Recently I've been entertaining the idea of moving some of the games that I play onto Linux. Steam has the biggest game library and they have contributed A LOT to making playing games on Linux a thing. However, at the end of the day, their software is not free and open-source (Proton is partially open-source).
I'd like to know your thoughts and stance towards Steam and Valve.
Personally, I have never installed Steam on Linux because I did not know what sort of unwanted telemetry they will install on my system and I wanted to keep my system clean. Eventually, I decided that I can compartmentalize my life and keep all the work and creative stuff on Linux, and use Windows only for playing games.
I'd really like to hear your thoughts.
I use Steam with Proton (installed via Steam) on Solus 4.3 and it works fine. My gaming is, well, limited -- Banished, Gettysburg: The Tide Turns, Crash Dive, Railway Empire, Cities: Skylines -- and I have not installed Steam on Zorin (because I'm testing Zorin for a specific use case) so my experience should not be taken as dispositive.
I use Steam on Windows 10/11 and it has worked without any issues for several years, and I don't have to worry about Linux compatibility because almost every game is designed to run on Windows.
My opinion of what you should do (to quote you): "I can compartmentalize my life and keep all the work and creative stuff on Linux, and use Windows only for playing games." I don't know about compartmentalizing your life, but Windows is, hands down, a better gaming environment on Steam at present because Proton does not work 100% with every game on Steam.
I have 6-years of Linux experience, and have used Steam in all that time, on Linux. What I can tell you, is that Steam doesn't mine your data like Microsoft does. So if thats the level of concern you have, you have nothing to be worried about.
What Steam does do however, is hardware survey analytics, but they are very basic, their not super intrusive bits of data. You want to see? Click the link bellow to see what Steams hardware survey looks like, so you can see what data they use. Steam Hardware Survey
As you can see, its just a basic hardware survey that Steam does every year, to gauge what hardware people are using in their rigs, which gives Steam, as well as game developers, which direction things are going, and where they need to focus on in game development, based on what hardware the majority are using.
I personally find it very informative, and I like to look at the survey each time Steam posts a new one. Now, as far as the games themselves, they actually don't send telemetry data back to the developers unless you enable that manually.
Most of the time game developers don't hear anything from your games, unless you send in a bug report. IMO, Steam is a more trust worth service then that of Microsoft, Google, Apple. So I think your good there.
I'm glad that you brought that topic up. As a matter of fact, if I recall correctly, the hardware survey is opt-in. So that's not my concern.
Before going any further, I want to say that I respect Valve as a company and I generally really like what they do. I think they are good willed, don't data mine like Facebook and Google do, and they are not greedy.
Now that I got that out of the way, here are some of my concerns:
Steam is a web-app and it has Google-analytics + several device fingerprinters + god knows what deeply integrated into it
Steam is also an extensive social media platform. So it has profile pages, chat, timeline, etc etc.
Also they share some of the collected data with third parties.
Steam has sensitive personal information on pretty much all of their customers... because people most likely buy their games using their credit cards.
But none of these were even a big concern for me,
What really concerns me is invisible/secret trackers that are installed onto the system without the user knowing.
For example, many games now employ the use of an Anti-cheat software which are pretty intrusive. They check every system file, process, mouse movement and typing patterns, and god knows what else.
Valve also have an anti-cheating software of their own, it's called VAC, which apparently is not as intrusive as other anti-cheat software.
Now if Steam was open-source... (or at least the linux version), then people would've seen what Steam was up to in the background. But considering that all of my other software (on Linux) are FOSS, I just don't feel safe having such a software on my Linux OS. I still use Steam on Windows... but on Linux... I have this urge to keep everything holy clean
Yeah, that is entirely true. You are right. But I want to severe my ties with windows as much as possible. Still undecided if I'm willing to sacrifice, performance, smaller library of games, compatibility, system privacy, and more only to stay on Linux.
I lived through the early days of Steam in the 2000's, so I can tell you what was going on, which triggered Valve to introduce their VAC secure system.
Back in those days, we gamers were enjoying Half Life 2 Deathmatch. And unlike that stupid Fortnite junk that kids love to play today, HL2 was awesome, still is IMO. Well, there are hackers in the gaming world as well.
And these awful people, these gamer hackers as I call them, they would introduce things like aim bots, and a whole slew of other techniques to cheat the system. It was cheating pure and simple, and they were getting away with it. Until..........
Valve introduced VAC secure. Then all the sudden all them awful folks who thought cheating was OK, all got banned left and right. So thats why Valve instituted VAC way back in I think 2005, 2006 I think it was.
And as far as the last statement of holy clean. There is no such thing as holy clean. No system is 100% clean unless its off the internet. But in this modern world, you wouldn't be able to do much with a computer if it was never allowed to go online so ya lol.
I understand your apprehension, but can you blame a company for choosing an easy to program api, and holding it against them, because it's Google. What if it had been Microsoft azure, or Amazon aws? As you have stated, you use steam on windows. Seems hypocritical to worry about it on Linux when you already use it on windows, a data mining platform people have been duped to use for simplicity and no right to choose. Steam is less in question here than your choice to opt in to the belief that you still need windows for something. Choosing Linux, and allowing the hardware poll would show developers what people are using and that they need to expand from the windows platform. Change won't happen if we don't show the devs what we want.
I'm currently making an app for android, does that inherently make me, as a Dev, or the app evil because it'll be on a Google platform?
I think that your fear and apprehension is self and Microsoft inflicted. A difficult mindset to leave behind (it has been cultivated for decades).
Steam works on Linux, with limitations related to the fact that game developers develop primarily for Windows, so Steam has to "translate" in order for most games to work on Linux.
I haven't noticed a performance hit on Linux, but I'm not running any games that are resource-demanding.
The game library (in the sense of the number of games that will run on Linux, natively or using Proton) is smaller, to be sure, but are the games you want to run in the library of Linux-compatible games, or not? It seems to me that this is a non-issue unless games you use aren't available for Linux.
That's a call you will have to make, but I wonder if you need to make a choice between Windows and Linux at this point.
I've used both Windows and Linux (Ubuntu then Solus Budgie), running parallel on computers with similar/identical specs (I don't dual boot because it has been a PITA for me), for over 15 years
In general, I've shaped my computing environment so that it is six of one, half dozen of the other (for example, I use my browser rather than dedicated apps for mail and calendar, and use the same software (e.g. LibreOffice and Gimp) on both platforms). That works well for me.
Assuming that you can't run the games you want to run on Linux/Steam at present, it seems to me that you could run Linux as your daily driver, but Windows/Steam for games. In time, you may not need to run Windows at all to run the games you like. Linux/Steam has been making strides in recent years, and sooner or later Linux/Steam's limitations will lessen or disappear.
I use it because there is no better alternative
GOG is the closest thing to Steam.
Also keeping these types of applications only on Windows has the advantage of them not being able to peer into my files that are stored on Linux. So for me, it's like damage control.
Also one thing I forgot to mention in my list of complains was DRMs. They are extremely privacy intruding.
That is true I agree with you.
I think it is more of the desire of wanting to have more control over the system. It's part of the Linux transition... the growing hunger for freedom and control
I understand a little more the perspective you have on this. It is less a security concern and more regarding control of access. In Linux, though, you have that control. You can change the permissions on those directories you want private so only the owner, you, has read and write... removing the other and group from accessing them.
The poll is done and the majority of the users support the idea of installing steam on Linux. Before doing the poll, I was expecting the results to be more closer to each other, I estimated 60%(Yay)-40%(Nay).
But in any case, it's always nice to see how others view a subject matter. Thank you all for participating in the poll.