Valve’s Pre-Release Teardown of the Steam Deck Shows You How to Replace the SSD

and Warns Against it

Valve published this video to YouTube today demonstrating how to open up a pre-production Steam Deck, replace the custom analog stick modules, as well as the SSD, and very much warning against doing so:

I’m not sure how I feel about the warnings. In the past I’ve definitely felt bad about breaking or inadequately modifying things that I’m working on but that is also a necessary part of learning how to modify, fix, and build electronics. The parts in modern electronics are delicate and often made to be unserviceable by the companies who design them, this is “for our protection” as users but it is also clearly for their benefit. The longer things are usable and repairable, the less money these companies make on new sales.

That also doesn’t mean the executives at these companies want users to have a bad experience. I can’t be sure of this, but from my experiences my understanding is that these decision makers want users to have a great experience and be motivated to upgrade by new features as well as repairs that are so expensive they make recycling broken hardware a better option.

Valve is also not in a great position with regard to supporting the users of their hardware but may be getting better. It’s one thing for a huge company like Apple who has physical retail stores to lock users out of repairs, there is an argument there that I disagree with from Apple that Apple can provide the best support. Valve has none of that retail presence to repair, replace, and even just troubleshoot hardware near their users. I think that’s why they made this video, essentially arming the more experienced hardware repair technicians to have access to repair these devices when they start breaking down. Valve even makes a promise in the video about upcoming Steam Deck part availability for people doing repairs.

As an example, according to a friend in Australia all Valve hardware sales and returns are done through the local EB Games chain. Apple does the same thing. In several countries where Apple does not have a physical retail presence they train third parties in how to service iPhones, iPads, and Macs. I once started but did not complete that training before my life took me elsewhere.

There are also still criticisms I have about Valve’s attitude regarding Linux porting which, to the best of my knowledge, is still putting people who are in the business of porting games to Linux natively out of work as well as advising developers not to port games natively and instead relay on Valve’s Proton Windows API compatibility layer/emulation to make games run under Linux.

The one “bright spot” in the Steam Deck’s software support is that Epic’s Easy Anti-Cheat middleware is promising Linux support. Previously, anti-cheat middleware locked out some Linux users running games under any Windows API Compatibility layer/emulation like Valve’s Proton and simply wasn’t available for native ports. Now, Epic has promised that Easy Anti-Cheat is available for both Native Linux and Mac game ports, including the Linux-based Steam Deck, and will be supported in WINE and Valve’s Proton. Unfortunately the decision to allow WINE and Proton to run these games is still only in the hands of developers and publishers who may not be interested in providing any support to Linux and macOS, quoting Epic:

To make it easy for developers to ship their games across PC platforms, support for the Wine and Proton compatibility layers on Linux is included. Starting with the latest SDK release, developers can activate anti-cheat support for Linux via Wine or Proton with just a few clicks in the Epic Online Services Developer Portal.

This makes it more likely that games using Easy Anti-Cheat will be able to support WINE or Proton, assuming business interests about support costs and other middleware doesn’t get in the way, but when those games get that support the compatibility is a coincidence that can disappear with any future updates.

Valve is still the wrong company to be making hardware and software decisions that affect the rest of the game industry. Valve are presumably, by majority of their income, a store for third parties. The people running stores have different motivations from places that exclusively make and sell hardware products and what software decisions are best for developers. Although I think the people who work at Valve clearly are trying to make the Steam Deck as open as possible and often do make the best decisions for developers and users, the motivations of people running a store are to sell things, maximize their own profit, and not to make good products for the overall health of an industry of developers who are still overworked, abused, not organized, and ruined by the success of the wealthy who are making decisions for the rest.

There is nothing the workers at Valve can do to change that unless they are organized to reject the false non-hierarchical model of Valve’s workplace, gain equal decision making abilities, and their independence from the store business.

The first Steam Decks are still supposedly shipping before the end of the year. Valve has never responded to any of my requests for comment. If you’re a game developer who is interested in commenting on this story please feel free to comment below or get in touch over E-Mail. My address is zjs@zacharyjackslater.com.

Apps Dropping from iOS 11

Cyrus Nemati for Slate in an article titled “iPhone Gamers, Brace Yourselves for the App-ocalypse”:

If you’re an iPhone user still addicted to Flappy Bird, be ready to experience withdrawal symptoms.
When Apple launches iOS 11 in September, the company will drop support for old 32-bit applications—which is most apps released before 2014. Apps that haven’t been updated by their developers to run on the more efficient 64-bit architecture will cease to work

That’s true, but this article is also completely ridiculous in its conclusions. Here’s one of the solutions that Nemati suggests:

One obvious move: Create an emulator. By creating what amounts to simulators of old iOS versions, Apple could keep its past alive indefinitely. It’s something we saw recently when Nintendo released NES Classic, a replica of its stocky first gaming system loaded with 30 cherished early games. At 2.3 million units sold, it’s a good example of an emulator being used to make a quick buck (or more) on the back of nostalgia.

