Get your hands on Valve's SteamOS beta right now!
Anyone who fancies the idea of building their own gaming box can head over to the Valve website can grab themselves a beta copy of SteamOS. The Linux-based operating system is available for anyone to download free of charge and coincides with the shipping of 300 prototypes of Valve's Steam Machine devices to specially selected testers. The OS and boxes have both been designed with pure gaming in mind -- but the system requirements are quite specific.
The download weighs in at 960MB, and there are reports that the servers are struggling as legions of eager gamers hit the link. But before you rush over to the site and start the download for yourself, take a moment to check whether your rig is up to the task. You'll need a 64-bit processor, but both Intel and AMD will do the job equally well, and 4GB of RAM is also required.
Strangely, the installation of the operating system requires a hard drive of at least 500GB, but then the requirements start to get even more specific. UEFI boot support is a must as is an NVIDIA graphics card, although support for AMD and Intel cards is promised for the future.
The 960MB download can be used to get the operating system up and running using the Debian installer -- SteamOS is based on Debian GNU/Linux (specifically the 'wheezy' (stable 7.1) distribution). Full instructions are available on the Steam community website, and you should prepare yourself for something of an involved process; click and run this ain't. If you’d like a slightly easier time of things, you should instead grab the 2.4GB system restore image which can be extracted to a 4GB USB drive. Be warned though -- using this method requires you to have a 1TB hard drive.
When you're up and running, you'll be able to play native Steam games as well as stream games running on another computer. Let us know how you get on creating your SteamOS gaming platform -- best of luck!