Valve has always emphasized the open nature of Steam Deck. While it ships with the upcoming Arch-based SteamOS 3.0, owners can absolutely install Windows on it. On the bright side, that would effectively enable the entire Steam library to be playable on the hybrid PC console. On the downside, it would rob you of a wealth of Linux-driven optimizations that improve things like battery life and performance.
As of this moment, SteamOS is the ideal operating system for Steam Deck. But what if you want to install your favorite Linux distribution instead? I mean, this is a pretty capable little PC in addition to a powerful handheld gaming console.
Valve engineers just made that scenario more realistic with a Steam Deck driver that posted to the Linux kernel mailing list.
The Steam Deck Driver
In the true spirit of open source, Valve is taking their work and sending it upstream. Specifically, Valve is exposing “various bits and pieces of functionality” of the device to the Linux kernel for everyone in the ecosystem to benefit from.
Valve engineer Andrey Smirnov describes the driver as “a kitchen sink,” and includes but isn’t limited to:
- CPU fan control
- Battery temperature measurements
- Various display-related control knobs
- USB Type-C connector event notifications
It’s too late to be included in kernel 5.17 since the merge window closed last month, but there’s plenty of time to incorporate it into kernel 5.18 later this year.
Having Valve’s driver in the kernel enables more choice for Steam Deck users. It also makes life easier for developers and distribution maintainers. Who knows, maybe we live in a timeline where Steam Deck becomes a household name just like the Nintendo Switch. And maybe that leads to other distributions being developed specifically for the Deck, or for its future imitators.
That being said, it’s too early to judge if we’ll even need an alternative to SteamOS 3.0. But hey, Linux is all about choice, so this move is great to see.
Thanks to GamingOnLinux for spotting this awesome bit of news!
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