base for game fans – let’s face it, more people move from Windows to Ubuntu than to Slackware, so commercially Valve is doing the smart thing.


When the Beta program kicked off, people found out relatively fast that the Steam client had limited functionality, even for people who were not part of the initial beta. I quickly hacked together a set of instructions based on the tests I did.

Last week, the Steam for Linux Beta program opened up to a much wider audience and I received my invitation email as well (along with many more Slackers). It looks like there will not be any limitations at all after next week, so I decided to use a little of my holiday to properly package the Steam Client for Linux. Obviously, the client software is distributed as binary-only. Furthermore, it is 32-bit software and developed on Ubuntu. Nevertheless, it is not hard at all to run the Steam client on Slackware. I created a 32-bit package, see , and added some additional instructions in a README.Slackware file:

The Steam client is primarily targeting Ubuntu, so in order to make it work
on Slackware, the package ships with a slightly modified steam startup script.

You will also have to install several dependencies:
  - pulseaudio
  - speex
  - json-c
  - OpenAL
  - flashplayer-plugin
These are all available as SlackBuild scripts on,
while OpenAL and flashplayer-plugin packages can be found in my own repository
at too.

Note that the Steam client currently is 32-bit only. If you are running a
64-bit Slackware you must add multilib capability to it first.
Then, you need to add several more 'compat32' packages. In addition to
'compat32' versions of the aforementioned dependencies, you also need to
install 'compat32' packages for:
  - flac
  - libogg
  - libvorbis
  - oxygen-gtk2

Note that before building pulseaudio, its README instructs you to create
a "pulse" user and group:
  # groupadd -g 216 pulse
  # useradd -u 216 -g pulse -d /var/lib/pulse -m pulse
However, there is no need to actually _start_ the pulseaudio server. You can
prevent this by running:
  # chmod -x /etc/rc.d/rc.pulseaudio
The Steam client is dynamically linked against pulseaudio libraries, but my
modification to the steam startup script will actually force it to use
Slackware's ALSA for audio output. Pulseaudio will not be used.

In order to run the Steam client you will probably need a Nvidia or Ati card
with proprietary drivers. I would like to hear from people who are able to
start Steam and play a game using open source drivers.

I have added the required dependency packages (including those required for multilib) in a separate “deps” directory of that steamclient package. Note that my old hacks of creating a symlink to the “/sbin/pidof” binary and exporting several variables is no longer needed, the steam start-up script does all of that now.

Installing the steamclient package, will get you a “Steam” icon in your desktop menu. Alternatively you can type “steam” in a terminal to start the client.You will see it downloading updates first, and then it allows you to connect to your Steam account.


When you are connected to your Steam account you will see the Steam Store and a “Linux” menu which is exclusive to the Linux client. You can of course do anything (purchases, community chat etc) which you would also do in the Windows client or the web interface.

You can then check out your own virtual “Library” which will contain the games you have purchased or which you could add because they are free to play. The Linux Beta shows two games here, the “Team Fortress Beta” which is an online shooter and “World of Goo Demo”, both of which are free.

Note that I modified the steam startup script to use ALSA as audio output. The pulseaudio libraries are required because the Steam binaries link against them but PulseAudio is not used for sound. Also note that if your default ALSA soundcard is not “hw:0,0” you may have to add one more variable. The AUDIODEV variable defines which audiodevice ALSA should use instead of “default”. You can set additional environment variables in a file” ~/.steam4slackware “. This is what I have in that file:

$ cat ~/.steam4slackware
export AUDIODEV=hw

This tells ALSA to use the first “hw” device available. The default value for AUDIODEV is “default”.

One more quirk was that I had to stop any program which was playing audio (like VLC) before starting the Steam client, or else the Steam games would not have sound…

Cheers, Eric

New VLC and FlashPlayer releases

Just a saturday afternoon post… I intended to write about these updates earlier, but I had a very busy work week which did not leave room for Slackware PR. Now that my two-week holiday has started, I have my hands free to work on software updates, my ARM port (which is again threatening to shrivel up and die, I am so much behind on -current) and I also want to put some serious work to a viable Slackware setup for Valve’s Steam client for Linux.

VLC Media player

The sixth version of VLC’s “Twoflower” (codename for the 2.x series), is “a minor update that improves the overall stability. Notable changes include improved reliability for MKV file playback, fixed MPEG2 audio and video encoding … and other fixes. It also resolves potential security issues in HTML subtitle parser, freetype renderer, AIFF demuxer and SWF demuxer.” – quoting the VideoLAN news page.

I checked the release notes page for 2.0.5 but was a bit disappointed that they just re-used the 2.0.4 release notes, changing “2.0.4” to “2.0.5” which means the release notes page is just bogus.

Can anyone tell me how the new “ogg opus” support works for you? This new codec is supposed to replace other low-bandwidth codecs like speex but I have not seen any real-life cases.

When the IRC developers channel mentioned earlier this week that the 2.0.5 release was nearing completion, I compiled the VLC “dependencies” tarballs in advance. Remember that I have to create 8 VLC packages when VideoLAN developers release a new version of their player (two Slackware releases, two architectures per release, and then restricted/unrestricted versions of each). The pre-compiled binary tarballs  of statically-compiled dependencies or “contribs” speed up the process of creating these packages a great deal. The main update to these “contribs” for the new packages is for the ffmpeg libraries: I switched to the git snapshot which is considered the best available version by both VLC and at least one MPlayer build team.

