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Steam and Team Fortress 2 on Linux

  • Saturday, February 23 2013 @ 12:57 PM UTC
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The Steam software distribution network and native games are finally available on Linux!

I stopped gaming a few years back when my dual-booted install of Windows crapped out. I decided I wasn't going to re-install Microsoft Windows again. I started spending time doing a lot of things other than playing video games.

My desktop computer is somewhat old. I'm still using the same hardware I posted in 2010. The graphics card is an ATI 4850 (DIAMOND 4850PE3512 Radeon HD 4850 512MB 256-bit GDDR3 PCI Express 2.0 to be exact) which I bought in 2008 for $195 and is the most I have ever paid for a graphics card. The motherboard and CPU are hand-me-downs, so most of the components in the system are at least 5 years old. One of the things that I love about GNU/Linux is that my computer is still quite happy running the latest editions of the open source operating system.

However, getting Steam and TF2 running on this older hardware was not completely trivial. As of a few days ago, the Steam client provided by the Steam web site is 32-bit and does not install correctly on my 64-bit Ubuntu workstation (complaining about Wrong architecture 'i386'). Once I made it past that obstacle, I installed TF2 from my Steam Library, but it would quickly error out because the Ubuntu-provided ATI proprietary drivers were missing a required OpenGL feature:

'Required OpenGL extension "GL_EXT_texture_sRGB_decode" is not supported. Please update your OpenGL driver.'

Many of the suggestions on the net did not work on my system (for example, using the Ubuntu-provided experimental driver packages). However, I'm encouraged that the folks at Canonical, Steam, and AMD are continuing to work on the issue and improve the situation. I would expect that the Ubuntu Software Center may have updated package and drivers over the next few weeks / months (if it does not already) so the solution below may not be required.

But in the meantime, I found a way to get Steam and TF2 working on ATI Legacy adapters (in particular the 4xxx and 5xxx series). Most of this information is available via searching google and reading various forums. Thank you, Internet!

Here are the 3 steps that finally worked for me:

1. Install / upgrade to Ubuntu 12.04.2 LTS Precise Pangolin (not sure if this solution will work on 12.10 also).

2. Install the Steam client from the Ubuntu Software Center. This successfully installs a 64-bit Steam client (I believe the package name is steam64).

edit: Shortly after posting this story, I tried to repeat this process and was unable to find Steam in the Ubuntu Software Center. Probably the best place to go for howto install Steam is here: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Valve

3. Remove all traces of the the Ubuntu-provided ATI proprietary drivers (remove fglrx, etc.) and install the AMD/ATI Catalyst 13.1 Legacy drivers, 64-bit (amd-driver-installer-catalyst-13.1-legacy-linux-x86.x86_64.zip) downloaded from AMD's web site. Note that after this you will need to be wary of kernel updates.

After doing this, I was able to play TF2 on Linux!

AND... I received the special Linux in-game Tux Penguin item since I played by March 1 (as mentioned http://www.teamfortress.com/linux/ ).

Here are screenshots of what Tux looks like on the Pyro:


Here are some additional details of my system...

lspci info about the graphics card:
01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] nee ATI RV770 [Radeon HD 4850]

# uname -a
Linux hotdog 3.2.0-37-generic #58-Ubuntu SMP Thu Jan 24 15:28:10 UTC 2013 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux

LSB release info:
Description: Ubuntu 12.04.2 LTS
Release: 12.04
Codename: precise

Driver file name:

fglrxinfo on working system:
$ fglrxinfo
display: :0 screen: 0
OpenGL vendor string: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.
OpenGL renderer string: ATI Radeon HD 4800 Series
OpenGL version string: 3.3.11672 Compatibility Profile Context

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