Steam based their OS on Linux, so of course it's broken shit



  • The graphics, however, were interlaced, with distracting artefacts that occurred every time I moved the mouse pointer with the Steam Controller. "No problem," I thought, "I'll just change the settings when I login."

    That, however, was easier said than done. Trying to type using the Steam Controller and the on-screen keyboard with its weird split layout is difficult enough at the best of times, but the visual artefacts made it nigh on impossible.

    Once logged in I tried to find the display settings to fix the resolution issue, but all I could find was a setting to adjust underscan or overscan. Surely adjusting something as basic as the screen resolution must be possible? I took to Google. It turns out that no, you can't adjust the screen resolution from within the Steam OS Big Picture Mode. I quit Steam and jumped out to the Linux desktop, hoping that changing the settings there would fix the problem. It did not. Changes made to the Linux desktop settings don't translate into Steam.

    So I took to Google again, browsing the Internet from the Steam OS desktop and its pre-installed Iceweasel browser in search of an answer. Multiple forum threads suggested that I edit a settings file located in /usr/bin/steamos/set_hd_mode.sh, adding or removing the resolutions that I wanted. So I opened a terminal window and tried to open the text editor Nano with the sudo command in order to edit the file. Except, I couldn't because an admin password hadn't been set, and not being a Linux whiz, I didn't know how to set one. Back to to Google.

    I found the command needed to set the password, put one in, and resumed trying to edit the file in Nano. Despite my efforts, however, I couldn't get Nano to display the text in the settings file correctly. I tried downloading a GUI-based editor by opening up the "packages" app. I opted for Gedit.

    Finally, I was able to correctly display the settings file and make edits. I saved it, rebooted the Zotac and hoped for the best. It didn't work.

    I tried again, this time trying to force a 720p resolution. That didn't work either. I booted up Bioshock Infinite—one of the few Linux-compatible games available—hoping that maybe, just maybe, it wouldn't be interlaced in-game. I was wrong.

    When's the last time you heard of a computer being incompatible with a monitor?


  • SockDev

    Not for like 20 years, and even then it was because of the computer using modes the cheap, shitty monitor didn't support. And this was pre Win95, so it's not a fair comparison anyway...


  • SockDev

    From one of the commenters:

    I think this will be Steam all over again. It's obviously not that great right now (frankly, I'm appalled that you can't change the resolution, but I'm trying to be optimistic here), but if Valve sticks with it and keeps improving we'll have a decent OS in three or four years.

    That implies that Steam itself is good, when it's average at best. Sure, it no longer crashes every time there's a day in the month, but there's so many things about it that could be fixed in minutes, yet they're still issues.

    It took Microsoft, what, 20 years to get an OS that was generally liked? I doubt Valve can get one sorted in a quarter of that; they're just not set up for it.



  • Yeah, Steam is godawful. The only reason anybody uses it is because there's nothing better.

    The thing those SteamBox supporters always forget, too: unlike PC/Xbox/PS3/Wiiiiii, the SteamBox will never be able to play a game from EA, the largest game publisher in the world. Mass Effect 4? Your SteamBox is a useless hunk of plastic, meanwhile my Xbone bought at 1/3rd the price is gaming-away on it.



  • Every Microsoft OS is generally well liked. The moment the next one comes out.



  • The last sentence of the article was the interesting one here.

    Then, making sure all the relevant manuals and paperwork were inside the box, I sealed it up with some tape, and put it back in the cupboard ready to be sent on to another journalist. I wondered whether they would have the same experience I did, or if I was just unlucky.

    So Mark receives a review unit, finds that it's a mess, breaks into the root account and starts making entirely unsupported changes to the system files. When he discovers that he hasn't fixed a thing, and possibly only made things worse, he quietly packs everything up, pretends that he didn't do anything and waits for the smoking remains to be passed on to the next, even more unlucky, journalist.

    My question isn't so much "Why is the Steam Box such a piece of crap?" but "What did the last two reviewers do to it before it got to him?"

    I would hope that review units would be completely refreshed with a factory install before being sent out, but I hope for a lot of things and I still don't have that pony.



  • @DCRoss said:

    I would hope that review units would be completely refreshed with a factory install before being sent out, but I hope for a lot of things and I still don't have that pony.

    I would hope that the manufacturer would have at some point in the development process of this product plugged in a 4k monitor, but apparently they did not.