A note about BluRay support: I do not own a BluRay player, not BluRay disks or “downloaded” movies. The BluRay support in VLC (at least in my package) works only for unencrypted disks… and I do not think these exist actually – but I can not verify this. If you are able to playback BluRays please let me know about your experiences. Playback of encrypted BluRay DVD’s requires that you also install my libaacs package: or and find yourself a set of AACS decryption keys (see these comments for some hints on that).

Where to find the new VLC packages:

Rsync acccess is offered by the mirror server: rsync:// .

My usual warning about patents: versions that can not only DEcode but also ENcode mp3 and aac audio can be found in my alternative repository where I keep the packages containing code that might violate stupid US software patents.



I also upgraded my Flash Player packages. Adobe plugged another set of critical vulnerabilities (CVE-2012-5676, CVE-2012-5677, CVE-2012-5678) and if you are using a Mozilla-compatible web browser to watch Flash content, upgrading is strongly recommended. For more details, check here: .

After upgrading, use the following URL to check that you are indeed running the latest version of the Flash Player plugin: .

Have fun! Eric


Commercial games and Linux

Almost two years ago I wrote an article about how the Open Source ecosystem can interact with commercial game developers.

I decided it was time to write an addendum to that post. Why?

Last month, Valve Software finally revealed that they are in the final stages of porting their Steam client to Linux, news that was highly anticipated after Phoronix mentioned this for the first time. This Steam client for Linux will be accompanied by the port of a tripe-A game: Left 4 Dead 2. Valve opened a dedicated Linux blog which was so swamped with enthousisast comments that they had to define a new comment policy. Great news and it deserves a great deal of respect.

Commercial enterprises getting themselves invoved with the Linux platform… that was bound to provoke reactions. And indeed , Richard Stallman wrote a post where he critizizes Valve’s effort. The core sentence there is “Nonfree game programs (like other nonfree programs) are unethical because they deny freedom to their users“. I beg your pardon?

I really wished he would have been able to distinguish between the GNU/Linux ecosystem and the applications which can be used on top of that. The two are separate, Richard!

I am of course well aware of the philosophy behind the GNU project. It has given us a wealth of first-class software and I agree that without GNU, we would not be free to choose the OS we want to run on our machines. I work for IBM, and I realize all to well how a total vendor lock-in can not only smother your clients, breed arrogance, but also cause that vendor to buckle as a result of its arrogance. Read for instance – where you also find how IBM managed to re-invent itself and start committing itself wholesale to Linux by multi-billion dollar investments into the Linux developer scene.

But I am straying off the path here.

I have never been comfortable with zealots who claim that they alone hold the truth. Therefore, Stallman’s article made me sigh rather than angry – it was all so predictable. There is nothing unethical about earning money. There is also nothing unethical about earning money on the Linux platform. Look at Redhat, they made a billion dollars on Linux! People can be driven to great achievements but everyone’s motives are different. I am glad there is diversity. Valve is driven by a desire to produce a first-class game playing environment and create the games to match. That they want to earn money from their efforts is good. Triple-A games require a tremendous monetary multi-year investment. Too many well-respected game studios are closed these days because the financial returns are not making up for the investments. I want Valve to flourish, so that they give me the freedom to buy games that I like! Suppose for a second, that they would go bankrupt – that would take away a large potential for cool games. It would take away some of my freedom of choice.

Suppose they would cease their Linux involvement as a result of the opinions of people like Stallman. That would limit my freedom to play games on a platform of my choice. I do not want to have to install Windows to play my games.  I use Wine currently and that works well enough for Steam, Valve games, Diablo III and such block busters, but it would really help if we had native releases for Linux! It is a bit unfortunate that idsoftware’s John Carmack does not share Valve’s view on the viability of Linux as a gaming market, but really this is all about getting momentum. Someone had to decide to take the plunge. Nothing against John’s opinion, I respect him for all he does (in particular for opensourcing most of idsoftware’s previous game engines and games and doing great speeches) but I hope he will come back on his view sometime. We need these games to prove to people that Linux is not just for geeks. We need more game developers to take Linux seriously.

Oh… I am straying again.

I have different ideas of what defines “freedom” than Stallman has. I hope that the disaster called “Windows 8” will actually do Linux distros a favour by further diminishing the MS Windows market share, thus allowing growth of the Linux market share. Remember again why Windows 8 is bad? Or rather, what evil can result from Microsoft’s plans for Windows 8 on the ARM market? Read a bit about Secure Boot, you can start here: . Dual-booting Windows and Linux? No can do! Now there is a real example of limiting my freedom!

You see, the word “freedom” is not all there is to it. It can and will be used out of context in a zillion ways. What really matters, is freedom of choice. If you are really concerned about freedom, you should sign up for the news letters of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and support them in their cause.

I can’t wait to package, install and use the Linux Steam client on Slackware. In the meantime, I think I’ll watch a video about freedom from choice… come on, join me:

Cheers, Eric

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