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The easier way to install Steam on Linux gets bleeding-edge graphics support

Steam, installed from the Snap Store, looks and feels a lot like Steam. You just see this interface a bit sooner, without a bunch of tabs open to find the right dependencies.
Enlarge / Steam, installed from the Snap Store, looks and feels a lot like Steam. You just see this interface a bit sooner, without a bunch of tabs open to find the right dependencies.

Canonical / Valve

Installing Steam on a Linux system just got a little easier, at least if you can install a Snap package. Ubuntu-maker Canonical announced today that its Steam Snap supports “bleeding edge” Mesa graphics APIs, with more improvements coming soon.

Snaps are self-contained packages that are easier for users to install without command lines and also contain the other programs and libraries they rely on, preventing conflicts between the versions of installed software applications (i.e., dependency hell). They’re theoretically easier to update through a store app and are sandboxed from the rest of the system. They’re also not universally appreciated in the greater Linux community, as they’re pushed primarily by Canonical through its Snap Store and can reduce the performance of some apps.

Canonical worked with Steam-creator Valve to create the Steam Snap in “Early Access” in March. It bakes in the Mesa drivers and Proton and Wine wrappers needed for some Windows-via-Linux games, resolves the 32-bit/64-bit discrepancies for certain libraries, and handles the other necessary items that users would typically be pulling in via command-line and private repositories.

The latest Steam Snaps add support for removable media, high-DPI displays, and localization. Canonical states that the app also benefits from a migration to Core 22 and LZO compression. (Snaps were originally developed for Ubuntu’s mobile OS and embedded/Internet of Things platform. It’s complicated.)

At the moment, installing the Steam Snap pulls in the very latest Mesa drivers from Oibaf’s PPA repository. In the near future, Canonical wants to let Snap installers customize their install if they wish, choosing “fresh” or “turtle” Mesa drivers for the latest point release or stable releases, respectively.

Over the next few months, the Steam Snap team wants to add support for the following: Feral Interactive’s GameMode (now installed by default on Ubuntu desktop); MangoHUD to overlay frames-per-second and other performance data; and automatically enabling Proton, or “Steam Play,” by default in Steam.

The Mesa drivers in the Steam Snap won’t do much for modern Nvidia graphics cards, so Canonical felt it necessary to address Nvidia, with which it has a “close collaboration.” Canonical states that it’s getting Nvidia ‘s latest drivers to its users within two months of release. Nvidia took very small, highly caveated steps toward open source support earlier this year, releasing some parts of its driver but not the most important user-space sections. It’s easier for Ubuntu and other distro makers to package Nvidia’s binary, proprietary drivers these days, but that’s about as far as it goes with openness.

You can grab the latest version of the Steam Snap in the Snap Store. Canonical notes that those who want to help test game compatibility can switch their Snap install to an “edge” version, then file reports on individual games, which show up in its GitHub discussion.

Listing image by Getty Images

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