  • Reading the article reminds of the time I got it into my head to buy a raspberry pi except I knew that would be an arseache. Steamboxes are already an iffy if not stupid proposition. If it doesn't work as well as an xbox or playstation out of the box it's going to be still born.

    *edit If I'm not mistaken changing the resolution shouldn't be an issue. The use case for these machines is.

    Open box
    Take out steam box
    plug in steam box into power and tv
    plug in controller
    turn on steam box
    enter account details
    choose game to play
    play game

    Anything that deviates from that and it's doa.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    I would hope that the manufacturer would have at some point in the development process of this product plugged in a 4k monitor, but apparently they did not.

    Funny. [url=http://www.overclock3d.net/reviews/systems/zotac_steam_machine_zbox_nen_sn970_review/4]These guys did[/url].

    *When we were testing this unit we were playing games at 4K, we were placing this games under both heavy CPU and GPU loads and we were simply unable to make this unit make any more noise than a quiet hum.*

    In fact, I haven't found another review of this product, which came out last year, which backs up Mark's complaints about 4k output. That suggests one of three things:

    1. Mark Walton is the only person in the world who owns a 4k monitor,
    2. There is a global conspiracy to suppress bad reviews of the Zotac SN970 so that it can be used by a shadowy government agency to sneak mind control rays into our homes, or
    3. Some component used in the review, quite possibly the SN970 itself, was faulty. There is no mention of the reviewer trying to use a different cable, or any monitor other than the "old Asus PQ321", which was the first consumer 4k monitor on the market back in 2013. He just plugged it in, had problems, tried some dodgy troubleshooting tips from An Internet Forum, and then put it back in the box and sent it on to the next sucker.

    The description of what steps Mark was able to take to diagnose and fix the problem is curious. Although he was unable to get the system working in the end, let's see how to deal with a similar problem on any competing consoles:

    X-Box One: [url=https://support.xbox.com/en-GB/xbox-one/console/tv-or-monitor-screen-is-blank-while-connected]Have you tried turning it off and on again? Didn't work? Oh well. Send it back for repairs.[/url]

    PS4: [url=http://community.us.playstation.com/t5/Consoles-Peripherals/INFO-Blinking-Blue-Light-PS4-Issues/m-p/42154071#U42154071]Have you tried turning it off and on again? Didn't work? Oh well. Send it back for repairs.[/url]

    Some other console nobody has heard of: [url=http://en-americas-support.nintendo.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/2455/~/blank-or-no-image-on-the-television,-or-the-wii-u-console-will-not-power-on]Have you tried turning it off and on again? Didn't work? Oh well. Send it back for repairs.[/url]

    I'm not trying to suggest that SteamOS is The One True OS and that any problems can only be attributable to human error. (Although this sort of thing has cropped up before, and it has always been due to human error.) But I am saying that one person trying to connect one console to one monitor and having problems isn't exactly unique to Steam OS, and the lack of corroborating reviews from elsewhere suggests that the problem isn't systemic to the OS.

    Really, if a console had serious, commonplace problems of this level, [url=http://kotaku.com/ps4-blue-light-of-death-has-no-clear-fix-yet-1465979487]we would[/url] [url=https://www.vg247.com/2015/07/02/rrod-xbox-360-ballmer-xbox-one/]hear about it[/url]. These are gamers we're talking about. The kind of people whom a classroom full of kindergarteners who just got back from a field trip to the Pixie Stix factory would still look at and say "Dude, calm down already".

    So, if you don't mind, I'm going to calm down already.

    Carry on.



  • When's the last time you heard of a computer being incompatible with a monitor?

    Well, historically it was usually a matter of whether or not the plug would fit. I've seen DVI-D only monitors before, though, and back in the 90s it was a huge pain in the ass to configure a monitor resolution in Linux because you had to know the exact way your particular CRT would display each resolution. Pick the wrong settings, and you got a black screen with essentially no way to fix (depending on LILO's configuration) without grabbing a boot disk and going in to single user mode to correct the settings.

    However, once monitors became computers in-and-of themselves and had a digital connection to your computer over which passes not just signal but actual data for handshaking and the like, the possibility of incompatible configurations skyrocketed.

