Posted on 18/12/2022 17:20:00
It has been a while since the last word on my DeckPC experiment, I originally set myself the goal to see if using Valve’s Steam Deck as a regular Linux desktop with its preinstalled SteamOS environment is enough to replace the need to use my otherwise power-hungry PC. I even left an “unresolved” case in the last blog that never got a proper answer.
Last time I noted that you are unable to use the offline password manager KeePassXC with any browsers in
SteamOS out of the gate without it staying persistent throughout updates. I am glad to say that just today,
before writing this article, I managed to get it working thanks to a suggestion by BieHDC to try out a project
called distrobox. I simply created a new Arch Linux container with
distrobox create -i archlinux -n sneed and installed Firefox and KeePassXC in them with pacman. After installation
I created new desktop entries as such:
distrobox-export --app firefox and
distrobox-export --app keepassxc.
I only have high praise for this solution - this has opened a huge window of customizability on otherwise immutable filesystem. You are able to create rootless mutable environments where you can setup full build toolchains or applications that otherwise would be wiped by a system update. It is genius in the approach it takes and integrates with desktop itself. There are limitations to doing this rootless, but it is far more elegant than struggling to resetup everything each update. For one, I was unable to get postmarketOS pmbootstrap to work in a container due to it being unable to remount /proc and /dev.
I wouldn’t suggest going down this route for a non-technical person, but if you have the technical aptitude on Linux and willingness, you can easily extend your capabilities on the Steam Deck without resorting to the only available virtualization software Gnome Boxes (read: rebranded QEMU frontend). I understand average Joe’s unwillingness to step into this territory, but these kind of issues are more likely to affect a poweruser than Joe.
Yes. A lot of the issues I would have brought up here have already been fixed by Valve. To give an example of an issue that is fixed - you may recall me talking about flatpaks being unable to open any browser links at all in the last post - that has been resolved about a month ago.
I absolutely love it, there are obvious hurdles for a beginner to look out for, but once you get the hang of it, the Steam Deck can absolutely be a replacement for your PC if you can find a match for everything you use on a regular basis. My experience so far has shown that if you are creative enough, you will find a solution. There is inevitable tinkering ahead to get the best experience possible, but you absolutely can make it your own. I conclude this experiment a huge success - I would recommend this to my technical friends and maybe less demanding non-technical friends. I would be cautious about recommending it to absolutely everyone, though. Every recommendation would have to be circumstancial - you most definitely can give your grandparents a laptop with Linux Mint if all they do is browse the web, similar logic can be used with the Steam Deck. You can’t however claim this to be a PC replacement for someone who is stuck with Windows or Mac without any FOSS equilevant or option to run their programs (e.g. broken in wine) and has no interest in ever tinkering with their system. I will dare to say, however, Valve and KDE have done a spectacular job in bringing Linux closer to the layman while also not completely offending the more experienced user. Flatpak solution, while not the best, is the most elegant bridge we have for the time being.
Sure, we have a few people already daily driving the Steam Deck as a PC replacement at based.quest Matrix chat. Be sure to drop by and we will give you the training wheels to get started and help you even ride the bike over time.
Amazing for me, definitely a PC replacement for me, bunch of things fixed, recommend for technical folk, cautious for less-technical.
Hope you enjoyed a quick status update on the DeckPC project, I accidentally burnt my dinner making this post :(
Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas,
Join us at Matrix: #based-quest:cernodile.com
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