Jan-Lukas Else

Thoughts of an IT expert

Never touch a running system

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Some weeks ago I stumbled across Fedora Silverblue again. I already heard about that project before but never thought about trying it and also didn’t really understand it’s concept.

After I researched more about the project, I was fascinated by the concept of an immutable base system and running almost everything either as Flatpaks or in Containers. That idea of a container based Desktop system was in my head for a long time already, but Silverblue seemed like the perfect implementation of that.

Because I was currently writing two assignments, I naturally tried to procrastinate a lot and spent hours finding out details about Silverblue until I finally installed it in a VM and on a second old and slow laptop. It felt awesome!

But switching to such a fundamentally different Linux distribution is nothing you can simply do without considering it carefully. At least when you need to have a working system you can rely on.

I think Silverblue is a great system that can increase stability, because the base system just contains the necessary things and thanks to it using OSTree it can’t be simpler switching back to a stable version should things break unexpectedly.

However for my studies I sometimes need to use programs exclusively available for Windows. For that I use Windows inside VirtualBox. I found out that VirtualBox doesn’t work on Silverblue. Or sometimes I need to use Docker, which doesn’t work on Silverblue too.

For Docker, Podman (Red Hat’s Docker alternative) might be an alternative as long as you don’t run things that need access to the Docker socket, which Podman doesn’t have because it works quite differently. But VirtualBox is an integral part of my workflow. I know that there’s Gnome Boxes, but I already tried that before and things didn’t work as well as they do using VirtualBox (shared folders, USB passthrough, etc.). I would need to try Boxes more, before I can consider switching to Silverblue on my main system.

That all shows me that I shouldn’t do distro hopping unless I’m really sure another system fits my needs so much better. I’m currently using Ubuntu 19.04 (upgraded from 18.10) and everythings works fine. I now try to use Flatpaks more instead of manually installed .deb files (using some scripts I wrote) to get a better feeling of what works well with Flatpaks and what not. I already used Flatpaks a lot when I was a Solus user, but time has passed quickly since that.

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Jan-Lukas Else
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