    A little searching suggests the artifacting is probably caused by his monitor:

    The PQ321Q is also unable to de-interlace 1080i material without introducing a loss of detail and additional jaggies compared to when handling 1080p signals, although we suspect that this won't be an issue for most people, given that 1080i is rarely used in the PC and gaming space. Source

    Also of note is that this was one of the very first 4K monitors Eurogamer even saw, so it was probably one of the first 4K monitors period. I mean, it had an MSRP of $3500 for a 31" monitor in 2013. That's nuts. It really doesn't surprise me, though, that one of the first monitors has weird compatibility issues.

    So I'd be curious how well it works with a native 1080 monitor. Hell, I wonder if he didn't grab an old HDMI cable that didn't have enough bandwidth. I don't get why he didn't try that. I understand the guy writing the article was trying to give an authentic experience, but not thinking that maybe there was something more going on than SteamOS being misconfigured is odd to me, and ultimately feels like poor journalism.

    That said, any time that this is part of troubleshooting:

    Multiple forum threads suggested that I edit a settings file located in /usr/bin/steamos/set_hd_mode.sh, adding or removing the resolutions that I wanted. So I opened a terminal window and...

    Then you've fucking failed. Just like the Windows registry is no place for your average user, editing shell scripts or modifying config files in /etc/ is no place for an average Steam user. If that's the solution to your problem and it's not something really oddball, then your product isn't ready for prime time.



  • Oh, look. The PQ321Q is not only the first 4k monitor on the market, it's possibly the weirdest monitor I have ever seen.

    [url=http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/asus-pq321q-4k-monitor-review,3698-4.html]As far as your graphics card is concerned, the PQ321Q is actually two 1920x2160 panels seamlessly connected together. No, you won’t see a line down the middle. In fact, the only visual giveaway is that the two halves turn on in sequence. [...] So, returning to your choice of graphics card, you’ll need two HDMI outputs (or another digital connection adapted to HDMI) or one DisplayPort 1.2 output.[/url]

    And it has known issues with displaying anything at all when first turned on:

    [url=http://www.pcper.com/reviews/Displays/ASUS-PQ321Q-315-4K-Tiled-Monitor-Review/Setup-Process-AMD-and-NVIDIA-Dual-HDMI-Test]Another potential problem was the lack of ability to see the POST screen and BIOS during boot - most of the time our PQ321Q only showed something on the panel when we had entered Windows 8 and gotten to the login screen. That can be pretty annoying and would require a user to have another monitor handy if any troubleshooting ever needed to happen with their rig.[/url]

    In my experience it was also very hard to get anything on the screen if you don't at first boot into Windows with your NVIDIA graphics card with the monitor in SST mode rather than MST mode. Once you are in Windows, you can switch the panel to MST mode and the system will recover, and you can reboot back into Windows each time after that without switching modes.

    What we have here is a review of a weird monitor which doesn't work well with any hardware not running its unique drivers.


  • SockDev

    So, basically, all the issues the reviewer experienced were because he doesn't know how to use his own monitor.

    The reviewer is TR undefined


  • Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election

    @DCRoss said:

    What we have here is a review of a weird monitor which doesn't work well with any hardware not running its unique drivers.

    Anything else would've surprised me.

    I mean, weird bugs in SteamOS wouldn't have been a surprise. Problems with unusual hardware wouldn't have been a surprise either, since it's Linux after all. But Linux not being able to talk to a monitor correctly: That's something that doesn't usually happen, the hardware manufacturer has to fuck up badly for that.


  • Dupa

    @blakeyrat said:

    and tried to open the text editor Nano with the sudo command in order to edit the file. Except, I couldn't because an admin password hadn't been set

    You don't need an admin pass when using sudo, that's the whole point of the concept. 🤦

    Of course, it doesn't change the fact that Steam OS looks like quite not ready for production yet.


  • SockDev

    @kt_ said:

    You don't need an admin pass when using sudo, that's the whole point of the concept.

    You don't need one, but it's a helluvalot safer if you have one.


  • area_deu

    Or maybe, just maybe, you shouldn't edit random files in a location that requires root access?



  • @aliceif said:

    maybe, you shouldn't edit random files in a location that requires root access?

    Why not, it's just files, eh? What could go wrong?


  • Dupa

    @aliceif said:

    Or maybe, just maybe, you shouldn't edit random files in a location that requires root access?

    Random? Come on! Someone on the Internet told him to do that so those certainly weren't random files nor was it unsafe to do so!



  • His point is that you put in your password, not an "admin password." sudo is like signing your name on a command.


  • area_deu

    I heard that removing the /usr directory makes your Linux hardware more reliable ...


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