Last Friday, the first prototype Steam machines arrived at the doorsteps of registered testers, and Valve released SteamOS, the Linux-based operating system that drives Steam machines, as a public beta.
Right on cue, the guys at Ars Technica put together a handy two-page guide detailing the installation process—and some interesting tidbits about the operating system, as well. If you're thinking of giving SteamOS a try, you might want to give it a read.
As it turns out, SteamOS isn't quite as polished as one would expect for Linux distro bound for the living room. It's based on Debian rather than the consumer-friendly Ubuntu, and Ars says dual booting support hasn't made it in yet—meaning that, if you install this thing on a Windows PC, you can say goodbye to your Windows installation. There's no support for AMD graphics cards or Intel IGPs, either. You pretty much need an Nvidia graphics card to get going.
Once you make it through the installer, boot up for the first time, and get past the (apparently) illegible login screen, SteamOS serves up a 10-foot interface not unlike Steam's Big Picture mode. There's even support for Microsoft's Xbox 360 controller, which you can type with using a neat character selection wheel. Those hoping for a little Valve flavor on the desktop side of things will be disappointed, though: SteamOS's desktop is pretty much a standard Gnome session, just like what you'd find on Debian.
Valve has plenty of time to get things polished up, of course. The first Steam machines will be announced at CES 2014 next month, but they aren't scheduled to hit stores until mid-2014.