Emulating the Nintendo Entertainment System is easy today on low-powered, cheap, hardware. The Classic Edition kind of made sense for Nintendo as a product, but it is unlikely that Apple would ever release something similar.

Planned obsolescence is Apple’s modus operandi. It needs to keep customers buying new iPhones with updated specs. It’s unfortunate for consumers, who may have grown attached or even paid for these soon-to-be-defunct apps, and a shame for the creators who may see their work disappear.

The idea that Apple wants people to be unhappy with their devices on a schedule is almost as ridiculous as the idea of the iPhone Classic. Would you continue to buy things from a company that make you unhappy? I think you should replace things when they no-longer meet your needs or when there are new features that would dramatically change the experience of using that object in your life.

I agree that there should be some effort to archive these old applications, Apple is rich enough to do something about it, but it is going to be difficult to do that in today’s software environment.

Here are some of the software and hardware hurdles anyone who wanted to archive old iOS software would have to overcome:

  1. What’s the definitive article? With desktop software and older console games you could pack something up in an ISO or a copy of a cartridge’s ROM and say “this is the definitive article.” That’s difficult to do with networked software that is constantly being updated. You might say that the final version of the software released to the public by the original developer is the definitive article, but I bet some people would want a prior version because it did something differently, or the first version because it represented the most raw and original idea the developer had.
  2. An iPhone Classic that is running an out-of-date version of iOS for using old applications would probably be inappropriate for a general audience as it would lack modern security and networking features for accessing any data online. Any exploits that enable jailbreaking also enable bad people to do bad things to that device.
  3. What about the iPad, would there have to be an iPad Classic Edition? An Apple TV Classic Edition? An Apple Watch Classic Edition?
  4. Could you imagine Apple going on stage during an event to try and explain a custom version of the iPhone that exists solely to run historical software? “Here’s the iPhone Classic, it only runs iOS versions up to 10.” It would confuse their messaging around whatever iPhone they’re actually trying to sell. That’s not our problem as users and developers, but it’s another reason why they would be less likely to have anything to do with such an effort.
  5. This old App Store. They’d also have to maintain an older version of their app store and review software updates for those 32bit apps that couldn’t be transitioned to 64bit.
  6. Users would be frustrated when something doesn’t work right because an underlying piece of infrastructure is gone like an API server for logging into games.
  7. Developers who are still around would be stuck attempting to support versions of apps that they haven’t worked on in years. Is every app in this Classic App Store going to have a “probably unsupported” label on it?
  8. Apple still needs to encourage developers to transition to 64bit. All of that infrastructure would have to exist while they’re also encouraging developers to update old apps to 64bit.
  9. Apple has offered emulators for desktop software to run during transitions in the past, but desktops have the power and the room to explain what is going on with older software running in emulation or virtualization.
  10. I’m not sure if a modern iPhone even has the potential performance to virtualize an older device without destroying the performance of modern software running on the same device at the same time.
  11. How do you explain what is going on in any way that makes sense to a regular person?

Honestly, I think the only people in a position to solve this are software pirates, and they are still going to have a difficult time trying to do that for all of the games and other software out there on mobile platforms. Any other group would have hurdles that are too large to jump over in keeping this old software alive. It’s a problem for every modern online software distribution mechanism. Sony’s and Microsoft’s online stores for the PlayStation and Xbox both have this issue. Nintendo’s laughable online shop couldn’t even give you access to software you purchased previously without calling their support line and begging for it until they released the Switch and you’d still lose your game saves if your Switch is lost, broken, or stolen.

Software preservation is well and truly fucked.

Windows Pretendulation Still Sucks

The Final Fantasy XIV MMO now uses Transgaming’s Windows pretendulation software to get the game on Mac OS X and so it isn’t surprising that it is having trouble running well. Mike Fahey has this article about the terrible Mac version of Final Fantasy XIV.

Over a decade ago there was an article on this site encouraging people to boycott Transgaming’s bullshit ports of games. Back then Transgaming got their start by taking open-source windows emulator code, relicensing it when the license was in flux, and promising access to the source code with their changes included only if they were to get some number of subscribers to their subscription service for Linux gamers to pretendulate Windows games. They soon deleted that promise from their website and turned their back on the open-source community.

Their tech didn’t work well then, and it’s no surprise that it still doesn’t work well.

Transgaming seems to be mostly out of the business of ruining Linux games and has moved on to their TV gaming service, but now  Virtual Programming is continuing the Transgaming legacy of non-native games that work poorly