One of the less remembered but welcome features of the recent consoles has been their ability to enter a sleep state. Like a hibernating PC, this meant that instead of sitting through the boot process every time you returned to a dormant system, it would be ready much more quickly. Unfortunately this isn’t a function that Steam Machines will be able to have, as problems with the way Linux operates have stumped Valve engineers.
Discussing the problems developers faced in a Github bug thread (via Ars) a Valve engineer said that while they had tried hard to make the sleep function work correctly, problems with the way Linux rediscovers plug-in hardware devices like USB controllers, meant that a sleep function just wasn’t possible on the Steam Machines. As one Slashdot commenter pointed out, the problem isn’t suspend, “the problem is resume.”
This is an issue that’s been present with Linux for some time and would require an overhaul of the device management system for input devices for it to be fixed, but that would be a huge job. It’s also not something that needs to be fixed for servers — where Linux is most common. However for a games console, that lack of function is a bother that may be felt by early adopters.
This may mean instead that Valve focuses on giving the Steam machine an exceedingly fast boot time, which would negate much of the need for a sleep function. But of course controlling that might be difficult for Valve since the Steam Machines will have varied hardware configurations. Those with faster CPUs and SS(H)Ds may boot up quickly, but those using more traditional hard drives could find that lack of support frustrating.
Or users may simply opt for a higher energy bill as they leave it on all the time instead.